Sermon series: Living Beyond Yourself
There is a phrase that is used to describe someone who is anxious and eager to handle a situation. You might hear it in the context of a coworker suggesting to another that something needs to be done. The other worker in response says, "I'm all over it!" With that phrase they are saying, "There is no need to worry. I have it covered, I have it under control, I understand the situation, and I am taking care of it."
The world would be a different place if we as believers could respond to the question: "How is your prayer life?" with the answer, "I'm all over it!"
Can you respond in that way?
In Ephesians 6:18 we read the following words, "With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints" (HCSB). This is one of the Bible's amazing verses on prayer. When you examine it closely you discover some guidelines on how to have an effective and exciting prayer life. The words of the verse remind us of some things to get "all over" as we pray.
I. All times
"With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit"
The Bible tells us we are to pray without ceasing, but for many believers this is not understood in a practical sense. Prayer for each individual must become a daily, constant, and consistent way of living. In any given moment we are only a thought and breath from communicating with God. In a day and age when we pride ourselves on having high-speed internet connections, we also have a high-speed instant access connection with the Heavenly Father.
In the book of Psalms we get some insight into the approach that David took in praying at all times. In Psalm 4 we are reminded that he prayed before ending the day. In Psalm 5 we see him start his day in prayer. In Psalm 6 we see how he prayed in the aftermath of his failures. In Psalm 7 we read how David prayed when the pressure was on and he was under attack. In Psalm 8 he prayed when he thought of the creative power of God. In Psalm 9 we see that he prayed in times of joy. In Psalm 10 he prayed when he felt isolated.
It is safe to say that David as a lifestyle prayed without ceasing and stressed how important it is to keep the lines of communication open to God.
II. All types
"and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession"
Praying happens in so many ways in the life of the Christian. We offer up prayers of praise to the Heavenly Father. These are prayers where we simply say "thanks" and express our gratitude to God. We pray about the things that trouble us and that weigh heavy on our hearts. We pray for those moments that we have failed and let God down. An important part of our prayer lives is time spent praying for others.
Praying is a dynamic and active part of the lifestyle of a growing believer. The verse reminds us to keep at it and keep praying for others.
III. All together
"and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints"
Prayer should be a constant for the Christian. Our goal is for prayer to be as natural as breathing. If prayer can become the habit of our lives, then the way we look at the world and deal with others will change.
In praying for others we are more likely to remember that we are all in this thing called life together. We are far too guilty of praying exclusively for ourselves. If we can find the right balance we will open our eyes to the needs of others as we pray for them. We will realize that we are all part of the body of Christ. This gives us a new sense of purpose and a renewed sense of hope as we remember that we are connected with the body of Christ.
If we could pray at all times, in all types of conversations with God, and take seriously our role in the kingdom work of God with others, we would begin to experience God in powerful ways. Our lives would become lives that are fueled by a passion for living for Christ. When it comes to prayer we should be "all over that!" It will help us stay on track as we strive to make a difference in the world around us for Him.
God's four answers
In talking with people who are concerned because God doesn't seem to be answering their prayers, Pastor Bill Hybels uses a little outline he borrowed from a pastor friend of his.
If the request is wrong, God says NOIf the timing is wrong, God says SLOWIf you are wrong, God says GROWBut if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says GO!
Source: Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not To Pray (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.74.
The prayer of faith
I once spent the night in a crumbling hotel in Porto Alegre, Brazil. A friend and I ascended to our room, high in the building, in a tiny, creaking elevator. From our window I saw slums spreading out far beneath me, and I felt uneasy. That evening I prayed, "Lord, please save me from any danger of fire. You can see we are at the top of a dilapidated hotel, which is nothing but a firetrap. There isn't a fire station near, and I can't see any fire escapes outside the building. Lord, you know that this building would go up in flames in a second, and at this very moment it is probably full of people falling asleep with cigarettes in their mouths.
By the time I finished praying, I was a nervous wreck, and I hardly slept a wink all night. The next morning, as I evaluated the evening, I realized that my bedtime prayer had focused on my negative feelings rather than on God's assurances and promises, and I learned an important lesson: unless we pray in faith, our prayers can do more harm than good.
Source: Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN 2000) p. 625.