For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Praying Like an Apostle

The early church changed the world and its oft-forgotten secret was prayer. Paul's prayers in the New Testament give insight into how the early church prayed for one another and provide a good model of effective prayer. 

Before we look content of Paul’s prayers, it is important to not to forget the manner in which he prayed. As he describes his prayers for believers, he indicates that he is continually praying for them. Praying for believers was a both a priority and an ongoing practice for Paul. Praying like this demands discipline and a sacrifice of time.

1.     Paul gives thanks for the believers that he is praying for regardless of the needs that he is aware of in their lives (Eph 1:16; Phil 1:3-4; Col 1:3-4; Rom 15:5-6). Many times we focus on the physical and spiritual needs of others. This causes us to dwell on what the believers lack rather than what they have and who they are. Instead, Paul prays with gratitude for the faith that they have expressed. In Colossians 4:2, Paul tells us to devote ourselves to prayer being both watchful and thankful. Thankfulness will fill our hearts with joy and love for others. Prayer that over time degenerates into listing a person’s faults and needs will eventually cause a spirit of criticalness to develop.

2.     Paul prays for the Holy Spirit would impart wisdom and revelation so that people might know the Lord God better (Eph 1:17). While we may study to acquire more knowledge about God, true spiritual insight is given by God. One of the greatest ways that we can pray for others is that God would reveal Himself to them (Matt 11:25; 16:17). There are always “new frontiers” to be explored in our relationship with the Lord God. 

3.    Paul prays that the eyes of the heart of the believers might see the treasures of the Kingdom of God (Eph 1:18-19). Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3 that we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms”, yet how unaware we are of what is available to us! Paul prays that people might become conscious of the gifts the Lord wants to bestow.

Specifically, he prays that believers might be able to see:

a.    The hope to which they have been called. We tend to think of hope as being a wishful emotion, but biblical hope is the expectation of something certain. The prayer is not for an emotion,  but a of a revelation of the future of the believer (Rom 5:2-11; 8:22-29; 15:4; Col 1.5; 1 Ptr 1:3-5).

b.    The riches of his glorious inheritance: the saints.The Father sent the Son to die an agonizing death on the cross. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can receive eternal life. But what did God get out of it? US! We are His inheritance! As we look at and talk about the church, let us remember that the church, and each individual member in it, are His glorious inheritance (Is 40:10; 62:11; Heb 12:12:2).

c.    The power that has been given to believers. The Christian is given incredible power through the Holy Spirit, yet most do not experience this power in their daily lives. Paul prays that the believer would come see this power as part of the normal life of the Christ-follower (Acts 1:8; 4:31; 6:8; 2 Tim 1:7-8).

4.     Paul prays for the inner man of the believer to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph 3:16-17). Living the Christian life is not static. It requires the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. When we are involved in ministry, difficult life circumstances, or just the wear and tear of the daily grind, we can become tired and spiritually fatigued. When we are spiritually tired and weak, our faith becomes anemic. Doubt, fear and spiritual lethargy set into our souls. Paul prays against this tendency by asking the Lord to strengthen the inner man of believes through the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor 4:16; Psalm 138:16; 2 Tim 1:7).

5.   Paul prays that believers might have power to comprehend and know the love of Christ (Eph 3:17-19). This is no small prayer, because in the same sentence he says that this love “surpasses knowledge” and has not three but four dimensions! This knowledge is closely related to the previous prayer that Christ might dwell the heart through faith and indicates that the indwelling Christ is more than a theological truth; it is a reality to be experienced and known first-hand.

6.    Paul prays that believers, having experienced the love of Christ, might be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19).

7.    Paul prays that God might be glorified through the church (Eph 3:20-21).

8.     Paul prays that the love of the believer might grow in knowledge and depth of insight (Phil 1:9-11). All sin is a violation of one of the two great commandments. Either it is the failure to love God or love others. Because sin has clouded our understanding, we do not understand how to best love God or others. Love is something we need to learn to do. Having increased knowledge and depth of insight will result in:

a.     The ability to discern what is best. We often do not understand the consequences of our actions. Selfishness and sinful culture mold us so that we do things that are sinful or are not the ultimate expression of love. For example, our culture tells us that people who love each other should move in with one another. A deeper understanding of love realizes that love is better expressed by waiting until marriage to move in together.
b.     Purity and blamelessness. As a person begins to understand what attitudes and behaviors are truly loving, the result will be purity and blamelessness in lifestyle. Of course true purity and blamelessness before God comes through the blood of Christ, but a deeper understanding of love will keep us from doing wrong. Paul could say that his conduct was blameless (1 Thes 2:10) and he encouraged believers to live blameless and pure lives (Phil 2:14-15).
c.     A life filled with the fruit of righteousness. Fruit is something that develops in a person’s life over time (Is 32:17; 33:15-16; Prov15:6; 28:1; Jms 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12).

9.     Paul prays that believers might be filled with the knowledge of his will through spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col 1:9). The type of wisdom and understanding that Paul is asking for is spiritual. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit and received only by the person who has the Holy Spirit dwelling within (1 Cor 2:12-14).

10.  Paul prays for this spiritual wisdom and understanding so that the believers may live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in every aspect (Col 1:10-12). We can easily misunderstand this verse. To live a life “worthy of the Lord” has nothing to do with being worthy of salvation. Instead, it refers to living a life consistent with who we are in Christ. Our salvation, Paul had already told the Colossians, is based on grace (Col 1:6). Paul is now praying that their lives would be consistent with being saved by grace. To live a life pleasing to God is to live a life that is full of faith and characterized by seeking the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). 

Paul goes on to describe what the life worthy of the Lord and please to Him looks like:

a.    Bearing good fruit in every good work. The Lord has crafted us to do good works that he has prepared for us to do. Discovering this purpose leads to the satisfaction of seeing lasting fruit develop through our lives (Eph 2:10; John 15:16).

b.    Growing in the knowledge of God.There is always more to be learned about the Lord. If we think we have come to the place in our lives where we have God figured out, we have actually become idolaters. We have fashioned a god of our own understanding and it is at best a poor caricature of the Living God.  

c.    Having great patience and endurance because the person is connected to the power of God.

d.    Thanksgiving for the salvation that has come through Christ.

11.  Paul prays for an opportunity to minister to those who are the objects of his prayer (1 Thes 3:10-11). One of the great truths of prayer is that God frequently uses us to answer the prayer we are praying for others. We are not to merely pray for the poor, we are to help them (James 2:15-19; 1 John 16-22). The ones who asked the Lord of the harvest were the ones that were sent into the harvest (Luke 10:2-3).

12.  Paul asks that the Lord would increase the love of the believers (1 Thes 3:12). The Thessalonians were known for their love (1 Thes 1:3; 3:6; 4:9-10), yet Paul prays that their love would increase and overflow even more. Paul focuses on the greatest commandments: love God and love others.

13.  Paul asks the Lord to strengthen the hearts of the believers so that they will be blameless and pure (1 Thes 3:13). When hearts grow weary and tired they are frequently tempted to draw strength from sources other than God. This is sin. Paul prays that believers would be strengthened in heart so that they will be blameless before God ( 2 Chron 16:9; Ps 73:26; Jer 17:5-8).

14.  Paul prays that believers would lead lives that were worthy of the calling they received from God and that God’s blessing would flow on everything they are doing as they follow Christ (2 Thes 1:11-12).

15.  Paul prays that the believers would be active in sharing their faith resulting in a complete understanding of all that is theirs in Christ (Philemon 6).As we follow Christ, we tend to forget what we have in Christ. Being active in sharing our faith with those who do not know Him causes us to reflect over and over about what Christ has done for us.

16.  Paul prays that believers would be united together as they follow Christ (Rom 15:5-6).