I Thought You Were Just Saying Hi (Learning How to Pray for God’s Sentence for Your Life from Paul’s Letter Salutations)
When I come across a long list of names during my Bible reading, I will generally skip ahead to where the list ends. As much as the Bible is our authority and truth, I have found there are a few parts that I believe are either tough to read repetitively or don’t always stir my spirit in the same way that the book of Hebrews or the Gospels do.
For years, I would also often glaze over Paul’s introductions in the Epistles – which are books like Ephesians, Galatians and Colossians. These books were actually letters written to early Christian churches. These letters contain encouragement, edification and corrections to help guide the early churches behavior. Remember, there were not churches on every corner yet. Planting a church was as nomadic as crossing the Atlantic and founding America.
Like our adventurous founding fathers, early church planters had a great foundation for why they were doing what they did. The founding fathers desired to escape the reach of unwanted rulers. The first churches desired to stay within the reach of the God who loved them and whose kingdom they wanted to serve.
Similarly, founding fathers came across many troubles fulfilling their visions and they didn’t have anyone who had gone before them writing to show them the way to go. Thankfully, the church did. Paul’s letters to the early churches became canon to the Bible, historically records of the early church and contain significant insight and wisdom for those that are seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ as Lord.
The first few lines of many of the Epistles start with general greetings from Paul – who is often writing them from prison. Let’s look at some of those opens:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead— and all the brothers with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:1-3
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints in Colossae, the faithful brothers in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. Colossians 1:1-2
Do you notice the pattern of similar greetings in the opening lines of Paul’s letters? I did too.
These greetings seemed pretty basic to me. He was just saying hello. In my attempt to “get to the good parts”, I would often skip over these greetings and begin reading further down the first chapter. However, as I began to study how to find God’s sentence for my life (my way of saying God’s plan and purpose), I found I was missing key instructions on how to find my sentence hidden inside the early parts of these letters.
Let’s look at what Paul writes immediately following his salutations (I have added emphasis in bold):
I always thank my God for you because of the grace He has given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way, in all speech and all knowledge, because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4-7
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not rush to consult with flesh and blood, Galatians 1:15-16
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers and asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him. I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength, Ephesians 1:16-19
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God Colossians 1:9-10
Do you notice the pattern in these? A little harder to see.
When you and I write a letter, we often first share the best news or at least the most important information. Paul’s letters could be seen in a similar light considering most of his letters begin with the same type of information – which is that God has a unique plan and purpose for every believer.
Paul tells these born again, Holy Spirit filled believers that he is praying for them, in part, to receive God’s plan for their personal lives. Again, these people are already Christians. Why would Paul continue to pray for them to receive more than salvation? Because Paul knows the extreme importance of learning God’s calling. He knows that Christians are not meant to sit on the sidelines post salvation, but instead ask to get in the game by discovering the calling God has place on their lives.
Paul also knows that finding God’s plans and purpose do not happen by accident. He is praying for believers to receive their callings because he knows they may not be praying to receive them for themselves!
The same goes for us today. God has a calling for your life. He has plans and a purpose for your future. You won’t find it by accident. You will need to pray and ask God to reveal it to you.
If you combine the prayers Paul had in regards to Christians discovering God’s call on their life, you will see keys we can use to unlock our own.
Paul prayed for believers to receive:
· Revelation knowledge (Eph. 1:17; Col. 1:9)
· Spiritual Wisdom (Eph. 1:17, Philip.1:9, Col. 1:9)
· The hope of His calling (Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:10)
· The ability to love more (Philip. 1:9)
These four prayers can help you discover and write God’s sentence for your life. I will pray them for you now because I know the truth of God’s excitement to share it with you. Pray them for yourself and we will then be in agreement that God is about to supernaturally open your eyes, heart and mind to receive the hope of His calling on your life. Be ready to receive it!
Wouldn’t you like to see a pattern of Christians walking in God’s plan and purpose? Me too! But before a pattern can emerge, someone has to lead the way. Paul taught us how to pray for God’s plans to be revealed, now we need to pray and listen for ourselves. You and I can start making the pattern!
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