Last week we looked at how the full armor of God is needed if we are going to stand strong in our faith and help our children and youth stand strong in theirs. In fact, let me say this again because I can’t say it enough – our children and youth will not be able to stand strong in their faith until we are standing strong in ours. We need to do all we can to understand God’s word and know God’s truth. We need to trust in Jesus as our Savior and then trust in the righteousness that Jesus offer, and we need draw deeply upon our faith so we can effectively share it with others – this is the full armor of God. Paul ends his talk about the armor with these words, Ephesians 6:18 – Pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers and requests. In so many ways, payer is what makes the armor and our faith effective so let’s look at what it means to pray in the Spirit and explore what kinds of prayers we have to pray.
When Paul says we should pray in the Spirit it means we need to pray in line with God’s will and believing in God’s ability. Let’s start with the second part of that first: do we believe that God has the ability to answer our prayers? Do we believe God can do the things we ask Him to do? If we don’t really believe God can do anything about our situation then we aren’t praying with conviction or power and we aren’t praying in the Spirit. Praying in the spirit begins by believing that God is able to do more than we ever thought or imagined and if we need to grow in this belief, then we need to turn to the Bible because it is filled of stories about God’s power.
When the Red Sea needed to part in order to save God’s people, God parted the Red Sea. When water was needed in the desert – God brought water from a rock. When the city of Jericho looked too strong to overcome – God tore down the walls. When the giant Goliath looked like the winner – God took him out with one rock. When storms looked like they would sink the disciples, Jesus silenced the wind and the waves. When death looked like it had the final word – God brought forth Jesus from the grave and gave us all a resurrection. God can do all things.
God can step into a specific time and place to do anything that needs to be done so we need to pray with conviction and trust that God is able. Sometimes the challenge for us isn’t thinking that God is able, it’s wondering whether God is willing. We wrestle with the question – does God want to help us? Does God care enough about us to answer our prayers? This is where the absolute truths we mentioned last week need to be remembered. Last week we learned 2 absolute truths, the first is that there is a God who created us in his imagine and the second one is…God Loves Us.
If we aren’t praying with passion and power because we don’t think God wants to answer our prayer then we need go back and remember this truth. God loves us. God loves us unconditionally. God loves us eternally. God’s love is deeper, higher, wider and strong than we can possibly imagine. Once we accept this truth and begin to experience God’s love, we will pray with conviction and power knowing that God’s will and desire is to help us. It doesn’t mean everything we pray for will happen, but it means we can pray with confidence and in the Spirit.
Praying in the spirit also means being willing to pray in line with God’s will. While we can ask God for anything and God is willing to listen, He will only give us what is in line with His will which means it’s helpful for us to be living and praying in line with God’s will. Jesus teaches us how to do this when he prayed on the night before his crucifixion. Jesus didn’t want to carry a cross, and he didn’t want to be nailed to a cross, so Jesus asked God if it was possible – then help him find another way. Three times Jesus prayed this prayer but each time he ended it with these words, not my will be thy will be done. That’s how we need to end our prayers. We can share with God what is on our hearts and be honest with Him about our deepest desires but then we need to be willing to pray, not my will but thy will be done.
So praying in the spirit means praying in line with God’s will and believing in God’s ability and this needs to be the foundation of our prayer life – but then Paul says we should pray with all kinds of prayers. Too often I think we become focused on only one kind of prayer and that is asking God for help or asking God for what we want or need. Our prayer turns into a list of things and while I don’t think God minds this, we are limiting our experience of God and the power of prayer. So let’s look at some other kinds of prayers that can broaden our experiences and to do this we are going to look at the ACTS of prayer.
“A” stands for Adoration and it is always the best place to start because this helps remind us exactly who God is and what God is capable of doing. Adoration reminds us that God loves us and God is able to do all things. We can find many examples of these prayers in the book of psalms and in fact, since many psalms are written as prayers to God we can simply use them as our prayers For example, look at Psalm 8, and then my personal favorite is Psalm 18:1-6. I often read this as a prayer to God and it is my favorite because it reminds me of a time in my life when God delivered me and it reminds me that God loves me. My fear is that we don’t spend enough time in prayers of adoration which means we aren’t really focused on the power and strength and love and will of God which means we aren’t praying boldly in the spirit. To stand strong we really need to focus on prayers of Adoration.
From there we move on to “C” which stands for prayers of Confession. In many ways, these prayers will naturally flow from our prayers of adoration because when we understand how great and loving God is we immediately begin to see our own sin and weakness. In fact, we just heard that in Psalm 8:3-4. Prayers of confession are important for 2 reasons, they humble us before God and humility is required for a strong relationship with God, and it is only by confessing our sin that God is able to then turn and forgive us our sin, look at 1 John 1:8-10.
So it is important to confess our sin but prayers of confession can not turn into times of self loathing. Confession needs to lead to forgiveness, once we confess our sin we need to accept God’s grace and forgiveness and then move forward in life and when we do this it naturally leads to the “T” – Thanksgiving. While God’s forgiveness might be the first thing we need to be thankful for – it should not be the last. Our prayers should be filled with giving thanks to God for all that we have and what’s important to know is that these prayers not only honor God but they actually help us experience lasting joy.
Dr. Brene Brown, who will be speaking at the Leadership Summit in a few weeks, says that all of her research showed her that being thankful led to lasting joy. In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown said that EVERY participant in her study who talked about staying open to joy also talked about the importance of practicing gratitude. The pattern of association is so strong and prevalent that she has made the commitment as a researcher to never talk about joy without talking about gratitude. Prayers of thanksgiving not only help us see who God is and deepen our relationship with God but they help us experience the fullness of joy – who wouldn’t want that?
These three types of prayers: adoration, confession and thanksgiving, are some of the prayers we need to be praying if we want to stand strong in our faith and they tend to be the prayers we often neglect. We tend to focus all our prayers on the “S” – Supplication which means asking God for what we want or need. I found this really interesting; Wikipedia says that supplication is the most common form of prayer and it is where a person asks God to provide something, either for the person who is doing the praying or on behalf of someone else. Sometime what we find on the internet is true. I believe supplication, or asking God for what we want or need, is the most common form of prayer and yet it shouldn’t be. It should be just one form of prayer.
Now don’t misunderstand, supplication is an important form of prayer and God does want to hear our concerns, wants and needs – but is that all God wants to hear all the time? For those of you who are parents – do you only want to hear what your children want and need from you? How does it feel at work when all our boss tells us is what she wants from us, or all our customers tell is what they need? Isn’t it nice to get some affirmation and thanks? Isn’t it nice when people actually humble themselves in relationships instead of just asking for more? I think the same is true with God. God loves us unconditionally, but I think it brings God joy when we spend as much time thanking him and adoring him as we do asking him for what we need. So let’s strive for balance. This week take as much time adoring God in prayer as you do giving thanks and confessing sin and asking for what you need. We have included in the next steps some practical ways to do this.
And then finally, Paul says this in Ephesians 6:19-20. Paul was a missionary doing the work of God and he wanted and needed the church to pray for him and his ministry. There were times Paul got weary and needed boldness. There were times Paul faced huge obstacles and needed the power of God to break through. There were times Paul faced opposition and persecution and needed God to intervene. Paul needed the prayers of the church and missionaries today need the prayers of the church. We are honored to have Mark here today and we actually get the opportunity to live out God’s word by praying that Mark and all those he ministers with will have the boldness to proclaim the power of the gospel in a hurting nation.
We are going to close by asking Mark to come forward so we can live out this passage and another one where the leaders of the church laid hands on those they set aside for ministry. In Acts 6:6 it says, they had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed for them and laid hands on them.
Let us pray.
Standing Strong in PrayerMonday – Pray In The Spirit Take time to tell God that you believe in His power and that you desire to be in line with His will. Read and reflect on Jesus prayer in Mark 14:32-42.
Tuesday – Adoration Take time in adore God; affirm God’s goodness, strength and love. Pray these scriptures: Psalm 8, 18, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 121, 148
Wednesday – Confession Take time to confess your sin to God. Confess the things that are easy and those things you don’t want acknowledge or admit. Read and reflect on: Psalm 51, 103:12 and 1 John 1:5-10
Thursday – Thanksgiving Take time to give thanks to God for all you have, make a list and add to it throughout the day. Pray it at night. Pray this scripture: Psalm 103:2
Friday – Supplication Take time to ask God for what you need and what needs you see in others. Read and reflect on: James 1:5, Luke9-13
The Weekend – ACTS: putting it all together. Divide your prayer time into 4 sections and spend equal amounts of time in the ACTS of prayer.
All week – Pray for Mark Abbott and the Church in Spain.