Smoother Sailing Article – Prayer: Where the Action Is!

By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” –
Samuel Chadwick

The ministry of prayer is probably the most available yet often overlooked ministry among believers. We often overlook this powerful ministry with lack of interest, or excuses of lack of time, etc. The longer I live, the more circumstances that I go through, the more blessings I enjoy, and the more problems I face; prayer becomes more and more important to me. I hope that the same is true for you. The purpose of this article is to challenge and encourage you to become more disciplined and consistent in your prayer life. As with any aspect of the Christian life (bible study, witnessing, etc.), our prayer life can grow deeper and stronger with the passing of time. It is always a great encouragement to look back periodically and see how our Lord has answered prayer, and matured our faith. In the words of Robert Murray McCheyene:
“What a man (or woman) is, he (0r she ) is on his (her) knees alone before God, nothing more.” – (parenthesis mine)

Anytime, any place

It doesn’t matter how many rules or laws are created or passed to prohibit prayer; prayer is possible most anytime, most anywhere, and under most any circumstances. The place, or position or volume of our prayer may be of great consequence to us, but it is probably of little consequence to God. It is certainly not that prayer is not important to God; it is simply that where we pray may not be so important to Him. Prayer does not have to take place in a church. Prayer does not have to be done only while standing, or only while kneeling, etc. Prayer can be done when in you are a crowd, or when you are alone. In fact a great deal of prayer is done in silent. There are times when prayer should be done quietly and reverently, in a worship setting, etc. There are times when prayer should be done while driving (just don’t close your eyes, please!), or walking; or waiting for an appointment. One of the key truths concerning prayer is that the Lord is more willing to listen than we are to pray. With that in mind, let’s look at some favorite prayer times recorded in Scripture:

Daniel 6
Had he not been a man of faith and courage (Daniel 6.3,4), Daniel could have easily found and made excuses to not stay faithful. I don’t think the lesson here is to go to your workplace, or to go out in your yard and begin praying 3 times a day for the purpose of impressing everyone with your spirituality. Notice that Daniel did not all of a sudden start praying 3 times a day. He had already been doing that. That is the only thing that his accusers could find “wrong” with him. They determined to “bring Daniel down” by attacking his spirituality (Daniel 6.5). The key here is that when the heat was on, and it became unpopular or even threatening to Daniel, he just KEPT ON doing what was right! Someone has wisely said: The most powerful position on earth is kneeling before the God of the universe. – Author Unknown

Nehemiah 2
Nehemiah had been burdened to leave captivity and go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (Nehemiah 1.1-3). He then began to pray and fast about it (1.4-11). About four months passed and Nehemiah, had the opportunity to ask permission of the king to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Approaching the king with such a “king sized” request was not to be taken lightly. Nehemiah says in2.4,5: “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king…” As soon as the king asked the question, Nehemiah prayed. He didn’t say, “wait, let me go to my prayer closet”, or “let me go over here and kneel and pray for a moment.” He simply, silently, quickly prayed. He may have prayed something like, “okay Lord, here is my chance, help me.” The obvious application is that there are times when we have very little time to pray, but we still should pray anyway.Another interesting side note is that when the time came to talk to king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah had already been praying about the request that he would ask of the king. Remember, four months had passed. He had prayed when he received the initial burden for the task of rebuilding Jerusalem, and quite likely Nehemiah had been praying during the four months before he petitioned king Artaxerxes. Another important lesson here is the importance of praying at the first “sight” of the problem or burden. Oswald Chambers: “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.”

Another favorite account of prayer is found in Acts 12.
In this passage, the apostle James had been martyred, and Simon Peter was in prison. He was next on Herod’s list (Acts 12.3). The scripture then tells us that, “…prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him…” There are times of desperation when all we can do is pray.
“There are times when we can do no MORE than pray, but we should never do any LESS than pray.” – Author unknown
As the church was praying, prayer changed an IMPOSSIBLE circumstance! God sent his angel, and fetched Peter and delivered him. Thomas Watson summed up the practical lesson for us in this statement: “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.”

A ministry for every Christian

Five of the sweetest words that someone can say to you would probably be the words, “I am praying for you”. You can never pray too much. It is possible to pray and not “put feet to our prayers”, but you cannot pray too much about something. It is quite possible that you may find that while you are praying, God is at work. What are some important things to pray about in our ministry of prayer?

Pray that the Lord will call and send men and women to proclaim the gospel.
Luke 10.2 “…the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Pray for protection for those who proclaim the gospel from those who hinder the gospel, and the work of God.
Romans 15.30-32 “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.”
Ephesians 6.18-20; “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
2 Thessalonians 3.1,2 “brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified…And that we be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”

Pray about the things that cause worry.
Philippians 4.6,7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Pray for those which despitefully use you, or persecute you:
Matthew 5.44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
It is hard to have ill feelings toward another when you are consistently praying for them. It is amazing what that will do to our attitude – beware, you may learn to have compassion towards that person! It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have fellowship with them, but it will affect your attitude toward them. Soon you will find that the more you pray for them, the more that you willwant to pray for them. Over time you will genuinely learn to love them. You may not like their actions or attitudes, you may not even trust them, but you learn to love them. “It is hard to fear or hate someone whom you pray for.” – unknown

Prayer is a full time job!!

1 Thessalonians 5.25: “Pray without ceasing.”
Praying without ceasing does not mean that we pray in every breath we take, it means that we continue to pray until God answers. The key is to pray until the Lord opens or closes a door.
If Christians spent as much time praying as they do grumbling, they would soon have nothing to grumble about. – Anonymous

Why is it important to pray without ceasing?
It reminds us that God is in control:

“An important help in the life of prayer is the habit of bringing everything to God, moment by moment, as it comes to us in life.” – A. B. Simpson
It helps us keep the big picture in focus.
The Lord is constantly at work, and as we continue to pray and stay focused on the truth that the Lord is in control, we gain much needed perspective in our lives.
It enables us to constantly examine ourselves.
As we continue to pray, we may find a step of action that we need to take (to put “feet to our prayers”); or to change an attitude, or to pray about the same thing in a different way.
It is God’s way of measuring our Faith and Patience
Luke 18.1″…men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”
“God will not delay one moment longer than is absolutely necessary…learn to give God time.” – Andrew Murray
“A faith so great that still clings to the Lord, in spite of apparent rejection, is acceptable to Him above all else.”- Andrew Murray

“Nothing so furthers our prayer life as the feeling of our own helplessness. It is only when we are helpless that we really open our hearts to God.” – Ole Hallesby

Prayer changes things

“If we are honest, we must admit that much of our time is spent pretending. But when we turn to God in prayer, we must present our real selves, candidly acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses and our total dependence upon Him.” –
Author Unknown
Prayer changes things. However, more often than not, prayer changes us. There are some situations in which we pray about a problem or for a person for a long period of time – weeks, months, or maybe years. Another quote from Oswald Chambers illustrates one way in which prayer changes us is the way it changes our perspective:
“Every time we pray, our horizon is altered, our attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we do not pray more.”
As we pray, God is at work. Sometimes God answers our prayers, “Yes”, sometimes he answers, “No”; and sometimes God answers our prayers, “wait”. However, even when our answer is not what we hoped it would be, we can be assure that God knows what is best; and that along the way while we are praying, He is working in our lives. He is drawing us closer to Himself. He is teaching us to be patient, and making our faith grow.

An example to follow

In Colossians 4.12, Paul tells of a friend named, Epaphras. Epaphras was with Paul during the time of the writing of the book of Colossians, and he sent greetings to them. Paul describes him as one who labored fervently for the Christians at Colossae, that they would be mature in God’s will for them. We all need friends like Epaphras in our lives. We would do well to be that kind of friend to others.

Write it down!

I have found that making a prayer list keeps things fresh on my mind. I have also found that when you pray for people by name (daily, weekly, etc.), that it helps you to remember names; even people that you pray for but do not necessarily see or talk to on a regular basis.

Make a list from your church address directory. Add names as new members join even if you have not had a chance to meet them or get to know them yet.

List your family members.

Remember to pray for widows and shut-ins.

There may be someone for whom you are praying that the Lord prompts you to call them or send them a card.

Put missionaries/mission ministries on your list.

Make a list of people whom you know that are lost – family members, relatives, friends, people for whom you are burdened, or that you would are burdened to believe on Christ as Savior.

Make a list of specific needs of those for whom you pray (when they are sick, or have some type of need).

Barry D. Black is Pastor of Anchor Bible Church
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