Last week, we put on our ‘Spiritual Armour’ and engaged with forces in the heavenly realms to pray for protection from the attacks of Satan. This week, our prayer journey takes us to the physical realm as we examine how to pray for healing.
Praying for Healing
The book of James asks: “Is anyone among you sick? Then you must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over you anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise that one up, and if sins have been committed they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.” (James 5:14-16)
I have to confess that I sometimes lack faith when praying for healing. I just figure that if God is going to heal, then He will, and if he isn’t going to, for some reason that I can’t understand, then He won’t. Simple as that. However, when I look at the Scriptures, it is clear to me that our prayer plays a part in the process. Why does God want to use an imperfect person, riddled with their own faults, to take requests for healing to a perfect God? There is no logic in this that I can understand. And yet, there lies the mystery of Christianity; that God loves us so much that he chooses us to be a part of His plan.
Somehow, the other part of praying for healing, is that the prayers should be “offered in faith”, and that the person praying has “confessed their sins”. What this means to me is that my relationship with God needs to be just that; a relationship. Not a one-sided conversation where I throw up my prayers to God, but that I take time to listen as well.
Today…don’t just think about your relationship with God. Do something about it, by connecting with Him in prayer. I’ll do the same too.
Do you ever struggle with the feeling that you might be nagging God? Do you wonder how God feels when you pray over and over for a situation that never seems to change? On one hand, if we continually bring an issue before God is this a lack of faith? On the other hand, if we continually pray about an issue does it reveal our true desire for God to intervene?
Jesus told a parable that helps us understand the significance of persistence in prayer.
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town that kept coming to him with the plea, ‘grant me justice against my adversary’. For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’. And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18: 1-8)
Reflecting on this parable, Grenz states, “a widow who is the victim of some injustice, repeatedly pleaded her case to a judge. Although the judge was not a righteous person, eventually her persistence was rewarded, for he pronounced justice on her behalf. The point of the parable is clear. If sustained pleading can move an unrighteous judge to grant justice, how much more will God, who is the righteous Judge, hear the unfailing pleas of the oppressed…”.
The gospel of Luke tell us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:5-10) Jesus encourages persistence, and this persistence gets results. Grenz states, “Knowledge of God’s love and of God’s willingness to give good gifts challenges the disciples to a bold confident prayer. But this places an important limitation on prayer. The believer can rightly persist only in requesting good things from God. Because God is good, and not evil, God can be expected only to give those gifts that are in accordance with God’s holy character”.
Today…Ask God boldly for something that you have been praying about. Wait and trust that He is working.
According to the dictionary, “to Petition” means to beg, pray, request, solicit, plead, or ask for something from someone in authority. There are times when we find ourselves praying, or petitioning, for others: our family, friends, co-workers or those in our faith community. The issues before us are many and varied, from health concerns, to financial issues, to children in trouble, or a crisis of faith. One of the first prayers such as this recoded in the scriptures was that of the patriarch Abraham when he pleaded on behalf of his nephew Lot and his family living in the city of Sodom, a city God was going to destroy due to wickedness.
Grenz describes petition as “laying hold of and releasing God’s willingness and ability to act in accordance with God’s will and purpose on behalf of creation that God loves”. Throughout the New Testament we see that faith brings results. When Jesus went to his hometown and began to teach and preach in the synagogue the people were amazed. However, they dismissed him as the ‘carpenter’s son’ and refused to see that the wisdom revealed through his teaching and the miracles he performed were evidence of his deity. As a result “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith”. (Matt 13:58) Petition involves prayer and faith.
There a numerous examples in the Bible of this type of prayer. Moses pleaded with God to show mercy after the children of Israel worshipped the golden calf, and the bible records that “the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened” (Exodus 32:14). The early church prayed for Peter while he was in prison and they were quite surprised when his release occurred (Acts 12). Would Peter’s freedom from prison have occurred without the prayers of this faith community? We don’t know for sure, but Luke apparently saw a connection between these two events since he included the record of the petitionary prayers in his account of this miracle.
Today…Plead for God to intervene in a situation you or someone you know is facing. The apostle Paul wrote: “The Lord is near; have no anxiety, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will keep guard over your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)
Last week, we examined our own hearts and looked at how we could become more spiritually aware of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This week, our prayer journey takes us to spiritual battle.
Praying for Protection
One of the great prayers of protection in the Old Testament is offered by Laban, the father-in-law of Jacob, when Jacob and his family returned home where he would be confronted by his brother Esau. As they departed, Laban prayed, “May the Lord watch between me and you while we are absent one from the other”. (Genesis 31:49) This prayer is referred to as the ‘Mizpah’.
Psalm 91 is another example of a prayer for protection. This Psalm could be recited before sleeping at night. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
Another type of protection is protection from the ‘Evil One’. Jesus in his ‘High Priestly’ prayer, prayed that the Father would “protect us from the evil one” (John 17:15). Peter tells us the devil “walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”. (1 Peter 5:8) Every day we face challenges that can upset us and cause us to be anxious and even afraid. In the midst of it all, the Lord promises to be with us and protect us. Therefore prayers of protection enable us to give our concerns to God and to live with the confidence that He is watching over us.
1) Memorize the ‘Mizpah’
2) Be aware that every day the people of God are in a spiritual struggle. Read Ephesians 6:10-18. As you begin you day, mentally put on the various pieces of spiritual armour.
3) Throughout the day, reflect on the presence of God and his care over you.
4) Read Psalm 91 before going to bed. Let these words be the last thing you think about as you drift into sleep
Last week, we prayed for Unity in the Body of Christ and looked to find ways to encourage one another despite different viewpoints. This week, we are looking at our own spiritual ‘attitude’ and how it relates to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Praying for Spiritual Awareness
The prayer for spiritual awareness is one whereby we receive a new understanding and appreciation of all we are and can become in Christ. Paul prayed this for the Christians in Ephesus. “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians: 1:18)
In essence, this prayer is a request for an opening of one’s spiritual awareness through the working of the Holy Spirit. This includes realizing who and what we are in Christ, becoming aware of the power of God available to us, being aware of the presence of Christ in our lives, and experiencing the truth of his promises.
It is easy for Christians to forget some of these amazing truths and we need to continually go back to the scriptures to see what God will do in the lives of those who love and obey him. Sadly, many Christians never experience this spiritual awareness and their lives are less than fulfilled.
1) Read Ephesians 1:15-23
2) What are the specific ways God will ‘enlighten’ you? What are the promises He makes to you?
3) Choose one aspect that speaks into your life today and make it your prayer. Ask God to allow this to become a reality. What difference will this make in your life?
4) How can you use this prayer as a way to pray for others? Pray this for those whom God places on your heart.
Last week, we examined praying for the forgiveness of sin: looking at how Christ came to forgive us and how that translates to our forgiveness of others. This week, we continue our prayer journey by looking at the bigger scope of the body of Christ.
Praying for Unity in the Body of Christ
In John 17, Jesus constantly prays for the unity of the church. He states: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Too often the Christian church has divided and split over non essential truths. There are many Christians who will have nothing to do with other believers simply because they belong to another denomination. How this must grieve the heart of God! In fact, our divisiveness may cause some people to reject the gospel of Christ. Jesus prayed that as the world saw unity amongst his followers they would realize that this truly is the work of God, for only God can bring together people who are self centred, divisive and critical, into one caring and supportive family.
1) Read Ephesians 4:1-6
2) Memorize Ephesians 4:3
3) Write or call someone who attends a different church or denomination. Tell them you are praying for them today. Find some way to bring encouragement to them.
4) Include other congregations in your daily prayer. Especially pray for the pastors and leaders that they will be affirmed in their ministry and leadership.
Over the course of the next 7 weeks, we will begin a journey of prayer. We will look at various types of petitionary and intercessory prayer…prayers for oneself and prayers of behalf of other people. The various themes show us ways in which we can enrich our prayer life and help us to pray more effectively through examining scripture and then looking to God to change our hearts.
Praying For the Forgiveness of Sin
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matt 6:12) This petition has a qualification attached to it. We can only ask God to forgive us to the extent that we forgive others.
We forgive because we have been forgiven and because we want to follow the example of Jesus. Paul writes “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Without forgiveness there are barriers that exist and this leads to bitterness, pain and resentment toward one another.
1) Read Psalm 19:7-18
2) Take some time to think about your relationships. Are you aware of any conflict you have with another? Are there people you hold a grudge against? Describe these issues and offer them to God. Make a decision to forgive those who have hurt you and be released from any bitterness within you.
3) As you are able, seek to express this forgiveness, and, where possible, be reconciled.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting our sins against us. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:19, 21)
How often do we offer prayers to God not really expecting a response or an answer?
The early church prayed for Peter while he was in prison. We are told in Acts 12 that “many people had gathered and were praying” at the house of Mary, the mother of John the night before Peter was to stand trial before Herod. That night an “angel of the Lord” appeared to Peter in prison, released him from his shackles, and walked him out of the prison past the guards and city gates. When Peter realized that he wasn’t dreaming or having a vision he walked over to the house of Mary, where everyone was praying. They were so astonished to see him that they didn’t believe it was him!
“Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” (Acts 12: 13-16)
If Peter’s friends and family really believed in their prayers would they have been so astonished to see Peter at the door?
Mark 9 relays the story of a man who comes to Jesus about his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus says to the man that “everything is possible to one who believes” and the man responds: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief”. (Mark 9:24).
Today…when you pray, try to “overcome your unbelief” and trust that Jesus is going to answer your prayers.
Many of us at some point have experienced feelings of rejection or abandonment.
Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who could identify with these feelings. Isaiah tells us “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom many hid their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not”. (Isaiah 53:2-4)
During his three years of ministry, Jesus experienced misunderstanding, rejection and even hatred by people. People in his own town had no belief in him and his miracles. The religious authorities of his day were threatened by him and sought at every occasion to undermine his ministry and have him destroyed.
The culmination of his ministry was at the cross, where Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Such an act meant he would receive not only the judgement of God, but also be forsaken by God. To come to this place of surrender was not easy. Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane where he agonized all night over the decision until his was able to say ‘not my will by yours be done’.
Today…take time to reflect upon times in your life when you have experienced rejection and abandonment. Read Psalm 22. Pray today for people who are abandoned: Refugees, street children, prisoners, the elderly or the poor. How might you offer a simple act of kindness towards one of these people?
It is difficult to glorify God in the midst of trials. Hardship and challenges in life cause us to complain to friends, family and God. Sometimes our feelings turn to bitterness and resentment, wondering why we have to go through such things.
King David is regarded by many as the greatest leader the nation of Israel ever had and was declared by God to be “a man after God’s own heart”. However, David was no stranger to tragedy and heartache in his own personal life. His son Amnon fell in love with his sister Tamar and raped her. Another of his son’s, Absalom, avenged his sister by killing his brother. This led to a rift between King David and his son Absalom, and Absalom eventually tried to usurp his father’s throne. The armies of these two men engaged in battle where twenty thousand troops were killed and led ultimately to the death of Absalom.
David was devastated by the news of his son’s death and cried out “If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
Family relationships can sometimes be the most painful and difficult in our lives because our feelings run deep. Hurts, intentional and unintentional, can cause great pain. However, it is when the relationship can no longer be repaired that bitterness and hurt may turn to regret.
God calls us to focus on Him in the midst of crisis and continue to glorify Him. Jesus made it clear that God should be glorified through our suffering. He prayed, “Father, the time has come, Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you.” (John 17:1)
Today…read Psalm 63. This psalm was written by David when he was fleeing Absalom. Do you think you could write these words in the midst of your personal trials?