For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe...
Setting the Table:
Over the next four weeks in "Living My MUSD" — find out more what it is and how to say "MUSD" — we will focus on shared prayer. Shared prayer is a powerful ministry we can practice even as we are distancing ourselves from one another to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But, what do we mean by using the words "shared prayer" and how do we engage in it?
When people talk about shared prayer, they most often focus on the spiritual power of several believers gathering for prayer and agreeing in prayer (Matthew 18:19-20). Agreeing in prayer is a key dimension of shared prayer. We will address it in our third week. There are, however, several other dimensions to shared prayer we examine:
[NOTE] What do we mean by using the words "shared prayer" and how do we effectively engage in it? We are looking at shared prayer from four different vantage points:
- Praying for others and sharing that we have prayed for them and what we have prayed for them — Communicating Purposely, April 6.
- Praying with people in other locations, focusing on certain missions and people we are asking God to bless, empower, protect, and grow — Empowering Missionally, April 13.
- Praying for others asking for God's intervention in their lives and for God to bless them physically and spiritually — Interceding Personally, April 20.
- Praying with others — online, by telephone, or in-person — interceding for the forgiveness of those who are lost, who have strayed, or who have trapped themselves in their rebellion against God — Forgiving Redemptively, April 27.
Today, however, our focus is on sharing with others what we have chosen to pray for them. Interceding for others, empowering others in their mission, and blessing others with the words of biblical prayers are powerful. That power is unleashed whether they know that we have prayed for them or not. However, those for whom we pray lose the blessing of knowing that we love them enough to go to the Father for them in prayer. More than just releasing God's power into their lives, we are pouring our love, affirmation, support, and concern into their hearts.
One way to notice the power of this kind of prayer is to look at the letters of Paul to the churches he loves (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians) and his partners in ministry (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon). So many of these letters are stitched together at their major seams by prayer. The best way I know to see this principle is to get a Bible that does not have chapter and verse divisions and underline the prayers, blessings, bursts of praise, or anything that resembles a prayer or intercession.
Start with two short letters like 1 & 2 Thessalonians. You will notice these very personal and emotionally charged letters begin and end with prayers of praise and blessing. They have prayers that connect the transitions in the letter, having ideas from the section they conclude and the section that follows.
For Paul, these prayers are essential for the people he loves who make the house churches in Thessalonica. They are warm, emotional, pastoral, intercessory, affirming, and challenging. If we remove these prayers from Paul's writing, we remove the emotion and personal connection that Paul has for these people.
Principle in Real Life:
For five years, I was blessed to go to class and serve as the graduate assistant of Dr. Neil Lightfoot. He was an outstanding New Testament scholar. He worked on the Revised Standard Bible translating committee. He had large portions of the New Testament in koine Greek committed to memory. He knew more about textual criticism than anyone I knew outside of Bruce Metzger, who wrote most of the books at the time on the subject. What impacted me most, however, was his genuine interest and love for his students and his prayers. I heard him pray four or five days a week for five years. Never did any of the prayers repeat themselves. None of them was a perfunctory prayer. Each was suited to the moment, the Bible content we would cover that day, the concern of a student, or some real-life trauma that needed to be brought to the throne room of heaven.
In private conversation, he taught me that so much of the teaching, and the real theology behind the teaching, of the apostle Paul, was understandable only after we had spent time hearing his prayers. Dr. Lightfoot's teaching and real-life practice of prayer taught me that I should pray, that my prayers should be genuine to the moment, sensitive to the people involved, and aware that I was asking God's gracious power be released into the lives of real people.
Shared prayer should be all of those things, plus the final piece he taught. If Paul made sure his churches and his beloved partners knew the content of his prayers for them, then we needed to share the content of our prayers for others with them!
An Example of Paul's shared prayer with the Thessalonians:
[W]e constantly pray that our God will empower you to live worthy of all that he has invited you to experience. And we pray that by his power all the pleasures of goodness and all works inspired by faith would fill you completely. By doing this the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you will be glorified in him, by the marvelous grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 TPT).
Now may the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God, who loved us and in his wonderful grace gave us eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail, encourage your hearts and inspire you with strength to always do and speak what is good and beautiful in his eyes (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
Now may the Lord move your hearts into a greater understanding of God's pure love for you and into Christ's steadfast endurance (2 Thessalonians 3:4)>
Now, may the Lord himself, the Lord of peace, pour into you his peace in every circumstance and in every possible way. The Lord’s tangible presence be with you all (2 Thessalonians 3:16 TPT).