Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 20 August 19:
Luke 22:32, 40-42-44 – “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers…. Pray that you may not enter into temptation…. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done…. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
We can learn much in today’s readings from Jesus about prayer. Jesus’ primary focus in prayer was intercessory prayer for others, that they would not succumb to temptation, and that the Father’s will would be done on earth. See how Jesus’ example of prayer today parallels the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 (see John 17 for a deeper glimpse into Jesus’ prayer priorities). Throughout the remainder of the New Testament, you will see this pattern of prayer priorities revealed by the apostles. Praying for others and having others pray for you is mentioned far more than praying for yourself, and most of the prayers concern being strengthened in faith to serve the Lord and others – “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power…. Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you….” (2 Thessalonians 1:11; 3:1)
“And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” Prayer is a powerful thing, more powerful than we can understand. When Jesus prayed, He was strengthened by an angel. When we pray, we too are assisted in our prayers – “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) You may not know what to pray for how to pray, but God will honor your heart of prayer and strengthen you along the way. How do babies learn to talk? They listen to their parents’ conversations and then try to talk to them. How do we learn to pray? We read and study God’s word, and then we try to pray from God’s word, growing in our communication skills over time. How excited do parents get over baby’s first words? How much does the Father love your feeble prayers? Never miss the opportunity to listen to God and talk with God.
More from Henry T. Blackaby on intercessory prayer — Prayer is not difficult to understand. It is difficult to do. When was the last time your heart so grieved for those you were interceding for that your entire body agonized along with your mind and heart? (Heb. 5:7). We are a generation that avoids pain at all costs. This is why there are so few intercessors. Most Christians operate on the shallowest levels of prayer, but God wants to take us into the deep levels of intercessory prayer that only a few ever experience. Deep, prolonged intercession is painful. It involves staying before God when everyone else has gone away or sleeps (Luke 22:45). It involves experiencing brokenness with the Father over those who continually rebel against Him. How many of us will experience this kind of fervent intercession? We long for Pentecost in our lives and in our churches, but there is no Pentecost without Gethsemane and a cross. How do we become mature in our prayer life? By praying. When we do not feel like praying is precisely the time we ought to pray. There are no shortcuts to prayer. There are no books to read, seminars to attend, or inspirational mottoes to memorize that will transform us into intercessors. This comes only by committing ourselves to pray and then doing so. Why not accept God’s invitation to become an intercessor? Don’t allow yourself to become satisfied with shallow, self-centered praying. Stay with God in prayer until He leads you to pray at the level He wants.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 August 19: Prioritize prayer today, and prioritize others in your prayer, primarily for their relationship with Jesus.