Christian Prayer, authentic prayer

Sentinel Focused Praying

Posted by jimgrier on March 6, 2015

Pledge Principal IV

I will commit to pray thoughtfully for those who God has brought into my life

Luke 22: 28-34

"You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

The friendship of Jesus, revealed in the passage above is no small token. “The law of Your mouth is worth more than thousands in silver and gold.” Psalm 119: 72.  So why is Pledge Principle IV written this way?  It’s not meant to be a defense of the need for prayer.  It’s meant (if you consider yourself invested in the Kingdom of God) to convey you are, by definition assumed to already act as a “Sentinel.” It would redundant to convince you of what Jesus says you already are.  “A new command I give you, love one another…”

The prayer of Jesus for Peter in Luke 22 is probably worth a book in itself, we can note the following: 

  • Jesus, knew Peter personally and was on top of praying for his specific needs
  • Jesus encouraged Peter after his trial to come back stronger. 

The second point of the prayer is really the focus of this Pledge principle. Our journeys, trials and tribulations are meant to be used for the advancement of God's Kingdom.  The problem is who among us would claim they saw how a disaster was shaping their impact for the Kingdom of God while it was occurring? Most of us are just trying to keep our heads above water!  I'm comforted that Jesus didn't tell Peter to "slug it out" and keep his chin up!  He expected Peter to traverse the trial.   Note the results of life's adversities have one purpose...Kingdom work... and that means the work of helping others (often ourselves)  find and develop their relationship with their Creator. The work of the Kingdom of God is never separate from the principle of ministering to others and, knowing them well enough to invest spiritual power and authority in their lives and to "pray specifically" for the circumstances of their lives, circumstance, and future.  That goes for all men and women, those in the church as well as those outside the church.  Note Paul's spiritual prayer investment in the Ephesian church: 

"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."  Ephesians 1: 15-19

This type of prayer requires us to be invested, inquiring, and concerned enough about our fellow believers and those outside the church who we identify as friends to pray for their needs, not generally, but as Jesus did - specifically.  This means if these folks are truly in our "circle of life," we pray with a personal knowledge derived from an authentic relationship.  No doubt Peter would need the prayer Jesus delivered so his faith didn't collapse when his shortcomings were revealed, I'm sure as he got older he began to appreciate how this prayer might of kept him from the path of Judas, overwhelming remorse, and inability to forgive himself... with catastrophic results. 

One of the most difficult spiritual tools for Christians to develop is this issue of prayer.  I know it was (and still is) an immense effort to make it a point to pray deliberately, with intent, and knowledge consistently and faithfully for the people God has placed in my life.  Yet time and time again the Bible equates the issue of prayer with our spiritual health and even whether not we are saved or not.  Really you might ask? Yes really.  Note a very well known prayer offered up by Jesus,

"Father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"

We can take away from this, the issue of forgiveness (which contrary to popular church jargon these day is the primary issue of why Jesus died as it leads to restoration,) is operating in the arena of our prayer life.  In case you just missed that, the issue of your forgiveness is supposed to be central in your prayer life and specifically an operating factor in your relationship with others.  That's why in the following statement Jesus says "For if you do not forgive others their trespasses neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you" (Matthew 6:15). Jesus is not contradicting himself, he's stating the obvious; those without forgiveness of others are not of the Kingdom of God.  That's about as simple, sobering and convicting as it gets folks.

How about if we start this week examining our prayer life with something like this:

"God I'm sorry for neglecting my prayer life and playing Christianity saying I'm a follower of your Son when I really have made no concerted effort to talk with you.  Please forgive me for counting on glossy packaged "Christian experiences" as a a method for developing my faith when the issue was I didn't care enough to sit down and give you any time. Oh yes God,I've known how hard prayer is, and I've heard plenty of messages on just how hard it is to do (and those messages made me feel better when I let church so I wasn't convicted) but the reality was I missed and took for granted the opportunity to talk with you, and develop spiritual power in my own life and in the lives of those around me who are dying and might be going to hell."

Wow you say, did he really use the work hell? I must confess I did... novel idea isn't it?

Now that might sound a little offensive to our seeker sensitive 21st church who has gotten comfortable with talking "about discipleship" as opposed to actually pressing "into discipleship," but then again if the issue of prayer is intrinsic to our eternal relationship with God maybe, just maybe we ought to be treating it a little more seriously.

So the next time you get up at whatever am to go work out at the gym or take your kid to the fourth "self improvement" activity this week ask yourself where's the priority of prayer in your life?  You can read all the books on spiritual formation you can get your hands on and if you don't have the issue of prayer primary and central friend its meaningless...

Yours, mine, our prayers, matter.

JP Grier MS Counseling
JP Grier is an author and contributor to Sentinels For Christ.
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