Intro. From the book Dear Pastor, 1980 by Bill Adler Books, Inc.
Dear Pastor, Do I have to say grace before every meal? Even when I am only having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Wesley. (Age 9, Baltimore)
Dear Pastor, Thank you for your sermon on Sunday. I will write more when my mother explains to me what you said. Yours truly, Justin. (Age 9, Westport)
Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow. Laurie. (Age 10, New York City)
Dear Pastor, I say my prayer before I eat my supper but my mother still makes me finish my spinach and drink my milk. Julie. (Age 9, Buffalo)
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY, Content – The Newsletter, August, 1990, p. 1
A recent Gallup poll asked two questions about prayer. “It has been said that those who pray will receive help. Do you think this is a true statement or not?” and “When you have prayed for help, what happened, did it work or not?”
To the first question, 71% of all adults said yes. To the second question, 63% said yes. More women than men replied affirmatively to both questions.
Apparently, prayer works!
We presume that this means those who prayed got what they asked for. But this whole idea of prayer as something that “works” bothers us. There is a different test of what “works” when we pray.
Prayer works when it gives us a greater sense of the majesty and glory of God. Prayer works when it leads us to true repentance after confessing sin. Prayer works when it arouses in us an awesome sense of the forgiving grace of God. Prayer works when it engenders profound thanks for every day that we live and makes us realize that life is a gift to be received with gratitude and a task to be pursued with courage. Prayer works when it leads us to pray for others. Prayer works when it impels us to action on behalf of our brothers and sisters in this world. Prayer works when it leads to new commitments in our Christian pilgrimage. Prayer works when along with our asking, it leads to our giving.
Prayer works when we see lives changed by the grace of God. When God heals someone with a health issue. Prayer works when a couple on the verge of a divorce commits their marriage to God and He heals their marriage. Prayer works when something happens that we asked for but can’t explain.
God welcomes our prayers. He tells us to ask for what ever we want. He tells us to have faith and that faith can move mountains. It doesn’t take long as we read the bible to find stories about prayer and the power of God to act in response to the prayer. The early church was unstoppable because of God’s power and His response to people who prayed big prayers.
Prayer Works and A Church becomes Unstoppable when its members pray for each other. The scripture I read earlier today is about powerful prayer. There are all kinds of opposition we face as we seek to follow Christ and in this passage Paul encourages us to put on the full armor of God so that in Christ we become unstoppable.
We have to deal with all that life throws at us. Personal crisis can impact our relationship with Christ. We have to deal with Satan’s influence in media, music, governments, business, recreation and daily life. Just as Christians become more and more impacted by Christ, so too are those who refuse to follow Christ more vastly influenced by Satan. These days, Christians are being attacked by people who are demonstrating that Christians are wrong because of all the good that is done by people who are not a part of any Christian church.
Paul tells us that in order to deal with all that we face as we seek to follow Christ, we need to put on with prayer, the full armor of God.
We are to
– be Girded with the Belt of Truth
– Put on the Breastplate of Righteousness
– Feed shod with Sandals of Peace
– Take up the Shield of Faith
– Take the Helmet of Salvation
– Take the Sword of the Spirit
An Unstoppable Church needs Christians who are serious about prayer in their personal life. What Paul speaks about is prayer and discipleship, it is exactly what a Christian needs for their personal relationship with Christ.
Paul concludes this portion of the letter with a challenge for the Church to intently pray for each other so they can stand tall against all of the opposition that they face.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
The Unstoppable Church has a task to carry out. It is so important that it is described as the church being involved in a battle. Paul encouraged us to put on the full armor of God so that we are prepared and equipped for following Christ and being His ambassadors.
Pray For Believers
Our success as a church depends on how each individual responds and relates to Christ. That is why there are some vibrant churches and some that are just maintaining. While we are preparing personally for the walk that Christ has called us to walk we need to be praying for each other. Each of us is in a battle and we need our brothers and sisters to stand with us in the power of the Lord.
Each of us should be putting on the armor of God. Learning how to appropriate all that God has provided for us. We need to be ready to use what we know as we walk the Pathway that God has laid out for us. Then Paul gives the challenge. “ With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.” Pray at all times. Set aside some time to pray for each other. Make a list so you know who to pray for. You may want to make a list each Sunday of who is here or who is not here and lift them up to the Lord. What are you praying for? Paul calls it prayer and petition. Petition means to pray for others. Prayer means speaking to God. Asking for what we need or what we want to see Him do. We are asking God to move in our brothers and sisters lives. We are asking God to meet the need that our friend will have this week. It is okay to pray in ignorance once in a while. But get to know the people you go to church with. That will help you, help them because you can pray more specifically for them.
Paul calls everyone to pray for our brothers and sisters. Why? It is a hard walk so…
Pray for perseverance
be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
We must be faithful and persevere in prayer.
The Medic and the field hospital are vital to maintain a good army. Soldiers know that there is a good chance that they will be shot in a battle, but if they think that there is a good chance they will die they will lose heart and give up. But if they know that they have a good chance at recovery it will encourage them to keep trying to accomplish their mission.
We are called to follow and to keep following. If believers think that no one notices them or cares about them they could give up. We don’t need people who have professed Christ to remove themselves from the family nor from the walk.
Discouragement is a major reason that people walk away from God and His church. It can come from conflict at church or problems at home. It can come from a health crisis or a family crisis. It can come from being rejected for following Christ or from refusing to follow Christ. It could come from spending too much time at work or over committing yourself to church. It can come from no quiet time with the Lord or not seeking new methods to keep growing spiritually.
If you are experiencing struggles to remain faithful know that other Christians are experiencing the same thing. Don’t assume that they are doing the same things you are but know that everyone struggles with spiritual growth and vitality. Pray for others.
The new crisis that you face may be God moving you into a deeper relationship with Him but you see it as just frustration. Share that with others and ask them how they are handling what they are going through.
I will continue to say, that your spiritual life will be enhanced by your church family as they seek to be more like Christ everyday.
Preparing studies and sermons help me in my walk with Christ. Watching you grow in Christ helps to encourage me. I love to talk to people in other churches and hear how God is moving in their church. The Baptist newspaper, Pathway has stories of how God is moving in sister churches in Missouri. All of these things encourage me to remain faithful to God. It encourages me to pray more intently for this body.
Paul encourages us to pray for each other and he asked his readers to pray for him. He knew how vital it was to his success for believers to be praying for him. He was not afraid to ask for prayer. He asked them to pray that he would remain faithful. That he would be bold is speaking the truth of God. He knew that if people were going to come to Christ he needed to accurately and clearly share the gospel in ways that people could understand.
When he knew that He had God’s approval and the prayer support of his Christian family he became more bold in his mission.
Pray for Bold Expressions of Faith
Paul said in verse 19; pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Paul wanted prayer so that when he explained the gospel that people would understand their need for a savior. Paul made some great presentations of the gospel. He was clear when he explained God’s plan of salvation. But it is obvious that Paul considered his ability and success was dependent upon God, and prayers lifted up by believers were very important too.
Paul did not back down while he was in chains. He still wrote letters. He still spoke to the guards and anyone who would walk into his room. He shared his needs with faithful prayer partners.
He was calling the church to the same ministry that he was doing. Making the gospel known to everyone. He shared Christ and how to have a personal relationship with Him.
Vandover needs some bold expression of our faith and trust in God. We are not going to see these kinds of expressions until we have bold requests made to God. Bold requests, with persistent prayer. Calling on God to embolden each member of this body.
I know we have limitations but God does not. We have limited people but God has told us to ask Him to send people to join us. We have limited resources but God owns that cattle on a thousand hills.
Our help will not come in our wisdom but in our surrender. It will not come in our effort but in our obedience. It will not come in large contributions but in dependence upon Him.
Here is what will make us bold. Seeing God work in peoples lives. Asking our brothers and sisters to pray for us and then praying for our brothers and sisters.
Mark Batterson wrote the book The Circle Maker – He said draw a circle around something that you would like to see God impact. Don’t quit praying until God moves you to change your prayer or He answers your prayer.
I thought drawing a circle around Vandover and praying God would lead us to be a praying church might be a good start. Then to draw a circle around the 141, I-44, Bowles Ave triangle and asking God to use us to demonstrate His love to this group of people.
Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book on the prayer of Jabez. This is Jabez’ prayer from I Chronicles 4:9-10: Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!”
And God granted him what he requested.
God will honor our prayer if we ask Him to reach this community through us. He will honor our prayer if we say preserve this body so that we can use it to boldly and specifically love the people who live near us. He will bless this church if our actions show that we are giving our neighbors the opportunity to come to Jesus.
As we pray we need to ask two questions. What do we want God to do through us? Am I willing to pray and ask God for this prayer to be a reality?
Challenge: An Unstoppable Church seeks God together, Fights for each other, is thankful for each other and prays for each other. These all must be true. We can’t be unstoppable with only one, two or three of these being true. We don’t have to be perfect in each of these but we must be seeking to do these with this whole body. We must work on all at the same time.
Let me say that I am not suggesting that all we have to do is increase our prayer and commitment at church. This kind of commitment has to be in all aspects of our life. You will be amazed at what God will do through this body but what He will do through you in all other aspects of your life.
Will you commit to pray for each other? Will you commit to pray big?