Lesson 15 - The First Local Church cont.

The first local church "continued stedfastly in prayers." In our last several lessons we have seen the important place of prayer in the life of the early church. It was not just a doctrine, it was a normal practice of individual and corporate Christian life. Our life as a church will only be vital and God-pleasing as we also "continue stedfastly in prayers." In our final lesson on prayer we will consider

3 What to Pray For

a) Generally

Phil. 4:6 (Amp.) - "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and IN EVERYTHING by PRAYER and PETITION (definite requests) with thanksgiving continue to make your wants known to God."

JBP — "Don't worry over anything whatsoever; tell God EVERY DETAIL OF YOUR NEEDS in earnest and thankful PRAYER."

The believer so relates to God, that everything is deliberately and consciously shared with Him in prayer. Prayer is not an occasional "emergency measure," but an "unceasing" exposure of all of life's situations to God with the desire for His participation. This verse contains the "Divine recipe" for Christian tranquility.

i Carefulness for nothing.

ii Prayerfulness for everything.

iii Thankfulness for anything.

b) Specifically

i For all men, high and low

1 Tim. 2:1,2 (Amp.) - "First of all, then, I admonish and urge that PETITIONS, PRAYERS, INTERCESSIONS and THANKSGIVINGS be offered on behalf of ALL MEN, for KINGS AND ALL WHO ARE IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY OR HIGH RESPONSIBILITY, that (outwardly) we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life (and inwardly) a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way."

Here we have "apostolic doctrine" concerning our responsibility as believers, to pray for "all men." One of the weaknesses of our prayer life may show up at this point. Many Christians seem unaware of this apostolic command, while others almost totally neglect it. It is our privilege and duty to pray for the "all men" for whom Christ died.

"Petitions or supplications, are humble requests which one makes in the light of THIS OR THAT CONCRETE SITUATION in which God, He alone, can furnish the help that is needed. Prayers are requests for the fulfilment of NEEDS THAT ARE ALWAYS PRESENT (in contrast with supplications in specific situations): the need for more wisdom, greater dedication, etc. Intercessions speak of pleading in the INTEREST OF OTHERS, and doing this 'without holding back' in any way." In thanksgivings, we offer gratitude to God "on behalf of" all men, for His "tender mercies over all His works" (Psa. 145:9).

ii For God's Servants

Rom. 15:30,31 (JBP) — "Now, my brothers, I am going to ask you, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the love we bear each other in the Spirit, to STAND BEHIND ME IN EARNEST PRAYER TO GOD ON MY BEHALF - that I may not fall into the hands of the unbelievers in Judea, and that the Jerusalem Christians may receive the gift I am taking to them in the spirit in which it was made."

2 Cor. 1:1O,11 (JBP) — "It was God who preserved us from imminent death (dangers experienced in Asia), and it is He who also preserves us. Further, we trust Him to keep us safe in the future, and here you can JOIN IN AND HELP BY PRAYING FOR US, so that the good that is done to us IN ANSWER TO MANY PRAYERS will mean eventually that many will thank God for our preservation."

Eph. 6:19,2O (JBP) - "And PRAY FOR ME, too, that I may be able to speak freely here (in prison) to make known the secret of that gospel for which I am, so to speak, an ambassador in chains. PRAY that I may speak out about it as is my plain and obvious duty."

Col. 4:3,4 (JBP) - "INCLUDE US IN YOUR PRAYERS, please that God may open for us a door for the entrance of the gospel. PRAY that we may talk freely of the mystery of Christ (for which talking I am at present in chains) and that I may make that mystery plain to men, which I know is my duty."

1 Thess. 5:25 - "Brethren, PRAY FOR US."

2 Thess. 3:1,2 (JBP) - "Finally, my brothers, DO PRAY FOR US here. PRAY that the Lord's message may go forward unhindered and may bring him glory, as it has done with you. PRAY too that we may not be embroiled with bigoted and wicked men; for all men, alas, have not faith.

Heb. 13:18,19 (JBP) - "PRAY FOR US. Our conscience is clear before God, and our great desire is to lead a life that is completely honest. PLEASE PRAY EARNESTLY that I may be restored to you the sooner."

These verses indicate two rather comprehensive things about which to pray in connection with God's servants. First, that they will be physically protected and preserved, and, second, that they will have opportunity and freedom to preach God's truth.

iii For Each Other

Col. 4:12 (JBP) - "Epaphras, another MEMBER OF YOUR CHURCH, and a real servant of Christ Jesus, sends his greeting. He works hard for you even here, for he PRAYS CONSTANTLY AND EARNESTLY FOR YOU, that you may become mature Christians, and may fulfill God's will for you."

Eph. 6:18 (JBP) - "PRAY at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you PRAY FOR ALL CHRIST'S MEN AND WOMEN."

iv For Wisdom

James 1:5 (Amp.) - "If any of you is DEFICIENT IN WISDOM. LET HIM ASK of the giving God (who gives) to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him."

Wisdom has been variously defined. The dictionary tells us that wisdom is "the faculty of making the best use of knowledge." Dr. A.T. Robertson says that "wisdom is the right use of one's opportunities in holy living. It is living like Christ in accord with the will of God." Every Christian should want to know "God's viewpoint" on everything and see it worked out in his life. Prayer is a means toward filling in the areas of lack.

v For Relief in Affliction

Jas. 5:13 (JBP) - "If any of you is IN TROUBLE let him PRAY."

Amp. - "Is any among you AFFLICTED, ILL-TREATED, SUFFERING EVIL? He should PRAY."

The word "afflicted" means, literally, "having hard experiences" and it refers to natural depression as a result of such misfortunes. "The remedy is not in despondency. The remedy lies in prayer. Let him pray as a habit (present tense of durative action). It is good to talk to God. The worry disappears in God's presence and often the very ill itself disappears. But if it does not go, He gives grace sufficient to bear the burden." Paul uses the same word for suffering hardship as a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3,9; 4:5). Pray for relief or for the grace to endure!

vi For Hea1ing

Jas. 5:14,15 - "Is any sick among you? Let him call for the e1ders of the church; and let them PRAY OVER HIM, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the PRAYER OF FAITH shall save the sick, and THE LORD SHALL RAISE HIM UP; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."

vii For Consecration of Food

1 Tim. 4:4,5 (JBP) — "Everything God made is good, and is meant to be gratefully used, not despised. (The holiness or otherwise of a certain food, for instance, depends not on its nature but on whether it is eaten thankfully or not.) It is CONSECRATED by the word of God and by PRAYER."

There were religious teachers who were giving religious significance to certain kinds of food. All "God-made" foods are good and should be received with thanksgiving which is expressed in prayer. Our Lord "blessed" the bread which He "took" to "break" and "give." How we thank God for the provision of our daily bread."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #15

  1. According to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6, what is the scope of prayer and what are the accompanying attitudes required?
  2. How many people in the world should we pray for?
  3. Has God linked prayer with the success of His ministry, and if so, provide four scripture references?
  4. Do we have any responsibility to each other in prayer?
  5. What is the place of prayer in successful Christian living?
  6. What should one do when afflicted?
  7. Is prayer of any value when the Christian is sick?
  8. What is the relationship of prayer to food?