The Chains

“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, for which I am an ambassador in chains.” Ephesians 6:19-20

Paul’s prayer request was his humble admission of the limits of his personal strength and courage for the crisis he continued to face. He was imprisoned in Rome, and chained to a Roman soldier, awaiting his trial under Roman law. What could possibly go wrong?

Notice Paul’s prayer request. It was personal. Paul was not above asking for help. Rebellious children shout, “I do it myself.” Perceptive prayer warriors recognize their limitations and cry out, “Pray for me.”

One of the most revealing things about a person is their response to the question, “Is there anything I can pray about for you?” Often the question catches a person a bit flatfooted and tongue-tied, until they mutter, “No, everything is going OK right now.” Translation, “I only pray in panic. Catch me later.”

Paul asked for the church to intercede “that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth.” (v. 19a)

Paul’s prayer was answered. Paul’s voice, though muted by imprisonment, burst past the walls, and restricted movement of his body, onto the pages of letters. Thank God his Prison Epistles still survive today. They offer great insight into the love of God, the life of the early church, the courage of the first believers. They provide encouragement for those of us who follow in their steps. Thanks Paul.

Along with the letters Paul wrote to a much wider audience, his request revealed a concern for his much smaller audience. He remained chained to his Roman guard and he chose to receive this relationship as an opportunity for importunity.

Importunity is the prayer warrior’s capacity to press on in the face of a prevailing wind, and to keep their eye on their port of call. Praying with importunity receives opposition, and turns it into an asset not a liability. Prayer warriors learn to sail into the wind, and transform adversity into the power to arrive safely at their destination.

Paul’s imprisonment continued to have a powerful impact upon those closest to him. His Roman guards were rotated in and out, and provided him opportunity for many personal conversations. Paul’s boldness with those chained to him reaped a tremendous harvest among the Roman guards. How did this happen?

Paul refused to rattle his chains in resentment, and chose to receive his chains as an assignment. Big difference.

The fact of Paul’s imprisonment did not change, but his faith did. His growing faith, in the face of continuing imprisonment, impacted those who observed Paul in the middle of a prolonged crisis. The result?

“"Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." Philippians 1:12-14

Praying through his crisis of imprisonment, and pleading for intercession in the middle of it, raised Paul’s perspective from that of a victim to a victor. Rather than pull against his chains, Paul wore them as a badge of honor.

“I am an ambassador in chains.” (v. 20)

Paul’s prayer life claimed victory over crisis, and kept him from being a victim of it. He lived a life of victory between the words, “Pray on my behalf” and “I am an ambassador in chains.” Thank God he did.

Note to self: God wraps up some of His greatest gifts in the most frightening packaging. Lose your shock face. Embrace what God brings into your life with an attitude of gratitude. What often appears to you, as a devilish interruption, is actually a Divine appointment. Pray early and often to discern the difference. There is nothing more obnoxious than an ungrateful child. Don’t be one. Complaining about God’s gift-wrapping is a sign you need more intercession in your life. Ask for more, and do more of it for others.  TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!

“Discernment is given for intercession, never fault-finding.” Oswald Chambers