Prayer reminders

In his second letter to God's elect, the apostle Peter wrote:

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. (2Pe 1:12–15)

It's a solemn fact that, even though we may have been reading the Bible for many years, if we don't continue to read and study it on a regular basis our memory of it, and its influence on our lives, will fade (Pro 19:27). That, apart from anything else, will adversely affect our prayer life.

We need to allow the Holy Spirit to constantly re-envision us, through the Word of God, so we can continue to pray effectively.

Spiritual warfare

Establishing God's kingdom on earth involves spiritual warfare, and one of the first things to remember is that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).

In other words, our enemies are not people, but the satanic forces that motivate them, control them, and work through them.

In Act 14 Paul healed a man in Lystra who had been lame from birth. This had a great effect on those who saw it, but some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned them against Paul. They stoned him and dragged him outside the city thinking he was dead.

He survived, but it would have been easy for him to have taken that injustice personally and to have hated those who had caused his suffering. (How would you feel if you'd been stoned, almost to the point of death, and had not done anything wrong?)

But, like his Master before him, he didn't retaliate (1Pe 2:19–23), nor did he repay evil for evil (Rom 12:17,19–21). He knew he wasn't fighting against flesh and blood, but against the satanic forces that were opposing his ministry.

In 2Co 10:3–4 he wrote:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Paul knew that spiritual battles are not fought with physical weapons, or in physical ways; spiritual battles are fought with spiritual weapons, and one of the most powerful weapons available to us is persistent prayer.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, "Grant me justice against my adversary."

'For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, "Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!" '

And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?' (Luk 18:1–8)

Who was the widow's adversary? The Greek word used means adversary, enemy, an opponent in court or in battle. The same word is used in 1Pe 5:8, where it describes our enemy (adversary) the devil. Jesus was speaking about a spiritual adversary, and not a physical adversary.

And would he teach us to always pray for victory against our spiritual adversary if our prayers were not going to be answered? It would be a pointless exercise, wouldn't it? On the contrary, our prayers will be answered if we pray persistently—we have that assurance from God.

It takes strong faith to keep praying when nothing appears to be happening, but Jesus has promised us victory in spiritual battles if we do not give up. However, when he returns, will he find us believing his words and putting them into practice in our lives? I hope so.

Praying for believers

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Eph 6:18a)

Paul wrote those words to everyone in the church at Ephesus. It is God's will that all Christians pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. And praying in the Spirit is not just praying in tongues, praying in the Spirit is prayer that is inspired by the Holy Spirit in any form.

Paul wrote:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. (1Co 14:14–15)

Paul made full use of the prayer language the Holy Spirit had given him, but he also prayed in his own language so he could understand what he was saying. We should do the same.

Let us allocate time daily for our spirits—our innermost beings—to pray to God in the language he has given us; and let us pray also in our own language with prayers that are equally inspired by the Spirit.

With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints [Greek: God's holy people]. (Eph 6:18b)

Several points should be noted from this verse:

But how can we pray for those we don't know and whose needs we are not aware of? Rom 8:27–28 tells us:

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 with groans [burdens] that [known] words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints [God's people] in accordance with God's will.

When we pray in tongues, the Holy Spirit is able to intercede through us for our fellow believers in accordance with the will of God.

I remember praying in tongues on one occasion and, when I'd finished praying, the Holy Spirit gave me the interpretation. I'd been praying for a brother I knew, but for a need I didn't know he had. I didn't know his need, but the Holy Spirit knew, and he used me to pray for him.

Sometimes when I'm praying in tongues the language I'm praying in changes and I find that my prayer becomes more intense and urgent. I don't know what I'm praying for at such times, but I believe that on some occasions the Holy Spirit is using me to intercede for God's people in accordance with his will.

Praying for governments

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1Ti 2:1–4)

Prayer inspired by the Holy Spirit will include requests, intercession, and thanksgiving for anyone in the world (Christian or non-Christian) but especially for kings, governments, and those in authority over us. These people make decisions that affect our lives so it's important we pray for them.

Rom 13:1–7 tells us that God has established governments in the world to keep law and order—to commend those who do right and to punish those who do wrong. Governments are God's servants, agents of his wrath, to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (v4). So any government that fails in this task is failing to fulfil the purpose for which God has established it.

Managing the economy and providing health care and education are secondary issues compared to the prime, God-given, task of maintaining law and order. It's fine for a government to provide a climate in which its citizens can prosper, but if those citizens are living in fear of being robbed, what good is it?

Without law and order anarchy ensues and innocent people suffer. That is not God's will. On the contrary, it's God's will we live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. The Greek word translated 'peaceful' means freedom from disturbance and the word translated 'lives' is bios which refers to the business and practical side of life.

It's God's will that not only Christians, but everyone else in society, should be able to live their lives without being disturbed or molested and, in order to do that, governments must keep law and order. So, when we pray for them to do that, we are praying in God's will, and we should keep praying until our prayers are answered (1Jo 5:14–15).

Praying for ourselves

We've been looking at praying for others, but what about praying for ourselves?

Then he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him."

'Then the one inside answers, "Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything." I tell you, though he will not get up and given him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

'So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.' (Luk 11:5–10)

This promise is similar to the one in Luk 18:1–8, except that in this case Jesus was speaking about our personal needs. The literal meaning of the Greek word translated 'boldness' in v8 is without shame. It describes a shameless persistence in the pursuit of an objective. And the verbs translated 'ask, seek, and knock' in v9–10 are in the present, continuous tense.

That means that Jesus is saying: 'Ask, and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek, and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock, and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.'

Don't feel ashamed to keep asking God for something—that is what he wants you to do. God answers persistent prayer, and our persistence demonstrates our faith in him and his Word.

The peace of God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:6–7)

God doesn't want us to be anxious about anything. From time to time things may happen in our lives that cause us anxiety. Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (Joh 16:33)'.

We are not immune to the problems that beset the world but, when we experience them, we have the means to deal with them and with the fear, the anxiety, and the worry that often accompanies them, and for which the world has no answer.

What is the answer? Prayer! If anything troubles you, take it to the Lord in prayer and keep praying until the peace of God fills your heart and your mind. We can find ourselves in the midst of terrible trouble and yet have a peace that passes all understanding—a peace that comes from God.

Sometimes the peace comes to us without asking, other times it comes after prayer; but don't stop praying until the promised peace floods your whole being. That is the assurance that God has heard your prayers and is in control of the situation.

God doesn't want anything to bother us; he wants us to bring everything to him in prayer. We are all different, and sometimes things may trouble us that others would consider trivial, but God understands. He is our loving heavenly Father and we can talk to him about anything that concerns us.

God wants us to have peace in all situations. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6) and he wants us to have his peace (Joh 14:27).

Michael Graham
September 2001
Revised December 2011

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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