At the end of a number of letters, Paul requests prayer for himself and those with him (see for example Eph. 6:18-19 and Col. 4:3-4). This has always struck me. Paul, a man of God who appears to be so confident and bold, requests prayer precisely for boldness and, in addition, for clarity. Paul’s request for prayer reminds me of a number of simple but significant truths:
First, we are weak and our Lord is strong. We need Him every moment of every day. Asking for prayer is a reminder that we depend on Him and His grace. He sustains us, He carries us, and, without Him, we cannot. Dependence.
Second, we are united to other Christians as family members and we are to intercede for one another, pleading with God on the other’s behalf. Our willingness to ask for prayer and to pray for others reminds us of this unity. We are not disconnected, we have the same Father. Taking others to the Lord in prayer or asking for prayer from other believers reminds us of just how connected we are. What happens to one actually matters to all. Unity.
Third, praying for each other takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them elsewhere–on the Lord and on our brothers and sisters. If we learn to pray for other Christians in the way Paul requests, we are learning to love them and the Lord. By praying for Paul, the Colossian and Ephesian Christians were learning to pray for the Gospel’s advancement, for the Kingdom of God to come, and for the glory of God. It both took their eyes off of their present circumstances and placed those circumstances within the wider context of God’s Kingdom purposes. Gospel-centeredness.
Paul modeled dependence, unity, and Gospel-centeredness in his simple request: “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison–that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak (Colossians 4:3-4).”