Recently, my granddaughters came over to watch a movie with me. I put in the DVD, only to have it skip, freeze up and then just stop altogether. When I looked at it more closely, it had some deep scratches. I knew it would never really work, so I threw it out.
A similar thing happened to my printer. It would only print a few words of a document, and then it would spit the paper out. As many adjustments as I made, I couldn’t get it to print a complete page, so I threw it out, too.
And last week I did a load of laundry, put it in the dryer and then heard a loud thumping noise. When I opened the dryer door to find out what was wrong, I found my husband’s cell phone! Knowing that it had gone through the wash cycle and about 15 minutes of the dryer, I didn’t even have to open the phone to know that it would never work again. I threw it out.
Seeing how I often deal with broken things by throwing them out, I started to consider how I treat prayer. Sometimes it’s a struggle to make prayer “work,” but I know I can’t throw it out because it’s much too valuable. I have to fix it. One way I “fix” my broken, ineffective prayers is to use the pattern of prayers in Scripture.
The Apostle Paul was a man whose prayers worked—especially for the church and for God’s people. From Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, we can see a clear pattern for our own prayers.
READ EPHESIANS 1:15-23
BEGIN WITH PRAISE
- What are two things in the Ephesian church for which Paul gave thanks to God?
- What did he thank God for in the Philippian church? See Philippians 1:3-4. And in the church at Colossae? See Colossians 1:3-4.
- How do you think this encouraged those for whom Paul was praying?
- How do you begin your prayers for God’s people, including your pastor, your spouse, your children and your friends? If they could overhear your prayers, would they be encouraged or discouraged?
- Take time now, and write down phrases or thoughts from the following Scriptures with which you can begin your own prayer that works for believers: 1 Corinthians 1:4-7, 11:2; 2 Corinthians 9:13-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; Philemon 4-5, 7; and 2 John 4.
- What difference do you think it would make if the people you are praying for heard you praising God for them?
- What three things did Paul ask God to give the Ephesian Christians?
- Why do you think each of these is important?
- Give phrases from 1 Peter 1:3-9 that you could use to petition God for the same three things on behalf of believers.
- How did Paul’s petitions for the Ephesians differ from his prayer for the Colossians? What were the similarities? Give phrases from Colossians 1:9-12.
- What are you asking God to do for Christians you know? List your petitions, then compare them to Paul’s. What adjustments do you need to make in yours?
- Using phrases from 1 Thessalonians 4-5, what are some other ways you could pray for believers?
RELY ON GOD’S POWER
- What example did Paul use to illustrate God’s power?
- Give other examples of God’s incomparably great power, with a personal application of each, from: Genesis 1:1; Exodus 13:17-14:31; Joshua 3:14-17, 6:1-5, 12-16, 20; Daniel 3:1-30, 6:1-28; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7; and Acts 3:1-8.
- When you pray for others, on what are you relying for effectiveness? Church activities? Programs? Materials? Books?
- How do the following verses encourage you to rely more on God’s power when you pray? 2 Samuel 22:5-20, Isaiah 40:27-31, John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, Ephesians 3:16-19, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, Jude 24-25 and Revelation 19:11-13.
Don’t throw away prayer because you are discouraged when it doesn’t seem to work. Be steadfast! Use Paul’s pattern for more effective prayer.
Instead of complaining or criticizing others, look for something in them for which you can praise God, then let them know what it is. Pray for their spiritual needs, as well as their practical and material needs. Then expect God to hear and answer your prayers according to His power.
©2013 Anne Graham Lotz