Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on intercessory prayer.
The Meaning of Intercession
The Hebrew “paga” means “to fell,” or “attack,” but also “meet” or “make supplication.” The Greek was translated as “petition” and “intercession.” Our English word “intercession” is derived from the Latin for “to come between,” which means both “obstruct” and “to interpose on behalf of” someone. Christ stands between us and the Father. That’s why we pray “in Jesus’ name” because it’s by His sacrifice that we are made righteous and can approach the throne of God.
A modern understanding of “intercession” can include “mediation” or “standing up to” someone. This understanding makes God sound like the playground bully. Christ would be the hero, defiant towards an unloving Father, not part of the Trinity fulfilling the Father’s plans for his people. But God is love, and Christ did not defy him. Christ is one with God (John 10:30).
Furthermore, mediation suggests compromise or middle ground. However, God is right, and we are sinful. He is Sovereign, we are his creation. We owe him everything and we deserve condemnation, but by his grace we are free. Believers are able, by this gift alone, to bring the needs of other people before God through Christ.
Intercession in Scripture
Paul exhorted the church to pray that he would boldly declare the gospel (Ephesians 6:19). He told the church to pray for one another with “supplications […] and thanksgivings,” (1 Timothy 2:1), and he prayed for them too. “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfast hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). We all need intercession, even believers. Paul was moved and encouraged by prayer on his behalf.
Paul demonstrated that the most pressing needs and desires among God’s people start with God’s glory. Paul gives “thanks to God,” and finds hope “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He asks for prayer to do God’s will, not for an easy life.
Paul was following the standard set by Christ, who petitioned God for the sake of others even as he hung on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He spoke up for everyone: Believers who followed and then abandoned him; Pharisees, Roman soldiers, and spectators.
The model of intercessory prayer is Christ’s ministry as a whole. He physically threw himself across the chasm that would have separated man and God forever, at the cross but also during his ministry. He stood between the Pharisees’ stones and the woman caught in adultery. Christ came between man and creation by calming the storm.
He restored unclean people to their communities and forgave sinners so they could be reconciled with God. Jesus invited the lost into communion with the Father, such as the tax collector and the Samaritan woman. Intercession is active and risky, and by Christ’s life, we know how intercessory prayer should look.
Christ “bore the sin of man and makes intercessions for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Christ was frequently rejected. We can pray, but not everyone wants to be prayed for. And when we pray for the abused, we might be abused along with them.
A need for intercession implies that someone is weak, but not Christ. We are strong in him; not impervious to harm physically and emotionally, but able to direct the gaze of sufferers to Christ by keeping our eyes fixed on him ourselves.
Even if those we stand up for reject our help, there is the chance their oppressors will see God at work in our lives and be changed. Matthew 8:5-13 describes the heart of a Centurion who, on another day, might have been among those to beat Christ and nail him to the cross. In Matthew’s account, he was drawn by Jesus’ willingness to help the weak by meeting their physical needs before offering what they really needed — forgiveness of sins.
Is Intercessory Prayer Necessary?
Intercessory prayer is not only a privilege but a command. “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2) is an “imperative.” “Persistence in prayer is not an option for the Christian” but “an order from the Lord Himself.”
Jesus “means for us to understand and take seriously the fact that our prayer is a major factor in advancing God’s kingdom in this world”. We aren’t necessary to God’s work but living life in the Spirit can and will inspire others to seek God.
Leave us a comment and let us know about your experience of prayer and its problem. Is there something we can pray about with you? Send an email to email@example.com.
Want to pray with us? We host two online prayer gatherings each week. Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time and on Thursday evening at 9:00 pm Eastern time. We are happy to have you join us and we will send you the Zoom link if you ask for it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 800-784-7077.
I remember growing up, we lived in the city of Toronto ON, and we had neighbours. Lots of them, and all within a very close proximity. It was something that I was always used to and to this day, we still have neighbours. To some people, this may also be a normal thing but to others they may not have neighbours or they may be quite far from them. Today, we are going to focus on a verse in the Bible where Jesus mentions neighbours.
“The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Who is my Neighbour?
Just before this, one of the scribes had asked Jesus which commandment of all of them was most important (Mark 12:28). The answer that Jesus gives allows us to have a great understanding of how we should treat others. One thing to also note is that when Jesus is talking about a neighbour, it does not mean it’s only a neighbour that lives next door to you. It also does not mean that if you don’t have any neighbours, you are excluded. A neighbour can be anyone that we come into contact with, someone across the globe, someone we have never met before. We have to love our neighbours as ourselves.
In the book of Luke, a lawyer tested Jesus and asked Him about inheriting eternal life and Jesus replied with the questions: “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it? The man replied with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Do these words sound familiar?
The man goes on to ask Jesus who his neighbour is (Luke 10:29) and Jesus replies with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story, there is a man who gets very badly beaten up by some thieves and this unfortunately leaves him almost dead. A priest and a Levite both avoided the man and kept going their way, despite knowing that this man really needed some help. A Samaritan man who had compassion on the man not only helped the man, but also took care of him and provided a place for him to stay and be well taken care of. The next day, the Samaritan man goes back to the place where the man was staying to pay and offer to pay any additional costs that may be incurred.
What does this mean for Me?
Jesus is teaching us and reminding us that we need to treat others as we would want to be treated and to love others. You may not be able to help every person in the world, but if you can help those that Jesus places in your life, and use opportunities that He gives you, that makes all the difference. Jesus sees our hearts and our intentions and that is what is most important.
Our world so desperately needs Jesus today. If you go online or turn on the news, after a few minutes you will hear about so many tragedies that are happening as we speak. While we cannot help everyone, let us instead ask ourselves what we can do. It will make a difference.
At OMS Canada, every Tuesday morning and Thursday evening we pray together. Would you consider helping in this way? We would love to have you pray with us. Contact us for the zoom links and we would be happy to provide them to you.
OMS is also affiliated with the 4VEH radio station in Haiti where they have recently been affected again by an earthquake. This is a great opportunity to help in whatever way you can. Please pray for Haiti and for everyone that has been affected in one way or another. If you would like to give financially to help bring relief and Gospel hope to these people, you can do that here.
Be encouraged today because whatever you do to help is making a difference. Let us remember others as we go about our days and may God continue to bless and equip us and we use opportunities to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on the problem of prayer.
Have you ever felt discouraged in your prayer life? Does it feel as though God is not answering your prayers? Maybe it feels like you can’t connect with God like you used to, or like your prayers stop at your ceiling and do not reach God. Maybe you lack a desire to pray and wonder what the big deal is?
The truth is, if you have felt this way, you need to examine your life and see what may be killing your ability or desire to pray. Use this post as a tool to diagnose what may hinder the effective prayer life that God desires.
1. Unconfessed Sin
Unconfessed sin is probably the most common prayer killer. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” When the Scripture talks about wickedness, it’s referring to unconfessed sin. God is perfect and can’t abide sin in us. If we knowingly tolerate sin in our lives, it pushes God away from us. As a result, it makes our prayers powerless.
The good news is that when we confess sin, God forgives it, and it’s gone. The slate is clean and we are no longer held accountable. Jeremiah 31:34 says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Not only are we forgiven, but God chooses to truly forget our sins of the past. At that point, our relationship is restored, and our prayers regain their power. Our past actions may still have consequences, but the sin itself is forgiven.
2. Lack of Faith
Lack of faith has an incredibly negative impact on a Christian’s life. Without faith, prayer has no power. Even Jesus was powerless to perform miracles in Nazareth because of the people’s lack of faith (Mark 6:1-6)… James calls one who doubts “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8)
The word double-minded speaks of a condition where a person is emotionally divided, almost as if he had two souls. That condition makes a person unstable and incapable of hearing from God or receiving His gifts.
If we are to grow in our relationship with God and become strong people of prayer, we must learn to obey. Keeping free from sin is not enough. Neither is faith. If our mouths say that we believe, but our actions don’t back up that belief with a strong display of obedience, it shows the weakness of our belief. Obedience should be a natural outgrowth of faith in God. He that obeys God, trusts Him; he that trusts Him, obeys Him. John 9:31 says “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will (is obedient), God listens to him.” (italics mine)
4. Lack of transparency with God and with others
James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” James is sharing a true thing about God: When we confess our sins to one another, which requires us to be transparent, God can heal and cleanse us. We experience spiritual, physical, and emotional restoration. In addition, our transparency helps others, because it shows them that they are not alone in their difficulties.
...Why is forgiveness so important? The answer is found in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Forgiving and being forgiven are inseparable twins. When a person refuses to forgive another, he is hurting himself, because his lack of forgiveness can take hold of him and make him bitter. And a person cannot enter prayer with bitterness and come out with blessings. Forgiveness allows your heart to be made not only right but light.
6. Wrong motives
When our motives are not right in prayer, our prayers have no power. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”
Sometimes even just knowing our motives can be difficult. In my experience, I’ve observed two things that quickly expose wrong motives: (1) a project greater than ourselves and (2) prayer.
7. Idols in our lives
Ezekiel 14:3 clearly shows the negative effect of anything that comes between a person and God. It says, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” God does not even want an idol worshiper to talk to Him. On the other hand, when we remove idols from our lives, we become ripe for a personal revival.
One way to know that something in your life is an idol is to ask yourself, “Would I be willing to give this thing up if God asked me to?” Look honestly at your career, possessions, and family. If there are things you wouldn’t release to God, then they’re blocking access to Him.
8. Disregard for others
Scripture is full of verses supporting God’s desire for unity among all believers–between Christian brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, laypeople and pastors. For example, in John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”…
The Apostle Peter made special mention of the relationship of a husband to his wife and the importance of living with her in an understanding way lest his prayers be hindered. “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
9. Disregard for God’s Sovereignty
When Jesus showed the disciples how to pray, the first thing He did was teach them to honour God for who He is, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). That is a clear acknowledgement that God is in charge, that He is sovereign. And it establishes our relationship to Him: that of a child under the authority of his Father. Anytime we disregard the divine order of things, we’re out of bounds, and we hinder our relationship with our heavenly Father.
10. Unsurrendered will
…A person whose will is surrendered to God has a relationship with Him similar to the one described in the parable of the vine and the branches. It says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). The branch depends on the vine and lives in one accord with it. In return, the vine provides it with everything it needs, and the result is great fruitfulness.
There are great benefits of surrendering your will to God. One is that God promises to answer your prayers and grant your requests. Another is that we get to receive the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Just as with the vine and the branches, He flows through us, gives us power, and produces fruit.
What about you? Is there one of these hinderances to which you are especially prone? Do you have another hindrance not listed? What do you to correct the situation when you become aware that there is a hindrance?
We would love to pray with you. Leave us a comment below or give our office a call at 800-784-7077.
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on the problem of prayer.
Prayer is a very important part of a Christian’s life. Research indicates that there are over 650 different prayers recorded in the Bible. There are different types of prayer and these types are intended to achieve specific outcomes. How many do you use?
Although there may be many different types of prayer, I am only going to discuss seven types in this post. It would be easy to spend a week on each one of these different types of prayer – but, for the time being, let’s to keep our discussions very basic.
Worship, Praise, Adoration
We can find many prayers of this type in the Bible. This type of prayer is focused wholly upon the Lord our God. It acknowledges God as the creator of all things. It gives God the praise and the glory that he rightfully deserves. I believe that all prayers should begin with this type of prayer.
This is a prayer of appreciation. It gives thanks to God for all the gifts he has given us. Being thankful is one of the best ways to combat depression and times of self-pity. Thanksgiving is a part of nearly every prayer I pray.
This is when we acknowledge the sins we have committed and ask for forgiveness. Psalm 51 is probably the best known prayer of this type in the Bible. We would do well to remember what Jesus says about this in Matthew 6:14-15. If we are unwilling to forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Petition means to ask for something. I suspect that this may be the most used and misused type of prayer. We all want material prosperity, health, happiness and popularity. When asking God for such things, however, we should always remember to add, “Your will be done.” It is interesting to note that God already knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). I don’t know about you, but I often have trouble distinguishing between my wants and my needs.
An intercessory prayer is a prayer offered for the benefit of someone else. More often than not, it is a less selfish form of the petition type of prayer.
Spiritual warfare prayer is when we deal with the battles within our self and others and use prayer to guard us against attacks, maintain focus, or receive deliverance. This prayer involves us asking Gods word to protect us and guard us against any harm.
Just Talking and/or Meditative
I often find myself “just talking” with God – like a child might talk to his father. Even though I don’t have a fancy name for this type of prayer, I think it is extremely beneficial. A meditative type of prayer is a time of silence spent in the glorious presence of God (being in the Spirit).
Are there other types of prayer of which you are aware? How do you use these types of prayer? We would enjoy hearing your thoughts about this. Leave us a comment below.
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts, you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on the problem of prayer.
For many, perhaps even most, there appears to be a problem with prayer. “It’s a one-way conversation.” “It doesn’t seem to work.” “God takes too long to answer.” “God does what He wants anyway.”
Crushed in the mortar and pestle of life, it’s easy to think there’s a serious problem with prayer: God. When God doesn’t answer according to our will, we can get frustrated. We can feel like our prayers are just floating around the ether, too insignificant to catch the Creator’s attention. And, in the midst of this disappointment, we’re often too slow to accept that the problem with prayer is not God, but us, and always us.
The Problem of Misunderstanding Prayer
It’s pretty normal to think that life would be a lot easier if God answered a few more strategic prayers—just a couple key petitions to remind us that He’s listening. We can be convinced that a profound healing here and there would add spice to the life of the church.
Then God healed Karen.
The Sunday school class gathered for desperate prayer the night before the surgery to remove a tumor from Karen’s brain. The surgery would probably render her unable to speak for a long time. We asked God to comfort her husband, daughter, and family at this time of crisis, to help the surgeons, to speed her recovery, and—if He willed—to miraculously heal her.
Of course, that last part was just for show. Although we believed God could heal Karen, we were certain He would use less glorious means.
The next morning the tumour had disappeared.
We assumed Karen’s response would be just as profound as God’s answer to prayer. After all, when a person experiences the awesome intervention of the Almighty God, we should expect an explosive revival, right?
Less than a year later, Karen left the church and divorced her husband.
We had always thought answers to prayer would strengthen faith and ignite thanksgiving. Disappointed in Karen’s response, we were reminded that even the Israelites grumbled and rebelled in the midst of powerful answers to their requests (Numbers 11:1-4).
You see, the problem with prayer is not God, but us.
The Problem of Abusing Prayer
When I was a young person, my family came under the “prosperity gospel in the ‘70’s,” the “name it-claim it” theology that overwhelmed Christian television and bookstores—and continues to overwhelm today. “Don’t make negative confessions,” I was told. “If you’re sick, confess that you’re healed!”
On one occasion, I mentioned to a self-proclaimed “prophetess” that I was going bald. Instantly, she placed her hand on my head and shouted, “No you’re not—in the name of Jesus!” That “prophetess” treated prayer like a credit card she could whip out at any time to make major purchases.
We may not be as extreme as that woman, but we can all fall into the trap of abusing prayer. While we may tack on a half hearted “Thy will be done,” deep down we think, “No! My will be done!” Yes, Christ said, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7), but His brother James reminds us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3).
Once again, the problem with prayer is not God, but us.
Correcting the Problem with Prayer
After 51 years of following Jesus, I’d hoped to have a better handle on prayer. I don’t. In fact, the more I pray, the less I understand its profound mysteries. However, I’ve come to several conclusions that might help correct our perceived problems with prayer.
If a father constantly gives in to a little child’s whiny demands, we’d take him for a lousy parent. Why, then, do some think God’s a stubborn God when He doesn’t give us everything we want?
1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” That is, God won’t jump at every loose-lipped confession. Prayer offered up in true faith submits to His will—our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God’s will is to change us, not please us.
Second, we need to accept that the power of prayer is perceived in even the smallest response, really, any response at all. I am convinced that humans don’t fully comprehend how little we deserve God’s love and grace. Consider that what we regard as “crumbs” of answered prayer may really be bountiful feasts once we realize that God owes us nothing (Genesis 32:9-10; Luke 7:6-9). When we adjust our attitude about our own unworthiness to receive God’s favor, we’ll never regard “small” answers to prayer as insignificant.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that the process of prayer is not as
important as the attitude of prayer. When God chose in His sovereignty
to heal Karen, He did so even though none of us expected it. Our feeble
prayer was a simple act of faith—turning our worries over to God’s
care (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:6-7). Christians can be hung up on
method, worried that they have not said the right words, have not prayed
hard or often enough, or have not believed deeply enough. That is hocus-pocus, not prayer (Matthew 6:5-8). If you are concerned about not praying with the right words or for the right things, memorize Romans 8:26—God’s Spirit even helped Paul pray!
Of course, these reminders are easy to read, but they are not easy to live. In our finite human minds, we will always perceive “problems” with prayer. Are you struggling with your prayer life, not seeing results, wondering if God is listening? It might be time for an attitude change. It might be finally time to accept that the problem with prayer is never God, but always us.
Leave us a comment and let us know about your experience of prayer and its problem. Is there something we can pray about with you? Send an email to email@example.com.
Want to pray with us? We host two online prayer gatherings each week. Tuesday morning at 10:00 am Eastern time and on Thursday evening at 8:30 pm Eastern time. We are happy to have you join us and we will send you the Zoom link if you ask for it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 800-784-7077.
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up. But in this post, we are focusing on the privilege of prayer.
We take a lot for granted. Advances that once seemed like life-changers are now staples. It’s hard for us to imagine, but there was the first day with electricity, running water, indoor toilet and the internet. Now, these privileges are expected.
In the Christian’s life the same could be said of prayer. Prayer is not an inalienable right of all people, like healthcare in Canada. Instead, prayer is a blood-bought privilege for those who trust and treasure Jesus.
So let’s look at the privilege of prayer from a different perspective. Rather than, “hey, we have this incredible privilege to pray to God, so let’s get praying” let’s say, “this incredible privilege of prayer is a precious gift. What can I do to safeguard this privilege?
Let’s jump right in.
What makes prayer possible?
Have you ever been to a public event where things were kicked off with the Lord’s prayer? I know it sounds strange but it does still happen in some contexts.
The story is told of a high school basketball game between two Christian schools. Everything seemed pretty typical leading up to the game. Music was blaring from the loud speakers; students were going nuts as both teams warmed up. A couple of minutes later, the starting lineups were announced. Still your typical high school basketball game, but then, right before the teams were set to tip-off, the public address announcer started saying the Lord’s Prayer. I looked around as hundreds of people were casually reciting in a mechanical way these words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. The man with the microphone ended with a hearty amen, and the referees called both teams to center court for the game to begin. I was not certain of what had just happened, but I know what did not happen. I know that we were not praying.
Surely this experience was not what Jesus had in mind when He taught His disciples how to pray—hundreds of people reducing this paradigm for prayer to some sort of cultural rite of passage so a game could begin. Christ’s teaching was belittled with the type of mechanical jargon He warned against in the Sermon on the Mount. However, this story should cause us to ponder the prayer that had been recited by the crowd in the gym that evening.
The privilege of prayer is magnified in the initial phrase of Jesus as He tells His disciples to pray, “Our Father in Heaven.” There is so much for us to learn in these words. First, we see that what is normal for prayer is not simply personal. No, it is corporate. Jesus does not tell us to pray, “My Father.” He says, “Our Father.”
Second, we see the beauty of the gospel in this prayer. Jesus does not teach us to come to God on the basis of some lesser status. We come as children to a Father. But how can this be? How can wretched sinners who deserve the wrath of God have the privilege of prayer? How can rebels be called the children of God and invited to come to His throne day and night?
Answering these questions requires that we see the connection between prayer and the gospel. In turn, we see why saying the Lord’s Prayer, and prayer in general, misses its intended purpose when it is recited mindlessly, particularly by those who are not Christians.
When the disciples came to Jesus asking how to pray, they came to the One who gives us access to God. In fact, this is why Jesus came—so that we could commune with God. This is why He left His throne in glory. This is why the One who is holy, righteous, and just, the One through whom all things were made, humbled Himself and came to live among us.
In its description of what a kingdom citizen should look like, the Sermon on the Mount reveals our hypocrisy and our sin. At the same time, it declares where Christ succeeded. He lived the life we could not. He was perfectly obedient.
He then went to the cross to atone for our sins, absorbing the wrath of God that we deserved. At the cross, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One died for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18). Three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead because God’s justice had been satisfied. Christ then ascended to God’s right hand, where he intercedes for us, giving us access to the Father in prayer.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). It is this righteousness that permits us to stand before the throne of God in prayer, and to do so with boldness.
Who has the right to cry out in prayer to God? Who can come to Him in prayer? No one, in and of themselves. Only through the finished work of Christ can we pray to God, which means that the One who gives us a pattern for and an example of prayer has purchased our communion with God.
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We now can boldly approach the throne of grace, calling out to our Father, through the Son, by the power of the Spirit. We can revel in the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Rome:
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom 8:12–17).
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post, I wish to look into the power of prayer. Perhaps one of the most widely assumed facts about prayer is that it is powerful or we hope it is powerful. We expect or hope that prayer will change something over which we have no control ourselves.
But I’ll be honest. When I think about prayer, the first thing that comes to mind is not the power of prayer. If you were to get a glimpse into my prayer life, that much would be evident. The simple fact is; the amount I pray doesn’t reflect the power of prayer. When the Bible talks about prayer, it speaks in explosive, world-altering terms.
James 5:16-18 says this;
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
These verses paint a breathtaking picture of how powerful prayer is. It draws a direct line between the weather-altering prayer of Elijah and my own prayers. It is absolutely unbelievable. God wants me to look at Elijah’s prayer and to think, “The same kind of powerful praying is available to me.”
The plain truth is that I take prayer for granted. I was taught to pray at a young age and my family always said prayers before meals and bedtime. My Dad would sometimes pray before we left on long trips and pray for us when we got sick. And I continue the same sort of patterns of prayer in my house. Regular rhythms of regular prayers that are not terribly remarkable. There aren’t any miracles happening after these prayers.
And if you were present for any of these prayers it would probably be pretty obvious that I am not thinking about the power of prayer at that moment.
Why is this?
One reason may be that, because Christ has opened the way into God’s presence, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working and while I am watching my granddaughters. Being able to pray so freely is such a wonderful blessing.
But, that very freedom with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted. I don’t treat prayer as particularly powerful or sacred. I don’t come to terms with the reality that prayer is a real live exchange between me and the living God who created everything.
If I want to start appreciating the divine power of prayer, I need to remember a few things when I pray. And these things constitute the power of prayer.
1. God Hears
Psalm 4:3 - But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.
Psalm 5:3 - O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch.
When I pray, the Lord Himself, the King of kings, the commander of the armies of heaven, hears me. The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal hears when I call to Him. The God who split the Red Sea, who singlehandedly dismantled the Babylonians, who conquered the Midianites with 300 men and a coward of a general, is tuned in to my prayers.
The power of prayer does not come from the words I say but from the God who hears.
When I call, God hears.
I’m not speaking empty words into emptiness and I’m not simply speaking to myself. This is not the power of positive thinking.
When I call, God hears.
Can you believe how astonishing this is? God truly and really hears when I pray. Why would I not take advantage of this more often? Why do I so often struggle in my own strength when the omnipotent (all-powerful) God is waiting for me to pray to Him?
2 Chronicles 16:9 - For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless towards Him.
2. God Acts
Matthew 21:21-22 - And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
Not only does God hear my prayers, He actually responds to them. The more I think about this, the more trouble I have comprehending it.
I ask and God acts.
3. God Strengthens
Psalm 10:17-18 - O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
So, not only does God hear me when I pray. He also strengthens me. In the midst of difficulty or trial, when I think I barely have the strength to call out to God, He hears me and strengthens me. He gives me real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength.
Prayer connects me to the awesome strength of God. This is the glorious power of prayer. Though I am pathetically weak, prayer plugs me into the One who makes supernovas look like nightlights. Prayer is a divine invitation to experience the life-changing power of God.
4. God Blesses
Matthew 7:11 - If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to bless my own kids by giving them good gifts, so is God eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life.
And I am not talking in the way that some of these ‘faith preachers’ or faith healers’. I am talking about a biblical understanding that God will use whatever means is necessary to conform me to the image of His Son and that means is a blessing, whatever it is.
And we must not forget that the purpose of the blessings of God is so that we may be a blessing and that it would be known that there is a God in heaven that ought to be worshipped and adored by every people, tongue, tribe, and nation.
Over and over in Scripture, we see God responding to prayer with blessing. When I neglect prayer, I am missing out on unique grace that God wants to give.
So, given what we have seen about God’s hearing, acting, strengthening, and blessing in prayer, how would you describe your prayer list, if you have a prayer list?
Don’t misunderstand me. Prayer lists can be wonderful tools. They help me remember to pray for things that I would normally forget. I would say that I tend to abandon a prayer list because my prayer lists are boring and unimaginative. They tend to be stale, like old, bland biscuits. They read like recipes.
If you look at my prayer lists, you wouldn’t say, “Hey, hold me back! You must think you’re Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist or something because you’ve got some crazy things you’re asking for here.” I tend not to have any big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching requests on my prayer list.
Why is this? Why do my prayer lists tend toward the boring? It’s probably because I fail to take into account Scriptures like Ephesians 3:20 which talk about the glorious power of prayer:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
If I sat down and thought about it, I could come up with some pretty big, important things to ask God. Things that I wouldn’t normally ask for because they’re...well... they’re so big, things that definitely stretch my faith.
I pray for the salvation of my kids. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I could pray that God would dramatically and powerfully get hold of each of my kids. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can do incredible, powerful, life-shaking things for my children that I couldn’t even imagine! Do I really believe this?
I pray for God’s provision for my family. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would provide enough for us to give a chunk of money away to someone in need. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can provide for my family in breathtaking, surprising, “Oh my goodness, God is here” kinds of ways. Do I believe this?
I pray that God would deepen my love for Him. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would increase my love for His word, increase my love for fellow Christ-followers, and let me experience the reality of His presence every day. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can meet me and change me and work me over in ways I never could have dreamed.
Given the power of prayer, my prayer lists should be inspired, bold, and imaginative. And I should approach my prayer times with eager expectancy. I should expect God to blow away my expectations. I should expect God to give me more than I ask.
I should expect God to surprise me.
What about you? Do you have big, fat, bodacious, faith-stretching prayers? Or is this something that you could do better? Let me know in the comments. And please share this post with your friends.
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post we are focusing on the Holy Spirit and prayer. There are many scripture references to the Holy Spirit in reference to prayer or praying. How do we make sense of these?
Writing to the Ephesians, Paul established the role of the Holy Spirit in every true believer’s prayer life. He described prayer warfare, the devil’s schemes, and the armour that equips the one who prays for victory (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Concluding this section, Paul commanded his readers to, “Pray in the Spirit,” meaning with the help of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).
There are three points to be made at this point.
The Holy Spirit Helps Us Pray
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
If we were to be honest, most of us would have to admit we don’t often know what we ought to pray. At times it’s difficult to understand fully our needs and to face our true condition.
When others request our prayers, we possess even less insight. Therefore, instruction from the Holy Spirit is necessary. He gives insight and leads us along the line our prayer is to move so that it may correspond with the will of God.
The Holy Spirit Brings Power to Prayer
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit gives Christian prayer power beyond anything ever before known in the history of world religions.
Every prayer skill that we lack, the Holy Spirit can provide. He is with us forever. We know Him. He lives with us and is in us. He makes our hearts into good homes for Jesus and the Father. (See John 14:23.)
But how exactly do we pray using the power of the Holy Spirit? We only need to pray, “Come Holy Spirit” and give the Spirit permission to pray through us.
Set aside quiet time when you allow the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind what you already know or have experienced in prayer with Him. Thank Him for being the guardian of your life and of your prayers. Then pray, “Come Holy Spirit” and wait for Him to speak new and wonderful prayers through you.
As we pray with the power of the Holy Spirit, He brings things to our minds we have long forgotten. He warns us of dangers we cannot foresee, opens our insights into Who Jesus is and applies supernatural healing to wounds we have forgotten we suffered. He points out our need for confession of sins that we would rather not face and helps us pray for a future we cannot yet imagine.
The phrase “full of the Holy Spirit” is used frequently in the book of Acts. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is a command. And power comes with the Holy Spirit.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8).
His Fullness if for Everyone who Prays
Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever (John 14:16). He was not given only to first century Christians, but to all in every century who seek him. To receive the Holy Spirit’s fullness and power, we must respond to God’s plan.
When Paul says the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), what do you think he meant by weaknesses? What do you consider weaknesses?
Paul also says that the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words can’t express (Romans 8:37). Can you share an experience where you felt weak and knew the Holy Spirit was speaking your longings?
Welcome back to this series on prayer. If you have missed any previous posts you can click here to catch up.
In this post we look at the question of the purpose of prayer. Often the point is made that, if we believe that God is sovereign and knows everything, including what we are thinking or what we need, what is the point of praying?
Maybe you have asked a similar question. I know I have occasionally wondered this.
What is your prayer life like? Would you share what God has spoken to you about prayer? What steps can you take to be more prayerful? Leave us a comment and let us know.
“And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart,” (Luke 18:1 ESV).
Want to change your life? The world? God says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV). The possibility of accomplishing great things rests in our commitment to prayer. Jesus said that He chose us and appointed that we should bear fruit that abides in order that, “whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:16 ESV). If I want to change my life, find success in the world, and help others, I must make prayer a priority.
What is prayer? It is how we communicate with God. Prayer is simply conversation with God, and we are always welcome to approach the great God of the universe for a personal audience. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, the veil that separated us from God was torn in two, allowing us to call upon the name of the Lord. Jesus also granted us the right to use His name when we pray, so that if we ask anything in His name, the Father would do it.
Prayer is a time we can draw near to God. A time we can spend talking with and concentrating all of our thoughts upon God. Jesus told us to enter into a closet and pray, because in the solitude of the moment we become more acutely aware of God’s presence. It is also an opportunity to sharpen one’s spiritual ear. In these moments of quietness, where the only presence other than ours is God’s, we learn how to hear and respond to His will.
Prayer is absolutely necessary in this life. If God commands us to pray, that tells us it is of great benefit.
Too often we look at God’s commandments through a negative lens, but they are not meant to be a stranglehold or prevention upon the individual; they are meant as a protection that produces benefits in life.
For our lives to experience success, we need to pray. In fact, prayer ought to be our first response in every circumstance in this life. Our lives are not of quiet desperation, but of divine inspiration. God has placed each one of us in this world and commanded us to pray in order that we might bring His presence and blessing into our present reality.
Also, prayer is commanded by God. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are instructed to “pray without ceasing.” He expects us to be people of prayer. Our lives are to be saturated with prayer and identified by prayer. The very words “without ceasing” imply the idea of never ending. That means we ought to be praying all the time and about everything.
Prayer is one of the main attributes mentioned in the Bible about the church; Jesus called it a house of prayer. We might even say that if the old adage is true, “Brick and mortar don’t make a church — people do,” then every Christian ought to be a “house of prayer.”
There is one last reason to consider about prayer, and that is that others benefit when you pray for them. Everyone knows somebody who needs prayer, and who better to pray for them than you?
Two suggestions in order to improve the quality of your prayer time: Start a prayer journal and mark the time when your prayers are answered— it will be a great faith builder. The other thing is to structure your time of praying. There are many ways to structure prayer time and if you want to know what some of our most effective are, send us an email or give us a call.
May I also suggest that you consider taking part in OMS Canada’s twice weekly virtual prayer meetings? We meet via Zoom on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am Eastern and Thursday evenings at 9:00 pm Eastern. Again, send us an email or call the office to receive the meeting information and links.
Start today: Set a time and let nothing deter you from your daily prayer. In the end, you will be blessed, those around you will benefit from your time of prayer, and it will change your life.
If there's anything that's certain, it's that there will always be uncertainty in life—in our finances, careers, relationships, ministries, vacations, future plans, and desires. In a world that screams out for security, nothing is ever 100 percent sure. We face only a certain level of security and certainty.
When uncertainty comes along, problems start to rise, not just externally but many times even more so internally. Anxiety, fear and doubt start to creep in. That is because one of the most basic needs we have is security. While this world is full of uncertainties, we can always find certainty in God.
Hosea 6:3 tells us, "Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth."
In God, there is always certainty. Here are three certain things that we know about God even in the most uncertain of times.
1. God Will Remain Steadfast
Through the sorrow and despair of Jeremiah's dirge, Lamentations 3:22-23 rings out this truth: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
God's loves remains steadfast, meaning it stays the same yesterday, today and forever.
Even in our uncertainty, our unfaithfulness, God's love faithfully remains true in our life. Even when we don't deserve it, God extends His grace and mercy. Our life, possessions, relationships and everything we have are proof that God's steadfast love remains. Even when we are unqualified, God's loving mercy abounds.
2. God’s Plans Will Prevail
Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."
We all have plans of our own, but God's plan is what will stand. Because He is all powerful, all knowing and all seeing, His ways go higher than ours. He sees the end from the beginning and fully intends that this particular season of uncertainty or trouble is working for us an eternal glory that will far outweigh the present uncertainty.
This can either be an assurance to us when we lean on and trust in His sovereign will, or a loving warning if we don't walk in His will. God's plans will prevail and they remain for His glory and our eternal joy.
3. God’s Principles Will Stand
God's Word is filled with promises and principles that work through time and space. God has established natural and spiritual laws that automatically work whether we want it or not. Principles on generosity and giving, character, and so on will work for our good if we abide by them.
Principles such as sowing and reaping, doing good unto others, investing in relationships, and standing by holiness and justice to gain favour all work to our advantage if we continue to follow God's ways.
So, take heart in the God who cannot change, whose plans cannot be derailed and in the principles He has set for His glory and our eternal joy.
He sees the end from the beginning and we can rest assured in God’s faithful kindness.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18 ESV
How have you been encouraged through times of uncertainty? What are some practical things that have helped you? Please feel free to share your experiences with us.
At OMS we continue to make prayer a priority and we depend on it for a successful ministry. Please click here to learn how you can partner with us in prayer.
“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution
to world evangelization in history.”
The mission of advancing the gospel is the great work of the church, and prayer is the fuel that powers it.
One of the greatest resources the church has for advancing the gospel is the ability to come before God in prayer and plead for what is already on His heart—the growth of His kingdom in the world.
James Fraser (1886–1938), missionary to the Lisu people of China, once said, “I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third places, and teaching the fourth.”
Fraser dedicated his life to the teaching and translating of the Scriptures until he died of cerebral malaria at the age of fifty-two in Baoshan, Yunnan, China. His dedication to the Scripture was never doubted. And he recognized the absolute necessity of prayer in the missions endeavour.
With that in view, here are four reasons why churches must pray for missions:
1. Jesus taught His disciples to how to pray for missions and modelled it as He trained them.
Early in His training of the disciples, Jesus taught them how to pray (Matt. 6:9–13). Then later, after facing the challenges of ministry, they came back to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray. He brought them back to the same prayer in which the petitioner first cries out, “Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2 ESV).
Later, Jesus would model how spiritual battles to accomplish the mission would only be won by faith through prayer as He cried out “not my will, but Yours, be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42 ESV).
Before Jesus sent out the twelve or the seventy-two, He pointed their faces toward heaven in prayer and turned disciples’ hearts into labourers. Therefore, when we start churches and before community engagement occurs, we must bathe the community in prayer. The church must never lose sight that to train disciples to pray is the first step in bringing the gospel to the mission field.
2. Prayer moves the heart of the church toward the heart of God for His mission.
When Jesus sent out the disciples in Luke 10 to all the places He planned to visit, He told them to pray that God would send workers into the harvest field. Then He said, “Go! I am sending you” (Luke 10:3, NIV) as the answer to their prayer. It is important that, when we pray to the Lord of the harvest, we be willing to be the answer to that prayer.
Frank and his wife were part of a church plant in which prayer was an intentional part of the foundation. A church where men gathered weekly for early morning prayer and all-night prayer gatherings were not uncommon. In these times, God did something extraordinary, more powerful than any small group meeting or corporate worship experience. It was then that God shaped their hearts for the world. Out of that group, missionaries were sent, church planters birthed, and a church’s heart was shaped for the kingdom.
Years later, when they started a church in a different neighborhood, they sent the plant team out to pray. It was called “groundwork.” It started with prayer walking for a few months, then they went door to door praying with people for the needs of the neighbourhood and their families. It was a beautiful way for a church to bless a community. They were able to demonstrate the heart of God to people by praying for their concerns. Very few people would close a door to prayer.
3. Prayer opens the doors in the world for the gospel to advance.
In Colossians 4:3–4, Paul tells the church, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (ESV). Prayer opens doors of opportunity for the gospel to be shared that previously seemed closed.
In prayer, the impossible becomes practical. Like when Peter was imprisoned in Acts 12, the church was praying and God released Peter, opening the iron gate leading into the city (Acts 12:10 ESV). In that experience, Peter realized that nothing would hold back the kingdom of God from advancing as the church prayed.
It is prayer that helps us connect with people who are open to the gospel. It is prayer that leads us to the right place at the right time to take the steps that only God could orchestrate. Prayer connects the church to the activity of God who is empowering His people to advance the message of His kingdom.
4. Prayer empowers those going to share the gospel clearly and without fear.
Without prayer, fear will rule the hearts of those sharing the gospel. Paul knew his own need for courage to proclaim the gospel. In Ephesians 6:19–20, Paul asked the church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel...Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (NIV).
Paul faced his own timidity and overcame his fears through the prayers of the church. Through corporate prayer we realize no one is alone, and we strive together through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the church prays, the Holy Spirit increases the spiritual fervour of the body that affects all its parts.
It is imperative that a church prays and engages in the spiritual work of kingdom advancement. When the church prays, Christians begin to get a clearer picture of missions. It is through prayer that God’s people move closer toward the heart of God for the world. It is through prayer that fears about sharing the gospel are defeated.
Missions moves in the wake of prayer. May we be a church that rises by falling to our knees in order to advance God’s kingdom to all nations.
We can reach our world, if we will.
The greatest lack today is not people or funds.
The greatest need is prayer.
-Wesley Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer
Is prayer a priority in your life? Can you share of a time when God answered your prayers?
Feel free to share a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
At OMS we believe Prayer is the battlefield for fruitfulness and we depend on it for a successful ministry. Click here to learn more about how you can partner with us in prayer.
Good morning. The world has changed in the span of 21 days because of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. We have never seen anything quite like this before.
And there will probably be some long-lasting repercussions, some of which we cannot yet imagine.
For up to the minute news on the situation, visit the World Health Organization website - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
OMS Canada takes this pandemic very seriously. Our Global office has put together a COVID-19 Response Team and they relied very heavily on Dr. P., OMS Canada missionary to East Asia. The Response Team meets often to monitor the situation and recommend actions to be taken.
Each OMS Field leader, in consultation with their International Regional Director, have developed their own monitoring and contingency plans. We are confident that the OMS workers are well monitored and cared for.
In light of the evolving situation and in order to best protect our team members, the MFM team that was scheduled to work on the 4VEH Radio/Tele building this month in Haiti was cancelled. We also called Special Assignment missionaries Brad and Caroline Buzza back to Canada from Haiti, as they were there to do preparatory work ahead of the MFM team's arrival. Subsequently, the Haitian government has essentially shut the country down upon confirmation of COVID-19 cases in Haiti.
Jesus to the Nations, the large missions conference that was to take place in Halifax March 27-29, 2020 and at which OMS Canada and MFM Canada each place a booth and where Mark and Marlowe often present seminars, has been cancelled for this year.
To protect our workers, the OMS Canada office is working remotely. OMS Canada had already been doing so for some time, both to minimize overhead costs and to be able to operate through possible future times of domestic disruptions of any kind. This means that on most days there is nobody actually in the Burlington office. They are all able to connect to the OMS Canada network and our phone system allows them to answer their phones in their home office as well. Therefore, God enabled OMS Canada to continue its home office service throughout these times of uncertainty; it is almost business as usual in terms of the back office work required to keep our missionaries well served and in place.
May we take this time to remind you that the OMS Canada work that you support, whether a missionary, a Starfish Kid or a work project, continues in spite of this pandemic. In some cases, the work has intensified and has the potential to produce greater fruit. Please continue to make your donations online at www.omscanada.org/give.html or by calling Cheryl at 289-812-0659 or by mailing in your cheque to OMS Canada, 1295 North Service Rd, PO Box 1457, Burlington, ON L7R 4L9. If you have questions about giving or donations, you can send an email to email@example.com.
Finally, Physical Distancing may prevent physical nearness, but we are able to draw near to each other, our missionaries, those who are in need and the Creator of all through prayer. Let’s make prayer our automatic response when we hear news about this situation.
Here are some specific things you can pray in light of this COVID-19 pandemic:
May God bless you and give you peace.
for OMS Canada
In this week’s blog post we consider the second habit of grace that needs to be built for the purpose of godliness. That habit is prayer.
Prayer is second only to God’s Word in importance when it comes to disciplining oneself in spiritual things. We know that through His Word God speaks to His church and to His people. There is nothing more important for us to hear than the Word of God. He is a speaking God and His Word is written for us.
But, not only is God a speaking God, He is also a listening God. His ear is continually open to us. He stands ready to hear every prayer of His children, even when our prayers are weak. God speaks to us through His Word and He listens to us in prayer.
However, despite its importance of prayer to the Christian, surveys and anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that a large percentage of professing Christians spend little time in sustained prayer. Short sentence prayers get offered here and there throughout the day but it is rare that more than just a few minutes is spent in conversation with God.
We must come to grips with the fact that, if we wish to be godly, if we wish to be like Jesus, we must pray.
Prayer is Expected
Those who have been brought under the authority of Christ and the Bible know that the will of God is for us to pray. And we also know that the will of God is good.
This expectation is seen in the words of Jesus in the gospels;
Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray…”
Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray…”
Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray…”
Matthew 6:9, “Pray then like this…”
Luke 11:9, “And I tell you, ask…seek…knock.”
Luke 18:1, “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray,”
God’s word makes it clear that prayer is expected;
Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
These verses are commands for the Christian to pray. Commands. This means that too little time, too many responsibilities, too many kids, too much work, too little desire, too little experience, and so on are not excuses that exempt one from the expectation to pray.
Martin Luther put it this way; As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.
So why do so many of us confess that we do not pray as we ought? Sometimes it is just simply a lack of discipline. Prayer is never planned, time is never set aside just for prayer. While lip service is given to the priority of prayer, in reality it always seems to get crowded out by things that seem more urgent.
Often we do not pray because we are not convinced anything will actually happen if we pray. Naturally, we wouldn’t admit this publicly, but if we felt certain of visible results within sixty seconds of every prayer, there would be holes in the knees of the pants of every Christian (and not because the pants were bought with holes in the knees). The Bible does not promise a visible answer to every prayer but it does promise that every prayer is answered. Since prayer involves communication in the spiritual realm, many prayers are answered in ways that cannot be seen in the material realm.
In addition, where there is little awareness of real need, there is little need for real prayer. The truth is that we believe we can get along pretty well in Canada without any sort of divine intervention. We generally have jobs, shelter, friends, family, healthcare, and safety. What more could we need? In pride and self-sufficiency, we may live for days as though prayer is needed only when something comes along that is too big for us to handle on our own.
But this view is short sighted in that it assumes that the temporal things are the only things about which we need to pray. Listen to the prayer requests that people most often present and they will be for things like health, family, work, finances, etc., all temporal things that really have no kind of eternal significance. Why do we pray so little for the things that really count, like the battle against sin, the lack of faith, the need to evangelize, and the lack of spiritual fruit? Above these needs there is always a need to pray until Jesus returns or calls us home.
Prayer is Learned
Another reason why Christians pray so little is because they haven’t learned about prayer. If you are discouraged by the command to pray because you feel like you don’t know how to pray well, the fact that prayer is learned should give you hope. This means that it is okay to begin the Christian life with little knowledge or experience of prayer but as you are discipled, prayer should be a part of what is taught, learned and practised. I grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario and 4-H clubs were a popular activity for kids. The 4-H motto was, “Learn to do by doing.” This is certainly true of prayer.
If you have ever learned a second (or subsequent) language, you know that you learn it best when you actually have to speak it. The same is true of the ‘foreign language’ of prayer. There are many good resources to help you learn to pray but the best way to learn how to pray is to pray. Learn to do by doing.
Another way that one learns to pray is by meditating on Scripture. Here is the simple but extraordinarily powerful truth. Meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer. Although often separated, the two should be united. Typically, we read the Bible, close it, and then try to shift gears into prayer. But many times it seems that the gears of Bible reading and of prayer do not mesh properly. We blow the shift (trucker talk) and lose momentum and give up on prayer.
Instead, there should be a smooth, almost unnoticeable transition between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God in those moments. This happens when we insert the link of meditation in between. There are a couple of Psalms that make an explicit link between meditation and prayer. Psalm 5:1 says, “Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You do I pray.” The Hebrew word translated groaning may also be translated meditation, as it is in the King James. In fact, meditation is used for the same Hebrew word in Psalm 19:14; “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Notice that both verses are prayers, pleas to God that consisted of David’s words (as we would expect in prayer) but they also involve meditation. In each case, meditation was the catalyst that moved David from considering the truth of God into talking with God.
Meditating on God’s Word can also serve to move us into a conversation with the author of the Word.
Prayer is Answered
Probably no principle of prayer is more taken for granted than that prayer is answered.
Matthew 7:7-8; “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
Andrew Murray makes the observation that asking and receiving is a fixed eternal law of the kingdom. If you ask and do not receive it is always because there is something amiss or wanting in your prayer. Hold on; let the Word and Spirit teach you to pray aright, but do not let go of the confidence God seeks to awaken. Everyone who asks receives…Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore take the Master’s Word in all simplicity…Let us beware of weakening the Word with our so-called human wisdom.
So, despite what we see in response to our prayers, let’s not become so accustomed with our shortcomings in prayer and to the perception of asking without receiving that our faith in the force of Jesus’ promise is diminished. Prayer is answered.
So, how is your prayer life? Is prayer a natural thing or is it a chore? Do you see prayers answered or are you in danger of weakening the promise of answered prayer? Let us know by leaving a comment.
And if you want some prayer requests to practice your prayer skills, click here to find out how to become a prayer partner of OMS Canada.
Almost every evangelical Christian would affirm a commitment to the importance of prayer in their life and in the ministry arenas in which they work or volunteer. Missions is no exception. Do you really pray for missions? What do you pray for missions? How do you encourage others to pray for missions. Here are four concrete ways to elevate the status of prayer as it relates to missions.
1. Make prayer the missions priority for your missions team and your congregation.
a. Set a personal example by praying for one or more missionaries daily.
b. Set a team example by praying first in every missions team meeting.
c. Program prayer into every missions activity.
d. Include prayer for missions and missionaries in every corporate prayer meeting.
2. Recognize that people are motivated to pray for people they love.
a. Develop personal prayer for missionaries based on relationships.
b. Set a goal for the number of people who will commit to pray for a missionary.
c. Use the missions conference to inspire individuals to pray for a missionary.
d. Ask individuals to commit to pray faithfully for one year for a specific missionary.
e. Ask them to write the name of the missionary on the conference commitment card.
f. Provide the names of those who sign up to the missionaries they will pray for.
g. Ask the missionaries to send their prayer letters to those individuals.
h. Remind the individuals of the commitment they made.
i. Renew prayer sign-ups annually.
3. Facilitate ongoing relationship development
a. Encourage the missionaries and prayer partners to develop relationships.
b. When your missionaries visit your church, facilitate their meeting with their prayer partners.
c. Communicate success stories.
4. Pray corporately for the world, countries and people groups.
a. Use resources such as the Global Prayer Digest, Operation World, etc.
b. Participate in the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Day of Prayer for the Unreached and other special prayer events.
c. Personalize where possible by identifying countries and peoples with missionaries you support.
From the Ayars' blog...
The Ayars Affairs -- Life in Haiti
interrupted by the I Am.
Posted: 04 Sep 2019 09:36 AM PDT
Last night Matt and I were filling the midnight hours with our deep prayers, and the Lord gave me one I'm holding on to.
Remind me back, family.
The "peace" we've all been living in the last several months in Haiti is deceptive, though we all knew it. The shut down of roads, businesses, schools, transportation, fuel and security last February was never truly resolved...life just resumed after a few weeks. Money had run out and it HAD to break sometime. Prices have continued to rise, fuel has continued to be hard to find, and the president has named his fourth prime minister in less than three years, and even that has yet to be in function.
The last 10 days there has been no fuel, period, no gas, no diesel, which effects every element of life...from the public transportation our students use to come to class to generators hospitals and businesses and the phone company use for power. September 9th is the day all elementary and high schools resume class in Haiti, and that makes right now prime time for those fighting for power and money to wield fear and flaunt injustice.
If fuel continues to be blocked, the country cannot function. If desperate and angry men are paid to burn the country down, to threaten children, to stop all progress, all efforts, all education, all businesses...they will.
As our staff joined again yesterday for Tuesday prayer, the dismay, discouragement and heartbreak was heavy on the faces and hearts of our family. Their pain and burden, which I will never fully be able to identify with, kills me. Since the heavy cloud lifted a bit in March, I have not been the only one battling fear: we cannot go there again. We cannot do that again. I can't do that again.
With threats of evil and rumors of violence and desperation growing and prices STILL soaring and no fuel and school about to start, we are at the brink of there again.
Evil always preys on desperation. On innocent children. On hungry people. It is altogether selfish and dishonest and altogether out to kill and destroy...and it's knocking at Haiti's door again, still, and ready or not, here we are.
Ugly things tend to bring out ugly things in people. Threats bring out fear. Violence brings out hatred. Desperation calls out ungodly responses. Shortage ushers in greed, fatigue allows for injustices that wouldn't have been allowed for on stronger days.
When the economy is weak, when the government is weak, when courage is weak, when systems are weak...we get weak, too. We respond with bitterness and selfishness instead of grace and patience. We respond with fear and frustration instead of being of good courage. We ball up our fists instead of opening them to each other.
When we're weak, we fall for Satan's lies and listen, instead of speaking up the truth.
As we were tempted to despair, to discourage, to embitter, to be angry, to be weak last night, Jesus absolutely interceded for me before the throne with this idea:
We cannot allow the weakness of the world to make us weak, but must allow His strength to make us strong.
We cannot allow the broken to make us broke, but must allow His healing to make us whole.
We cannot allow fear to make us afraid, but must allow the Lord of Heaven's Armies to give us courage.
We cannot allow worries to make us worry, but must allow the God of Peace to make us peacemakers.
We cannot allow the bitter to make us bitter, cannot allow the desperate to make us desperate, cannot allow the harsh to make us unkind, cannot allow the shortage to make us short.
We are His CHILDREN. We are light in the darkness.
Now, friends, now more than ever we must be above reproach, we must cling to what HE IS and let Him SHAPE us, not be shaped by the world. Now more than ever we must be strong and courageous, we must be love in such lostness, we must be His Hope in such despair.
LOVE, darn it.
Do you know why, by His grace, I can do this again, come what may??
Because His Love.
It never gives up.
It never loses faith.
It is always hopeful.
It endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:7
THAT kind of love, that is what our brothers and sisters here in Haiti, our children, our country...that is what we NEED TODAY. That is what your corner of the world needs, too, and is desperate for.
If we are doing this again...
If we are doing this again, the Living Water that flows from me will NOT be scorched by it.
If we are doing this again, I will be the resounding voice of HIS love that NEVER gives up, that NEVER loses faith, that NEVER loses hope, that ENDURES. I will spread that, pray that, show that, share that, be that love to our fellow missionaries, to our fellow staff members, to our fellow family, to my children, to His children, to those who are being saved and to those who are perishing.
I'm giving Him my weakness now--for nobody needs it--to be made strong.
He is on the throne. He is well aware. His hand is not short. His work is not finished.
Intercede for us in Haiti. Intercede for this country, for these people. Go to the throne of grace on Haiti's behalf, pray for a NEW DAY, pray for open eyes, pray for brilliant light, pray for a totally different cycle.
But most, pray that His children might be faithful to GIVE what HE is giving, and nothing else. Pray that we might be faithful to LOVE how He is LOVING. Pray that we might be so totally grounded in the Light that He is, that the darkness cannot overcome it.
As far as it depends upon me, the little daily actions and words and inner thoughts of my mind and tongue and heart will testify of the victorious Christ, on the throne unshakable.
And as I beg Him for His help with that commitment this morning, He interrupts me.