“Rejoice always, pray without easing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

As the above verse suggests, prayer isn’t just our first duty as believers, but God’s will for us who are in Christ. Prayer is central to our faith, and so, instead of being our last resort, it needs to be our first line of defense!  These aren’t just empty words for Paul–he actually practiced what he preached, and a quick read of his letters in the NT reveals how often he prays for the churches he’s writing to. In addition to laying out the basics of the faith, defending it against heresy, exhorting people to godliness, and encouraging them in their ministry and proclamation, Paul was also devoted to praying on other people’s behalf. In fact, his teaching on prayer is based on the fundamental principle that praying for others isn’t only pleasing to God, but important and purposeful, for both the one praying and the one being prayed for.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 Paul writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Paul’s exhortation here to Timothy packs a lot of teaching into a few sentences.

First, he says that praying for others is foundational. ‘Proton,’ the Greek for ‘first or firstly,’ denotes conceptual primacy. In other words, prayer is our primary purpose, and we’re to pray for other people–even people who are clearly not in the household of faith, such a secular rulers.

Next, Paul says that our prayers for others are built on the premise that our will is aligned with God’s in an important way; namely, we have the shared desire for not just the best for that person, but that they’d ultimately come to the knowledge of the Gospel truth, repent, be baptized, and saved through God’s grace. As one preacher writes, “There’s a much deeper significance to praying for others–it’s a reflection of our own understanding regarding salvation. In praying for others, we acknowledge God’s mercy towards us and ask that same mercy for others.”

Paul also lists several specific prayer actions that we’re called to engage in on behalf of others: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks; and teaches that when we pray for others, we’re joining them in their struggle. As he writes in Romans 15:30; “Brothers and sisters, I urge you, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggles in your prayers to God for me.”

‘Agon,’ the Greek word for ‘struggle,’ had powerful associations in the Greco-Roman world, that likens prayer to a public contest, such as an athletic event, where the struggle was both noble and beautiful.  The Greek word ‘agon’ is also used to describe Jesus praying through His most demanding struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:44 reads; “And being in agony (agónia), He prayed more earnestly.”  It’s interesting to note that Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to “watch and pray;” however, rather than supporting Him, we’re told that the three fell asleep.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to those three disciples in the garden. Sometimes, it’s easy to grow weary and not support others in prayer. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re mere spectators in the struggles faced by our brothers and sisters. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re alone in our struggles. However, Paul clearly teaches us that we’re not spectators. By praying for others who struggle, we’re engaging in the fight with them. Nor are we alone in the arena when our brothers and sisters pray on our behalf.

Paul prayed many Spirit-inspired prayers in his NT letters. And his example shows us that we can “go big” when praying for others; that our prayers can be purposeful, effective, and transformative.  It’s my prayer that God would use these prayers through this 4-week series to transform our prayer life and inspire us to be even more committed to praying big prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ, the church, and the world.

SERMONS

Title:  Be Filled with Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding

Preacher: The Rev. Canon Christopher Doering

Date:  Sunday, June 2, 2024 ~ The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture: Colossians 1:1-14 

Handout:  Part1. HO

Title:  More Lord

Preacher: The Rev. Canon Christopher Doering

Date:  Sunday, June 9, 2024 ~ The 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23

Handout:  Part2.HO

Title:  More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

Preacher: The Rev. Canon Christopher Doering

Date:  Sunday, June 16, 2024 ~ The 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-21

Handout: Part3.HO