Thursday, January 9, 2014

PRAYER IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
Geoffrey R. Kirkland
Christ Fellowship Bible Church

Prayer is the life of the Christian. A Christian must pray just as a human being breathes. Just as a body needs oxygen, so the body of Christ must constantly pray. An accurate indicator of the health of a local church is to examine the church’s corporate prayer meeting. Who gathers? Who prays? How do they pray? What do they pray for? If prayer is, in fact, one of the greatest duties in every Christian’s life individually and in the body of Christ corporately, then the prayer meeting should have a high priority in the life and culture of a local church. To meet and pray is to take hold of God corporately, to ask God to move mightily, to rend the heavens and come down sovereignly, so that He may receive glory preeminently!

This article will examine prayer in the local church from a number of various perspectives.

1. The importance of prayer
Prayer is what breathing is to human life. Without breathing there is no life. Without a heartbeat, there is no life. Prayer sustains, prayer energizes, and prayer strengthens Christians. To pray is to fellowship with God. To pray is to meet with God. To pray is to take hold of God. To pray is to wrestle with God and to beg God to act, to move, to revive, to restore, to forgive, and to sanctify. If one gives up communicating with his spouse, the marriage will suffer quickly; and so it is in the believer’s relation to Christ. When communication lacks, the relationship suffers quickly. As a newborn knows but one thing to do when he is born, and that is to cry for his mother’s attention, so a newborn babe in Christ knows but one thing to do, and that is to cry out for his Father’s willing ear. Prayer is the life of the soul. Prayer is the highway to heaven. Prayer gives fervency to Christianity. It gives power to Christian piety. Prayer is the pulse of one’s spiritual state. To lack prayer is to lack life. To neglect prayer is to attempt to find life elsewhere. To give God the scraps in prayer is to attempt to live on a few abnormal, scattered, and weak heartbeats. Only a matter of time before that person will die. Let the importance of prayer drive every believer to fervent prayer, to regular prayer, to constant prayer, to daily prayer, to believing prayer, and to Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered praying! Nothing in all the world is so important than for the child of God to pray to the Father, through Christ, by the Spirit incessantly.

2. The power of prayer
Jesus said that true faith and powerful prayer can move mountains (Matt 21:21). Elijah prayed that it would rain for three years and six months (James 5:17) and God heard him. Moses prayed and the fire of judgment died out (Num 11:2). Elisha prayed that God would strike the Syrians with blindness and God answered (2 Kings 6:18). Peter prayed and raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:40). The Apostle Paul prayed and healed Publius’ father on the island of Malta (Acts 28:8). Prayer works. God hears prayer. The Bible says that God was moved by prayers for the land (2 Sam 21:14). Even the heinously wicked, idolatrous, murderous, and blasphemous Manasseh, when he humbled himself before the Lord and came to God in prayer, God was moved by his entreaty (2 Chron 33:13). Prayer is spiritual power. Prayer is like spiritual electricity that gives light, brightness, force and energy to one’s life. The weakest saint on his knees is mightier than ten thousand of the world’s leading armies combined.

3. The providence of prayer
God has declared the end from the beginning. Every moment of time, every second of world history, every event that has occurred, and every molecule that runs its course all obeys the sovereign directive of God Almighty. God rules preeminently. God reigns providentially. God actively works out His plan in and through all things. God works all things according to the plan of His will. God has decreed what shall happen, when it shall happen, for whom it shall happen, and by what means it shall happen. Prayer is the means of God working out His sovereign will. God gloriously, wonderfully, and sovereignly works through prayer. Prayer moves God and prayer prompts God to act (2 Sam 24:25; 2 Chron 33:13). One cannot forget that God uses prayer providentially to bring about His purposes. When believers gather to beg God to act in a certain way, God receives glory in responding to that prayer, answering that prayer, and manifesting His power so that all the saints who prayed rejoice and thank Him (cf. Acts 12:12-17). God uses prayer as a means of the outworking of His sovereign will. When people pray, God forgives (2 Chron 7:14). Even a whole nation repented and prayed and God heard, relented and forgave them (Jonah 3:3-10). Prayer works because God uses every prayer as a way of working out (providentially) His glorious plan in and through His people for His own glory.

4. The effectiveness of prayer
Prayer is power. Prayer works. Nothing so captivates the heart of a loving Father than His children crawling into His lap and whispering into His ear. He hears and He answers. He hears and He responds. Abraham prayed to God that He might heal Abimilech and God heard and answered (Gen 20:17). Moses interceded and prayed that God might not destroy His grumbling and complaining people (Deut 9:26). Hannah, a barren woman, prayed for a boy and the Lord heard her prayer and answered her entreaty (1 Sam 1:27). Elisha prayed to the Lord and raised a dead boy back to life (2 Kings 4:33). Hezekiah prayed and asked God to remember His covenant so that Sennacherib and the Assyrians might not destroy Judah and God heard and answered (2 Kings 19:20-32). When the early church prayed together in times of severe opposition, the place where they gathered was shaken and they all had great boldness (Acts 4:31). Elisha prayed that it might not rain and God withheld rain for three and a half years (James 5:17). Then after praying again that it might rain, God heard Elijah’s request and granted rain (James 5:18). Prayer is effective. The people of God who take hold of God and wrestle with God in prayer see God act mightily for His Name’s sake. Indeed, the prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness (James 5:16).

5. The Trinity in prayer
Jesus alone is the way to God the Father. There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Believers pray to God in the Name of Jesus Christ and by the power of God the Spirit. Thus, believers pray to God through Christ and by the Spirit. The Trinity is always actively involved in the believer’s prayer. Jesus Christ, by means of His propitiatory sacrifice and atoning offering to God, has provided access into the Holy of Holies for all those who are clothed in His righteousness by faith alone. The Scriptures say that a believer does not even know what to pray for at times. During these moments, the Spirit of God intercedes with silent goanings, that is, inter-Trinitarian communication and prays on behalf of the believer to the Father and He always receives an affirmative answer. Thus, in all the prayers of God’s people, there are four parts involved in this concert of prayer: the Father who hears all prayer, the Son who gives the access to pray, the Spirit who prays for and on behalf of the believer to God, and the believer who presents his requests to God. The blessed Trinity receives praise, honor, glory and adoration when His elect come into the throneroom of grace to pray, adore, worship, thank and present petitions.

6. The revival from prayer
Rend the heavens and come down! So prayed the prophet Isaiah exclaimed (Isa 64:1). He called upon God to descend with power so that even the mountains might quake at God’s almighty presence. The psalmist prayed that God would revive “us” (His people) so that God’s chosen ones may rejoice in Him (Ps 85:6). God receives glory in reviving His people for the tasks, the callings, and the duties that He has given (Hos 6:2). Habakkuk prayed for God to “revive Your work” (Hab 3:2). Revival begins with God’s people in the inner recesses of the heart. Then, through God’s people, revival spreads like wildfire to those in surrounding areas and to the lost as they observe the people of God aflame with Christlike zeal and passion. Fervent praying for revival should come frequently from the mouths of God’s people. Prayer takes hold of God. Prayer moves God. When the church returns to corporate prayer and expository preaching, God works mightily, powerfully, gloriously and unmistakably. Pray for revival!

7. The influence of prayer
The prayer meeting is like a wildfire. When one piece of wood is on fire, it may quickly die out. When more wood is added to the fire, it continues on longer and hotter. When one adds much wood to a fire, the fire grows bigger, it grows more visible, it becomes much hotter, and it endures much longer. The more people that gather to pray, the more influence there is on each other to remain steadfast, resolute and fervent in pouring out the heart to God. One person who ‘prays in his praying’ impacts another who will desire to say like the disciples did: “teach us to pray.” O that the men of Christ’s church would pray more! O that the shepherds would pray more! O that God’s people might influence others who struggle with prayer and those who treat prayer lightly to wrestle with God in prayer, to see the power of prayer, and to see the unspeakable delight that comes in crawling into the Father’s lap and praying into His open ear.


Part 2 will follow next week.

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