How Can We Learn to Pray From the Apostolic Prayers in the Bible? #281 #prayer

Happy Saturday, dear friends! Today we are talking about one of my favorite topics: prayer! We will be reading 1 Kings 6, Psalms 86, Ezekiel 36 and Ephesians 3, which contains an amazing prayer from Paul. What is the way that you learn something? For most of us, the method of learning can be quite radically different, which is one reason why a one size fits all educational method in school won’t always work. My wife and I have 5 kids, and their learning styles are all quite different from each other – different struggles, different strengths, and different ways to grasp truth. Some learn by hands on  ways – they need to see, feel and visualize principles, while others are more auditory, and can learn from listening to lecture. When you look at the Jesus method of teaching – which is a good thing to do, considering He was the greatest teacher to ever live – you can see that He employed a show AND tell model. I realize, of course, that is a vast oversimplification, but it is largely accurate. Jesus didn’t just teach His disciples truths, but He also modeled those truths in front of them. He didn’t just teach classroom style, He also sent His students out into the lab of the World to put His teachings into action.

The Bible teaches us all about prayer in a very similar way – not just telling us how to pray, but also giving many examples of prayer in action. Indeed, when Jesus was asked by His disciples for a teaching on prayer, Jesus told them: This is how you pray…and then offered them a prayer as a model. The Lord’s prayer, of course, isn’t the only prayer we have in Scripture either. We have the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17, the apostolic prayers, and many examples of Godly and diligent prayers in the Old Testament, such as Hannah’s prayer for a child. Today we are looking at some of these prayers and learning from them. Here are 5 other apostolic prayers – prayers that are in Scripture that were written down by the apostles of Jesus.

  1. making mention of you in my prayers;17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward  us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” Ephesians 1:16-19
  2. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.” Romans 15:5-6
  3.  “For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12
  4. And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
  5. We always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2nd Thessalonians 1:11-12

So – let’s read our Ephesians passage today, and add the apostolic prayer from Ephesians 3 to our list.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

Sometimes we don’t know how to pray or what to pray, but in these prayers (and many others in Scripture) we find so much help in our praying – i can see at least two big ways that we can benefit from becoming very familiar with these apostolic prayers.

  1. We can learn from these passages the PRIORITIES we should focus on in prayer, because we can see how the Holy Spirit (which inspired the Scriptures) led the apostles in how to pray. We can trust that these prayers are spot on and infallible because we know that the Word of God is God-breathed and without error. So, here are a few priorities I see in these prayers: first is LOVE, which should be no surprise. Paul prays in our focus passage today that the Ephesian church would be rooted and established (built on) love. He prays that they would be able to comprehend the vast depths of the love of God in Christ, and he prays that they would KNOW that love of God in a way that surpasses knowledge. I think that means in a way that goes beyond mere head-knowledge, or the factual knowledge of a particular thing. In the Philippians 1 prayer, Paul also prays for the growth of love in the church there.We also see Paul praying for the church to be strengthened in the Colossians 1 and Ephesians 3 prayers – another repeated priority. Wisdom and knowledge also make prominent appearances – in fact, Paul prays for the church to have knowledge in four different ways in three of these prayers. Here is an example: “so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)  So – we see that the apostolic prayers can demonstrate to us here what are the really important sorts of things that we should be praying for. Consider how you pray – how do your prayer priorities line up with the prayer priorities you see here?
  2. We can also learn much about the format of prayer. Some believers seem to think they need to have a very long preamble in their prayers that is filled with lots of flowery language and such. In the Old Testament and in many royal courts of Europe and other places, it was most proper to pay homage when coming into the presence of the King, whether by words, or bowing, or some other sign of humility meeting superiority. This is appropriate for prayer, but all of our examples for prayer today show us that it need not be overdone. Because of Jesus, we can boldly enter the throne room of God – knowing we are unworthy, and yet not having to lick the floor for hours to demonstrate our unworthiness. Jesus Himself provides us a good example for this in the model prayer – how does He start:

    Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy.10 Your kingdom come.Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts,” Matthew 6:9-11  Along those lines we also see that prayer does not have a specific beginning or ending salutation, which I take to mean that we have great freedom in this area. Do you begin most prayers with ‘Dear Lord,’ and end them with ‘In the name of Jesus, amen?’ Because I probably do – but when we see the New Testament prayers of the Bible, we can see that there is no mandated format that we have to follow, and we don’t have to say certain things at the beginning and ending of each prayer. 

Are you wanting to learn how to pray? Begin in John 17 with the prayer of Jesus, and then devour the above apostolic prayers, and rejoice, because the six we’ve talked about today are just the beginning – there are dozens of prayers all through the Bible, and they are all helpful to read and meditate on and pray through. May they help fuel and inform your prayer life, and mine!


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