Pray For Me

“And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.”
Ephesians 6:19-20

So far in this Epistle, Paul has been dispensing wise and helpful words for the benefit of his friends back in Ephesus. He’s been praying for them, encouraging them, blessing them and revealing God’s truth, and now, as if he senses that he is coming near the end of his letter, he suddenly turns to consider himself. And so he should. Locked up in a probably disgusting prison cell, in chains, it has been amazing at what has flowed from his pen. But not a hint of self-pity. Quite simply, he asks for his friends back home to pray for him. Even then, I would have expected his prayers to be focused on his circumstances – the cold cell, the damp, the lack of sanitary facilities, the rats, his chains, poor and insufficient food. But none of this. He only wanted them to pray for him, that he would, at every opportunity, be able to share the Gospel, the Good News, with everyone to whom he had access. So a passing jailor would frequently receive Paul’s message. A soldier at the end of his shift. Fellow prisoners in adjacent cells. They all knew what Paul stood for. On occasion, he would have been taken out to meet a magistrate or some other dignitary, once again being processed through the next step in the Roman legal system. But no hint of wanting prayer for his protection, from abuse, from ridicule, from an aggression unknown in our culture. He wanted prayer for the courage to speak out clearly and boldly so that there would be no excuse for his hearers if they rejected his message. The Jews would have been incensed that this ex-Pharisee was preaching that they should intermingle with the hated Gentiles. The Gentiles too would have been upset that someone was rubbishing their gods. All in all he would have been unpopular at best and constantly vilified at worst. 

But I can feel his anguish as he clenched his fists, digging his finger nails into the palms of his hands, crying out to God for more power, more opportunities, more of the right words to penetrate into the cultural fog of his day. And to help him in his mission, he asked his friends to pray for him. Was it a pointless prayer? Something he felt he should ask so that the Ephesians could think they were doing something useful to help him? No – he really valued their prayers. He believed, in faith, that God would answer them, granting him the right words and opportunities he so desperately desired.

So what about us? Do we ask for prayer from those around us? From our church family? From our pastor or minister? Or do we continue to live on in our circumstances, too proud to admit we need help? Here’s a revelation – pilgrims need prayer. Constantly. For their health, their life, their witness, their journey. And God has given us the means to help one another – prayer. Prayer changes things. God listens to our prayers and delivers answers. Paul knew the value of prayer, and so should we. Note that I’m talking to myself here as well – I’m not good at asking others to pray for me. But thankfully God hasn’t finished with me just yet. 

Let’s resolve today to ask some one to pray for us. We never know – there might be a life-changing answer just waiting to be delivered, an answer that is timely and profound. Bringing clarity into our lives. Unstopping an obstacle. Removing a hurdle. Healing an illness or condition. Our journey with God is exciting – we never know what He has for us next. With prayer we might just get to find out.

Bend Down, God

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; 
     answer me, for I need your help.
‭Psalms‬ ‭86:1‬ ‭NLT‬

Yet again the imagery in the Psalms impresses me. Straight away, this verse develops within me a picture of a parent bending down to hear what a small child is saying. David is back again, pushing the Psalmist’s pen. And once again he is calling out to God for help.  If the only information about his life was contained within the Psalms then we would perhaps have a very skewed picture of his existence, as he seemed to stumble from one disaster to the next. From one petitioning audience with God to the next.

But this picture of God bending down to hear our prayers. My prayers. Your prayers. The world’s prayers. So many of them incessantly rising up into Heavenly places. But we read that God doesn’t loftily wait for them to arrive, holding out a net to catch the best ones, letting most fall back to earth unanswered. No, God actually bends down to hear them – David wouldn’t have asked otherwise. Our hurried whispered prayers. Not making much sense. But God knows – He bends down to hear them. And just in case the words from our mouths are garbled and incoherent, He checks out what is in our hearts, where the source of our prayers are birthed. 

The wonderful thing about our relationships with our Heavenly Father, is that He is always there for us. “An ever present help in times of trouble”, (Psalm 46). And we can call upon Him at any time. Day or night. From wherever we are. From a prison cell or a palace. In bed, on our knees, at our office desk, anywhere at all. There in no place where God is unreachable. So why do we hold back in our petitions, in our prayers for help when we need it? 

David’s faith was such that he was convinced God would always answer him. He wrote in verse 7 of this psalm, “I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.” And he also knew that God would never tire of hearing his prayers. He wrote in verse 3, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly.” David knew the wonderful love and provision of His Heavenly Father. But He’s our Father as well and He has no favourites. We can all stand before Him, equally able to offer up our prayers. His unfailing love and mercy means He is always ready and waiting to hear us, bending down if necessary to hear our heart-felt petitions. Oh – just one more thing – we mustn’t forget our manners – we mustn’t forget to thank Him. And offer Him our praise and worship, in constant wonder that the Creator of everything cares enough to bend down and hear our prayers.