The Prayer Series - Part 2 PRAY FOR FELLOW CHRISTIANS IN VIEW OF THEIR FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE 1Thess 1:2,3 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father God is involved in the process of bringing Christians to maturity. For while Paul "planted the seed, and Apollos watered it, God made it grow." 1Cor 3:6 And Jesus taught in effect that: This is what the kingdom is like A man scattered seed. Then day and night Whether he sleeps or wakes the seeds sprout and grow How does this happen? He doesn't know All by itself grain is produced But how that can be he can't deduce. It grows to a stalk, then head and kernel All by itself by something internal As soon as the grain is ripe he reaps Though much of the work had been done while he sleeps So lets not take credit for more than our share For God does most of the work. That is clear. But also this means there's not much that you need God causes growth if you just plant the seed Bible Rap: The Growing SeedMk 4:26-29 Therefore let us thank God for visible results of Christian maturity. But what are some identifying marks to look for? 1. works of faith - Are there things the person is doing solely because of their faith? 2. labors of love - Is there something exceptional about the intensity of their works of faith? 3. patience of hope - Is there visible evidence that they have set their hopes not on this life, but on that which is to come. Evidence such as patience in the midst of the trials of life - a contentment, lack of envy or greed which in contrast to that of the society at large? If these are visible in yourself or other Christians, then give thanks now to God for the work He has accomplished. PRAY FOR CHRISTIAN MENTOR RELATIONSHIPS 1Thess 3:10,11 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. Despite the fact that Paul praised God for the outward evidence of the progress the Thessalonians were exhibiting in the application of their faith, hope and love, Paul recognized there was still yet something lacking. We note here that he simply doesn't just pray about what he finds lacking. Rather he feels it necessary to have a face to face encounter with them in order to meet their need. Have you felt that there are other Christians around you that have something lacking in their faith? Pray for them now. But also in your prayers consider how they may benefit from a Christian mentor relationship - or perhaps even from just some basic Christian fellowship. Now consider also praying that God may prepare you to perhaps in some way meet the very need that you find lacking. PRAY FOR ABOUNDING LOVE 1Thess 3:12,13 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. The greatest measure of Christian maturity is by their love for fellow Christians. In fact this is the primary distinguishing characteristic of the "sheep" of the Matt 25:31-46 judgment. The James exhorts, "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!" James 5:8,9 While salvation is by faith, the primary indicator of saving faith, as well as Jesus' primary commandment, is love for fellow Christians. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers."1John 3:14 "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us." 1John 3:23 Therefore our feeling of confidence concerning that day should be largely a function of our love. 1John 4:16b-18 Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. So pray for yourself and other Christians now, that you not only love one another, but that you increase and abound in such love. PRAY FOR A BLAMELESS LIFE 1Thess 5:23-25 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Blamelessness and sanctification are associated with the Christian's behaivor. Examples: 1Th 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe 1Thess 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality Php 2:14,15Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world 2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless THANK GOD FOR EVIDENCE OF GROWING FAITH AND ABOUNDING LOVE 2Thess 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other. A growing faith and an abounding love towards fellow Christians - these are primary things to thank God for as you think about the state of the Christian community. There are aspects of faith whereby either you have it or you don't. But there are also aspects of faith which are a matter of degree and with respect to which one can mature. We read of Abraham's faith which Paul speaks of as a model of the Christian's faith in saying, "he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." Rom 4:20,21 And the context has to do with the application of his faith in God's promise despite the circumstances. No doubt this is how Paul evaluated the growing faith of the Thessalonians, namely through their increasingly bold application of the Word of God despite the circumstances. There is a natural love that Christians have for one another, being of a common family and having a common destiny, but love is also a matter of degree, a matter of maturity. And no doubt again that Paul evaluated the state of their love by its application. In fact their love was so evident that Paul writes, "But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more." 1Thess 4:9,10 Imagine that! The love of the brethren coming so natural to them that they need not be taught on the matter. Now consider what group of Christians you might thank God for whose faith grows exceedingly and whose love for one another abounds. PRAY FOR A WORTHY LIFESTYLE 2Thess 1:11,12 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of faith Paul is alluding to was mentioned in 1Th 1:3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father. Thus the NIV renders 2Thess 1:11 more precisely as saying "... and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." (NIV) And what are some characteristics of a worthy walk? Eph 4:1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Now consider a Christian you know, or perhaps yourself, who is involved in a work which was prompted by faith, and pray that God may fulfill the intended purpose. Pray also that they may live a life appropriate in view of the calling for which we were called, having behaviors and attitudes consistent with our faith, purpose and destiny. THANK GOD FOR BEING CHOSEN FOR SALVATION 2Thess 2:13 we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth Today thank God that he has chosen you to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. And by "salvation" Paul is not just referring to the forgiveness of sins, which is through faith in Christ. It is by the forgiveness of sins that we are justified. But what is it to be justified if we are not also saved from our innate sinfulness? Thus is the salvation God has provided through the sanctification of the Spirit that we are being saved from our innate sinfulness, to be perfected and sinless in God's presence for all eternity. Thus we thank God for the method of his salvation, which is in contrast to that of ritual and legalism, and which provides us complete salvation both from the guilt of sin and from sin itself, freely and inevitably. And thus our destiny is secured upon the finished work of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Spirit. "Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."Jude 1:24,25 PRAY FOR ENCOURAGEMENT IN HEART AND ESTABLISHMENT IN WORD AND DEED 2Thess 2:16,17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. These concepts - having encouraged hearts and being established in the faith, both in word and in works - are the kinds of things the apostle Paul considered of high priority in his prayers. But not only in his prayers, but in his actions. For notice in many places the kind of actions he takes in order to secure these objectives. Like in his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul says he "sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith" 1Thess 3:2 And so also in Ephesians he speaks of sending Tychicus, "whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts." Eph 6:22 Col 4:8 And again sending Tychicus to the Colossains sayingl, "I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts" And so also Paul sends himself saying "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established——" Rom 1:11 So here we have two applications: 1. Pray for your fellow Christians that they be encouraged in the faith and established in every good word and work in their Christian walk. 2. When you meet with fellow Christians, consider how you might encourage them and establish them in the faith. Or else pray that God sends one who can do so. PRAY FOR THE SWIFT AND SAFE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL 2Thess 3:1,2Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. Here's an excellent prayer when praying for missionaries - if not for all of us in the ministry of the Word. Pray 1. that the word of God spreads quickly and is honored or affirmed. 2. And that the hand of the Lord might be with the messengers to be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men. Not everyone you may desire to see saved has the faith to listen. While we all desire the word of the Lord to spread quickly and bear fruit, realize that envy will drive unreasonable and wicked men to zealously react against such spread of the gospel. So these two things go hand in hand in our prayers - to pray for the word to spread swiftly, and to protect the messengers from unreasonable and wicked men. Pray now along these lines for a missionary you know. PRAY FOR THE LORD TO DIRECT YOUR HEART 2Thess 3:5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. This is a prayer for guidance. But normally you would think guidance as dealing with the realm of ideas or circumstances. Here guidance is requested with respect to one's heart, the realm of the desires. The attitudes of the heart are arguably the most significant area in the Christian life. And thus it says in Pr 4:23 "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." And so the Psalmist prays, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name."Ps 86:11 And it says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." Ps 37:4, which could be taken to mean that the Lord places desires on your heart when you delight in Him. Now in particular the desires Paul sought for them was an attitude of love, such as God has. And also an attitude of long-suffering or endurance as Christ demonstrated. "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." Heb 12:3 Now pray that God may affect the desires of your heart, such that you have on your heart the things which God has on his. And pray that those desires endure though all the discouragements of life and bring forth applications which will stand the test of time. PRAY FOR PEACE 2Thess 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom 5:1 So one type of peace we have is an ending of hostility between us and God. But this also leads to another type of peace. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 Sin having been forgiven, and one's conscience cleared, Christians can experience a real peace of mind which the world can only feign. And in addition there is peace with one another within the Christian community, being of a common family - indeed, of one body - and have a common destiny, there is no basis for envy, as each is looking out for the other; each seeking to edify the other; each looking to make the other fruitful, this being the perspective of the mature in faith. Though indeed there is conflict in the Christian community brought about by the immature, such as denominational obsession over issues of eating and drinking and the celebration of religious days. But "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Rom 14:17-19 Now pray that your local fellowship of Christians grow in their experience of peace with God; and in their experience of a peace of mind; and in their experience of peace in their relationship with other Christians. And "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Rom 12:18 PRAY FOR SOCIETY 1Tim 2:1-4 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God desires all to be saved. And how can they be saved but by coming to the knowledge of the truth. And how are they going to get the knowledge of the truth? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" Rom 10:14,15 But much of the world, both then and now, has been hostile to the public proclamation of the gospel. So pray for those in authority around the world - that they may allow Christians to live the Christian life - proclaiming the gospel; calling sin for what it is; and living godly lives free from persecution. Pray especially for Islamic countries where it is illegal to preach the gospel, and conversion is punishable by death. It is written "The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases." Pr 21:1 Pray that God may do so with regards to regimes hostile to the practice of Biblical Christianity. And give thanks where you see authority figures practicing justice, righteousness and love, and ways in which they are providing for the freedom of Christians to live the Christian life. "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Jer 29:7 PRAY WITHOUT COMPLAINING 1Tim 2:8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; Here's a general principle of prayer worthy of note: When you pray, don't be angry with God. Paul notes of the people of Israel who in the exodus grumbled against God. "Do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel." 1Cor 10:10 They complained about food and water - and so God gave it to them. But because their attitude, God also sent them death. So in our prayers let us make known our needs and our requests, but let us not do so questioning God's goodness, righteousness, holiness or his judicial nature. For while God has willed that the fulfillment of certain legitimate needs are contingent upon our prayers, he has not ordained such out of neglect or a sense of reluctance, but rather to show that he values our relationship with him; and even a partner with him in his ministry. PRAY FOR UNDERSTANDING 2Tim 2:7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Understanding the Bible is progressive. As a person matures through applying the Word, he gains more understanding of it. So for example after speaking on his goal in life, Paul says, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." Php 3:15 While there are Christians who think differently on certain matters, true unity is a function of spiritual maturity. But let us not overlook what Paul is saying here in 2Tim 2:7 when he says, "may". Indeed maturity and understanding can be catalyzed by prayer. So pray for yourself and other Christians, that God may give you understanding in all areas relevant to living the Christian life, not neglecting also to consider what the Bible says. PRAY FOR RETRIBUTION 2Tim 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. Now here is a prayer that many Christians may find surprising. Yet prayers of retribution are very common in Psalms. For example Psalm 28:3,4 says, "Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve." But didn't Jesus say to turn the other cheek? And didn't he say, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Mat 5:44,45 But what it is saying is to act in accordance with God's character. Does God always tolerate sin and never bring judgment? In fact God is gracious, for a time. But ultimately there will be accountability. To the wicked it says, "do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done." Rom 2:4,5 And it is that future judgment which Paul is alluding to here. He says to the persecuted Thessalonians, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."2Thess 1:6-9 But while we may anticipate the time when we will be vindicated from our adversaries, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." Rom 12:19 Who has done you much harm and refuses to repent? Free yourself from any feelings of bitterness by praying that the Lord may repay them according to their works.