Ephesians is breathtaking. I don’t know of a better exposition of the gospel than the one we find in its pages. Paul articulates the gospel better than any of us could hope to do. He gives us a glimpse of God’s eternal purpose, and then applies that gospel to people who need to know what it means for how they live.
Reading Ephesians, I might think that Paul has nailed the skill of articulating the gospel.
Given this, I’m surprised to read these words at the end of his letter to the Ephesians:
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and 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.
Paul is arguably the greatest theologian who ever lived. He wrote the Scriptures that help us understand our salvation. Not only that, but he was also the greatest missionary who ever lived. He relentlessly proclaimed the gospel all over the Roman Empire, even when it required suffering.
And yet he asked prayer that he would have the right words, and that he’d speak boldly. If ever a person lived who didn’t ned this prayer, other than Jesus, it’s Paul, and yet we find him asking for this help because he believed he needed it.
If Paul could ask for prayer like this, the rest of us can too.
It’s one thing to articulate the gospel to fellow believers. I don’t mean that it’s easy. I remember my preaching professor Haddon Robinson say that he’d heard thousands of sermons, but not many that did a good job clearly explaining the gospel. Every preacher could use prayer for this. Pray for preachers. Pray that the good news of Jesus is central in every sermon, and that it’s explained and applied clearly and boldly.
But Paul prayed for something else: that he would be given words to open his mouth boldly to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. As a prisoner, he expected to have many opportunities to share the good news of Jesus at trials and hearings. Paul knew that it was one thing to craft an epistle about the gospel, and another to stand before a hostile crowd and speak as he should.
Almost every day, we face opportunities to share the gospel. Sometimes they’re presented to us so clearly that we can hardly miss them. But we all know what it’s like to choke when the opportunity presents itself, to begin to fear what they may think, or just to trip over our words.
But we’re not alone. We can ask for prayer from other believers. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help us. And with God’s help, we will not only say what’s helpful, but we’ll do so without shrinking back.
If Paul could pray for this kind of boldness, we should too.