There is an opportunity to develop or strengthen a spiritual discipline that becomes a part of your life. One such practice is prayer, so it would be helpful to explore what Scripture reveals about this sacred exercise that promotes spiritual growth.
In his epistles, Paul puts tremendous value on prayer. He must have thought it worked! Of the 667 prayers in Bible, 454 traceable answers are found! Have you ever had a prayer answered? If so, tell us about it in the comments section to encourage the faith of others. Prayer works, so prayer has worth!
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the apostle urges them to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” So, let’s explore these kinds of prayers.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul employs the most commonly used Greek word for prayer, proseuche. It’s made up of two words. Pros means face-to-face. For example, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (pros) God…” (John 1:1). The idea conveyed by this word is one of intimacy. The Holy Spirit tells us that the Father and the Son have always had an intimate, face-to-face relationship.
Euche refers to a wish, desire, or vow. It was initially used to depict a person who made a vow to God because of some need or want. They would promise to give something to God of great value in exchange for a favourable answer to prayer.
Proseuche shows us two important things about prayer. It tells us that prayer is the vehicle to bring us into a close and intimate relationship with God. Secondly, the idea of sacrifice is also involved when we surrender to God’s will, purpose and sovereignty. It’s a cosy relationship with God in which we enjoy His presence and align our will with His.
Requests (Gk. deesis) is translated as petitions (NASB) and supplication (KJV). It refers to a need or plea and denotes a cry for God’s help that exposes our inability to meet our own needs.
James employs deesis in his letter when speaking about Elijah, “(The) prayer of a righteous (man) is powerful and effective.” Powerful (Gk. energeo [energy] = the power to get things done). I’m so glad that James uses Elijah as an example. He was a mighty man of God, but he was also an ordinary human being who did great exploits and experienced dismal failures. Consider when Jezebel threatened him. Elijah ran for his life and prayed, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:3-5). Ever felt like that? I certainly have!
Elijah recognised his inability to change the situation apart from God’s intervention. He prayed earnestly (deesis) out of his deep sense of need, asking God to intervene. His prayers were powerful and effective – just like yours are! When we cry out to God with our requests, acknowledging our inability to meet our needs, God will hear and answer!
Jesus reassures his followers that they are welcome to ask (Lit. demand) whatever they wish as long as they remain as one with him (abide, continue, or dwell). Prayer is an enduring relationship rather than a transaction where we only log in when we want something.
The picture in the original language is of a family home in which people live together in safety, comfort, and warmth. If we’re at home with Jesus, and his love and word are at home in us, our prayers will be effective.
New Testament Professor William Klein stated this: “When a person is asking the Father in prayer, while under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, and is praying according to the Word of God, the Lord guarantees that what the person asks will happen.”
If Jesus’ love and words take up proper residence within us, we will only ask for something in sync with His will and purposes. His word and love transform us, so our prayers always follow his will. This is a recurring theme in the epistles:
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3)
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14)
The final kind of prayer is intercession (Gk. entynchanō = “to fall in”). The “falling in” occurs when one party meets with another, primarily to mediate on the other’s behalf. But the meaning is more profound than this. It infers intervention or interference, just like the Canaanite woman did when she pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter (Matthew 15:22-28). She wouldn’t allow Jesus to dismiss her quickly, and because of her wisdom, persistence, and faith, Jesus intervened and healed her daughter.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us, especially in times of difficulty, suffering, and weakness. Encourage yourself with the truth that when you don’t know how to pray, the Spirit throws himself into your case, taking part in it and interfering (in a good way). As Jesus intercedes for you, he is perpetually meeting you at every point and intervening in all your affairs for your benefit. It infers He goes the second mile every time. Be encouraged!
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.