When we gave our lives to God and received His Son, the blood of Jesus Christ did a wonderful work in us; it cleaned us and gave us the right to be priests. As priests we now have the right, by the blood of Christ, to draw near Him and to do His work of intercession for others (The Hebrew root word for priest, qarab, actually means to draw near and is used of one who may draw near to the divine presence, Exodus 19:22, 30:20).
But all the work that is done in us and all the work we do as intercessors is done by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can do no good work without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ work together. As Andrew Murray has said, “As the blood gives the right [of intimate access to God], the Spirit gives the power for believing intercession.”4
I suppose there are several things we can do to stir up the Holy Spirit in us, so that we have His power for the prayer ministry. Just two things, however, keep coming to my mind—things that I believe God has put on my heart. The first is that we must be holy and pure. The second is that we must emphasize prayer more in our preaching and teaching.
Power by holiness. In Matthew 5:8 Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Also in Hebrews 12:14 we are told that without holiness no one will see the Lord.
God is holy and He expects us to be holy too. If we are not holy we cannot see Him as He is. And we won’t be able to commune with Him or communicate with Him. In fact, if we are not pure, He doesn’t listen to us; He puts us at a distance. But if we decide that we need Him and that we want to commit ourselves to Him and obey Him, He will then do a work in our heart to make us holy. Yes, if we confess our sins He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9).
Now here is the way I think we are given power through holiness: at the precise point of our repentance, the Holy Spirit works in us and strengthens us so that Christ begins to dwell in our heart (He feels more at home with us). When this happens Christ works in us to root us in His love; and soon we are filled with the fullness of God. Being filled with God we have the power of God—power for more holiness and power for prayer (from Eph. 3:16-20).
He will not empower us for His work while we are unholy; because, in that state we are corrupt in our mind (and our conscience also becomes corrupt, Titus 1:15), and thus He can’t trust us. But if we are holy we see Him as He is, and thus we are drawn near to Him and are empowered by Him.
Power by teaching and encouraging prayer. If you really want to have power in your prayer ministry, besides maintaining your holiness, follow the call of God to encourage and teach others about prayer. Jesus was always teaching His disciples how to pray. And Paul was doing it too.
Listen to what E. M. Bounds says about Paul: “Paul was not only given to prayer himself, but he continually and earnestly urged it in a way that showed its vital importance.”5
Again E. M. Bounds writes, “Paul’s course was more distinctly shaped and his career rendered more powerfully successful by prayer than by any other force. It is no surprise then that he should give such prominence to prayer in his preaching and writing. We could not expect it to be otherwise. As prayer was the highest exercise in his personal life, so also prayer assumed the same high place in his teaching.”6
In my reading of Paul’s Epistles, I have found that Paul was constantly talking about prayer. Several times He told his disciples that he was praying for them. On occasion he instructed them in his letters on what prayer was and on how to pray. He wrote masterful prayers for them (they weren’t necessarily prayers that they should use as examples for their own praying; they were prayers that he prayed for them). Above all, with a heart full of prayer, he encouraged his followers to keep praying.
Here are eleven passages where Paul encouraged his readers to pray:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:25
Brethren, pray for us.
2 Thessalonians 3:1
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.
1 Timothy 2:8
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.
1 Corinthians 7:4-5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; mean while praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the Word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chain.”
Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
Notice, from these passages, some of the encouraging words Paul used: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:18), “continuing steadfast in prayer” (Rom. 12:12), “give yourself to fasting and prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5), “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2), and “be alert and always keep on praying” (Eph. 6:18).
Prayer was certainly important to Paul wasn’t it? It should be important to us too. Now more than ever we should teach prayer in the pulpit and in our Sunday school classes. And we should seek to exhort every Christian we encounter to pray.
But if we really want to be one who encourages prayer, we must first be one who prays. E. M. Bounds has said, “He who would teach the people to pray must first himself be given to prayer. He who urges prayer on others must first tread the path of prayer himself.”7 He goes on to say, “…the reason why there is so little preaching on prayer in these modern times is because preachers are not praying men?”8
So what must we do? Well, you who are committed to prayer must encourage others to do the same. The burden is on you. It is your task and calling from the Lord. And when you obey Him in this work He will give you power in your prayer ministry. Soon the people you encourage will begin to pray more. And they will in turn encourage others to pray too.
4 Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 228.
5 E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 108.
6 Ibid., p. 109.
7 Ibid., p. 110.
8 Ibid., p. 110.