“STRUGGLING IN PRAYERS” By Pastor YAU
Text: Colossians 4:2-4, 12.
1) Struggling to kneel: Just before John Ashcroft was being sworn in as a US senator, he met with family and friends for a prayer. As they gathered around him, he saw his father trying to get up from the couch where he sat. Since his father was in frail health condition, Ashcroft told him, “That’s okay, Dad. You don’t have to stand up to pray for me.” His father replied, “I’m not struggling to stand up. I am struggling to kneel down.”
2) Struggling to pray: Over 2,000 years ago, another fervent man struggled to pray for his fellow Christians. When Paul wrote to the Colossians church, Paul refers to a brother, Epaphras, who is “always laboring fervently in prayers” for the saints at the Colossians church. He did this so the Colossian saints may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Col. 4:12) The Greek word translated “laboring” or “struggling” also means “agonizing” in English to express the strenuous gymnastic training routines.
PRAYERS IN THE BIBLE: (Close to 350 listings in the Bible. Here are a few prayers most of you are not familiar about.)
1) Prayer for the first time: “Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. At that time, men began to call on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26) After Cain murdered his brother Abel, God replaced Abel with Seth to Adam and Eve. God blessed Seth with a son, Enosh, and they began to pray to the Lord. We can see the difference between the descendants of Cain and that of Seth. The descendant of Cain, Lamech, began the polygamy and continued the evil with murderous hatred. The descendants of Seth, Enosh on the other hand, began a godly tradition of prayer. (Genesis 4:19, 23-24, 26) If you can’t find others to pray with you, you certainly can start a new prayer group with your family. Seth and Enosh did just that.
2) Prayer for a special need: “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer and his wife, Rebecca became pregnant.” (Genesis 25:21) God promised that through Isaac, the family of Abraham would become numerous as the stars in the sky. But Isaac’s wife could not have children and he prayed to God for this need. The Lord answered his prayer and gave him not one but two sons: Esau and Jacob from them two people groups were born: the Israelis and the Arabs. Who says that you can’t pray for your real needs? Jesus encouraged us to pray for daily bread (needs). God promises to give us His best choice to meet our needs.
3) Prayer for divine intervention: “When the Philistines heard that the Israelis had assembled at Mizpah, they came up to attack them. When the Israelis heard of it, they were afraid. They said to Samuel: Do not stop crying (praying) out to the Lord our God for us that He may rescue us from the hands of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 7:7-8) God answered the prayers of Samuel and delivered His people with a huge victory. (7:9-12) At the peak of the WW II when England was bumped to ruins, their Prime Minister, Winston Churchill rallied his nation to pray for rescue that turned around the situation of the war and led to the final victory of the Allied Forces. We are facing constant threats of terrorist attacks since 9/11 of 2001. If America can trust God’s intervention than her military and the diplomatic strategies, we can win over all enemies.
4) Prayer for repentance: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven and pray.” (Lamentations 3:40-41) When God punished Israel for their rebellion and spiritual adultery, Prophet Jeremiah urged his people to repent of their wicked ways of life. Even after he was put into a dungeon for proclaiming the words of God, he continued to call for repentance of his people. Pray for repentance of a person or a nation, a family or a church is the most effective ways to turn around a deadly situation of life into a revival and victory. God loves to hear our prayers for each other, for repentance and commitment. You want to save a marriage, a wayward child or a church in conflict or a city in chaos, pray to God that He will send His spirit to change hearts.
WHAT TO PRAY FOR? The sky is the limit on the list of prayer items. Here in Colossians 4:2-3, 12, let’s find some of the things Paul urged Christians to pray:
1) Pray for thanksgiving: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (4:2)If we examine our routine prayers, 90% or more are focused in making requests: we ask for things we need or someone else needs. It is nothing wrong to ask for needs, but we also should be thankful for things God has already provided us. When we are so concern on our needs and making all kinds of requests, we tend to forget all the things God has already given us and we need to be thankful for them. Giving thanks in prayers makes us feel “full and filled” other than “hollow and empty.” Count the blessings God has given you and give thanks to God in prayers.
2) Pray for someone else: “And pray for us too, that God will open a door for our message so we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.” (4:3)Paul asked the Colossians to pray for him and his mission team. Pray for others is best portrayed by the Lord before he was crucified. (John 17:1-26)He prayed for strong faith of his disciples. He prayed for their unity and he prayed for the love of God in them. Here Paul asked a church to pray for their mission work. Intercessory prayers are so important in building strong Christian bond of love. When you pray for someone, you show your love to that person.
3) Pray for mission expansion: “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.” (4:4) Mission is a big subject in Christian prayers. Paul asked the church to pray for him so he may proclaim the gospel clearly that souls may be saved. Few prayers are more important than pray for missions and missionaries. This is the lifeline of God to save souls. Giving to missions is needed. Pray for missions and missionaries is more needed. In our church, we support six couples in mission work beside our support to the Baptist convention. We pledged to give and to pray for them. Look at the MISSION MAP in the foyer and pray for these families and their needs.
4) Pray for spiritual growth: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” (4:12)This is praying for spiritual growth and maturity of God’s people. Many of the problems in our lives rooted from our inadequacy or immaturity in spiritual strength. Joy and harmony among God’s people will greatly improve if we have strong faith in God and willingness to follow His will. We need to pray for church leader, teachers and many volunteers who serve God and His church day in and day out that they will have the strength and wisdom to do so.
OVERCOMING PRAYER HURDLES: Keeping a constant habit of prayer is never easy. Here are some of the ways to overcome the hurdles.
1) Face the challenges: “He is always wrestling in prayer for you.” (4:12) The word translated “wrestling” here may be translated as “struggling” also. Keeping a constant habit of prayer is a struggle to all of us. We just have to face the challenge, to put extra efforts into the discipline and schedule to make it work. Any unconscious relax will jeopardize the effect of prayer.
2) Be on watch always: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the fresh is weak.” (Mt. 26:41)All of us can be weak at times when we should be on watch. The disciples fell in sleep when they should be on watch at that moment. Keeping a watchful attitude helps us to be alert of any temptation. Prayer certainly builds a shield of protection.
3) Building consistency: “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” (Col. 4:2, ASV)One way to build a habit of prayer is be consistent. If you make a commitment to prayer and keep it consistent at a particular time and place, you will be more likely to keep your prayer habit. An on and off prayer habit is easy to be broken. Be determined to continue and never to stop under any situation. If you keep your prayer ritual as you keep your mealtime or work schedule, you will be in better control.
4) Unanswered prayers: This is the most withering factor causes many to stop praying. It is almost impossible to continue to pray when your prayers are not answered. We need to know that: 1) God answers prayers in his time and fashion. 2) God has better answer than what we asked for. 3) God has a higher purpose not to answer our prayers. 4) We may be unfit to receive His answer and 5) Our faith in a loving God should supercede our requests from Him. God is much more and bigger than our prayer needs.
1) Prayer-the lifeline: Bible reading and prayer are considered the lifelines of Christian growth. They provide the spiritual food and energy to our souls. You can measure your spiritual growth by measuring your commitment to devotional and prayer. Take some special steps to build or rebuild your prayer life to keep you a strong and effective Christian.
2) Prayer-a discipline: We all know that it takes lots of discipline to be good in many things: music, sports and everything else we try. Prayer life needs the same discipline to be effective. Set up a goal to explore the richness of this spiritual Treasure Island. God has so much in store for you, waiting to be found.
3) Prayer-a new life: Say a prayer to the Lord to confess your sins, to ask for forgiveness and to invite Jesus into your heart to be the Savior of your soul and Lord of your life. He is standing at the door of your heart, asking to enter to your life. Believe in Hi, and ask him to come in to lead your life to a higher ground. Today is the best day to receive this gift of a lifetime: salvation in God’s Son, Jesus, the Christ.