Prayer: How should we pray for believers?
The first thing that needs to be said about this is that we all need to spend time in prayer for fellow believers. The sad truth is that most believers don’t do much praying about anything or anyone. Yet we’ve clearly been told that it is for our benefit and that of others that we need to pray frequently.
I Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]
The existence of the command represents the importance of it. We find that the apostle Paul set a wonderful example for us in this.
II Timothy 1:3
3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; [Emphasis added]
The main reason people don’t pray more often than they do is that they obviously don’t see the need for it. If they did, they’d do more of it. For far too many believers, there’s simply no sense of urgency about it. People eat every day because they quite naturally sense the need for it and, therefore, make it a priority. If people did something similar with prayer, there’d be a whole lot more praying going on.
We have in the Pauline Scriptures a laid-out agenda that tells us what we’re to be praying about. The order in which we are to pray about these things is not particularly important. We just need to pray about these things habitually. As we do this, we’re to be grateful for knowing God will not only hear our prayers but provide an appropriate response in His answer.
I think that all too often people get discouraged about their prayers because they don’t get the answer they wanted. What people often fail to realize is that a NO is just as much of an answer as a YES. In other words, they refuse to accept a no as an answer. But even as great a believer as the apostle Paul was, there were requests he made in his prayers that were rejected. We need to always bear in mind that just as God wanted only the best for Paul, so it is with us. He loves us and cares for us. He expresses that in how He chooses to answer our prayers. As with us, God answered all Paul’s prayers but not necessarily with what he wanted. Here’s a situation that serves as an example of that.
II Corinthians 12:7-9
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory [KAUCHAOMAI = glory or rejoice] in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [Emphasis added]
The first thing we should note in verse nine is that the Lord actually spoke to Paul. He does not do this for us today. There are those who claim He does, but they have no evidence for it whatsoever. It simply doesn’t happen this way in our time.
A second thing to note in this passage is the fact that Paul gloried or rejoiced in his infirmities. This tells us of the attitude he had when he didn’t get what he requested. Here he completely fulfilled the principle of maintaining a good attitude about it by remaining thankful and even being excited about what God was doing in his life. When Paul told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing, he immediately followed that up with what we all need to know and do in such a situation. Note what he says immediately after telling them to keep right on praying.
I Thessalonians 5:17-18
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. [Emphasis added]
We don’t ever need to grumble or complain about the answer we get to our prayers. Instead, we need to be thankful and rejoice in the matter, knowing that God always answers our prayers by providing exactly what is best, even though it may not look that way to us. As our loving heavenly Father, He always provides what’s best. In fact, we should be grateful that even if we don’t pray, He’s still doing exactly what needs to be done in our lives. We are His people, and He faithfully cares for us. We have a firm promise on this.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]
We even have this same principle stated in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: [Emphasis added]
What God wills for us is always best, even if we’re completely blind to it. That’s a part of why we should pray that we, along with other believers, would come to know every aspect of His stated will as it is given to us in the Scriptures.
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; [Emphasis added]
We then also need to pray for the strength to perform His will when it is made known to us.
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; [Emphasis added]
This tells us we all need to study Scripture to gain His insight into what is going on in our lives. We all desperately need to pray that He’ll in this manner give us His point of view regarding whatever we’re facing in our circumstances.
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, [Emphasis added]
The most attractive thing about God that should draw people to Him is the deep and abiding love He has for us all. The greatest of all pictures of this is the love He expressed toward us when He gave His own Son that we might have salvation and the relationship that provides us with Him.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
We must always be mindful that His love was expressed toward us even when we were His enemies. We should be highly encouraged when we think of all He’ll do for us now that we’ve been fully reconciled to Him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. [Emphasis added]
By having responded with faith to His reconciliatory work in Christ we now stand in a wonderful position of blessing. As a part of this we can expect Him to respond with kindness to our every prayer request. Perhaps our greatest concern should be the ongoing possibility of our getting in the way of what He wishes to do in our lives. That’s why we’ve been exhorted not to quench the work of the Spirit of God through the things we think and do.
I Thessalonians 5:19
19 Quench not the Spirit. [Emphasis added]
We should also work to avoid grieving the Spirit of God by foolish decisions on our part. We should want nothing to keep us from His blessings.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [Emphasis added]
But note that even when we do these things, our salvation is not affected by it. Our salvation remains sealed and, therefore, completely secure. All this He does for us gives us all the more reason to work toward serving Him in every way we possibly can.
Our prayers should always be centered around the importance of thanksgiving for those we serve and for spiritual growth in us and for them. Do you pray for the spiritual growth of others you know? Certainly, we should all be doing this.
I Thessalonians 2:13
13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. [Emphasis added]
The most important thing you’ll ever pray about for believers is their spiritual growth in God’s Word. There’s absolutely nothing of greater importance. If they grow up spiritually and stay on that path, everything else will fall into place in the way in which it should. To do so they’ll have to choose to avoid the many distractions that will inevitably come along. The distractions will usually involve certain people. I’ve found through the years that for most people their family can be the greatest distraction. Our apostle Paul sets forth the general principle about this.
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly [speaking of their emotions]; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. [Emphasis added]
Our Lord warned about this during His earthly ministry.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother-in-law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. [Emphasis added]
Such has always been the case. Going all the way back to the beginning, even Cain murdered his own brother, Abel, over a spiritual matter [Genesis 4:1-8].
One of the most helpful things I’ve ever used for prayer has been a prayer list. In these days of computers and cell phones this can certainly be made easy to do. Having a list not only serves as a reminder as to who and what I need to be praying about, but also having that list in front of me helps keep my mind focused on the matter at hand. You can also later go back and look at the names of people and situations you were praying about many years ago. These lists can also be encouraging when you can now see how certain requests were answered.
Generally speaking, I believe our prayers should begin with praise and thanksgiving to our God. I think this tends to put us in a better frame of mind to address God about our concerns. We can then go on to addressing God with the specific names of people and the matters that concern us.
Lastly, I want to make a comment about time. You may think you don’t have time to do all this. The reality is that it is for such as this that you have any time left on this Earth at all. We all HAVE time for this, it is just a matter of taking the time to do it. And, as with anything, if in your spiritual growth you come to realize its importance, you’ll MAKE time for it.
This week I watched again the Hollywood movie—Patton. For numerous reasons it has always been one of my favorites. Among other things it serves as a reminder of the importance of prayer. In December, 1944 rain and snow were hampering U.S. war efforts. A frustrated General George Patton contacted Chaplain James Hugh O’Neill and asked for a prayer for good weather that would improve their chances for victory. The chaplain provided this prayer which was distributed to the troops along with a Christmas greeting. Here’s what it said.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
It was followed on the card with a Christmas Greeting.
To each officer and soldier in the Third United States Army, I wish a Merry Christmas. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We march in our might to complete victory. May God’s blessing rest upon each of you on this Christmas Day.
It was signed–
General George S. Patton
Lieutenant General, commanding, Third United States Army
Whatever the occasion or circumstances, there’s always a need for prayer, especially for fellow believers. As we’ve already noted, God not only hears our prayers but will respond accordingly. We always need to be mindful of that. In the case of Patton’s prayer, the weather cleared for the next six days. The many believers who prayed got to see their prayers answered. What stories will you be able to tell because God answered YOUR prayers? I think this is something we all need to think long and hard about.