By Franklin Burns
No subject has greater prominence in the Bible than prayer, and yet many Bible students are growing more indifferent to its blessings and privileges. God speaks to us through the Bible. We speak to Him through the medium of prayer. It is a tragic thing for us to refuse to be on speaking terms with our Creator. Any failure that comes into our lives as Christians is due to our shortcomings and not to God’s neglect. But prayer is the golden link that puts us in communication with God.
Pray for Wisdom
“But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). God does not promise in this text to give you knowledge. Knowledge is information stored up in the mind, and is acquired by study, experience, and observation. Wisdom is skill, or tactful application, in the use of knowledge. It involves skillful use of any means to accomplish an end. Christians need Bible knowledge, and they need wisdom, or tact, that they may be able to properly use that knowledge. It is our duty as well as privilege to pray for wisdom.
Pray That the Lost be Saved
Paul prayed that his Jewish brethren might be saved (Rom. 10:1-3). Certainly he did not pray for them to be saved in disobedience; and it would not have been unnecessary for him to pray for God to save them when they obeyed God, for God would have done that without Paul’s praying for their salvation. In his great desire that his brethren be saved he prayed that conditions and circumstances might be such as to lead them to accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Paul not only prayed for the salvation of others, he worked and prayed. In fact the very things that seem to hinder some today did not seem to enter into the thinking of the early Christians. Their prayers pretty well covered the ground of all Christian activities and material needs. Study closely the things Paul prayed for as indicated in Col. 1:9-12. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will and all wisdom and spiritual understanding. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness,. giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints of light”.
Paul went to the ends of the earth under severe persecution, under many trying circumstances, laboring day and night, to try to save the lost. Those of us who live in this day and time with all the comforts, conveniences, and luxuries, cannot find as much as an hour a week to go out and try to teach the lost. Why? There is not the love for them that there ought to be. It is too easy to sit back and ease our consciences by saying, “this is a hard field. They just will not listen”. How do you know? Have you missed a meal or a few hours sleep to try? Friend, develop this love for mankind. Kneel down in prayer to God for your failure to teach the lost. Pray that He will help you to go forth with His saving message.
Pray for Laborers
We should pray that God will send forth laborers and that we may be laborers. Working in the kingdom of Christ is an essential activity of Christians. What is the purpose of our creation in Jesus Christ? It is good works (Eph. -2:10). How is the church built up? It is built up by the working of the members (Eph. 4:16). How did Paul have such success in his life? He had success by hard `labor (Acts 20:18-21, 31). Is it possible that the church has more members than it does workers? Luke 10:2 suggests the possibility. “The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few”. Jesus said, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38).
We as Christians are “co-laborers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). The kingdom of God is likened to a vineyard. In that vineyard we are to labor, to work, and further the cause of God. When we engage in saving souls, we engage in the greatest business in the world. The whole world lies in darkness. Its only hope is in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unto us has been committed the task of enlightening the world (Rom. 10:13-17).
When Jesus gave the great commission, He gave the marching orders for His army as they march against the hosts of evil and ignorance. Our command is to carry to people in sin the story of salvation provided by God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Paul in writing letters to various churches often expressed his desire for them. To the Colossians he wrote “we do not cease to pray and make request for you” (Col. 1:9-12). Upon the church at Thessalonica he said, “Now may our God and father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1Thess. 3:11-13). Every gospel preacher should have such feelings concerning those with whom he labors.
Pray for Boldness
We should pray that preachers may speak with boldness. Acts 4 records how the apostles Peter and John were threatened; when they were allowed to go to their own company, they prayed unto God. Their prayer was that God would give them boldness to speak the word of God (v. 29). If these apostles needed to pray for such, then, surely there is a need to pray that preachers have that same boldness today! Paul, in giving the charge to the young preacher Timothy, said, “Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
Every gospel preacher worthy of the name should pray that he might always be willing to speak out on any question regarding the teaching of the Bible and the welfare of the church. This does not imply that he should forever be talking about conditions about which he knows little or nothing, but it does mean that he should always be willing for his position on vital questions to be known. And, he should be willing to make use of all opportunities for using his influence for the advancement of the cause of Christ here in this world. Paul told the Ephesian brethren to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perservence and supplication for all saints, and for me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, As I ought to speak”.
Paul Prayed for the Philippians
When Paul prayed unto God on behalf of the Philippians (Phil. 1:9), there were several elements involved which made it an effectual prayer (James 5:16). There are motives, conditions, and circumstances which should be considered as examples to the child of God today. Many times Christians do not pray because they doubt the effectiveness of prayer. This may have come about because they are expecting something which God has not promised (1 John 4:14), or they are expecting a miracle at a time when God is not causing miracles to be performed (1 Cor. 13:8-10), or they may have lost sight of the proper motive and circumstances of prayer (Phil. 1:3-8; James 4:3).
Many times we become greedy in our prayer to the point that we do not want to include others in our prayers, and do not even include the personal blessings for which we ought to be thankful. Then we want to blame God for not hearing our prayers and accuse Him of not fulfilling His word.
Paul was thankful to God at his every remembrance of the Philippians. This is the place where they had whipped him and bound him and put him in prison. Should he have not remembered that place with vengeance? Could you and I have remembered that place without vengeance in our hearts? This is the difference between thinking according to the natural, fleshly impulse and living by the spirit. Those whom he remembered were children of God, people who had permitted their lives to be molded by the gospel which Paul had preached. Since they were fulfilling the very purpose of his life, he would let these things far outweigh the bitter things which had happened in their city. There should be thanksgiving in our prayers for the blessings which we receive and for God’s faithful children everywhere.
Prayer should not be bound by our personal needs. If one’s prayer is directed to God as worship to him, he should consider God and His will above the will and personal desires of himself. (Matt. 6:10; 26:39). God’s will includes others besides one’s own self. Then we should be concerned with, and pray on behalf of others. Paul made supplication for the Philippians always in his prayers. Take stock of your prayers. Is it overweighed with self? Does it consider the faithful in Christ?
Paul Prayed with Joy
Our prayers for many people would not be expected to be with joy. They might be overtaken in tresspass and sin. They might be burdened with grief and sadness. But when children of God are working, growing, and in happy fellowship with God and one another, it is time for joy. We should pray for them that they may abound in these blessings and duties, but we can and should make such supplications with joy. This is the apostolic example which Paul has given us.
Pray with Confidence
The effectiveness of prayer is destroyed if the person prays with little or no confidence that God will fulfill his petition. James says we are to pray for wisdom and that God will give liberally. He gives a limitation however. We are to pray without doubt. A man who doubts is double-minded and that kind of man is not to think that he will receive anything of the Lord (James 1:5-7). The Lord taught his disciples, “and all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22). We need not to think that this one condition for acceptable effectual prayer will override and exclude all other conditions which the Lord has given; but, this is one that we are to have in our prayers. Paul had confidence that God who had begun a good work in the Philippians would continue to do so, hence, he could pray that they would continue and be edified. The confidence which motivated his prayer for them was in God, who could grant his petition which was according to God’s will.
Let us pray and work, however, for “the man of God” described by Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus. Let us pray that God will raise up many such men! Pray for laborers who have wisdom and boldness. Pray that saints be strong, like those at Philippi. Pray that “the man of God” will reprove and rebuke, encourage and correct. Pray that God’s purpose for the salvation of the lost be fulfilled. In all of this, let us pray with joy.
Truth Magazine XXI: 13, pp. 204-205
March 31, 1977