Here’s an old about how prayer doesn’t work: Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer. "Fine", said the pleased mother. "If you ask God to help you not misbehave, He will help you." "Oh, I didn't ask Him to help me not misbehave," said Johnny. "I asked Him to help you put up with me."
As we become people of prayer, God’s perfect will/plans remain the same, but our values are shaped, our desires, the things that are most important to us evolve, it is our will that changes so that become in tune with God.
The power of prayer: from today’s scripture ~ Prayer is a struggle, Prayer Advances Ministry, Prayer Breaks Down Walls, Prayer promotes Unity, and I will conclude with two words from Rom. 15:32 that have the power to rock your prayers. In order to apply this message, you only need to remember two simple words (maybe you can find them in v. 32.) Add these two words to your prayers and everything else about prayer follows naturally ~ breaking down walls, the work of God advancing, unity…
The STRUGGLE of prayer. You find that word in v. 30. Prayer Involves Struggle. AGONY. “Join me in my agony.” Did you think prayer is supposed to easy answers? Agony is how Paul describes it here ~ not a quick fix, but a way of life… Prayer is wrestling with God as our desires interact with the concerns of the world. Agonize with me over the ministry of our Church! Our denomination!... We gave almost ten bikes last Sunday to Christian workers in Africa… now let’s agonize with them… Prayer is spiritual warfare against principalities and powers and the forces of evil all around us. ~ Agony!
You discover the suffering of prayer when you have a sick child in the night with a rising fever and you can’t get the doctor on the phone. I will not forget the night Sally and I got a phone call that our daughter had been hit by a car while on a youth retreat many hours away and she was in an ambulance on the other side of the snowy pass. All we could do was agonize in prayer. I think I can still see the path worn away on the carpet I created that night. You’ll learn about agony in prayer when your marriage is falling apart. There comes a time we all learn to agonize in prayer. I don’t know what to do about our politicians and responding to the state of our world with Muslims on the March, but this I know, as Christians and as Jews, let’s agonize in prayer…
Here is a powerful testimony of agony, and reliance on God, a video of Kayla Mueller’s final letter to her family… Kayla was in the Middle East region helping in humanitarian work, aid to refugees, when she was captured by ISIS and held captive for 18 months. Then sometime in December she was killed in a bombing of the building she was housed. This is her letter…. (Play Youtube Video...
Prayer Advances Ministry. Within this scripture Paul lists specific reasons for the Christians in Rome to Pray. He asked for deliverance from his enemies and that his ministry would be acceptable to the poor in Jerusalem. READ Rom. 15:31.
Then he asks for prayer to be able to go to Jerusalem READ Rom. 15:32.
Those are specific prayer requests. More detail is given in Rom. 15:23-29 where Paul describes some of the practical problems and issues he faces. Prayer influences the human will of other people in ways we can’t see and could never bring about on our own. Prayer causes things to happen that would not otherwise happen. Paul believes their prayers will open the door for him to come to Rome. All through God!
What about us in Sumas? Some things I want to hear from the elders before I am too specific for our prayers, so that we are in agreement, but some of the things, pray for an active children’s ministry, Sunday School, small groups, what a joy to meet with Shelly and talk about outreach ideas….
Prayer advances ministry. I have no power to make things happen in this world, only God has the power, (but I sometimes think this is the way prayer works)/ God has given us negative power, meaning, I have the power to withdraw from the work of God. I.e. I am able to NOT pray and thus not get involved in ministry.
The saying is true: “Ministry is messy.” This gets back to the need to agonize in prayer. Because advancing ministry for Christ is not easy….
Prayer breaks down walls. It would be easy to miss, but something amazing is described in Rom. 15:26-27 READ. The world is upside-down. The plan of God has come full circle since the covenant with Abraham. Think of it, the promise of the millennia is that the Jews would be a light to the nations/gentiles, that the people of God would bring the message of salvation to the people of the earth. Paul is saying “guess what, the Gentiles are a blessing to the Jews.” This is a fulfillment of the vision of the Lion and the Lamb laying down together, the Jews and the Gentiles are blessing each other. Through prayer, people who are unlike you will be a blessing. Walls are broken down. What an amazing world it is to see Gentiles blessing the Jews.
Last Sunday at the Family Night money was given to purchase bikes for pastor’s and Christian workers in Africa. My dream, I don’t know how to pull it off…, my dream is to get one of those pastors into one of our worship services through Skype (????) and pray over our congregation, it’s wonderful to give a bike, but I don’t want a one way street. I want their blessings, to enrich us, to teach us, to show us the passion of the gospel, to inspire us to greater depth of ministry. Prayer breaks down walls…
If there is a wall between you and another, PRAY…
Prayer Promotes Unity. Paul says, “Join me in my struggle as you pray for me” (Rom. 15:30). Prayer is to care for others by going through God: All for ONE and ONE for all. The Christians in Rome were hundreds of miles away from Paul, yet they became one with him through prayer. By prayer I can join the spiritual battle with those who are struggling on the other side of the world. By prayer I can join the person sitting next to me to find direction, to find relief from their personal suffering, to experience more of God.
The Power of Prayer in two little words from Rom. 15:32: “So That” Don’t pass over the little phrase “so that” in verse 32. One person explained the value of these two words this way: “When I pray,” he said, “I always try to include the phrase ‘so that.’ I heard a guest preacher mention that in a sermon several years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Here is a list of Paul’s “So That” prayers:
- “So that you may overflow with hope” (Romans 15:13).
- “So that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).
- “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:17).
- “So that you may be able to discern what is best” (Philippians 1:10).
- “So that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).
- “So that you will be blameless and holy” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
- “So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
“So that” is more work… “So that” is risky… “so that” is challenging and encouraging because it focuses my wandering mind to think about why I want God to “bless” my children, Jim, Jake, Connie…. Here’s an example: “Lord, bless the African Pastors who receive these bikes so that they become more connected with their congregation and get into more homes to talk about the Love of Jesus.” “so that” can transform an ordinary prayer into a powerful petition to our Heavenly Father. BTW, take a look once again at Rom. 15:30 and you will see Paul call upon the Trinitarian nature of God! Jesus, the Spirit and God the father are all there! That’s power.
The power of the church lies not in money, plans, buildings, preachers, programs, or anything else that comes from the hand of man. Our only true power is the power of prayer. All For ONE. God in his fullness. When we pray, God moves from heaven. ONE for all. When we pray, things happen that would not otherwise happen. By prayer all things are possible. Prayer will change your will as you agonize for your brothers and sisters, your family, your neighbors, near and far, walls will be broken down, and unity will be built up. And you will find even greater power when you add that little phrase, “So That.”
The conclusion of the matter is PEACE. READ Rom. 15:33. PEACE is a running theme through-out Romans ~ Peace with God, Peace with others, Peace within. The Agony of Prayer results in Peace. Amen.