What if our church and, perhaps, most churches are simply neglecting the single most poignant gift that God has given to us to help us stay in right relationship with Him and with one another? What if He has given us a tool to help us cultivate authentic family around the whole gospel for the glory of God and the reaching of the nations but we refuse to pick it up? What if He has given us, in fact, a weapon to ward off the devil and his attempts to corrupt our character and mission as a church but we lean it up in a corner somewhere and promptly forget it?
I will let Samuel Chadwick reveal what this gift, this tool, this weapon is.
Satan dreads nothing but prayer…The Church that lost its Christ was full of good works. Activities are multiplied that meditation may be ousted, and organizations are increased that prayer may have no chance. Souls may be lost in good works, as surely as in evil ways. The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.
Any church that truly becomes a church that God can use powerfully for His purposes is a praying church. This is why we have crafted the next statement in our church covenant to say what it says:
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another
Today, we will consider why. Why should we pray for one another?
Because Jesus did so!
If the church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), then the church should be about what Christ was about. When we read the gospels, we see that one of the things that Christ was about was praying for His followers. In Luke 22, for instance, Jesus warns Peter that Satan is going to attack him. He goes on to say, however, that He, Jesus, has moved to support and protect Jesus. What did Jesus do for Peter in the face of this coming attack? Listen:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Later, in John 17, in the famed “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus, Jesus says this:
9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.
Listen to what Jesus does in these two passages:
- “I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32a)
- “I am praying for them.” (John 17:9a)
Church, our primary motivation in praying for one another must be that our Lord Jesus prayed and prays for us! You should be praying for the person in the pew next to you because Jesus prayed for His disciples! We dare not fail to do what Jesus did!
Occasionally our efforts in prayer are tainted by false motives. Some years ago I clipped anAtlanta Journal-Constitution article entitled “Nuns For Hire.” It reads:
Nuns for hire: “Sister Mary Rinaldo, director of development for the Salesian Sisters Roman Catholic order in New Jersey, told television reporters that more than 2,500 benefactors have paid $100 and more for nuns to pray for them daily. Rinaldi said the sisters are not selling their prayers; rather, she said, they will pray for anyone, but those who contribute money get special attention from their own designated nun, with proceeds to fund their retirement home. A Pennsylvania order has a similar program, “One on One With a Nazareth Nun.”
Well! We must not pray for money, or to seek to manipulate God toward our own goals or ends, or in order to offer up an empty ritual so that we can tell somebody we prayed for them in an effort to manipulate them. No, we pray because Christ prays for us, and we are His body!
Because the apostles did so!
Furthermore, the New Testament is simply filled with evidence that the apostles prayed fervently for the early believers. Consider:
2 Corinthians 13
7aBut we pray to God that you may not do wrong
2 Corinthians 13
9bYour restoration is what we pray for.
16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy
9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment
3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you
9aAnd so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you
2 Timothy 1
3I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
4I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers
3 John 1
2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Notice the many things for which the apostles prayed:
- “that you may do no wrong”
- “your restoration”
- Thanking God for His church.
- “that your love may abound more and more”
- “that all may go well with you”
- “that you may be in good health”
- that “it goes well with your soul”
The picture that emerges from these verses is one of prayer-saturated pastoral oversight! The apostles prayed continuously and ceaselessly for the church!
Alekse Khomiakov once said, “The blood of the church is prayer for each other.”Rightly understood, there is a great truth in that statement! As the church gathers and prays we are bound closer and closer to God and to one another!
We often read the biblical accounts of the early church and ask, “Where is that kind of power today?” But we cannot ask such a question unless we are praying as the apostles prayed: fervently, continuously, passionately, with focus and determination.
Because prayer is powerful!
We should pray for one another because prayer has power! As you hear now apostolic appeals for the prayer of the churches, consider how prayer has a two-fold power: the power to combat Satan and his evil designs for God’s people and the power to call the gathered church to God and to the blessings and provisions of God.
2 Corinthians 1
11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance
3At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison
1 Thessalonians 5
25Brothers, pray for us.
2 Thessalonians 3
1Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you
22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
What are the results of the prayers of God’s people?
- “so that many will give thanks”
- “that God may open to us a door for the word”
- “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored”
- “I will be graciously given to you”
- “that you may be healed”
Church, there is great power in prayer! When we covenant to pray for one another we are not covenanted to do some odd or unusual extra thing! No, we are covenanted to do that which should feel most natural to a child of God! We are covenanting to shut the door of hell and open the door of heaven for one another by calling on the name of the crucified and risen Lord for each other! And when that happens, great power falls down upon the church!
Did you hear James? “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Why would we neglect this great power, this great gift?
Bonaventure, in his Life of St. Francis, speaks of a time when Francis of Assisi prayed for another and the power of God fell.
Another time it happened that the abbot of the monastery of St. Justin in the diocese of Perugia met Christ’s servant on the road. When he saw him, the devout abbot quickly got down from his horse to show reverence to the man of God and to confer him with a bit on the welfare of his soul. Finally, after a pleasant conversation, the abbot, as he was leaving, humbly asked Francis to pray for him. The beloved man of God replied: “I will be happy to pray for you.” When the abbot had gone a little way, the faithful Francis said to his companion: “Wait a little, brother, because I wish to pay the debt as I promised.” As Francis prayed, suddenly the abbot felt in his spirit an unusual warmth and sweetness such as he had never before experienced, so much so that he was rapt in ecstasy and totally lost himself in God. He remained so for a short while, and when he came back to himself, recognized the power of St. Francis in prayer. After that he always burned with a greater love for the Order and related the event to many as a miracle.
Imagine giving that gift to one another, the gift of a spirit of “unusual warmth and sweetness such as [the other person] has never before experienced,” the gift helping another to become “totally lost…in God,” the gift of “great love,” the gift of, indeed, a “miracle”!
I repeat: it could just be that we are neglecting the greatest gift, the great tool, and the greatest weapon that the Lord has left us. We cannot hope for revival so long as do that.
Church, let us pray for one another! Let us covenant, let us agree, to pray for one another!
“Nuns For Hire”, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution(Tuesday, July 6, 1999), B2.
Quoted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol.1 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), p.186.
Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis (San Fancisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), p.109.