Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective

Malankara World Journal
Penta Centum Souvenir Edition
Volume 8 No. 500 October 14, 2018


Chapter - 10: Prayer

Jesus and Prayer: Programming the God Machine? By William L. Self

If I want to learn about prayer, I want to go to Jesus, whose life was a living prayer, who prayed incessantly, unceasingly. Jesus, the man of prayer, has something to teach us. ...

How to Pray without Ceasing by Kelly O'Dell Stanley

Not only is it possible to pray without ceasing, but it's possible to do so without making any significant changes to your schedule or time commitments. It's all about shifting your thought process and turning everyday moments into prayer. ...

5 Things You Do Not Know About Prayer by Dr. Joe McKeever

It might be helpful to address some of the things we do not know about prayer. ...

20 Quotes from Tim Keller's New Book on Prayer by Matt Smethurst

The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Tim Keller's fantastic new book, 'Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God' (Dutton) ...

It's Me Oh Lord, Standin' in the Need of Prayer by Msgr Charles Pope

Beware of Pride. It is our worst enemy. Beg for the gift of humility, for only with it do we even stand a chance. ...

The Purpose of Prayer by Oswald Chambers

To say that "prayer changes things" is not as close to the truth as saying, "Prayer changes me and then I change things." ...

Our Secret Weapon

We are at war "against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" ...

Prayer Does Make A Difference by Martin G. Collins

A primary test of our lives as Christians and saints is the amount of quality time we give to prayer. ...

10. Chapter - 10: Prayer

Jesus and Prayer: Programming the God Machine?

By William L. Self, Contributing Editor of Preaching

Gospel: Mark 1:35-39

Several years ago my wife and I had the privilege of renting a little house in the middle part of France around Tours. We arrived on a Friday, and after we unpacked and became familiar with the house, we realized we needed to get a traveler's check cashed because no one there accepted American dollars. But we couldn't find a place in this small village where we could get cash. Finally, the proprietor at an inn suggested we go to the next village where an ATM was located on the village square.

I'm from a different generation. We are accustomed to cashing checks, not punching buttons on an ATM machine. But it was either that or starve to death. We drove to the village and found the ATM machine in an unlighted area on the village square. So here are two Americans, jet lagged, never having used an ATM machine in their lives, bent over this machine trying to get money in French. Of course the machine has a language selection button, and I pushed the English button, but what came through was Frenglish — not good English and probably bad French.

Carolyn and I both tried to punch the right buttons, and we finally received our money. We were elated! We had learned to program the money machine! The next morning we went to the grocery store and stocked up on groceries. Occasionally, I suggested we go play with the money machine again. I had decided it was fun getting money out of the metal box on the square. We had learned to program the money machine.

We are living in a culture that talks a lot about prayer these days. I have bought several books on prayer and realized that prayer has become a cottage industry in the religious life of America. There are more books, spiritual aids, and quick-and-easy devotionals about prayer on the Internet than you can imagine. One book which hit the market and was on the New York Times bestseller list is The Prayer of Jabez. At the time I bought mine, Eight million copies of this 100-page book had been sold. It's OK, but it is to eating as McDonald's is to gourmet dining. It's food that you can start on, but you couldn't live on it all the time. I have bought other books, and I found out the prayer market industry is like programming God. I felt they were teaching me how to program the God machine — punch this, punch that; pray this way, not that way. I've never seen a father who sits back and says, "No, you didn't bring the question right. Come in and say the words this way."

Our church has had a seminar on Jabez. Some of you may have a copy of the book. If it has been some help to you, that's fine. You are not going to lose your soul from reading it, but your soul won't grow much if that's the only thing you ever read. It's rent-a-God, or rent-a-church, because it sounds as if you read the words a certain way, God will do what you have asked. Lest we misunderstand each other, I realize I may be dealing out of a great deal of jealousy. That book has sold millions of copies, and my last book sold 800 copies. I am cursed with a good theological education, and I want us to go beyond that. It's like trying to write a dissertation after having studied Reader's Digest. You can't do it all at that level. In fact, if the Jabez book is right, there is an issue my wife and I have been praying about ardently, fervently for 35 years, and it still hasn't changed. Somewhere The Prayer of Jabez did not address the hard issues of life.

I want us to learn how to pray. If we were going to learn about leadership, we would study Winston Churchill. If we were going to learn about heart surgery, we would probably study Dr. Michael DeBakey. If I wanted to learn about evangelism, I would go to Billy Graham. If I want to learn about prayer, I want to go to Jesus, whose life was a living prayer, who prayed incessantly, unceasingly. Jesus, the man of prayer, has something to teach us, not an obscure character in the back channels of the Old Testament in only two or three verses. Jabez never appears anywhere else.

Sigmond Freud said, "The problem of the world is repressed sexuality." I believe in America there is a repressed spiritually. I think the secular media and secular nature of our culture has so suppressed our spiritually that it has to run out somewhere because it's jammed up inside us. Because it has not been trained, it runs out in all kinds of immature channels.

I believe Jesus has something to teach us about prayer. The first thing Jesus has to tell us is that our goal in prayer is not to feel good but to do good. Doing good is the goal of Jesus. We need to understand that we have this turned around. Shallow Jabez pray-ers become spiritual couch potatoes, summoning God to run their errands while the world moves on toward hell. If you understand the prayers of Jesus, Jesus brings us in, gives us strength in season and out of season to do His work and His will. The only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them was to pray, "Lord, teach us to pray." I wonder why they did that.

First of all, I think it's because Jesus knew the transcending power of prayer. Jesus knew you could transcend whatever happened in life with prayer, and He knew that was the only way to know the power of God in your life. He prayed at every crisis in His life. There are 10 recorded prayers of Jesus in the Bible. You don't find that of any other person. Actually, it is more of an insight into His life rather than just the words of prayer. He prayed at His baptism. He prayed at His temptation. He prayed early in the morning. He prayed before He fed the multitude. He prayed all night before He selected the Twelve. He prayed before Peter denied Him. He prayed in the upper room. He prayed in the garden. He prayed before Lazarus was raised from the tomb. He prayed on the cross. Every significant place in the life of Jesus was surrounded and immersed in prayer, not just a quick in-and-out prayer but a deep and abiding prayer from His heart. Some have said, and I think it is absolutely accurate, His life was a prayer.

I think it is interesting that Jesus never asks us to understand prayer. Nowhere in the Bible do I see where Jesus says, "You should understand prayer." When you make prayer as something to understand, you make prayer a problem. It is a syllogism to be understood. It is a knotty, thorny problem to be unraveled. Jesus never said that. Jesus didn't say, "Go out and understand prayer." If you do that, you have seminars about prayers where you try to understand the dynamics of prayer; that's not what Jesus said. He said simply, "Pray," and I think in that is a powerful incentive. Pray, and when you pray, the Father hears.

I have a problem saying this but I have to be honest with you. Jesus said that His house is to be a house of prayer. I would have been satisfied if He had said, "My house is to be a house of preaching." But He didn't say that — I've looked. He didn't say His house should be a house of music, or of Christian education, or of missions. He said, "My house is to be a house of prayer." To put this right, prayer drives preaching, music, education and missions. In the modern church, we have it backwards. We think if we do our programs right and put a little prayer around to decorate it, we'll make it. According to Jesus, you pray, connect with the father, then the things we do as the people of God take on the countenance and power of God.

The second thing Jesus teaches us about prayer is the transfusing power of prayer. I love summer, and think it is the greatest of all seasons. Growing up in Florida, we had nine months of summer and a few months of spring. We never had winter. Summer is special for many reasons, especially for the flowers. We recently bought some hanging baskets with cascading flowers to hang on our deck. We were having dinner outside when I noticed the flowers were wilting because they needed water. The morning after watering the flowers, they were as bright and beautiful as they could be because we had transfused them with water.

The Regency Hyatt in Atlanta was the first building John Portman built with a multi-storied atrium. It is common architecture now but when it opened, it was revolutionary. I met a friend for lunch there one day, and as I was waiting, I noticed that at each balcony, the plants at the upper stories were longer than the plants on the lower stories. I then noticed a glass top on the building and the plants at the top were getting more sunlight than those at the bottom. You can't have any kind of greenery without sunlight or water. But those of us in the modern church think that we go through life without ever having to water or nourish our spirits. I watch church people burn out all the time because church work is hard work. They burn out because they never nourish their spirits. They get off message because they don't nourish themselves.

In the text I read, Jesus had been teaching and healing. It had been a tough day. They had gone through all the villages in the middle and northern parts of Israel. Then in the morning the disciples got up, ready to go again, and they couldn't find Jesus. There was panic. If you read under the text, Simon Peter was panicked; he probably thought Jesus had deserted them or had been kidnaped by the scribes and Pharisees or by the Roman government. They went outside and found Jesus in a quiet place praying. Simon Peter had the audacity to chastise Jesus. Jesus' response to Simon Peter was simple, "We're going to the other villages where I must preach also. I'm out here praying to get the power I need to do the work of God. We are going to continue to do the work God called us to do because out of this prayer experience, I will know where I am to go next."

Jesus knew the transfusing power of prayer. If you want to have the joy of your salvation, the joy of Christian forgiveness, and the courage to battle on, let God transfuse you through a time of prayer. If you want to have light for your way, let God transfuse you with prayer. If you want to have power to rescue a soul from darkness, let God transfuse you in your time of prayer. If you want to accomplish something, just pray. Then you realize you must humble yourself before God, call on God, and hold on with faith and prayer. Jesus teaches us that we must pay a spiritual price to do the work of God. When we pay the price, the power of God comes. When we do not pay the price, the power of God does not come. Love, faith and prayer become a cause for drawing the light of God into our lives from heaven itself. That is why I have some impatience with trying to program the God machine. There is no price paid for that kind of prayer. I am talking a continual, constant openness to the presence of God, publicly and silently. I'm talking about a continual openness to God, paying the price spiritually. God gives the reward temporally. He said, "Come to me secretly, and I'll reward you openly."

Jesus also knew the transfiguring power of prayer. I was flipping through a magazine recently, and was impressed with the number of articles and ads advising both men and women how to look good. They always use good-looking models. "Try this, and it will grow hair on your head. Try that, and your skin will glow. Try this, and the fat will fall off." We all want to look better. You've seen people who have spent their time hanging around bad company. They've been in trouble. You've seen people who have lingered long at the wine. You've seen people who have spent their lives in debauchery. About middle years and beyond, they are dogeared, wrinkled, and battered.

The evidence of the Bible is that if you pray a lot you'll look better. That ought to drive you to the prayer room quickly. Moses came down off Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, and the biblical writers tell us that his face shone. He looked better because he had been with God. Stephen the deacon that preached was the first Christian martyr. While they were stoning him, they said he had the face like an angel. The evidence of the Bible is that when you spend time with God, you look different. On the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, there was a sense of God's presence and countenance of Jesus in the inner group that was with Him.

The point is that there is a transfiguring power of prayer. You will look better, but there will be a tone about your life that will be different, and that is infinitely more important. I have a clipping in my file of four former Miss Americas who said that they spend regular time in Bible study and prayer. I don't guarantee that you will be a Miss America but you will look better. It will show.

The fourth thing is that Jesus knew the transforming power of prayer. If you will learn about prayer from Jesus, you must understand that prayer becomes a lifestyle. It is a habit. When Paul was in the city of Lystra in his first missionary journey, he was beaten, battered, and stoned at the edge of the city. But he got up and went back into the city to start over because a life of prayer had transformed him into a man who did not look to either side or find discouragement. He went ahead. I want to guarantee you that a life of prayer will bring transformation in other people.

I don't think we intercede enough. Intercession is incredibly important. You need to pray for others, and for your church. I sense when my church has been praying for me. Carolyn and I recently returned from the Preaching Conference in Scotland, and I had asked a few of you to pray for me. When I got up to preach, I had a sense of God's presence in the room. When I finished, I said to my wife, "I can tell they have been praying for us. I felt like a man being prayed for as I preached."

I want you to know the power of what it means to learn to pray from Jesus. I don't want us ever to forget that Jesus gives us an example of the transcending, the transfusing, the transfiguring, and the transforming power of prayer. I don't want us ever to be satisfied with short-circuiting prayer into thinking we are programming the God machine, but I want us to learn that prayer is developing a deep relationship. It is a walk with God, and instead of programming Him, we have Him imbedded in us. "Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus," the apostle said. Let's not program a machine. Let's walk with God.

How to Pray without Ceasing

by Kelly O'Dell Stanley

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).

Impossible, right? Maybe in the olden days, when every task directly affected your family's survival - of course they prayed, because if the crop died, they'd starve. If someone got sick there was no medicine to help. Life was dangerous and fragile, and people weren't distracted by social media and cell phones. But today? Who could be expected to keep their mind on God at all times? Surely God wouldn't expect that of us, because He knows more than anyone how flawed we are, and how short our attention spans are.

Except that nowhere in the Bible is there an asterisk after that verse that says, "unless you're really busy."

Here's the good news. Not only is it possible to pray without ceasing, but it's possible to do so without making any significant changes to your schedule or time commitments. It's all about shifting your thought process and turning everyday moments into prayer. My friend Lisa gave me the best explanation I've ever heard: it's like keeping the radio playing in the background. Keep that connection open and talk to God as you go through your day. Here are nine ways to pray without ceasing:

1. Begin with gratitude.

Psalm 100:4 says "enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name."

In other words, start by telling God what you're thankful for. Prayer doesn't have to be asking for something; it can simply be thanking Him from your heart for what He has already done.

2. Get real.

If prayer had to be a stiff, formal language - "our most holy and mighty God, we beseech ye…" - first of all, we'd be bored and feel out of our element most of the time. And secondly, we would find it hard to keep that up for an extended period of time. But prayer is simply a conversation. Talk to Him the way you would talk to a friend. Sit down with a cup of coffee and just let the words pour out, casually, simply. Just be real.

3. Incorporate prayer into everyday chores.

Let your everyday tasks become acts of worship by turning them into times of prayer. As you fold laundry, pray for each family member - and then if your laundry piles are as high as mine, and you're done praying but not done folding, branch out from there. Pray for your child's soccer teammates, for the teachers standing in front of your children's classrooms, for the partner who works hard to pay the bills, for health to stay active, for the workplaces where the clothes are worn. Or simply give thanks for the warmth of the home where you relax in those pajamas.

4. Tell Him what He already knows.

When my first child was in kindergarten, I realized that although I had a pretty good idea what she did at school, I didn't need to know the details. But when she told me about how she and Jacob played at recess, or laughed as she tried to tell me the story her teacher read that day, it deepened my connection with my daughter. I got to see her life through her eyes and I reveled in her unique perspective. Of course, God already knows what's in our hearts - but when we offer our thoughts to him, it turns what might be a solitary life into a richer, more meaningful relationship. And I think God delights in this.

5. Pray while you wait.

Most of us waste a lot of time while we wait for our daily grande nonfat mochas - or whatever. A quick online search reports that we each average two years of our lives waiting in line, and the average commuter spends 38 hours a year in traffic. Turn your car into a prayer closet, or let your mind take you someplace else while the person in line ahead of you buys her drink using four nearly-empty gift cards and then empties her coin purse of pennies.

Transform that "wasted" time into something meaningful - pray for the people you expect to encounter that day or the tasks you need to accomplish. Give thanks for your day, for the job paying for your favorite caffeinated beverage, for the young man working as a cashier to pay his college tuition, for the extravagant blessing of a giant store stocked with more products than we need. Count your blessings - because they're everywhere - and make those minutes count.

6. Sing a song of praise.

"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise" (James 5:13).

Often, we think of prayer as what to do when we need God to fix something or when we're unhappy. But the Bible encourages us to pray at all times. Remember the idea of prayer being like a radio playing in the background all the time? Make that literal by listening to worship music. As you sing along, offer it to God as your prayer. Or, better yet, make up your own song along the way. Nobody is listening but Him, so don't worry if you're out of tune.

7. When you mess up, admit it.

I don't know about you, but I could spend most of my praying-without-ceasing time simply confessing a litany of my sins and failings: I just yelled at my kids; I'm jealous of the perfect little family one my friends posts about daily on Facebook; so-and-so is a real jerk and I don't like him… and so on. Luckily, when we confess, God forgives us, so we don't need to dwell there. That in itself is another reason to praise Him.

8. Give up worrying.

Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

We're not meant to worry, and we waste too many minutes doing just that. Next time something weighs heavy on your heart, envision yourself extending it up to God and letting Him hold it for you. Ask Him what your role is and if there is something you need to do; if so, do it. But don't take back the weight of the worry. Then start thanking God for who He is and what He has already done for you, and you'll feel the weight lifting off your shoulders as the words come.

9. Stop talking once in awhile. Instead, just listen.

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:7).

The number (or quality) of words you use in prayer doesn't matter, because prayer is about God, not about us. Allow yourself to contemplate the nearness of God. Trust that He is your constant companion. Don't monopolize the dialogue, but spend some of your time just being, simply sitting and resting in His presence. And keep in mind that the best conversations are two-sided, but you won't hear anything if you never stop to listen.

Start Praying Now

Dear Lord, I believe that prayer matters, but I also think that we shortchange ourselves by limiting our definition of prayer. Open my mind to all that it can be. Help me become aware of Your nearness and abide in Your presence. Teach me to talk to You - and remind me to listen. Overflow my heart with gratitude for all that You've done and who You are. Let my life become a never-ending prayer to You. Amen.

About The Author:

Kelly O'Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she's pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith.

Copyright © 2018, All rights reserved

5 Things You Do Not Know About Prayer

by Dr. Joe McKeever

To be sure, we know a lot about prayer. We know it's of faith--addressing a God whom we cannot see and are unable to prove that He's even there, much less listening to the likes of us--and we know we ought to do more of it and do it better.

But, it occurs to me, it might be helpful to address some of the things we do not know about prayer.

See if you find any of this encouraging.

1. We do not know how to pray as we should.

That's Romans 8:26. "Likewise, the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

At those times when my prayers seem pitifully small and weak, it helps to remember that even the great apostle--arguably the greatest Christian ever--put into words my own helplessness: "We do not know how to pray as we ought."

Man, is that ever right!

This does not stop us from praying. It only assures us that our perfectionism--a killer in most endeavors--does not apply here. Prayer cannot be done perfectly in this life. So, we do what we can, pray as well as we're able, and leave it to the Father to sort it out.

2. We do not know what God is doing in answer to our prayers at any given moment.

Nothing is so much about faith as praying. Not only are we addressing a Deity whom we cannot see or prove, in most cases we never know whether our prayers were even answered or not. And yet, we keep praying. Talk about faith!

You pray for the President of the United States, for a missionary on the other side of the globe, and for your child who heads off to school this morning. In no case will you be there to see if and how your prayers are answered. The president gets a sudden inspiration and makes a wise decision, the missionary is protected from harm while walking through a dangerous neighborhood, and your child figures something out the teacher has been trying to get across. Your prayers were answered. The only problem is....

You never know it.

If you are careless, you will conclude your prayers are accomplishing nothing and you will go on to other endeavors. As a result, the world grows more dangerous and the people you love more vulnerable because you quit praying.

"In due season we shall reap if we do not quit" (Galatians 6:9).

3. We do not know who else is praying.

Elijah is not the only servant of the Lord who felt like the Lone Ranger (I Kings 19:10). Many times we all get that isolated sense that "I'm the only one left."

It's not true, thank the Lord.

There is no room in the Kingdom of God for the pessimism that drops our chin to our chest, gives up hope, and leaves the playing field before the final gun. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), veterans of the same wars we are presently engaged in; they are watching and cheering us on. Furthermore, when we finally turn in our badges and report to our Heavenly assignment, we will be overwhelmed to discover the size of the regiment to which we belonged (see Revelation 5:11 and 7:9, for starters).

Stand strong, Christian. You are in good company.

4. We do not know how things would be if we had not prayed.

In the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey was given a gift, the ability to see what the world would have been like had he never been born.

The rest of us are not given that present. We don't even get to see how things would have been had we not been faithful in praying.

We have to take it by faith, at least for the present. The day will come, we are assured, when we will "know as we are known." We see through a glass dimly now, but "then face to face" (I Corinthians 13:12).

We will be so glad we were faithful. Or, so pained that we quit early and left the field.

Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8) Nothing tells the tale on that like our praying.

We pray by faith, disciple of Jesus, or we do not pray at all.

5. We do not know all God did as a result of someone else's prayers.

As a 19-year-old college sophomore, I made the single most important decision of my life, one that changed everything from that day to this: I joined West End Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. As a result of that one simple act--and it was simple--I was baptized, called into the ministry, and ordained in that church. I met a host of friends who remain in my life to this day, including one in particular, Margaret Ann Henderson, to whom I will have been married a half-century this April 13. Everything in my life since hinges on that one act in September of 1959.

What I wonder is a) did I pray about the decision? and b) who else was praying?

There are no answers. My strong hunch is that joining that outstanding church was not related to my prayers but to the intercession of someone else. Was it my mother praying? Another friend or family member? or did the Lord just sovereignly decide to do this without being asked? Or all of the above?

No way to know. But whoever prayed for me, I am forever in their debt.

No one will pray who must have all his/her answers before they begin.

No one will pray who depends on his/her feelings as indicators of God's presence and whether He is hearing and answering.

No one will pray who cannot live by faith and wait upon the Lord for answers.

No one will pray who waits until they can do so perfectly.

No one will pray who uses the prayerlessness of others as an excuse for his own rebellion.

We will pray by faith or not pray at all.

Brethren, let us pray.

About The Author:

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.  

20 Quotes from Tim Keller's New Book on Prayer

by Matt Smethurst

The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Tim Keller's fantastic new book, 'Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God' (Dutton). Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.

"Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. . . . We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence." (5)

"Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life." (18)

"It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul's prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances." (20)

"A rich, vibrant, consoling, hard-won prayer life is the one good that makes it possible to receive all other kinds of goods rightly and beneficially. [Paul] does not see prayer as merely a way to get things from God but as a way to get more of God himself." (21)

"The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life." (23)

"Jesus Christ taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple worship (which, he said, should be a ‘house of prayer'), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb. 5:7), and sometimes all night. The Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him as he was praying (Luke 3:21–22), and he was transfigured with the divine glory as he prayed (Luke 9:29). When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17:1–26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying." (27)

"Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. [We] speak only to the degree we are spoken to. . . . The wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God." (55, 56)

"We would never produce the full range of biblical prayer if we were initiating prayer according to our own inner needs and psychology. It can only be produced if we are responding in prayer according to who God is as revealed in the Scripture. . . . Some prayers in the Bible are like an intimate conversation with a friend, others like an appeal to a great monarch, and others approximate a wrestling match. . . . We must not decide how to pray based on what types of prayer are the most effective for producing the experiences and feelings we want. We pray in response to God himself." (60)

"A triune God would call us to converse with him . . . because he wants to share the joy he has. Prayer is our way of entering into the happiness of God himself." (68)

"When life is going smoothly, and our truest heart treasures seem safe, it does not occur to us to pray." (77)

"To pray in Jesus' name [is], essentially, to reground our relationship with God in the saving work of Jesus over and over again. It also means to recognize your status as a child of God, regardless of your inner state." (105)

"Prayer is like waking up from a nightmare to reality. We laugh at what we took so seriously inside the dream. We realize that all is truly well. Of course, prayer can have the opposite effect; it can puncture illusions and show us we are in more spiritual danger than we thought." (130)

"Prayer is not a passive, calm, quiet practice." (136)

"[Prayer] gives us relief from the melancholy burden of self-absorption." (139)

"Prayer—though it is often draining, even an agony—is in the long term the greatest source of power that is possible." (140)

"We must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will eventually lead to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine. . . . Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all." (180)

"To lose our grip on the costliness of forgiveness will result in a superficial, perfunctory confession that does not lead to any real change of heart. There will be no life change. To lose our grip on the freeness of forgiveness, however, will lead to continued guilt, shame, and self-loathing. There will be no relief. Only when we see both the freeness and the cost of forgiveness will we get relief from the guilt as well as liberation from the power of sin in our lives." (208)

"God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows." (228)

"Our time frames are not in touch with ultimate reality. Our perspective on timing compared with God's is analogous to a two-year-old's with an adult's. God has good reasons for making us wait a long time to see some prayers answered." (236)

"We know God will answer us when we call because one terrible day he did not answer Jesus when he called. . . . Jesus' prayers were given the rejection that we sinners merit so that our prayers could have the reception that he merits." (237, 238)

About The Author:

Matt Smethurst is managing editor of The Gospel Coalition and author of 1–2 Thessalonians: A 12-Week Study (Crossway, 2017). He and his wife, Maghan, have three children and live in Louisville, Kentucky.

It's Me Oh Lord, Standin' in the Need of Prayer

by Msgr Charles Pope

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

There's an old saying on pride that goes: "Faults in others I can see, but praise the Lord, they're none in me!" It's a steel trap statement because one is snared in sin by the very act of claiming they have no sin. And it's the biggest sin of all: Pride!

In today's Gospel, the Lord illustrates this very point in speaking to us of two men who go to to the temple and pray. One man commits the greatest sin of all, pride, and leaves unjustified. The other, though a great sinner, receives the gift of justification through humility. Let's look at what the Lord teaches us.

1. Prideful Premise - Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness. When it comes to parables, it is possible for us to go right to the parable and miss the introductory statement that often tells us what spurred Jesus to give the parable. Many simply see this parable as being about arrogance. But there is more to it than that.

Jesus is addressing this parable to those who are convinced of their own righteousness. They are under the illusion that they are capable of justifying and saving themselves. They think they can have their "own righteousness," and that it will be enough to save them.

But the truth is, there is no saving righteousness apart from Christ's righteousness. I do not care how many spiritual push-ups you do, how many good works you do, how many commandments you keep. It will never be enough for you to earn heaven. On your own you are not holy enough, to ever enter heaven or save yourself. Scripture says, One cannot redeem himself, pay to God a ransom. Too high the price to redeem a life; he would never have enough (Psalm 49:8-9)

Only Christ and HIS righteousness can ever close the gap, can ever get you to heaven. Even if we do have good works, they are not our gift to God, they are his gift to us. We cannot boast of them, they are his. Again Scripture says, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:8-10).

But the Pharisee in the Parable has a prideful premise that is operative. Jesus says he is convinced of his OWN righteousness. Notice how, in his brief prayer he says "I" four times:

• I thank you
• I am not like the rest of humanity – greed, dishonest, adulterous
• I fast
• I pay tithes

It is also interesting that the Lord, when telling the of the prideful Pharisee, indicates that he "spoke this prayer to himself." Some think it merely means he did not say the prayer out loud. But others suspect that more is at work here, a double meaning if you will. In effect, the Lord is saying that his prayer is so wholly self-centered, so devoid of any true appreciation of God, that it is actually spoken only to himself. He is congratulating himself more than really praying to God, and his "thank you" is purely perfunctory and serves more a premise for his own prideful self adulation. He is speaking to himself alright. He is so prideful that even God can't even hear him.

Hence we see a prideful premise on the part of the Pharisee who sees his righteous as his own, as something he has achieved. He is badly mistaken.

2. Problematic Perspective - and despised everyone else. To "despise" means to look down on others with contempt, to perceive others as beneath us. Now the Lord says the Pharisee did this. Notice how the Pharisee is glad to report that he is "not like the rest of humanity."

Not only is his remark foolish, it is also impertinent. For, it is a simple fact that you and I will not get to heaven merely by being a little better than someone else. No indeed, being better than a tax collector, prostitute, drug dealer, or dishonest business man is not the standard we must meet. The standard we must meet is Jesus. He is the standard. And Jesus said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Now, somebody say, Lord have mercy! It is so dangerous, and a total waste of time, to compare our self with others because it wholly misses the point.

The point is that we are to compare our selves to Jesus and to be conformed to him by the work of his grace. And, truth be told, any honest comparison of our self to Jesus should make us fall to our knees and cry out for mercy, because the only way we stand a chance is with boatloads of grace and mercy.

It is so silly, laughable really, that we compare our selves to others. What a pointless pursuit! What a fool's errand! What a waste of time! God is very holy and we need to leave behind the problematic perspective of looking down on others and trying to be just a little better than some poor (and fellow) sinner. It just won't cut it.

There's a lot of talk today about being "basically a nice person." But being nice isn't how we get to heaven. We get to heaven by being Jesus. The goal in life isn't to be nice, the goal is to be made holy. We need to set aside all the tepid and merely humanistic notions of righteousness and come to understand how radical the call to holiness is and how unattainable it is by human effort. Looking to be average, or a little better than others, is a problematic perspective. It has to go and be replaced by the Jesus standard.

Let's put it in terms of something we all can understand: money. Let's say that we're on our way to heaven and you have $50 and I have $500. Now I might laugh at you and feel all superior to you. I might ridicule you and say, "I have ten times as much as you!" But then we get to heaven and find out the cost to enter is 70 trillion dollars. Oops. Looks like we're both going to need a LOT of mercy and grace to get in the door. In the end, we are both in the same boat and all my boasting was a waste of time and quite silly to boot. We have a task so enormous and unattainable that we simply have to let God grant it and accomplish it for us. And this leads to the final point.

3. Prescribed Practice - But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.' Given everything we have reflected on, we can only bow our head and cry from the heart, "Lord have mercy!" Deep humility coupled with lively hope are the only answers.

And here too, being humble isn't something we can do. We have to ask God for a humble and contrite heart. Without this gift we will never be saved. We are just to proud and egotistical in our flesh. So God needs to give us a new heart, a new mind. Notice that the tax collector in today's parable did three things, three things we ought to do:

1. Realize your distance - the text says he stood off at a distance. He realizes that he is a long way from the goal. He knows how holy God is, and he himself is very distant. But his recognition of his distance is already a grace and a mercy. God is already granting the humility by which he stands a chance.

2. Recognize your disability – The text says he would not even raise his eyes to heaven. Scripture says, No one can see on God and live (Ex 33:20). We are not ready to look on the face of God in all its glory. That is evident by the fact that we are still here. Scripture also says, "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God" (Matt 5:8). This tax collector recognizes his disability, his inability to look on the face of God for his heart is not yet pure enough. So in humility he looks down. But his recognition of his disability is already a grace and a mercy. God is already granting the humility by which he stands a chance.

3. Request your deliverance – the text says he beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God be merciful to me, a sinner." Notice then how his humility is steeped in hope. He cannot save himself but God can. He cannot have a saving righteousness of his own, but Jesus does. So this tax collector summons those twins called grace and mercy. In this man's humility, a grace given him by God. He stands a chance. For, by this humility, he invokes Jesus Christ who alone can make him righteous and save him. Beg for humility. Only God can really give it to us. The humble, contrite heart the Lord will not spurn (Ps 51:17). And thus Jesus says, whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Beware of Pride. It is our worst enemy. Beg for the gift of humility, for only with it do we even stand a chance.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

The Purpose of Prayer

by Oswald Chambers

". . . one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray . . .' "
- Luke 11:1

Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person's life will suffer if he doesn't pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.

"Ask, and you will receive . . ." (John 16:24).

We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things. Yet a child exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask! Our Lord said, ". . . unless you . . . become as little children . . ." (Matthew 18:3). Ask and God will do. Give Jesus Christ the opportunity and the room to work. The problem is that no one will ever do this until he is at his wits' end. When a person is at his wits' end, it no longer seems to be a cowardly thing to pray; in fact, it is the only way he can get in touch with the truth and the reality of God Himself. Be yourself before God and present Him with your problems— the very things that have brought you to your wits' end. But as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything.

To say that "prayer changes things" is not as close to the truth as saying, "Prayer changes me and then I change things." God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person's inner nature.

Source: My Utmost for His Highest (The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers;1992) 1935/1992

Our Secret Weapon
Scripture: 1 Chronicles 5:18–22

Imagine ranks of warriors stretching as far as the eye can see. Their weapons glinting in the morning sunlight, spread over the villages and pastures of the land God had given them. Nearly 45,000 strapping young men—weapon-savvy, war-hungry and expertly trained—fingering their bows and sword hilts impatiently. They had trained for this battle.

In the silence you could have heard a horse snort, a fish jump in the Jordan, a scabbard ring hollow against a shield. But as the battle got underway and the screams tore at their eardrums, you could hear something else: the cries of the warriors calling out to God for help. He was the secret weapon in the battle. And they trusted him for the victory.

Let's face it; life is more a battlefield than a playground. Every day we face enemies we can't even see. We are at war "against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). We fight battles within ourselves—against insecurity, anxiety, depression. We fight for spiritual territory rather than for plots of land. We fight against the fallen things in this world: materialism, greed, selfishness, addiction, violence, apathy, prejudice, injustice . . . and the list goes on. Daunting enemies, indeed.

As soldiers in God's army we are called to do battle with evil by putting on the armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10–18). Every morning, picture yourself donning each piece like a modern-day Joan of Arc: the belt of God's truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace. Take up your shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. And then, like the Israelites, employ your "secret weapon": prayer. Ask God for help, "pray[ing] in the Spirit . . . with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Ephesians 6:18). One commentator said, "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees." Don't hesitate to utilize your secret weapon by praying to the Lord of hosts, and trust him to hear your prayers. He's the one who will lead you to win your battle because he has already won the war.


Are most of your battles fought against "inward" or "outward" foes?
What weapons are you finding most effective against your foe?
How often do you utilize your "secret weapon" (prayer)?

1 Chronicles 5:20
They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.

Related Readings

Psalm 24:1–10; Philippians 4:6; James 4:1–8; 1 Peter 3:10–16

Source: NIV Devotions for Women

Prayer Does Make A Difference

by Martin G. Collins

Some of you may have seen the article regarding prayer in hospitals that had been written by a doctor who found that when patients were prayed for, they seemed to improve more quickly. He was a doctor who would actually pray for them as well. He had no association with any church. He just offered prayer in his way to whoever he thought might have been up there, and the people seemed to improve. He did it a lot, and that was certainly quantity of prayer, but what about the quality of prayer? Was it really the quality that God needed to react to such a thing?

It has been found in other studies that people actually react psychologically to certain things that help them to heal faster, so maybe it was just the suggestion that they were being prayed for that had an effect. But whether God was involved in that or not, very few, if any of the people, changed their lives following that.

A primary test of our lives as Christians and saints is the amount of quality time we give to prayer. I say quality time because quantity is secondary to quality. You are very familiar with the parable of the two men who went to pray.

Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Prayer is far more than an action or quantity of words; it is an attitude of reliance on God. This parable infers that this Pharisee prayed often, but obviously in this prayer he lacked sincerity and humility—he had quantity without quality.

We know that a stable and happy family depends, at least in part, on spending what we call "quality time" with our children. What we mean by this is that when we spend time with our children, it should be time that enhances and strengthens our relationship with each other. It is time well spent because it helps our children develop and mature while reinforcing the assurance and security that the family has to offer.

Sometimes this time is formal, such as with the classes that are taught by parents who home school, and sometimes this time is informal, such as meaningful discussions at meals or in undistracted conversation.

When something is done with quality, there is a degree of excellence about it. It has value and it produces good fruit. God valued the prayer of the tax collector because it was offered in humility. In contrast, the Pharisee prayed only to exalt himself, and there was no value in it and no quality in it.

Prayer is a Christian responsibility, but it is much more than a duty. It should be a joy. It should be the genuine expression of godly love in humility. Obviously, it is to be done for others.

In his letter to the Ephesian members of the church of God, the apostle Paul spends most of his time expounding doctrine, and teaches spiritual principles which guide us individually and the church as a whole. It is significant that as he comes to the end of his letter he is concerned with prayer for one another.

What are we to pray for? We should be watching for opportunities to pray for others. It is a question of being aware of what others need. We cannot just throw prayers up in vain if we do not know or understand what they are going through or what their needs are.

Ephesians 6:18-20 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Verse 18 is part of the section dealing with the Christian armor in verses 10-19. Parts of that armor, such as the shield, the helmet, and the breastplate, are basically for defense. They protect against the attacks by the enemy. But the armor Paul describes in verses 17 and 18 is not for defense. Using the "sword of the Spirit" (verse 17) and "prayer" (verse 18), we are to go on the offensive—to attack—against the powers of darkness. Prayer has a power about it.

Paul is writing to people who are involved in spiritual conflict and battle. He tells us that unless we are "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might," even the spiritual armor itself will be of little or no value to us. We must constantly be in touch with the Father. Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother. We have to go regularly into the presence of God and thank Him that we are His people. It is not something to be taken for granted.

We were talking in the car on the way here about an individual that came to visit a few years back from overseas. When he left, he was so pleased and so appreciative of being here with us that he left with tears in his eyes. We come and we go, week after week, and I think we do not always appreciate what we have as much as he was able to with only having it once in many years.

Before we come with petitions and requests, there should be thanksgiving, praise, honor, and respect. We all know what it is to receive benefit from being in the presence of God. The more quality time we spend in His presence, the stronger we will become and our service will be more effective.

Paul tells us to be "watchful to this end with all perseverance," never allowing ourselves to shrink back, but always waiting in the presence of God, speaking to the Father, making known our concerns and problems, and taking our requests to Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

By prayer and supplication we have access to the peace of God. We all need more peace in our lives. We should never get into that state where we are filled with anxiety and are on edge, where we do not know what to do and we are almost beside ourselves. So, if we find ourselves passing through an unusually trying and difficult period in our lives, we have to increase the amount and intensity of our prayers. For any Christian that should be more than understood that this is the route that we take. But often we get so wrapped up in our difficulties and our trials and we forget to even ask for anointing when we are sick.

We have to remind ourselves that we are not as alone as we feel, that we are God's people, and that we are Christian soldiers of the army of God having put on the armor of God, as we read in Ephesians 6:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

I wanted to read that to give you the whole context of one of the main scriptures here in the sermon. We see that prayer alone is not enough. It has to be according to the will of God, and we must put on these things. We have to study the word of God, and we have to prepare ourselves to develop the faith of Jesus Christ within us.

As long as we belong to God, we are entitled to look to Him for all our needs. He is all-powerful and blesses with abundance from His unlimited resources. As we continue our daily fight against Satan and spiritual powers, we have to make sure that we are renewed in spiritual strength. We have to be renewed daily, and the main way that we do that is through prayer. Just praying once a day is not enough. No matter how bad yesterday may have been, we can be renewed in strength, power, hope and faith today. The apostle Paul advises us to go to God constantly, and to pray in this way for ourselves. But that is not the main emphasis in what he tells us here.

The main emphasis is on prayer for others, also known as "intercessory prayer." We do pray for ourselves, but we do not stop there. Paul says, ". . . watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints"—for all the saints, not just one or two.

Paul has written his letter to the Ephesians and at the end he urges them to pray for themselves and for one another because we are all engaged in the same fight. Remember this is in the context of the armor of God. We are on the same side. We have the same leader. Jude says we are partakers of a "common salvation." Salvation is not only private and personal; it is a common salvation.

And along with that, we are facing a common enemy; generally speaking, we are all bothered by the same problems. Life is difficult in the same way. We are constantly resisting Satan, the world, and our own human nature. The pressure can be tremendous. As things decline in the world itself then pressures are becoming greater and greater as each day passes.

We go to the store and there are holiday decorations and music during the holiday season. We turn on the radio and the words to an otherwise nice melody bother us. We turn on the TV and people are lying and immoral and brutal. We read a novel and there are crass words and perverse lifestyles. We drive down a road and there are porn shops with risqué signs. We walk through a mall and are accosted by vendors selling their wares, most of which are needless and useless.

We go to buy a car and the seller does not stop lying to us and trying to take advantage of us through the whole ordeal. We walk down a city street and we are fearful for our lives, especially in other countries. There was a gentleman, perhaps in his 30's or 40's, who was shot and stabbed just walking down the street in Johannesburg. He attends the United Church of God, and trying the best that he can to obey God and do what He wants. But God does allow those things to happen to us at times.

All this affects us by somewhat numbing us to the workings of this ungodly society. Even though our guard is up, resisting and avoiding it is exhausting. We must have renewal of strength on a daily basis. We should be praying not only for ourselves, but for God to strengthen all the saints.

Remember Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Paul emphasizes there that we cannot do it ourselves. Human strength is not enough. We find that out in this world as we are bombarded by these things.

This is one of the reasons why Sabbath services are so important. Satan would like us to think that religion is exclusively personal and that we are involved in it alone. If we allow him to influence us, we sit alone feeling sorry for ourselves imagining that we are having a harder time of it than others. We commiserate with ourselves, we feel sorry for ourselves, and we become more and more depressed as we dwell on what is happening to us. So just praying for ourselves is actually an imbalance in a Christian.

To have the right perspective, we have to realize, as the apostle Paul says:

I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

We all need help and we all need each other's prayers. We are not alone in this; every saint must go through this suffering in varying degrees.

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

I Corinthians 12:26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

We are all in this together. The apostle Paul emphasizes here that we all share the same salvation. We are confronted generally with the same sufferings and challenges and temptations. The prayers of the saints have always made a difference. God's word is filled with amazing examples of how God answered the prayers of His people. The following are a few examples of this:

1. Abraham prayed for Abimelech and God healed Abimelech's family and servants (Genesis 20:17-18).

2. Moses moved God to change His mind about destroying ancient Israel (Exodus 32:9-14).

3. David stayed close to God through prayer and was made king over God's people (I Samuel 13:13-14; 15:28; 16:11-13).

4. Daniel prayed himself out of a human lion's den into a real one, and then prayed himself out (Daniel 6:4-5, 10, 23).

5. Daniel's three young associates, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, prayed to God and were delivered after being cast into a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. God even joined them inside the furnace (Daniel 3:14-30).

All these situations were helped to have positive outcomes because of faithful prayer. Prayer for one another does work. The apostle James highlights one person's example of prayer especially valuable for us today. It is the example of Elijah.

James 5:16-18 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

James says that Elijah was a mere man, with the same natural tendencies and frailties as other men, and because of this his case is one which should encourage all of us today, knowing that he was just like us. James describes an instance of the effectiveness and value of prayer, and not an illustration of the power of a prophet. Elijah prayed earnestly, which in the original Greek is literally, "He prayed with prayer." This is a Hebraism to represent that he prayed earnestly, sincerely, and humbly.

It may help to understand some of the things that were transpiring during Elijah's life when he made his appearance. Ahab had taken Jezebel, a Canaanite woman and daughter of Ethbaal, for his wife. Ahab had a weak and spineless character. He allowed Jezebel to establish the Phoenician worship on a grand scale in Israel.

The priests and prophets of Baal were appointed in large numbers. The prophets of God were persecuted and slain, or only escaped by being hid in caves. It seemed that any remaining remnants of the true religion were about to disappear. Jezebel had also induced Ahab to issue orders for the violent death of all the prophets of God, who since the expulsion of the Levites, had been the only firm support of the original true religion of the Israelites.

God performed fourteen separate miracles for Elijah, one after the other; and still, at times, Elijah acted as if he did not know God. The story is set against the backdrop of normal human frailty. Elijah needed sleep, food, shelter, and clothing. Let us briefly go over the fourteen miracles from chapters 17-19 of the Book of 1 Kings:

1. Elijah proclaimed to King Ahab three and one-half years of drought, and it came to pass

(I Kings 17:1).

2. Elijah was sustained on bread and flesh by ravens (verses 2-6).

3. God sustained Elijah and the widow and her son on meal and oil (verses 8-16).

4. After Elijah prayed about the widow's deceased son, God revived the boy (verses 17-24). In chapter 18, King Ahab instructed his house governor, Obadiah, to search with him for Elijah. The king wanted relief from the devastating drought. That helped set the stage for God, through Elijah, to turn the hearts of the people back to Him (I Kings 18:1-29).

5. God glorified Himself, after a short prayer from Elijah, by consuming with fire the burnt sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the dust and the water in the trench. Elijah took advantage of the situation by instructing the repentant Israelites to help him slay eight hundred and fifty pagan prophets (verses 30-40).

6. This is the other miracle that James mentions in James 5:16-18. Elijah prayed again, and the rains came (verses 41-45).

7. The older Elijah outran King Ahab's royal steeds to Jezreel, a distance of about sixteen miles (verse 46).

In chapter 19, Jezebel enters the picture in a primary role by threatening Elijah with death (verse 2). Notice what verse 3 reveals about Elijah's mental state:

I Kings 19:3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

So he was high-tailing it out of there, and no matter how much faith the man had at that time, it seemed best to him to just get out of town. Elijah feared for his life. He was not always the epitome of the faithful man. He was like us, and there were times when he was just plain scared. God inspired James to write that, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours" (James 5:17).

We are all made humanly alike, and God works through weak human instruments to show Himself powerful through us, the saints, and that is exactly what He did with Elijah. Sometimes He allowed Elijah to be fearful and even faithless at times, so that He could show His power and glory through this man and work these miracles.

Remember what the apostle Paul said God's answer to him was about the thorn in the flesh:

II Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul saw very clearly the reason that God allowed him to have that thorn in the flesh was basically to keep him humble. Christ's spiritual strength and God's glory can be seen clearly through what they can do with frail human beings. Paul and Elijah were men with physical strength and human nature. Their spiritual power and strength came from God, while their physical strength often failed them. Human physical strength is not enough to fight the wiles of Satan.

8-9. I am grouping together miracles eight and nine because they are identical. Twice God supernaturally provided food for Elijah to eat, as well as an angel to tell Elijah to eat it (I Kings 19:4-8).

10. Elijah "went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb [Sinai], the mountain of God" (verse 8). Forty is the number of trial and testing. That food was made to last him and give him the strength that he needed for forty days and forty nights.

Elijah was about to receive his final exam from God, which was probably hurried by his flight from Jezebel. Running from Jezebel, the future ruling queen, exposed his momentary lack of faith in God, which evidently resulted from Elijah's growing idea of self-importance. That is why God had to allow this man to go through the things that he did, to humble him, so He could rid him of his self-importance.

Now, I think it is important to note what Elijah did know. He had the five books of Moses, and he was very well aware that God had warned Israel not to forget Him. But that is exactly what those ancient Israelites did, and that is what Elijah had to deal with. Here is God speaking to the children of Israel:

Deuteronomy 8:10-20 When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.' And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.

This is just like what people in this nation say today. Elijah knew what the ancient Israelites had forgotten, that they were to be humble, remember God, obey Him, and submit to Him.

For a short time, Elijah's vision was blurred. He forgot who performed these marvelous miracles through him. That is why Elijah presumptuously avoided God's penetrating questions that followed.

I Kings 19:9-10 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."

God did not argue with Elijah, but instructed him to stand on the mount. Because God loved him, He intended to pass by, hoping, in His mercy, to clear Elijah's foggy brain.

11-13. I Kings 19:11-12 Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

These are the miracles eleven, twelve and thirteen. These phenomenon—the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire—each constitute a separate miracle. Then, God repeated His question asking Elijah why he was there. It may be that Elijah was embarrassed, or his pride had blinded him, but he answered God with the same answer as before.

I Kings 19:13-14 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" And he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life."

Again, God did not argue with Elijah. He simply directed Elijah to go anoint Hazael as the king of Syria, Jehu as the king of Israel and Elisha as prophet in his own office. These three would finish the commission God effectively started through Elijah.

I Kings 19:15-17 Then the LORD said to him: "Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill.

This was a test for Elijah on how he would handle it. He thought he was the only one left to "defend" God and he seems to have become vain about it. So God was basically replacing him. Often Elijah had great faith, but sometimes he failed because he was exactly what James said that he was. He was a man who had human nature.

This fourteenth miracle helps show God's thoroughness by setting up the leaders He wanted, and had seven thousand faithful Israelites to support them. Elijah did not always realize it, but, through all of this, God had total control and His plan was moving forward, even though Elijah thought he was alone. Maybe many of the seven thousand were praying for him because he was a well-known figure in the country.

I Kings 19:18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Elijah had no idea that God had worked with these seven thousand to begin restoring His ways to Israel. He really did not have a clue that there were others, and he did not know that there were others praying for him, which I am sure there were, because if they were faithful they were certainly sending up their prayers to God on his behalf.

God was seeing to it that the people of Israel would be protected by two political leaders, Hazael and Jehu, and the religious leader, Elisha. Elijah's faithful prayers were being answered throughout this, even though at times he was not faithful. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." It says earlier in this context that he was a faithful man and he had kept God's word through youth. God does cut us some slack. He does allow us to be unfaithful at times. Those faithful prayers that he offered up really counted. He is known as a faithful man generally for his life, but he had those setbacks. Elijah's prayers were answered because he obeyed God; he kept His commandments, and asked according to God's will.

I John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

We have to study God's word to know His will.

II Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Elijah's prayers were answered because he was obedient and he believed and trusted in God. Although he had some moments of weakness, Elijah had a high calling and he had work to do, and that work required lots of prayer. We have a similar high calling which means we have to design our prayers to serve God's plan and a major part of it is that we are to serve one another. One of the most effective ways we have in serving one another is in the prayers that we offer up.

Our fellowship is with God and it is advanced and promoted through prayer. Our motive should be to draw closer to Him. By drawing closer to God we are able to more effectively pray for others. Isaiah 58:9 informs us, "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'" That is a guarantee. Our prayers do make a great difference.

As Elijah did, the moment we realize that others are involved and are experiencing exactly the same trials, we immediately feel a sense of release; we also feel that we can stand up again and face the enemy. We do not know how many there are in the world today that are true Christians, true members of the Church of God, but there are probably far more that we realize.

Paul tells us to make supplication always for all of the other saints because we are engaged in the same battle and conflict.

Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

We have to realize that while the battle we are involved in not only affects us and all the saints, ultimately it is not our battle, but God's battle. We find this message emphasized in a clear and dramatic way in the story of Jehoshaphat in the Old Testament. The enemy was confronting him, and Jehoshaphat and the children of Israel were in terrible trouble. They had no idea what to do. But the command that came to them by the Spirit of the Lord through Jahaziel was this:

II Chronicles 20:15 "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's.'"

This is what he told them about a physical enemy, and it is even truer about our spiritual enemy, "for the battle is not yours, but God's." Our trouble is that we always tend to view our problems in a personal and subjective manner. I think about my problems, my anxiety, my fears, and my hopes. The result is that I become entirely self-centered and introspective, and so I have already defeated myself if this is my attitude.

What we have to realize is that what happens to us as individuals, and what happens to us all together, is but an incident in a battle in a realm much larger than ours. The reality of it all is that although we are in this battle with evil, ultimately it is God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ who are engaged in this battle on our behalf. It is a battle with spiritual powers, and those powers are only available through God the Father and Jesus Christ.

The only spiritual power we have to fight such a formidable enemy is the power that we receive from God through His Spirit. We cannot fight a cosmic battle with human means. The more we think of it in these terms, and the less we think of it in terms of ourselves and our personal situation, the better off we are, because it puts us in the right perspective and in an attitude of humility. We realize how puny, small and frail that we really are, and we are going up against a being who is millions of years old, or billions of years old. How old is Satan? We do not know for sure, but he quite experienced in what he does.

Yes, we have our responsibility to resist and overcome sin, Satan, the world, and our own human nature. That is the real conflict. In Ephesians 6, Paul emphasizes that the more we realize that we are involved in this battle with Satan, the stronger spiritually we are to fight him because our awareness produces resistance. God helps those who resist; He cannot do much with a bump on a log.

I remember Mr. Armstrong saying he would rather have someone that he had to hold down rather than light a fire under. That is very true when you are trying to accomplish something. You know the familiar saying, "God helps those who help themselves."

It is very similar to when a country goes to war. It is not a private war. There are always those politicians who want the citizens to think war is private. But in reality, it is the concern of the whole country involved, because whether they like it or not, everyone is dragged along and is expected to support the war effort of a nation.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We are members of one side of this spiritual conflict. All saints are in exactly the same army. We are comrades at arms in spiritual armor. This is why Paul emphasizes that we must pray for all saints because we are all in this together.

Because "we are members one of another," it follows that the failure of any one of us is bound to affect the entire campaign. The enemy is always trying to find weaknesses in our line of battle. Satan is constantly probing for weak points to insert his stealth insurgents. So then failure, at any point, is going to affect the whole line, the whole army. For this reason, Paul tells us to make supplications for all saints.

It is very important that we always think in terms of the church. We are not only individuals. We are members of the church which is the Body of Christ. Our spiritual conflict is not only a personal war. We cannot think of it without the others involved as well because we are a unit. It is also wrong from this standpoint: "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7).

If any one Christian fails or falls, every one of us suffers eventually and inevitably because we are all members of the one Body. We are all in this one army. We are all parts of this one line. Failure at any one point means that the whole line will be involved, and readjustments by God will have to take place. Those readjustments are not always smooth. We can see some of that in our past association where the church strayed from the doctrines that God had set down and the line began to disintegrate and God had to reorganize the line; actually God allowed that line to disintegrate.

It is actually foolish not to pray for the saints. Nothing happens to them without affecting us individually. This is why Paul tells us to remember the whole line of battle, which means we cannot be constantly looking at and concentrating on ourselves. We have to consider the whole situation, and pray that everyone is strengthened in his position. Not only do we have to stand, but our fellow saints have to stand with us.

A major way of avoiding discouragement in ourselves is to pray that all the other saints may stand in order that we, and they, may be involved as God's great plan moves forward. This is the way to have the assurance that we belong to a righteous and powerful army that will be victorious.

The apostle Paul says this is to be done "with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Some saints are in situations of especially difficult trials. Stress and strain are taking their toll on everyone. Anxiety is eroding away their health. How often do we think of them personally, with regard to their specific trial or battle?

Sometimes we reason that we are having this or that problem and Satan is attacking us and we are distracted from praying for the other saints. At times like these we have to, in our mind's eye, put ourselves into the situation of some of these other people and walk a mile in their shoes.

Prayer does make a difference. It does help. People have foolishly asked, "If God knows everything, what is the point of praying?" That is a common question from people in the world. But it is God Himself who commands us to pray. Paul writes of being delivered from suffering by God and that prayer helped:

II Corinthians 1:8-11 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many

The apostle Paul put a lot of weight on the prayers of the brethren and felt that it was a major source of help to him. God could do it all without us, but He has chosen to do it in us and through us. He blesses His people through the instrumentality of prayer. So we are encouraged to pray, we are urged to be persistent, and to persevere in supplication for all saints.

We are given the great privilege of praying for God's ministers, of holding them up before God, of asking God to look on them and to bless them, knowing that God is willing and ready to hear us. Prayer is the sovereign remedy for many of the ills and diseases of the mind and heart that tend to set us all back. It is the primary remedy for despondent self-concern. It is self that causes most of our troubles.

We sit thinking of ourselves and what is going to happen to us. We fret over what the effect of something will be on us. We turn in on ourselves and pity ourselves; we feel sorry for ourselves and spend too much time commiserating with ourselves.

One of the best ways of getting rid of such a condition is to pray for other people. We have to lift up our heads, look away from ourselves, realize the whole situation, and as we do this we will forget ourselves. It is impossible to stay angry at someone who you are genuinely and humbly praying for.

When you feel that you are in a kind of whirlpool, and you cannot seem to forget yourself, when you are sorry for yourself and feeling that you are having an unusually hard time with everything against you and almost enough pressure and frustration to drive you to despair, one of the best remedies is to sit down and say, "What about so and so? What about this person, what about that person, what about brethren in dangerous areas?" Think of people in specific terms rather than generalities. We can pray for members in the church in a general way, but the way to find out what to pray for is to get to know one another.

The solution is to get down on your knees and pray for them, and when you get up you will find that you have forgotten yourself. Apart from all the other reasons, it is a wise thing psychologically to pray for all saints. You will find that in praying for them you are solving your own problems and securing release. I mention that psychological aspect to it because of what I mentioned in the introduction to the sermon about the doctor writing the article in the hospital. There is that psychological side to it. But that is not the important part. The important part is that it actually moves God to do things. We are going to read the following scripture again.

Ephesians 6:18-20 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

The greater the Christian, the more he realizes his dependence on the prayers of others. Paul asks, "and for me." He wants the other saints to also pray for him. Here Paul, an apostle of God, a spiritual giant of the church, is asking these people to pray for him. But this is also the man who went to Corinth "in weakness, and in fear and much trembling." So no matter how faithful a human being is, a human being still has moments of weakness, even the great patriarchs and other saints of the Bible

Paul was not self-confident, but he knew what he was doing, he knew whom he was representing, and he knew the power that was against him. He did sometimes fear that at some point he might fail in fulfilling his commission that God had given to him.

Paul is very specific in what he wants the brethren to pray for him and for the ministry. He gives them clear instruction. He says, "and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."

When Paul wrote these words he was a prisoner (an "ambassador in chains"), but he does not ask them to pray that he may be set free from prison. He was a sick man, but he does not ask them to pray that he might be healed. Paul never primarily considered himself. He was always thinking of others.

Paul is not making a purely personal or humanly reasoned request of them. His focus was always on preaching the gospel and teaching God's way of life. His desire was that the saints would pray for the preaching of the gospel, and the spreading of the fact of the coming kingdom of God.

Paul is concerned about having the power and freedom of speech when he had an opportunity to speak. Remember, the apostle Paul was not a good natural speaker. Some people at Corinth had taunted him, saying, "His presence is weak, and his speech contemptible."

Apollos was the orator; Paul was not. So he urged these Christians to pray for him that God would give him bold speech and put the right words in his mouth, so that when he got the opportunity to say something, he would have the God-given words to say. It is amazing to see this vigorous man of God realize his own deficiencies and imperfections and ask the Ephesians to pray for him that he may be able to speak freely, fluently, without stammering and stumbling.

Paul specifically emphasizes the word "boldly." He asks, "that I may open my mouth boldly;" and he repeats, "that in it I may speak boldly" in verses 19 and 20. By boldly, Paul means freely, frankly, that nothing be kept back. He wanted to be able to speak about the gospel comprehensively, without shrinking back or watering it down so as not to offend his critics. Most people do not want to displease others—Paul did not either.

He did not want to have to worry about being so careful that he endlessly modified and softened it. He wanted to be delivered from qualifying every word he spoke as he preached the gospel.

Generally speaking, we live in an age of being overly diplomatic. We are all so concerned about self-esteem, we are all so concerned about being "scholarly" and not causing offense, and we are all so afraid of dogmatism and absolutism. In education today, the truth is ignored and facts are discarded so that information is more palatable.

We do not pray today that ministers may necessarily speak "boldly," and we prefer that they speak with global diplomacy. People today are fearful of seeming too dogmatic, too emphatic, or too absolute. If a minister is not careful—endless qualifications will make his message indefinite, uncertain, and confusing.

In mainstream Christianity, the result is that people do not really know what the gospel is. What is said at the beginning is often taken back at the end. They are so afraid of offending people that they tend to hold back the truth. God is not the author of confusion. That is what this type of speech causes.

Paul's request for prayers that he speak boldly was a request for God to strengthen him to be honest and true. He wanted them to pray that he may deliver the message that had been delivered to him, and that he would not be concerned about anything but to please God and to be faithful to His Word.

Paul says "pray that I may be delivered from the fear of man, and of the learning of man and his supposed wisdom." When he went to Corinth, the philosophers laughed at him and mocked him. They ridiculed him for always saying the same thing, for his simple gospel message. He did not argue with them or reason out their "great" philosophies with them; so they called him a fool. Paul's answer was, "[Alright,] I have become a fool for Christ's sake."

Any man who preaches the simple gospel will be criticized by the sophisticated and highly educated. They think of God's truth as primitive and simple because of their blindness in believing in evolution (and other false beliefs especially coming on to the scene today), which requires that they assume that human beings are evolving into something improved—something greater.

And so, because of their "raised" intelligence, they foolishly reason that they are above all things associated with God. In reality, man is degenerating into perverse primitive beings without any knowledge of their Creator.

We all must pray for the ministers of God. Do we really understand what happens every time one of God's ministers gives a sermon? He is a frail human being, weak, and yet called of God to be His representative and to promote the truth of God.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, had many severe challenges and trials during his life, especially during his presidency. Through experience, he learned this about prayer:

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.

It is God who spiritually strengthens a person. There is no other place to go for this! Paul knew this, and asked the saints to pray for him, as also, all saints should pray for the inspiration of the ministers of God. If you do not think that you got anything out of the message that the minister just gave, you probably did not pray for him. If you did pray for the minister, then you should get something out of the message.

You see, the inspiration of the minister's message is two-fold: God inspires both the speaking and the hearing. Both are necessary for spiritual understanding and benefit.

Ephesians 4:11-15 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Here, Paul has already qualified what he meant later in Ephesians 6:20, where he wrote, "that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." In verse 15, he said, "speaking the truth in love." Paul did not want to be all steel and no velvet. He did not want to boldly and needlessly offend people. He wanted to preach the truth boldly, but treat people gently. The apostle Paul knew his own weaknesses, his own tendencies, and the frailty of human nature, and so he asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him.

Now, more than ever, all the saints should be praying for all ministers of God and for each other.

Pray that we may be delivered from a spirit of compromise. Pray that we may not be guided by diplomacy or expediency, and pray that we may be delivered from fear for ourselves. Pray that the truth will come first, that we may speak with boldness, and yet have hearts full of love and mercy and compassion.

Paul encourages us to pray with all perseverance and supplication in the Spirit for all saints and for all ministers of God, whatever the circumstances and conditions that they may speak the mystery of Christ boldly, as they ought to speak.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

Our lives are composed of segments of time. Are we willing to lay down some of that time for others? Are we willing to spend time bringing about, through prayer, divine intervention in the lives of others? Or is there still doubt that it would really make any difference at all if we prayed?

Prayer does make a difference. This is where faith comes in. We, by our own human strength, are not capable of blessing, healing, delivering or granting understanding, faith or any other spiritual gift. Even Jesus, as a human, acknowledged, "I can of Myself do nothing"(John 5:30). But after He was resurrected He declared, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18).

God wants to know what we will do with the supernatural power we will receive when we become spirit beings. Will it be for the good of others? That is what God wants to find out while we are still human. That is why we have to develop the habit of looking out for the welfare of others, which includes praying for one another. God's loving nature must become part of our character if, in the resurrection, we want to be given direct control of that power so that we may benefit others.

If we are obedient and submissive to our Father in heaven, we have access to that power now, through prayer, when we ask according to God's will. Remember, the principle of praying for others works both ways. If you have a need, instead of just praying about it yourself, ask others to pray about it.

James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

The effective, fervent prayer for others is not wasted effort. Such unselfish prayers please God and He responds to them. All the power of the Sovereign God of the Universe is ready to be used if need be. And all the saints have access to it through prayer.


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