Friday, May 6, 2011
Prayer is a great privilege from God...do you take full advantage?
When you tell someone you'll be praying for them or someone ask you to pray for them, do you actually take the time to remember the person in prayer?
That's a tough one. Being a prayer warrior is a true calling, and doing it right requires a degree of discipline and humility not many of us come by easily. Humility? Yes, I believe presenting the needs of others to God ahead of your own needs requires a great deal of humility. We live in a self-absorbed world that tries to drive us to a narcissistic point of view...But what's in it for me?
Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy that praying for others is the key to a clear conscience, so in fact, praying on the behalf of someone else provides a direct benefit to the person praying. Now, I'm not saying you should focus on the benefit you receive from praying for others...that's not the point. But if you're inclined to need additional motivation to pray for others...there you have it.
1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 1-4 (NIV)
A familiar verse to most Christians that we hear a lot following Presidential Elections...but did you ever notice the word 'then' in verse 1 (the word 'therefore' appears in the KJV)? The presence of that word reminds me that Paul didn't lay his letter to Timothy out in the chapter/verse format we're used to reading, and there must be something significant in the previous verse he is bringing to a conclusion. Let's take a look:
18Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. I Timothy 2:18-20 (NIV)
So when you read the context of Paul's point through all seven verses, you see the importance (I urge...) of praying for others in the sight of God, but also as a matter of doing a little personal inventory. Let me tie that up a little better...
My experience tells me that it's very difficult to pray for someone else when you have something bad weighing on your conscience. No matter how hard I try to focus on the person or need I'm praying for, I keep going back to...But what about this (sin) in your life? Do you thing God's listening to you with that albatross hanging around your neck? What good are you doing for this person you're trying to help if you can't deal with (sin)?
Ouch. Paul charges Timothy to hold onto faith and good conscience so not to shipwreck his own faith. A good conscience is a conscience that does not condemn you for the things you do or don't do. So, what Paul is saying is that in order for your ship of faith to stay afloat...you need to see to it that you don't do the things your conscience condemns or leave undone the things which your conscience demands.
Tony C...what the heck does this have to do with praying for others? Wrap it up for me.
Okay, I'll boldly paraphrase Paul ...since you must keep a good conscience in order not to make a shipwreck of your faith, I urge you first of all to pray for all men. At the top of Paul's list of things that we must do in order to keep a clear conscience is to pray for other people. In order to see why failing to pray for people leads to a bad conscience and so jeopardize our faith, we have to ask... What is it that will nudge a Christian's conscience in his relationship to other people?
The answer to that question is clear from the direction of the entire Bible... all God's instruction is summed up in this... Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, anything we do to people that is unloving will prick our conscience and threaten our faith. With that as a foundation, we can start to see why prayer for other people is at the top of Paul's list of things we must do in order to keep a clear conscience.
Now that we've worked on having a clear conscience, there's a lot of prayer request that need lifting up. I hope you will keep me in your prayers...it's the least I can do to help you stay guilt-free.