Daniel Fast Day 17

Sober Prayers - Part 1

We do not serve an impersonal god who only makes demands of us and has no desire to be involved in the details of our everyday lives. The foundation of our Christian faith is that God loves us passionately and He cares deeply about every detail of our lives. Psalm 37:23(NLT) “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” That’s why Jesus encourages us to abide in Him and to stay connected to Him. The way we stay connected to Christ Jesus is to communicate with Him and obey Him. We do that through the vehicle of prayer, the Word, and fellowship with His Body, our fellow believers. 

The greatest privilege we have as sons and daughters is the access granted to us by Jesus into the Father’s presence. We don’t just crawl in or grovel in, we come in boldly. This boldness does not come from self-righteousness or entitlement, it comes from the knowledge of God’s character. He is full of grace and mercy, and He understands our weaknesses. Our Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves and yet loves us more than we could ever imagine. He equips us, enables us, fills us, empowers us, clothes us, and sends us out to represent Him. First to our families, then in our places of work, and to our world. This equipping comes from the Holy Spirit who fills us all and creates within us a desire to know God better and serve Him with a humble and grateful heart. 

Growing to maturity means we accept personal responsibility and we evaluate everything, including ourselves, with our eyes on Jesus (our model), and our ears open to His Word. The evidence of this Christ-like maturity in us is seen in our progress from selfishness to selflessness. We move from being consumed by our own lives to having a great sense of care and consideration for others. This is seen in all aspects of our lives, including our prayers. Paul writes to the Colossians and says, Colossians 4:2(NLT) “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

We all should be devoted to prayer because we all should be communicating with our Father. Prayer simply is having a conversation with our Heavenly Father; prayer is talking to God. We talk all the time to everyone else; we should have an appetite and desire for prayer that far exceeds any other desire. Paul says we need to be “devoted to prayer with an alert mind and a grateful heart.” Gratitude is learned through knowing how good the Lord truly is to us. The fact that we will spend eternity with Him is more than enough to praise, thank, and worship Him for all the ages to come. Gratitude is the very root of devoted prayer because we can never stop thanking Jesus for what He did for us.

We are also told to pray with an alert mind. To be alert is to be aware. We get alerts on our phones so we can be aware of a particular event happening, or even things we might need to avoid. What does it mean to be alert in prayer? It means we are aware not only of our own needs but also for the needs of others. It means we are sober minded; we are not intoxicated with selfishness. We are encouraged to pray sober prayers that are not intoxicated with selfish desires but are filled with selfless thoughts. Praying not simply for my own desires, but for God’s plan to come to fruition in the lives of others. How do we know this is what Paul is saying? Because He continues, Colossians 4:3-4(NLT) “Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.  Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.”

The very next word is Paul asking for prayer, “Pray for us too…” As you devote yourself in prayer that stems from gratitude, don’t just mindlessly pray, but be alert. Here’s an alert for you Colossians, pray for us! What kind of prayer request does Paul have? Nothing about His own need, but everything about fulfilling what God has called him to do. Pray for many opportunities so we can speak about this glorious mystery of God’s plan through Christ Jesus. Notice that he is asking for opportunities, and yet he is in chains, meaning he is in prison. No prayer requests about letting them take it easy on him in prison. Nothing about His own needs.  He is purely focused on proclaiming the message clearly. Paul shows us that Christ is truly the example he follows. Jesus is our ultimate example, but more than that, He is the pattern that we are to build our lives on. That means what we see Jesus do, we ought to do. How Jesus responds to others is the same way we should respond to others. How Jesus treats people is the way we should treat people.

Does it mean we don’t talk to God about our needs? No, we can absolutely talk to God about our needs, but as we grow, we begin to understand that I can talk to God about my needs and the needs of others. As we mature there is a great desire to pray for others. The disciples wanted to pray like Jesus and that must be our desire too.

I know that we refer to Matthew 6 and Luke 11 when we talk about the Lord’s Prayer, but it’s really our prayer that Jesus taught us to pray. The prayer that Jesus prayed is found in John 17:1-26. It is a powerful prayer and I am going to highlight just one aspect of it. Jesus prays for Himself from verse one to verse five. Then He spends the rest of the time praying for His disciples and praying for us. Notice the following verses in John 17. John 17:9(NKJV) “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” 

John 17:20(NKJV) “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”  This prayer is so powerful, but it becomes even more pronounced when we think of when this is taking place. They have just had the last Supper together, and Jesus washed their feet. He encouraged them and told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit and that although there will be tough times, He has overcome the world. Then He prays, and when He finished praying this happens: John 18:1(CEV) “When Jesus had finished praying, he and his disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and went into a garden.”

Jesus serves them, encourages them, and prays for them, yet His most agonizing and difficult time of His life and ministry is about to take place. Talk about selflessness. The last thing most people want to do if they know that they are about to suffer, is to pray for others. Especially, if that suffering is because of what others did. Jesus does not set the standard; He is the standard. Jesus is our model for life and living including our prayer lives. If Jesus is praying all the time, why aren’t we? Jesus’ life is bathed in prayer. From the time of His supernatural birth to the beginning of His earthly ministry, we find Him praying. During His ministry we see Him praying and on the cross, He is praying, not for Himself but for others. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do…”

But that’s not the end of Him serving others in prayer. In the words of the infomercial: “Wait, there’s more…” Then Jesus goes back to the Father and what is He doing? He is interceding for us before the Father. Hebrews 7:25(NKJV) “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

We might think, “Yes, but that is Jesus.” But we must realize that we cannot use that as an excuse for not doing what God wants us to do. We are His followers. We are His disciples and we are supposed to do what He does. God will never ask us to do something that He does not enable us to do. Intercession is not a question of ability; it is a question of willingness. I will take it one step further. Intercession is not a question of gifting, but of maturity. Selfish people struggle to pray for others. Selfless people can’t help but pray for others. Which one are you? Praying and interceding for others is an act of pure selflessness. There are people who have a ministry of intercession, but all of us should be interceding and praying for others. One of the greatest gifts that we can give one another is the gift of praying for each other. There is no doubt in my mind that the prayers of others carry us.

We need a revival of prayer in our churches! We somehow have lost the power of prayer and have replaced it with self-help, self-focused, self-absorbed methods that have produced, “me first believers”, instead of “me dead believers”. There is personal intercession that we pray for others individually and that is good and necessary. But we also need corporate intercession as the Body of Christ. We, as the church, need to pray and intercede to make a difference in the place God has put us. Jesus said to pray that God’s Kingdom will come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Could it be that selfishness is keeping us from entering into the reality of God’s Kingdom because all of our prayers focus on our own needs, desires, and wants?

Can you envision with me for a moment every person who calls themselves a Christ follower, coming together with other like-minded believers in churches all over the world and praying: “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done.” Regardless of denomination or label, just a hunger and a thirst for His Kingdom to come. Believers praying in North America, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done!” Believers praying in South America, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done!” Believers praying in Europe, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done!” Believers praying in Africa, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done!” Believers praying in Asia and Australia, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done!” Believers praying in all the Islands, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”

Voices being raised in one accord from remote villages, to bustling cities, from the Rift Valley in Africa to Mt. Fuji in Japan. With one voice, one heart, one purpose, and one prayer. “Let God’s Kingdom invade this earth and let God’s will be done here, as it is done in Heaven.” May we become the house of prayer that Jesus said we must be, and may our prayers be sober, alert, and bathed in gratitude!

Isaiah 62:6(NLT) “O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18(NLT) “Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Prayer and Reflection:
  • Do you pray? Do you pray often? Is prayer a vital priority, or an emergency response to some kind of crisis in your life?
  • If gratitude is at the root of a prayerful relationship with God, what is the root of prayerlessness? Does your prayer life reflect how grateful you are for what the Lord has done for you?
  • What do you pray mostly about? Your needs or the needs of others?
  • Do you pray as passionately for the needs of others as you do for your own? If your answer is no, what can you do to change it?
  • How can you become more devoted to prayer and deepen your prayer life? Are you willing to move from a selfish approach to prayer, to a selfless one? 
  • Will you start praying more alert, sober, and grateful prayers?

Pray Paul’s Prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21(NLT)

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to You Father, You are the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  Lord, I pray that from Your glorious, unlimited resources You will empower us with inner strength through Your Spirit.  I pray that Christ will make His home in our hearts as we trust in You. Help our roots to grow down into the Father’s love and keep us strong.  May we have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Your love is.  May we experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then we will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You Father.  Now all glory to You, for You are able, through Your mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to You in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.  
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