It seems that learning the art of vulnerability is now a movement, thanks to people like Brené Brown and her incredible TED Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability." What if we embraced the power of vulnerability in not just our relationships, but also in our prayer lives? That's a concept that I think could transform our entire year, and potentially, our entire lives.
It’s hard to ask other people to pray for you. But asking for prayer is an opportunity to admit that you can’t do it all on your own—that you need Jesus and other people. Paul the apostle set this example for us.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul the apostle offers this short, but telling, remark:
“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may progress and be honored, just as also it was with you, and that we may be delivered from evil and wicked people, for not all have the faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2 LEB).
After offering his prayers for the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:3–4, 11–12), Paul asks that the Thessalonians pray for him. Paul’s motive is simple: he desires to proclaim the saving message of Christ. Paul makes himself vulnerable because the gospel going forth requires him to do so.
Paul and his colleagues established the church at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9). So the Thessalonian Christians well understood the value of Paul’s words. If Paul was given an opportunity to speak the word of the Lord, amazing things could happen. Paul’s request is rooted in the reality of his struggles—people opposing him because he represents Jesus.
Likewise, the Thessalonian Christians experienced this opposition first hand, when Paul and his colleagues were in Thessalonica. Thus, when Paul asks for prayer in light of the “wicked people,” the Thessalonian Christians understand what he means. Paul is concerned about persecution from those who do not believe in Jesus. Thus, Paul's request has in mind the context of an urgent need. Urgent, vulnerable prayer is required to overcome these difficulties.
We need to pray for one another regularly—especially in the context of the gospel going forward. It’s good that we ask for prayer. When we request prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable in front of other Christians. And the vulnerability before other Christians is also an admission of vulnerability before God. Collectively, we are asking for God’s intercession and grace. We are inviting God into our circumstances.
Paul’s context is not so different from that of many Christians around the world. We need to pray for those who are regularly experiencing persecution for the sake of the gospel. We do not need to fear; instead, we must trust that God will see through his work. We must petition him to work on our behalf. We must admit that, as frail people, we need divine help.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself, as you embrace vulnerable prayer in 2020:
Being vulnerable in our prayer lives is transformative. Being vulnerable means bringing our very deepest emotions and needs before God. And in being vulnerable during times of group and partner prayer, we can invite God to speak to us as a community, to intercede in our frail and fragile lives. We can also invite other people to walk alongside us in our deepest needs. Our world needs vulnerable prayer.
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*This post is adapted from my earlier article, "Be Vulnerable When Asking for Prayer."