What Are Apostolic Prayers?
Scattered throughout the New Testament are some of the simplest yet most profound gifts for any Christian believer: a collection of dozens of short prayers known as “apostolic prayers.”
What are apostolic prayers? Apostolic prayers are prayers of the apostles — that is, Jesus and his core group of followers on a mission to spread the Gospel and grow God’s church across the world so all with ears to hear may be transformed.
But it’s important to know these prayers aren’t only for the apostles who lived back then. They’re for all of us today, for all who follow Christ are considered to be “apostles.”
Let’s explore who prayed these prayers, where they can be found in Scripture, and why they are so powerful in our personal prayer lives.
What Are Apostolic Prayers?
Apostolic prayers are found throughout the New Testament. The most famous of these is also known as the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus prayed after his disciples asked him how they should pray to the Lord.
As Jesus said, don’t be like the hypocrites, all showy and insincere. Rather, pray in private and in earnest. Like this, he said: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).
God knows our hearts and our needs, Jesus is saying all we need do is ask.
The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apóstolos, which means “one who is sent out,” or “messenger.”
Apostles, when it comes to Jesus, are Christ’s representatives on earth. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, apostles are emissaries or ambassadors of Christ, who go out into the world to draw others into the faith and spread God’s Word.
We know that apostles are the ones who founded God’s church.
Led by Peter, the rock upon which Jesus founded his church (Matt 16:18), the apostles included all of Jesus’s original 12 apostles, his inner circle — all except Judas, the apostle who betrayed him and later took his own life in anguish.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the apostles added one more to their number, Matthias (Acts 1:23-26). Later, on the Day of Pentecost, they were all praying together when the Holy Spirit fell upon them, igniting them with God’s power and enabling them to grow and transform the church. That day, we know, 3,000 were added to their number (Acts 2:41), and the church has grown today to more than 2 billion souls worldwide.
These apostles — including Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, as well as Peter, John, and James — prayed these prayers, roughly 40 in total, and we can read their prayers within Scripture. The prayers were written for the people, whether to use them or said on the people’s behalf.
Inspired by the Spirit, they focus on God and center on cultivating goodness and blessings among God’s people.
Examples of Apostolic Prayers
Apostolic prayers are found throughout the New Testament. At least nine are attributed to Jesus and are found throughout the Gospel accounts. For instance, Jesus asks for harvest workers (Matthew 9:37-38) and for strength in the midst of temptation (Matthew 26:40-41), for faith and strength of his chosen ones (Luke 22:31-32), and for the sanctification and protection of these chosen ones when he is gone (John 17:11-26).
Another strong example of an apostolic prayer appears in the Book of Acts, after Peter and John were released from the Sanhedrin. Upon their return, all the believers prayed for boldness, signs, and wonders, a request granted mightily by the Lord (Acts 4:24-31).
The apostle Paul includes a host of apostolic prayers in his epistles. In his letter to the Romans, there are at least three—a prayer that the Israelites are saved (Romans 10:1), a prayer for unity, specifically one mind and one voice (Romans 15:5-6), and a prayer that the believers experience joy and hope as they trust in the Lord (Romans 15:13).
Others appear in his letter to the Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon, as well as letters to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, and to Timothy.
One favorite apostolic prayer of many comes in Ephesians 3:16-19, when Paul writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Another is found in Colossians 1:9-11, when Paul writes, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
But even though his writings comprise the majority of the epistles, Paul’s apostolic prayers are not the only that bear consideration.
For example, in 1 Peter 5:10-11, Peter writes, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
And in James 1:5-6, James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
Why Are These Prayers So Powerful?
We know that the Bible is the Word from God. As we’re told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Jesus knew Scripture and used it to counter the devil during his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
These prayers are not included in the Bible as an extra, a simple encouragement for those reading, but because they were important to God. God told his people what he wanted in his holy word, and we can trust that what we find in Scripture is intended by God for our good and his glory.
Therefore, because these are important to God, we can trust that when we earnestly pray these apostolic prayers ourselves — not simple recitation but with our full hearts — they are powerful words spoken into the universe, catapulting God’s word and these blessings once again.
They are also powerful when we consider their intent: the apostles themselves said these prayers for us. When we, who are also apostles, are sent to deliver God’s message worldwide and pray these same prayers, their impact is magnified across centuries and beyond.
How Can Apostolic Prayers Guide Our Prayer Life?
God put these prayers in the hearts and minds of those who wrote the Bible, and we can use them in our own prayer lives today. Not only reading but actually praying these prayers ourselves is a great way to help our own hearts and minds align with the corporate body of Christ, his church. They also help us focus on what is important to God — and God’s apostles — by giving us a direction. They help us understand what God cares about: unity, strength, boldness, faith, and wisdom, among other things.
Many people pray the psalms, as well as sing them. They help us give voice to emotions we sometimes struggle to express on our own. Similarly, praying the apostolic prayers can do the same.
Also, what’s important about these prayers is they are not meant to be individual but rather for the group. While you might be praying an apostolic prayer alone in your private home, perhaps a great number of other believers throughout the globe are joining you in that prayer.
As Scripture tells us, we increase the power of prayer when we pray together.
As Jesus told us in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Given all this, perhaps we all should consider adding apostolic prayers to our own prayer life if we have not done so already. After all, what is important to God should be important to us all.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.