Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prayer (8/30/08)

Col.4:12 - “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” The Greek word translated as “wrestling” here is AGONIZOMAI and it literally means “to enter a contest, to contend in the gymnastic games, to contend with adversaries, to fight, to contend and struggle with difficulties and dangers, to endeavor with strenuous zeal, to strive and to obtain something.” This is the root from which we get the english words agony and agonize. Wrestling in prayer entails fighting a battle actively on my knees, engaging both God and Satan in the process, going before God and asking for His blessing and power in the area I’m praying for and simultaneously taking a stand in prayer for those entrusted to me, actively fighting Satan on their behalf. James 5:16 describes this saying, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” That translation misses something though. Effective in the Greek (ENERGEO) is not and adjective but a verb (the root from which we get the English word energy) meaning “to be operative, at work, and to effect putting forth power.” James 5:16 is not saying that prayer can be effective (and thus implying it also can be weak if not fervent enough), it is saying that whenever we pray we are powerfully affecting change everywhere around us. Prayer is not passive, prayer = action. The passage continues describing Elijah’s powerful prayer life but reminds us he was man just like us who exerted power through prayer. There is no such thing as weak prayer, just weak men who don’t pray much. It was with a conviction of this responsibility for us generally as believers and specifically as ministers, that the Church leaders said in Acts 6:4, we “will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Prayer is not a part of the ministry that God has called us to, it is the foundation for this work; it is where the battles are fought and the war is won. Samuel realized this saying, in 1 Sam.12:23, “far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” He understood that failing to pray for the flock entrusted to him was a sin and because of that conviction he was faithful to pray for Israel. That was Epaphras’ mindset also and he was always wrestling for them in prayer - he never gave up, but was faithful to pray continually (1 Thes.5:7), with such fervency that the only way to describe it was wrestling, fighting and agonizing in prayer. Our productivity and efficiency focussed culture misses the boat in this area as most pastors, ministers and leaders neglect to make prayer the preeminent aspect of their work, and the foundation for the more visible components of their ministries. We say, “prayer is not a part of the ministry but the foundation for it,” and the old adage goes, “first talk to God about people and then talk to people about God,” but we rarely make these wise truths ministry realities. Andrew Murray rightly articulated this point writing, “do you not realize that time is needed, much time in fellowship with the Father and the Son if you would experience the power of God within you.” Jesus, knowing and believing this, spent hours of time alone with His father every day in prayer before any of His ministry obligations; that was the context of and foundation for His ministry and it should be no different for me. With all that in mind though, the object of prayer is not the point of prayer, the fellowship with God is. When I pray I powerfully effect change in every life, situation and area I pray for but that is not the reason I pray nor the primary goal of prayer; when I pray I enjoy intimate fellowship with my savior and that should be the primary motivation for prayer. It is that fellowship with God in prayer that results in the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil.4:6-7). C.S Lewis put it this way, “Emotional intensity is in itself no proof for spiritual depth. If we pray in terror we shall pray earnestly, it only proves that terror is an earnest emotion. Only God Himself can let the bucket down to the depths in us…Now the disquieting thing is not simply that we skimp and begrudge the duty of prayer. The really disquieting thing is it should have to be numbered among duties at all. For we believe that we were created ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ And if the few, the very few, minutes we now spend in discourse with God are a burden to us rather than a delight, what then?” God, give me a greater heart to fellowship with you in prayer continually and so powerfully effect everyone and everything around me.

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