Summary: This message teaches the importance of exercising various expressions of prayer. Twelve of those expressions are described with the objective of stirring believers toward exploring more variety in their prayer lives.
All Kinds of Prayer
Both the AFC and NFL playoffs are scheduled for today. How many plan to watch at least one of those games? I enjoyed watching the second half of the Broncos/Steelers game last week. The thing I like about watching football is the variety of plays that can happen in one down. The ball snaps and you’re watching to see what play the offense is going to use, and then how the defense will react to it. Will they run the ball or throw a pass? Which receiver will they pass to and will the quarter back have time to get the ball thrown? Tennis is not as exciting for me to watch because it seems like they’re just trying to hit the ball back and forth over the net and within bounds. However, I don’t know much about how tennis is played. People who know more about it, find it interesting because they understand the dynamics of where to direct the ball, where the player positions himself, and a whole lot of other details.
How does all this relate to my subject this morning? First I want to say that prayer is boring if you don’t know very much about it. Tennis is boring to me because I don’t understand the game very well. I know a little more about football and all the options that are available. The more you know about prayer, the more interesting it is. And of course, it’s more interesting to play a football game than to just watch the action. You can make that application to prayer for yourself.
There will be four very good teams on the field in these championship games today. One reason they are in the championships is that each one has a variety of play options in its arsenal. A one-dimensional team cannot make it to the playoffs. A team that is only able to throw the ball, but has no running game, is at the mercy of a team that can do both. Great teams have to have a strong defense and a strong offense. Can you imagine a team trying to win one of these championship games with only one good play? Every time they get the ball, they run a sweep to the right. That team would be lucky to ever get any score on the board. The ability to maneuver in a variety of ways is essential for an effective football team.
My favorite sport is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting. Not that I do any of it myself at 67 years of age. But I like watching the sport for the same reason I like football. You never know which move the fighter is going to make. A one-dimensional fighter in MMA is not likely to win his match. MMA fighters have to be good boxers; they have to know how, when and where to kick; wrestling skills and jiu-jitsu can be important when the fight goes to the ground. How does that relate to my subject?
In Ephesians 6 Paul compares the Christian life to a battle. Like it or not you’re in a battle. Satan is opposing the kingdom of God and we are in the middle of the fray. You can wish it weren’t so; but that will not make the reality go away. So instead of telling us how to avoid the battle, Paul tells us how to win it. In verses 10-17 he tells us how to arm ourselves for the battle. I preached on the armor of God a couple of months ago.i After listing the pieces of armor, Paul makes this statement in verse 18, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”ii That is our text this morning. My primary focus will be this phrase: “…with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Both the Amplified and New International versions make this a little clearer. The Amplified says, “…with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty.” The NIV translates the phrase, “…with all kinds of prayers and requests….”
Do you pray “, “…with all kinds of prayers….” Or are you one-dimensional in your prayer life? Using the football analogy, would you like to learn some new plays; not just on paper but to be used on the field? Someone might answer, “But I pray.” That’s the same thing every losing team in the NFL can say. They play, but they lose because they have not developed their skills and tactics as well as the other team. Of course, our opposition is “not flesh and blood, but… spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12 KJV).
What are the kinds of prayer available to us? I want to begin to answer that question. This will not be an exhaustive list and each category is not mutually exclusive of other descriptions. My goal is to alert you to the possibilities and encourage growth in our prayer lives.