I do not feel I am particularly well qualified to write on the subject of prayer, but since I am a Christian who prays, knows well most of the passages in the Bible that concern prayer, have been a participant in countless prayer meetings, many of which I have led, and have many times seen God answer prayer, I believe I have something to bring to the party. Just like “Bible”, discussed earlier, prayer is something even the humblest among us can participate in with great effect.
As an old dodderer that has at this time once again been consigned to Covid lockdown and with no demand to contribute to the economy, I can do so knowing I must do my bit as a Watchman on the Wall, encourager of saints and sinners alike and as a Bible student and teacher, and share what the Lord has laid on my heart. I have long known this of course but my effectiveness is linked to my prayer life and I have no excuse for not praying, whether it is an individual (in secret as Jesus said) or part of a collective. The days of national emergency, such as during World War 2 when the King called the nation to pray, seem to have gone and yet we face an emergency now. While I don’t want to use this opportunity to bash church or government, I regret such calls don’t happen and my reading of the Bible is God allows calamities to wake His people up. An earlier topic was holiness, and it there is a connection, God (YHWH) wants both a holy people and a praying people and the one leads to the other. While we may stand in awe at saints of bygone days who prayed daily for hours on end, it remains true: “the devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees”.
Before I give my list of areas to pray into, I offer some “qualifying” thoughts by way of a precursor:
- It is quite clear that the prophets of the Bible were men and women of prayer and that prayer and prophecy were linked. Often they had to wait a long time until they saw answers to their prayers or fulfillment of their prophecies but they persisted and were patient, and so should we.
- I often precede studies like this with a Bible search, in this case on the word “pray”, and feed this into my online Bible application (BibleGateway) and thus meditate. There are passages of the Bible, particularly the Psalms, that help. I commend this practice. Besides studying the Bible, I have read many helpful books on prayer, which I commend, but confess the revolution and transformation that should follow is very much work in progress.
- There have also been many “heroes of the faith” to supplement those mentioned in the Bible, who took God at his word, and prayed, and as a result of their praying often saw wonderful, unexpected, unusual, miraculous, powerful answers to prayer. Like Elijah they were those of likes passions as we are. Reading their biographies can be inspirational.
- Prayer is no substitute for obedience to God, living a holy life, taking action and having a contrite heart and a penitent spirit. The practice of confession as a prelude to prayer is one I would commend. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” Psalm 66:18.
- Prayer must lead to action. The likes of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer prayed and it led to needful political action. The likes of George Carey and Hudson Taylor prayed and it led to fruitful missionary endeavour, like in India and China. The likes of Mueller and Booth prayed and it led to much needed social action, like caring for widows and orphans. The likes of Bonnke and Prince prayed and it led to Pentecostal revival. The likes of numerous church planters down the ages prayed and it led to new churches being opened. The likes of many martyrs prayed right up to this present time, and it often led to their deaths. So often, the likes of you and me have prayed and it did lead to wonderful breakthroughs in what were often small things.
- We must be careful not to pre-empt God – who while He will answer our prayers, it may not be in the way we hope of expect. We must be reliant on the Holy Spirit to help us to pray.
- We are beholden to pray and the objects for our prayers are countless, but we must begin somewhere. It doesn’t require fancy words or well thought out schemes. God knows it all.
- Prayer, including supplication and intercession, should accompany worship, including praise and thanksgiving. In fact, worship God for who He is and praise for what He has done should be central to our prayer time. It also means we have to forgive those who have wronged us. It also involves spiritual warfare and is an weapon in this important undertaking.
- While our prayers are often general e.g. bless Aunt Soandso, we need to learn to go from the general to the specific and be like Jacob, not to let God go until he has blessed us.
- Prayer involves spiritual warfare and those who take prayer seriously, as opposed to a token exercise is a spiritual warrior. There is much that is happening behind the scenes, typically in the spiritual realm, we cannot see because we do not have the big picture but the Lord and his heavenly army does and delights when his earthly army engages in such warfare.
- As members of the Body (the Church), which is universal and includes people we may not like or agree with, we need to pray for them, and especially for the suffering church.
- Prayer, like so much in life is a discipline and it can happen at anytime and in any place and take any form (including use of set prayers). It can be done privately and individually and publicly and corporately. It needs to be done regularly and freely. Prayer is a sincere response of the heart to our loving heavenly Father who can and does give us far more than we can ever ask or imagine.
As for items of prayer, I offer here what is a halfway house between the general and the specific. I also have a view of world events as does the reader and will do my best not to force my view.
- There is so much going on in the world and the picture changes by the day and we don’t know half. As I write the USA is uncertain who has won the US Presidential election. The issue of voter fraud is a real one. The outcome will have huge implications, not just for the USA but for the world at large. Pray truth and justice prevail.
- 2020 has been the year of the Corona virus which has affected us all. For some the affects are devastating. As I write, we do not know how it will all end. We pray God’s will be done.
- As far as my country, the UK, goes Brexit has overshadowed so much among its concerns and as I write the UK is shortly due to completely leave the EU, and there remains uncertainty as to whether it is with a deal or no deal. Pray for a righteous transition and for the UK’s future outside of the EU.
- It has become increasingly evident that the Church (true followers of Christ) is not united and false teaching and unspiritual leaders holds sway. Yet Christ loves the Church and seeks a bride, pure and holy. Pray He will stir up His people and raise up leaders, like King David, after His own heart. Pray for revival in the church and be ready for it start with us.
- Many of our brothers and sisters across the world suffer severe persecution. Every day, the likes of the Barnabas Fund give examples of persecution for us to pray concerning.
- There are many mission agencies, including those known to and supported by us individually, who do sterling work, but under great pressure and all sorts of constraints, including financial ones. As overwhelming as these needs are, we must recognise “the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35) and we must pray “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37), as well as for those doing the work.
- We may have little confidence in the leaders of this world but we must pray for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
- There is much to concern us in our own community, family, friends, neighbours etc. It is likely that included in their number are those who are unsaved. We must pray for them.
- In our own circle and fellowships there is the elderly, young, perplexed, lonely, disaffected, sick etc. There may be outreaches to these and the wider community to pray concerning.
- Israel remains God’s special people: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” Psalm 122:6.
- The call to love our neighbour, form the very top of the societal ladder to the bottom, those who are key workers and those who aren’t, those who like and support us and the very opposite, the decision makers and influencers and those who aren’t; whatever age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability etc. There is here enormous scope for prayer.
- Pray for the furtherance of the gospel and the extension of God’s kingdom, throughout the whole world, for there to be true disciples of the Lord Jesus who will disciple others.