What and who to pray for is often the question.
In Romans 8 we read that “the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.”
Admit it—you mostly don’t know how to pray! So you need a helper. And if you have received the Helper that Jesus promised, you have that Helper living in your spirit! Learn to pray “in the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:14; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).
It may come as a surprise to some that the emphasis in the New Testament writings is not in praying for the unsaved. Jesus taught his disciples “the Lord’s prayer” and that did not include the world. So what did Jesus pray for?
Jesus asked his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest, not for the unsaved, but for labourers engaged in the harvest and especially to pray for the Lord to send more labourers!
Did he ever pray for his family?
He certainly prayed for his disciples—let me mention John 17 where we read how Jesus prays . . . .
I don’t pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. . . . . . . these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are. . . . . . I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one. . . . . . . . Sanctify them in your truth. . . . . As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. . . . . . . . . . . . Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word . . . .
What a wonderful blessing it is to know that Jesus is praying, interceding for us–not for the world– as we go about doing his will and announcing the good news. We are being empowered!
Paul the apostle assures his Ephesian readers (Eph 6:18) that he prays constantly for them (but not for their salvation or healing!) He never seems to ask anyone to pray for any specific unsaved person—but to pray “. . . at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints”.
Paul also asks the same readers to pray for him that he will speak boldly: “ . . . . on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Eph 6:18-20.
The original Jerusalem believers asked for boldness and authority among themselves (Acts 4:29-30) “. . . . . grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”
We can never use our prayers to manipulate the Lord. He can never be controlled by us in any way. Prayer is all about relationship—He is your Father and you are His daughter or His son.
And it’s not how much time you put in, or your sincerity, or your passion and energy and zeal that somehow get’s God’s attention. No. It’s asking according to his will and walking, living, praying in the Spirit.
So we do not have to ask God to save someone (or to heal someone either) because we know that it is His gracious will that none should perish but come to eternal life (John 3:14-17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 3:2-7). And so He has committed the message of reconciliation to us, Jesus’ disciples (2 Cor 5:18-20). We do not pray for the harvest but for the harvesters!
People own their lives by choice—God does not barge in on anyone. He waits for the invitation. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. He does not act as an intruder. He asks for our love, our willing obedience. It seems obvious that the Lord seeks and uses those who want to do His will and not their own. Like Jesus. Even like Paul.
We are all volunteers! The Lord never coerces us into doing his will. We always have the terrifying freedom to ignore him or refuse to obey. It is so amazing how we are created with sovereignty, after His image, with choice, a will. Awesome.
Hey brother, we miss you all. We’re about to hit the streets to reach out to this world, and I am reading a book at the moment, Miraculous Movements. It is the story of millions, perhaps tens of millions of Muslims coming to faith in Africa, Arabia and Asia. (so much for Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world, we in the West are foolish sometimes in believing what we hear). Incidentally the book starts, “this is where Acts ends, and Acts II begins”. It is indeed.
A big difference, in the writers opinion, is the believers fervent prayer and fasting. They will pray and fast for weeks before they swarm into an area with the Gospel. The results surely come – demons are bound, the sick are healed, captives set free. When I read of their prayer, I feel embarrassed about my own paltry efforts. They pray with joyful hearts, expecting trouble, but also expecting our Lord of the Harvest to come along with his scythe. Indeed he does. We in the West, who think we own christendom, have much to learn.
We are committed to becoming more fervent this year, and to expect more from God. As Paul says, we have access to the same God, with the same power who raised Jesus from the dead, and one day will do the same with me and you. Amen.
Thanks very much Michael for taking the time to comment. Great to hear of your desires for 2016. Looking forward to hearing some stories from you walking in real life in Jesus our Messiah.
Well we did pray before we went out last night Ian. We prayed that the Lord would send someone to us. As we sat down to consider a plan of action, a man and partner came up with their fish and chips and sat next to us by the beach, and we were able to share about Jesus. Imagine this, he had been going to “church” all his life and had no assurance of being in heaven when he died. So we prayed as we walked, and the Lord enabled us to talk to many other people that evening about him. We passed our number on to some so we could connect with them later and explain the Gospel more fully – but there is no doubt that the Lord answered prayer that was in his will. Amen
Thanks Michael. That’s so encouraging. There’s nothing like sharing with others, confessing the Lord Jesus to strangers, is there? I have had my cards reprinted with The Last Reformation web address (thelastreformation.com) on it which I have found useful when I have only a minute to share with someone.
So love your thoughts Ian. Keep ’em coming Brother! I will pray for the harvesters. It is so good to hear what God is doing through His people and to have Him back me up when I step out in faith. Talk soon. Love Jen
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Thanks so much for your gracious words Jen. You are such a great encouragement towards me.