The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 227)
Praying the Epistles – Practical Applications
In the previous issue of Fishers, we examined the importance of praying through God’s Word. We discovered that Scripture is powerful and profitable for our prayer as it is inspired by God Himself. We also explored how God’s Word enriches our prayers by stimulating, sanctifying and strengthening what we utter to the Lord. In this article we will consider specifically how we pray through the Epistles of the New Testament and use them as the basis and substance for our prayers.
Why Pray Through the Epistles?
Learning to pray through Scripture must include learning to pray through the portion of the Word of God most relevant to us in our day. The NT epistles lend themselves readily to Scripture prayer for several reasons. Many passages explain the glories of the Gospel such as the goodness and genius of God that enabled Him to be just and justifier of sinners. We read this, and we can immediately thank God very specifically for different aspects of His salvation. Other passages speak of the Church, both universal and local, and what church life should be like. We read this, and can specifically pray for our own church, that we grow into these ideals.
Much of epistolary literature instructs and directs us how to live as Christians. We read those, and pray for ourselves and fellow believers that we can mature in those specific areas. Many epistles point out sin and admonish repentance. We read these, and examine ourselves, repent and confess our specific sins, and ask God to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Very often, as the apostles wrote their epistles, they would suddenly break out in prayer, and do it most naturally. We read this, and we should just join them in prayer, adjusting a few words here and there to apply those prayers to our own specific situations.
In fact, it is most unnatural for us to read the epistles and not pray because the NT epistles lend themselves so readily to stimulate our prayers.
Praying Systematically Through All the Epistles
Read a passage from the Epistles and select a portion of the passage you want to pray through. Sometimes you can pray through the whole chapter but some chapters are so rich that you may want to select just a few verses. Meditate on that text, think deeply on what our Lord is saying to us. Pray as a slave of Christ responding to his Master’s words.
If the passage speaks of Who God is, our prayer is worship and adoration. If the text speaks of what God has done, our prayer is praise and thanksgiving. If the verses speak of how we should live as NT believers, we entreat God for strength and help to submit and obey. If the Epistle speaks of how we should be as a Church, we pray for ourselves and intercede for others that we may all grow into the specific maturity required of us. If the Holy Spirit points out our sin, our attitude is repentance, our prayer is confession.
Using 2 Tim 2:14-26, here is as an illustration of how we can pray:
Another way is to take our prayer list, and discipline ourselves to tie every prayer to a specific Bible verse. It is important for us to pray specific prayers, and not just prayers for general blessing. Often, our prayers do not honour God, because we pray so generically and infrequently, and all we really want is for God to endorse our will, and bless our control of things in our lives.
Specificity in prayer is actually an act of worship. It is a declaration that we are willing to submit every single detail of our lives to God, from our smallest desires to our grand aspirations. We have our own longings and preferences, but we want every bit of our lives to go God’s way. Bringing a specific petition before God is not demanding a specific response from God. When we pray specifically, we are saying to the Lord, “This is what we want, this is what we think your Word teaches us to pray specifically about this situation, and if this is not what we want, may Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
So, when we pray the details, we are consciously relinquishing control over them to God’s sovereignty. But as we seek to be specific in our prayers, as we seek to submit every detail of our lives to God, we find that the Epistles often give us much wisdom about praying specifically. The steps of this method are:
There will still be some situations when we simply do not know what to pray for. When that happens, we rest in the incredible promise of Rom 8:26-27, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” We come humbly before God, tell Him we are needy, and in silence press our helplessness upon Him. In such times, we know the Spirit Himself goes into overdrive, interceding for us. What a tremendous comfort, and thanks be to God!
Most of the time, praying the Epistles is not difficult. We do not have to look for obscure verses.
It really is not all that hard! Let’s challenge ourselves to always file a petition before God with Scripture to back it up! Amen!