My Christian friend – We should only pray for food, as per the Lord’s Prayer. Anything else is self-indulgence.
Yet Scripture would suggest more. A whole lot more.
We should pray about any anxieties, healing, protection, rescue, recovery, for the lost, for harvesters to be sent out, for each other, for more faith, for wisdom, gifting, unity, forgiveness etc etc etc before we even get to whole prayer genres like praise, confession and deliverance.
There’s a lot for us to pray about – and to spend time in prayer over. Hence Jesus pulled all-nighters in prayer. There’s our example.
There’s a mystery with regards to praying, a sort of mystical tussle, it might seem. On one hand, we know we are to persevere in prayer because God hears the prayers of his children and the prayers of righteous people are powerful and effective: the lost find God, the sick are healed, the simple are given wisdom, the lost guidance, the weak assurance, the sinful forgiveness and so on.
At the same time, there is God’s sovereignty and there is the issue of predestination. If God has already predestined (decided beforehand) who will be saved (and therefore who won’t be) and if His sovereignty rules in cases of those who are healed and those who aren’t, those who are protected and spared and those who are martyred, for example and so on, then what is the value or purpose in prayer?
This will always be a mystery to us yet the truth remains both that God is sovereign, and at the same time our prayers need to be lifted faithfully, expectantly and persistently, and are important and effective in bringing change into people’s lives and our world.
“To the person who truly prays, there is no problem reconciling God’s sovereignty with a heartfelt petition.” Cymbala
Here are 5 reasons why.
1. Our prayers can save others.
Abraham praying for Lot.
Jim Cymbala praying for his daughter
Pierre praying for Mayumi.
2. Prayer links us to power.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.
When we pray, we access God’s power to live well for Him and to bring God’s kingdom to the earth. So heartfelt prayer is vital.
It’s understandable that prayer has been stopped in U.S. schools.
But when prayers dry up in our churches, then we have a real problem.
Conversely, when prayer is at the core of our churches and our services, we are healthy and strong.
Look at how the early church was structured and responded to crises:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
This devotion of the early church to prayer is our role model.
And God’s response to such prayer is a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.
3. Relying on the Spirit in Prayer
Paul: “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” Paul said this!
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
It is the Spirit who helps us to bow our hearts, draw near in faith, wait in patience, hear His voice, ask according to His will and rejoice before His throne.
We can’t do this in our own strength or wisdom. This must be Spirit-led.
We understand our need to rely on the Holy Spirit for vision and church planning, for guidance in our lives.
We understand our need to rely on the Holy Spirit for witnessing.
We understand our need to rely on the Holy Spirit for healing.
We understand our need to rely on the Holy Spirit for forgiveness.
We need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit for prayer, too.
It is the Spirit who leads us and teaches us in prayer.
4. Grieving the Holy Spirit
We can grieve the Holy Spirit right here in church through time restraints, agendas and programs. (We can do the same at home in our personal prayer times too.)
How many churches today would feel uncomfortable with periods of no-one up the front at the microphone – not through disorganisation but simply because the Spirit is leading in prayer or ministry or a time of reflection or listening? How easily we can quench the Spirit through our traditions and customs!
5. Praying in the Holy Spirit
We told to pray in the Holy Spirit. This is not emotional fanaticism for certain groups or people. We are to let the Holy Spirit lead us in prayer, personally and communally.
This might mean we find ourselves feeling like we need to pray for people who we would otherwise be unlikely to pray for. It might be someone that we just met. It makes more sense to pray for our families or church members but somehow the Holy Spirit is leading us to pray for this unlikely person. It might even be a seemingly irrational desire to pray for people we don’t even know – like persecuted Christians in another country.
On the other hand, when we pray in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit might lead us to some very uncomfortable prayers for those we need to forgive, for those who we might consider ‘unfriendly’ to us, if not our enemies.
It’s good to take prayer requests from other people. It’s even better to take prayer requests from the Holy Spirit.
Cymbala quote p 163.
Let’s spend some time in prayer groups, praying with words, groans and in the Spirit.