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Day 6 – 21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer

Day 6 – 21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer

Praying, For The Sake Of he Gospel

 

“We spend more prayer energy trying to
keep sick Christians out of heaven than trying to keep lost people out of hell.”—James Walker

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”
—Colossians 4:3–4 (esv)

Asking is a vital component of our relationship with God. This is true because He has commanded us to seek Him as our ultimate source in all things. He has ordained prayer as the means by which we depend on and trust in Him. He answers our prayers to give us what He knows we need to bring Him glory.

In today’s devotional, I want to shift things from praying for ourselves to praying the gospel itself. We have to admit that, in today’s culture, permanently infected with materialism and a consumer mind-set, it is sometimes difficult for Christians to ask for things from God without a fundamentally selfish reason or a chronic aversion to suffering in any form. Too often, we pray to escape our difficulties rather to embrace discipleship in Christ.

Like many others, I love it when God answers my prayers in ways that make my life more pleasant or pain free. However, I am learning that my deepest needs are met when my heart is most closely aligned with the Word of God, the Son of God, the Spirit of God, and the purposes of God. I feel God calling me and many others I know beyond superficial solutions as the focus of our prayers. Asking is the doorway, not just to getting our next lunch or luxury item, but also to discovering the profound joy of a transformed life in Christ.

I am so grateful the Father cares about every detail of my life. He even counts the hairs on my head (see Luke 12:7), which does not take as long for me as it does for the average person! But it is so easy to reduce our focus in prayer to the typical “organ recital” concerns about Paula’s pimples, Billy’s bile duct, Sarah’s stomach ache, and Artie’s appendix. Our Father knows, cares, and is fully capable of taking care of all these needs according to His will and glory, but the privilege of prayer offers so much more.

We know we are supposed to bring our requests to God, but one of the most important questions we need to ask is, “How does the content of our prayers differ from the biblical patterns and teaching about the things we should be praying about?” The prayer requests we find in the Bible seem dramatically shorter, deeper, and fundamentally different in nature than the lists that tend to dominate the prayers of modern Christians.

Scripture records numerous examples of Jesus’s prayer life. We find six references to Jesus’s prayers that give no clear indication of the content. (See Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 3:21; 9:18, 28; 11:1.) We find He often withdrew from activity to enjoy private communion with the Father. While we do not know the substance of His prayers in these times, it appears they were directly related to fresh empowerment for His selfless, sacrificial service. There were also occasions when Jesus blessed people, but His exact words were not provided. (See Mark 10:16; Luke 24:50.)

We do find other brief accounts of the content of Jesus’s prayers and the themes that shaped His spoken prayers. (See Matthew 11:25; 26:39, 42; 27:46; Mark 14:36; 15:34; Luke 22:31–32, 42; 23:34, 46; John 11:41–42; 12:27–28; 17.) If you review all of these, you will find that Jesus always prayed for the glory of the Father and was in complete submission to His will. His prayers always focused on His mission and the fruitful mission of His followers.

We also see the early church in prayer, most often seeking the advancement of the gospel in virtually every situation. They prayed daily as part of a vital regimen of spiritual growth—for the sake of the gospel. (See Acts 2:42.) In the face of attack, they gathered to pray from the Scriptures, requesting fresh power for boldness—for the sake of the gospel. (See Acts 4:31.) When they were persecuted, they rejoiced in God for the honor of suffering rather than asking for a reprieve—for the sake of the gospel. (See Acts 5:41.) When Peter was in jail, they prayed for his release—for the sake of the gospel. (See Acts 12:5.) When Paul and Silas were in jail, they rejoiced in prayer and trusted God in singing—for the sake of the gospel. (See Acts 16:25.)

Of course, we know how Paul prayed because we have the account of his prayers in the New Testament. (See Ephesians 1:3–23; 3:14–21; Philippians 1:3–11; Colossians 1:3–14; 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12.) With close observation, it becomes clear that every one of Paul’s model prayers spring from expressions of thanksgiving, truths about God, and notes of praise. They are the fruit of his worship and intimate, experiential knowledge of the person of Christ.

Have you noticed the focus of Paul’s prayer request at the beginning of this devotional? He prayed that doors would be opened to share the Word of God and “the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3). It represents his regular focus in prayer. (See Acts 20:23–24; Romans 15:30–33; 2 Corinthians 1:9−11; Ephesians 6:19; Philippians 1:19–20; Colossians 4:3–4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1.) All of Paul’s prayer requests focused on his desire to accomplish his mission by boldly and enduringly proclaiming the gospel so that Christ might be magnified in and through him—in life or in death.

Perhaps the fundamental difference between our prayer lists and the prayer concerns we find in the Bible is that we pray about personal problems, while most of the biblical prayers focused on Christ’s purposes. Worship-based prayers set the foundation for something other than “me” prayers, because they start with “Thee.” This changes the nature of how we pray. We need to continually learn from the Father how we should pray.

Dr. D. A. Carson, in his outstanding book A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers, presented a powerful inquiry that should motivate us to evaluate the nature of our prayer lists. He wrote,

We must ask ourselves how far the petitions we commonly present to God are in line with what Paul prays for. Suppose, for example, that 80 or 90 percent of our petitions ask God for good health, recovery from illness, safety on the road, a good job, success in exams, the emotional needs of our children, success in our mortgage application, and much more of the same. How much of Paul’s praying revolves around equivalent items? If the center of our praying is far removed from the center of Paul’s praying, then even our very praying may serve as a wretched testimony to the remarkable success of the processes of paganization in our life and thought.7

Strong words indeed! Yet they are a necessary wake-up call as we look at the values, aspirations, and longings that drive our prayers.

Lord, please teach us to pray as Jesus did, as the early church did, and as Paul did. Teach us to lift our focus of prayer to Your purposes and plans both for ourselves and for our leaders.

 

Excerpt from 21 Days of Breakthrough Prayer, © 2018 by Jim Maxim, published by Whitaker House. Used with permission.