You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. – 2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ and he took his responsibility to spread the good news quite seriously. He traveled far and wide taking the message of salvation made available through faith in Jesus to as many of the Gentile lands he could possibly reach. On those journeys he encountered those who embraced his message eagerly, but also those who offered intense opposition. He was regularly rejected, ridiculed, thrown out of the synagogue, falsely accused, chased out of town and even stoned and left for dead. Paul told the believers in Corinth, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV). There were few who could relate to Paul’s experiences. The list of those who were putting their life on the line by sharing the gospel in hostile situations was short. Yes, there was persecution going on all over the world at that time, but there were not many who were performing the role of an official missionary for the gospel. Paul’s calling was unique. His commission to take the gospel to the Gentiles was given to him personally by Christ himself and to him alone.
Paul wasn’t complaining about his lot in life. He was whining to the believers in Corinth about all that he had to suffer for the sake of Christ. In fact, he was sharing all that he had gained through his trials on behalf of Christ. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 11:9-10 ESV). Through all his difficulties, Paul had learned to trust in God. He had seen God deliver him time and time again, so he knew that God would not fail to deliver him in the future. He was content to trust God’s plan for his life. But his contentment with God’s will did not stop him from asking for prayers on his behalf. He specifically asked those to whom he was writing for their help – in the form of their prayers. “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” While they could not travel with Paul or assist him by taking the gospel to foreign lands, they could come to his aid by going to their knees. They could pray for his ministry, his health, and his safety. They could ask God to continue to provide protection. They could pray for those to whom Paul would minister, that they would have receptive ears and soft hearts. There is power in prayer. Through prayer, we come humbly before God and ask Him to do what only He can do. We acknowledge our need for His assistance. We share our heart with Him that His will be done. We show Him that we care about what He cares about. Paul was asking for their prayers. He coveted their prayers on his behalf. He knew that the greatest assistance they could provide to him would be through their prayers for him. “In prayer, human impotence casts itself at the feet of divine omnipotence” (Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 23).
Prayer allows us to do things we could not possibly do in the flesh. We can’t be everywhere at once. We can’t physically be with every person in our family at the same time. We have limits. We have physical constraints. But through prayer, we are able to span distances, expand our reach, multiply our efforts and provide our assistance to those we can’t even see. Paul knew there was power in prayer. He had experienced it. He knew there were countless individuals, in cities all across Macedonia, Asia and Galatia who were praying for him as he traveled. They were praying for his work, his health, and his message. He could sense their love for him and their common concern for his work. Paul did not take their prayers lightly. He coveted them. He asked for them. He knew he needed them.
Through prayer we can accomplish far more than we can through our own efforts. Prayer engages God. Prayer unleashes a power we do not possess. Prayer reminds us that God is the one who must accomplish the impossible, not us. God has no limits. He is not hampered by time constraints. Distance creates no barrier for Him. By reaching out to Him, we are able to touch the lives of those we cannot see and the hearts of those we don’t even know. We can pray for the lost around the world. We can lift up the work of missionaries we have never even met. We can offer up our concerns for the work of the gospel in places we will never get to go. Through prayer, we can help in ways that go far beyond our human capabilities and accomplish more than we could ever imagine. They say technology has made the world “smaller.” From the safety of our home we can see what’s going on around the world. We can talk to someone on the other side of the planet. We can watch events taking place in distance lands as if we were there. I can Skype with a missionary working in Africa. I can send a text of encouragement to a friend on a different continent. I can receive images instantaneously from someone thousands of miles away. But prayer does far more. It unleashes the power of God. It allows me to not only stay in touch, but to connect in practical, powerful ways. Prayer shrinks the world, expands our reach, spreads the gospel, and exposes our dependence upon the power of God.