SHINE 40 Days of Love and Light- "Prayer" pt. 1
Pastor Terry Inman
How to have a conversation with God about loved people.
Today is Valentines Day! What a great day to begin our 40 days of Love and Light. It is also the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is not about loaning our best friend money. It’s also not about the fuzzy stuff that collects on our sweaters. God’s love is not fuzzy at all.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
(1 John 4.10 NIV)
Lent is traditionally the six-weeks leading up to Easter. It’s a time of prayer reflection, repentance, giving, and practices of self-denial. We encourage the popular Daniel fast that abstains from meats and treats.
Valentines Day is one of those things that did get fuzzy over time. There is very little historical information about Saint Valentine. Tradition says,
He was arrested for marrying Christian couples and giving aid to believers who were at the time being persecuted by the Emperor Claudius in Rome.
Claudius initially took a liking to him. However, when Valentine refused pagan worship and tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. While imprisoned he proclaimed the gospel and restored the sight of a Judge’s blind daughter. Also according to tradition, at his martyrdom he left the girl a note signed, “your Valentine”!
I was in the forth grade. It was the second of three schools I attended that year. We moved a lot. There was a very lovely girl sitting about two rows behind me. It was Valentines Day.
So I passed a simple little heart shaped piece of red construction paper her way that said, “be my valentine”. She opened it, read it and gave me the raspberries. Not all, true love is reciprocated!
So let me read God’s valentine message one more time. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4.10 NIV)
I was going to title this message “How to have a conversation with God about lost people” but no one likes to be labeled “lost” so I changed it to “How to have a conversation with God about loved people.”
No one is lost on God. 2 Peter 3.9 says, God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. It is true that many have yet to realize and reciprocate his love but He is patient and persistent. He does not stop loving because He is love. Here is His valentine to us!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
(John 3.16-17 NIV)
My valentine mission in the fourth grade ended the minute I got the rejection notice. There were more worthy recipients of my affection.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t withdraw is unconditional and unconventional love the first time we fail to respond. God recruits us who have received his love and light to partner in prayer for those He is dying to love.
Prayer is like mediation. “God, reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
(2 Cor. 5.18-20 NIV)
Prayer is making an appeal to heaven on behalf of our friends and family on earth. It’s a prayer that is in complete harmony and agreement with God’s intentions. The people we are praying for may not respond the way we would like. We may never get to see the results of our prayers.
My mother prayed all her life for her extended family in another state. Most of them became followers of Jesus after she passed on. She was confident that God would answer her prayers and he did.
The Apostle Paul was in tears over his own race. They were religious but they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. He never stopped praying and believing. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”
He was also convinced that God would one day answer his prayers. He wrote, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
(Rom. 11.25-27 NIV)
We care deeply about those closest to us. The Jewish people are God’s original family! God wants all humanity to be reunited with him!
Paul gave Timothy some instructions on praying for the people God loves.
Let’s take a look at how to pray in (1 Timothy 2.1-6 NIV)
He begins with, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—“
“I Urge”(parakaleo) “to call near” is close and personal. It is to entreat or implore. He is saying, “I am personally encouraging you to pray”.
“First of all” gives his request a sense of urgency and priority. People Christ died for should be the first thing on our prayer list. Could it be that the reason many have not yet come to faith in Christ is that our prayer list is all about us and not them?
In the NT there are seven different Greek nouns used for prayer. Paul mentions four of them in this verse. (1.) requests (2.) prayer, (3.) intercession and (4.) thanksgiving. These are not just synonyms for prayer but specific kinds of prayer.
The first word “requests” (deeseis) comes from a Greek word that means, “desire”. God wants us to express our deepest desires for the people he loves. The King James Version uses the term supplications. This is emotional. It’s passionate. We pray because we feel it, we want it.
Ask God to give you his compassion for loved people. When pray it increases our love for the lost.
The second term is “prayers” (proseuche). It is the most common term for a verbal conversation between God and us. It can be public and private. When we pray for people that God loves we need to be fully aware of who we are talking to. He wants them saved even more than we do. We need to consult with him on how to pray for them.
The next term intercession (enteuxis) is only here in Timothy. It’s the idea of intervention or mediation. We would call it a “go between”. We are not praying our agenda but asking God how and what he wants us to pray.
The Holy Spirit assists us with intercession. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
The Spirit does a search. He knows our heart and he knows God’s will.
As we learn to listen to the Spirit we will pray in agreement with God.
The fourth prayer expression is “thanksgiving”(eucharistia) for the people God loves. That can be a little more challenging. We pray for some people’s salvation because we don’t like them or the way they act.
Just a couple verses down, Paul says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.”
(1Tim. 2.8 NIV)
It doesn’t work to lift our hands toward God and fists toward people.
Lifting “holy hands” in prayer means that our attitudes must be pure.
In prayer we leave our anger and petty disputes behind us.
Jesus said, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
(Matt. 5.44 NIV)
Peter connects prayer and healthy relationships. “Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them and delight in them…Treat your wives, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.”
(1 Pet 3.7 MSG)
We need to pray with an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a statement of faith. It is praying with the anticipation that God is answering our prayers and we are appreciative. It anticipates results!
After telling us how to pray Paul tells us who to pray for. He already said, pray for “everyone” then he adds, “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
(1 Timothy 2.2 NIV)
Leaders influence nations. We really need to pray for our leaders and not just our preferred political candidates. If we prayed more than we complain about our leaders there would be a spiritual turn around.
We pray for them, Paul says, so we may “live peaceful (undisturbed) and quiet, (noiseless)” lives in “godliness and holiness”. Paul was writing from prison, where he was incarcerated for his faith. The Emperor was the cruel and corrupt Nero who later executed both Paul and Peter. All the more reason to pray!
Why should we pray for authorities? Paul says, it’s “good”, and it “pleases God”. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
(1 Tim. 3-4)
We pray for authorities because God is the final authority and he places all in authority. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
Praying for authority and respecting authority keeps us in alignment with God’s authority so His will and purposes can be carried out.
Finally Paul concludes his appeal to prayer for everyone with this statement. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.”
(1Tim. 2.5-6 NIV)
We pray for the people God loves because Jesus is our go-between. He intervened on our behalf. His life was the ransom price for all of us. That includes the people yet to realize it. We have good news to pass along.
The last phrase, “the testimony given in its proper time.” is a way of saying, Jesus sets us free and eventually the news is going to get out.
Just keep praying for the people God loves! Let’s have a conversation right now with God about some of the people he loves.