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Praying With Paul – #6

Posted on by Bill Mann

A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at King’s Grace Fellowship.

Let me start out with a short review of this teaching series.  Paul was grateful for the tangible growth he saw in people, and he wanted them to continue to grow.  So, his prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 was that they would live a life worthy of the calling they had received fromGod.  Paul shows an incredible heart for people as he prays for people which is a wonderful example for us to follow.

Praying For Others

The thing I notice about Paul is his incredible love for people. One can hear it in the language he chooses to use. We have all heard people jokingly say things like, “I love the church, I just can’t stand the people.” (probably not a real joke) For me, the church is people. We are not called to love a building, Church programs, outreaches, and every other kind of activity that a church could come up with. But we are called to love people.

The whole idea of a pastor’s pulpit ministry should be designed to help people. To rebuke them as or if needed, encourage them when necessary, and challenge them always. One author said it like this:

Sermons and programs and leaders are not ends in themselves; properly understood, they are designed to serve the people of God.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 46.

Some may ask, “Shouldn’t we serve God rather than man? Well yes of course, but serving people is a way of serving God to a degree. As Christians, we are not merely humanitarians. Our serving people must never be thought as the ultimate goal nor should we suppose that it is exactly the same thing as serving God. Jesus had thoughts on this.

Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)
37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus does not suggest that the two commands are identical, rather he lists these commands and sets them out in terms of their relative priorities, first and second. Carson says:

Having recognized the danger of identifying humanitarian concerns with elemental Christianity, we must squarely face the opposing danger. That is the danger of claiming high intimacy with God while fostering no intimacy with people; of testifying to deep love for Christ, while nurturing all kinds of petty jealousies and rivalries.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 47

1 John 4:19–21 (NIV)
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

A couple more quotes from D.A. Carson:

When we live up to our calling, we remember that in God’s church people do not set the agenda; they are the agenda.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 47.

Our allegiance to God and His gospel will be demonstrated in our service to people and of course to those who will become His people.

Christians must be constantly asking what is best for the people of God. Our allegiance to Jesus Christ, our confession of him as Lord, entails a profound commitment to further his interests—and it does not take much reading of Scripture to perceive that his interests are tied to the well-being of his people.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 47–48.

The thing I want you to take away from this teaching is the importance of lifting others up before the throne. We are a kingdom of priest unto God. This is part of the “work of the ministry”, to intercede for people. An interesting characteristic of Paul’s prayers is the large space devoted to praying for others. To be sure Paul prayed for other things (praise & thanksgiving are parts of prayer) but this study’s focus, as was Paul’s focus, is on the intercession he did on behalf of other. He sought their good and not his only.

List Of Paul’s Prayers

At this point I want to give you a list of Paul’s prayers. (This list may not be exhaustive, but it’s a great start.) When reading these prayers, one should take time to slowly go through them. Think through them, vocalize them quietly if it will help you to slow done while reading them. Also, for extended study, read through them in one sitting. It is always helpful because it helps one to focus on the content and thrust of Paul’s praying.

By following Paul’s heart and focus of prayer, we will not miss the important work of praying biblically for others. If we learn to pray with Paul, we will learn to pray for others. A couple things to keep in mind as you pray.

  1. Always Submit To God’s Definition Of What Is Best

We learn what God’s best for people is, as we read and study these biblical prayers.

Just as Scripture must reform our beliefs about God, our dealings with others, our fundamental values, so too must it shape our praying.
As we study Paul’s prayers, we learn how often he prays for people and exactly what it is he asks for people. I’ve always felt this was a good strategy.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 55.

As we study Paul’s prayers, we learn how often he prays for people and exactly what it is he asks for people. I’ve always felt this was a good strategy.

     2. Praying for others demands that we examine our own hearts

How is it possible for us to effectively pray for someone if there is resentment in our hearts towards them? Or if we are embittered towards them? Or if we are indifferent towards them? This is a real barrier to our prayers. God declares in Isaiah that our unconfessed sin will keep us from effective communication with Him and His powerful answers.

Isaiah 59:1–2 (NKJV)
1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

Sins That Cause Prayer Disconnects

This should really scare us . . . putting the proper fear of God back in us. Some of the sins that cause this disconnect could be, but limited to:

  1. Half-hearted religion that offers God second best
  2. Meaningless tears of repentance
  3. Sexual immorality
  4. An absence of the fear of God
  5. The oppression of the poor
  6. A desire to follow worldly examples (Hollywood)

It should be no small wonder that God is not moved by the prayers of people who consistently live like this. Carson says:

. . . what so often cuts us off from effective intercession is sheer bitterness, nurtured resentment, nicely preserved grudges, a desperate want[lack] of forgiveness. This is pitifully common among us, despite the fact that it is the Lord Jesus himself who teaches, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15). More pointedly still . . . he says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 56–57.

If we have experienced anything of the God’s incredible forgiveness, His mercy must become the standard of our own. Paul exhorts us to:

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Remarks:

This study is about learning to pray with Paul. It’s a study about reforming one’s prayer life. To that end, one must always begin with their own heart. Unconfessed sin, nurtured sin, will always be a barrier between God and your prayers.

 Sometimes when we try to clean up relationships that have gone bad, the other party is unwilling. But that is between that party and God; to reform our prayer life you and I must watch our hearts carefully.

How can we intercede for our church if we secretly hold some of its members in contempt?

How can we meaningfully pray for revival if what we want is some abstract blessing called revival and do not particularly care to see people revived?

If we harbor bitterness and resentment, praying is little more than wasted time and effort.

D. A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 58

Let me encourage you before we go any further in this study, to spend adequate time to examine your own heart, honestly and humbly.

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