Today, we are continuing our look at the “The Power and Protocol of Prayer” where we are searching for how to see more of that power and potential that we all believe lies in prayer manifested in our lives. And what we have been learning is that the power of prayer is found in the protocol of prayer—that is, an official procedure or principles for how prayer works. So, our aim in this series is to find out how prayer works so that we can get the kind of results that Jesus taught us are possible when we pray.
So, we have learned what prayer is, what prayer is not, and how to pray. We have also learned the importance of praying the will of God, which is one of the most critical parts of praying more effectively. And last week, we looked at some specific ways in which we can pray the will of God found in First Thessalonians 5:16-18. In short, we learned how to make the God-kind of thanksgiving turkey sandwich 😊—by using the sandwich technique of rejoicing and thanksgiving in our unceasing prayer lives. Yes, we made the point that there is a spirit / attitude that our prayers can be sandwiched in that makes our constant & continual prayers that we offer up to God more appealing to Him.
Paul started off by saying, “Rejoice always.” Not when we feel like it, when we’ve got something to rejoice about, or as long as things around us make us happy.” No, Paul said that we are to rejoice, according to Webster’s dictionary, “at all times, at any rate, and at any event; forever.” That would include the times where we’ve gotten terrible news, the times our body is telling us we’re depressed, the times everything in the world around us is painted in doom & gloom. And the good news about this command is that it proves that we all are capable of doing just that! Amen!
But that was just one half of the sandwich: We saw that the other half is found in verse 18 where Paul goes on to say, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now we saw that the phrase “give thanks” is significant because to give something indicates that we don’t just have it in our heart, but that we are deliberately offering something. For example, say I have it on my heart to give one of you some money, but I don’t actually follow through with it. Did I give it just because it was in my heart? No, of course not. So, when it comes to giving thanks to God, it is important that we are actually giving it to Him.
So, we learned from this that if we do not give this thanks to others, then we are essentially being “unthankful.” Therefore, to be unthankful is not just to actively murmur, gripe and complain; it is simply not giving thanks. As we learned, this is why we want to be specific when we give thanks—not just saying thank you, but expressing that gratitude from a true heart of thanksgiving.
And we also learned that this giving of thanks that God wills from all of us is to be done “in everything.” That means that in the midst of every situation and every circumstance, we are giving God thanks. We saw that this doesn’t mean that we are thanking God for any and all circumstances in our life. This simply means that we are thanking God while going through them.
Yes, we are giving God thanks for every good and perfect gift that He has given, gives, and will give no matter what we are going through in life. So, every situation and circumstance of life is to be weathered “with thanksgiving.”
Church, this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving is arguably the most important ingredient to prayers that avail much. We all know that in order for us to make bread that rises, we must add yeast in with the flour. Likewise, in order for our prayers to rise, we need to add the ingredients of joy & gratitude in with the prayers. Amen!
So, we learned that this rejoicing & thanksgiving is not just something we should do at the end of the year (i.e. Thanksgiving & Christmas); it is what we must do in the beginning of the year as well. It is how we come before Him and draw near to Him based on Psalm 95 & Psalm 100. This is the gateway into the holy of holies where the manifested glory and presence of God is housed. Amen.
So, let’s incorporate this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving into our prayer lives—for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us all. Amen.
A WEAPON OF OUR WARFARE
Now, this week, I want us to continue our study on prayer by beginning to look at a verse in Ephesians chapter 6 that generally does not get the respect & attention that it deserves--Ephesians 6:18.
You see, this verse is a continuation of the apostle Paul’s brilliant exposition of spiritual warfare and the whole armor of God. So, after referring to the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit in verse 17, he goes right into saying, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Now by the wording he used in verse 18, it is clear that Paul was not changing the subject matter. In fact, verse 18 seems to be a continuation of the statements that were being said in the verses before. It is for this reason that some even believe that the prayer that is being spoken of here is also a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The reason for this is because when one considers the whole set of armor that Paul was likely drawing his analogy from—the Roman soldier—these soldiers also carried a lance that enabled them to do damage to their enemy from a distance.
How many of you know that this exactly what prayer does? It is a powerful weapon that is at our disposal that enables us to do damage from a distance. Amen!
Now with that said, let me take the opportunity here to make an important point—While prayer is a spiritual weapon, far too many Christians depend on carnal methods to see the changes they believe need to be made. For example, I have seen many believers who have a zeal and desire to see some kind of ministry to take place try to make it happen through “hard selling” it to the decision makers. But while it is certainly okay to make some suggestions, voice our opinion, etc. what we need to avoid is trying to make something happen through our own self-effort. That is carnal, and not trusting the Lord. Another example is with our lost loved ones: I have seen many Christians in their zeal, go over the top in trying to convert their family members. And oftentimes, these aggressive forms of evangelism come across as obnoxious and are a turn off to the very one we are trying to persuade.
Second Corinthians 10:4 teaches us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. That means that we are not waging our warfare through natural, fleshly means. The way to see the change that we believe God wills is through the whole armor of God, which includes prayer. Yes, praying to the Lord to move in that person or thing and let Him do the work and give the increase. Amen?
So, what I believe is the godly way of approaching things that we believe need to change is to trust God to move the hearts of those who can make it happen or those that need it to happen in them. It is much more gratifying to see the Lord open up the doors and direct hearts while we are just at peace and trusting Him. Not to mention, it’s a good spiritual exercise for us to boot.
So, prayer is one of the weapons of our warfare and it is where we will win most of our battles. More often than not, it is not going to be with our hands; it will be on our knees.
WATCH AND PERSEVERE
Now let’s begin looking at this verse that is chock-full of some awesome prayer principles:
Here are some other translations that give us some more insight into everything Paul was saying in this verse: The (older) Amplified Bible says, “Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).” The J.B. Phillips translation says it more simply— “Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women.”
After the apostle Paul exhorted us to incorporate the many different kinds of prayers and supplications into our prayer life and to constantly strive to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit (points we will get into over the next couple of weeks), he goes on to exhort us to pray like this while being both watchful and persistent. Like we studied last week, this shows more of the attitude that should accompany our prayer lives—things which I want us to camp on this week.
The first thing Paul mentions is praying with a watchful attitude by adding the phrase “being watchful to this end.”
Now in the Scriptures, the word “watch” is used many times in connection to prayer (See Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & Mark 14:38). So, what does it mean to be watchful? It means to be spiritually awake, alert, and vigilant. It means to be aware of what is spiritually significant and eternal.
You see, so many believers just float through this earth life without any awareness of the spiritual implications of their daily routines. They do not truly understand that there is a war going on in the spirit and this short time we have in our body will come to an end before we know it. And since our prayer life is what is in view here, let’s look at what it would mean to be watchful in our prayer life.
Being watchful in prayer would be having our spiritual eyes and ears wide open. It would be living in the awareness of what is going on in the spiritual realm around us and praying accordingly. It would also involve praying continuously with more passion and zeal. So, being watchful is extremely important to our prayer life because it is what will cause us to pray the way that God intends for us to pray. Why? Because we will see what is truly going on and will then know how to pray effectively. Amen.
But I want you to notice is that Paul was sure to include that our watchful prayers are to be “with all perseverance.” The word Paul used for “perseverance” here was only used this one time in the New Testament. It comes from the root word proskartereo which was a word commonly defined as “continuing.” So, to “persevere” describes being persistent and continual in our prayer life. You could say that it is being patient and not becoming discouraged or disheartened when we are praying. Church, this is extremely critical to our prayer life.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND PATIENCE
You see, when one studies the New Testament, they will see that it teaches us that virtues like “patience, endurance, and perseverance” are what we should all pursue in our lives. Actually, the word used for biblical “patience” was deemed by the early church as the queen of all virtues. The reason they thought so highly of hupomeno was because they knew that if they had this virtue in their life that they could always outlast the enemy and win every time. And, saints, this certainly applies to prayer too:
I am convinced that if we can have the virtue of patience working in our prayer life then we will see the answers to our prayers every single time. The reason why we sometimes fail to see the manifestation of those answered prayers is because we either grow weary or we simply let the emotions wear off. When this happens, we tend to let go of our faith and stop seeking the answers like we did in the beginning.
Like many see “patience” as one of their greatest weaknesses, I see patience as one of the biggest weaknesses in our prayer lives too because many believers can start off strong in their prayers, but after a period of time—when they do not see the answers—they become disheartened and let go of the faith. They feel that because they do not see it yet that it must not be working.
Church, we live in a microwave society where we want everything, and we want it now! But God is not in the business of “drive-thru breakthroughs!” He is called the “God of Patience.” Therefore, He is obviously not in a hurry! So likewise, we need to develop the fruit of patience and not be in such a hurry to see the answers to our prayers!
So, a point that needs to be understood is that faith is not the only virtue necessary for success in our prayer lives. Why? Because faith has siblings—two sisters, in fact, named hope & patience. So, just as we certainly need faith; we have need of patience too!
Hebrews 10:36 says it this way— “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Might we say that we have need of this endurance so that after we have prayed the will of God, we may receive the answers? So, this verse makes it clear that receiving all of the promises of God—including the answers to our prayers—is not just accomplished by faith; it comes both by faith and this patience, endurance, and perseverance.
Hebrews 6:12 says that we should not become sluggish, but that we should imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Did you know that in the Greek language words have genders? Well, in Hebrews 6:12, the word for faith (Greek pistis) is masculine and the word for patience (Greek hupomeno) is feminine. So, let’s run with this analogy: If faith is the male and patience is the female, what are they capable of when they have a relationship with one another? Giving birth to the promises of God! Let me say it this way— When our faith sows into patience, we will give birth to the promises of God!
You see, most of the time when a seed is planted, it takes a considerable length of time to produce the harvest. And that is the way that God has planned it. More often than not, we are going to have to patiently wait through seasons for the manifestation of the prayers we have sown. And it is during that time that we need patience to endure and hold onto our faith, so we don’t dig those seeds up and cast away our confidence.
You see, as I have previously said, many believers start out of the gates with a blaze but after a few laps they become sluggish. They start off in faith—being fully persuaded that God has heard their prayer—but they do not keep the fire lit and oftentimes will even forget all about it. This is not effective prayer! We need to make a conscious decision that we will pray and believe God for as long as it takes. When we pray this way then we will start inheriting the promises! In other words, we will see the answers to those prayers start manifesting!
James 1:2-4 also carries on this illustration of how the promises of God are given birth to by describing the work of patience in our life:
First, James says, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Verse 2). Isn’t this what a husband and wife usually do when they discover that they are pregnant? We even throw gender reveal parties because of the excitement of the news of a baby being on the way. Yes, there is generally joy because we are “expecting.”
But going back to the “gender” thing—the problem that comes in is that the excitement is in faith, but because the patience isn’t present, there might not be any promises given birth to.
You see, what if we gave birth to our babies immediately? Well, pretty much no one will be ready for the responsibility. Why? Because preparations need to be made in the natural, the woman’s body needs time to adapt to the life within her, etc. This is what I see James going on to describe:
Verses 3-4 go on to say, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
What these verses are saying is that it is when we have these trying circumstances arise that we have the opportunity to develop in the virtue of patience. Again, most Christians will say that patience is not their strongest virtue, but what we need to understand is that the way we are going to develop patience in our lives is by exercising it. We will have to make a conscious effort to stand once we lift the request up to the Lord. And the more we put patience into practice the more we will see it develop and grow stronger.
And what an awesome promise verse 4 gives us: James says that if we completely walk in patience in any area of our life that we will not lack anything. And, again, this includes our prayers!
But what I want you to notice is that when this verse says, “have its perfect work,” it is a picture of a women coming to full term in her pregnancy. So, when a woman finds out she is pregnant she has to wait 9 months before she gets to see her baby manifested. Likewise, when we pray, sometimes we have to wait months and even years for the manifestation of the answer. But the Word tells us that if we let that baby come to full term then we will never lack our answer.
You see, so many believers abort their babies before they come to full term and miss out on their answer. Yes, after we start out in faith and the seed has been conceived, things can get tough and many believers can cast away their confidence, not holding fast to their confession. But if we can gain that same mentality of a pregnant women, being willing to tough it out, then we will see tremendous results. I know so many of us want to see our babies right away but there is character that needs to be developed and preparations that need to be made and that might be the reason we don’t see our answers right away.
So, this is why these virtues like patience & perseverance are so needful in our prayer lives: It is because, more often that not, there will be a process of time from the time we pray to the time we receive the answers.
THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE
Now Jesus had much to say about the power of persevering prayer. One of His lessons came in Luke 11:1-13. Let’s take a look at it …
As we’ve studied already in this series, Jesus’ disciples came to Him as He was praying and asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus proceeded to give them the “Lord’s Prayer” (which of course is the “model prayer” as I’ve made the point of already). Then in verse 5, Jesus begins to give His disciples a parable concerning one of the most important principles of our prayer life—persistent and persevering prayer.
In verses 5-8, Jesus began by saying, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you.’ I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
Now let me first say that, in this parable, the exact opposite has been taught than what the Lord intended to get across. The point that is commonly made by Christians today concerning this parable is that God is like this friend. So, when we go to Him with a need He might just say no and if we just stay on Him about it long enough, He’ll give into us. I believe this is exactly the opposite of the point that Jesus was trying to make!
You see, this parable is not a comparison to God but rather a contrast to God. How many of us have friends that would turn us away if we came to them with a serious need like this? The answer is—none of us really do because, in my opinion, a real friend would not turn away another friend in a time of need. So, Jesus’ point was why would we think God would turn us away if we don’t even think that a friend would do this? God loves us infinitely more than any other human does!
Then notice what Jesus goes on to say: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Verses 9&10) This is where Jesus makes the contrast between this so-called friend and God. He tells us that when we ask, it will be given to us; when we seek something from Him, we will find it; and when we knock on His door at midnight, it will be opened for us.
Church, this is where our faith needs to be in order to receive from God. We must believe that He will answer our prayers! And He does not just answer for certain special people. Verse 10 says that “everyone who asks receives …” God is gracious to all who ask of Him! This shows God’s willingness not only to answer for His friends but also to answer for whosoever will ask. This should be our basis of faith for our prayers being answered.
I know before I even walked with the Lord that He heard me and answered my prayers. When I was just a kid I would have crises that would arise in my personal life, school, etc. and when those crises would come I would cry out to the Lord to help me and, God is my witness, every time I asked Him to help He did! So, you cannot convince me that now that I am at least trying to be pleasing to Him that He will not answer my prayers. God is more loving and gracious than we give Him credit for. I believe the reason many Christians have such a hard time receiving the answers to their prayers is because they are “performance-minded.” That is, they don’t feel confident that God will answer their prayers because they do not feel like they deserve it. Listen, you will never deserve the answers to your prayers! Every prayer that we have answered is by the grace of God, so we need to receive them simply by His mercy. It is also important that we greatly desire the answer. We must be desperate and passionate in order to see great results. I believe the reason I saw perfect results before I even knew the Lord was because I was at the end of my rope and was desperate for His intervention. When you get like that—where you show a complete insufficiency in yourself and a total reliance upon Him to bring the breakthrough—you will see great results. The humble receive more grace!
Then in verses 11-13 Jesus continues His contrast of our natural relationships with our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He says, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Jesus was making the point that there is not a human (i.e. evil) parent that would give their child something useless, much less deadly, if they asked for something they needed so how can we believe God would do that to us? Jesus used the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him—not just something natural or temporal! He is freely willing to give us the best gift we could ever ask for! I believe the reason that Jesus uses the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit will provide all these other things for us so God giving us Him is the assurance of these lesser gifts as well.
But if we go back to verse 8, we can find another very important point that Jesus was trying to make in explaining to His disciples “how to pray.” He said, “…though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” This is the power in persistent prayer!
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gives a similar parable to describe the importance of persistent prayer …
Luke starts in verse 1 by saying, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” In this verse, Luke reveals that the purpose of this upcoming parable was that “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus had just finished explaining His Second Coming so that is what Luke was referring to when exhorting us “not to lose heart.”
Jesus then begins His parable in verse 2 by saying— “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” Like in the previous parable we covered, many Christians believe that this parable is also meant to be a comparison to God but that is not true! Again, the unjust judge in this parable is meant to be a contrast to God just like the friend was in Luke chapter 11. The reason we know this is because, first of all, this judge did not fear God. How would that exemplify God Himself? And second, this judge did not regard man. The word “regard” literally means “respect.” God so loves the world, much less respects it! So, from verse two alone we should be able to conclude that this is a contrast rather than a comparison to God.
Let’s go on and look at verse 3: It says, “Now there was a certain widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary’.” God always has showed us to take special care of widows so how much more will He provide justice for them. And this request— “Get justice for me…”—is a petition that is directly in line with God’s will and nature. He is a God of righteousness and justice! The Word tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. That means that every judgment and decision that He makes is founded upon bringing justice to those in need. To top it off, the one that this widow needed justice from was called an “adversary.” This is a term given to Satan in the Bible. You see, what we need to understand is that Satan is the enemy of God and that we are His children, so how could we believe that God will not give us justice from His unjust enemy.
Verses 4-5 go on to explain the response: “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” In other words, since this unjust judge did not care about people and he had no fear of God, when this widow came to Him with her petition, he did not give her justice. But after her “continual coming” he finally gave in to her because he was getting weary of her persistence. And in verse 6 Jesus told us to pay special attention to what the unjust judge said.
He then proceeded to tell us the principle of this parable in verse 7— “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? The principle was that if this unjust judge will grant the request of this widow because she pesters him, then how much more will God “avenge his own elect who cry out day and night.” The word “elect” means “chosen ones.” So, if we are specifically chosen by God and are recipients of His favor then how could we believe He would not avenge us—especially when we cry out day and night (i.e. pray perseveringly)? If He did not spare His own Son how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)! Then Jesus said— “though He bears long with them.” The word “though” literally is the conjunction “and,” and the words “bears long” comes from the Greek word makrothumia which is better translated “longsuffering.” So, this phrase should be translated “and He even is longsuffering with them.”
This point could be interpreted two ways: First, not only should we believe that God will grant us our petitions because we are His chosen and favored ones but also because God puts up with our mistakes, and second, God will answer our prayers even though He could put up with our continual coming forever. You see, so many people believe that God has selected them to be in His body, but most do not believe that He is longsuffering towards them. And this belief causes them to not present their requests to God because they feel unworthy and even like a bother to Him. But Jesus is telling us that God does not operate like that.
Verse 8 goes on to tell us how He operates— “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Since we are God’s own elect—He will avenge us speedily! We do not have to beg and plead forever! He will move quickly to bring us justice! We just need to believe that God has answered our prayer even though we may not see the results yet.
But notice that Jesus calls this persevering prayer that makes requests of God day and night—faith! Faith in what? Faith in the nature and character of God to answer our prayers that we lift up to Him day and night! You see, faith is not only just praying once and believing you receive. Faith is also persistent!
You see, we need to understand that the reason we are persistent is not because God is unwilling to give us what we are asking for and that we have to annoy Him into doing it. The reason we need to be persistent is because it is a form of faith in God. It is a confidence and reliance upon God’s ability and willingness. And when we operate in faith, we will see results! There is also something that happens in us when we wait on the answer. We develop character. We develop patience. We develop faith. These are all things that need to take place in us, and God wants to make sure we trust Him.
Church, we are in training now. We are being prepared to be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven and to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus. That is why God does not always supernaturally manifest the answer to our prayers the moment we pray them. We need that space in between which makes us stronger and develops character. We just need to trust God and understand that He knows what He is doing. Our job is to rest and know that the Battle belongs to the Lord.
It is obvious that our prayers are not always answered when we want them to be. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, even years to see the manifestation of the answers. But what we are called to do is persevere in prayer. We are to pray continuously and not to give up. Delay is not denial! We need to just trust the fact that we are praying to an “on-time God!” Amen.