Powerful and Effective – Part 1
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16 NIV)
The apostle Paul writes about how he constantly prayed for the Christians to whom he ministered. In Ephesians, he says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father,” and “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:14,16).
We can learn two things from Paul in this passage. First, he must have thought that prayer is powerful. Why would he waste his time praying if he didn’t think God would respond? Paul loved his people so much that he got down on his knees and prayed for them, knowing there are certain things that God only does in answer to prayer. Prayer was the result of Paul’s love for his people, but the reason he prayed is that he knew it was effective. The simple teaching of Scripture is that God accomplishes great things in response to prayer. Martin Luther said that God does almost nothing except in answer to prayer. So if we neglect praying for one another, we will forfeit the blessings God has waiting for his people.
But there is a second truth in this passage. Paul knew that through prayer, God would strengthen the people with power from the Spirit. Pastors who are mostly concerned about preaching sermons might say to Paul, “Why don’t you just teach them power?”
That’s the point! Christianity is not primarily a teaching religion. Teaching is involved; in fact, I’m trying to do that now as I write these words. But Christianity isn’t like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, or Islam. Those are teaching religions. In those religions and others, leaders instruct followers until they reach a certain level of knowledge, and then their members are often inducted into an inner circle based on what they have learned.
Christianity, on the other hand, is essentially a supernatural religion. Jesus is God in the flesh. He was born of a virgin. He bore the sins of the world on himself as he died. He rose from the dead. He promises the gift of eternal life to those who receive him.
Heaven is promised to us.
The Holy Spirit lives within us.
These are all supernatural facts. They are the foundation of Christianity. But individual and corporate prayer no longer flourish, mainly because the church has lost faith in the supernatural God. We no longer believe in a God who answers in supernatural ways. When that kind of unbelief prevails, prayer dies.
To be continued...
-Pastor Cymbala (excerpted from Strong through the Storm)
Read Ephesians 1:15-21.