Prevailing Prayer

Title: Prevailing Prayer

Bible Book: Ephesians 6 : 18-20

Author: Frank Page

Subject: Prayer



Oh, the power of prayer! It is awesome, yet few know this in experience. Most of us have a very limited perspective about the power of prayer as well as its overall meaning. Most believers remind me of a class that was asked by their teacher to go into their backyard at night, lie down on the ground, and count the stars. In the Sunday School class the next Sunday, the children reported that some had seen as many as 153 stars while others said it was too many to count. Most of them were fairly in agreement as to the large number except for one little boy who answered very positively that he saw three stars. The teacher asked how could it be that others saw so many and you only saw so few. The child thought a minute and said, “Well, our backyard is awfully small.”

Few understand the power of prayer because few use this great weapon nearly as often, as deeply, or intimately as God intended. It reminds me of the humorous story of something else that is rarely used.

In the hospital the relatives gathered in the waiting room, where their family member lay gravely ill. Finally, the doctor came in looking tired and somber. “I’m afraid I’m the bearer of bad news,” he said as he surveyed the worried faces. The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It’s an experimental procedure, risky and you will have to pay for the brain yourselves. The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news. After a great length of time, someone asked, “Well, how much does a brain cost? The doctor quickly responded, “$5,000 for a male brain, and $200 for a female brain.” The moment turned awkward. Men in the room tried not to smile, avoiding eye contact with the women, but some actually smirked. A man, unable to control his curiosity, blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask. “Why is the male brain so much more?” The doctor smiled at the childish innocence and so to the entire group said, “It’s just standard pricing procedure. We have to mark down the price of the female brains, because they’ve actually been used.”

Some of you enjoy that story a little too much. However, prayer is like the male brain – rarely used. Many of us see prayer as frustrating and very limited in its effectiveness and power. I think all of us know it’s not supposed to be that way. Part of our Easter assignment is to be people of prayer. As resurrection people, we are called by our Lord Jesus to live out a life of powerful praying.

Let us learn the pattern of prevailing prayer. Turn with me to Ephesians 6:10-20. Here we are admonished to put on the whole armor of God. Here Paul tells us how. Prayer, then is essential. It is essential to victory in spiritual warfare. As we study this, we discover the marks of prevailing intercession.

I. There Is Perceptive Prayer

This is Spirit-Led, perceptive prayer! According to Paul, we are to pray “in the Spirit.”

We believe that the translators of the King James Version were quite correct in capitalizing the word Spirit. While conceivably Paul could be stressing the fact that all prayer must be the product of the renewed human spirit, I believe he is here stressing the fact that all prayer must be “in the Spirit,” that is, “in the Holy Spirit.”

But what does Paul mean when he exhorts us to pray “in the Spirit”? Some translations suggest that what he means is that we are to be energized by the Holy Spirit in our praying. This would then be equivalent to saying, “pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

That is certainly a vital and valuable observation with regard to prevailing prayer. This is the kind of prayer referred to by James. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), is surely the expression of a person whose heart is controlled by the Spirit.

Also to pray with perception means not only praying in the energy of the Holy Spirit but praying in line with the Spirit’s mind. This simply means that we must examine ourselves in respect to the specific requests that we present to God in order to determine whether we are praying in harmony with the divine will. For this we have the Spirit’s help, for Paul assures us in Romans 8:26-27 that “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

This is the first principle of prevailing prayer. It must seek to make our prayers perceptive and discerning, and for that we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

II. There Is Perseverance In Prayer

Paul teaches a second principle in these verses relating to intercessory prayer. We must be persevering in our praying.

This principle is indicated by Paul at two particular places in Ephesians 6:18-20 - first, by the words “on all occasions”, and second, by the words “Always keep on praying.”

Let’s look first at the phrase “on all occasions.” Paul says we are to pray “in the Spirit on all occasions.” In other translations the word always is rendered “at all seasons,” or “all the time,” or “at every opportunity,” or simply “unceasingly.”

Prevailing prayer, therefore, is something that is to be maintained and sustained. We are to engage in this vital ministry all the time and at every opportunity. This requires that we have a constant sense of the conflict in which we are engaged. Are we not too prone to pray only at times when the reality of the conflict is brought home to us by a particular trial or temptation or by a specific kind of problem or pressure?

The second way in which Paul enforces the fact that prevailing prayer should be persevering is found in v. 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” That is translated by Weymouth in this way: “Be always on the alert to seize opportunities for doing so, with unwearied persistence and entreaty.”

That’s what Paul really wants. We are to have a constant awareness of the conflict. More than that, we are to lay hold of every opportunity of engaging in prevailing prayer. We are being asked to take an inventory of our time. Each of us has twenty-four hours each day, no more, no less. We may have set times for prayer, and that is excellent.

But what about the spare moments? Do we seize them for prayer? Time is always up for sale in the marketplace. Are we in there bidding for time, redeeming it for God?

III. There Is Passionate Prayer

Prevailing prayer is perceptive and persevering. It is also passionate. This aspect is latent in the words that Paul employs, “And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” There cannot be that kind of praying without passion, without fervor and zeal (Ephesians 6:18). Prevailing prayer is kindled by fire from the altar of the Lord.

We must not confuse passion with noise and outward excitement. Passion is simply strong feeling. It is the shallow river that makes a noise. How can we make our prayers passionate? Let us not attempt it by artificial means - by trying to cultivate a particular tone of voice, or trying to whip up emotion and fervor.

The secret lies in the area of our spiritual desires. If we desire with all our hearts the object for which we pray, we shall automatically find ourselves praying with zeal and passion.

When a little child sets his heart upon a particular object, he will ask for that thing with great feeling and fervor. He will not try to imitate passion. He will be filled with a strong feeling toward that object. It is so also in the spiritual realm. As God’s children, if we desire God’s power and victory to be manifested on our behalf, we shall pray passionately and enthusiastically. Let us deal, then, with our desires. Out of the abundance of our hearts we pray.

IV. There Is Personal Prayer

We are to pray always “for all saints; and for me.”

Notice that Paul exhorts us first to pray for all saints. We are to remind ourselves of the fact that we belong to the body of Christ, and that our responsibility in prayer includes all fellow-members of that body. We shall pray for the church universal.

That means the saints in China as well as in Canada. It means that we should pray for Christians in the former USSR as well as in the USA. Do we have this international outlook in our praying? Are we praying for all saints, those persecuted and imprisoned? Those in high places? Those preaching and teaching the Word of God? Just how universal are we in our prayer life?

“But,” you may respond, ‘that is vague and too general. I thought you said prevailing prayer is particular prayer. Well, look again at Paul’s words. “Pray always for all saints; and for me.” He asks prayer for himself.

Every Christian needs a prayer list that lists specific persons. We should know the needs of these people, and we should bring their needs daily to the Lord. Prayer is to be both general and specific.

Paul asks prayer that he might speak boldly. This is the whole purpose of spiritual warfare--the triumph of the gospel. It is for that reason that prevailing prayer must concentrate on the needs of those who are preaching and propagating the gospel throughout the world.

We need prevailing prayer. It needs to be perceptive, sensitive to the Holy Spirit. It needs to be persevering, continuous. It needs to be passionate, serious and it needs to be focalized, specific.

Would you join with me now in a prayer of commitment? Will you pray like this seven times in the next seven days?


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