In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul told them to pray without ceasing. And, like a good leader, he practiced what he preached.
Paul prayed a ton.
In each of his letters, he tells the recipients things like, “God…is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times,” (Romans 1:9-10).
It was a common feature of ancient eastern letters to include a prayer of thanksgiving toward the beginning of the letter and a benediction or blessing at the end of the letter.
But Paul often went beyond those “expected” prayers and burst forth in prayer in the middle of his letters.
A great example of this grabbed me today in 2 Thessalonians 2.
Paul is trying to encourage the believers to stand firm during persecution and trials. He explains, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Then, smack dab in the middle of his encouragement and theological reminders, as if he just couldn’t help himself from praying, Paul writes, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
This beautiful benediction pours out of Paul’s heart, which is clearly filled with love for the Thessalonians. And, then, Paul goes right back into instructing the readers and finishing up the letter.
Can you imagine praying like Paul?
First of all, his words. SO RICH. Paul doesn’t pray fluffy little prayers like, “Please help us get good sleep tonight and help everyone have fun tomorrow.”
No, Paul’s prayers are filled with reminders of who God is, what He is like, what He has done in the past, and specific requests to empower those for whom Paul is praying to glorify God.
When was the last time we prayed a meaningful prayer like that?
Second of all, Paul prayed without ceasing. He prayed when he had a mind to, not according to some set time he blocked off on his calendar. (Or, at least, not only at set times.)
If he is in mid-conversation and something is said that makes him want to pray, Paul prays!
Granted, we are reading written letters from Paul, not oral conversations, but, when was the last time we were talking with a friend and felt compelled to bless them in the middle of the conversation?
If that’s not one-to-one enough for you, when was the last time you were writing an email to a friend and, after giving them advice re: a problem, you couldn’t help yourself from also typing out a benediction?
These are not our norms. They sound a little strange and awkward. But don’t they also sound a little awesome?
How loved would you feel if a friend paused to just pray a Paul-esque prayer over you? How might your life improve because God hears and honors that prayer? Or how might your friend’s life improve because God rewards his obedience of the command to pray without ceasing?
May God our Father, who is continually sanctifying us and conforming us to the image of Christ our Lord, embolden us to pray that the Holy Spirit will empower our brothers and sisters for His honor and glory.