Summary: The following sermon is going to examine the Lord's command to love and to pray for our neighbors: our fellow believers, our country's leaders and yes even our enemies!
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
“A classic definition of Christian prayer is “an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.” Prayer is accepting God’s invitation to draw nearer to Him (James 4:8) by upwardly and humbly approaching His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) with the assurance that the living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) of those who believe in the Son will always receive and can communicate with their loving Creator! Prayer is “life creating and life changing” for it is in communion with the Potter that the rebellious, stony parts of one’s heart are constantly being transformed back into His glorious image and conformed to His will. While it is incredibly important to never stop asking God to plow furrows in one’s own heart, we must not forget our obligation to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40) by bringing their concerns before He who can do more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)! Prayer is not to be all about us lest it become a product of selfish ambition or vain conceit! Scripture states in humility we are to value others above ourselves by looking out for their interests (Philippians 2:3-4) both by doing good deeds for them that point to the Father (Matthew 5:16) and by asking for divine intervention on their behalf! Apostle Paul, for example, told the church of Ephesus that they were to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (6:18). When we make our petitions to God on behalf of others, we are to do so with the understanding that while the “prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) they are only granted when we ask according to God’s divine will for another (1 John 5:14)! The first part of the sermon is going to examine intercessory prayer of the Lord as our example to follow. The second part will define the neighbors we are to pray: the Lord’s people, the rulers of the land and yes even our enemies! And the final part of this sermon will focus on the crucial role the Holy Spirit has in forming the words of our prayers!
Intercessory Prayer of the Lord
Hebrews 7:25 states “Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to make intercession for them.” After Christ ascended into heaven and was “seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1) He return to the glory He once had before His incarnation (John 17:5). In heaven we are told that Christ is constantly defending His own against the accusations of Satan that we are unworthy. In one sense Satan is right God is holy and every person is condemned before Him because of their sin (1 Peter 1:15-16; John 3:18). However, even though the “powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12) bring accusations against believers they will not be successful in their condemnation of the saints because the Lamb who was slain before creation of the world is the believer’s advocate and perfect once and for all atonement for their sins (Revelation 13:8; Romans 8:31-39)! He who made Himself nothing (Philippians 2:6) by taking on the nature of a suffering servant (Isaiah 53:1-9) has atoned for the wages of sin which is death (Romans 6:23). Believers are not eternally separated from God when they sin because the blood of the Lamb has forever purchased (1 Corinthians 6:20) their right to boldly approach His throne of grace as His children and heirs (Hebrews 4:16; Galatians 4:7)! I cannot help but think that Christ is still praying in heaven His last prayer before He was arrested that the “relationship between believers and the Father and Himself would be brought about through the ministry of the Holy Spirit” in perfect unity to His will (John 17:20-25).
Intercessory Prayer for Others
As Christ prayed for us, we too are to intercede on behalf of others. Scripture contains many examples of pleas made on behalf of others such as Moses plea to not destroy Israel after their sin of worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32), Elijah’s plea that God would send fire to burn up the alter so that his people might stop worshipping Baal and believe in God (1 Kings 18), Abraham’s plea that God would save Lot (Genesis 18), the centurion’s plea for healing for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13), the Canaanite woman’s plea to have her daughter cured of demon-possession (Matthew 15:21-28); and Apostle Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians (3:14-20), Philippians (1:9-11), and Colossians (1:9-12). We express our love for others by doing good deeds for one another but also by pleading with God to intervene in their lives. We are not to be anxious about anything but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts we are to make our requests to God with the assurance that they will be granted when asked in accordance with His will (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 John 5:14). While we are to pray for the financial, physical, and emotional well-being of others our primary focus of love for another ought to reflect a genuine desire for them to draw nearer to God! For example, Paul prayed that God might strengthen the church of Ephesus with power from His Spirit in their inner being so that they might grasp how wide and long, high, and deep is the love of Christ and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of Him. Remember never stop praying for others with the assurance that the “prayers of a righteous person truly are powerful and effective” (James 5:16) for God still does miracles and good to those He loves (Romans 8:28)!