Guests: Beverly Beem and Zdravko Stefanovic
Paul’s letters reveal him as a praying pastor. It was common for non-Christian Greek letter-writers to mention they are praying to the gods for the persons to whom they are writing, often speaking of their gratitude or thanksgiving. Paul embraced this practice and developed the thanksgiving sections of his letters to to an unparalleled extent. See Romans 1:8-13; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Cor. 1:3-11; Eph 1:15-19; Phil. 1:3-11; Col. 1:3-12; 1 Thess 1:2-3; 2 Thess 1:3-7; Philemon 4-7. For a remarkable intercessory prayer that sums up Paul’s spiritual dream for his church see Ephesians 3:14-21, “I kneel in prayer to the Father…I pray that his Spirit will make you become strong followers…and that Christ will live in your hearts…Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.”
A single word, chairein, was typically used in letters of the first century to mean something like “hello”. Early Christians transformed and expanded this greeting into a distinctly Christian benediction, “Grace (charis) and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. To see how widely this benediction appears, look at Romans 1:7b; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philemon 3; 1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 1:3; See James 1:1 for the older usage. See the variations in 2 John 3; Jude 2 and Rev. 1:4-5.
For reflection and response:
- What do the letters of Paul reveal about him as a pastor? Is praying a part of the pastor’s task? How vital?
- What does a failure to engage in intercessory prayer reveal? Lack of confidence in God’s promise? Uncertainty about the proper place of intercessory prayer?
- What do the letters of Paul reveal about those he prayed for? What does he pray for? What do Paul’s letters reveal of his hopes for them?
- Look at Philemon 4-6. What does it mean for Paul to let Philemon know what he is praying about Philemon? What does this disclosure presume about their relationship? Is this disclosure one way of helping to get his prayers answered?
- Are there those for whom you are praying that are not aware that you are praying for them? What keeps you from telling them?
- What can the phrase, “I’m praying for you”, imply? Confidence in God’s promises? Love? Spiritual superiority?