The Fervent Prayer
He may not change the circumstances, but I can guarantee you that He will change you in the circumstances.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Doin’ Alright? Well, my heart goes out to you in love and longing. Today I want the very best that God has for you in these next few moments from His precious, infallible, inerrant, eternal holy Word, the Bible.
You and I are looking at Colossians. We’re nearly through with this precious book. It’s been a great experience for me, I trust it has as well for you, my dear friends. We’re talking now about Epaphras, or if you follow the accent markings in your King James, Epaphras. I guess I told you that old Dr. Maxwell always insisted that we fellows in his seminary classes call this man Epaphras, he says, “Epaphras sounds like sassafras. I don’t like that.” Well, whatever.
“He’s one of you,” He says, “A servant of Christ, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God for I bear Him record, that He hath a great zeal for you. And them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”
Let’s talk for a little while about a burden of prayer and what to do about it, shall we? How do you start praying effectively? He said, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ.” The best place to start your praying is with people and things about which you know. You’ll pray better for the heathen on the other side of the world if you pray effectively for your father or mother, or husband, or wife, or son, or daughter in that home under whose roof you live together. You follow me? It’s far easier to pray for someone you don’t know than to pray for somebody you do know. So start where you are, and start with the people with whom you live, and start with the circumstances in which you are living, and pray about them.
Most people don’t do this, I discover. They don’t pray about the things of everyday life. “Have you ever prayed that God would make you cheerful and happy and a blessing in the morning, before the family comes down for breakfast, Mother?” Morning is such a hectic time, isn’t it? Who has any time to be pious when the place is jumping? Father is yelling, “Where’s my shirt?” And Junior’s saying, “I can’t find my socks.” And sister is crying because her hair, which she set up so beautifully last night, looks like it was mixed with an egg-beater this morning and she’s all upset. The baby is crying because he needs a new seat-cover on that little chassis. Everything is jumping, and you’re supposed to be happy in the Lord? Yep. Always rejoicing.
Now, how do you accomplish this? You accomplish it by praying before you start the day, that God will keep His hand on you in these hectic moments when everything seems to be going wrong and when everybody is asking for something, and always they want it in a hurry. Have you noticed that? “I want it right now.” They don’t want to wait around. Oh, dear. Well Mom, you see, praying about your relationship with a nervous, jumpy, hurry-up kind of a family might very well be God’s answer to the way you portray Christ before them as they’re on their way to school or to work.
Pray about the things in which you live, and with which you are most familiar. Pray about your shopping list, and pray about the discipline of the whole day. Pray about your job. You ladies and gentlemen who go out to the office, and who are in the busy, as they call the ‘busy marts of trade’ whatever that is, pray about your job. It will go a lot better. Pray, as I’ve said to you so often, before you answer the phone. You don’t know if it’s somebody to bless you or chew you out. Pray before you open a letter. You don’t know if it’s a check or a bill or a threat. Pray before you make a buying decision. God has already read the fine print in the contract. Pray before you deal with personnel problems, to transfer, to hire, to fire, whatever. Pray that God may guide you. Pray about the things you know. He says, “He is one of you.”
That is to say, His praying starts with the people that he knows best in Colossi. That’s where you start. I can guarantee you that if you’ll pray about the things of ordinary everyday life, the reach of your prayer, when you get around to praying for somebody in Africa is going to be far more effective because you already will have dealt with some of the hindrances to prayer like unbelief, or unconfessed sin, or whatever it may have been that stood in the way between you and God. If you’ve been praying effectively about things at home, you’ll pray more effectively about matters abroad. “A servant of Christ, one of you.” Now He says, “He’s always laboring fervently for you in prayers.” Laboring fervently for you. That’s an interesting word, isn’t it? That word, ‘laboring ferevently’ is one word in my Greek New Testament at which I’m now looking.
And as I said to you, I think in a previous broadcast, we just touched on this a day or so ago. It’s our word ‘agonize’. That laboring fervently is two English words used to translate one Greek verb, agonizomai. Agonizing, agonizing for you in prayers. Now, what does that mean? Are you supposed to get yourself all worked up artificially? No. The burden that you have will determine the intensity of your praying. When you stop to think, let’s get back to husbands and wives, mothers and fathers for a moment. When you stop to think of the responsibility you have for those precious children who are growing up in your home, we tend, I think, to take them for granted if they’re well and happy and well dressed and reasonably good and out of trouble, we will consid er ourselves fortunate. But you stop to have to think of the responsibility. One of those boys could grew up to be another Billy Graham. One of those girls could be another Sandra Day O’Connor sitting on the Supreme Court.
You don’t know. One of them might take up the gospel and be like Evangeline Booth who thrilled audiences of thousands with the sweet clear message that God gave her. You don’t know. What a tremendous responsibility that is. You start praying responsibly about your dear ones and you’ll begin to understand what this word means. Agonizing. Laboring fervently in prayer.
Real good praying is work. You don’t daydream your way through an effective prayer, any more than you would allow your mind to go off wool gathering and daydreaming if you are standing in the presence of an earthly monarch or of a president, such as President Reagan. You wouldn’t daydream then, you’d be at attention. You’d be thinking, every bit of your mental machinery would be going full steam ahead. Your brain would be hitting as we say on all eight cylinders. Well now, you can’t daydream your way through prayer.
Some people talk about being relaxed in prayer. Well, I believe in that too. I believe in being comfortable in the presence of God and you can be comfortable with, even if your heart is right and your sins have been forgiven, and your motives are pure and the Holy Spirit of God is directing you. Yes, you could be comfortable, but when it comes to praying responsibly about things and people, where there’s a need, I’ll tell you your praying takes on a level of intensity that doesn’t allow for daydreaming. You follow me on that? Laboring fervently.
Then there come times when you are right straight up against a crisis where an answer to prayer is the only solution to a problem. At that point, your prayer comes under this heading laboring fervently, agonizing.
I was privileged to be at what is called the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Baltimore some time ago. My good friend Clarence Hadel arranged to have me invited to say a few words and I sat next to the mayor, Mayor Schaefer, and there were a number of officials there in connection with the program.
One of them was a beautiful… I use the word beautiful advisedly. He had the smile of God on his face, he really did. A gentleman, who was introduced as the director of finance. And for a number of years he had been active in seeing to it that the finances of the city were kept in balance. He gave a beautiful testimony of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then he went on to say, “There have been times… ” Well, he said first of all, “I have prayed about every major decision that I’ve faced in this office. I pray about everything that comes before me.” But he said, “There have been times when people would say, ‘Well, we’re going to have a shortfall of so and so many million dollars at the end of the fiscal year’.” And he said, “I’ve prayed about it and God has always answered.”
Now I admit that the man is a financial genius, no question about that. But also, there is a sense in which when you are short so many millions of dollars, you can’t just dream them up, nor can you use what we call the meat ax approach and just chop off certain amounts of money off of every department of the budget. You can’t do that and survive. You have to have a special answer. And he went to the throne of grace and found his answer.
I wonder if I’m talking with someone today who’s up against a very special problem and it’s more than you can handle. It may have to do with a domestic situation, a straying wife or a prodigal husband or a rebellious teenager. It may have to do with your job and try as you may, you can’t seem to please the boss or do anything right. It may have to do with your college career and you don’t quite know which way to turn, which college to choose, which major field of study to determine. It may have to do with matters of the heart, you may have just broken up with the light of your life and she has turned her eyes on somebody else who is either more attractive, or richer, or both. [ chuckle]
I remember I was devastated on one occasion when I was still in high school. And the lady who I thought was probably the fairest in the world dumped me for somebody else who had a brand new roadster that his rich father had given him. I felt so bereft. [chuckle] Well, you have all sorts of problems depending on your age and station in life, but I’m talking to somebody that feels you’re really at the end of your resources. You don’t know what to do, and there isn’t an answer. Oh beloved, now comes this word ‘laboring fervently.’
Get down on your knees and pray, really pray and tell God about it in detail and yield your thinking to Him so that He can give you some new ideas. And out of that earnest laboring in prayer will come God’s solution to your problem.
He may not change the circumstances, but I can guarantee you that He will change you in the circumstances, and you’ll be glad and grateful that you sought the throne of grace. Laboring fervently in prayer. Now we get at this a little more the next time we get together.
Dear Father, today I pray that our praying may reflect not only our burden but Thy almighty power in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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