Throughout May, our Sunday morning messages are about prayer. Various aspects of prayer. We have considered the aspect of how often we should pray and how we should pray. We will consider for whom we should pray will be the aspect. Today, we will consider for what we should pray.
I might mention that I looked up today’s aspect on the internet and was amazed by how many sites there are on the topic of what we should pray for.
For instance, on just one of the sites the list included - and by the way, we are not going to consider all of these in this message - but the list included that we should pray that God’s name will be exalted in the world, that God’s kingdom will be expanded in the world, and that those who are persecuted because of their Christian faith will be vindicated. We should pray for wisdom, encouragement, knowledge, and hope. We should pray that we will have opportunities to do good works and that we will take advantage of the opportunities.
I guess I mention that one list - and again, there are many other lists - but I mention that one list to remind us there are a lot of things for which we can and should pray. I guess I mention that to remind us - including me - we should never wonder how we can possibly fill more than a few minutes of prayer time. Again, there is a lot for which we can and should pray.
Including the things that are going to be discussed in this message. Just so you will know, the list we will talk about has on it, concerning others, that others will be saved, that toward that end, more and more ministers will be sent out, and that the Gospel of Jesus will continue to be told with boldness. Concerning ourselves, that our daily needs will be met, and not only physical needs, but that we will also have strength and endurance spiritually, and that we will have discernment, knowledge, and greater faith. Concerning us as a congregation, that we will have unity, harmony, and success.
There are a lot of Bible verses that go along with praying for others, for ourselves, and for our congregation, which are the things on the list just mentioned. And again, I mention all these things as a reminder that we should be able to think of things to pray for.
So let’s begin by talking about praying for the spiritual condition of others. The first Bible verse for that category comes is Romans 10:1, where the apostle Paul wrote about one of his prayers.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire...” That is how much he wanted what he was praying for. But he did not just want or desire this. He prayed to God for it. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [for others, in this particular passage, especially his fellow Jews] is that they may be saved.”
In fact, being saved is what Paul wanted for all people. And yes, he was often critical about how various people lived their lives, especially spiritually. He always seemed willing to be free to criticize people who were not living righteously. But he did that always for the purpose of drawing them away from their sins and to the Lord. And again, he did not only hope that others would be saved. He prayed to God that others would be saved.
And think of this. Neither did Paul rely on his own ministry alone for that to happen. Instead, he prayed that other Christians would join him in drawing others to the Lord. The fact that he prayed for other ministers to step up is at least implied in a couple verses later in Romans 10 - verses 14 and 15. Paul asked, “How are they to call on Jesus [how are they to turn to Him if they do not believe in Him], and how are they to believe in Him if they have never heard of Him, and how are they to hear of Him without a preacher to tell them about Him, and how can men preach unless they are sent?”
Paul prayed for what we can and should pray for. We, like him, are to pray that others will be saved. We, like him, are to pray for more and more preachers - credentialed or not - to tell others about Jesus so they can hear about Him and be drawn closer to Him, all the way to accepting Him as the Savior He is, thereby being saved.
Concerning Paul’s implied prayer for other ministers, that was definitely a spoken prayer request of Jesus Himself. In Matthew 9:38, Jesus, after a time of seeing great crowds of people, so many of them needing salvation, said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Jesus then asked His disciples to pray that laborers would be sent into the harvest.
And one more passage for this. Ephesians 6:19. In that verse and the one before it, Paul wrote some instructions about how to pray. We are to pray at all times, praying in the Spirit. We are to keep alert when we pray. Including our prayers for fellow Christian saints.
And - this is in verse 19 - Paul asked for prayers for himself. He wanted prayers that he would continue to be bold in his preaching for the Lord.
That verse from Ephesians 6 was mentioned a couple weeks ago. Remember one of the things mentioned in that message? The suggestion that when Paul asked for prayers for his own ministry, we might be able to apply that to a request for all other ministers? Including the ministers we have right here at Fellowship Church? And as it applies to what Jesus said in Matthew 9, for all others sent out into the spiritual harvest.
For what should we pray. Concerning others, let’s pray that others will be saved from their sins. Let’s pray for more and more preachers. And again, not just credentialed preachers like Leonard and Keith and Charles and Rae and me, but for all Christians to have opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus with others. And let’s pray that any who are preachers - that all of us - will be bold in the sharing of our Christian faith.
We are to pray for others. In fact, much of our prayer times can be dedicated to that very thing. However, it is also acceptable to pray for ourselves, which is taught in several other Bible verses. Those verses become the second part of this message.
Of course, one verse that comes to mind right away is one we talked about last Sunday - in the part of that message that reviewed the Lord’s Prayer, recorded in Matthew 6.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” That is the first part of the prayer. Remember the next line? “Give us this day our daily bread.”
As mentioned last week, perhaps there is significance to the words, “this day.” Could that be a reminder that God can be trusted day by day for what we need?
And it is not only food that is needed each day, but other things as well. As the Lord’s Prayer continues, there is a need for forgiveness when we do wrong, and there is a need for protection from temptation. But the teaching is that the things we need personally are valid topics of prayer. And those things extend beyond the ones in the Lord’s Prayer.
I am thinking, for instance, of the need we have for minds of discernment.
Discernment. The word “discern” means to perceive or recognize or distinguish. Spiritual - Christian - discernment refers to having the perception and recognition needed to know the mind and will of God, and to use that knowledge to understand what the Bible teaches and obtain and follow the correct spiritual direction.
The apostle Paul gave an example of praying for discernment. It is found in Philippians 1:9-10. “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
See the benefits of discernment Paul listed?
Discernment - spiritual, Christian discernment - will result in abounding love for other Christians. It will result in love for others, too. Enough of that to pray for others to be saved from their sins, which we talked about earlier as something to pray for. And personally, discernment will help make us to live lives that will be pure and blameless. The kind of lives that will make us pleasing to the Lord.
Along with discernment, we can pray for knowledge. The apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:9, wrote, “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
And with discernment and knowledge, we can pray we will each have greater faith.
Do you ever lack in the area of faith - of believing in the power of the Lord? If so, I guess there is no reason to try to hide that fact because such a problem is addressed in the Bible.
In Mark 9, a father took his son to Jesus.
The son was demon-possessed. For quite some time, the demon had mistreated the boy, causing him to foam at the mouth and grind his teeth and throw himself sometimes into fires, other times into water, still other times on the ground, where he would roll around for a while.
The father had earlier taken his son to Jesus’ disciples, asking them to cast out the demon, but they had been unable to accomplish that. So the father did go to Jesus, saying to the Lord, “If You can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”
If You can?” Jesus responded. “Of course I can, for all things are possible to him who believes.”
Listen to the father’s response. “I believe.” In other words, I know You can help. I am doing my best to believe You will help. I am trying to believe. But - listen to the father’s words - “help my unbelief.” In other words, heal me from any doubts that linger, no matter how hard I try to battle them. Heal me from any doubts that linger in my mind and heart.
Again, do you ever doubt? Do I ever doubt when I pray that what I pray will be answered. As I admitted last week, yes. If you do, too, do not be embarrassed by that. Instead, admit it and then pray to overcome the doubting. Pray that your belief in Jesus will be complete and total and sincere and comforting.
Why? So that your prayers can be answered as effectively as was the father’s prayer. You see, Jesus did order the demon out of the boy. He further ordered the demon to never return. On the way out, the demon attacked the boy one more time, but Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up. At that moment, the boy was healthy.
For what should we pray?
Concerning others, we are to pray that others will be saved from their sins. We are to pray for more and more preachers. We are to pray that all who are preachers will be bold in the sharing of the Christian faith.
Concerning ourselves, we can pray that our needs will be met, including the needs for food, forgiveness, and protection. We can also pray for discernment, spiritual knowledge, and greater faith.
And concerning this congregation, we can pray for some things, including that we will have unity, harmony, and success.
As I often say, unity and harmony do not necessarily mean we will never have disagreements on any of a number of things. Different people have different ideas about how things should be done or what things should look like. In fact, having healthy discussions can be a very good thing.
But we need to always remember that we have the same basic purpose. As stated here at Fellowship Church, the purpose has three parts -to display God’s love, to help those who do not believe in Jesus to come to an acceptance of Him as their Savior, and to help those who do believe in Jesus to grow in their faith.
We do need to be unified in that purpose. We do need to have harmony toward that goal. In fact, the call for that is found many places in the Bible.
Just four of them are
- Romans 12:16 - “Live in harmony with one another.”
- Romans 15:5-6 - “May God grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may, with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- I Corinthians 1:10 - “I appeal to you, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
- I Peter 3:8 - “All of you, have unity of spirit.”
We can pray that we as a congregation will have unity and harmony - that we will continue to have those two things. But this is a prayer that is designed to extend beyond our walls and beyond our Church of God movement. John 17:20-21 - this comes from Jesus Himself - “I do not pray for these only [referring to the disciples He had with Him during His three years of ministry], but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one.” And yes, those others were the ones immediately affected by Jesus’ original disciples. But their ministries went on and on and on, eventually reaching our day and age.
And again, not every group of Christians is going to agree on everything, all the way from styles of music and architecture of buildings to how often to take Communion and which translation of the Bible to use. But again, the purpose is to be the same. It must be to display God’s love and to help others accept Jesus and to help Christians to grow in their faith.
And then this concerning praying for our congregation. It comes from Psalm 118:25. “O LORD, we beseech Thee [to beseech is to ask for urgently and fervently - to beg for], give us success.”
Success. Isn’t that an interesting concept as something to pray for? But what is called for may not be what we usually think of when considering success, such as financial success or numbers success. And hey, there is nothing wrong with either of those things. I mean, I feel good that attendance is higher now than it was a couple years ago. And I think it is very definitely a blessing that this congregation is so financially healthy. The resources available to so many, and the willingness of so many to share what they have are both wonderful.
But here, success is more along the lines of seeing answers to the other prayers mentioned today. Here, success will be measured in seeing that others are saved from their sins, that both new and older Christians are growing in their faith, that more and more preachers are being trained, encouraged, and sent out, and that all who share Jesus are bold in the preaching. Success will be measured in seeing that we personally can feel the provision and protection of God and that each of us are gaining discernment, spiritual knowledge, and greater faith. And that as we view our congregation, there will continue to be unity and harmony of purpose.
That is what success means in Psalm 118:25. That is the kind of success we are to pray for. May we pray for it, and may we rejoice as it comes.
Today’s closing song is the hymn Help Us, O Lord, To Learn.
Help us, o Lord, to learn the truths Thy word imparts:
To study that Thy laws may be inscribed upon our hearts.
Help us, o Lord, to live the faith which we proclaim;
That all our thoughts and words and deeds may glorify Thy name.
Help us, o Lord, to teach the beauty of Thy ways,
That yearning souls may find the Christ and sing aloud His praise.
Lord, please help us to remember - help us to have the discipline - to pray for others. Help us to remember it is OK to pray for ourselves. And help us to remember to pray for this congregation.
Why? Because we want more and more people to be saved. Because we have needs, both physically and spiritually, and it is our privilege to rely on You for them to be met. And because it is through unity and harmony of purpose that we as a congregation can be successful.
For what should we pray? A lot of things. So keep us praying. Thank You. Amen.