The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 231)

Prayer – Our Lifeline to God

Christian Living

"... praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."

(Eph 6:18-20)

In the passage of Scripture preceding the above, God’s Word dealt with the spiritual armour that every Christian ought to put on when battling the devil. Prayer is the enabling power in our battle with the devil but what is the relationship between the spiritual armour and prayer? After all, when we have put on every component of the spiritual armour, we have no need to fear the devil since we will be well protected. However, we will not achieve victory if we do not call upon God for the strength necessary to win the battle. Prayer is the lifeline that sustains and enables us to engage the enemy in battle. That is why even with the armour on, the Christian needs to depend on God in prayer if he is to be victorious in the battle with the devil.

We all know that prayer is a vital part of our Christian life but we never get down to engaging in regular prayer because many of us do not really believe in its importance in our lives. Prayer is, in fact, the responsibility and obligation of every true believer and it is my sincere hope that this article will challenge you to reconsider your priorities about prayers.

Frequency of Prayer
Most Christians would be fervent in prayer and asking others to pray for them when they face trials, illnesses, losses and persecution. There is no need to remind Christians to pray or ask for prayers because they are desperate and will seek God. However, when the trials are over, they lose the impetus to seek God in prayer.

In v. 18, Paul exhorts us to be praying at all times. To pray at all times does not mean we interrupt our work and be in prayer throughout the day. That would make us poor workers and failing in our responsibilities to our employers. To pray at all times means that we are constantly talking to our Father and conscious of the battles before us and of God’s presence with us. Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is foremost in our minds and hearts. In our place of work or at home, in all that we do, we are always aware that what we do and how we do it is a reflection of our relationship with God. There is no compartmentalisation of our lives into Sundays and other days. We could be doing our work and yet commune with God. Sometimes it would require us to set aside time to pray. At other times, it may simply be a quiet utterance of prayer for help when we are faced with challenges, crises and temptations to sin, because we need His strength to support us and overcome those trials. Yet at other times, it may be just a prayer of thankfulness and praise for blessings received.

Prayer is our channel of communication with our heavenly Father throughout the day; it is not an option or luxury but a necessity. It is vital when we are engaging in spiritual battle and also necessary for daily living. That is why prayer is often likened to the process of breathing, because we would die if we do not breathe. Jesus exemplified this necessity for prayer throughout His earthly ministry; and so, how much more should prayer be an integral part of our lives! We are not stronger than Jesus and hence we ought to be praying at all times. Therefore, we ought to start each day with prayer and end the day with prayer.

Manner of Prayer
Paul does not stipulate the form or the words to use in our prayers, but instead exhorts us to pray in the Spirit. Without the Spirit, we cannot even think one right thought about God, let alone pray. Prayer is possible because of our relationship with God the Father. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us affirms our relationship with the Father and thus our prayers will receive His attention because we have been adopted into the family of God. A child of God who has no desire or burden for prayer must question his relationship with the Father.

If we are not in a saving relationship with Christ, then our prayers will amount to nothing. Unbelievers may call out to God but they cannot call on God as Father because they do not know God the way we do. He is under no obligation to answer their prayers because they do not belong to Him.

When we pray in the Spirit, it is not praying in tongues. It means that our prayers are being led and guided by the Spirit when we pray. It is truly labouring in prayer; both your heart and mind are fully involved. Paul explains, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). When we pray in the Spirit, even when we do not know how to pray or do so incorrectly, we have the assurance that the Spirit will cover our weakness by interceding on our behalf. Have we not on some occasions started praying by asking God to answer as we thought best but then ended up praying in a completely different direction because the Spirit guided our prayer in a manner that was in accordance with God’s will?

When we pray in the Spirit, it means that our prayers will be fuelled by the Spirit of God and framed by the Word of God. That is why we must pray the Word; we are then able to ask God for what we know is pleasing to Him and for the things He has promised to do.

Besides praying in the Spirit, two other qualities apply to us when we pray – alertness and perseverance. Prayer warriors must be watchful and looking out for direction and guidance from the Spirit. There will also be many occasions when our prayers do not seem to be making any headway but if we are praying according to what God has promised, we must persevere and not give up. When it comes to prayers, we will all struggle either because of lack of time or motivation and Satan wants us to give up because he is threatened every time we pray. Jesus taught us in Matt 7:7 about perseverance in prayer; we must ask, seek and knock – three verbs that indicate increasing intensity of pleading with God. If you are well grounded in the Word but struggle in prayer, we should not be surprised because Satan seeks to distract you from prayer as it is the power of God.

Types of Prayer
The exhortation to pray with all prayer and supplication may seem redundant since prayer and supplication appear to be the same. However, all supplication (request to God for help) is prayer but not all prayer is supplication. The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 is the perfect example of a prayer because it starts off with praises, praying for God’s will to be done, supplicates for needs, seeking forgiveness, deliverance from temptations and ending with praise again.

So, our prayer ought to first focus on God and we praise Him for who He is, His majesty, His mercy and lovingkindness. We also thank Him for answered prayer including those petitions which He has denied. We must be careful that prayer does not just consist only of petitioning God for ourselves and fellow Christians because that is being selfish and ignoring who God is. So, what portions of our prayer are praises and thanksgiving instead of just supplications?

Christians also have a responsibility to pray for the government, country and leaders because such leaders are appointed by God to do what is good. We must pray that our leaders will uphold justice and serve with honesty and enable us to worship God and preach the Gospel unhindered.

When we pray for the sick, the most obvious way is to pray that God would heal the person of the sickness. I am not saying this is wrong but our prayer should also rise above the obvious. Should we not pray that the sick person would grow through the experience of the illness and become a testimony of the Lord’s goodness even if he or she wasn’t healed? Recently, a Christian brother texted me that his non-Christian friend had a life-threatening brain haemorrhage and asked me for some medical advice. After giving him the necessary medical information, I also reminded this brother that we should pray for God to sustain the life of his friend so that he would have another opportunity to hear the Gospel message. Several days later, I texted this friend for an update and he told me that this friend made it through the operation safely and was now on the road to recovery. I reminded this brother that perhaps God spared this friend’s life for such a purpose as we had prayed. He replied by asking me to pray for him to have the courage to share the gospel with his friend. We were both thankful for answered prayers but were also brought to a deeper understanding of the purpose of God’s answer to prayers.

Application of Prayer
In v. 19 and v. 20, Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him. As he wrote this letter to the Ephesian Christians, he was imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel and yet he did not ask them to pray that he would be spared from persecution or be released from jail. Instead, he asked them to pray for boldness to proclaim the Gospel. If Paul was on our prayer list, our topmost concern would be to pray for his release, but not so with Paul. These two verses reveal the burden that weighed heavily on his heart. He may have been bold in preaching the Gospel but he was still intimidated by the enemies of the Cross and therefore fearful to proclaim the Gospel message when challenged.

No Christian can ever boast that he has no fear of proclaiming the Gospel in the presence of opposition, especially when such opposition is hostile and threatens our lives. That was why Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for courage and that he would not be silenced by the enemies of the Cross. I am sure that Paul prayed all the time, fervently and with all perseverance and yet desired that the church prayed for him. This shows the importance of corporate prayer. When the church prayed for him, Paul knew that his faith and courage would be strengthened. If he didn’t believe in the importance of prayer, he would not have asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him.

The prayer request from Paul reminds us that very often our prayers are self-focused and our attitude toward answered prayer reveals where our hearts lie. Not many of those who requested for prayer have testified and praised God for answered prayers. Answered prayer ought to change our lives dramatically but sadly this may not be so. Some who have been blessed by answered prayer return to life as usual, doing the things they were doing before the crisis struck. If they were chasing after promotion or a bigger salary, it was back to these goals once the crisis was over and God is forgotten.

If everyone in church counted on the next person to labour in prayer but no one is doing it, then the church is powerless to fulfil the task set before them. The state of the church corporate prayer meeting is often a good reflection of the spiritual health of the church. If members are not concerned and praying for the church, then we ought not be surprised when the spiritual health of the church deteriorates. It is possible that individual Christians are praying at home but if these Christians understand the power of prayer, then surely, they must also believe in the importance of corporate prayer. Do we believe that we as a church will go on in faithfulness and fruitfulness if we are not a praying church? Our success in spiritual warfare is dependent on whether we are rooted in prayer.

Prayer is the lifeline of the Christian soldier, for without prayer, he will not be able to fight the battle against Satan and gain victory. It is also the means of communing with God and seeking His will in daily life. Jesus, even in His final moments at the Cross, was in constant prayer to His Father because He treasured His relationship with the Father. Jesus knew that prayers do not change God’s will but strengthen His own will to submit to His Father’s will. He gave His life for our sake so that we might be adopted as sons of God. Therefore, we have the boldness and confidence to approach the throne of God and are able to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

Tan Chee Eng
- Tan Chee Eng is an elder of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship.

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