How we pray
We often pray for things, or for conditions to be change – that someone would get a new “fill in the blank,” or that the health of someone might be improved.
We tend to direct our prayers to the outcome – jobs, houses, medical issues vs. the subject – the believer or non-believer’s spiritual growth.
But, how should we pray?
Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”
Paul’s testimony was extraordinary, to say the least – Acts 9:3-4,8 “suddenly a light from heaven flashed…and he fell to the ground…and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing…” Paul was blinded and although God did restore his sight, it was never the same. Galatians 6:11 shows problems with his sight “See with what large letters I am writing…” Also, see Gal 4:13 “…because of a bodily illness…” Gal 4:15 “…if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.”
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “…there was given me a thorn in the flesh…I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient…”
So now we have proof – Paul prayed for his own medical conditions. Right? And Paul’s thorn in the flesh was his bad eyesight. Well, maybe not.
What is a thorn in the flesh? The bible in Numbers 33:55 gives some illumination “’But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land…those whom you let remain…will become as pricks in your eye and as thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land in which you live.”
Here are some thoughts:
- Paul was blinded and doesn’t seem to have fully recovered his sight.
- Paul did pray for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” at least three times.
- The bible does not clearly state what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was.
- According to Numbers, “thorns in the flesh” are more related to people who oppose you and your beliefs vs. a physical condition.
- Connecting bad eyesight to thorns in the flesh does not seem to be correct.
a. Why would Paul worry about not being exalted due to a physical condition? (See 2 Cor 12:7b). Paul was proud of what he was doing for the furtherance of the gospel, I doubt he was proud of his appearance.
6. The New Testament is replete with Judaizers and Anti Christ’s going into the churches to destroy Paul’s work – is this not his “thorn’s in the flesh?”
a. Clearly this seems to be the Spirit’s method of developing the New Testament – by refuting false doctrines and having Paul arrested, which gave him time and space to write the epistles.
What does Paul pray for then?
There are five main categories that Paul prayed for:
- Salvation: That people would come to salvation – Romans 10:1 “my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”
- Life’s worries: That God would take care of the things that worry you – Phil 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
- Growth: That believers would grow in their faith – Colossians 1:9-12 “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy…bearing fruit…increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened…for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…giving thanks…”
- Sharing: That believers would be bold in sharing their faith – Colossians 4:3 “praying…that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ… that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.”
- Protection: That God would deliver us from the evil one – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
So let’s pray
In addition to “Lord we pray that Jim’s cancer goes away” how about “Lord we pray that you would use the medical problems that Jim has to bring Jim unto salvation and fulfill your will.”
In addition to “Lord would you take away my financial problems” how about “Lord, I fully trust you and know you are totally in control of my life and my finances. I ask that you guide me to complete your will and continue to be thankful and confident in your direction.”
Now, write your prayer…