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.