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In the series Above All, Pastor Philip De Courcy highlights the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as presented in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Christ is above all powers and all things. To go beyond Christ is to leave Christianity behind. In Above All, Pastor Philip reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ is creation’s only source, man’s only Savior, and God’s only Son, and He must be understood accurately.
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Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Colossians 1. I want to begin a two part message this morning on Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. Colossians 1:9, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” This is Paul’s prayer for them. This is my prayer for you. This is a prayer for each one of us.
The child was acting up. His parents did all that they could to kind of calm him down, but it wasn’t working. And so finally the father picked the little fellow up and he walked directly and sternly down the aisle on his way out to the foyer. Just before he reached the doors to the foyer, the little one called back to the congregation in a loud voice, “Pray for me. Pray for me.” Been there, done that, on both sides of it. Praying for others is a ministry that God calls us to. When Paul writes to the Thessalonians, in Chapter Five of his first letter, in verse 25, he says, “Pray for us.” James in 5:16 of his epistle says, “Pray for one another.” We have that beautiful episode in the Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ telling Peter both before and during and after his fall, he was going to pray for him that his faith wouldn’t completely implode.
Folks, prayer is not only a matter of petition where we go to God on our own behalf, and there is a time and a place to do that absolutely. But prayer is more than petition. It also involves intercession, when we go to God on the behalf of others. Let me give you a great definition of intercession because that’s what’s going on here in Colossians 1:9-14. Paul hasn’t ceased to pray for them, for their spiritual growth and development. Someone has said that intercession is standing in someone else’s shoes and representing them before God. Is that not a glorious ministry? That is a ministry that each one of us ought to have in each other’s lives. When it comes to prayer, we’re part of a family plan in which the minutes are to be shared. Your prayer minutes are not all about you. They’re about the family and everybody ought to be considered when we are praying. Prayer is not just about us. It’s about others.
In fact, if one man taught me that it was a man by the name of Bobby Graham. He was a painter, decorator back in Northern Ireland. He was a godly, faithful deacon in my first charge at Carr Baptist Church, a little country church outside the city of Belfast. Bobby Graham was a man of prayer. There were a few prayer meetings that he never attended and fewer still he failed to pray in. His prayers were often marked by thanksgiving and thoughtfulness. I don’t think there was a prayer he ever prayed where he didn’t revel in God’s amazing grace in putting His hand upon him and saving him for all eternity. Bobby Grimm loved the fact that God had saved him through Jesus Christ. But there wasn’t only thankfulness, there was thoughtfulness. He would pray specifically for particular people and problems in our church without fail and with great faithfulness.
In fact, I’ll tell you this, almost invariably when he prayed on the Wednesday night prayer meeting, he always quoted 1 Samuel 12:23. Write it down, 1 Samuel 12:23. I’ll quote part of it to you. Samuel has said to the people of God that he’s going to pray for them. He’s going to intercede for them. Here’s what Samuel says about that ministry he’s going to have towards Israel, “Be it far from me that I should sin against the Lord in failing to pray for you.” That is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible as it relates to the ministry of prayer, and particularly the discipline of intercession. Bobby Graham, as a deacon, served our people well because he prayed for them faithfully on a Wednesday night. He understood that it was a sin not to pray for the health of the Body of Christ at Carr Baptist Church. Paul’s going to remind us of our need to pray for others and how to do it.
In fact, let me just pause for a moment. As I did this week myself, reflected on with great thankfulness for the life and ministry of Bobby Graham, I was struck by that verse. Not praying for others is a sin, that just grabbed me by the throat. Not praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ is a sin. In fact, I think it’s a sin for three reasons. Number one, God commands us to pray for one another. Now, I’m not saying, just in case you misunderstand me, we can’t pray for everybody and everything. But what we’re talking about is as you look at your prayer life, do you pray consistently for other people? If you don’t, you’re sinning. Because God commands you to pray for others. We looked at that in James 5:16, “Pray for one another.” The verb there to pray in the Greek is in the continuous present tense and it’s in the imperative mood. That means it’s a command. It’s something you ought to do on a continual basis. Folks, if you and I are not regularly and routinely praying for each other, we are sinning against each other.
I’ll give you another reason why not to pray for others is a sin, because it exposes them to greater sin. Because when you pray for someone you’re praying that God will protect them. You’re praying that the grace of God will be their supply so that they might live a victorious Christian life. But if you are not praying for them, they are out from under the umbrella of prayer. It’s like a house without a roof. When you and I don’t pray for others, we are exposing them to greater spiritual danger. Thirdly, I think it’s a sin not to pray for others because it’s a dereliction of Christian love. We’re told by the Lord Jesus, aren’t we, to love one another. How might that love be expressed? Well, in 101 ways, particularly in prayer, wouldn’t you think?
Listen to this quote from Richard Foster in his book on prayer, I find very helpful over my Christian life. He says this, “If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them.” When you love someone, don’t you want the best for them? Now, there’s what we can give, but there’s what God can give. Tell me what’s better, what you can give or what God can give? Think about that. Catch his drift. If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them and this will lead us to pray. Intercession is a way of loving others. Oh, I’m so glad we’re going to slow down a little here, take our time and spend two weeks looking at Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, because he is not sinning in failing to pray for them. He is interceding on their behalf, that they will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that they will walk worthy of the Lord fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God.
Folks, like the high priest in Israel, we, as a royal priesthood in the New Testament, have a duty and a delight to bear the names of our loved ones, our friends, our pastors, our missionaries, our neighbors, our civic leaders to the Lord in prayer. That is a ministry you and I must bear, dutifully and delightfully. You can read about it back in Exodus 39:14. The high priest of Israel who went before God to represent the people, he wore a breastplate and on his breastplate were the names of the Tribes of Israel. Every time he went before God, he was carrying the names of the people before God. Is that not our ministry? When it comes to our friends and our family and our pastors, and those who are on the foreign field serving the Lord Jesus Christ?
John Welsh preceded Samuel Rutherford in his church in Anwoth, Scotland. John Welsh was the son-in-law of the famous John Knox. One particular night, he got up in the middle of the night. He wrapped himself in a tartan blanket. It was cold. It was dark. It was damp. But he began to intercede for his people and the church over which he was a pastor. When his wife pleaded with him to come back to a warm bed and get his night’s sleep, here’s what he said, “I have the souls of 3000 to answer for and I know not how it is with many of them.” I, as a pastor, I, as a parent, I, as a husband, you, as a congregation, in those roles also, you and I will give an answer for people that God has put within our lives. One of the ways that we will minister most effectively to them is to pray for them.
That brings a smack dab into the middle of Colossians 1:9-14. Here we have Paul on his knees. He’s begging God for an escalation of his work among the Colossians. If you know your New Testament, you’ll know that this isn’t the only time that Paul has prayed for a church and this isn’t the only church that Paul has prayed for. In fact, if you read your New Testament, you’ll find a number of Paul’s prayers. You’ll find one in the book of Ephesians, in Philippians, here in Colossians and in 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. Paul was constantly praying for God’s blessing upon the churches, his protection above them and his work within them. I don’t know have time to take you to the references. You’ll find one in Ephesians 1:15, following, Ephesians 3:14, following, Philippians 1:9-11 and 1 Thessalonians 3:9, following.
Paul understood that he had a ministry. He had to give himself to the Word and to prayer, but he understood that prayer was one half of the work. But it was the half that gave the other half its power and its success. We shouldn’t be surprised to find right out the gate here in our study of the book of Colossians, that Paul is praying for this church. His whole ministry was birthed and bathed in prayer. Although the Book of Acts portrays Paul as a man of prayer, you’ll find him throughout the Book of Acts in prayer. We’re not often told what he prayed for, but he was a man of prayer. In fact, his Christian life was evidenced in the fact that he prayed. Because in Acts 9:11, just hours and days after his conversion, he’s found in a street called Straight by Ananias. You know what the Bible says of Paul? Look, he’s praying. That’s what you ought to find when you look at a Christian, even a new Christian. Look, he’s praying. But it is in the epistles, it’s in his letters that we really get to see what he prays for.
No doubt his prayers to these churches was a way in which he conveyed his love. We’ve already talked about that. You can show your love for others by your prayers for them. But I think there’s another reason for the fact that he includes the very prayers he prayed for them in the letters, because he wants his prayers for them to become their prayers for him and their prayers for each other. He wants his prayers to be almost like an apostolic guide to praying and interceding for other people. I’m glad for that. There’s no one going to argue with me this morning that a Christian ought to pray. Of course, a Christian ought to pray. That’s a no brainer, but what to pray for and heart pray that stretches us at times. It challenges us at other times. Therefore I’m glad for the beauty and the bonus of studying Paul’s prayers, where he provides us some rails along which our prayers can run to God.
There are no PhDs in the world of prayer. There are no graduates from the academy of prayer. We’re all on a journey. We’re all learning how to pray more deeply, more widely. C.H. Spurgeon says it of his own prayer life, “I usually feel more dissatisfied with my prayers than anything else I do.” Anybody understand that and identify with that? Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote, “I have never presumed to produce a book on prayer or even a booklet.” We’re like those first disciples, Lord, teach us. And he provided us a prayer. Now we have these prayers of Paul, which again, just give us an outline of biblical, balanced praying. Let’s begin to look at Paul’s prayer. There are a number of things I want us to see, just one this morning with a couple of subpoints.
The first thing I want us to see is what I call Paul’s prayer for their spiritual enlargement. I’m not going into the particulars of what he prayed for, in a sense, we’ll look at that next week, but I’m looking at the big picture. I want you to see that Paul primarily here comes before God on their behalf to pray for their spiritual enlargement. This is the overarching passion. This is the overarching perspective. He prays that the Colossians will grow in their walk with God. He’s bursting with desire to see them color in the corners of their Christian life. That’s what he prays for. He prays that they will be filled with all wisdom. He prays that they will be fully pleasing to God. He prays that they will be fruitful in every good work. He prays that they will be strengthened with all might, for all patience. Paul’s got great expectations for the Colossians, wouldn’t you agree?
Paul wasn’t going to settle for spiritual dwarfism in the church at Colossae. In fact, he tells us at the end of this chapter, look at verse 28, speaking of Christ, Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Look at 2:5, “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
He’s saying, you know what? Epaphras has brought news back to me here in Rome about what’s going on in the Lycus valley in Asia Minor in the city of Colossae, he said, I’m tickled pink. It’s great. I can see that you’ve got faith in Christ and love for all the saints and the hope of the Gospel’s affecting how you live during time on earth. But he’s not satisfied with that. He goes on to say, but having received Christ Jesus, go on walking in him, verse six, ” … rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” Oh, friends, this is what we need to pray for. I need to redouble my prayers for you. You need to redouble your prayers for us. We need to redouble our prayers for each other. We need to pray that the Spirit of God will work among us in an abundant, abounding manner. This is the prayer that ought to catch the heart of the true child of God. We ought to have great expectations. Paul prays for their spiritual enlargement.
By the way, he tells us here at the beginning of verse nine, he’s been praying this from the moment he heard of their faith. Look at verse nine, “For this reason, we also, since the day we heard it do not cease to pray for you.” What’s he talking about? Well, he’s talking about verse four, where he heard about their faith and their love and their hope in verse five. Do you know what strikes me about this? Paul had received a good report. Now, there were issues that Colossae. We’ll get into those soon enough. That’s to the background, we’ll get to that. To the foreground, the word coming out of Colossae is pretty encouraging.
These folks are living in dearly dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The reality of their union to Jesus Christ is evidenced in this indiscriminate love they have for one another. A love that transcends social bonds and boundaries and the hope of the gospel, the thought of heaven and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Well, they were living this day for that day. That’s to the foreground of the book and that’s a great report, but he prays for a better report. Isn’t that what’s so striking about this? He says, that’s good, but we can do better. I’m glad that you’ve laid hold of that much reality in Jesus Christ, but you need to open your arms. There’s so much more to lay hold of. That’s what I’m praying for, he says.
One writer says reflecting in how much good there is in the church of Colossae and how much growth there is in the church worldwide, simply drives Paul to pray for yet more. Paul prays for more evidence and more expansion. He prays large and profound prayers for these believers. Now, let’s just stop before I look at two things under this thought and just pause to think about this. We tend to do the opposite, don’t we? I certainly do. See if you’ll join me in confessing that we tend to do the opposite. You see, we pray typically and we get most earnest in our prayers typically when the report is bad. That’s when we go to prayer. We pray for families in our church when we hear that marriages are in trouble. We pray for young people in our church when we hear there’s a prodigal abroad. We tend to pray when things go bad. But when things are good, we tend to slack off.
It is too often the key is that the negative drives us to prayer rather than the positive drawing us to prayer. We tend to pray for sick people. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we rarely pray for the strength of healthy people. We tend to pray for weak Christians and there’s a place for that, but we tend not to pray for strong Christians, that they might be stronger. We tend to pray for wayward children in our families, and there’s a definite place for that, but we tend not to give thanks and continue to pray for the obedient children who are a delight to their father on their mother. It seems to me, it’s just an interesting reminder to you and I, to be careful because when it comes to prayer, often the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Paul reminds us not to do that exclusively.
Of course, you’ve got to pray for people and their problems, but we should just as much pray for people who are progressing. Let’s think about that the next time we’re together in a Wednesday prayer meeting. In fact, reflect on this past week, how you prayed and who you prayed for, either publicly with us or in private before God. Who got onto the list? What made it under the top 10 issues that you wanted to pray to God for? Was it something bad and difficult? Was it something good and exciting? Paul, it’s very interesting here as he prays for their spiritual enlargement, Epaphras, that’s great. That report is good. See, the next time you come, I’m looking for one that’s better. I want them to burst out onto the next level of Christian maturity. I want them to be fully pleasing to him. I want them to know the will of God and all wisdom. I want them to be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power. That’s up until the level of God’s glorious power.
Now, two things further on this, for the time that remains, as we look at Paul praying for their spiritual enlargement, and then next week, we’ll look at Paul praying for their spiritual enlightenment, their spiritual employment, their spiritual encouragement, and their spiritual enjoyment. But we’re just kind of looking at the big picture this morning. As I look again, just at the beginning of this prayer and its context, I want you to notice it’s reach. And then I want you to notice its regularity. There’s some good stuff for us here to think about. First of all, its reach. If you remember back to our introduction on the Book of Colossians, you’ll remember that Paul never visited the church at Colossae. Remember we saw that?
In fact, what he knows about this church, he has to be told by others. He tells us that in verse three, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith …”. He says in 2:1, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many …”, look at these words, ” … as have not seen my face in the flesh …”. Paul had never been there. They had never seen Paul, but he’s praying for them and look at how he’s praying. It’s a real challenge. It challenges me as to how I pray and here he’s challenging me as to who I pray for. I mean, when I read his prayer in Ephesians and I read it in Philippines and I read it in Thessalonians, you know and I know that he had a hand in bringing those churches about. Those were churches he planted. He had seen them. He had visited them. They had touched him. They had heard him in person, but not the Colossians. I think that’s striking. I don’t want to miss that.
He prays for his spiritual children at Ephesus and Philippi and Thessalonica, but he prays for his spiritual grandchildren at Colossae. That’s the reach of his prayer. They were added to his prayer list and with every new report that filtered back to him, it simply added fuel to the fire of his intercession for them. Paul’s prayer was intensive and extensive. He wanted to throw his arms around the whole world, so to speak. We saw his excitement last week, didn’t we? When he mentioned in verse six that Epaphras has told me about how the gospel has taken root and the seed of the Word of God has been planted. I’m excited about that and I’m hearing that from many places. There’s many reports coming across the wire that the gospel is taking root in this city and that city and this region and the other region.
Paul was a globally minded Christian. Paul prayed for people he never met. That’s been a challenge to me this week also. What about you? It’s easier for me to pray for people I know, who I have a flash and blood relationship with, who I have a day to day working relationship with. But are there people on your prayer list and my prayer list who we have never met? Have we remembered some of the faces on the screen behind us that have been brought to us from Argentina and Italy? People we have never met, but God has laid it on our heart to pray for perhaps one or two mission fields. You can’t pray for the whole world, in that sense, but you can pray for the whole world by taking a sampling of people.
Maybe some of us would pray for Europe. Maybe some of us would pray for Asia. Maybe some of us would pray for Africa. We would focus in on one of the missionaries our church supports and maybe pray for one or two people whose names are on prayer lists or on websites. We’ll never meet them this side of heaven, but that’s what’s involved in praying for the body. Do you see Paul’s prayer and its reach? I wrote this down. If you think about it, prayer is what you do for people you cannot be with. Prayer is what you do for people you cannot be with. Prayer requires no passport, no visa, no work permit. There’s no such a thing as a closed country as far as prayer is concerned. It can travel across the world in a split second. Paul had grasped the reality of that.
Part of his intercession for the church involved praying for others. Not only praying for others that he knew, but praying for others that he did not know. There’s got to be a rebuke in there somewhere for you and me. So often our prayers have as their bullseye those who are near and dear to us. There’s nothing wrong with that. We ought to be praying for others. If that’s the case, certainly we need to be praying for our wives and our children and our relatives and our neighbors and those who are close to us, absolutely. Beginning in Jerusalem, as it were, but we’ve got to move out the Samaria and the outermost parts of the earth, not only in our evangelism, but in our praying, in our intercession. We must be on guard against parochial and inverted praying. Praying for us four and no more. Praying for me, my and mine.
Paul understood the corporate dimension and the global reach that was involved in intercession and prayer. Remember we saw that in the Lord’s Prayer? The consistent use of the first person, plural pronouns, our and us; our Father, forgive us our debts, deliver us from evil. This prayer, like all prayers, is to be prayed by the whole family of God for the whole family of God. Prayer is a community deal. You and I need to think about that. Since God’s family is worldwide, isn’t it? Doesn’t stop on the city limits, it crosses the state line. It leaves the shores of the United States. That’s where God’s family lies. It lies everywhere. God has placed us here and we pray for here and we pray for one another, but we must not forget what’s beyond here. Jesus taught us that. Since God’s family is worldwide, prayer ought to be global.
Listen to this little poem someone wrote about the Lord’s Prayer, “You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘I’. You cannot pray the Lord’s Prayer and even once say ‘My’. Nor can you pray the Lord’s Prayer and not pray for one another, and when you ask for daily bread, you must include your brother. For others are included in each and every plea, from the beginning to the end of it, it does not once say ‘Me’.” Paul and Timothy, perhaps Epaphras, “Also since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you.” He’s praying for the Ephesians also, and the Philippians and the Thessalonians. It’s tremendous challenge, isn’t it?
As I’ve said, you can’t pray for the whole world, but you could pray for Christians you’ve never met, couldn’t you, some of them and countries you’ve never visited. I think that’s a really a tremendous challenge to American Christians especially. Because, I mean, this is a big country, a world dominating nation. When you’re big, you have a tendency to forget about others who are small. You know that 50% of Americans don’t have passports? They’ve never traveled outside this country. That’s got to include quite a number of Christians. Are you globally minded or regionally restricted? Paul’s reach took him from Rome to Colossae, to a place he had never been to. They didn’t get some kind of discounted rated prayers from Paul. This is Paul at it his best and his most passionate, which brings me to the final thought.
You not only see its reach. I want you to see its regularity. For this reason, the reason being, he has heard a good report, now he wants a better report. We also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you. It’s reach, now it’s regularity. Paul prayed much and often for them. He tells them here he hasn’t ceased to pray for them. We saw last week as with thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean that he’s praying for them every single minute. That’s an impossibility. Be real with the text. But it means that when he prays, he never ceases to pray for them. In fact, the verb prayer there just reinforces his thought. It’s a present tense participle verb. It means I keep on praying for you. I don’t cease. I want to see this baby church get up and walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.
You know what? You see, Paul understood the importance of intercession. We’ve already established that. You and I sin against other believers, we expose them to greater sin, we disobey the command of the Lord and we are not showing Christian Love when we don’t pray for others. Paul understood the importance and influence of prayer in the life of the early church. He believed it was vital that he prayed down the Spirit’s supply for the saints and so he prayed regularly. In fact, this is a striking statement, one that has been challenging me this week. Anything that opposes prayer in my life opposes the work of the ministry. Isn’t that a powerful statement? But that just doesn’t go for me, although I have a particular challenge and responsibility as a shepherd to pray for my people. But anything that opposes prayer in the life of a true servant and minister of Jesus Christ opposes the ministry that God has called him to do. Because we cannot be effective in ministry without prayer, which secures God’s blessing and protection.
Paul was constantly praying for the ministry in Colossae and Ephesus. In fact, words like “always”, “without ceasing”, “day and night” are found throughout his letters. Let’s give you a couple of them if you’re writing the notes down, Romans 1:9. Romans 1:9, listen to what he says to this church, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayer …”. We find it over in Ephesians 1:16. Ephesians 1:16, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers …”. Finally, 1 Thessalonians 3. 1 Thessalonians 3:10, where we have the phrase “day and night”, “For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?”. It’s powerful, isn’t it?
Paul lived his life and did his work for God on his knees. Do you see the reach of his prayer of enlargement and the regularity of it? By the way, let me help you think through something that I’m sure has been a challenge to you as a Christian and has caused you much grief and guilt. It’s the thought, well, I don’t pray without ceasing. We have this idea that Paul never got off his knees. Well, don’t beat yourself with that thought because it’s an illogical, impossible thought. Paul often get off his knees to meet his friends, to eat, to preach, to write, to have some downtime in someone’s house like Chloe. No, that’s not what it means. It doesn’t mean that you’re on your knees or you locked your door and you’re in your prayer closet 24-7. That’s just an impossibility.
What it means is this, Paul lived in a constant attitude of prayer. If he wasn’t actually praying, he was always on the verge of praying and some news sparked it, triggered it and he went to prayer. That’s what he means. That’s what it means to pray without ceasing. It means that beneath every conscious thought, Paul had subconscious communion with God that could quickly rise to the surface. I wonder if that describes you and me? Paul liked to pray words of prayer between everything he did. He wasn’t always praying, but if he wasn’t, he was certainly on the verge of it and it didn’t take much for him to pray. Do you and I subconsciously commune with God on a day to day, moment by moment basis? Then when we hear of a pain or a problem or a crisis or a challenge in a brother or sister’s life, we immediately go to prayer for them?
I think that’s the case with Paul. Paul did not spend many hours in prayer, but I think he did spend many minutes in prayer and over a lifetime, they became many hours of prayer. So that he could say in that sense, day and night, unceasingly, I pray for you always. I want that to be said of me, said of you. I’ve had some friends in my life that have been a great challenge to me. I always loved those who would often in our conversation and I’ve tried to make it a habit in my life as much as I can, when somebody shares something and these friends, if I was sharing something, we were hearing about somebody els they’d often just, well, you know what? Let’s just stop and pray about that. I think that’s what it means to pray without ceasing. Let’s just stop and pray about that. The subconscious worship of God and fellowship of the Spirit surfaces into the conscious moment.
Lewis Drummond wrote this of C.H. Spurgeon, “He actually seemed to walk in a spirit of continuous prayer. Though not given to long formal prayers, he prayed without ceasing. Actually he only spent one or two whole nights in prayer in his entire life.” I was glad to read that a couple of days ago. Whew, made me felt awful lot better about myself. Spurgeon only prayed twice in his whole life. In fact, I think I probably could beat him at that. But that’s not the point of his life. Here’s what he said, “Actually, he only spent one or two whole nights in prayer in his entire life, but he walked with God in such depth that he could move from conversation with a friend and then into a prayer in a moment.” That’s Paul, the reach, the regularity.
Let me take a couple of moments and remind you why you need to pray regularly and persistently and consistently on the behalf of others and not just yourself. There’s some child as we started our sermon this morning, who cries metaphorically, speaking to us this morning, “Pray for me. Pray for me.” Some of the home situations of children are terrible. There’s a wife living with an unsaved husband, and it’s hard to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Some of our men don’t know if they can live up to providing for their home because unemployment at this moment is rather tenuous. There’s all sorts of things going on. There’s young people in our church and in our fellowship battling with sexual temptation. They’re at the precipice and they need somebody to pray for them. Our people are exhausting themselves in ministry. We need to pray for them.
Why should we do it and keep doing it? One, because there are certain things in the Christian life that you need again and again and again. The things that Paul prayed for. Jesus taught us, did he not, in the Lord’s Prayer? Give us this day are daily bread. Don’t you need to pray for food every day? But did you remember that when we studied that, and the Lord’s Prayer, then there’s a conjunction “and” forgiver us our trespasses. Linking the forgiveness of sins to the provision of bread on a daily basis seems to infer to me, Jesus says every day pray that God will meet your physical need, every day pray that God will forgive your sins and every day pray that God will deliver you from evil. There are some things, folks, we need to pray for again and again and again.
Secondly, there’s an infernal enemy who keeps coming back, coming back, coming back. He goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may desire. Therefore we need to be eternally vigilant. I’ll tell you why thirdly and finally, because Jesus taught us to pray and not to fail, to pray through to an answer. Perhaps the answer to our prayers on behalf of others lie on the other side of the next prayer. Boy, I’ve thought about that for a little while this weekend. Maybe the answer lies on the other side of the next prayer. Remember we saw that God sometimes has us to wait? Because he wants to do something in us as well as through us. He’s refining our desires. He’s refining our trust in him, but there will come a moment when the scale will tip and the answer will come.
In fact, as I thought about that, I thought about the fact that when I used to visit my grandmother back in Belfast, there was a little sweetie shop, what you’d call a candy store, at the top of her street. I used to go in and tell her she was the greatest grandmother in the world and try and get 50 cents off of her or whatever it was to get up the top of the street and get my bag of hard candy. What we call rhubarb rock or aniseed balls, bad for your teeth, but great stuff. I used to go into that little shop, and this is how far back I’m going, not that I’m not old, but this was an old shop, a quaint little shop. All the jars were in the window. You just used to stand there google-eyed outside. If your grandmother hadn’t given you anything, you’d turn to busking and singing and trying to get yourself 50 cents to get inside that candy shop.
Inside there was a little scale and you’d ask for a quarter of sweets. The candy store owner had a little quarter pound weight on one side of the scales and there would be a bag of your hard rock candy would be sat on it. If the scales didn’t tip, you stood there and she’d take one more, put it in and another one in until at some point, one more candy went in there and the scales tipped. Seems to me, there will come a point as you and I pray for each other where one more prayer just tips the scale. When the full weight of our praying is done, God will answer. When God has taught us what he wants to teach us in the waiting, when God has prepared the circumstances for the answer and when one more prayer is given, the scale will tip. That’s why we need to pray without ceasing, because there are things we need to pray for again and again and again. The enemy doesn’t let up. We mustn’t let our spiritual guard down. God hears and answers prayer.