A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at King’s Grace Fellowship.
Years ago, I was intrigued with how Paul prayed each time I began reading a Pauline epistle. The passion and depth in which he prayed caused me to reevaluate how I prayed for people. My intrigued resulted in a study series of the prayers of Paul.
Since that time, I have read some good resources concerning this subject, finding that I was not alone in my intrigue. So once again I am intrigued by this subject and want to teach a new series on “Praying With Paul.”
By way of introduction, let’s talk about prayer in general for a bit.
“I doubt if there is any Christian who has not sometimes found it difficult to pray. In itself this is neither surprising nor depressing: it is not surprising because we are still passing through with many lessons to learn; it is not depressing because struggling with such matters is part of the way we learn.”
What is both surprising and depressing is that prayerlessness characterizes so much of the church. It is surprising because it is out of step with the Bible, which portrays what Christian living should be; it is depressing because it frequently coexists with abounding Christian activity that somehow seems hollow, frivolous, and superficial.
“Just as God’s Word must reform our theology, our ethics, and our practices, so also must it reform our praying. “
The chief purpose of this study is to think through some of Paul’s prayers, so that we might align our prayer habits with his. I hope to not only teach the rudiments of Paul’s prayers but also how we can adopt Paul’s theology of prayer into their own prayer life.
Lessons From The School Of Prayer
There are primarily two sources from which we can learn to pray. The Bible and mature believers. Although I believe the Bible is the best source, but we can actually observe mature saints as they pray and I find that to be really helpful.
Before we jump into the prayers of Paul, let’s look at what we might learn from mature believers.
#1 – We End Up Not Praying Much Because We Don’t Plan To Pray
We never drift into spiritual life; nor do we coast into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. So that means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray. What that looks like for you will be as individual as you are. Where and when do you pray the most? Is it consistent? Are you distracted or better put, is there a potential of you being distracted?
The truth is this: What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. We can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray our commitment to pray falls flat. This seems to be a huge disconnect for many believers. Some may express it like this, “I believe in prayer, but … I pray so little.” I know, that kind of stings, but it’s always a good sting when it causes me to reconsider somethings I may have forgotten an makes me realign my priorities.
Setting a aside a time to pray is essential to learning the discipline of prayer. Good intentions will always fall away unless there is consistent follow through in planning a prayer time and sticking with it. This all “old” saints know.
Paul’s many references to prayer suggest that he set aside specific times for prayer.
9For God is my witness, . . . that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers
Ephesians 1:15–16 (NKJV)
15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 (NKJV)
2We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . .
This same intentionality is found with Jesus.
Luke 5:16 (NKJV)
16So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
The reason we pray so little is that we do not plan to pray. Wise planning will ensure that we devote ourselves to prayer often, even if for brief periods: it is better to pray often with brevity than rarely but at length. But the worst option is simply not to pray—and that will be the controlling pattern unless we plan to pray. If we intend to change our habits, we must start here.
#2 – Learn To Stay Focused
Anyone who has served the Lord for a while knows there are times when our prayers go something like this:
“Dear Lord, thanks for this new day, I praise you and give honor and glor .… ‘I wonder where I left my car keys?’ [No, no! Back to prayer.] Father, I ask that you will watch over my family—not just in the physical sphere, but in the moral and spiritual dimensions of our lives .… ‘I wonder what’s for breakfast? I can’t forget to get the car washed to … [No, no!] Ok, Lord, I pray that You would give real fruitfulness to that missionary couple we support, whatever their names are, You know .… Wow! I sure glad I remembered that meeting I have at 4 this afternoon.” Or am I the only Christian who has ever had problems with“mental drift”?
- Say your prayers aloud.There are a number of things one can do to stop “mental drift”. I think that one of the most useful things to do is to vocalize your prayers. (say your prayers out loud) This doesn’t mean they have to be so loud that they become a distraction to others, or worse, a kind of spiritual showing off. It simply means that you say your prayers out loud your thoughts in words and sentences will order and discipline your mind to help prevent “mental drift.”
- Another thing you can do is pray over the Scriptures.Christians just setting out on the path of prayer sometimes pray for everything they can think of, glance at their watches, and discover they have been at it for all of three or four minutes. This experience sometimes generates feelings of defeat, discouragement, even despair. A great way to begin to overcome this problem is to pray through various biblical passages. If you have a Bible reading plan, then pay close attention to what is read then pray the appropriate things back to God. You could also look at Biblical prayers and pray them for people. (What this study is about concerning Paul’s prayers.)
- Still another way to avoid “mental drift” is to incorporate a journal into your reading.Here’s something you may not know about journaling.
The Puritans often used them [journals] to record their experiences with God, their thoughts and prayers, their triumphs and failures. Yes, Foursquare, Pastor Gordon, Wayne Cordeiro . . . did not invent Journaling . . . it’s all been done before. All to minimize “mental drift” and help people learn to pray consistently and effectively.
There’s a lot of good that comes from journaling:
- It makes you slow down.This is helpful because we are always in a hurry and sometimes just go through the motions of Bible reading and prayer.
- It causes you to look inwardly. There’s an old saying that only the examined life is worth living. If you do not take time to examine your own heart, mind, and conscience from time to time, in the light of God’s Word, and deal with what you find, you will become eventually get bogged down in self-righteousness.
- It ensures a real quiet time. We really need time to withdraw from the break-neck speed of life. I think this will help you to re-evaluate your spiritual direction and your prayer life, and this in turn fosters real self-examination and hopefully the outcome will be spiritual growth. So yeah, I think journaling really helps thwart “mental drift”.
#3 – Develop A Prayer Partner Relationship
At various times in your life developing a prayer partner relationship is a very helpful thing. Of course, care must be taken in choosing a prayer partner. Concerning this D. A. Carson had this to say:
If you are not married, make sure your prayer partner is someone of your own sex. If you are married and choose a prayer partner of the opposite sex, make sure that partner is your spouse. The reason is that real praying is an immensely intimate business—and intimacy in one area frequently leads to intimacy in other areas. There is good evidence that after some of the Kentucky revivals in the last century, there was actually an increase in sexual promiscuity.
Of course, this can take on many forms. Prayer times you plan for on a consistent basis. Once a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc. It can also be combined with prayer walking. (as long as you can stay focused on praying) There are no real rules, just some guidelines and your own creativity.
Here are some things to look for in a pray partner:
- Their commitment to praying with you consistently. Set a measurable amount of time to meet. (3 months, for the Summer, 6 months, etc.)
- They should be spiritually healthy, mature believers.The exception to this would be if you are mentoring someone in prayer. (this is one aspect of discipleship)
- They should not be gossips.During WWII the US War Advertising Council coined a phrase on posters that were created by the United States Office Of War Information. It meant that one should beware of unguarded talk. That phrase is “Loose Lips, sinks ships.” Of course, The gist of this particular slogan was that one should avoid speaking of ship movements, as this talk (if directed at or overheard by covert enemy agents) might allow the enemy to intercept and destroy the ships. This is readily applied to information that is passed on in the form of “prayer request” but really, it’s a manipulative way of gossiping. (which we are emphatically command to not do) So look for a “good” prayer partner.
- Let’s not forget that, “We End Up Not Praying Much Because We Don’t Plan To Pray.”
- Then of course, we must “Learn To Stay Focused” when we pray.
- When needed or desired, “Get a Prayer Partner” to help you be consistent or mentor someone else if you’re mature in prayer and Bible reading. (this is discipleship)
Of course, most of us could come up with a list of the beneficial things we can learn from mature believers concerning prayer, but it always helps when someone jogs our memory.
This marks only the beginning of this series on “Praying With Paul.” There is much more to come. Let me conclude with this scripture. “ . . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man [person] avails much.” –James 5:16 (NKJV)