Grace, generosity and gratitude — 2 Corinthians 9:12-15

The prayers of Paul

This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.

This is not a sermon, this is a look at prayer within the teaching of Paul so that we can pray the prayer for ourselves, but if it was a sermon, then a classic three-point sermon with each point beginning with the same letter of the alphabet is very possible from 2 Corinthians chapter 9, those points being grace, generosity and gratitude

A farmer performing direct seeding.

Part of the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Shared under a Creative Commons licence on Flickr

12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

2 Corinthians 9:12-15 ESVUK

Paul’s prayer above comes at the end of a passage built on three Old Testament passages mentioned earlier in this chapter: Proverbs 22:7, Psalm 112:9 and Isaiah 55:10.


Paul’s teaching has been about grace, that what we receive from God is not earned and we cannot work our way into God’s favour. Instead God’s love is given free and undeserved. The work to get us into heaven has been done by Jesus Christ, God coming to earth as a human, dying from our sins and being raised from the dead. God has given himself for us, not because we deserve it but out of generous love. Paul had a lot to say about God’s grace in the preceding chapters in a way that is living as part of God’s people rather than living to make money.


God loves a cheerful giver does not appear in the Hebrew. In verse 7 Paul’s quote comes from a Greek translation of Proverbs 22:7 but the arguement is valid, Proverbs 22 is all about people’s attitudes to money and giving generously.

The second quote, in verse 9, comes from Psalm112:9 which says that the person who distributes freely to the poor will receive blessings. Tom Wright writes, “The whole poem is a celebration of those who fear and trust the Lord, and in particular of their generosity and merciful behaviour towards their neighbours, particularly the poor.”


The third quote, from Isaiah 55:10, is quoted in verses 10 and 11. What comes from God goes back to God in praise. Then comes the prayer of gratitude for the willingness of the Corinthian Christians to give for giving to the needy is also giving praise to God and will cause others also to praise God. Giving help to other people is as spiritual as giving praise. The idea that prayer is spiritual and help physical is unkown in Paul’s writing. Practical and spiritual help are one and the same thing, we should not be trying to separate them. The letter of James takes it even further than Paul does, he says that faith that does not show itself in action is not really faith. (James 2:17).

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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