The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be slothfulness in prayer.
As we gather for prayer on Wednesday nights, it's helpful to consider the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of prayer.
THE "WHO" OF PRAYER
Who can pray?
Only those who have been justified by faith alone in Christ are at peace with God and have access to His gracious presence (Rom. 5:1-2).
Who are we praying to?
We are to pray to God the Father (Matt. 6:9), in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14, 15:16), in the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18; Jude 20).
THE "WHAT" OF PRAYER
What is prayer?
"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God" (John Bunyan).
What is our pattern (or framework) for prayer?
Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (Matt. 6:9-13)
What should we pray for?
Our Commitment to the Great Commission
- That we would be committed to making and maturing faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ through the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20).
- That God would open doors for the sharing of the gospel (Col. 4:3).
- That those in our midst who are always learning but have yet to repent, believe, and arrive at a saving knowledge of the truth would be born again, baptized, and brought into the kingdom of God.
Our Spiritual Maturity
- That we would all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, growing up in every way into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15), that we may ultimately be presented as mature in Christ (Col. 1:28), conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
Our Consistent Attendance on Sunday Mornings
- That we would consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25).
- That everyone who names the name of the Lord would depart from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19), walk in the light (1 John 1:7), and strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
- That we would cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).
- That we would abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against our souls (1 Pet. 2:11).
Our Growth in the Grace & Knowledge of God
- That we would grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10).
- That we would count each other more significant than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), and clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, since God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5).
- That we would be ever mindful that God looks to those who are humble, contrite in spirit, and who tremble at His word (Isa. 66:2).
Our Leadership (Present & Future)
- That God would raise up godly, Biblically qualified elders who are genuinely concerned for the church’s welfare (Phil. 2:20), seek the interests of Jesus Christ, and not their own (Phil. 2:21).
- That God would bless us with men of proven worth (Phil. 2:22), and spare us from hirelings (John 10:13).
- That God would give us exemplary leaders who will shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2-3).
- That God would open the door for our pastor to serve the church in a greater, full-time capacity in order to meet the growing demands and needs of the flock.
- That the weekly sermons would come with power and precision, light and heat, bringing about regeneration in the lost and maturity in the lives of believers.
- That we would bear the fruit of love and love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Pet. 1:22).
- That we would patiently love the lost in our lives and communicate the gospel to them (2 Tim. 2:10).
- That we would love God above all (Deut. 6:5).
Wayne Grudem writes, "Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offenses, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound - to Satan's perverse delight."
- That God would strengthen our marriages, empowering husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and enabling wives to respect and submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:22-33).
- That our marriages would reflect the sacred and joyful marriage between Christ and the church.
- That God would heal any broken marriages in our midst, granting help and genuine repentance where repentance is needed.
- That God would bless and keep our singles, whether they desire to remain single or desire marriage.
- That in accordance with His will, God would bring godly spouses to those desiring marriage.
- That every single would be devoted to serving the Lord and His people.
- That widows would be loved and cared for.
- That God would save the children in our midst, transforming them into godly offspring (Mal. 2:15).
- That our children will honor and obey their parents in everything (Col. 3:20), growing up to be bold, faithful witnesses of Christ in a crooked and perverse generation.
- That the children of those in our church who are grown and walking contrary to the truth would be saved and united to their Christian parents through the gospel (Mal. 4:6).
- That the Father would keep us in His name, guard us from the evil one, sanctify us in the truth, and enable us to maintain our unity that the world may know that He sent His Son (John 17:11-23).
- That we'd be kept by the power of God through faith until the last Day (1 Pet. 1:5).
- That we'd be a people who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22), know and enjoy a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), and effectively deal with sin in order to maintain our purity (1 Cor. 5).
Our Steadfastness in Service
- That we would be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
- That we would walk in a manner worthy of our calling - with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love - eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).
- That together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6).
- That every believer in our midst will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, and ready for every good work (2 Tim. 2:21).
- That instead of being slothful in zeal, we'd be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).
- That we would make the most of every opportunity and not bury our talents or waste our time with things of eternal insignificance.
Our City & World
- That God’s name would be feared and considered great among the nations (Mal. 1:11, 14), which will happen as the Lord of the harvest raises up and sends laborers into His harvest to establish sound, Biblical churches.
- That God would strengthen, sanctify, and sustain other local churches in our city.
- That more gospel-preaching, Christ-exalting churches would be raised up in and around our city (Alamogordo, Deming, El Paso, Hatch, Ruidoso, Mescalero, Lordsburg, Truth or Consequences).
- That Biblically faithful ministries would be raised up on the campus of New Mexico State University, ministries that are intentional about connecting students to local churches where they’ll be equipped for the work of ministry and life-long fruitfulness (Eph. 4:11-12).
- That God would have mercy on our country and our leaders, leading them to make wise and just decisions (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
THE "WHEN" OF PRAYER
When should we pray?
Our Lord Jesus taught that we "ought always to prayer and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1). The apostle Paul said that Christians are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). We're to pray when we're suffering (Jas. 5:13), sick (Jas. 5:14), distressed (Psa. 102:2), and under attack (Psa. 18:3). The sons of Korah spoke of prayer coming before God in the morning (Psa. 88:13), as well as the night being a time for "a prayer to the God of my life" (Psa. 42:8). We find Peter praying at noon (Acts 10:9). All these examples reinforce the reality that we're to "continue steadfastly in prayer" (Col. 4:2). As we gather on Wednesdays for prayer, we desire to lock arms with the early church who "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
THE "WHERE" OF PRAYER
Where should we pray?
In a discussion about the acceptable place of worship, the woman at the well in Sychar said to Jesus, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship" (John 4:20). He responded by saying, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father . . . the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:21, 23-24).
By His death and resurrection, Jesus was about to open up a "new and living way" to God (Heb. 10:20). His blood is what gives us "confidence to enter the holy places" where we "draw near to the throne of grace" (Heb. 10:19, 4:16). Whether we pray on a housetop (Acts 10:9), in a private room (Matt. 6:6), or on a beach with others (Acts 21:5), regardless of where we are physically when we pray, spiritually we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). God dwells and walks among us since we, as His church, are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16).
THE "WHY" OF PRAYER
Why should we pray?
- Because we're commanded to (Col. 4:2)
- Because we're expected to (Matt. 6:7-9)
- Because Christ prayed and He's our example (Luke 5:16)
- To know God (John 17:3)
- To see His name hallowed (Matt. 6:9)
- To see His kingdom come (Matt. 6:10)
- To see His will be done (Matt. 6:10)
- To see our daily needs met (Matt. 6:11)
- To receive forgiveness for our sins (Matt. 6:12)
- To avoid entering into temptation (Matt. 6:13; Mark 14:38)
- To be delivered from evil (Matt. 6:13)
- To receive the good things our Father wants us to have (Matt. 7:7-11)
- To receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16)
- To be empowered for ministry (Acts 4:31)
- To be equipped for warfare (Eph. 6:18)
- To gain Biblical illumination and understanding (Psa. 119:18)
- To receive wisdom from God (Jas. 1:5)
- To intercede for and help other believers (Eph. 6:18; 2 Cor. 1:11)
- To see the sick made well (Jas. 5:15)
- To give thanks to God (Col. 1:12)
- To see doors open for the gospel (Col. 4:3)
- To see sinners saved (Rom. 10:1)
THE "HOW" OF PRAYER
How should we pray?
- Through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
- According to God's revealed will (1 John 5:14-15)
- Ready to lift and pour out our hearts to God (Lam. 3:41; Psa. 62:8)
- Ready to lay hold of Him and to seek His face (Isa. 64:7; Psa. 27:8)
- Ready to ask, seek, and knock in faith (Matt. 7:7; Heb. 11:6)
- Ready to ascribe to God the glory due His name (Psa. 29:2)
- With boldness and confidence because of the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19-20)
- With reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28)
- With undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:35)
- With humility and lowliness of spirit (Isa. 66:2; Psa. 138:6)
- With the simplicity, genuineness, and dependency of a little child (Matt. 18:4; Rom. 8:15)
So much more could be said, but this should be sufficient to drive us in faith to the throne of grace!