The Apostle Paul showed his love for people in many ways. His letters are full of teaching, correction, and even commands. But perhaps we too easily miss one of the threads running throughout his ministry, namely, how often he encouraged people with the specific prayers he regularly offered on their behalf.
D.A. Carson draws out several themes of Paul’s prayers in his excellent, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. In it, Carson challenges readers to seek “to find out exactly what it is he asks God for on their [the people he prays for] behalf, and compare the results with what we normally ask for.”
1. Paul thanked God for each one of his people.
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you …” (Romans 1:8-10)
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus …” (1 Corinthians 1:4)
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers …” (Ephesians 1:16)
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy …” (Philippians 1:3-4)
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you …” (Colossians 1:3)
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers …” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3a)
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right …” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
“I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” (2 Timothy 1:3)
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers …” (Philemon 1:4)
2. Paul prayed for wisdom and knowledge.
“… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him …” (Ephesians 1:17)
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding …” (Colossians 1:9)
3. Paul prayed for hope.
“… having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints …” (Ephesians 1:18)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
4. Paul prayed for peace and unity.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
5. Paul prayed the strength of spiritual power.
“… that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16)
“… that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might …” (Colossians 1:11a)
6. Paul prayed for faith in Christ.
“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith …” (Ephesians 3:17a)
“… that you … may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
7. Paul prayed for growth in love.
“.. .that you, being rooted and grounded in love …” (Ephesians 3:17b)
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more …” (Philippians 1:9a)
8. Paul prayed for righteousness and purity.
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
“… so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him …” (Colossians 1:10a)
“But we pray to God that you may not do wrong …” (2 Corinthians 13:7a)
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
9. Paul prayed for an overflow of praise and thanksgiving to God.
“… giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort …” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places …” (Ephesians 1:3)
“For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12)
10. Paul prayed for future ministry opportunities.
“… as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10)