The Missing Ministry of Prayer

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

(Colossians 4:2–4, ESV)

It seems that very often whenever one hears about prayer in the Christian life, it is directed mainly to the subject of personal prayer: for self and others. Very little is spoken in regard to corporate prayer, pastoral prayer, and the ministry of prayer. That is a shame. Prayer is the engine by which the work of ministry depends because it shows our great need for God to move on our behalf.

In Paul’s closing chapter to the church in Colosse, we are reminded of this truth. Paul asks for steadfast prayer, praying with a thankful heart, but also for the missionary team that Paul is leading. He asks for prayer–not for safety, nor for comfort, but for an open door for the reception of the gospel. He prays that he would be bold, and clear and that he would not shrink back in fear to speak truthfully about the need to turn to Christ for salvation. Paul knows all too well the weakness of the human heart and that he too can succumb to this temptation. He is, after all, in prison because of his willingness to suffer for Christ.

I don’t often hear much about the importance of prayer in fighting the spiritual battle that we are engaged in either. In Ephesians 6:18 in the context of spiritual warfare and the Christian’s armor it says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV). Praying in agreement with the Spirit (what “praying in the Spirit” means), is directly connected to fighting this spiritual battle we are to be engaged in. And we are not simply to pray for ourselves, but especially to remember our fellow brothers and sisters: “…making supplication for all the saints.”

If we wonder why in an age of so many technological advancements and spiritual resources we are making so little headway, perhaps we need to look at the place of prayer in our personal lives and in the life of the Church today. Do we go to battle on our knees? Do we wage war on behalf of our pastors, our churches, our missionaries, our school teachers, our civic leaders? Do we pray for the gospel to make advances into society by the power of the gospel proclaimed?

As E. M. Bounds, a man of great prayer, wrote many years ago, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men.[1]

Brothers and sisters, as we pick up our Swords, may we wield them with prayer on our lips for the battle we will engage today. May we daily fight the good fight in full dependence upon the Spirit, beseeching the throne of grace with prayer to our mighty God who will fight for us.

[1] E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, paperback ed. 1972), 7.

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