2Cor. 1: 11- "...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."
It is right to refer to Paul as a giant of the Faith. Unfortunately, he is often portrayed as superhuman in his obedience to the Gospel, that he was so disciplined in his own strength to follow Christ that we could never repeat his example. This portrait of Paul is false. To gain an understanding of Paul and his life as a disciple, the first step is to know who it was who lived within Paul: Jesus Christ. Yes, Paul was a unique individual, but so am I and so are you. And in my case, and in yours, if you are a true believer in Christ, when we first believed, Christ took up residence in our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13) It was not Paul that lived the Christian life in his own strength, but Christ living in Paul (Gal. 2:20) empowered Paul. This empowering was made possible by Paul's obedience to the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. And just as Christ lived on earth and conducted His earthly ministry in the power of the Spirit (Mk. 1: 9-11, Heb 9:14, Acts 1:2), so did Paul.
While both Christ and Paul operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, neither wanted to live and minister on earth without the prayer support of the disciples. Jesus desired that His disciples tarry with Him in the Garden of Gethsemene (Mt. 26:40). Paul was the same way. He and his fellow laborers were putting their lives on the line and at times it appeared that they would die for the sake of the Gospel (2Cor. 1: 8-9). God had brought them to this point so that Paul and his companions would not rely on their own strength but on "God who raises the dead..." (v. 9). God delivered them from death. And by God's sovereign grace, God included the prayers of the Church as a means of saving Paul and his company.
You and I suffer in our Christian walk when we fail to pray for each other. God can still deliver us from crises, but if brothers and sisters in Christ fail to pray for each other, will we always emerge with the full character change God wanted to work in us by placing us in these situations? Is it too much to claim that we will never be the persons God wants us to be without the prayer support of our brothers and sisters? Will those who fail to intercede for their bretheren also suffer loss? The answer to this last question is definitely yes. Paul told the Corinthians that his deliverance resulting from their prayers was an occasion for thanksgiving on the part of the Corinthians. (v. 11) They could thank God that Paul and his fellow workers were delivered from death. They could thank God that the Church and the world had living examples of men who trusted in God's grace rather than in worldly wisdom. (v. 12) All disciples are called to give an account of their faith to an unbelieving world. (1Pet. 3:15) Because the Corinthians were obedient, they could point to God's deliverance of Paul and his companions as irrefutable evidence that God is real and God delivers those who trust in Him.
The Corinthians also had the example of Paul's deliverance by God as a bulwark against doubt when they themselves might have gone through trials similiar to Paul's. But the Corinthians had these blessings because they prayed for Paul. When we fail to intercede for each other during our trials, we deny ourselves the blessing of witnessing deliverances by God that strengthen our faith. And so failure by the Church to intercede for those in need of prayer diminishes the strength of all who belong to Christ's body. But obedience in this matter blesses all, strengthening the weak so that they may stand, that the foundation of their faith may withstand trials.
Will you be obedient in this matter? If you are, not only will those specifically prayed for will be strengthened, but yourself and the whole body of Christ will be blessed.
Scripture quotations from the NKJV.