Secrets We Learn from Paul about
PAUL WAS NOT AFRAID TO LAY BARE HIS OWN SOUL in writing his Epistles. He made known in them the intimate workings of the Holy Spirit going on inside him. This was especially so when it came to his concern for the people under his care. He ministered to them as a father would to his children, or sometimes as a pregnant mother would to her unborn babe. This care in him for others brought him into a valuable understanding about praying that will help us. This kind of praying for others we call intercession.
We receive a good amount of understanding about intercession from one of Paul's Statements in Galatians. He spoke of my little children, of whom I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you - 4:19. The words travail in birth could speak of a pregnant mother laboring to give birth. Paul was, as it were, pregnant with those he called his little children. They were the people to whom he had ministered and for whom he continued caring, even though he was in a Roman prison and separated from them.
When a mother bears a child in her womb to full term, she never stops being pregnant till the child is born. Every hour of the day and night her life revolves around the bearing of another life within her. So, Paul bore others in a spiritual womb, not for the formation of their own life, but for the formation of Christ's life in them. It was a "womb of intercession."
For several years my wife Glenda and I have followed the discipline we are learning from Paul. During this time we have had our share of difficulties, but have worked at overcoming them and have seen much victory. Some things have almost knocked us out, and we had to lay down and bleed a little. But, every time we've been able to get back up. More than once we have asked the Lord to renew in us the spirit of supplication (Zech 12:10). Each time He has faithfully moved by drawing us on in the discipline of intercession. We are learning that nothing is so important as this ministry. It can bear results in the intimate circle of one soul, or it can reach around the world to touch many.
Paul gave advice in Phil 4:6 regarding this. Be careful for nothing ("don't be of an anxious mind about anything or anyone"); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. There are three marvelous words here: prayer, supplication and thanksgiving. Prayer is from the Greek proseuché, the most common word for prayer in the Greek New Testament. It means simply the bringing of a request before the Lord, usually with humility and worship.
Supplication is from a stronger word, deésis. It is almost like begging and it is used frequently for intercession. In the two words we can see two dimensions of prayer like Jesus brought out in Lk 11:1-13. In response to the disciples request, Lord, teach us to pray, He laid out the same principle of praying He taught in Mt 6:9-13. Then, without break, He told of the man who begged bread at midnight from one friend for another friend. There was no worship or humility. There was simply a need and one who could meet that need. The supplicant refused to go away till that need was met. It was not through lack of faith that the man continued knocking on the door of his friend. It was with utmost faith that, while there was a need, he had a friend who could meet that need. He broke all rules of propriety and good manners and persisted in asking till the need was met. Thus, Jesus taught about prayer and supplication.
Coupled with them both, Paul added thanksgiving. In a later article we will go back to what Jesus taught in Lk 11.
ALL OF US CAN LEARN FROM PAUL. Parents can learn about praying for their children. Husbands and wives can find new life together as they learn to pray effectively one for the other. Pastors can learn from him about ministering to their congregations in intercessory prayer. Friends can learn to hold friends before God's Throne.
Intercession can touch every relationship we have and make it rich in Christ. It can reach every soul for whom we care and release in them a new realm of living in Christ. In his much praying, Paul learned some secrets that he passed on to us. He wrote about them in his Epistles, especially those he wrote while a prisoner. One secret is that he learned to pray without ceasing. Another is that he learned to pray with the Spirit.
Paul spoke often of continual praying. What a secret he had learned! To the believers in Rome he said, .. Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers (Rom 1:9). To the Ephesians he said, I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers (Eph 1:16). To the Philippians he said, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy (Phil 1:3,4). To the Colossians he said, We do not cease to pray for you (Col 1:9). To the Thessalonians he said, We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers (I Thes 1:2). To Timothy he said, Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day (II Tim 1:3).
In I Thes 5:17, he spoke to us -- straightforward and simple -- Pray without ceasing. He meant, "Make it your unvarying practice to be always praying. Do not allow your soul to stray from communion with the Lord." He had found this was a possibility for his own life and he wanted it in the lives of those to whom he ministered.
Surely there were times he did other things besides pray, but there was no activity that ruled out praying. There were no times he could not and did not pray. He must have never stopped praying, any more than a pregnant mother stops for a while being pregnant until she gives birth. He found the secret of praying without ceasing.
We can learn the same thing Paul learned, even if we
begin slowly. We can start by discovering the times we are doing something
else, but still can pray -- when walking, riding a bicycle, riding a public
vehicle, driving a car, working in a field, preparing food, washing clothes,
chopping wood. Any task not requiring the total concentration of our minds
and spirits allows time for praying. As we grow in relationship with the
Lord, we find there is hardly a time we are not free to pray, sometimes
out loud, sometimes silently from deep within our spirits.
I found his occupation involved driving a truck about the city, and suggested the concentration and effort required in driving did not rule out praying also. The time he spent early in the morning waiting before the Lord could become a time of studying the Scriptures and renewing intimate communion with the Lord. When driving the truck, his spirit and mind could remain free enough to continue this communion and also think of his wife, children and friends, and hold them each before the Lord.
Now, mind you, if we drive a truck, we cannot close our eyes or forget what we are doing just because we are praying. In souls disciplined to pray without ceasing, work becomes more excellent with skills and safety more pronounced. By continuing always in prayer, we develop a communication with God that sharpens our intellect and causes us to become keen and aware persons. But, it takes discipline.
For me, I have found some excellent times to pray, such
as when cutting grass. One day while involved in this time-consuming task,
I found myself praying for several people who were heavy on my heart.
After then, I came to identify cutting the grass with interceding for
I have also found another excellent time to pray is in the middle of the night when I am awakened and cannot immediately return to sleep. The hours between 2:00 and 4:30 a.m. are excellent for intercession, especially in behalf of those who are asleep. At that time, their spirits are more at ease than in the day and more ready to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is especially a good time to pray for one's family.
Many persons cannot pray without ceasing because their minds and spirits are taken up with activities that crowd out praying. These are spiritual robbers. But, they can be replaced with praying. For instance, the Lord spoke to me that the same part of the mind that worries is the part that prays. He instructed me to allow thoughts of worry to become signals to pray. Formerly, I would awaken in the middle of the night to spend hours worrying. Now, I awaken to spend them praying for the ones about whom I once worried.
For many of us, this can release much time for praying. I frequently ask those to whom I am ministering, "How many of you know what it means to worry without ceasing?" Nearly everyone raises their hands. I tell them, "Then, you can as well learn to pray without ceasing."
But, there is something needed here. We must ask the Lord to change the worrying into a signal. It can become like an alarm going off to tell our souls, "You are worrying, which is a fruitle
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