Lifting the Level of Our Prayer

By Charles Stanley

Do you pray for friends and family only when there is a crucial need, or do you ask God to show you how to pray for those around you on a daily basis? Many people wait to pray until there is an emergency - a death, a serious illness, or a crucial decision. The apostle Paul was aware of the physical needs of the early church yet he chose to pray most intensely for their spiritual growth and well being.

I'm sure he prayed many times for their physical care. No one was more sensitive to the needs of the early church than Paul. He heard the accounts of abuse at the hands of the Roman and Jewish officials. However, in the opening chapter of Ephesians we find Paul praying for something greater than deliverance in suffering - that they would gain wisdom and a revelation of God's character. He asks the Father to give these early believers and us insight and knowledge that exceeds anything we have ever known.

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe?" (Ephesians 1:15-19)

When overwhelming trials come, and they come to all of us, the one thing that saves us from mental collapse is the knowledge that God is with us. We can withstand anything when we realize that God will never forsake us, never leave us, never walk away, and never stop loving us. Paul's prayer was a prayer of power and of specific direction. It went straight to the point.

Many times we wander around in prayer, "God, please bless Aunt Martha and keep Uncle Joe safe." Those prayers are nice, but they lack depth and energy. It is much more powerful to ask God to infuse His wisdom and strength into the lives of those around us.

God gives direction to our prayers as we ask Him to show us how to pray for others. He gives both wisdom and discernment as we submit to His leadership. He uses prayers to meet needs, open doors, change attitudes, and mend broken relationships. The potential of prayer is limitless when guided by the Spirit of God.

All of us need prayer. We all need someone to pray for us because we live in a fallen world where temptation lurks on every side.

Praying with Power and Direction The first step to praying effectively for another person is to pray specifically. For years people have written or called to share how they are praying for me. Many times their prayers are right on target with something that I am facing. I think, "Lord, You knew exactly what I needed, and You have guided this person to pray according to Your will for my life."

God is a God of specifics. His desire is that we would learn to pray specifically for the needs and spiritual growth of others. Paul's prayer was very specific and very powerful. In a short amount of space he asks God to do something absolutely life changing in the lives of the Ephesians.

For some time now, I have kept a written diary of my prayers for other people. It helps me examine my prayers, the needs of the people around me, and the way God is working in their lives. The most powerful activity you can participate in is prayer. That is why you need to think through what you are praying for another individual. Nothing so moves the circumstances of life as prayer does.

Prayer motivates God to accomplish His will. Of course, He can do this without our prayers; but we miss a tremendous lesson of faith. It takes faith to ask God to work in another person's life. People who have a hard time believing God for answered prayer usually have weak faith. Great faith looks to God for His best and His direction.

Making Big Requests Paul's prayers were comprehensive and rich in quality. They were not loaded up with large words and theological terms but dealt directly with spiritual issues critical to the life of the early church. They contained ideas that made a difference in the early believer's personal walk with the Lord.

When you pray for others, do you visualize God working to bring that person or persons into closer fellowship with Him? Paul wanted believers everywhere to experience a fullness in Jesus Christ.

The third aspect of Paul's prayers was the magnitude of what he prayed for. He asked for big things. He prayed for the believers in Colossae to be strengthened and empowered according to God's glorious might. He never prayed, "God, just strengthen these people so they can go through this difficult time." No. He prayed for a specific need.

Faith motivates prayer, and prayer motivates God. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light" (Colossians 1:9-12).

Paul is caught up in the truth of God and not the hardship of his surroundings. He wrote the Ephesians and Colossians during a very difficult time in his own life. He was in prison in Rome, but he never mentions his suffering. There is no hint of self pity. His understanding of God is so mighty and with such magnitude that he knew the quality of his prayers must reflect the quality of God's desire for His people.

God is still in the process of answering the prayers of the apostle Paul today. We are discovering the will of God, learning to walk after the pattern of the Lord, bearing spiritual fruit, growing in our knowledge of God, and coming into a complete understanding of His power and strength. If we teach our children how to pray for specific needs and they teach their children the same thing, imagine the magnitude of godly power that will be released. Prayer is the greatest force on earth. Nothing is greater than talking to a sovereign God. You and I have the greatest opportunity in existence. The prayer of one man or woman can move almighty God to do what nothing else will.

Prayer Evokes Power The emphasis of Paul's prayers to the Colossians and Ephesians is on power. Paul wanted the people to experience in a practical way the surpassing, indescribable greatness of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He prayed that they would walk relying upon the supernatural strength and energy of the Holy Spirit.

Many people have to get up courage to ask God for something really big. When He answers their prayers they are shocked. We look at other people who spend a large amount of time praying and think the power of God is so visible in their lives. The truth is the same power of the Holy Spirit living in them abides in each one of us.

The difference is the quality, magnitude, and emphasis of prayer. When you pray, ask God to show you how to pray for another person. Then trust Him for the outcome. All prayer comes down to a matter of faith. Do you truly believe God for the things He promises in His Word, or do you think He only answers the prayers of others?

The level of our prayers is lifted the moment we begin praying that God will bring us and those we are around into a new understanding of His wisdom and knowledge. Jesus Christ should always be the focus of all our prayers for others. Paul's prayers glorified God. He based his prayers on God's truth. The one thing that elevates the level of our prayers is the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Paul always linked his requests to God's truth.

When you begin praying as Paul did in Colossians 1:9-12, your love and worship of Jesus Christ increase dramatically. You will fall in love with Him in a fresh new way. Never allow yourself to think that your prayers won't make a difference. You have the same God, the same position in Christ, and the same ability that the apostle Paul had. You just have a different role to fulfill in this life.

If you don't know how to pray for someone, begin with the prayer in Colossians 1:9-12. God is committed to answering that prayer. When you pray it for a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can count on God to work in that person's life. When we get serious about prayer, God notices and blessings are sure to come. (James 5:16)

The level of our prayer determines how high are we soaring in the level of our spirituality. Are you still praying for yourself only or are you praying for others too -- especially those who harbor enmity with you? Do you ask more for material things or do you pray for spiritual matters? How high can soar in your prayer especially during times of storms in your life?