August 22nd

Fervent Prayer 

40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:40 NIV 

1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. 8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating
. 12When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.  Acts 12:1-12 NIV 

I ran across the above passages while studying the basics of prayer.  I’ve found that it helps to review the basics periodically, to ensure that I stay grounded on the simplicity of the truth revealed in the scriptures.  I think people tend to make prayer too complicated at times, and prefer to relegate its burden to supposed “holy” persons who seem closer to God. 

Prayer is a simple activity that involves making requests of God in a humble manner.  Earnest prayer adds emphasis of passion and intensity of our request.  As we follow God and attend to the business of his kingdom, our desires will naturally gravitate to the needs of that kingdom.  Examples include salvation of the lost, healing of the sick, growth & edification of the body of Christ, and bringing glory to God.   

Jesus called attention to our need to be watchful in prayer.  He was amazed that his closest disciples could not watch and pray for even one hour while he contemplated the greatest move of God in history.  We can heed his call by being aware of the times, looking for where God’s hand is moving in the situations around us and praying that his will be done.  This importance of our prayer becomes especially clear when we consider that each of us are placed in totally unique situations that no other Christian may be in.  It may be that God has placed us there for the express purpose that we will pray his will be done so that his kingdom objectives will be accomplished.   

Consider the group of Christians who gathered to pray for Peter after he was imprisoned by Herod.  They prayed earnestly all night long.  The effect of those prayers brought a mighty miracle of God…an angel rescuing Peter from the prison.  Imagine how the church would have been affected had those people not heeded God’s prompting to gather and pray for Peter.  He likely would have been beheaded and the Christian church could have been severely handicapped. 

Similarly, God is calling each of us to pray for the situations we are in every day.  We need not offer elaborate prayers of King James English to invoke God’s intervention.  Rather, we can keep it very simple and ask God to intervene for the purposes of his kingdom.  For example, our prayer could be “Lord, please set him free,” or, “Lord please grant her salvation,” or, “Father, please heal him.” Being persistent with such requests doesn’t mean we have to repeat our requests like a chant or mantra. It may simply be to keep the request at the forefront of our thoughts as we praise God and worship him during our prayers, inviting him to intervene.   It may be that another person like Peter has been imprisoned and chained (literally or figuratively) and is at a critical point of life. Our earnest prayers may be the critical factor required for God’s intervention and deliverance of that person. 

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God, You created the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you!  I am humbled by the awesome opportunity and responsibility of prayer that you have entrusted to me and the body of Christ.  Please forgive me for any doubt or lack of understanding that I’ve allowed to hinder my prayers.  Please give me a passion for the needs of your kingdom and teach me how to practice earnest prayer.  Please open my eyes and ears to see where you are working in the situations I’m in.  Please show me what to pray and when to pray it.  Thank you, Father! I am your servant and I delight in serving you!  In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen.”