Read 2 Corinthians 1.
In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul began, after his usual opening in verses 1-2, to praise God for the comfort He gave to Paul during his times of trouble (vv. 3-11). Paul then wrote at some length about trouble in general (vv. 4-7), then specified that he had faced some very difficult problems in Asia—modern day Turkey (vv. 8-10).
Paul’s conclusion was that God had delivered him and his co-workers and would do so again (v. 10a). Verse 10 concluded with Paul’s faith that God would continue delivering them from trouble, but then he added in verse 11, “as you help us by your prayers.” That phrase reminded the Corinthians, and reminds us, of the importance of intercession—praying for God’s work on behalf of others.
It is so easy to focus so much on our own needs, troubles, desires, fears, pain, illness, and more that we pray mostly for ourselves and little for others. The biblical instructions about prayer, while not denying us the privilege of talking to God about our problems, remind us again and again to remember others in our prayers, especially those who are serving God in the gospel, even risking their lives so that Christ will be known.
Paul described the result of these prayers in verse 11b: “Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” Why does God answer prayer? In part, to give us something to thank him for. Answered prayer is the kindling for our worship; it reminds us of God’s real power, his real promises, and it stimulates praise in us and others. But, this is only available to us when we pray. If your spiritual life is lacking fire, are you praying for others—especially those who are spreading the gospel?