icon_peter_and_paul“Greet Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth; Trophimus I left ill at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” (II Timothy 4:19-22)

“Do your best to come before winter,” implores Paul of his beloved protege Timothy. However, no matter how quickly he came, it is unlikely that Timothy got to Paul in time to see him again. Almost certainly Paul was executed shortly after writing this letter. That means the last words Timothy ever received from Paul were the words of a prayer: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

Now some may take these words as but a polite and quite common closing; however anyone who knew the prayer life of the apostle Paul would never think such a thing. No, this is his sincere prayer for Timothy: that in all things and at every moment the Lord and his grace would be with him. One can even imagine that as he closed this letter, Paul stopped and offered this heartfelt prayer on Timothy’s behalf.

So, too, as we close these meditations on II Timothy and prepare to begin a new study next week, I am pausing as I write and praying the same thing for each of you who read and have been following:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Even as I do so, may I make a suggestion to you? I suggest that you begin using these brief prayers of Paul’s, found at the beginning and end of every one of his letters, as models for prayer in every encounter, with every person you meet for the rest of your life. A tall order, nevertheless very serious. When you walk into a room and meet several strangers, pray silently, “Grace to you and peace!” When leaving pray, “The Lord be with you! Grace be with you!” I cannot imagine anything which could transform every relationship and the attitude of every encounter more than this simple practice. Imagine the very atmosphere of a room changing as the words are silently spoken and as we silently invite God to be present in the lives of others for their wellbeing!

I have been trying this practice as an experiment on and off for several months and, though I cannot say for certain how this prayer has been answered in the lives of those for whom I’ve prayed, I know it has. He is faithful and these are the very things he is glad to do. However, I can say for certain the positive effect it has had on me and on my own relationships with others. When I pray these short prayers, both coming and going, I find that the wellbeing of every person becomes important to me. I find I treat each person I meet better–less as a “thing” or a “tool” for my benefit, and more as a real person to love and to cherish. The apostle Paul says of Timothy in another book, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare.” When I pray these prayers in every encounter, I become more like Timothy, genuinely anxious for the welfare of others.

Perhaps this practice may seem artificial to you. I would suggest it is not. Rather it is a disciplined attempt to love every person we meet and to let no one slip through the cracks. If we pray for someone when we meet them and as we leave them, everything in between will be bathed in our love and, we can be sure, God’s grace. What could be better?

Grace to you! And peace! From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen