Tuesday, 26 May 2015
…you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. 2 Corinthians 1:11
Paul’s writings show that he truly believed in the effectiveness of prayers on behalf of others, meaning “intercessory” prayers. For example, in Philippians 1:19, he says –
“For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…”
Here he shows the same belief to those at Corinth. In the previous verse, he had just noted the great deliverance which was received for him and those he was with. This also included the belief that they would have continued deliverance. And so in a delicate way of asking for prayer, he writes as if they had been in prayer all along by saying, “…you also helping together in prayer for us.” If they had been praying, he knew it was a help to them. And their continued (or newly-initiated) prayers would be heard for their on-going delivery.
And he gives the reason for this help through prayer by saying “that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf.” The word for “persons” here is prosopon which literally means “faces.” It is an expression which is found many times in the New Testament and which carries over from the Hebrew’s pictorial way of describing a person. Thus, the mind is given an image of many faces jointly being lifted to God in thanks. Ellicott notes an interesting concept concerning this word –
“The use of the word prosopopœia, however, for “personifying,” and of prosôpon for the characters in a drama, indicates that the noun was beginning to be used in a different sense, and this must clearly have been well established when it came to be used in theological language for the three “persons” of the Godhead. It is interesting to note, however, as a fact in the history of language, that, if this be its meaning here, it is probably one of the earliest extant instances of its being so used.”
In other words, the term “persons” of the Godhead has always seemed cumbersome because we think of persons as distinct and separate without any true unity of essence. However, the use of the word prosopon for “person” may make the concept easier to grasp than some other word indicating an individual person as we think of it today. It wouldn’t mean God is one Person with three faces, but three persons in one essence, just as those in prayer are united in a single way even though they are individuals.
Regardless of this though, Paul notes that these many faces, because of their united prayer, would give thanks “for the gift granted to us through many.” The gift refers to their delivery from death, something the many would be thankful for because of knowing that their prayers had been heard and responded to.
Life application: On several occasions, Paul notes the effectiveness of prayers, including the greater effectiveness of united prayers on behalf of a given person or issue. Therefore, it is right and proper to jointly lift up individuals or specific issues to God. And we should do so with the confidence that these prayers are heard and they are responded to according to His wisdom and in accord with His plans.
Lord, thank You for the time of prayer that I have each day. There are quiet moments alone with You, there are prayers united with others that are close by, and there are prayers united with like-prayers by others around the world. Sometimes I make short, spontaneous prayers of praise or petition which come from my heart and roll off my tongue at any given moment. And I know that every one of these prayers is heard by You and will be responded to according to Your wisdom. And so I will continue to pray without ceasing, knowing that Your ear is attentive to each one I make! Amen.