In mid-September, Tennessee high school football rivals knelt and prayed together after their gridiron battle, in defiance of legal threats from the nonprofit group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. A photo of the two teams praying together alongside some 500 fans on Tennessee Tech University’s Overall Field has been shared on social media more than 30,000 times and counting.
PRAYING IS OBEYING
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Martin Luther, German theologian and leader of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, made this statement about prayer more than 500 years ago. And it’s just as true today as it was then.
The Apostle Paul contends that Christians should live prayerfully everyday as an expression of worship. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Scripture teaches us to pray in faith with adoration, confession and thanksgiving. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So, the next time you experience anxiety, stress and fear, thank God for the opportunity to exchange your angst for His peace. And then ask God to protect your heart and mind from Satan’s predictable attacks.
PRAYING IS BELIEVING
It’s been said that “seeing is believing.” But for the Christian who walks by faith and not by sight, praying is believing. The consistency and concentration of your prayers reveals volumes about what you believe about God. If we truly trust that God’s heart is to help us and not hurt us, love us and not condemn us, deliver us and not deny us, then why wouldn’t we seek Him in prayer for all of our concerns and needs?
Jesus promises that whatever someone asks in His name He will provide. However, that doesn’t mean we have a blank check with God. Actually, what God promises is that whatever we pray according to His will, He will grant. James 1:5-7 teaches us how God answers prayers full of faith: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”
PRAYING WITH PURPOSE
Bible teacher John Piper writes, “You cannot know what prayer is for, until you know that life is war.” Spiritual warfare is real. To deny the reality of its existence in the life of a Christian is to surrender in defeat to the enemy.
Prayer is essential for wartime footing. But make no mistake, spiritual warfare is not a physical battle of aggression. This war is fought on a Christian’s knees, or whatever position you assume when you are praying. After describing the whole armor of God, the Apostle Paul lays out God’s battle plan for Christians in Ephesians 6:18: “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”
Persevering in persistent prayer, Paul declares, is the Divine strategy for defeating the Prince of the Air. He says further that God’s mission on Earth should be conducted through constant communication with Command Central— translation, “praying at all times.” The word supplication is a form of prayer that means asking or begging humbly or earnestly on behalf of yourself or someone else.
PRAYING THAT INVITES GOD’S PRESENCE
Finally, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18 that praying is how one remains aware and alert. As important as what you pray for, is what you pray against. Since we know that Satan is actively trying to destroy us, doesn’t it make sense that we pray against his efforts? Furthermore, since we know that the enemy is a liar, murderer and deceiver, doesn’t it behoove us to pray against his schemes? As we pray for God’s protection from the evil one and for wisdom to avoid his deception, we should also pray against his diabolical schemes and attacks.
There is something undeniable about the power of God’s presence in prayer. At one of his lowest points in life, while hiding in a cave in fear for his life, the psalmist David prayed: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:4-8)
Intentional prayer redirects our focus off our circumstances and toward God’s plans and purposes. For example, when Jesus faced the cross, He prayed victoriously that God’s love will shine forevermore in the hearts of those who receive His love and forgiveness.
Isn’t it interesting how earnestly we try to pray people out of Heaven? To pray for healing of a brother or sister in Christ this side of eternity is to ask for more time with our loved ones at the expense of delaying their heavenly reward in the presence of Jesus. And while this is certainly understandable from an earthly perspective, shouldn’t we pray—even more— for those among us who aren’t bound for Heaven? Then, let’s start praying for people to place their faith in Jesus before they die, as fervently as we pray for those who are ready to go to Heaven when they die.
Now, that’s what living on a prayer is truly about.