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Thursday, October 13, 2011

A prayer for effectiveness


The best way that I know how to learn to pray is to prayer the prayers contained in scripture. Recently, I discovered Heb. 13:20-21 as a prayer to add to my arsenal of scriptures to use in learning to pray and in praying for people.
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
It is actually a benediction, which is a form of prayer, spoken by the writer of Hebrews over his readers. It begins and ends with a word of worship, as I think much good praying does. This prayer can be prayed word for word or just like the Lord’s Prayer, can also be used as a pattern, launching you into more prayer from the outline it provides. In that manner, you could use it as a guide, first to worship God specifically as the God of peace and to mediate through prayer on what the means. Then, moving to the next phrase, focus on the action of God raising Jesus from the dead. This rehearsal in your mind of things you already know is not a mindless rote activity. Rather, it is where worship begins. Our hearts cool to the stupendous reality of who God is and what he has done. But as we rehearse these truths, the ground is set for our minds and hearts to reawaken to the glory and power of what we often so easily pass over. This creates the possibility of generating new love and fresh awe of God, which leads to more worship and more trust in the one to whom we pray, which provides powerful motivation to continue. You can further mine each phrase of the prayer as a source for mediation and worship.

However, the specific thing I want to note here is the crux of his prayer for the people in v. 21 that God would “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” If you stop on the first phrase of the prayer that God would “equip you with everything good,” that could easily slip into a shallow prayer essentially for the American dream, “God, please bless me with everything good.” However, that’s not what it says. Rather the writer prays that God may, “equip you with everything good that you may do his will.” (italics mine) It is a prayer that God would provide everything needed to be able to accomplish what he calls us to do. This text is a reminder that you and I should not presume that God is doing this, but rather we are to ask for it. Jesus said in John 15:4-5 “without me you can do nothing.” This prayer in Hebrews 13 is a practical outgrowth of Jesus’ statement in John 15 and praying the Hebrews prayer faithfully for each other is the right action to remind us of that reality. If God does not provide what we need in spiritual power, ideas, giftedness, and initiative, “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” then we cannot please God and we cannot accomplish his kingdom purposes. We may be doing activities that look like ministry, but in the end they will burn up  (1 Cor. 3:10-15) and will accomplish no kingdom good.

So, we need you to take up this weapon of prayer and pray it faithfully for those within your sphere of prayer responsibility. The need has never been greater for God’s people to not just be busy doing church, but to be effective in ministry for God’s sake.

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