Brothers and Sisters,
In my devotional reading this morning, I was arrested by this verse in 2 Corinthians 1:11,
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.
In context, Paul is describing the comfort God gives amid affliction (v. 3-7). He especially wants his friends to know how bad he’s had it (v. 8), not because he’s looking for a pity party but because they need to know that all his suffering was meant to build his reliance on the God who raises the dead and delivers us from our afflictions (v. 9-10).
In v. 11, Paul invites the Corinthians to partner with him through prayer. The precise meaning of these words is hard to decipher, but the basic gist is that Paul wants them to pray so that, when God answers, there will be an eruption of thanksgiving in the church.
Why did this verse stop me in my tracks? For one thing, I know my own proclivity to get to work without pausing to ask God’s blessing. Consequently, if and when the blessing comes (in spite of my failure to ask), I’m not primed to thank God. After all, I did this. Not Him.
What a load of malarkey. What do we have that we have not received (1 Cor 4:7)? Zip. What can we accomplish without God’s divine approval (Ps 127:1)? Zilch. So, we ought to pray without ceasing for God’s help, so that we can thank Him when it comes.
That’s a big part of what’s going on in this verse. But the bigger part is what Paul says about the corporate dimension of prayer and thanksgiving. This verse isn’t precisely about praying before we sit down at the keyboard, pick up a phone, unpack our toolbox, etc. It’s about asking one another to pray so that, when the blessing comes, we can give thanks together.
You may think it unnecessary to send your friend a text for prayer before you walk in for a job interview. You may not think your upcoming medical procedure is all that big a deal. You may doubt whether your apartment search rises to the level of an emailed prayer request.* You may not want to bother anybody.
Again, I say malarkey.
Paul’s request isn’t based on the enormity of his afflictions so much as his burning desire to see the church learn to rely on God and give thanks when He delivers. We, too, should long to become a place where we rely on God together and rejoice together when He comes through.
Even if we’re innocent of the sin of self-reliance, we may yet be guilty of denying our brothers and sisters the chance to give thanks when God shows up for us. So, I encourage you all, not just to pray for others but to let them know how they can pray for you.
Consider this a plug for the prayer chain* if you want. However you do it, let’s not be shy about asking our brothers and sisters to “help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
In Christ alone,
*Quite a few of you are still sending prayer requests the “old way” by emailing them to me or Jennifer. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org instead, and they will be disseminated to everyone on the prayer chain. If you’re not receiving those emails, let me know so that you can be added.