Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Praying for Others: Faith, Faithful & Hopeful

Today, I am beginning a series on praying for others. I hope to help all of you feel comfortable praying for those in your life, from a stranger to a family member and everyone in between. There are many different perspectives and practices in the Christian faith when it comes to praying. What I share with you today comes from my experience praying for healing. I hope this talk challenges, encourages and empowers us to represent our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ more boldly as we pray for others.

 

Transformation is one of the values of Place of Grace Fellowship. Few practices of our faith transform lives more than praying for others. It transforms the life of the one receiving prayer. But it also transforms the life of the one praying. Prayer makes us reliant on the Holy Spirit. Prayer draws us closer to the love of Christ. Prayer turns us toward God. We come as God’s children who depend on God to provide for us. Prayer is a vital practice for a church. Prayer transforms lives, prayer welcomes others, and prayer unites us as the body of Christ.

 

Our Scripture today is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul expresses faith in God’s ability to accomplish abundantly more than we can ever imagine. He prays for the Ephesians to be strengthened with the power of the Spirit. He prays that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. Let’s read our Scripture together.

 

Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

20 years ago, now, I attended a three-month ministry training program at Christian Retreat in Bradenton. The program was offered by their Institute of Ministry. Christian Retreat has camping space, hotel rooms, a conference center, a cafeteria, and numerous classrooms. The three-month program was designed to help people with the practical aspects of ministry. It involved lots of prayer and praying for others for healing.

 

At the retreat, a guy in his early 50s was staying on the campus grounds, and he would participate in the evening worship and some of the Institute of Ministry classes. He was a ski instructor from Aspen and in great shape. But he had cancer, and his prognosis was not good. He was hopeful that the Lord would heal him and he would be cured. Many people faithfully prayed for him. He was covered in prayer. He had faith that he would be healed right up to the day he died. As he went along on his journey to death and then his journey to life again with Christ, he felt insecure in his faith. He thought if his faith was strong enough, God would heal him. If his faith was too weak, he would not be healed. As he was dying, instead of drawing nearer to the presence of Christ, he felt farther away. Instead of feeling the immeasurable love of Christ through the Holy Spirit, he felt unworthy because in his mind, his faith was not strong enough to heal him. Then, as he drew closer to death, he let go. The Spirit overwhelmed him, and he felt the presence and love of Christ. He became calmer, less critical of himself and ready to return home.

 

I have seen this dilemma play out numerous times in the life of believers. The idea that God heals if your faith is strong enough discouraged and weakened the prayer life of some students at the Institute of Ministry. The toxic idea that the strength of their faith could somehow manipulate God and the Holy Spirit into healing a person was a faith destroyer. I have seen Christians stop praying for others because they do not want to be “responsible” for unanswered prayers.

 

It is important that we understand the relationship between faith and prayer. God has the power to heal, and we know God does heal. God listens to our prayers, and we know God answers. We cannot let doubt and confusion stop us from praying.

 

What can we have faith in? Scripture says we are strengthened in our inner being by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can have faith that the Holy Spirit will be with us and will strengthen us to endure whatever lies before us. When we pray for others, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to be with them. We can pray for the Spirit to bring strength to their inner being amid their circumstances.

 

Scripture says that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. Because we have our grounding in the love of God, we can pray confidently for others. We can pray that they come to know the love God has for them. We can pray that they allow Christ into their hearts and experience Christ’s presence within them.

 

Paul prays for the Ephesians to comprehend the breadth, height, length, and depth of the love of Christ that is beyond any knowledge we can imagine. We can have faith that this love of Christ can fill us with all the fullness of God. Christ’s love is enormous and grand—it is greater than we can understand. Yet, we can experience the enormous love of Christ. And because of Christ’s love, the fullness of God is available to us. God does not hold back God’s self from us.

My friend who died of cancer and doubted his faith throughout much of his ordeal, finally grasped the enormity of Christ’s love for him. As he experienced the Spirit of Christ in his heart and as he came to experience the greatness of God’s love, his anxiety disappeared, and he was able to face death and his journey home. When we pray for someone, we can pray they will comprehend the enormity of Christ’s love. We can pray that they will experience the power of the Spirit that flows from the riches of God’s glory.

 

What can we have faith in? We can have faith in the power of God rooted deeply in the love of God.

 

That power is at work within us and can accomplish far more than we can imagine or ask for. That power is healing power. God is healing people that we are praying for. But when our bodies are not healed, that power saves us eternally and restores us to God. We will die, but we have defeated death in Christ. No grave can hold us. We can pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will work in people’s lives to do great and wonderful things, including healing them.

 

There is so much that we can have faith in. Our Ephesians passage tells us what we can trust and what we can share with others in faith. We need to believe in God’s power and love, and then, place the answer to our prayers on God’s shoulders.

 

Faith and Faithfulness are not the same. I believe people get them confused. When our prayers do not work out as we believed, we lose heart. We lose confidence. We stop praying or pray with less boldness. God does not want us to have faith in our prayers. God wants us to be faithful in prayer.

 

Prayer is not about outcomes or success. Prayer is about being faithful to Christ’s command to pray. When we pray for others, for ourselves or to draw closer to Christ, we are doing what Christ commands us to do—pray and ask God our Father for our needs as God’s children and as the body of Christ. We worry about doing prayers the right way, the way that’s pleasing to God, that God will honor with results. Prayers made of perfect words or awkward words, prayers that are short or long and prayers that are beautiful or stumbling do not matter. What matters is our faithfulness to pray—period.

 

In the early church, it was a duty of the elders to anoint the sick with oil and pray for them. They faithfully prayed for physical healing and forgiveness of sins.

 

James 5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

 

It is not the faith of the person who is sick that heals and restores them, it is the will of God in God’s infinite wisdom. Our faithfulness to pray does matter to God.

It becomes easier to be faithful when you believe in the power of the Spirit. Through the Spirit, we come to understand the power of the Gospel to save, restore and heal. Often our understanding feels like it is beyond our wisdom and from the Spirit that dwells with in us.  Doi not try and explain the unexplainable. The power of prayer often comes in our surrender to the wisdom of the Spirit. There are no words to describe that wisdom. Let, the Spirit give us the boldness to pray and to hope for God’s healing power.

 

As Christians we have faith and love. We also have hope. Our hope is not an empty hope. Our hope can be for much more than a passing treat. We know God has the power to fulfill our most desperate hope. God can provide for us when we should have lost all hope by worldly standards. I know people the world wrote off  who were beyond hope. Yet, God restored.

 

We can be hopeful for healing—even expectant. God, through the Holy Spirit, is infinitely powerful. God can heal us and transform us beyond our wildest expectations. God loves us and desires what is best for us. Sometimes that is physical healing, mental healing, restoration of relationships, drawing closer to the love and presence of Christ, or being an active ambassador for Christ.

 

In the early church, those who were followers of Christ were called members of “The Way.” It isn’t a way; it is “The Way.” There is only one way. It is Christ. There is only one hope, and it is Christ. When we pray as Christians, we dare to hope on behalf of the hopeless. We can be hopeful in our lives because of the love and presence of our Savior.

 

We can have assurance or faith in our salvation and our standing as God’s children. We can have faith in Christ’s love and presence in our lives. We can have faith in the power of God to do many acts of love and restoration in our lives—including healing. The gospel is supernatural and beyond any affliction this world can cast upon us. We can rely on God’s fullness and grace. The amazing love and presence of God is so near and the hope that flows from that love is waiting for us. We just need to be faithful and do what Christ commands us—pray.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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