Thursday, 5 December 2013

The power of prayer

I have returned to the topic of prayer and the power of prayer many times and each time I look at it I feel as if I haven't quite discovered it's secret. Here is a short article that sets out to explain how we should pray for the church. I will offer a short comment at the end.

HOW TO PRAY FOR YOUR CHURCH

Did you know there are about 650 prayers recorded in the Bible? This is because prayer is important. Throughout Scripture, God repeatedly invites his people to pray to him in all kinds of circumstances for all kinds of reasons. God especially delights in his people praying for the church.

So how should we pray for our church? Let’s explore several sections of Scripture to see how prayers for the church are modeled in the Bible.

1. Pray for unity in Jesus for the Church
In John 17, Jesus sets the example of what it looks like to pray for the church. And what does he pray for? Unity. Jesus prays that his people “may all be one,” united together in God. From John 17:20–23 and what is known as the High Priestly Prayer:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

2. Pray for God's will within the church. 
In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul displays his heart for the church by praying that the people within the church be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, so that they can live for Jesus. From Colossians 1:9–13:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

3. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in the Church. 
In Ephesians 1 and 3, the Apostle Paul prays that God the Father would give the Spirit of God to the people within the church.  He prays that God would strengthen them in the Spirit, so that Jesus dwells in their hearts and they are rooted in the love of Christ. Here’s Ephesians 1:16–20:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.

And Ephesians 3:14–19:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

4. Pray for the fruitfulness of the Church. 
In 2 Thessalonians 1, the Apostle Paul prays for a church that is growing in faith and love while enduring persecutions. He wants them to know that Jesus will one day return to earth and that, until that day comes, it is very important for the church to be faithful and fruitful, working diligently to provide for their families and help expand God’s kingdom. Here’s 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 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.

Let us be encouraged that our God invites us to call upon him in prayer at all times for our church.

Bubba Jennings is the lead pastor of Mars Hill Federal Way.

Comment.
First, the above are random texts in the sense that they don't form one continuous argument that teaches us that prayer is central to Church growth. It is important and part of the picture but isolating it from everything else gives the (false) impression that all you need to do to grow a church is pray>

Second, we read THAT Paul etc prayed and encouraged prayer, but none of the texts actually tell us HOW to pray. I get the impression that prayer was something natural to Paul and the apostles and something they did, but I am no clearer about the sort of prayer that was offered. Was it request-based, was it as part of the Jewish daily prayer pattern? As with many such passages as above the author perhaps is seeing the passages through the lens of his own particular way of praying. However I am not convinced that his was the New Testament's or Paul's.

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