First of all, pray
by Michael E. Brooks
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. … I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:1, 8 NKJV).
I have often thought that if I were given the spiritual gift of interpretation for only part of a Bangla or Nepali worship assembly, I would like for it to come during prayer. Some in the New Testament era had the ability to hear and understand foreign tongues, without benefit of study. When one with the gift of speaking in tongues delivered a message, an interpreter (one with that gift) would translate for him. I am afraid I am greedy – I would love to possess both gifts.
Unfortunately, I do not have either the miraculous gifts of speaking or understanding tongues, nor much natural ability in the study of languages. After years of visits to South Asia I only have a small vocabulary, not nearly enough to preach or to pray, nor to understand their lessons or prayers.
Even without understanding, however, I am much moved by the sincere prayers of my brothers in Christ in these countries. They are obviously quite specific and detailed. They are delivered with great passion and other emotions. Prayers are eagerly requested – it is rare that we visit a home and are not asked to pray for the family there. Often people with illness, or with sick relatives, will request a special prayer after other activities are completed.
There is great power in prayer. James reminds us, “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. . . . The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:15-16). Obviously the greatest part of that power is attributable to God’s loving response, granting our requests.
But the sincere prayer of other believers also has the power to encourage, motivate, comfort, and strengthen us. It is a major means by which Christians practice fellowship, as we “pray for one another” (James 5:16) in times of illness, sin, or other difficulties.
That God delights in the prayers of the faithful is evident in many Scriptures. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). These sacrifices are not limited to prayer, but certainly include it.
Paul said, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Does God need to hear us to know what we need and want? No, he is omniscient (all-knowing) and knows our deepest thoughts. But he desires to hear us, and urges us to pray.
Our prayers are to a great degree for our own benefit. We need the encouragement from the prayers of other Christians. We need the expression of faith and dependence that prayer compels us to make for ourselves. Prayer is not so much a Christian duty, as it is a privilege and blessing. The almighty creator of the universe is listening for us – let us pray.