God has given individual believers the spiritual authority to pray. I can come to the Father alone, in Jesus name and ask Him for whatever I need. But God has also given a unique spiritual authority to the community of believers. Something special happens when two or more come together with their hearts and minds in agreement. You probably know these verses well, but listen to them again with fresh ears, and remember, these are promises given specifically to a congregation, a local church, even if only two or three are gathered: Truly I say to you (plural), whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree (speak with one voice) on earth about anything they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered in My name, I am there in their midst (Mt 18:18-20).
There are five weeks between now and the weekend of Palm Sunday, and we believe the Lord is asking us to dedicate ourselves to a season of united prayer and fasting (see: Prayer and Fasting, sermon 1/4/14).
Here are some basic truths we need to keep in mind when we pray:
Were not heard for our many words. He already knows what we need before we ask Him (Mt 6:7-8).
God doesnt answer our prayers to reward us for our good deeds. No one is good enough to earn or deserve answered prayer. Our prayers are heard because we come to the Father clothed in the righteousness of faith.
And our prayers are heard because we pray in Jesus name. We are invited to ask for the things we need to carry out our assignment. We are disciples who have surrendered our lives to Him and are living to bring people to Him. We know His will: He wants to bring salvation, healing, deliverance, reconciliation, peace, joy and holiness
to one situation after another. So we ask for these things in His name.
We are members of Jesus Body following His instructions, allowing Him to continue His ministry here on planet earth, through us. And for that to happen we need to be able to ask Him for power, for wisdom, for divine intervention into the situations before us.
When we pray we arent trying to change His mind or instruct Him on how something should be done. Hes the source of everything good. His wisdom and knowledge are far beyond our comprehension. We pray because we want His kingdom to come and His will to be done, here on earth just as it is now being done in heaven. We are seeking to bring His will and power into our lives and the lives of people we encounter day by day.
Why do we pray?
We pray because thats our part of the partnership. We have a role to play in seeing Gods kingdom come, and we have been instructed to ask for what we need. Listen:
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it (Jn 15:13-14).
If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (Jn 15:7).
You do not have because you do not ask (Jas 4:2).
And we have been instructed to exercise spiritual authority. Listen:
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness (Mt 10:1).
But no one can enter the strong mans house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house (Mk 3:27).
We have learned by watching Jesus to listen for instructions. This is the way Jesus functioned, and He tells us to do the same (Jn 20:21). God will often have us play a part in bringing about His answer. Listen:
Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner (Jn 5:19).
There is no place for passivity in the life of a believer. We must be involved because:
God has given us spiritual authority.
Hes training us to rule and reign with Him.
Hes building our faith by allowing us to watch Him answer our prayers.
Hes expanding our capacity for compassion and love. Prayer forces us to see others from Gods perspective.
We also pray as a way of cleansing our hearts. We take in much negativity living in this fallen world. Bad reports bring fear. Delayed answers to our prayers and the growing power of evil bring doubt. Grief for the victims of evil brings sorrow. And poor human leadership, and even frustration with God, can fill us with anger. Unless we learn to take these things to God in prayer, they build up inside. Listen:
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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Php 4:6-7).
Over these coming weeks youll be invited to pray with others. Theres a reason for this. First, as we said earlier, theres a special authority in corporate prayer, but second, we learn to pray by watching people who know how to pray. People often assume that if they are sincere in prayer, their prayer will be effective. But there are right and wrong ways to pray. And people who only pray when theyre alone tend to simply repeat patterns of prayer theyve developed pretty much by accident.
Ive often heard it said that prayer is simply talking to God, and indeed, merely talking to God is a form of prayer. Youre talking; Hes listening. A relationship is taking place, and thats good. But its not necessarily effective. You may feel better, but nothing has necessarily changed. Effective praying is a skill we need to learn.
There arent certain words you have to say. That would be magic, not prayer.
There arent certain physical positions you have to take, though these can be a sincere expression of a heartfelt attitude, and, in that case, they can help us express ourselves to God. Words alone dont always seem to be enough.
There arent certain places you need to be in order to pray, but experience shows us that some environments can be very oppressive. Prayer in such places seems it must struggle to breakthrough. On the other hand, places where worship and prayer frequently occur can have a warmth, and be an easier environment in which to sense His presence.
But when we watch people who know how to pray, what really catches our attention is their attitude. And though you cant exactly put your finger on it, theres an awareness that God is listening to them. Intuitively, you sense a spiritual transaction is taking place, even though you may not have seen any outward evidence of an answer. Here are some things you might observe:
1) Theyre talking to God like Hes in the room.
2) Theres often real emotion present which arises out of a deep concern for people and a love for God.
3) They boldly remind God of His promises as a way of stirring the power of that promise to life, not because they think He had forgotten. They seem to be believing the promise afresh.
4) They appear to be engaged in a struggle, as if they are pressing through some kind of barrier thats trying to resist them. They can become aggressive.
5) They pray for things that are a bit surprising. When they address it, it makes sense, but its not something you would normally think to pray.
6) They seem to be responding to a flow of ideas, so that when theyre finally finished numerous aspects of that situation have been addressed. In effect, their prayer seems to be a collection of multiple prayers for different parts of the problem.
7) They stay at it until they feel some sort of completion. At some point they sense that they are done, that theyve been heard.
8) After they finish they seem light-hearted, victorious, as if the problem were already solved, even though, in most cases, they have no observable evidence of that.
9) And then they energetically and happily pray about the same situation over and over again. They seem to think of it as a process that needs to last long enough for the answer to fully come.
Preparing to pray
Heres what were inviting you to do. Last year, as you may recall, we began the new year with a season of prayer and fasting focused on children and youth. This year we believe the Lord is asking our church to dedicate the next five weeks, leading up to Palm Sunday, to prayer and fasting. Here are the topics we would like to address, but feel free to add your own. God is very likely to lay special situations on your heart.
Week #1: Salvation
Week #2: Children and youth
Week #3: Martyrs and persecution
Week #4: Marriages and family
Week #5: Revival of the Church
This week (week #1) we encourage you to pray for someone you know who needs salvation (friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, etc.). We have provided the LTG Prayer Guide. To use it, you simply read the persons name into each of the ten prayers. I would suggest, on the first day you begin by looking up each Scripture verse before praying each prayer. Youll discover there is a biblical basis for each of the prayers. Then insert the persons name into the blank space and read the prayer out loud. Each prayer covers an important aspect of interceding for those who do not yet know Christ.
Here are opportunities for you to pray with others:
Main services: We will include a prayer time during our services. Bookmarks with the topic for the coming week will be handed out for those who commit to join in prayer that week. Well also have a sign-up list like we do for those committing to pray for a mission team.
Wednesday evening prayer: The intercessory group will include the prayer focus for that week in their prayers. Wednesday gatherings begin with a time of worship, at the end of which those whove come for personal prayer remain in the chapel, while those whove come to join in intercessory prayer move to room C1 in the childrens wing. This is a great opportunity to pray with others.
Life Groups: We encourage Life Groups to include the prayer focus for that week as a part of their time together.
Table Project and Facebook: The topic for the week will be posted on The Table and Facebook. Please indicate when you join us in prayer.
You are also invited to fast a meal or more each week as a part of your personal preparation. A great time to pray is just before you close your fast. If youre coming to the prayer meeting on Wednesday evening, consider fasting a meal or two before arriving.
So, you and I are being called to pray
together; to unite our hearts and voices to see darkness pushed back and Gods will come to pass; and to grow in our understanding of prayer, so we can pray effectively, not just sincerely. As we head into this new season of prayer you might be asking yourself: Will this work? Will we see real change? I think the best answer would be to look back and see if anything changed as a result of last years prayer. In January we joined together to ask God to bring many children and youth and to help us truly disciple them. Without quoting a lot of numbers, Ill just say Ive never seen a year like it. Weve literally grown to capacity. Just show up on a Wednesday evening and stand in the foyer, youll see what I mean. What were engaging in when we pray like this is not a game, its the weapons of our warfare and theyre mighty to the bringing down of the strongholds. Lets rise up again, and see what happens this time!
1) Who do you know who really knows how to pray? I dont mean wordy, long-winded praying, I mean when they pray you can tell God is listening. What have you learned from that person about prayer?
2) Have you had God answer a prayer? Tell us how you prayed and what happened.