2 Corinthians 11. The answer to Paul’s prayer

Paul’s prayer for his own healing in 2 Corinthians 11 was given an unexpected, even an unwanted answer but it is a answer that takes us into the heart of the gospel of Jesus and the heart of our own struggles and suffering. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11.16-12.13 | Paul’s answer to prayer

The danger of success

I am not inferior to those ‘super-apostles’ (11.4-15)

But if I must boast, I will boast in my weakness (11.16-33)

I will go on to visions and revelations 

– my grace is sufficient for youfor my power is made perfect in weakness (12.9-10)

The boastful say…

The grace-filled know…

Therefore, do not waste your suffering

For further thought

Q: In 2 Corinthians 10 to 12 Paul needs to respond to the boasts of the ‘super-apostles’ (11.5) who are preaching a different Jesus and advocating a different spirit to the one Paul and his team taught (11.13-15). The difference seems to be these servants of Satan (11.15) were boasting of their qualifications, successes and spiritual privileges.  What makes boasting about success attractive but also dangerous?

Q: In chapter 11.16-33 Paul lists his qualifications for being an apostle of Jesus Christ. What point is he making about his ministry and about Jesus by listing his struggles, hardships, persecutions and prison record?

Q: In chapter 12.1-10 he struggles to talk about his spiritual experiences but he must do so because that is what the false apostles have done. Why does he want to be judged only by what he does and says (12.6) rather than his claims to spiritual enlightenment?

Q: In 12.7-10 Paul implies God thought the potential for arrogant boasting was more dangerous for Paul and his work than the suffering being caused to him by a physical ailment (messenger of Satan 12.7). Paul prayed at length for the ailment to be taken away but the answer to his prayer was: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (12.9). How did this answer strengthen Paul’s ministry? How would this passage change what we boast about and how we pray for ourselves and others?

Some prayers

Here are prayers based on the Australian Anglican Prayer book that pick up the theme Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 11 of God using even our suffering for our good.

Lord God; we thank you for all your gifts to us: grant us to accept both pain and joy in faith and hope, and never to fail in love to you and others; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Friday evening prayer points

Gracious Lord and Father, you have given us in Christ a merciful Saviour to present to you the world in all its need:

We give thanks

For the presence of Christ in our weakness and in our strength

  • May we see your grace and opportunities to serve you well in weakness as well as strength. Please make us wise enough not to turn our strength into times of arrogance but to be thankful for the gifts you have given us and seek to use them in your service.

For the power of Christ to transform our suffering…

  • We praise you that even in hardship we can grow in you Lord God. We pray for the fruits of your spirit to develop each day in us: for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control to flourish – for against such things there is no law

For all ministries of healing

We prayer forpolitical, medical, psychological and spiritual healing to be enabled in our local communities, the nation and the world beyond it. Give those who follow you the joy of continuing Christ’s work of healing in all ways in this fallen world.

For all agencies of relief

  • In a time of many relief agencies, we pray for their work to be effective and encouraging. We pray for each agency to be well administered even as they deal with unsolvable problems with limited resources. For each agency to work with a spirit of service since Christ, even though he was in the form of God, came to us as a servant.

For everyone who sets people free from fear, pain , distress…

  • Allow them to sense your pleasure and purpose and give thanks to you for each gain.

For the assurance that your mercy knowns no limit

  • We know even though our time in this world is brief and momentary, the glory that is waiting for us outweighs any trouble we have known here

For the privilege of sharing your work of renewal through prayer, suffering and joy…

  • Lord, it is humbling to know that you use our prayers, suffering and joy to renew us and others. We pray for the ability to see more and more where you are at work and to work there with you

We pray for those who suffer

The hungry and the refugees…

  • For true, righteous, wise and even godly governments to emerge. For the stopping of arms sales, for enemies to be divided within themselves, for their hearts to be changed, and the spread of gospel in peace to all. 

Prisoners, the persecuted…

  • Those in our local prisons would respond well to the opportunities offered to repent of their wrongs before you and to reform their lives
  • Brothers and sisters around the world (Christians most persecuted group on earth today) … sustain them with your hope… allow them to be gentle with those who stumble under pressure… continue to grow your church

The workless, the homeless…

  • For your spirit to work in those struggling with these things to prepare them to take on the responsibilities of work and accommodation.
  • Good work and good accommodation to be available and those gifts to be valued

Those who bring sin and suffering to others…

  • We pray for our enemies, that if they will not repent in the face of good things that the things they have done to others would be done to them so they may learn to repent and turn to you in the face of just hardship

All who try to bring relief and care to those in need…

  • Give them the gifts of perseverance and the ability to see your works so they can be sustained in doing good

Be present merciful God, and protect us through the hours, days, weeks and years of this life: that we, who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may rest on your eternal changelessness.

In darkness and in light, in trouble and in joy, help us to trust in your love, to serve your purpose, and to praise you holy Name; knowing that in Jesus Christ your grace is sufficient for us for your power is made complete in weakness.