Introduction. God Gives Us This Great And Gracious Responsibility.

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1 Introduction Pray For Another Text: Selected Scriptures. Series: One Another Statements of the New Testament [#3] Date: January 23, 2011 Pastor Lyle L. Wahl Theme: Praying For One Another Is A Great And Gracious Responsibility. What do you think when you hear these words? At least I can pray for you is a statement God s people often make, but it s a statement that can be misleading. Prayer isn t the least thing we can do for people it s the greatest thing we can do! 1 Some people may think, That sounds good. It sounds right. But at times we might think, There s no opportunity for me to do something, so I ll just pray. Or, I don t have the ability or courage to do something, so I ll just pray. You see, if we are not careful, we may view prayer as the least and last rather than the foremost and first thing we can do for one another. Pray for one another is the third of the One Another statements we are looking at in this series. The Bible tells us that God knows everything. We can t tell Him anything that He doesn t already know. 2 It also tells us that God is all-powerful, that He decides what He wants to do and does it when and how He wants to. God is sovereign. 3 God doesn t need us, nor our prayers. But, in His grace He has chosen to include our prayers in His sovereign work. He directs us to pray and promises to respond to our prayers. 4 We will never come close to fully comprehending this truth. We do know that prayer brings us into the presence of God. It is a time when we seek to align ourselves, our thoughts and actions with Him, to then thank, praise, and worship Him, to bring our questions and requests to Him, and to ask Him to do His good and perfect will. And so, today we are thinking about this one aspect of prayer, praying for one another, praying for fellow believers. Praying for one another is a great a gracious responsibility. God Gives Us This Great And Gracious Responsibility. Praying for one another is our responsibility because God commands us to do this. The apostle Paul wrote, With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. 5 It was important to him personally, so he also asked people in the churches to pray for him. 6 Then, as James wrote about being patient, suffering and sick in that passage we read earlier, he instructed believers to pray for one another. 7 Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:26 that in the body of Christ if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member

2 is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Part of suffering and rejoicing together is praying for one another. We have had a Praise and Prayer time here at Knox each Sunday for many years. It is our practice. You could say, it is our tradition. But it is much more than that. It is a time where we share and pray for one another as a body knowing it is a great and gracious responsibility. We also have a Praise and Prayer section in our bulletin each week. It s lengthy. We do this because we know the importance and value of praying for one another. Praying for one another is a great and gracious responsibility given to us by God. There are a number of examples God has given us in the Bible of individuals who accepted this responsibility and took it seriously. Moses, for example, was a man who prayed for others. The people got tired of waiting when he was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law from God. In fact, some suggested he was not coming back. 8 The people went to Moses brother Aaron, who then led them in an ungodly festival before the golden calf idol. God told Moses that the people had corrupted themselves by that, and that they were an obstinate people. He then told Moses, Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation. (10) Moses could have distanced himself from the people, but instead he interceded for them, he prayed for them. God spared the people. Then there was the time when the nation rebelled against Moses and God and wanted to appoint their own leader to take them back to Egypt. 9 God told Moses, How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they. (11-12) But again Moses prayed for the people and God spared them. Moses leaves us an excellent example of praying for others. Even when they disobeyed and rebelled against God and Moses, he kept on praying for them. He was committed to seeing God s patience, grace, and mercy to people who kept on turning away from God. He didn t write them off. We too should have that kind of heart of love, never excusing sin, but always seeking, praying for God s best even for the obstinate rebel. We also see this in Jesus. When He told the disciples that He would return to heaven, He also told them, I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 10 2

3 As He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father 11 to keep those who believed in Him that they would be one, that they would be united (11, 21-23), to give them His own joy (13), to keep them from the evil one (15), to enable them to see His glory (24), and to have God s love in them (26). In Romans 8:34 Paul tells us that Christ is now at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. And the writer of Hebrews adds, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (7:25). The Bible tells us that our sins were full, finally paid for by Christ s death on the cross and fully and forever forgiven when we placed our faith in Him. Now, as we face challenges and temptations, Christ intercedes for us with the Father. One more example, the Apostle Paul. Paul prayed for other believers. He always, constantly praying for all other believers. He did not stop giving thanks for them. He always prayed for them with joy. 12 In addition to giving thanks for them, he prayed for them to have God s love and joy overflowing in their hearts, to grow in Christ and be effective in their ministries. We will see some of this shortly. What an example for us! What a great privilege and responsibility we have! Exercising This Great And Gracious Responsibility. So, how should we pray for each other? What should we pray for? There are unique things for each believer we know, but there also are some things we should keep in our prayers for every believer. Let s take an overview of some of them. First, we can and should always be praying for all other believers to grow and mature spiritually. Every believer is on a life-long journey to being conformed to the image of Christ, to becoming like Him. 13 We never arrive at that destination in our time here on earth. But when Christ comes again, or we see Him face to face in heaven, we will like Him. 14 So, one thing we can always pray for every believer is to keep on growing and maturing spiritually. While it is fine and good to pray for this overall goal, we can get more specific in our prayers. First, even without knowing the details about the growth and struggles of another, we can pray as Paul did. Turn to Ephesians chapter 1 (page 151 in the second or New Testament section of the pew Bibles). Beginning at verse 18, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (18-19a) Do you see what he is praying for? Enlightened spiritual eyes to have a growing, clear vision and understanding of the hope or certain future because of God s calling, and the experience 3

4 of God s surpassing greatness to us. These are things we should be praying for ourselves as well as others. Pray these verses putting yourself in that first phrase, I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened. Pray these verses putting the name, the names of other believers, the people in other churches, in other parts of the world in that first phrase. Next, turn ahead to Colossians chapter 1 (page 156 in the pew Bibles). Go down to verse 9, the section we read earlier this morning. For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. (9-12) Again, you can fill in the name of other believers in that first phrase. It might help to write out the individual points of this prayer in your own words. Just as it is fine to pray Scripture, it is fine to pray your own paraphrase or wording of these specific requests for other believers to grow and mature spiritually. Another thing we should be praying for, which is closely related to the first, is for other believers to live holy, godly lives. This deserves special attention because it is so important. Jesus prayed this for Peter. When He and the disciples finished the Passover meal on the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave Peter some insight into how He had been praying for him. Luke 22:31-32 records Jesus saying, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. It could be easy to rush by these verses. Let s stop here. Think about all that Jesus knew was ahead of Him in the next hours as He would be arrested, tried and give His life for our sins. Jesus also knew what was ahead for Peter and the other disciples. Yes, Peter would deny Christ before the morning dawned. Christ did not want Peter to be overwhelmed by the guilt and grief of his sin. And so, while He faced the cross, Jesus prayed that Peter would not be overcome, but when he turned back to being the faith-filled follower, that he would strengthen others by both the example of his journey and his ministry to them. Based on Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 which we noted earlier, I believe Christ is praying for each of us in the same way. He is interceding for us with God the Father that we would not be overcome by the guilt and grief of our sins, but always turn back to faith and holy, godly living. We know only a few of the many temptations and struggles of others, 4

5 even of those people we know very well. We can and should always be praying for them to live holy, godly lives. It is part of this great and gracious privilege and responsibility God has given us. A third example of how we can exercise this responsibility of praying for one another is to pray for others to have effective ministry for Christ. The idea of having effective ministry is sometimes confined to pastors, missionaries and a few others. The reality is that every believer is a servant, a minister of Christ. Each and every believer has been given spiritual abilities to carry out our ministries. 15 So, you and I should be praying for one another that we would have effective ministries. Paul prayed for other believers to be effective in their work for God. He told the church at Thessalonica, To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 16 This is a wonderful prayer to pray for each other and believers beyond Knox. Paul, the great apostle, the great church planter, the great pastor, the great teacher and theologian also asked people to pray for him and his ministry. Paul asked the church at Thessalonica to pray that the word of God would spread rapidly and be glorified through his ministry. 17 Later, while a prisoner for the Gospel in Rome, he asked the church in Ephesus to pray that he would have boldness and the right words to speak for Christ there. 18 During that same imprisonment he asked the church at Colossae to pray that he would have an open door of opportunity and the ability to speak clearly of Christ. 19 As you pray for believers you know, and those you don t know, ask God to enable them to live worthy of their calling, to see and seize opportunities to speak and minister clearly and boldly for Christ so that He would be glorified. The next example of praying for one another is to pray for safety and deliverance. We know the importance of this for first century Christians and many others at various times in the church s history, including many in various parts of the world today. Each fall we observe a Sunday of prayer for the persecuted church. We do not face social, financial or legal persecution for living for Christ here in Canada. But we are engaged in a spiritual battle, a war waged by Satan s forces against God and His people, against us. In the first days of the church, King Herod had the apostle Peter arrested, thrown into jail. He planned to execute him. 20 The Bible tells us the church banded together and kept on earnestly and intensely praying for Peter. On the night the king was going to bring Peter out of jail to be executed, an angel came to him and woke him up. Peter s chains fell off and the angel walked him past the guards, through the gates and out of the jail. Peter went to the house where people were praying for him. He knocked on the door. You may recall the 5

6 story, a servant girl answered his knock, and then ran to tell the rest he was there. They thought she was crazy until they saw Peter. In His sovereign power, plan and grace, through the prayers of believers, God protected and delivered Peter. Paul also was protected and rescued by God through believers joining him with their prayers. 21 Paul had confidence, he writes, that as they continued to pray for him, God would continue to protect and deliver him until his mission for Christ was complete. 22 We pray for safety for one another in travel. We should also be praying for safety and deliverance in living and ministering for Christ. The last example of how we can and should be carrying out our responsibility of praying for one another is to pray for healing and health. Always remember, never forget, God is the healer. He told the complaining, grumbling, rebelling people of Israel, I, the LORD, am your healer. 23 He is the healer, our healer. It is part of who He is. He does not change. That does not change. All true wholeness and health, restoration and healing ultimately come from God. Turn to James chapter 5, a passage we read earlier (page 180 in the second or New Testament section of the pew Bibles). Let s pick it up at verse 13. Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, [as a result, because this is true] confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (13-18) When we are sick, we are to pray. When we are sick and weak, without strength, or want support form others, we are to let them know and they are to pray. Here, specifically James says the elders of the church are to pray because they are God s selected leaders. When the elders come to God in righteousness and faith, God hears and heals. We know from other parts of Scripture that this is subject to the will and timing of God. We don t know all about that, but we do know that we are to pray in faith. In the second verse of the apostle John s third letter he tells Gaius, the recipient, Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. While this is not a promise, it is a prayer. We too can pray for one another that God would be gracious in giving success and good health. We know from Scripture that lack of success and health is not always, or even regularly the result of personal sin. Jesus said 6

7 a man had been born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him, and not because of any sin. 24 Paul suffered many hardships. He tells us, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 25 He also said, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 26 The point here is that we are to pray for one another, to pray for healing and health. Conclusion. Think again about the last part of our opening statement, Prayer isn t the least thing we can do for people it s the greatest thing we can do! 27 God has given us this great and gracious responsibility and privilege to pray for one another. As you think about it with Him now, thank Him for this responsibility and privilege. We don t understand how it all goes together, but we can thank Him for it. Take a look at your prayer life. What is the pattern of your prayer life? As you bring requests to God, are you praying for other believers with the same sincerity, intensity and faithfulness that is in your prayer for yourself and those closest to you? Be a prayer warrior for fellow believers here in Knox, in your family, your friends and around the world. 1 Warren Wiersbe. Caring People. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002, page cf. Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:28; Hebrews 4:13. 3 cf. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Psalm 62:11; 115:3; 135:6;. 4 cf. Matthew 7:7-8; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; James 4:2; 5:16. 5 Ephesians 5:18. 6 Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. 7 James 5: Exodus 32: Numbers 14: John 14: John 17: Corinthians 13:7, 9; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:4, 9-11; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 1:4, 6. 7

8 13 Romans 8: John 3:2. 15 cf. Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4: Thessalonians 1: Thessalonians 3: Ephesians 6: Colossians 4: Acts 12: Corinthians 1: cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; 2 Thessalonians 3: Exodus 15: John 9: Corinthians 12: Philippians 4: Wiersebe, page Lyle L. Wahl Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 8

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