Good morning and welcome to the fifth and final week of this series called The Power of Prayer. Actually, it’s not really the final week as we will continue being focused on prayer as a church…indefinitely. Because it is through PRAYER that God moves! And we want God to move IN US and THROUGH US to see lives changed!
And let me just say that God has definitely been moving! As you know, I and a team of 20 of us were in Atlanta last week at the Atlanta Dream Center, and let me just say that it was clearly a God-ordained experience!
As you know, I’ve been saying throughout this series that it was not my plan to do a series on prayer, but that God made it clear that we must become a praying church and we must do it right now! – well, one of the reasons for the urgency became clear while we were in Atlanta because everything we did, and everything we heard, and the whole experience was saturated with all kinds of prayer and even the kind of praying we’ve been experimenting with during the weeks prior both in the Sunday morning service and the Agape Feast – we did all the same things in Atlanta and then some, and I am convinced that if we had not listened to God and focused on prayer for the month prior, we would not have been ready for what God had for us down there. It was just mind blowing how seamlessly that trip fit into what God is clearly doing in us right now.
And He’s not finished! I still feel like we are on the buildup to something amazing, like the click-click-click of the roller coaster. I believe God sent us to Atlanta to show us what can happen when a group of people fight every battle with prayer. I saw in Atlanta what Reality is becoming and it was amazing! And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!
But that is not what I’m talking about today. Today I am doing the final official teaching on prayer before moving on to other topics. But before I do that, let me give you a look ahead to what’s coming.
Next week (8/14), we are going to share with you what we did in Atlanta and the impact it had and what we believe God is calling us to do here. You will get to hear from several of the team that went.
The week after that (8/21), we are having church at the KOA after camping out there the night before. It’s going to be a good time!
The week after that (8/28), we are going to be doing a prayer walk and practicing what we’ve been learning. More details to come about that.
The week after that (9/4) I have a special guest speaker.
And the week after that, on September 11th, I will be starting what will likely be a very long series – probably several months – on Revelation and the prophecies of the end of time. It’s a HUGE and FASCINATING topic that will take us through the whole bible. I believe we are not far from those end times, which is why I believe God is compelling me to speak on the topic. And also partly the reason God has been turning us into a praying church….
Because it is a topic that the ENEMY does not want us to know about. Because the easiest people to fool are those that do not know what the lies will look like. And so, in order to even be able to talk about such an important topic – we need to be a praying church. We need to be continually in prayer, doing what we’ve been talking about and especially what I’m going to be talking about today…
Intercession is just a big word that means praying for others.
This is something we need to start getting good at as a church if we hope to truly be able to do what God is calling us to do. As I said, I believe I saw a glimpse of our future in Atlanta, and it is a powerful and amazing one – but it is one that is saturated in prayer – especially INTERCESSORY PRAYER!
So far in this series, we covered the Lord’s Prayer, which is really the Disciples’ Prayer because it was His model for how the disciples are to pray. But that was not the whole sum of ways we communicate with God. Remember that Jesus was modeling how to PROSEUCHOMAI – how to exchange wishes with God. The Disciples’ Prayer is you and I surrendering our will to God and should be the constant prayer of our hearts.
But prayer in the broader scope is more than that. There is also PETITION – asking God for what we need and want. And there is INTERCESSION – petitioning God on behalf of other people, which is something that Jesus himself and several others in the bible emulated.
In fact, intercession is the full-time job of Jesus, even as we speak.
You’ve no doubt heard that when Jesus ascended from the earth that he went to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Stephen saw this, and that’s what got him killed.
But do you know what He is doing there?
Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
The author of Hebrews explains in more words than I’m going to share today how Jesus is the ultimate High Priest – the man who is able to intercede on behalf of the people to God.
1 John 2:1
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
Jesus is our defense attorney. Our advocate. He sits next to the Father making a case for us on a continual basis. Every sin we commit that would otherwise be offensive to God, Jesus stands in the gap so that God only sees the perfection of Christ in us that have our faith in Him as our Lord and King.
It’s really quite amazing to think about!
But that is not the only way that Jesus intercedes for us. He also prayed/petitioned for us while he was on earth. In John 17, Jesus is at the last supper with his disciples. He had already washed their feet and Judas had left to betray him. After some teaching, just before leaving to go to the garden where he would be arrested, Jesus prayed a long prayer. In that prayer, He prayed both for the men he was with and for us who would believe later.
Regarding his disciples, among other things, Jesus prayed..
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Notice that Jesus prayed for their protection, which to our ears probably sounds like he’s asking God to keep them from danger – that is not the case. In the Greek, He is asking the Father to protect them from STRAYING from the truth. To keep them secure in His name and not be deceived.
As we know in hindsight, they would need that kind of protection as they were about to be the leaders of a movement that would change the world, and the world would not like them for it.
But Jesus didn’t stop there. He also prayed for you and me..
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty awesome that Jesus prayed for me. He prayed for you. He prayed for US. And He’s still praying for us – interceding on our account before the Father.
And if you noticed, his major concern for us before He went to the cross is that we be united in Him. That’s one of the things we talk about in our membership course, and why we do some of the things we do. Jesus wanted us to be united, so he INTERCEDED with God the Father on our behalf to that aim.
Now obviously Jesus was the master at this – as He was at all things. And in most of the things He did, He was not only doing it FOR US, but also as a MODEL FOR US to follow. Remember that the whole point of spiritual growth is to become like Jesus. So, as Jesus prayed for others – so should we.
Now obviously, Jesus had a unique relationship with the Father, so our prayers will be slightly different – but as you will see in some of the prayers of Paul, they shouldn’t be THAT different.
The Apostle Paul was arguably the greatest pastor and missionary who ever lived. He had a great heart for the churches he planted and prayed for them often, and we are privileged that he recorded some of those prayers in his letters. These are prayers of INTERCESSION.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul spelled out two prayers he had for them…
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
PAUL KNOWS HOW TO PRAY!
Notice what his prayer was for…
And really that last line sums it up…
…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!
That’s good stuff! I’m telling you, if you just memorized these verses and used them when you’re called on to pray out loud – you’d have people clapping! (Where do you think us preachers get our material??)
But seriously, those are some powerful prayers. How would you like someone praying that for you? Doesn’t that sound better than someone just praying for your health?
But wait, there’s more!
Paul has another good one in his letter to the Colossians…
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Wow, again, powerful. And some of the same themes.
- Knowledge of God’s Will,
– and here he includes a reason
…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way….
And here’s another one of Paul’s to the church in Thessolonica…
2 Thessalonians 1
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again we see the request for God to make you worthy of his calling…
Then he says what that looks like…this is good…
that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
What does that mean?
Paul is praying to God to give you
and the power
TO DO HIS WILL.
…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!
…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way!
…so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you!
My friends, this is what we are to pray to God for each other. Not that praying for healing and health and safety and provision and things like that are wrong, but those things of far less importance than the knowledge and understanding of God’s Will.
In other words, our primary prayer for others – and even ourselves – should be focused on our relationship with God rather than our temporal and physical needs.
Because, as Jesus taught – if we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first and foremost – all those other things we need will be given to us as well.
Here’s another way to look at it…
We all know the famous proverb…
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
It’s a beautiful proverb that basically sums up kingdom living – but what do we often spend most of our prayers on? We ask God to make our paths straight.
To get us that job, or heal us of our illnesses, or get us through the end of the month, to help us pass the test.
We spend all of our time praying that our paths will be straight, when what we should really be praying for and what Paul prayed for is that God would help us to trust Him more and submit our ways to Him – Which will result in our paths being straight!
Our heavenly Father will take care of everything else as we seek HIM with all of our hearts.
This is something we should do for ourselves and for others. We absolutely should ask God to help our loved ones trust Him more, and know Him more, and obey Him more.
One because that is the greatest goal that any human can aspire toward,
and TWO because achieving that – knowing and trusting God – comes with all the other temporal things you would have prayed for anyway… and so much more!
And so, as we intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what our primary prayer should be. It’s not that we should ignore the temporal things.
We SHOULD pray for healing, and provision, and direction and things like that – but if that is ALL we are praying for, then we are missing the big picture and we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t really see results.
Instead, as we pray for each other – pull out the prayers of Paul and just pray them with a name in mind. Let us pray for each other to know and understand God, to trust in the Lord and submit to Him, to seek first His kingdom and righteousness – and then marvel at how those temporal things just seem to take care of themselves.
I’ve included the specific scriptures where these prayers are found in the notes on the back of the bulletin. I hope you will take them home and use them. Your prayer life will never be the same.
That’s how we pray for each other as believers. But there is another group of people that we are commanded to pray for – to intercede for…
1 Timothy 2
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
This short passage is packed with a good deal of things to study, but the one I want to point out here is that Paul is telling us to pray for, to petition for, to intercede for, – for ALL PEOPLE – for KINGS and those in AUTHORITY.
At first glance it would seem that Paul is saying to pray for the purpose of having peaceful and quiet lives, but that’s not what he’s saying to pray for. That’s what the result would be if the real prayer was answered. What we’re supposed to pray for is that GOD’S WILL BE DONE, and God’s Will is that ALL PEOPLE BE SAVED AND COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.
Paul is telling us to pray for the lost to come to faith, and especially Kings and those in authority, which will result in having peaceful and quiet lives in all GODLINESS and HOLINESS (not possible with lost people and especially lost kings and authority).
In other words, if you really want to help people – pray that they come to faith in Christ, who is our one mediator, who gave himself as a ransom for us.
We should be in constant prayer for lost people to be found.
Because here’s a little secret…
A person’s salvation is more a result of prayer than of direct evangelism.
Not that we shouldn’t tell people about Jesus. We should. We ARE COMMANDED TO go and make disciples and be witnesses for Christ…But Scripture is also clear that it does not matter what we say or do if a person’s heart has not been enabled to hear and accept the truth.
This understanding comes from Jesus himself.
John 6 records the miracle when Jesus fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. When that was done, Jesus went to a mountain to pray and then later that night walked on the water out to his disciples in the boat. The next morning when the crowd noticed Jesus was gone, they went searching for him and found him on the other side of the water.
Jesus knew that their interest in him was not for who he was, but for what he could do for them, so he gave them a very hard teaching that resulted in many of them leaving. And within that teaching He makes a very profound statement that has had theologians debating ever since.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
And then he repeats himself a little while later.
This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.
In other words. You cannot believe in Jesus on your own. God the Father must enable you to believe, which He does that through the Holy Spirit.
That goes for each one of us. I cannot boast that I was smart enough to come to the logical conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore I will worship Him. And neither can you. You believe and I believe first and foremost because God enabled us and drew us to himself.
God initiates salvation, not us. But sometimes he allows us to participate in the process for others.
So, what does that mean? It means that if you want someone to come to faith – the best thing you can do is pray that God will draw them and enable them to believe. Then ask God if He wants your help.
He may or He may not. He may want you to talk to them, or He may just want you to keep praying.
If He is not telling you to do anything, and you get tired of waiting and decide you need to go do some evangelizing anyway – don’t be surprised when your efforts are about as fruitful as a cold-calling telemarketer.
God is the initiator of salvation – not us. If you want to bring people to faith in Christ – you must first realize it’s not you doing the bringing. It’s God. If He wants your help, He will let you know. Our primary role is to pray for God to open hearts, and be ready to act when He calls us to move.
Many times He will use us to speak to someone. But sometimes He just takes matters into his own hands. Like the story you are about to hear from a very special guest we have with us today.
His name is Gus Cabrera – older brother to Steven Cabrera, and God has done a mighty work in his life as the result of intercessory prayer. But I’ll let him tell you about it.
Let’s give a warm Reality welcome…
What a story!
Thank God for praying mothers! I know I have one.
Did you notice the divine intervention in his story? That doesn’t happen without prayer.
One lesson to take from that is to never give up! His mother never gave up on him, but it took years.