Prayers of the Apostle Paul
(Commentary + Life Application)
compiled by Greg Williamson (c) 2019

  • ACTS
  • ROM
  • 1-2 COR
  • EPH
  • PHIL
  • COL
  • 1-2 THESS
  • 1-2 TIM
  • PHM
• Acts 13:2-3 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 14:23 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 16:25 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 20:36-38 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 21:5-6 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 22:17-21 - Comm + Life App
• Acts 28:7-10 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 1:8-10 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 8:26 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 10:1 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 12:12 - Comm + Life App
• Rom 15:30-33 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 7:5 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 11:4-6, 13 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Cor 14:13-15 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Cor 1:11 - Comm + Life App
2 Cor 9:14-15 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Cor 13:7-9 - Comm + Life App
• Eph 1:15-19 - Comm + Life App
• Eph 6:18-20 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:3-5 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 1:19 - Comm + Life App
• Phil 4:6-7 - Comm + Life App
• Col 1:3-4 - Comm + Life App
• Col 1:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• Col 4:2-4 - Comm + Life App
• Col 4:12-13 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thes 1:2-3 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thess 3:9-10 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Thess 5:16-18, 25 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Thess 1:11-12 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Thess 3:1-2 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 2:1-2 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 2:8 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 4:3-5 - Comm + Life App
• 1 Tim 5:5 - Comm + Life App
• 2 Tim 1:3-4 - Comm + Life App
• Phm 1:4-7 - Comm + Life App
• Phm 1:22 - Comm + Life App


2 Corinthians 1:11

Paul believes that deliverance comes through intercessory prayer. The verb synypourgeō means "to work together with" or "cooperate" by means of something, in this case, by means of their prayers on his behalf. Does this statement, which basically means "with your help," take for granted that they pray for him or does he imply that they should be praying for him? One gets the impression that they have not been faithful in their petitions to God on Paul's behalf. Paul does not hide behind the facade of a superman who pretends that he can survive quite well on his own without help from anyone else. He has no qualms about expressing his desperate need for their prayers. Paul is firmly convinced of prayer's power because he knows that God listens, responds, and delivers.

The next clause is difficult, but Paul seems to be saying that God's gracious favor (charisma), which, in this context, would refer to his recent deliverance, was bestowed on him through the many faces uplifted in prayer on his behalf. But the emphasis is on giving thanks on our behalf. Paul's personal deliverance is not the sole goal of the prayer but the giving of thanks to God for his joyous deliverance. United thanksgiving to God is one of his great aims. After listing the hardships he has suffered in [2 Cor. 4:7–12], he declares in [2 Cor. 4:15], "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching ever more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God" (see 2 Cor. 9:11–12). Paul is not soliciting their prayers for his benefit alone. The surplus of suffering brings a greater surplus of comfort that overflows into the lives of others. This enrichment leads to prayers of thanksgiving that redound to the glory of God. Paul's ultimate concern is not his rescue from danger but that God will be honored more and more. The pattern of suffering and deliverance drives him further into the arms of God, who alone has the power to raise the dead, and increases the volume of prayer. Paul's vision is never confined to himself and his own little world; it stretches to the entire world and its response to God.

But Paul writes this letter because the relationship with the church has gone through some rocky times. Besides the danger Paul faced in Asia, the growing rift between him and the Corinthians probably added to his feeling unbearably crushed. He makes it clear that he has given his life to a great and powerful God who supports and comforts him in all things, but he also needs them. It is equally true that they need him. If they earnestly join in praying for his deliverance, then they cannot disparage his suffering. Joyously giving thanks to God for God's intervention in Paul's life becomes the surest sign of the reconciliation between them. Consequently, Paul does not begin this letter by offering thanksgiving for what God has done in their lives but with hope that they will give thanks for what God has done in his life through his affliction.

- David E. Garland [ref]

Paul encouraged believers to pray for his safety (2 Cor 1:11). Prayer isn't limited to church. It's a vehicle God has given to get us (and those we love) safely through life's hazards. Paul requested prayer for himself and his companions as they traveled to spread God's Word. He knew from experience that the prayers of people in congregations he had served had moved God's hands to bail him out when he was imprisoned literally and figuratively. He knew exactly what to say when people asked how they could be of assistance to him. Pray. Pray. Pray. If Paul and his associates needed prayer support, so do those who provide spiritual leadership in your life. Satan will challenge those who identify with Christ and his church. Pray for your pastors, Sunday school teachers, seminary professors, missionaries, and others you know who are extending the borders of Christ's kingdom.

- Bruce B. Barton, Greg Asimakoupoulos, Jonathan Farrar, Linda Taylor, Dave Veerman, and Neil Wilson [ref]

... Paul praises God in this passage ... because of his confidence that the Corinthians too will be recipients of God's comfort in the midst of their suffering (2 Cor. 1:6-7, 11). The basis for his confidence is his own past experience of God's comfort (here experienced as an actual deliverance from his suffering). Paul's entire argument, however, is built on his underlying conviction that God's sovereignty extends over all circumstances. To curtail the extent of God's power or purposes in the world is to cut off the possibility of comfort in the midst of adversity.

For Paul there are no such things as "luck" or "accident." To follow his thought we must resist limiting God's sovereignty in the face of suffering. The comfort of God in this text is not his empathy with us as someone who feels the tragedy of evil but is helpless in it. Nor does the comfort of God reside in his actions as a "fourth-quarter quarterback," who is brought in after things have fallen apart to save the day just before the whistle blows. There is no comfort in suffering if God is not sovereign over it. To pare down God's sovereignty is to render suffering a triumph of evil and sin against the limited will and power of God. But, for Paul, God is the one who leads Paul into suffering, sustains him in its midst, and delivers him from it -- all to the glory of God himself and for the eternal good of his people (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14; 4:7-18; 12:9-10).

Against all "downsizings" of God in order to cope with the "problem of evil," Paul confesses that one divine purpose in suffering is the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:3, 11) by the sanctification of his people (2 Cor. 1:4-10). Although we cannot understand fully God's ultimate intent in the tragic events of life (or even in the normal, routine matters!), it is possible to say that an essential part of God's purpose in all things is to honor himself by creating a people who, like Christ, trust him in every circumstance (2 Cor. 1:9-10; cf. Rom. 8:28-30; Phil. 3:10 with Heb. 5:8). As a result, Paul's hope derives from his confidence in God's ability to rescue his people in their affliction for the purpose of creating faith in his comforting sovereignty and love. And it is this confidence that leads Paul to prayer and praise rather than to resignation and self-pity. In a similar way, listen to the confession of Dietrich Bonhoeffer from New Year's Day, 1943, as it reminds us of Paul's own experience recounted in [2 Cor. 1:8-11]:

I believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone. A faith such as this should allay all our fears for the future. I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are turned to good account, and that it is no harder for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds. I believe that God is no timeless fate, but that he waits and answers sincere prayers and responsible actions.

It was this bedrock conviction that enabled Bonhoeffer to endure his subsequent imprisonment and eventual death at the hands of the Nazis.

- Scott J. Hafemann [ref]


2 Corinthians 9:14-15

2 Corinthians 9:14
Bestowing gifts on others was expected to win thanks, but Paul assumes that the recipients of their aid will respond with thanks to God and intercessory prayers for them. They will recognize that the grace manifested in their giving comes from the surpassing grace of God working in their lives. Either Paul does not want to confide his feelings of trepidation, which are freely expressed in Rom 15:31, that the saints in Jerusalem may not be so effusive in their thanks to God as he hopes, or something occurred between the time he wrote this line and when he wrote Romans that caused his trust in the saints' spiritual discernment to fade. On the eve of his departure for Jerusalem with the offering for the saints, he asks the Romans to pray that it will be accepted by them in the spirit that it was given.

If the Corinthians' love is genuine, however, it is the need of the saints in Jerusalem, not the expectation of their grateful response, that motivates their generosity. Paul, however, envisages that they will receive this sacrificial gift gratefully with an outpouring of thanks to God. Paul is not trying to build castles in the air. He knows that some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem still harbor prejudice against uncircumcized Gentiles. Yet he hopes that this gift will help break down that bias as they recognize that God's grace is being poured out "even on the Gentiles" (see Acts 11:45). Gift giving was the primary way friendship was established in the ancient world, and Paul anticipates that the gift will create a bond between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Their hearts will go out to you (lit., "longing for you"), and they will offer up intercessory prayers in your behalf.

2 Corinthians 9:15
Paul concludes this section on a note of confidence that the Corinthians will indeed comply, and so he offers thanks to God with the word that runs throughout this section, "grace" (charis, "thanks"). The thanks is not offered to the Corinthians for being well-disposed to Paul's grand scheme and opening their purses to others. It is instead directed to God, who is the author of all perfect gifts. Paul gives thanks here specifically for the "indescribable" (inexpressible) gift. This may refer to a number of things that are all connected together: the gift of salvation, the gift of God's Son, the gift of God's grace (2 Cor 8:1, 4, 6, 7, 16, 19; 9:8). Most likely it refers to [2 Cor 8:9], "the primary gift of God which has established the whole framework of Christian life and fellowship within which Paul's preaching and collection alike stand."

These words of thanksgiving conclude Paul's appeal to the Corinthians to renew their ardor for the undertaking and to fulfill their promise. They eveal that "all Christian giving is carried out in the light of God's inexpressible gift." Remembering thankfully Christ's sacrifice (2 Cor 8:9) and God's grace, which human words fail to capture fully, should cause them to finish the preparations for their gifts diligently, unselfishly, and cheerfully. Their gift models the kind of inexpressible gift that God has given to them.

- David E. Garland [ref]

Not only would the Jerusalem believers praise the Lord because of the generosity of the Corinthian believers—but they would pray for the Corinthian believers as well. After all, don't you find yourself automatically praying blessing for those who bless you? Want to get prayed for? Give!

Due to the immensity of Greek vocabulary and the precision of its tenses, voices, and moods, there has never been a language as exact as Greek. And of all the writers, philosophers, historians, and poets who wrote in [koine] Greek, none had a command of the language to rival the apostle Paul's. Yet, as he gave the Corinthians the foundational reason why they should be people who give, when this master of language tried to describe God's gift to us, Paul was speechless -- for truly Jesus is too wonderful for words.

- Jon Courson [ref]

Thankfulness puts everything in the right perspective; God gives what is needed for service, comfort, expression, and recreation.

Thankful people can worship wholeheartedly. Gratitude opens our hearts to God's peace and enables believers to put on love.

To increase your thankfulness, take an inventory of all you have (include your relationships, memories, abilities, and family, as well as material possessions). Use the inventory for prayers of gratitude. Before worship, pause and reflect on reasons for thanks. Celebrate God's goodness.

- Bruce B. Barton, Greg Asimakoupoulos, Jonathan Farrar, Linda Taylor, Dave Veerman, and Neil Wilson [ref]


2 Corinthians 13:7-9

2 Corinthians 13:7
Paul hopes that the Corinthians will come to know that he has not failed the proof, but he prays to God for their ethical rectitude (see 2 Cor. 12:20–21). This complicated sentence may be graphed as follows.

We pray to God
   that you not do anything bad
      not that we might appear approved
         but that you might do the good
            and [even though] we might be as unapproved.

This statement means that if this letter stimulates their moral reformation, he will have no opportunity to prove his authority through some external display of apostolic power when he returns to Corinth. He will therefore still lack proof, in the eyes of some, that he can be bold in person. All he wants, however, is their obedience. He has no desire to demonstrate through some kind of apostolic showdown that Christ speaks in him. Therefore, he corrects what he says in [2 Cor. 13:6], "And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test." His passing or failing the test is not at issue, and he does not want them to get the wrong impression that it is uppermost in his mind. His goal as an apostle is not to maintain his own reputation or to set himself up on a pedestal for all to revere but to make others worthy for Christ.

Paul is therefore less concerned to appear as a tried and true apostle than that the Corinthians prove to be tried and true Christians by resisting all evil. He does not have any need to display his power or to show that he can be just as severe in person as he is in his letters. If the Corinthians submit to the truth of the gospel, he will maintain his usual "weak" presence among them. The result of their obedience, therefore, may mean that he will still appear to some to be a failure as an apostle. He will not be putting on airs, or slapping them in the face (2 Cor. 11:20–21), the kind of things that some wrongly believe demonstrates the proper authority of an apostle. They may yet be tempted to regard him as too humble when face to face with them (2 Cor. 10:2). But God judges realities not appearances, and Paul is indifferent about proving his own merit as long as the church remains obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:6). To be vindicated as a forceful and dynamic apostle through visible demonstrations of power before a church that fails in its basic Christian calling does not even qualify as a hollow victory. It instead would mean abject failure. Their faithfulness to Christ is a living testimony of his genuineness as an apostle; but, more important, they are to be ambassadors of Christ to a strife-torn, egocentric, power hungry, and immoral world. If they are the mirror image of the pagan world surrounding them, what good are they to God? A church riddled by factions and chasing after falsehood is hardly fit for ministry to the world. Like worthless (adokimos) land that produces only thorns and thistles, it will be scorched (Heb. 6:8).

2 Corinthians 13:8
The truth is expressed in [2 Cor. 13:4]. Christ "was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power; likewise we are weak in him, yet by God's power we live with him." This truth cannot be changed even if it may be unpalatable to the Corinthians' tastes. Paul will not tamper with the truth (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; 6:7) to make things easier for himself (see Gal. 2:5, 14) or easier for his congregations. He cannot change his spots as a weak apostle and will not change his mode of working or preaching to please them. He also cannot adjust the truth to excuse the Corinthians' sins and errors. This parenthetical statement makes clear that true apostles are controlled by the truth and not preoccupied with themselves.

2 Corinthians 13:9
The Corinthians regard Paul as weak and boast of their own strength (see 1 Cor. 4:10). Paul may be repeating in this verse a Corinthian slogan and bending it around the gospel so that it comes out meaning something quite different from what they intended. In [2 Cor. 12:10] he reports the lesson he learned from the stake in the flesh: when I am weak, then I am powerful because God's power is perfected in my weakness. In [2 Cor. 13:4] he lays down the principle that Christ's weakness in his death and resurrection by the power of God strengthens us. Here Paul draws out the implications of his weakness for the Corinthians, something he has already explained in [2 Cor. 4:10–12]. He rejoices when he is weak because that is how God's power works in him most powerfully and has the most powerful effect on his converts. This verse therefore complements what Paul has said earlier: "Death is at work in us, but life is at work in you" (2 Cor. 4:12).

Paul continues to explain why he will not be disappointed that he will not get to use his heavy artillery to destroy opposing battlements, thereby showing himself to be a mighty apostle if they are obedient. Rather than pick a fight, he sends this letter hoping that there will be no frenzied battle at all. In his mind a "weighty" letter that creates godly repentance beats a "weighty" face-to-face confrontation any day.

Paul therefore prays that they not do wrong (2 Cor. 13:7) and for their "perfection." The noun translated "perfection" (katartisis) appears only here in the New Testament. The verb form (katartizō) is more common and is used for restoring something to its original condition or to make it fit for its purpose. It is used to refer to restoring the walls of a city, preparing fabric so that it is ready to wear, preparing a remedy, preparing a vessel (Rom 9:22), or preparing a body for sacrifice (Heb 10:5). It is also used for resetting a dislocated bone, outfitting a boat, equipping a child for adulthood with a solid education, or fully training a disciple to reach his teacher's level (Luke 6:40). The noun katartismos appears in Eph 4:12 for equipping the saints for the work of ministry. The verb form also appears in the New Testament with the sense of restoring something that is damaged, such as fishing nets (Matt 4:21; Mark 1:19), supplying what is lacking in a church's faith (1 Thess 3:10), restoring those who have suffered from persecution in this world (1 Pet 5:10), and restoring a church member who is caught in a sin (Gal 6:1). This last usage best fits the context of Corinthians. Paul is not talking about their "perfection" but their "reclamation." The use of this word here assumes that something is not right. The Corinthians need reconditioning, restoring (see the use of the verb in 2 Cor. 13:11, "mend your ways" REB). They need to re-knit their relationship with Paul, their relationship with one another, and their relationship with the crucified and resurrected Christ.

The image of their "restoration" best ties into Paul's task of upbuilding or edifying them. Paul wants to make them fit for their task as God's people in Corinth. Hebrews closes with the prayer that the God of peace may "equip ("perfect," katartizō) you with everything good for doing his will" (Heb 13:20–21). The goal of the Corinthians' restoration is that they will do what is pleasing to God (2 Cor. 5:9).

- David E. Garland [ref]

… and this also we wish, even your perfection (2 Cor. 13:9b)

The tendency of many of us would be to say, "I hope you get judged." Not Paul. He says, "I hope things will be perfect for you, that you'll walk in maturity, that you'll do excellently." The only way Paul could have had that kind of heart for this kind of people is if he did what he said he did -- if he prayed for them continually.

When you want to see someone get wiped out because they've done you wrong, pray God's best blessing upon his life. When you pray for the people who irritate you, your heart changes toward them. Oh, they might be changed in the process as well -- but whether or not that happens, you will be changed, for one cannot be angry, hostile, or mad at those for whom he consistently prays. When you pray for people, you find your own heart desiring their perfection. You want their best.

- Jon Courson [ref]

Inherent in Paul's closing admonitions ... is the recognition of real sin and the promise of a real redemption. We must recover this recognition and promise if we are to remain faithful to the witness of the gospel in the modern-postmodern world. If the church is to speak to the culture around it, whose "moral fabric is rotting," David Wells has rightly observed that

it will have to become courageous enough to say that much that is taken as normative in the postmodern world is actually sinful, and it will have to exercise new ingenuity in learning how to speak about sin to a generation for whom sin has become an impossibility. Without an understanding of sin… there can be no deep believing of the Gospel.

Second, the Church itself is going to have to become more authentic morally, for the greatness of the Gospel is now seen to have become quite trivial and inconsequential in its life. If the Gospel means so little to the Church, if it changes so little, why then should unbelievers believe it?

It is one thing to understand what Christ's deliverance means; it is quite another to see this worked out in life with depth and reality, to see its moral splendor… That is what makes the Gospel so attractive. The evangelical Church today, with some exceptions, is not very inspiring in this regard… Much of it, instead, is replete with tricks, gadgets, gimmicks, and marketing ploys as it shamelessly adapts itself to our emptied-out, blinded, postmodern world. It is supporting a massive commercial enterprise of Christian products, it is filling the airways and stuffing postal boxes, and it is always begging for money to fuel one entrepreneurial scheme after another, but it is not morally resplendent. It is mostly empty of real moral vision, and without a recovery of that vision its faith will soon disintegrate. There is too little about it that bespeaks the holiness of God. And without the vision for and reality of this holiness, the Gospel becomes trivialized, life loses its depth, God becomes transformed into a product to be sold, faith into a recreational activity to be done, and the Church into a club for the like-minded.

Here is where "the greatness of the Gospel" is so crucial. In the light of Paul's critique of the Corinthians and his conviction concerning the transforming power of the glory of God in Christ, the sting we feel from such an analysis is not a summons "to try harder" but to pray. The majesty of the message Paul preached about God and the radical nature of his corresponding expectations for God's people can both be seen in the simple fact that Paul ends his pleas with prayer. He knows the magnitude of his demands, and he knows that they cannot be met from our own spiritual or moral resources. For this reason, Paul pours out his life for the Corinthians, while at the same time praying that God will keep the Corinthians from doing wrong, that God will restore them, and that God will grant them the benefits of his presence (cf. 2 Cor. 13:7, 9, 11-14). In the end, the apostle knows that only God himself can bring about the repentance he calls for. What is needed is the "godly grief" that only God can create (2 Cor. 7:10).

Our tendency today is to skip over these references to prayer as mere platitudes of an obligatory religious piety. We do so because this is what prayer has so often become for us. Rather than a cry of desperation, prayer becomes a duty performed for God. The power of God's presence is a theological doctrine, but not a theological reality in our lives. Giving lip service to our need for God, we quickly turn to the latest technique, self-help program, or growth group. To quote David Wells again, "The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common."

In stark contrast, Paul ends his letter by praying because only God can enable the Corinthians to pass the test that Paul has given, for the goal of the test is the presence of God himself. Accordingly, his final word is that the love, peace, and fellowship he calls for in the commands of [2 Cor. 13:11] all come from the presence of God he prays for in [2 Cor. 13:14]. Paul does not take such a prayer for granted. He offers it because of the promise of the new covenant, under which God's people, in Christ and by the power of the Spirit, may enter into God's presence without being destroyed (2 Cor. 3:7-18). If the Corinthians are to keep the commands of [2 Cor. 13:11], it is only because God has answered the prayers of [2 Cor. 13:7, 9, 14].

- Scott J. Hafemann [ref]


NOTE: All material is quoted verbatim. Most of the material in the COMMENTARY section is taken from one of the top Bible commentaries as listed at