Welcome to our ongoing discussion on the ‘One another’ series in the New Testament.This week we will look at the twelve of the ‘one another’ sayings and that is to “pray for one another” (James 5:16). I believe that you have been blessed and encouraged by what we have already looked at in this series.
May I have your attention again as we look at this important subject of Prayer. One of the most needful and costly ministries we can perform on behalf of another Christian is that of Prayer. Pamphlets have been written on Soul Winning Made Easy but none have been on Prayer Made Easy. Prayer is a spiritual exercise.
It can never be learned in ten easy lessons. Prayer is the first thing Satan attacks. He knows that he must keep us off our knees in order to defeat us. Martin Luther confessed, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
Our whole being seems to militate against prayer. Drowsy eyes and a wandering mind often overtake us when we begin to pray. Prayer is hard work. It requires strict discipline. I suspect one of the main reasons we find it so difficult to pray is that we question its efficacy. It simply does not work that often for us, at least that is the way it seem. We do not see many answers to prayer.If God were to reveal to us all that we owed to the prayers of others, we would be astounded. I believe if we knew the results of our prayers on behalf of others we would sometimes be shocked.
This lack of faith in the power of prayer is nothing new. It is not just a trademark of the twenty first century Christians; it characterised the early church also (Acts 12:1-7; Acts 12:12-16). Sometimes God answers even unbelieving prayer. How good and merciful He is to His wavering children.
This account from the early church also demonstrates the fact that our prayers are more powerful and effective than we dare to believe. Prayer is God’s ordained instrument for moving His hand to accomplish His plan and purpose in His world. He has; therefore, pledge to honour our prayers, however feeble they may be.
Remember the father who brought his son with an evil spirit to Jesus? After Jesus pointed out to him that “everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23), the father responded with utter honesty, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). The boy was delivered!
We must not wait until we have super faith before we bother to pray, for then we would never pray. Let us come to the Lord honestly admitting our weak faith and lay hold of His great faith. Isn’t faith a gift anyway? Let us not anchor our prayers in our own feeble faith, but in the God of faith.
We can understand Jesus’ confidence in His prayers. He was sinless. We can understand Elijah’s feats of miraculous power as he was a man of God. James tells us, “Elijah was a man just like us” (Jas 5:17a). James does add concerning his prayers, “He prayed earnestly…” (James 5:17b). We can understand Paul’s confidence in his prayers as he was the great apostle to the Gentiles. Yet he himself testified that he was the “chief of sinners” (1Tim. 1:15) and a “nobody” (II Cor. 12:11).
Although Paul put no confidence in himself, he did put confidence in the power of prayer. That is why he prayed so much. Over and over we read of him devotedly upholding fellow believers in prayer (Rom. 1:9-10a; Phil.1:4-11; Col.1:3, 9; 1 Thess. 1:2; 3:10; 2 Tim.1:3; Phile.1:4). But Paul not only prayed for his brothers and sisters in the Lord, he counted on their upholding him in prayer (II Cor. 1:10-11; Eph. 6:19). Paul was not beyond the need of prayer. No one ever gets that strong spiritually.
Even Jesus asked for prayer from His disciples. Jesus, Creator of the universe, second person of the Trinity (God-head), Son of God, Messiah, asked for the prayer support of His weak, cowardly, confused disciples. The scene is Gethsemane (Matt.26:40-41; Mk.14:37; Lk.22:40, 46, cf. Heb.5:7). When Jesus needed His companions the most, they let Him down. They did not support Him with their prayers.
In Samuel’s farewell speech to Israel he pledged, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23a). Do you consider it sin to fail to pray for your fellow believers? Dean C.J. Vaughan once said, “If I wished to humble anyone, I should question him/her about his/her prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self-confession. “How true that is!Especially, in the area of prayer for each other, intercessory prayer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian, whose bold stand against Hitler led to his martyrdom in 1945, wrote, “Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.”
True intercessory prayer exacts a price. J.H. Jowett said, “All vital praying makes a drain on a person’s vitality. True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice. It is written concerning Jesus’ prayer life, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death” (Heb.5:7b). Intense prayer with a submissive, reverent attitude characterised Jesus’ prayer life.
Finally, does praying one for another make a difference? If it does not, would Paul have spent so much of his time doing it? Would Jesus have spent the last two thousand years praying? Although prayer is the toughest spiritual discipline there is, it pays great dividends. Prayer moves the hand that moves the world. Your prayers for your fellow believers prompt God to act in their lives to accomplish His will in and through them. To become mature, to be used of God, this is what the Christian life is all about. It is accomplished on as God’s people unite in praying one for another.
By Rev. Eric D.Maefonea