Yesterday we learned that the prayers of Jesus were most likely conversational prayers with God, very similar in substance and language to any conversation Jesus might have with His disciples.
But what about Paul’s prayers? Were they this way?
The Prayers of Paul
Were they small glimpse and windows into a much longer conversation with God? I think so. There are few examples of Paul actually praying in the New Testament, but there are several places where he tells his readers what he is praying for and in some of those cases, it almost sounds as if he transitions from writing about what he prayers for them to actually praying (See Rom 15:5-6, 13; Eph 1:16-19; 3:16-19; Php 1:9-11; Col 1:9-12; 2 Thess 1:11-12). If someone is looking for written prayers which can help guide our own prayer life and helps us know how to pray according to the will of God (more on that in a bit), the prayers of Paul are always good places to start.
Many of the recorded prayer requests of Paul are nearly identical to the recorded prayer requests of Jesus in John 17. Both Jesus and Paul pray that believers would glorify God through faithful obedience and grow in unity with each other. One other similarity is that just as we saw with Jesus, there is no special language or terminology. The very things Paul writes about in his letters are the things he prays about to God, using the same ideas, the same language, and the same style.
Conversational Prayers of Paul
It seems that with Paul, as with Jesus, there is no more set structure, form, language, and requests that must be used in prayer, than there are structure, form, language, and topics that must be used in any other conversation. For example, in the past, I have counseled people to use the acronym ACTS for their prayers: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
In recent years, I have had second thoughts about this. I suppose it is not a bad pattern, but it misses the point of prayer. Jesus gives us a glimpse into His prayer life here where prayer is like having a conversation with God. Just as conversations with people get dull and boring if we talk about the same things all the time and always in the same order, so also conversation with God can get dull and boring if we always come to Him with the same prayers, the same items, the same requests, always in the same order.
When we talk with God, we can talk to Him just as we would any other person. This will make it real, meaningful, and lively. Sometimes the conversations are short; sometimes they are long. Sometimes they are heated with debate and disagreement; sometimes they are full of praise and love. Sometimes more can be said simply by remaining silent.
We have seen that Jesus prayed this way, and that Paul prayed this way, and tomorrow we will look at the book of Psalms, which contains numerous examples of this type of praying.