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Paul asks for prayer for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in scripture | 5 comments

Paul asks for prayer for himself in Ephesians 6:19-20

At the end of his letter to the believers in Ephesus, while encouraging them to stand firm by trusting in God for their truth, righteousness, etc., Paul reminds them to pray. He doesn’t tell them to pray every morning or every evening. He tells them that they will be able to stand against spiritual attacks by “praying at all times in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV)

Also, he doesn’t want them to only pray for themselves, but instead they are to pray for all believers – “keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV) In fact, Paul then asks the Ephesians to pray for him.

Ephesians 6:19-20 has (for a long time now) been a very encouraging passage for me. Why? Because Paul – who is still known as a great apostles, missionary, and evangelist – makes the following request of the Ephesian church:

…and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19-20 ESV)

Now, the term “boldly” used above (once as an adjective in Ephesians 6:19 and then as a verb in Ephesians 6:20) is not about yelling, shouting, spitting, pounding, etc. Instead, it’s about courage, openness, and assurance. So, Paul is asking the Ephesians to pray that he would proclaim the gospel with courage – i.e., to not be afraid of proclaiming the gospel.

It was always amazing – and wonderful and encouraging – to me that Paul – who was known for proclaiming the gospel courageously, was asking the Ephesians to pray that he would proclaim the gospel courageously. In other words, Paul knew that he could only proclaim the gospel boldly if God enabled him to do it.

Now, interestingly, I had always interpreted that “prayer request” to indicate that Paul struggled in this area – that he was occasionally NOT bold in proclaiming the gospel. But, Sunday, as we were discussing this passage together, one of my brothers or sisters (unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly who), suggested something different. Perhaps Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him specifically because he WAS normally bold in proclaiming the gospel.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense at first, but think about it… Almost everyone who is in Christ has a certain area of service (or perhaps several areas of service) which seem to come naturally to them (or supernaturally, as the case may be). When God works through us in this way, it is easy to forget that we still rely on God for this service. It’s easy to think that we can do it on our own. So, if this was the case, Paul was asking for prayer so that he didn’t forget that he must rely on God in order to proclaim the gospel boldly.

You know what? I don’t think it matters which option above (or perhaps another option) caused Paul to ask for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel boldly. In either case, the result is the same: recognition by Paul that he was completely dependent on God in order to proclaim the gospel boldly.


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  1. 12-19-2012

    An interesting way of looking at it, Alan. Sounds to me that you are surrounded by some good sisters and brothers!

    The idea of ‘praying at all times in the Spirit’ is intriguing too, isn’t it? Do we usually pray ‘in the mind’ rather than ‘in the Spirit’? What does it really mean to pray ‘in the Spirit’? That’s well worth pondering too.

  2. 12-19-2012

    I think Paul was praying for something more than just boldness to preach the gospel. There is a significant word missing from that summary.

    In the verse is this phrase, “boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” What is this “mystery” Paul wants to boldly proclaim? Why is this word there in the passage? Is it the same as the good news that Jesus Christ has paid for our sins, that through Him we can be reconciled to God? Or is it something more? I think it’s something more as referenced in Ephesians 3:1-6…

    For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles– assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph 3:1-6)

    The mystery must be something more than just that God would provide the perfect sacrifice to reconcile us to Him, because that fact WAS known by “the sons of men in other generations.” Such is the essence of faith in all generations. The “mystery,” which Paul is requesting that the Ephesians pray for him to proclaim boldly, is something that “has now been revealed… by the Spirit.” I think “mystery” is an important word in this passage.


  3. 12-19-2012

    I wonder if “ambassador in chains” means more than ‘prisoner in Rome’? Maybe it also means ‘bondservant of Jesus’. In the same way that “Paul was asking for prayer so that he didn’t forget that he must rely on God in order to proclaim the gospel boldly.” A faithful steward must faithfully represent his master, even though his daily activity is self initiated (like Joseph in Egypt).

  4. 12-20-2012

    i love that “the great apostle” paul is so humble to ask for prayer to do what he obviously was already doing

    we can all always do better and use prayer of our brothers and sisters to God

  5. 12-20-2012

    Great thoughts, here, everyone. Thanks for sharing with us!