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Keep On Praying

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God and make personal application and share the truths of Scripture with others. The title for the lesson is, “Keep on praying.” The text is in the New Testament, the book of Ephesians chapter six verses 18 through 19. Let’s listen together to the Word of God.

‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.’ This is the Word of God. May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

I remember reading many years ago about four young boys that were trying to out do each other as boys are known to do. The first boy said: My dad dated Miss America. The second boy said: Well, my dad plays golf with the governor. And the third boy said: My brother knows Larry Bird. But the fourth boy said: Yeah. But my grandmother talks to God every day. Oh, if we really understand the importance, the mega importance of speaking to God in prayer every day.

So how important is prayer even as revealed in Scripture? Well, consider these texts in the gospel of Matthew chapter 14 and verse 23 it says, in part: ‘After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.’ Here we have a reference, of course, to the Lord Jesus Christ himself, because even Jesus Christ the Son of God prayed. He felt the need as he went to his Father in heaven regularly in prayer, a perfect example for each of us. Then also in the gospel of Mark chapter one and verse 35 we find these words, ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.’ That is, in an undistracted, fervent prayer. And notice also that prayer is more important than sleep. Jesus got up very early while it was still dark to spend extra time, undistracted time in prayer. And then in Luke chapter two and verse 37 it says, in part, ‘She never left the temple but worshipped day and night, fasting and praying.’ Here Anna practiced prayer which is often more important than food, than eating, as she fasted and prayed.

We as Christians have many spiritual priorities, however, prayer persistency must be our first priority for it is through prayer that we can release God’s power into and through our lives. A mature, praying Christian wrote these wise words, ‘We live in a restless age in which we spend our spiritual strength and do not renew it. We multiply our activities yet curtail our prayers. We work when we ought to pray first. So often work is easier than fervent prayer. When we neglect prayer, we often lose in calmness, in depth, in spiritual, even physical stamina. Without sustained prayer, we can grow feeble and shallow. The work is done, but only superficially and often will not stand. We must resolve to spend time alone with God. If today the Church would be united in prayer similar to the earnest prayer of the early Church, then we today would greatly benefit with more power, power for holy living, power for evangelism, power for service, even power for suffering along with submission to God’s will as a current of spiritual life that would run through the districts of our land.’ Surprisingly, this was written in the 1800s, written by J. C. Ryle in England and it sounds just like the 21st century in America. How much more do we need united fervency of prayer even today in this fast paced world?

Perhaps you have heard the saying: It takes people to get things done. But with praying people we get God more involved and greater things get done. Make no mistake. Prayer is a form of work. We all need to work at it all the more, that is to prayer, sustained, persistent, fervent prayer. To have a serious prayer life it takes self discipline. It takes the deep realization that we are dependent on God, that we need God’s direction as we deal with all of this life’s issues. Often we are distracted. Often we claim to be too busy, too busy to pray or too tired to pray or we don’t feel like praying. As Christians, we need to emphasize faith over fears. It needs to be the spirit over the flesh, discipline over distraction. We often work even when we don’t feel like it. So why would we neglect prayer and God and, in effect, offer our chores and our duties to our employer more than we are willing to offer prayer to God? That should not be. It is when we do not want to pray that usually we need God the most. We need to pray harder when it is hardest to pray, when it is hard to pray for whatever reason. Tell God about it. We need to tell God about it. God knows what we are feeling, what we are dealing with. We need to tell God how we feel. We need help. We need to ask God, petition God in our supplications ask God to help us to pray, help us to even know how to pray. And, yes, prayer costs. It costs us our time. Prayer costs us energy, our focus and, therefore, because we are willing to spend this time with God, our energy, our focus and our concentration in prayer with God, it becomes ever so precious to God.

Some suggestions. Reading Scripture first can add fuel to our prayer life. Often times we pray first and then we read Scripture. Well, obviously both are appropriate, but for many reading Scripture first can add inspiration, can add thoughts from the Word of God, from the mind and heart of God to aid us, to supplement our prayer life, to give us a fuller, more fervent prayer life than privately praying aloud can sometimes help us with our focus and our concentration to pray out loud to the Lord even when we are by ourselves or in an isolated location. Certainly a prayer list or a prayer journal can help us with specific prayers. We can focus on specific persons or needs or concerns or thanksgivings or praises or answers to prayer. The important thing is that we must meet with God regularly, mind to mind, heart to heart, will to will until it is face to face with God.

Now let’s consider our study text in Ephesians chapter six verses 18 and 19. Here we have an all encompassing passage on prayer. Consider Ephesians chapter six and verse 18 where it says, in part: And pray in the Spirit. That is pray in the Holy Spirit. Here we have the focus of our prayers being submission, submission as we line up with the will of God, not our will. To pray in the Spirit is to have the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Holy Spirit for the baptized, born again believer, to line us up with the will of God the Father, not our wills. Consider, for example, a text that brings this out. In Romans chapter eight verses 26 and 27 where it says there, in part, that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. So basically this means that as born again believers, our indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to pray, not weakly, but boldly in God the Father’s will. And when the Holy Spirit and God the Father are working together then it is always going to be in the will of God.

Now the groans that are referred to here in this passage are not ours, but the Holy Spirit’s groans within the godhead. Here specifically between he, that is God the Father, and the Holy Spirit of God, which always communicates God’s will and applies God’s perfect will. And this intercessory help is on behalf of all believers.

In Ephesians chapter six and verse 18 it also says that we are to pray on all occasions. This focuses on our habitual prayer mindset. And so it focuses on frequency, on all occasions. Our very lives become like a prayer to God, whether it is aloud, praying aloud or silent as spoken or in our minds, public or private prayer. We are always conscious of God’s presence and include him in all of our every day life from the common to the crisis and everything in between. We include God. And there are so many ways not only for petitions but for thanksgiving, for praise in ever aspect of our lives. God wants to be involved with his children, with sons and daughters. And as we communicate and connect with our human fathers and mothers and parents on a regular basis usually, so we should certainly connect and communicate with our heavenly Father.

In Ephesians chapter six and verse 18 it also refers there to with all kinds of prayers and requests. This focuses on the variety, that is, all types of prayer: petitions for self and for others; praise prayer, that is worshipping the Lord, talking to him and praising him and honoring him and revering him, paying homage to him. And then, of course, there are thanksgiving prayers, having a heart of gratitude as we thank God for answered prayer or for whatever it is that we are thankful that comes into our minds and our hearts, that we can certainly be a thankful people toward our heavenly Father. And then there is all kinds of general prayers, for example, for missionaries, specific prayers for individual missionaries, specifically men or women that we know that are on the mission field. We have deliberate prayer that we do on a regular basis or spontaneous prayer that comes up on the spot or something perhaps the Lord lays on our hearts. We have all kinds of prayers. And so we should certainly have a variety of prayer as we have a frequency of prayer and as certainly we have submission in prayer.

And then in Ephesians chapter six and verse 18 it also refers to with this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. The aspect here of being alert focuses on the manner of prayer, to be watchful, to be ready to pray and always keep on praying, to be persevering in prayer, to be persistent in prayer. And as Jesus instructed, for example, in Luke chapter 18 and verse one where it says, in part, that we should always pray and not give up. We need to be watchmen on the wall, always alert, always vigilant to include God, to bring him in through prayer. God is there anyway. God is always at work anyway. But God wants us to ask. He wants us to go to him. He wants us to include him in prayer.

 

And then it also says: Praying for all the saints. For example, most churches have a church bulletin with a weekly, updated prayer list. And we can certainly use these for praying for all of the saints that are on the prayer list. And we certainly can pray for those that would be saints, those that need to be saints, those that need to be sanctified in Christ Jesus, that is, born again, saved, become Christians. We can certainly also pray using our church directories, if you have a church directory or a church listing of the members, of the visitors or of those that come that may not be members yet, that may be listed. For example, we may have even included in our church directories or church lists shut ins or out of towners or those that are the extended families of those in our churches that we need to pray for. There are all kinds of aids or helps to help us to pray more specifically and explicitly concerning individuals. We can certainly in our prayer concerns adopt a missionary, adopt and elder, a deacon, a preacher and pray also for their wives and their children and their ministries. These are all very useful and important prayer concerns. Certainly we pray for our president, those in high places, for our nation, for our military. There are all kinds of prayer concerns. The list goes on and on.
I know of a Christian who keeps a prayer journal of prayer concerns, not only for the saints, but also for those that he is praying for that would be saved or that are backslidden and that need prayer. And, of course, we can even have a journal of answers to prayer as we praise the Lord, as we thank the Lord, as we continue to pray.

In Ephesians chapter six and verse 19 the apostle Paul added, ‘Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.’ Ministers sometimes use this passage and they often pray before they have a sermon. But we can pray this prayer also because it is applicable to all Christians as we personally testify, as we share the good news of Jesus Christ to all around us, that we would pray that every time I open my mouth words would be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. May we do so on a regular basis.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4