Friday, March 18, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 10: Prayer


Week 10: Prayer

As I have mentioned before, my intent for this weekly post is mainly to take words from my studies and use them as a way to be formed by God's Word. I can think of no better means of spiritual formation than to be saturated and filled by the Word of God. For the past year I have been studying 2 Corinthians with a friend. We have moved through it very slowly, taking any rabbit trails that come along. And it has been so good. So here we are 15 months into our study and we have just completed chapter 7. We decided to reconnect ourselves with the first seven chapters before moving on, and as I was doing so this week I was struck by the significance of a few verses that I didn't really catch the first time. I love and appreciate that God's Word is living and active. Each time we engage it, we can see totally new things; things that may have a different significance based on what our current circumstances might be.

So, the passage is 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and the verses that connected with me in a different manner this time are verses 10 and 11.

"He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:10-11

While I chose prayer as today's word, I specifically want to focus on intercessory prayer. What I clamped onto when I read this the other day is the word "as" at the beginning of verse 11. Paul directly connects his hope in God continuing to deliver him from the trial he is facing to the prayers for him offered up by others. As pastor and author J. Hampton Keathley says, "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." This elevates the need to be faithful in intercessory prayer. It also elevates the need to make sure that we are bringing others into our needs and struggles, so that they can pray for us and appeal to God on our behalf. 

 "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." ~J. Hampton Keathley

Let me dig into these vereses a bit more and then draw some conclusions from the context of the larger passage they are connected to.

Paul is confident in God's deliverance of whatever trial he is facing because 1.) He has deliverd us. Paul can look back on his faith journey to date and draw deeper faith and encouragement from the times that God has delivered him in the past. 2.) Because Paul knows that God is faithful, he can trust that God will deliver him again now. And 3.) Paul says he has set his hope on God that he will continue to deliver him. Paul is confident that God has, will, and will continue to deliver those who are in Him. Again quoting Keathley, "Paul's perspective of life  is to live with his hope firmly fixed on God alone as his deliverer." Why can Paul have this perspective?

This is where the full context (2 Cor. 1:3-11) of the passage these verses are in come into play. Paul has learned to have a proper biblical perspective on suffering and trials because Paul sees God the Father as "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (1:3). Through faith and the circumstances of a life that is devoted to following God, Paul has learned that suffering and trials have a purpose in the lives of those who are in Christ:
  • The comfort we receive from God in our trails and suffering enables us to comfort others who face affliction. (1:4)
  • Trials and suffering help us to rely on God and not on ourselves. (1:9)
  • Trials and suffering help us set our hope on God, our deliverer, and not on other things in the world or ourselves to deliver us. They train our eyes on hope, so to speak. (1:10)
  • God's deliverance is closely connected with others praying for us. So we must bring others into our suffering and trials to enable them to pray for us and implore God to work on our behalf. (1:11)
  • Thus, prayer binds us together and initiates the comfort of God. We cannot receive comfort as God intends unless we let others know of our needs. God's comfort is for the one who is suffering and for the ones who are praying.
  • Finally, when we share our trails and sufferings with others who then pray for us the result is thanksgiving, praise and glory to God. (1:11)  In all things the ultimate goal is glory to God. 
Let me end with a word picture from the Greek words used in verse 11.  The NASB says "so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf".  The Greek word used here for persons is "prosopon" it literally means face.  So we have the image of many faces lifted up toward God in prayer. What a great picture of intercessory prayer.

I mentioned earlier that sometimes we will see a verse or passage in a different light due to circumstances in our own life.  Currently both my husband and my pastor/boss are facing health issues - these are the two most important men in my life. In light of this and the Russian invasion of Ukraine I am struck by God's deliverance coming "as" we help others by our prayers. May we bring comfort and be comforted as we turn our faces to God in prayer on behalf of others.

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

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