“He is able to save to the uttermost. . .because He ever liveth to make intercession for them”. (Hebrews 7:25) It is an amazing idea– Christ alive and praying for us. At the Ascension, the Lord rose to the right hand of the Father where, even now, He is occupied in completing the work of salvation by means of prayer. “Uttermost” means full extent of time and effect. The prayer work of Christ is to press the full effect of salvation into every area of our lives. While we benefit from this work, we also participate in it. In John 16, the Lord says that His entrance into the work of eternal intercession will be the commencement of a new prayer life for us! Little did the disciples know, when they asked the Lord to teach them to pray, that He would answer their request by sending His Spirit, His presence into their hearts. As He prays, we are led to join Him. We share His life and His work of intercession.
“But I have prayed for you that your faith not fail”. (Luke 22:32) We should be grateful for Peter. Much of the grace of God to us is illustrated by the Lord’s gentle, patient love for His “most human” of friends. Consider the assurance that comes from the words, “I have prayed for you”– not only for Peter but also for us! ” He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” (Hebrew 7:25) Our spiritual success is part of the Lord’s vision of victory! He is counting on us. We are not expendible in His plan. He intends for us to succeed, even if He must often perform “search and rescue” when we have wandered away. Today as you pray, will you imagine the Master praying with you and for you? Friend, how confident would you be if you KNEW that He was praying for you?
“In that day you will ask in My Name.” (John 16:26) Jesus could see the future. As He neared the cross and the end of His earthly life, He could see clearly the day that would come as a result. (BTW, tonight at Time for Teaching, we will talk about the future that Jesus saw) Prayer was a part of His future vision. Powerful prayer. Persistent prayer. A spiritual church awake and aware of a new power–to ask in His Name, to accomplish things that would otherwise be impossible. Like a bride with a new name and a new authority for acting in the community, Jesus could see the church serving in the world with confident power! Friends, we are living in this moment! Let us learn to use the privilege that Jesus purchased for us! Lord, teach us to pray. Teach us to pray in your name.
“Whatsoever you ask in my name, that will I do.” (John 14:13) Christians have to learn to pray. We cannot follow our own instincts or desires when we approach the Father–not if we expect to experience His power and approval. “The use of a person’s name supposes a mutual trust. . .No one would give another the free use of his name without being first assured that his honor and interests would be as safe with that person as with himself.” (Andrew Murray) When Christ gave us His name for use in prayer, He was trusting us to use prayer as He taught us, for the purposes He taught us. He assumes that we have surrendered our own interests to Him whom we now represent. Today, as you pray, will you serve and safeguard His honor and interests? Will you pray in HIS name?
Father, you say that your elect “cry out day and night”. Teach me to understand this. You know how quickly I get discouraged and distracted. Lead me to be steady in prayer, as steady as you were in the days of your life. Teach me the true labor of prayer, the true privilege of it. When answers are slow to come, fill me with the assurance that you will not delay one moment longer than is necessary. Remind me again and again that I do not believe in prayer, I believe in YOU! Hear me today as I pray for your Kingdom and your will, for forgiveness and the power to give it to others, for daily bread and for leadership and protection–not just for myself but for those that I love and those that you love. Keep me strong, Lord, there is work to do! In Jesus’ Name, amen.
“There was a widow in that city, and she KEPT COMING to him”. (Luke 18:3) Remember the story? It was the Lord’s illustration of persistent prayer. Eventually the unrighteous judge gives her what she was asking, just to get rid of her! You are the widow in this story! Like her, you are at the mercy of your adversaries until you remember your true power, to ask and not stop. Friends, when the Church of Jesus Christ learns this lesson, we will discover our true power for service. When we “cry day and night”, asking God to visit us with His power, when we KEEP COMING to Him with the request to fill our hearts and our churches with His presence and power, then we will become what God intended. It is NOT stubbornness to pray this way. It is faith.
“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) The great danger in all true prayer is discouragement. Unlike the widow in Jesus’ story, if the answer is slow to come we are conclude that the Lord, for whatever reason, does not intend to give what we have asked. Forgetting that God uses time with His people, we give up. We lose focus. When did the “answer” come for Joseph? When did the “answer” come for the Lord who prayed with tears over the city of Jerusalem? Most of God’s answers are still not clear to us. Only faith, however, can receive this patient certainty from the Father. Only faith can continue to ask. When the Lord returns, will He find such faith on the earth? Will he find it in our church? In me? What are those prayers that you believe to be in line with God’s will that you still have not received?
“And will He delay long over them? I tell you the truth that He will bring about justice quickly” (Luke 18:7-8) It is a paradox– two mutually exclusive truths that are nevertheless still true. God delays and God brings justice quickly. Like water building up against a dam, the prayers of God’s people are often required to accumulate over months and years until they gain the necessary force of God’s own will. When the dam breaks, it seems sudden, but it really is the product of years and tears. Jesus never denied that God delays. He waits until a church is ripened and ready to receive the blessing. He waits until a person learns the lesson of persevering love. In quiet determination, true faith continues in prayer until the blessing comes. Friends, as you pray today, are you convinced that God will not delay one moment longer than is necessary? Will you continue to pray and trust His timing?
“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart”. (Luke 18:1) Of all the mysteries of prayer, the need for perseverance is the greatest. It is hard for us to understand why a God so loving would need to be asked again and again before the answer comes. Like Abraham who believed “in hope against hope” (Romans 4:18), most of us have situations that show no outward sign of ever being solved. They look hopeless, but those who believe in God know that they aren’t. This is when we refuse to “lose heart”. Today, we begin our 4th month of praying the Lord’s prayer. Friend, are you still convinced that the Lord is hearing us? Part of the power (and the mystery) of a relationship with the Father is that patience is required.
Today in worship we will read John 17. I am excited and grateful to teach this passage. I look forward to seeing you there. How kind Jesus was to pray in front of His disciples! Apart from the Savior’s openness, we would know almost nothing about the way to speak to the Father with effective power. How grateful His prayers were! Even facing the cross, He is filled with a sense of the Father’s generosity to Him. How courageous His prayers were, how concerned for others! As we come near today and “listen” to Him pray, I hope His example will have a powerful effect on us all. If Christ has made it possible for us to live a new life (2 Peter 1:3), then shouldn’t we all, gradually and powerfully, be moving to prayers that sound like His? As I listen to Jesus pray, I hear His upward call–that I should be like Him. I will see you in a few hours.