Romans 12: 9-21. That is this weeks morning sermon passage. As I have read through this passage many times, meditated on it, and spent time in my commentaries, I find myself personally trapped by one particular verse. It is when Paul says in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” I always count it both a blessing and a burden when the Holy Spirit takes His Word and uniquely places it in the core of the heart. It is a joy because it reminds me of His ever present shaping of my soul. He truly reveals truth to those who love Him and trust Him. It is a burden because it unsettles my mind and spirit in ways that force me to come face to face with my personal short comings. You could say that when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and uses it to accomplish the work of God in your life that it is similar to a fire. A fire can be extremely painful and devastating. And yet, a fire can also fertilize and condition a particular area for nutrient availability.
In this verse Paul petitions believers to be “persistent in prayer” as they fulfill their Christian disciplines. At the very center of his explanation of how Christians are to conduct themselves in light of their sacrificial service to God and the church, Paul emphasizes prayer. It is rarely a surprise to us when we see the duty and blessing of prayer mentioned in scripture. However, how often do we actually heed the encouragement and exhortation of prayer? I know for myself, I always nod my head in agreement with the preacher who proclaims the importance of prayer. I have consumed very few french fries and cheeseburgers that have not been prayed for. So, I pray, right? Of course. But, does my prayer life reflect a persistent prayer life? And what does that even look like? What is the difference in a prayer life and a persistent prayer life? As I sit this week asking God to reveal both a message faithful to His Word and a message that produces great fruit in my life long before my feet hit the pulpit I am starting to see my successes and failures in my prayer life. So, maybe as a help to others, I would like to make mention of a few areas both personal and corporate that are great indicators of a life that is persistent in prayer.
“Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that you have received from us how you must walk and please God- as you are doing- do so even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to controls his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5
Daily, am I praying that my thoughts, steps, deeds, and speech, would be bathed in purity, love, and honor? Do I pray that the Holy Spirit would carve out all the impurities of my heart and worldly corruption in my mind? Do I pray for holiness and faithfulness to repent? God desires for me to be holy. In fact, He has made a way for me to be holy. Through the blood of Jesus, the holy Word of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit I am both saved unto glory and shaped into the image of Jesus Christ.
“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all people.” Psalm 96:3
This passage, along with many other proclamation passages, are great reminders that as people who love and trust in God, through Jesus, we are to be proclaimers. The great commission passages found throughout the Bible, most notably in the four gospels, define our great appeal to the nations that Jesus our Lord came to save sinners and give them eternal hope. Daily, do I pray for the gospel to be made known? Do I pray for believers scattered throughout my community and the nations to have great favor in sharing the good news of Jesus? Do I pray, by name, for people to trust Jesus this day? Am I faithful to proclaim Christ?
“And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith, so that the name of Jesus Christ our Lord will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11
In this opening moment of his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul, gives us one of many ways he prays for the church. Is it possible that many people attend church without ever actually praying for the church? For Paul, it was of the utmost importance to pray for the church. To pray for her to be considered “worthy of His calling” and faithful in all measures. Daily, do I pray for the church? Do I pray for unity in the church, discipline in the church, repentance in the church, and faithfulness in the church? Do I pray for the ministry staff of the church, the volunteers and servant leaders of the church? Do I pray for the church to have fruitful ministries, genuine worship services, and healthy finances? Do I pray for powerful preaching filled with integrity and humility?
Daily, do I pray for my wife, my children, my parents and siblings? Do I pray for friends, neighbors, and teachers? Do I pray for leaders and rulers? Do I pray for the sick, the poor, those imprisoned, and those who have been abused? Do I pray for the waitress, the bus driver, the bank teller, and even my enemies?
This list can go on and on. Seems like a lot of things to pray for, right? Perhaps this is why “persistent in prayer” should be more than a head nod to the sermon on prayer?
Praying today in the name of Jesus the Nazarene,