Prayer for Boldness
“[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”- Ephesians 6:19–20
As an apostle, Paul may have been tempted more than other Christians to believe he could go it alone, that just he and Jesus together were enough to get the job done. In one sense, this would have been true. Jesus is the friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Even if all others desert us, Christ never leaves us or forsakes us, sustaining us by His Spirit in the most difficult circumstances (Heb. 13:5–6). Yet in another sense, we do not face the world with only Jesus beside us. The circumstances in which absolutely everyone might abandon us are few and far between, and God has redeemed us in union with other believers (Eph. 2:11–22). For all the church’s faults, we often do a good job of sticking together, supporting one another as we walk under the shadow of death in service to our King.
Having just finished an epistle on the nature of the church, Paul was well aware of this fact and humble enough to request prayer for himself while he was in prison. He asks for intercession in today’s passage, specifically exhorting the Ephesians to pray for his boldness in proclaiming the “mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19–20). This gospel was the reason for his chains, and if, as is likely, Paul wrote Ephesians sometime during the imprisonment recorded in Acts 28:11–31, his specific requests are understandable. After all, the apostle to the Gentiles was about to go before the most powerful man on earth in his day — the caesar. Due to the intimidating pomp of the Roman court, it would have been tempting even for him to avoid speaking the truth boldly. Paul, never a foolish man, needed all the spiritual help he could get in fulfilling the call to preach to the emperor. He needed others praying with him that he might wear the armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20).
Finally, the apostle’s reference to himself as an “ambassador in chains” indicates the radical difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdoms of this world. None of Paul’s pagan contemporaries would have referred to themselves in this way, for to imprison an ambassador from another nation would have embarrassed the ambassador, the sender, and the country hosting the diplomat. But Christ, who humbled Himself for our sakes (Phil. 2:5–11), sends lowly ambassadors on His behalf — ambassadors who may have to suffer greatly to announce His reign.
Again we note that, just as in Colossians, Paul does not request in today’s passage to be released from prison but for more ministry opportunities (Col. 4:3–4). This is a model for us. It is, of course, not wrong to ask the Lord to alleviate our suffering. Nevertheless, perhaps the first thing we pray for should not be the end of our pain, especially if it is for the sake of the gospel. Perhaps we should first pray for God to use our suffering for His glory.
Passages for Further Study