How to Pray for a Significant Life

This morning, I believe millions of people, not only Filipinos and Mexicans but boxing fans all over the world, will be closely watching the final bout between Erik “El Terible” Morales and our very own Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao in the Thomas and Mack Arena, which is said to be the biggest show ever in Las Vegas. They are fighting to become the most significant or important boxer of our times.[1]

But I believe God is watching someone else. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”[2] Imagine God zooming in on the Philippines, courtesy of Google Maps. Then He focuses on this portion of Luzon, which is more than 28 square kilometers in total land area. This is the central business district of the country. God is now looking at Makati City. Then He zooms farther. Now, this building over here looks familiar. Yes, you are here in this worship place called Makati Gospel Church. The Bible says God is looking for “those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Why? To strengthen them. To make them significant. According to Merriam and Webster Dictionary, a significant person is someone who has a meaningful life or someone who is influential. A significant person is someone in whom and through whom God’s power is at work.
In Ephesians 6:10, Paul commanded us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” After that Paul discussed spiritual warfare in verses 11 to 17. Now, how can we win this spiritual battle? He gave the answer in Ephesians 6:18-20... “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. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” In the Greek, the words “pray” and “be alert” are participles, not verbs. According to the NET Bible notes, “Both are probably instrumental... As such, they are not additional commands to do but instead are the means through which the prior instructions are accomplished.” In short, how can we tap into this power? Through prayer. The Message goes like this: “prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare” (v. 18). According to Peter Wagner, a leading church growth expert, “The more deeply I dig beneath the surface of church growth principles, the more thoroughly convinced I become that the real battle is a spiritual battle and that our [principal] weapon is prayer.”[3] So, how can we pray for a significant life? Let’s look at the acronym P-R-A-Y.
“P” stands for PRAY always. We are to “pray... on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (v. 18a). Prayer is both talking and listening to God. Remember that prayer is not just getting from God but also giving to Him. The word “pray” is in the present tense. That means we should never stop praying. We are to “Pray at all times and on every occasion...”[4] It should be our way of life. We are to pray when we are in the mood to pray. For it would be a waste to miss on such an opportunity. We should also pray when we are not in the mood to pray. For it would be sinful to stay in that state of heart. I believe this is one of the keys if we want Makati Gospel Church to grow both in quantity and quality. According to the Natural Church Development, a study of 1,000 churches in 32 countries, one of the marks of a healthy church is passionate spirituality. A high-quality, growing church enjoys prayer as an inspiring experience. Experts in another study studied churches that were previously plateaued or declining but now experiencing growth. That study revealed that 71% of those churches had an increased emphasis on prayer over the past several years.[5] That’s why let’s us always pray. Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, wrote, “Beloved brethren, let us pray. We cannot all argue, but we can all pray; we cannot all be leaders, but we can all be pleaders; we cannot all be mighty in rhetoric, but we can all be prevalent in prayer. Be sure that you are with God, and then you may be sure that God is with you. Make the most of prayer.”[6]

“R” stands for RELY on the Spirit. The word “prayers” refers to general prayers while “requests” to specific prayers. If you know what you need, tell God. If you don’t know what you need, pray even so. That’s why Paul commanded us to “pray in the Spirit” (v. 18a). The Good News Bible goes like this: “Pray... as the Spirit leads.” He leads us in what to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us that “In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.”[7] In short, the Spirit prays with and for us. Another translation goes like this: “Always pray by the power of the Spirit.”[8] That is, He empowers us as we pray. When we pray, we tap into the power of the Spirit. We tend to do things, even church work, without praying. Or, if ever we do pray, we pray just to get it over with in order to get on with the “real” business at hand. After planning, we pray at the end to ask God to stamp our plans with His approval. But God will not do so for we are actually relying on our own strength and wisdom. That shows that we are too proud to depend on God. But without prayer we will not really accomplish anything really significant for the Lord. God should have the first and the last words and every word in between. That is why “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”[9]

“A” stands for APPEAL for others. Verse 18 continues, “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Note that we are to pray for the saints, not pray to them. The Bible does not teach us to pray to dead Christians but to pray for living believers. We saw that the Holy Spirit prays for us. Jesus prays for us: “Therefore [Jesus] he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”[10] But the Bible does not command us to pray to Peter or to Paul or even to Mary. If you accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you are already a saint in God’s eyes.
Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that we are to pray for one another. To be significant is to be influential... to impact others. We do that by praying for each other. In fact, we are sinning if we neglect praying for one another. The prophet Samuel said, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”[11] Why? Praying for one another is one of our responsibilities as believers. Prayer is not just for pastors but for everyone. James 5:16 tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” You pray for me and I pray for you because every member is a minister. The Weymouth New Testament translates verse 18 this way: “be always on the alert to seize opportunities for doing so, with unwearied persistence and entreaty on behalf of all God’s people”. Let us grab every chance to pray for each other.

“Y” stands for YEARN for God’s glory. Paul shared a personal prayer request. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Vv. 19-20). It is not wrong to pray for yourself or for your needs. But note that Paul did not ask for comfort. He did not pray out of a selfish reason. He prayed and asked for prayers from others to advance God’s kingdom and for His glory. A significant life is not concerned with one’s importance but with God’s importance. James 4:2-3 warns us, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
We tend to think that by saying “In the name of Jesus” at the end of our prayers is like a magic formula or chant. Yes, the Lord gave this promise: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”[12] When we say “In Jesus’ name,” we are telling God, “Let your will be done.” Someone wrote that this means we are leaving it entirely up to God to decide what the answer would be and where, when, and how we would receive it. Note that the purpose of Jesus in answering our prayers is “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” We are to pray out of right motives. And the best motive is to honor God. For prayer is “wanting for ourselves nothing more and nothing less than what God wants for us.”[13]

So, let us pray always, rely on the Spirit, appeal for others and yearn for God’s glory so that we would experience a significant life, a life that is meaningful and influences others.

In his The Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Rick Warren wrote, “[God] wants more than an appointment in your schedule. He wants to be included in every activity, every conversation, every problem, and even every thought. You can carry on a continuous, open-ended conversation with him throughout your day, talking with him about whatever you are doing or thinking at that moment.”Let us pray...

[1]Update: Pacquiao won by TKO in the third round.
[2]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[3]Peter Wagner, “Church Planting for a Greater Harvest” as quoted in http://dunamai.com/articles/general/spurgeon_and_prayer.htm.
[4]New Living Translation.
[5]http://dunamai.com/articles/general/spurgeon_and_prayer.htm.
[6]Ibid.
[7]Contemporary English Version.
[8]Ibid.
[9]Samuel Chadwick.
[10]Hebrews 7:25.
[11]1 Samuel 12:23.
[12]John 14:13-14.
[13]Bruce Wilkinson, “The Prayer of Jabez.”

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