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Paul, A Pattern Of Prayer

By Andrew Murray

    "Go…and inquire…for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:11).

    "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting" (1 Tim. 1:16).

    Paul, the man who more than any other has set his mark on the Church, has ever been appealed to as a pattern man. A study of Paul as a pattern of prayer will bring a rich reward of instruction and encouragement. The words our Lord used of him at his conversion, "Behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:11), may be taken as the keynote of his life. The heavenly vision which brought him to his knees ever after ruled his life. Christ at the right hand of God, in whom we are blessed with all spiritual blessings, was everything to him. To pray and expect the heavenly power in his work and on his work, from heaven direct by prayer, was the simple outcome of his faith in the Glorified One.

    In prayer, too, Christ meant him to be a pattern that we might learn that in the measure in which the heavenliness of Christ and His gifts, the unworldliness of the powers that work for salvation are known and believed, will prayer become the spontaneous rising of the heart to the only source of its life.

    The words, "Pray without ceasing," were simply the expression of his daily life (1 Thes. 5:17). He had a sense of the insufficiency of simple conversion. He knew the need of the grace and the power of heaven being brought down for the young converts in prayer and of the need of much and unceasing prayer day and night to bring it down. He had a certainty that prayer would bring it down. This made his life a continual and most definite prayer. He had a sense that everything must come from above, and he had faith that it would come in answer to prayer. This meant that prayer was neither a duty nor a burden, but the natural turning of the heart to the only place from which it could possibly obtain what it sought for others.

    Intercession is a spiritual work. Our confidence in it will depend much on our knowing that we ask according to the will of God. The more distinctly we ask heavenly things which we feel God alone can bestow and which we are sure He will bestow, the more direct and urgent will our appeal be to God alone. The more impossible the things are that we seek, the more we will turn from all human work to prayer and to God alone.

    In the Epistles, we have a number of distinct prayers in which Paul gives utterance to his heart’s desire for those to whom he writes. In these we see that his first desire was always that they might be established in the Christian life. Much as he praised God when he heard of conversion, he knew how feeble the young converts were, and how for their establishing nothing would avail without the grace of the Spirit prayed down. If we notice some of the principle of these prayers we shall see what he asked and obtained.

    Take the two prayers in Ephesians, the one for light and the other for strength. In Ephesians 1:17-19 he prays for the Spirit of wisdom to enlighten them to know what their calling was, what their inheritance, what the mighty power of God working in them. Spiritual enlightenment and knowledge was their great need, to be obtained for them by prayer. In Ephesians 3:16-19 he asks that the power they had been led to see in Christ might work in them, and they be strengthened with divine might, so as to have the indwelling Christ, and the love that passes knowledge, and the fullness of God actually come on them. These were things that could only come direct from heaven. These were things he asked and expected. If we want to learn Paul’s art of intercession, we must ask nothing less for believers in our days.

    Look at the prayer in Philippians 1:9-11. There, too, it is first for spiritual knowledge; then comes a blameless life, and then a fruitful life to the glory of God. So also in the beautiful prayer in Colossians 1:9-11. First, spiritual knowledge and understanding of God’s will, then the strengthening with all might to all patience and joy.

    Or take the two prayers in First Thessalonians. The one: "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another…" that "He may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness" (3:12-13). The other: "Godsanctify you wholly…" that you "be preserved blameless" (5:23). The very words are so high that we hardly understand, still less believe, still less experience what they mean. Paul so lived in the heavenly world, he was so at home in the holiness and omnipotence of God and His love, that such prayers were the natural expression of what he knew God could and would do. God "stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness," and God "sanctify you wholly." The man who believes in these things and desires them, will pray for them for others. The prayers are all a proof that he seeks for them the very life of heaven upon earth. No wonder that he is not tempted to trust in any human means, but looks for it from heaven alone.

    Again I say, the more we take Paul’s prayers as our pattern, and make his desires our own for believers for whom we pray, the more will prayer to the God of heaven become as our daily breath.

    – Abridged from The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray.