Praying Like Paul (Part 1)
In both our home church and on the mission field, prayer is the catalyst. A catalyst is the element or ingredient that causes change. A catalyst makes things happen!
For instance, a mixture of flour and water and salt and baking soda will form a lump that just sits there. However, when you add yeast, that lump will rise up and form delicious bread dough. Yeast is the catalyst that makes it happen!
In churches, somtimes people just sit there like that lump of dough, but prayer is the catalyst that will change people and make things happen. I challenge each one of you to
ask yourselves a few questions tonight:
- How much time do you spend in prayer each day?
- Are your prayers truly meaningful, or just superficial? Is prayer just another duty you have to do, or another ritual you have to finish?
- When you pray, are you genuinely seeking God's will, or do you just give God a "to-do" list? Prayer is a two-way conversation, you know--- God wants to speak to you, as well as hear your prayer requests.
Paul was an ordinary person, just like us. In studying the Bible, we see that sometimes Paul was grumpy and unforgiving; he was sometimes stubborn and headstrong, and
even had a bit of a temper at times. He was sometimes discouraged, frightened, and overwhelmed by the task before him. In other words, he was just like all of us.
Yet the apostle Paul knew better than most the power of prayer to make changes. Next to our Lord Himself, there was no other person in history more influential in starting
churches and carrying the gospel message to new places. He traveled more places and started more churches than anyone. Paul knew the importance of prayer!
So how can we pray like Paul? Well, let's look at how Paul prayed:
- Paul learned to pray in a whole new way .
Paul was raised in a very strict Jewish home. Acts 23:6 and 26:5 tells us he was a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee, the
strictest (and most powerful) sect among Jews of that day. They learned literally hundreds of prayers from early childhood. This was a man who knew how to pray.
But, after he was blinded on the road to Damascus, the Bible tells us he remained there three days, neither eating or drinking. You can be sure he spent that time praying,
searching for some answers. But none of the prayers he knew were adequate for this devastating circumstance. He learned to pray a whole new way, --- totally dependant on God! He didn't just do his religious duty, or complete his nightly ritual --- he prayed in a whole new way.
If we are to pray like Paul, perhaps we need to learn to pray in a whole new way, also. We need to learn not to just recite prayers we've said a thousand times. We need to learn
prayer is more than just pretty words. We need to learn to pray, not in our own self-sufficiency, but in our need, and totally dependant on God. There is no place for pride in
- Paul, and other members of the early church, prayed with fasting when they were seeking God's will. (Acts 13:2,3, and Acts 14:23)
Their prayers were not just meaningless recitations, but personal sacrifice. Their prayers required some effort and concentration on their part.
Let me ask you, has your mind ever wandered in the middle of your prayers? (I admit, I'm guilty of this at times!) Too many times, we make so little effort, or our mind wanders,
or we fall asleep in the middle of our prayers. How can we understand God's will in some matter if we fall asleep or aren't paying attention? Fasting is a very real way to draw us
closer to God.
- Paul prayed and sang praises to God even in the worst possible circumstances, even when there didn't seem to be any hope. (Acts 16:25)
In other words, he trusted the Lord. A new Christian or one who is weak in the faith may turn away from God in the midst of their troubles. How often have we heard someone say,
or perhaps even said ourselves, "I prayed, but God didn't answer my prayer"?
Many others will continue to pray in the midst of their difficulties, but to sing praises to
God? They can't even imagine doing such a thing! They think, "Why on earth would I want to praise God for the trouble I'm facing?" Paul instructed the early church to pray, with
thanksgiving and gladness. (Col. 4:2; Phil. 4:6; and I Thes. 5:18)
We need to learn, like Paul had learned, to trust God in any and all circumstances, good or
bad. He is in control of our circumstances, and nothing is going to happen that our Almighty God cannot turn into our good and His glory!
Rom. 8:28 promises us: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Paul believed that, and if
we want to pray like Paul, we need to believe that, too.
- Paul asked others to pray for him.
Often Paul wrote to the churches, asking them to pray for him and his fellow workers.
(I Thes. 5:25, II Thes. 3:1, Heb. 13:18, Col. 4:3, and II Cor. 1:11) God was using him in miraculous ways, but Paul wasn't puffed up in his own pride--- he knew the value of having
others pray for him.
A lot of times, we fail to ask others to pray for us. Sometimes, it's a matter of pride: we don't want others to see our "dirty laundry". We don't want to admit our own weaknesses, or
those of our family members. We fail to realize that the very things we are trying to hide are the things that most need to be brought to the Lord! Paul wan't afraid to admit his
weaknesses and his needs, and we shouldn't be, either.
Other times, we thinks it's too small a matter to ask others to pray for. But Jesus himself
tells us in Matt. 10:30 that even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God loves us, and He cares about even the little details! How wrong it is for us to think that anything is
too small to ask for prayer about! (We need to be careful, though, that our requests for prayer do not continually focus on ourselves, or become just a self-centered "wish list".)
And don't forget that Paul always included his fellow workers in his requests for prayer. We need to do the same. We should always be certain to lift up our Pastor, and his wife,
as well. Let me ask you, what do you do when you have a personal problem, or a problem with somebody in the church? Who do you vent to when things aren't going well, and you feel like
you want to scream? Usually we all have at least one person we can go to with any sort of difficulty we may face.
But who can the preacher talk to, when things are going wrong, or
there's a problem of some kind in the church? Who can his wife talk to when she has problems? The burdens of the entire church rest on their shoulders. They are people, too, you know,
and they have the same aggravations, frustrations, and irritations that we do, only multiplied by about 100 times (or however many church members we have!) They need our
prayers, daily, and we should remind one another to pray for them and for all of our church leaders.
- Paul prayed without ceasing.
Over and over in his letter to the churches,
Paul admonished them to never quit praying. (Eph. 6:18;Col. 1:3; Col. 1:9; I Thes. 5:17; II Thes. 1:11; II Thes. 3:10) He knew that prayer is the power sustaining
any church, or any individual.
A praying church is one that earnestly seeks God's will and His guidance, and they are
growing, seeing people get saved, and making a difference in their community! They know that prayer is the catalyst that changes things!
Now that we know how Paul prayed, in our next lesson we'll look at what he prayed for!
Praying Like Paul, Part 2