So often, when fighting the very real spiritual battle on the sidewalks of the abortion center, it is so busy and frantic and LIFE THREATENING that we neglect prayer. The power of prayer is mighty and crucial. God has given us an important weapon to use in our battles. We should be careful not to forget prayer.
What does God say about the importance of prayer?
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The power of prayer is so great it has the power to defeat the devil and his power over us.
What is the main purpose of prayer?
God calls us to pray in order to develop and deepen relationships with Him. God incredibly wants our friendship. Jesus said in John 15:14-15: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing.” If we are friends, we should desire communication. Prayer is one critical way to communicate with God.
Some have said: The primary purpose of prayer is not to change circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us!
There is little doubt that prayer has many purposes, but we will quickly be disappointed if we think the primary purpose of prayer is to bring about what we want to happen. If this is what we believe is the power of prayer, we will soon distrust God or worse fall away because prayer has not brought the results we begged for.
The chief objective of prayer is not for our benefit or our desired results. The chief reason for prayer is to glorify God in any and every situation.
This is very important to understand. God is not a magic genie. We should not pray expecting God to do OUR will and grant our every wish. We should pray that God’s will be done. However, the Bible clearly tells us that prayer CAN change things, not just us.
We must understand the PRIMARY purpose of prayer. Nonetheless, we should not shy away from other purposes that are scripturally sound in how we pray and what we pray for.
Reasons why we pray
The following is not an exhaustive list, but summarizes the main reasons we should pray from a Biblical perspective.
- To strengthen our relationship with God
- To ask for guidance – even Jesus asked for the Father’s guidance
- To ask for forgiveness
- To unlock faith in our lives
- To ask for something we want
- To discern God’s will
- To ask for endurance.
- To thank God
- To praise and exalt God
Spiritual warfare and prayer
For anyone involved in sidewalk outreach, the intensity of the spiritual battle can easily overwhelm and discourage. Prayer is essential in the trials we face on that battleground at the very gate of hell.
Sometimes, we pray asking deliverance FROM a trial. Oftentimes, what God desires is that we ask for assistance THROUGH a trial. Prayer is a way to refine and endure our walk through difficult circumstances. It is a way to remain focused on God in the midst of hard times. Prayer is a key component to strengthen and mobilize us BEFORE a trial, to fortify and equip us DURING a trial, and to reflect and thank God FOLLOWING a trial.
Biblical examples of godly servants praying BEFORE a trial
Esther to plead for her people before approaching the king with the possibility of her death in approaching him unsummoned: “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”” (Esther 4:15-16)
Jesus before the crucifixion: “Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”” (Matthew 26:36, 39)
Daniel before the lion’s den: “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.” (Daniel 6:10-11)
Biblical examples of godly servants praying DURING a trial
Paul and Silas unjustly beaten and imprisoned: “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;” (Acts 16:25)
Stephen being stoned: “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)
Jeremiah praying for justice as he faces a rebellious, unlearning people: “But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tries the feelings and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You have I committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:20)
Jesus on the cross: “But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” (Luke 23:34)
King Jehoshaphat as he leads his people in an impossible battle: “O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Elijah before the false prophets of Baal: “At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”” (1 Kings 18:36-39)
Biblical examples of godly servants praying FOLLOWING a trial
Ezra after laying the foundation for the temple: With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, for He is good for His steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra 3:11)
Daniel after God reveals pharaohs dream to him and prevents the slaughter of all the wise men in Babylon: “I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king. (Daniel 2:23)
What prayer should NOT be
Prayer should not be a substitute for action when God has clearly called us to action. For example, I believe God calls all of us to pray for an end to abortion and a change of rebellious hearts back to Him. But I also believe we are all called to do MORE than prayer in great moral issues that are destroying lives and killing innocent babies.
We are also called to RESCUE those being led away to death, SPEAK for those who cannot speak for themselves, PROTECT the rights of the vulnerable, BIND the wounds of the broken-hearted, CARE for the orphan and widow …
The story of Moses leading the people out of slavery from the Egyptians is a perfect illustration of this truth. The people are terrified as they see the Egyptian army coming from one side, and the impassable Red Sea on the other. They are trapped. Moses prays to God, as do the people. Moses prays with faith that God WILL rescue them. The people pray with doubt and fear. Then God does the miraculous and parts the Red Sea, and tells them (my words) “Don’t just stand there praying, you nincompoops! Get out of Dodge, NOW!”
And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
Why do you cry to Me: Before the people, Moses was full of faith; before God, he cried out in desperate prayer. It was necessary for Moses to show confidence before the nation to encourage their faith.
Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod… It can actually be against God’s will to stop doing and to only pray in a particular situation. This was a time for action, and Moses could pray along the way. However, he is also to tell, go forward, lift up the rod…in other words: TAKE ACTION NOW.
Charles Spurgeon said: “There is a time for praying, but there is also a time for holy activity. Prayer is adapted for almost every season, yet not prayer alone, for there comes, every now and then, a time when even prayer must take a secondary place.”
Take action … but ALWAYS pray
Finally, the admonition to pray should never be a license to avoid what God has called us to DO. In all things we are told to pray. Prayer should not be a last resort, nor should it be reserved until we have done all we feel God has called us to actively do. We are called to a continual life of prayer. We are to pray without ceasing. This is God’s will and source for empowering us to serve for His good purpose.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)