A better Way to Pray
“What do you think Christ wants this church (you are this church) to be?”
From that question came a second one:
“What would happen in our church if every member (I mean you) was prayed for every single day by someone?”
And what a question. We all believe in prayer, don’t we? Even if we don’t pray very much, we still believe in prayer. So what would happen in our churches if every day every member was prayed for by someone?
What would it do to our worship? What would it do to our preaching?
What would it do to our ministries? What would it do to our evangelism?
What would it do to our relationships?
Our churches wouldn’t be the same if we made sure every person was prayed for every day by someone.
What if we started to pray like that?
So what would happen in your church if we prayed like that? Hold that thought and we’ll come back to it later. In the meantime we need to see what was on Paul’s mind in Ephesians 6. As he nears the end of his magnificent letter, he calls Christians to put on the whole armor of God so that we can fight and win the spiritual battles we face every day (vv. 10-17). Then without any break he says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (v. 18). There is nothing difficult to understand in what he writes.
It’s easy to see how this fits in the context. Prayer is our ultimate weapon in spiritual warfare. It is not part of the armor; it is that which makes the armor effective. In verse 18 Paul gives five fundamental facts about Christian prayer.
I. There are many ways to pray
Paul says we should pray “with all kinds of prayers and requests.” We can analyze prayer from many angles.
We can talk about the content of prayer, such as adoration, thanksgiving, meditation, confession and petition.
We can talk about the posture of prayer, such as sitting, standing, hands uplifted, eyes open, eyes closed, walking, kneeling, and stretched out before the Lord.
We can talk about the associations of prayer, which means we can pray alone or in a small group or in a worship service or in a concert of prayer or over the Internet or over the phone or by email or in a handwritten letter.
We can talk about the style of prayer. It may be formal, informal, written, recited, conversational, sentence prayers, “Thank you” prayers, “Lord, have mercy” prayers, short prayers, long prayers, prayers sung, prayers spoken, prayers written, prayers chanted, prayers offered spontaneously or prayers memorized.
We can talk about the places of prayer, such as in the morning, during your devotions, around the dinner table, in the car, on the phone, during a worship service, or in the street.
We can talk about the objects of prayer, such as confession and restoration, for physical or spiritual or emotional healing, for a financial need, for a broken relationship to be healed, for salvation, for spiritual growth, for the spread of the gospel, for a friend in need, for the leaders of our church, for the leaders of our nation, for our friends and, yes, for our enemies.
Prayer may be as varied as the needs of the heart. The true measure of prayer is not its form or content or style or location or length or beauty of expression. The real question is, Does it come from the heart? Is it sincere? Are we truly seeking the Lord? If so, then we may claim the promise of James 5:16 ដ្បិតសេចក្តីទូលអង្វរដ៏អស់ពីចិត្តរបស់មនុស្សសុចរិត នោះពូកែណាស់ that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.
There are myriad ways to pray. If we pray from the heart in Jesus’ name, then the Father is pleased and he inclines his heart to hear us when we call on him.
II. The best time to prayer is when you feel the need to pray.
That’s simple, isn’t it? Paul instructs us to pray “on all occasions.” The Greek word is kairos, which means a particular moment when we feel our need for God. It speaks of coming to a crossroads, a time of need, a sense of our own weakness, and crying out to the Lord in prayer.
Sometimes we approach prayer superstitiously, as if we should only pray about “big things. We don’t want to bother God with the “small stuff.” How foolish we are. He’s God! It’s all “small stuff” to him. Or perhaps we should say it another way, because he cares so much for us, even our “small stuff” matters to him. We are so glad to hear from our children, how much more is our Heavenly Father glad to hear from us. When our kids are in trouble and need our help, we want them to call and let us know. It’s the same with the Lord. He waits to hear from his children. And because we are his children, he will never turn us away.
God is near us when we need him most.
III. Effective prayer requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Paul says we are to pray “in the Spirit.” That means “under the influence of the Holy Spirit.” It helps me to think about it this way. Praying in the Spirit means following the Spirit’s guidance as to when to pray. Because prayer itself is the language of heaven, the impulse to pray comes from the Holy Spirit. He not only invites us to pray, he also incites (ញុះញង់) us to pray. Sometimes you will think, “I should pray about that.” Don’t ever brush that thought away. Do it. Go ahead and pray right then.
If you think about praying, go ahead and pray. You don’t have to pray out loud. You can pray to the Lord without speaking any words at all, and the Lord will hear you from heaven. When the Lord speaks to you and says, “Pray,” don’t say “No.” Go ahead and pray.
IV. If you want your prayers answered, stay awake and keep on praying.
“Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (v. 18). Eugene Peterson gives us this version: “Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Illustration: Paul uses a military term to get his point across. Consider a sentry guarding a base in Afghanistan, not far from a Taliban stronghold. Now compare that soldier with a security guard at the Walmart’s grocery store. Who will be more alert? It better be the sentry in Afghanistan. The one who believes he is on the front lines is going to be more alert.Our problem with prayer is that we think we’re a security guard at Walmart when in reality we’re like the sentry in Afghanistan. He has to stay alert because his buddies are depending on him. It’s life or death to them. We mess around in prayer because we think it doesn’t matter, when in reality we are sentries standing guard on the front lines of spiritual combat.
V. The Wider Our Circle of Concern, the Wider the Results.
Paul instructs us to pray “for all the saints.” This means we need to pull ourselves out of the rut of praying only for ourselves and our family. It’s perfectly legitimate to pray for those closest to you. But you have not exhausted the power of prayer if you stop there.
If you pray for your friends, that’s good. If you pray for your church, that’s also good.
If you pray for God’s work in other countries, your heart is stretched to new horizons.
Think of your prayers in terms of concentric circles (just like the canals in Amsterdam). Naturally you start with those closest to your heart and then move out from there. With every outward circle, you move away from yourself and closer to the heart of God. “For God so loved the world . . .”
When you pray, pray for the people of God around the world.
And pray for those yet to be reached with the gospel.
Dr. Lee Roberson, a Baptist church pastor, called prayer “the Christian’s secret weapon, forged in the realms of glory.” It is no accident that prayer comes immediately after the listing of the “armor of God” in verses 14-17. As someone has said,
Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.
Some of us who know a little theology would do well to get an advanced degree in “kneeology.”
With that we can quickly sum up Paul’s personal prayer request in verses 19-20.
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
He doesn’t pray to be released nor does he ask that his life might be spared. He doesn’t ask for a miracle. He only asked for this:
That when he opens his mouth he will have something to say, and that he will have the courage to say it. What a man. What an example for the rest of us.
VI. Two Take-Home Truths
Let me summarize the teaching this way:
1. No one lack of need for prayer.
Most of us find it hard to say “Pray for me” because that seems like a sign of weakness. And it is! But that’s why we need prayer in the first place. If we were strong, we could do it all ourselves. Here is the real truth about you and me . . . If you don’t who to pray for, just pray for me. That is what I need.
We aren’t that strong. We aren’t that smart. We aren’t that wise. We aren’t that brave.
That’s why we need others to pray for us. No one is so strong that he is beyond the need of prayer. No one is so rich in blessings that he does not need someone to pray for him.
Pray for me.
2. No one lack of need to pray for others.
Someone you know needs your prayers right now. In the army of the Lord, every soldier needs help. Someone needs hope, someone needs patience, someone needs courage, someone needs love, someone needs determination, someone needs insight, someone needs strength, and someone needs guidance.
There is always more than enough to pray about if only we would open our eyes and look around.
So let me return to the question I posed earlier. What would happen in our churches if everyone in the congregation was prayed for every day? What would it do for our worship? Our outreach? Our relationships? Our faith? Our vision for the future? Our leadership?
Remember that Jesus said . . . “My house shall be called a house of prayer.ដំណាក់អញត្រូវហៅថា ជាទីសំរាប់អធិស្ឋាន” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were true of your church? My church? Every church?