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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.”

During a great trial that Paul and his co-laborers in ministry faced in Asia, their suffering was so intense that they thought they would die. This moved them to greater reliance on God (2 Cor. 1:8–9). The Lord, in turn, delivered them from their affliction and fostered in them the confidence in future deliverance. Indeed, they came to set their hope only on the Lord that He would deliver them again (v. 10).

One might think that such confidence would not lead Paul to ask for others to pray for the deliverance that was sure to come. However, in today’s passage he asks the Corinthians to pray for them to be saved from their troubles, even saying that they “must help” the Apostle and his companions with their prayers (v. 11). The Apostle did not see the surety of God’s rescue as a reason to neglect praying for that rescue. We could say that he saw the surety of this rescue as making prayer all the more necessary. This touches on the greater question of the relationship between God’s sovereign providence and human action. We know that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11) and that His purposes will surely be achieved. No purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). But Scripture holds this truth alongside the truth that we must act, that “[we] do not have, because [we] do not ask” (James 4:2). The Lord works out His purposes in His sovereign power in and through the prayers and service of His people. Often we ask, “If God is sovereign, why should we pray?” In truth, we should be saying, “Since God is sovereign, we must pray,” for we know the Lord is pleased to make use of us in bringing His purposes to pass.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:11 that the Corinthians should pray “so that many will give thanks” for the blessing the Apostle and his co-ministers receive. Here we have a key insight into the purpose of intercessory prayer. We might think that asking many people to pray for us will somehow make God more willing to give us what we ask. But that is not why we should ask others to pray. Instead, we ask people to pray because God is pleased when His people are united in prayer. Further, asking others to pray gives them the opportunity to praise God when they see Him answer prayer. Charles Hodge comments: “The design of God in thus uniting his people in praying for each others when in affliction or danger, is that deliverance may be matter of common gratulation [or joy] and praise. Thus all hearts are drawn out to God and Christian fellowship is promoted.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Increasing the number of people praying for a certain outcome does not make the Lord more likely to grant that outcome. Instead, the purpose is to make more people aware of a need so that, when God moves, they become more convinced of His power and trust Him all the more. In that way, our asking people to pray for us can become a strong witness to the goodness and power of our Lord.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 14
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:25,
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5
  • James 5:13–18

Paul’s Affliction in Asia

Simplicity and Godly Sincerity

Keep Reading Right Now Counts Forever

From the August 2021 Issue
Aug 2021 Issue