Paul E Heimbach
Professor Roger Peugh
Grace Theological Seminary
28 Nov 1995

Paul's Requests for Himself

¶ Foremost, that believers join him in his struggle by praying (Romans 15:30b) (I Thess 5:25) (II Thess 3:1a)
More specifically:

- in the Spirit (Eph 6:18a)
- Always (Eph 6:18b, d) (Col 4:2)
- about everything (Eph 6;18c)

¶ Most commonly, for the chances and for the ability to explain the Gospel (Eph 6:19b) (Col 4:3a,b)

Again, more specifically:

- Fearlessly (Eph 6:19a, 20b)
- for the ability and the willingness to communicate as clearly as possible (Eph 6;19a) (Col 4:4a)
- that, once received, the Gospel would be honoured (II Thess 3:1c)

¶ That the Gospel would be spread rapidly (II Thess 3:1b)

¶ That he may have joy / be refreshed (Rom 15:32b)

¶ For rescue / relief from (Judean) unbelievers

(Romans 15;31a) (II Thess 3:2)

¶ That his service in Jerusalem might be pleasing ... (Rom 15:31b)

¶ That, in God's will, he might be able to visit them (Rom 15:32a)

 

Instructions for My Prayer Life

From the Requests of the Apostle Paul

While many Americans sit listlessly in front of their TV sets, wondering just how much more consumption they can wheedle out of God, a small number "labour in the field", joined by another few at home, those who support them in prayer.

I wonder, after meditation on the list of the Apostle's Top Seven Requests, just what might happen if some "super-missionary" like Paul would send today's churches similar letters with similar requests. Or has one already been sent to church too dull or too bored to notice? "Oh, are we actually still supposed to pay attention to Paul's requests? Are you telling me that they're still relevant? "

Unfortunately, the bit of bitterness expressed above rings altogether too true in my missions prayer experience to date. Having come from what many consider to be a good Christian home, I thought I know just how to pray for my church's missionaries. What it all came down to was "Hey Lord, You picked 'em, Y'all take good care of 'em out there, y'hear?". Aside from the occaisional bored yawn when a missionary came for a Sunday evening, little was actively done to seek out the real needs of any particular missionary's life. I now wonder just how common that attitude is in our churches. I recall a vivid image from the church I recently left, in which I remember about half-a-dozen people standing in our "hall of missionaries", spouting their own requests, with their backs to the letters and pictures on the wall. I also remember counting the number of envelopes available on several weeks in succession and finding, from a church of seven hundred, that less than seven letter blanks were taken over the period. I wish I could honestly say that I had taken them. But I was "too busy" to take my own advice. I also wonder just how difficult such a problem would be to remedy. American churches face many problems as they seek to challenge themselves to pray honestly.

For me, just looking at Paul's series of requests is enough to straighten out any kinks in my prayer life. How many people, though, are really challenged to do this? More deeply, what was Paul after with these requests (as scattered as they were), and how can I, along with the nominal Christian, be deeply moved to do as Paul asks with conviction, as opposed to simply admiring him?

I think that the secret to Paul's requests is deeply felt pain along several fronts, something Americans "aren't supposed" to have. First, Paul felt the pain of the lost. But it seems quite clear from accounts elsewhere that Paul was on the receiving end of pain handed out by the Gospel's dedicated opposition, something Americans, from the beginning of their history have been dedicated to avoiding. Very likely, without the constant reminders that he was not in the game alone, Paul would have become deeply depressed, both because of, and causing more lonliness. I can say with some confidence that Paul places high priority on the kind of prayer he advocated in the attached list purely because without it, he, and his ministry, would surely have gone to ground under Satan's intense pressures. Today however, Americans are content to fund some energetic college student to go abroad over the summer, and equate their dollars with true support.

However, one's attitude can change dramatically, as I have personally found out, once one remembers that there really is a supportive army behind one. It is at that point that the balance of Paul's requests come into play. Judging by a simple count, Paul places most of his emphasis on the actual articulation of the Gospel. This emphasis caused me to "sit up and take notice", since we normally assume that our missionaries do not have "Moses complex", by which I mean that we assume they can communicate effectively when placed on the field of service. Yet, even with his past of obvious training in detailed communications, Paul still seems daunted by the task he faces. If the apostle is this daunted, how must some of our brothers and sisters on the field feel? With more concentrated meditation on this matter, one begins to sympathise with them, and hopefully, one can begin to pray for them with more conviction.

Paul's other requests, without sufficient context, as isolated as they are, might be guessed to be reactions to certain "burrs" in his hide. We can sense the pain of persecution from some of the more vocal unbelievers in several cities. We can sense perhaps a feeling of insufficiency in the face of some need in Jerusalem, or the loneliness he might have felt for the Romans ( or for any of the other cities which were needing him). All of these petty gadflies gnawed at his strength from day to day, and likely translate well into modern society. Again, deeper meditation on these items allows us to feel more deeply for those separated from us by their service to God. Meditation on their sequence also shows us, I think, that while Paul did pray for personal needs, it was generally in the context of allowing him to better complete his mission, rather than for his personal comfort.

Even the most basic knowledge of Paul's perils and successes, when combined with these requests, ought to show how little Paul complained. The basics to which any missionary of even half of Paul's qualifications is entitled are great. If we can spare a minute from our badgering God with whatever petty items (or pesky larger issues) with which the enemy chooses to distract us, not only will we pray more effectively for our missionaries, but we will pray more correctly for ourselves, enabling a more successful harvest operation in our own neighborhoods.