Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
Paul grieved over the fact the those he had grown up were on their way to hell. He had such compassion for them that he would have traded his own salvation to save them if he could.
Rom 9:2,3 I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh.
Such was also the self-sacrificial grief of Moses who prayed for his sinful brethren. "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." Ex 32:31,32
Now consider how you would fill in this sentence:
"My heart's desire and prayer to God for ____________ is that they may be saved."
If you have someone in mind, pray for that person now.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is not praying for institutional unity - unity based simply on one's allegience to particular denominations, a mindset which leads to division rather than unity. He is praying for unity among the Christian community in the way that we actually think. Such unity is achieved when we become likeminded with Christ.
Note how Paul introduces his prayer prior to this saying, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."
Pray that God may grant the Christian community to be like-minded with Christ, thus resulting in being like-minded with one another, especially when it comes to tolerating our various scruples.
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul is praying here that these Christians may experience joy and peace as they walk in faith. So pray that you and your fellow Christians may likewise experience and peace in believing. And may God fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.
This is an example of praying for those who are trying to serve God in the midst of hostility - both from the world and from the saints.
Much of the world today is hostile to Christian's serving God. And given denominational differences or institutional eliteness, such hostility may even come from fellow Christians.
While such experiences are nothing new, and in fact should be expected whenever serving God, note that even Paul here doesn't rely on himself, nor on his own prayers concerning his personal experience of such hostility, but calls on other Christians to pray for him.
So when you're praying for fellow Christians involved in service in hostile environments, remember to pray these two things:
1. That they may be delivered from evil men.
2. That their service may be acceptable to the saints.
Eph 1:17-19 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may 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 exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.
There's information we get about God in the Bible. But while it's one thing to be informed, it's another thing to be inspired. It's one things to be informed of the hope of his calling, which is namely eternal life in heaven. But it's another to take that to heart. It's one thing to be informed of the riches of the forgiveness of our sins (Eph 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.") But it's another to fully grasp the significance. And it's one thing to accept the fact of the greatness of God's power towards us who believe - such as his power to raise us from the dead. But it's another to be inspired by that fact.
Thus a matured faith goes beyond the mere acceptance of facts and teachings, to grasp the revelation of those ideas, their implications and applications. And God wants you to get to that point.
But at issue here in this study is how do you get there. Well we see here that one element that helps is to pray for yourselves and others that God may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
Now as vague and esoteric as this may seem, consider adding this to your prayer requests.
Eph 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
While Paul speaks of many effects here, there's one thing that he's praying for - one things of which the rest are the effective results - namely to be strengthen in one's inner convictions. For every other aspect of one's Christian life is dependent upon the degree of one's Biblical convictions.
In describing Christian faith Paul speaks of the faith of Abraham saying, "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." Rom 4:20,21
It's is strength of conviction that leads to Christ dwelling in one's heart through such faith, the practice of which is submission to Christ as Lord. But such submission leads to revelation.
Note that in our study of the previous prayer in (Eph 1:17-19), Paul prays for them to have revelation, here we note that revelation is imparted to the individual in the process of them developing and applying their convictions.
Jesus speaks of submission leading to revelation in John 14:21 saying, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
And revelation leads to a transformed life - a life filled with the fullness of God.
So here's another thing to add to your prayer list for yourself and others - that God may strengthen one's convictions and the quality of one's faith.
Eph 6:18-20 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Yes even Paul requested Christians pray for him - that he may have boldness in preaching the gospel. And so how much more the rest of us. And notice the last phrase, "as I ought to speak". That is, when the gospel is preached, it's supposed to be preached boldly, fearlessly.
You know, according to the Law of Moses, those who were afraid were not even allowed to join the battle. They were commanded to stay home. So also when it comes to preaching the gospel. God doesn't want it preached timidly. So pray for those involved in the ministry of the gospel, that they may carry out their ministry fearlessly. And pray particularly for those involved in attempting to get the gospel to muslims and hindus in countries in which freedom of speech is not respected as one's right.
Php 1:3-5 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.
While some Christians feel they are in competition with other Christians in the work of the ministry of the gospel, and some churches or Christian ministries feel they are in competition with others, not so with Paul - and not so with those of a matured faith. For we are one body, "joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:16 And thus there should be a team spirit among Christians - a spirit of encouragement and appreciation for each doing their part.
But note also that Paul was not thanking the Phillipians. Rather he was thanking God. Why? Because their involvement in the ministry of the gospel was evidence the God was working among them. Conversely if you know of Christians who are not involved in the ministry of the gospel, that's also something to pray about. For in some significant way things are not as they should be in their life. But thank God when you see progress in their ministering.
Php 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Love for fellow Christians is one of the primary characteristics of a Christian. In fact "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." 1John 3:14 "And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1John 4:21 Jesus himself said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
But the actual practice of love can be difficult to grasp. For WHAT in particular do you do? And how can you DISCERN the real needs to be met, and the way in which to meet them? Thus Paul prays this prayer. And so also should we. For applied love is one based upon a proper understanding of the circumstances. It's actions are based upon one's discernment of the real needs and how to properly meet those needs. And God is willing and eager to help us in these areas.
It's one thing to have a feeling of love, but where the rubber meets the road, knowledge and discernment are necessary.
Php 4:6,7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If you feel some anxiety about something, then the Bible instructs us to talk to God asking Him about that matter. Like any good father, God is concerned for the emotional state of his children. And while God may not deliver us from our fears in the way that we thought, He will give us a peace of mind which by the world's standards would seem strange to them given the circumstances. But remember not just to ask and receive, but to give back to God through thanksgiving.
Think now as to what fear or circumstance God has recently delivered you from and give Him thanks for doing so.
Col 1:3,4 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.
A couple of the main identifying marks of genuine believers Paul
1. their public allegiance to Jesus Christ and
2. their love for all the saints.
And by "saints" Paul is referring to the Christian community including themselves as he says in verse 2 "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse")
Furthermore John notes Jesus' main commands saying, "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us." 1John 3:23
Paul would pray for such people constantly. But in particular of note here is that he not only prays FOR them, but also he GIVES THANKS to God for them. For as he noted in 1Cor 3:6,7 "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."
Consider what constitutes "praying always" for a particular Christian group or individual Christian, and how you might apply that idea to a particular group or person you know. And consider also what recently converted Christian you might thank God for.
Col 1:9-12 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it(of their conversion), do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him,Paul was constantly praying for these Christians as he also noted in Col 1:3. But we see an example of the content of his constant prayers for them.
being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might,
according to His glorious power,
for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
giving thanks to the Father
who has qualified us to be partakers of
the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Note that while there is alot of content here, the basic request is really just at the beginning, namely that they "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Everything following that is an effect or purpose for which he desires them to have such knowledge. Knowledge alone puffs up one's pride as he says in 1Cor 8:1 "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." Thus the attaining of knowledge should be for the purpose of edification.
Now consider this the other way around. Paul was thinking how they might live a lifestyle pleasing to God as Christians should live. What constitutes a lifestyle pleasing to God?
1. One which is fruitful in every good work, which requires one has knowledge as to what constitutes a "good work" and wisdom as to how to apply oneself in doing the good work.Note that it's these kind of things that Paul is primarily concerned about. So consider how you might pray for these particular things in the lives of yourself and other Christians.
2. Being a Christian of strong conviction as revealed in one's longsuffering through opposition, which requires the conviction as to what God's will is.
3. Being thankful in light of the inheritance, which requires a revelation of the eternal implications of the gospel.
Col 4:2-4 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Perhaps one of the most challenging and frustrating issues among practicing Christians is finding an open door for the word. We know that "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Rom 10:17 But how to get the essential message out so that people may have an opportunity to believe? For "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"Rom 10:14 And this because particularly difficult in countries which place heavy restrictions on the communication of the gospel.
So whether it be for your own opportunity or for that of Christians elsewhere, pray that God would open a door for the word. And pray not only concerning "opportunity", but also for the openness of those listening, like it says concerning Lydia in Acts 16:14 "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message."
Consider who to pray for concerning this matter and pray now.
Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Paul recalls of the Thessalonians among other things their "work of faith and labor of love" 1Thess 1:3 Work is a product of faith. But labor is more than mere work. It speaks of the intensity of one's work. (Women going into labor is a much more intense idea than men going into work!) Labor, or "laboring fervently" here, speaks of one's love. May all our prayers be characterized in such a manner.
For these Colossians "to stand perfect (mature) and complete in all the will of God" while being the summary or primary objective of Epaphras' request, in fact the particulars of his prayers were probably too extensive to elaborate upon. Nonetheless it is instructive to keep this objective in mind whether praying for your own edification or that of others.
1Thess 1:2,3 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father
God is involved in the process of bringing Christians to maturity.
while Paul "planted the seed, and Apollos
it, God made it grow." 1Cor 3:6 And Jesus taught
|This is what the kingdom is like
A man scattered seed. Then day and night
Whether he sleeps or wakes the seeds sprout and grow
How does this happen? He doesn't know
All by itself grain is produced
But how that can be he can't deduce.
It grows to a stalk, then head and kernel
All by itself by something internal
As soon as the grain is ripe he reaps
Though much of the work had been done while he sleeps
So lets not take credit for more than our share
For God does most of the work. That is clear.
But also this means there's not much that you need
God causes growth if you just plant the seed
Therefore let us thank God for visible results of Christian maturity. But what are some identifying marks to look for?
1. works of faith - Are there things the person is doing solely because of their faith?
2. labors of love - Is there something exceptional about the intensity of their works of faith?
3. patience of hope - Is there visible evidence that they have set their hopes not on this life, but on that which is to come. Evidence such as patience in the midst of the trials of life - a contentment, lack of envy or greed which in contrast to that of the society at large?
If these are visible in yourself or other Christians, then give thanks now to God for the work He has accomplished.
1Thess 3:10,11 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
Despite the fact that Paul praised God for the outward evidence of the progress the Thessalonians were exhibiting in the application of their faith, hope and love, Paul recognized there was still yet something lacking.
We note here that he simply doesn't just pray about what he finds lacking. Rather he feels it necessary to have a face to face encounter with them in order to meet their need.
Have you felt that there are other Christians around you that have something lacking in their faith? Pray for them now. But also in your prayers consider how they may benefit from a Christian mentor relationship - or perhaps even from just some basic Christian fellowship.
Now consider also praying that God may prepare you to perhaps in some way meet the very need that you find lacking.
1Thess 3:12,13 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
The greatest measure of Christian maturity is by their love for fellow Christians. In fact this is the primary distinguishing characteristic of the "sheep" of the Matt 25:31-46 judgment.
While salvation is by faith, the primary indicator of saving faith, as well as Jesus' primary commandment, is love for fellow Christians.
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers." 1John 3:14Therefore our feeling of confidence concerning that day should be largely a function of our love.
"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us." 1John 3:23
1John 4:16b-18 Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.So pray for yourself and other Christians now, that you not only love one another, but that you increase and abound in such love.
1Thess 5:23-25 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us.
Blamelessness and sanctification are associated with the Christian's behaivor.
1Th 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless
1Thess 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality
Php 2:14,15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world
2Thess 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other.
A growing faith and an abounding love towards fellow Christians - these are primary things to thank God for as you think about the state of the Christian community.
There are aspects of faith whereby either you have it or you don't. But there are also aspects of faith which are a matter of degree and with respect to which one can mature. We read of Abraham's faith which Paul speaks of as a model of the Christian's faith in saying, "he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." Rom 4:20,21 And the context has to do with the application of his faith in God's promise despite the circumstances. No doubt this is how Paul evaluated the growing faith of the Thessalonians, namely through their increasingly bold application of the Word of God despite the circumstances.
There is a natural love that Christians have for one another, being of a common family and having a common destiny, but love is also a matter of degree, a matter of maturity. And no doubt again that Paul evaluated the state of their love by its application. In fact their love was so evident that Paul writes, "But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more." 1Thess 4:9,10 Imagine that! The love of the brethren coming so natural to them that they need not be taught on the matter.
Now consider what group of Christians you might thank God for whose faith grows exceedingly and whose love for one another abounds.
2Thess 1:11,12 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The work of faith Paul is alluding to was mentioned in 1Th 1:3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father. Thus the NIV renders 2Thess 1:11 more precisely as saying "... and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." (NIV)And what are some characteristics of a worthy walk?
Eph 4:1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.Now consider a Christian you know, or perhaps yourself, who is involved in a work which was prompted by faith, and pray that God may fulfill the intended purpose. Pray also that they may live a life appropriate in view of the calling for which we were called, having behaviors and attitudes consistent with our faith, purpose and destiny.
2Thess 2:13 we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth
Today thank God that he has chosen you to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. And by "salvation" Paul is not just referring to the forgiveness of sins, which is through faith in Christ. It is by the forgiveness of sins that we are justified. But what is it to be justified if we are not also saved from our innate sinfulness? Thus is the salvation God has provided through the sanctification of the Spirit that we are being saved from our innate sinfulness, to be perfected and sinless in God's presence for all eternity. Thus we thank God for the method of his salvation, which is in contrast to that of ritual and legalism, and which provides us complete salvation both from the guilt of sin and from sin itself, freely and inevitably. And thus our destiny is secured upon the finished work of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
"Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24,25
2Thess 2:16,17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
These concepts - having encouraged hearts and being established in the faith, both in word and in works - are the kinds of things the apostle Paul considered of high priority in his prayers. But not only in his prayers, but in his actions. For notice in many places the kind of actions he takes in order to secure these objectives.
Like in his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul says he "sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith" 1Thess 3:2 And so also in Ephesians he speaks of sending Tychicus, "whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts." Eph 6:22 Col 4:8 And again sending Tychicus to the Colossains sayingl, "I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts" And so also Paul sends himself saying "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established——" Rom 1:11
So here we have two applications:
1. Pray for your fellow Christians that they be encouraged in the faith and established in every good word and work in their Christian walk.
2. When you meet with fellow Christians, consider how you might encourage them and establish them in the faith. Or else pray that God sends one who can do so.
2Thess 3:1,2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
Here's an excellent prayer when praying for missionaries - if not for all of us in the ministry of the Word. Pray
1. that the word of God spreads quickly and is honored or affirmed.Not everyone you may desire to see saved has the faith to listen. While we all desire the word of the Lord to spread quickly and bear fruit, realize that envy will drive unreasonable and wicked men to zealously react against such spread of the gospel. So these two things go hand in hand in our prayers - to pray for the word to spread swiftly, and to protect the messengers from unreasonable and wicked men. Pray now along these lines for a missionary you know.
2. And that the hand of the Lord might be with the messengers to be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.
2Thess 3:5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
This is a prayer for guidance. But normally you would think guidance as dealing with the realm of ideas or circumstances. Here guidance is requested with respect to one's heart, the realm of the desires. The attitudes of the heart are arguably the most significant area in the Christian life. And thus it says in Pr 4:23 "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." And so the Psalmist prays, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Ps 86:11 And it says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." Ps 37:4, which could be taken to mean that the Lord places desires on your heart when you delight in Him.
Now in particular the desires Paul sought for them was an attitude of love, such as God has. And also an attitude of long-suffering or endurance as Christ demonstrated. "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." Heb 12:3
Now pray that God may affect the desires of your heart, such that you have on your heart the things which God has on his. And pray that those desires endure though all the discouragements of life and bring forth applications which will stand the test of time.
2Thess 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.
"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom 5:1 So one type of peace we have is an ending of hostility between us and God. But this also leads to another type of peace. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 Sin having been forgiven, and one's conscience cleared, Christians can experience a real peace of mind which the world can only feign.
And in addition there is peace with one another within the Christian community, being of a common family - indeed, of one body - and have a common destiny, there is no basis for envy, as each is looking out for the other; each seeking to edify the other; each looking to make the other fruitful, this being the perspective of the mature in faith. Though indeed there is conflict in the Christian community brought about by the immature, such as denominational obsession over issues of eating and drinking and the celebration of religious days. But "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Rom 14:17-19
Now pray that your local fellowship of Christians grow in their experience of peace with God; and in their experience of a peace of mind; and in their experience of peace in their relationship with other Christians. And "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Rom 12:18
1Tim 2:1-4 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God desires all to be saved. And how can they be saved but by coming to the knowledge of the truth. And how are they going to get the knowledge of the truth? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" Rom 10:14,15 But much of the world, both then and now, has been hostile to the public proclamation of the gospel.
So pray for those in authority around the world - that they may allow Christians to live the Christian life - proclaiming the gospel; calling sin for what it is; and living godly lives free from persecution. Pray especially for Islamic countries where it is illegal to preach the gospel, and conversion is punishable by death. It is written "The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." Pr 21:1 Pray that God may do so with regards to regimes hostile to the practice of Biblical Christianity. And give thanks where you see authority figures practicing justice, righteousness and love, and ways in which they are providing for the freedom of Christians to live the Christian life.
"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Jer 29:7
1Tim 2:8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
Here's a general principle of prayer worthy of note: When you pray, don't be angry with God. Paul notes of the people of Israel who in the exodus grumbled against God. "Do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel." 1Cor 10:10 They complained about food and water - and so God gave it to them. But because their attitude, God also sent them death. So in our prayers let us make known our needs and our requests, but let us not do so questioning God's goodness, righteousness, holiness or his judicial nature. For while God has willed that the fulfillment of certain legitimate needs are contingent upon our prayers, he has not ordained such out of neglect or a sense of reluctance, but rather to show that he values our relationship with him; and even a partner with him in his ministry.
2Tim 2:7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Understanding the Bible is progressive. As a person matures through applying the Word, he gains more understanding of it. So for example after speaking on his goal in life, Paul says, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." Php 3:15 While there are Christians who think differently on certain matters, true unity is a function of spiritual maturity. But let us not overlook what Paul is saying here in 2Tim 2:7 when he says, "may". Indeed maturity and understanding can be catalyzed by prayer.
So pray for yourself and other Christians, that God may give you understanding in all areas relevant to living the Christian life, not neglecting also to consider what the Bible says.
2Tim 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
Now here is a prayer that many Christians may find surprising. Yet prayers of retribution are very common in Psalms. For example Psalm 28:3,4 says, "Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve."
But didn't Jesus say to turn the other cheek? And didn't he say, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Mat 5:44,45 But what it is saying is to act in accordance with God's character. Does God always tolerate sin and never bring judgment? In fact God is gracious, for a time. But ultimately there will be accountability. To the wicked it says, "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done." Rom 2:4,5 And it is that future judgment which Paul is alluding to here.
He says to the persecuted Thessalonians, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."2Thess 1:6-9
But while we may anticipate the time when we will be vindicated from our adversaries, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." Rom 12:19
Who has done you much harm and refuses to repent? Free yourself from any feelings of bitterness by praying that the Lord may repay them according to their works.
2Tim 4:16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
Now here in contrast to the previous prayer for retribution, Paul prays for mercy upon those who abandoned him. Why the difference? Well we notice that Jesus forgave Peter even after Peter publically denied him, but Jesus did not forgive Judas. Under pressure Christians unintentionally don't always do the right thing. In fact even Paul, prior to his conversion, characterized himself as, "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man". Yet at the time he felt he was acting in good faith with a clear conscience in the will of God, though he was mistaken. He goes on to say, "I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." 1Tim 1:13 And let us not forget Jesus prayer on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34 Why did he use that qualifier?
There are people who do evil intentionally, knowing what they're doing is evil. Without repentance, there is no mercy available for them, only judgment according to their works. But in the case people act unintentionally or in ignorance, more grace is available for them. And with a little enlightenment to the facts, or perhaps some rebuke, repentance is at hand and thus mercy.
Now consider if you had sinned against someone and if so, repent. But consider also who has sinned against you that you may pray that it not be charged against them on the judgment day.
Phm 1:6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Have you ever noticed how your understanding of every good thing we have in Christ increases after you've been actively sharing your faith? That's been my experience. If you seek understanding, Bible study along only goes so far. But by sharing your faith not only will others benefit, but your study of the Word will become richer and fuller. You will gain further revelation of its meaning and application and grow in the depth of your convictions, not to mention also that through the experience you will be become more adept at sharing your faith and expressing your convictions.
I pray that God may prompt you to share your faith, providing opportunities to do so both among fellow Christians and with non-Christians. May he give you an alertness to such opportunities and plant something in your mind and on your heart to share to the edification of the listener. And pray likewise for yourself and your local body of believers.
Heb 13:20,21 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
For many us it seems it would practically take something akin to a resurrection from the dead for us to portray competence, not to mention perfection, in every good work. But in view of Christ's resurrection from the dead, God is quite capable of actualizing that outcome. But lets us not neglect to pray to that end. Maybe you have noticed some fellow believer, perhaps even a spouse, whose attempts at doing good works you find to fall short in some aspects. Pray that God may work in them what his pleasing in his sight to the end that they would be perfected in every good work they do. If you don't pray, it may not happen. For what is implied in the prayer here, as also in many of these prayers, is that God has ordained that his actions in these matters are to be partly contingent upon you praying.
This living hope, this anticipation of going
to heaven, receiving our inheritance, should be so evident in our lives
that it would invoke others to ask us about it. Thus Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
1Peter 3:15b Furthermore
inherent in saving faith is the sense of eternal security. For God
shields the elect by His power such that their inheritance is
guaranteed. In fact those who don't have this security
characteristically doubt whether in fact they will be ultimately saved,
and thus don't generally have the kind of hope expressed here.
Granted that only those who endure to the end will
be saved, but enduring to the end, the perseverance of the saints, is
part of the whole salvation package one receives, having been born
again. Endurance in faith is part of the new nature. Thus verses which
correlate behavior and salvation are not about losing salvation but
rather about diagnosing whether one has it to begin with. "For everyone born of God overcomes the
world" 1John 5:4
1Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
For those with the perspective that the end of all things is at hand, many things are perceived as not so important and not so serious. For example the world considers having a family to be very important, yet Paul says, "those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:29-31 So also Jesus says, "do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Mat 6:31,32 These are small things - minor issues.
Therefore if you take seriously the idea that the end of all things is at hand, consider what kinds of things you should seriously pray about? For what should you seriously be watchful in your prayers? Pray not only for that which is temporal, but much more for that which is eternal.
1Peter 5:10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Now pray for someone who is suffering, that God may develop in them a spirit of endurance, being strengthened with conviction in some area of their life, being brought to completeness in their Christian character, well-founded upon the Word of God. And look for visible results of the answer to your prayer.
1John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
As noted previously concerning Isaiah 59:1-2, God listening to us is much a function of coming to Him on His terms - namely forsaking sin, the converse of which is keeping his commandments and doing things that are pleasing in his sight. But let us not have the viewpoint that we do what he wants in order to get what we want. Rather the idea is that the content of our requests should be in relation to doing what he wants.
Thus in the midst of carrying out his commands and living a lifestyle pleasing to him, you'll find it necessary to make requests of God in order to accomplish those objectives. What John has uncovered here is that God is faithful in answering such prayers.
Consider a command God has given you in the Bible, or consider what constitutes a life which pleases him, and make a specific request for something you find lacking but necessary to accomplish that goal.
1John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.
That is, if you notice a Christian sinning, and that Christian is open to correction, then pray for them. The promise here is that God will act upon your prayer and deal with the situation. The sin unto death is a condition in which the "Christian" so strongly resists correction as to attribute the working of the Holy Spirit to the devil. That is, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Heb 6:4,6 In fact "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: A dog returns to its vomit, and, A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." 2Peter 2:21-22
Now the content of your prayer may be anything from asking for a gentle correction as in Gal 6:1 "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently", to Paul's request concerning a sinning Christians in 1Cor 5:5 "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It seems to largely depend on how compliant the person is to correction and how gross the sin.
Now consider a Christian whom you notice is sinning, and pray for them along these lines.
3John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
Here's a prayer you can simply cut and paste into your next email to a friend. If they are doing well spiritually, then pray also that they may prosper in other areas life.
Rev 8:3,4 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.
It also mentions in Rev 5:8 that the "golden bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints." So also David prayed, "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." Ps 141:2
While there is much stench which comes from the world, our prayers give God pleasure. How are our prayers viewed in heaven? An angel approached a man who would become the first Gentile Christian and said to him, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." Acts 10:4 Such is the destiny of our prayers.
Mt 5:44,45 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 And "if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Rom 5:10 But realize also that most of God's enemies never come to appreciate God's love, and that the manner in which he demonstrated His love is not something that most of God's enemies recognize as love. So also in the Christian life. Love your enemies, but don't expect them to appreciate your acts of love. In fact, just like with God's love, a Christian's love for his enemies is often viewed as hatred by them.
Concerning those who persecute you, remember that the apostle Paul formerly persecuted the church. But later he came to believe. So pray for your persecutors that "they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."2Tim 2:26
In fact Paul himself gives us an example of praying for those who persecute you in the very first prayer we started off in this series Rom 10:1 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."
Mt 6:5,6 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Jesus is not discouraging corporate prayer, but rather is discouraging an attitude of praying for the sake of making a show of oneself. Nonetheless this idea of private prayer makes the point. Do you pray in private as enthusiastically as you pray in public? If not, why not? In fact more generally one may evaluate their own motives for doing any activity in the Christian life by comparing one's public behavior to one's private behavior.
Of the religious elite of Jesus day he says, "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" Mat 23:5-7
So in preparation for the judgment day remember, "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11
Mt 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.
Some religions today exercise mindless chanting. Likewise there are denominations which advocating repetitiously praying so many “Our Father”s and so many “Hail Mary”s, which is directly in conflict with what Jesus teaches here. Pray thoughtfully. Words are only relevant in so much as they have meaning. Don’t use them like magical incantations.
"This, then, is how you should pray:
Praise & Submission
Acknowledge His PositionSupplication
"‘Our Father in heaven,
Acknowledge His Holiness -
His contempt of the presense of sin
hallowed be your name,
Acknowledge His Lordship (It's a kingdom, not a democracy)
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Ask for necessary provisionsThis is a good example showing many of the elements of prayer. But in light of the verses which immediately precede this prayer (Matt 6:7 - about not babbling), many Christians miss the lesson here. For these verses are often misused as a sort of mindless chant. It's the meaning which is important to God. If you're not praying things which you mean, then you're not praying.
Give us today our daily bread.
Deal with Sin
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ‘
Notice the richness of the structure here. First the prayer acknowledges who God and is and what is our relationship to him. God is our Father, but is also Lord of the kingdom of which we are citizens, and by acknowledging this we are declaring our submission to him, and also doing so in praying this his will be done, as even Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. And we also acknowledge that he is holy and thus hates sin - indicating also our desire to repent of sin.
The request concerning our necessary provisions affirms our dependency upon him. And we need to deal with our sin in his presence, but taking on the same gracious attitude of forgiveness that he has, else we are not really children of God. And lastly we pray against temptations. Thus Jesus also instructed his disciples, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Mt 26:41
Pray though this prayer and consider each element personally.
Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I heard of this parable being taught to some children, and when they were done one prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee ..." Seems she missed the point - as do many of us. For often there may be more of the Pharisee in us than we realize.
Like the tax collector, we remember Peter's first prayer "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Luke 5:8 The Pharisee doesn't seem to have such a sense of the degree of God's holiness. God, while he is gracious and forgiving, seriously hates sin and will not ultimately tolerate it.
Now chose which example of prayer to follow: that of the Pharisee or that of the tax collector.
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
If our prayers are not in subordination to God, then we are being insubordinate. Even Jesus struggled between doing his own will and that of his Father. He furthermore said, "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." John 6:38
"During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." Heb 5:7,8 Prior to his incarnation in human flesh, Jesus never experienced the struggle we have in obeying God. And thus from the things he suffered, he learned the experience of obedience.
Obedience is never really experienced until the one you are in subordination to commands you to do something you don't want.
Consider under what circumstance (perhaps even now) in which you may have to pray as Jesus did, "Not my will, but yours be done."
Just prior to entering the Garden of Gethsemane from which he was taken to judgment, we have a record of Jesus' prayer in John 17. One of the outstanding aspects of his prayer was him speaking of his accomplishments - as if debriefing his Father concerning the mission on which he had been sent. The following is a listing of the accomplishments he mentioned:
John 17:"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1John 2:6 So consider among these, what work God has given you to do; what responsibilities has he laid upon you as his servant and what he expects you to accomplish such that at the end of your life you may say, "I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do.", and that on the judgment day he may say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" Mt 25:21
vs 4 I glorified you on the earth
vs 4 I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do.
vs 6 I revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world.
vs 9 I pray for them.
vs 12 I protected them and kept them safe
vs 14 I have given them your word
vs 18 I have sent them into the world
vs 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me
vs 26 I have made known to them your name
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men." 2Cor 5:10,11a