Of course the Internet wasn’t invented in Paul's day. He didn’t even have mail by pony express. When he wrote to the churches he founded, the letters would have to go by ship, then by foot, hand-carried. They were meant to be read and re-read aloud by the young congregation and passed around to other groups of believers. And preserved for future Christians.
The apostle Paul had to write down his prayers as well as his instructions and encouragement for building up the fledgling believers. Nineteen of his prayers, short and long, for all different circumstances and geographical locations are recorded in Scripture for our edification. Because we, more than twenty centuries later can still read them, study them, hear them in our liturgy, and be blessed and built up in our faith by Paul’s prayers, shows that what we pray doesn’t pass away, become obsolete, or diminish in spiritual power. Paul’s written prayers are just as efficacious as they were when he freshly prayed them. And so are our prayers!
Don’t you think Paul would have used every technological and scientific invention and modern media if he had them? I’ll wager he would have written his prayers and sent them instantly through cyberspace by e-mail!
Having spent most my life as a Protestant evangelical, I had somewhat of a struggle after I was happily received into the Catholic Church, to be confronted with what I used to call “frozen or canned prayers.” Painting with a broad brush, of course, generally we didn’t think a prayer was “real” unless it was homemade—in our own words—ad lib. We thought we praying “from the heart” could not mean reciting a stale prayer from some musty page or writer in the past. Somehow we thought God wouldn’t listen to our prayers unless we crafted them on the spot by the seat of our pants.
Did we overlook the fact that not only were Paul’s prayers written, but most of the Psalms were written as prayers by King David the Songwriter; so were some by Daniel and Moses and others. How spiritually impoverished we would be without them!
I have come to understand now what a treasure our Church has in the recorded prayers of the early church fathers and the saintly men and women through many past generations. They knew God intimately and poured out their hearts in prayers. We can pray with them in the power of the Holy Spirit’s intercession. My prayer book is a gold mine of fresh spiritual power as I join my spirit with those who wrote the prayers.
OK, but now I do have modern media at my disposal. I have e-mail to connect with friends, loved ones, needy people, hurting people, those who reach out to me asking, “Please pray for me.” I’m finding that it isn’t enough to promise them “Yes, I will.” I sense the Holy Spirit’s urging, “Well then, DO IT!”
Who, me, Lord? By e-mail? I’m not Paul or David. Surely what I pray is not worthy of being put down in black and white. That would be true, if I write it in the flesh with my own thoughts. And true, unless I invoke the Holy Spirit’s help to bring my prayers through the mediation of Jesus directly to the Heavenly Father. Only God is omniscient—I don’t know what my friend’s deepest needs are, but the Spirit knows. The Holy Spirit will shape them according to the will of the Father so that the prayers are certain to be answered.
When I write a prayer, I must quietly listen first to what God wants to do in the life of my friend for whom I pray. I should not try to be eloquent but simple and heartfelt. I must not speak or pray out of turn. I must not superimpose my thoughts or preach my ideas disguised as prayers. I must pray Scripture into my friend’s spirit because therein lies God’s mighty power.
When I write a prayer, I must ask the Holy Spirit's help to discern my friend’s circumstances and needs. When I have prayed, I commit my friend to the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus. I will pray with David, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart [and the prayer that I write] be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.”