‘ … and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel’ (Eph. 6:19).
In partnership with the apostolic
Paul and the churches are very much in a prayer relationship. They didn’t have mobiles, they didn’t have telephones, they were often separated, and Paul says in such verses as Philippians 1, ‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you all, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel. From the first day until now, I am praying for you.’
He planted the church in Philippi and he always prayed for them. They were in partnership. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘fellowship’ but the word koinonia means partnership. Peter and his brothers were in a partnership, a fishing partnership. It means they jointly owned the fleet. ‘Fellowship’ can mean cups of tea after meetings. ’Koinonia’ means partnership. We are in this together.
In 1 Thessalonians he writes again, ‘We always thank God for you all. Mentioning you in our prayers. Continually remembering you before our God.’ Paul is not independent. He is not rootless. If I may say, he’s not para-church, he is rooted in churches. He believes in the local church. His apostolic ministry is rooted back in the local church. He continually prays for them. He is joined to them in prayer. He thanks God for their partnership and then he asks for their prayers. He invites the churches to pray for him, and especially for his apostolic ministry.
In Romans he writes, ‘I urge you brothers by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.’ Paul is going to engage with this church in Rome. They are not really in his sphere yet but he is approaching them asking them to join with him in his struggles.
In 2 Corinthians he writes, ‘You also joining in helping us through your prayers. You are helping us.’ We are going and you, church at Corinth, are helping us with apostolic breakthrough.
In Philippians he writes ‘I know that through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ I shall be delivered.’ Paul is in prison. He is about to be brought forward for judgement. ‘I know through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit, I shall be vindicated.’ Your prayers.
Again, Colossians – ‘Pray for us that God may open a door for us for the message that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.’ This is almost identical to the Ephesians passage that we are looking at: ‘Pray on my behalf that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.’
Paul is asking the churches to be very involved with his apostolic work. We believe in apostolic ministry. We need to see how it works in the church. Churches are prayerfully involved, caught up in, associated with Paul, in partnership in prayer with him. Sometimes sending one of their elders, like Epaphras. He says, ‘Epaphras is labouring for you.’ But I thought he was away from us. ‘No he is praying for you. He is labouring.’ That’s the word Paul uses – he is working for you. He is with me at the moment because you as a church are caught up with me on my apostolic adventure, my breaking-through ministry.
Together on a Mission
We are taking the gospel of grace and breaking into new territory. We are planting churches in many nations. God’s Lavish Grace is being translated in many languages. PRAY! It’s revolutionarily different. We are breaking through with a revolutionary gospel. We need the Spirit to break doors open into nation after nation.
From one apostolic sphere, we have grown and grown. By being in partnership with us and praying for breakthrough, we are not just evangelising our city but prayerfully crossing all kinds of boundaries. That was the feel of New Testament apostolic ministry. Apostles need praying churches behind them, owning them, in partnership with them, propelling them forward out of hindrances into new territory.
This post was adapted from the 3rd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010