Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Prayers for the Saints of God

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Prayers for the Saints of God

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Prayers for the Saints of God

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We have been taught to pray for one another. This is essential to encouraging one another and maintaining our spiritual bond. We should continue to pray for our brethren as we have been taught to do.

Sermon Notes

Prayers for the Saints of God

 

For healing. For guidance. For companionship. For comfort. In anger and in sadness. In gladness and with enthusiasm. We pray to be forgiven and to forgive. We pray to show our gratitude and our love to our God. We pray for many things and at many different times.

Proverbs 15:26 Proverbs 15:26The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.
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, 29

26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, But the words of the pure are pleasant. 29 The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

In the days of the prophets, people would go to men of God and ask them to pray to the Lord for them. They would ask the prophets to plead with God for their safety, for their forgiveness. Kings would come to them and ask them to go before the Lord in prayer. Mighty men over armies who had to lead their troops into war consulted God’s guidance through His prophets. And usually the prophets would pray for them. Even for those who would not listen to the answer.

Jeremiah was a prophet who was asked to pray to God for those left in Judea after Babylon had besieged Jerusalem and taken most of the people of Judah away.

Jeremiah 42:1-4 Jeremiah 42:1-4 [1] Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, came near, [2] And said to Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech you, our supplication be accepted before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as your eyes do behold us:) [3] That the LORD your God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. [4] Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it to you; I will keep nothing back from you.
American King James Version×

1 Now all the captains of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see), 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do.” 4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard. Indeed, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your words, and it shall be, that whatever the Lord answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you.”

Jesus Christ demonstrated a close relationship with the Father by praying to Him regularly.

He would take time to kneel before God and ask that God watch over His people. He prayed that the Father would give His disciples peace and encouragement when they were about to be scattered. Their teacher and guide was about to leave them for a little while.

The Messiah was about to be put through a painful death. But His focus was on what the Father was accomplishing through that death and not on the pain He would suffer.

John 17:1-3 John 17:1-3 [1] These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: [2] As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. [3] And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
American King James Version×

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

It was for this reason that He came to the earth in the flesh. So that many could be given eternal life and so they could know His Father. Even in His distress, the saints of God, past, present, and future, were on His mind.

John 17:9-10 John 17:9-10 [9] I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours. [10] And all my are yours, and your are mine; and I am glorified in them.
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, 20

9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;

Christ prayed that God would encourage His called out ones and bring them closer together. He prayed they would be cared for and loved by the Almighty and Eternal God. He prayed for the unity of all of the saints.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray also.

He told them to petition the Father, and taught them to go to the sheep, to tend His flock, to care for the people who would later be called through the same word of truth spoken by His own mouth.

The disciples were scattered. They went throughout the world passing along the words of their Lord.

They prayed that God would heal people. They prayed prayers of forgiveness and prayers of thankfulness.

They prayed, asking God for guidance and strength, for themselves and for those whom they had been given charge over, to lead and to teach. The disciples carried on making more disciples and teaching them to pray also. They continued the example that Jesus had set for them.

Paul prayed as he had been taught and we have many of his prayers written down.

He wrote of his prayers, not always recording his very words, but explaining to the various congregations what he was praying about, where his mind was, even when he was far away from them. In some prayers Paul praised his brethren, reminding them of the good they did and encouraging them to continue on in that manner.

Other times he corrected them, but still prayed for their growth because he cared for them and he loved them. They were his family.

In many congregations that Paul wrote to, he was the first one to bring them the message of hope, and introduce them to the Scriptures. Paul had a special bond with the congregations he served. He maintained that closeness by writing letters and continuing to pray for them all.

Romans 1:8-12 Romans 1:8-12 [8] First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. [9] For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; [10] Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come to you. [11] For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established; [12] That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
American King James Version×

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

What sort of people were these who were worthy of such praise from one of God’s inspired ministers?

The Congregation in Rome Were a Faithful People

Their reputation as a faithful people was known throughout the whole world. Not only by those who knew them. Not only by those who had visited their congregation, and had told their own congregations about them. But these things have been recorded for generations of people all over the world to read and be inspired by.

Faith is not something that can be seen. It is something that must be demonstrated. Faith must be acted out and lived, in order for others to see it. This congregation had demonstrated their faithfulness in a way that Paul could see. They lived in such a way that you could tell what they believed.

It was a “Mutual Faith” (Romans 1:12 Romans 1:12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
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)

That is, they continued in the truth they had been taught by Paul.They did not believed a different doctrine, or a different gospel.The people didn’t go back to living the way that had before they knew the truth.

They Remained Steady

Even when those in the Roman culture around them forsook God and suppressed the truth (1:18), denying the very existence of God when they should have been able to see His works clearly.(1:19-23).

Romans 1:28 Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
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28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

Can others around us tell what we believe by how we live and interact?

Only God can truly tell what is in someone’s mind and deep in their heart. But this gives us something to think about,

to analyze about ourselves and about our congregations.

Do we have such a reputation as this one? Do we have a steady faith that is seen in how we live? Have we kept the surrounding world from slowly creeping into our Christian walk? The anger and hate that surrounds us, the fear and lust that we see daily. The discouragement and disappointment and lack of hope that many of us once had, but have now given up for something better.

The apostle Paul did many great things under the direction of Jesus Christ, but was still a fellow Christian like those he wrote to. He was inspired to encourage his fellow saints in the good they did in the eyes of God. This was usually followed up by teachings, correction, and further encouragement. But He wanted the congregations to know that he was praying for them, asking God to help them where they needed it.

He also asked the congregations to pray for him and his fellow laborers so they could have the continued encouragement and support from God and guidance from the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ for the work of preaching the gospel and preparing God’s people.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 [16] Rejoice ever more. [17] Pray without ceasing. [18] In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
American King James Version×
, 25

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 25 Brethren, pray for us.

God wants us to be in constant contact with Him and to be constantly thankful for the blessings He has given us. Our Father in heaven also wants us to pray for each other, for our fellow laborers in the faith.

Colossians 4:2-4 Colossians 4:2-4 [2] Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; [3] With praying also for us, that God would open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: [4] That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
American King James Version×

2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile 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 chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

There were always greetings and blessings passed along by Paul in his letters. Some letters he wrote with his own hand. As he aged and his eyesight failed, others helped him by writing down the words he spoke.

Those helping him write sometimes joined in and also greeted their brethren. In this way, Paul taught others how to encourage, and gave them the opportunity maintain their relationships through these letters. He helped foster a closeness between them and encouraged them to greet one another always.

Colossians 4:12-15 Colossians 4:12-15 [12] Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, salutes you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [13] For I bear him record, that he has a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. [14] Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. [15] Salute the brothers which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
American King James Version×

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

Romans 16:21-24 Romans 16:21-24 [21] Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you. [22] I Tertius, who wrote this letter, salute you in the Lord. [23] Gaius my host, and of the whole church, salutes you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city salutes you, and Quartus a brother. [24] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
American King James Version×

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

I don’t think Paul played favorites. He wrote to many different congregations. These letters contained specific messages for particular individuals or whole congregations, but were also intended to be passed along to other churches in neighboring cities. Sometimes Paul specifically mentioned making sure that his letters were given to others after they had been read in the congregation. 

In Colossians 4 Paul gave specific instructions to trade letters with the church in Laodicea. This letter he had at least ended by writing with his own hand, giving special care. He may have come to a point when it was difficult for him to write, but he still had the desire to continue to encourage his fellow saints.

In a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul began with a warm and encouraging greeting. One that can inspire us, uplift us, and give us confidence that there are servants of God out in this world who are doing God’s work and caring for us. Even the pastors have pastors over them who pray for them, and brethren in their own congregation who pray for the work that they do.

Philippians 1:1-2 Philippians 1:1-2 [1] Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: [2] Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
- Greeting

1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before carrying on with the main points covered in this letter, this greeting to the congregation in Philippi was followed by encouragement through a description of Paul’s prayers for them.

Like the prayer for the saints in Rome, he began by giving thanks to God. This is a great example for us in our prayers.

We should always thank God, even if we don’t say anything else in a particular prayer. The least we can do is give thanks to our Creator. Paul thanked God for the people in the congregations. He was thankful that God had opened their minds and brought them into His Church. Paul was thankful that he was able to fellowship with them and watch them grow and learn.

Philippians 1:3-6 Philippians 1:3-6 [3] I thank my God on every remembrance of you, [4] Always in every prayer of my for you all making request with joy, [5] For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; [6] Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

Paul was telling the brethren in Philippi that God had called them for a purpose. That there was a reason they were there together with him. God had called them and had begun working with them and in them. He had given them gifts, helped them to develop those gifts, and had plans for them to use those gifts for doing good works in the lives of others. And even though they weren’t yet perfect, God was not finished with them yet.

Paul had a chance to get to know them each as personally as he could with the time he had. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to make such specific comments about them. He had pointed out strengths of whole congregations. Each individual in a congregation has strengths and characteristics that define them. So does whole congregation.

What defines this congregation?

What are the characteristics of this particular congregation that define it? When people step into our doors, what do they remember about us? When they go back to their own congregations, do they tell others that we are hospitable, that we are welcoming, that we are strong in faith? Can they tell that God is working in this congregation by our fruits?

Right now in this time we are four congregations together as one. We have a unique opportunity to bond together and to continue forward together in unity. And when the doors of services are reopened we have a chance to look at our unique characteristics as congregations and to further grow into a stronger family, demonstrating our godly character.

These are the things that Paul looked at when he wrote his letters to the churches. These are the things that he prayed about to God. He was constantly thinking about what the congregations needed to hear. Encouragement when they did well, and correction and direction in areas they needed to improve.

Philippians 1:7-8 Philippians 1:7-8 [7] Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace. [8] For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×

7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

Here we see Paul’s love for the brethren come out. He had bonded with that congregation. Lena and I know what that is like. We have bonded with many congregations, including you all here. What a blessing to continue to be here with you all in good times and in difficult time. We have spent time together getting to know each other. We’ve eaten meals together. We’ve visited with each other. We feasted together. We’ve sung praises to God together.

We’ve studied God’s Holy Scriptures together and learned and have grown together. We’ve grown to love each other and care for one another. We greatly desire more time with you all. We have a special bond now. And when we visit other congregations we can tell about this special bond just like Paul did through His letters.

Paul mentions that the Philippians “are partakers with [him] of grace.” They were all in this Christian walk together just as we are all in this walk together. And we are all recipients of the benefits of God’s grace and favor. One of those benefits is having other believers to fellowship with.

Philippians 1:9-11 Philippians 1:9-11 [9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
American King James Version×

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

This section of prayer is filled with both admiration and admonition. It was obvious that this was a loving congregation and knowledgeable about the scriptures, but they still had room to grow. There is always room for us to grow.

What are we thinking when we hear this?

Are we thinking about the praise we might be receiving, but forgetting about the areas we need to work on? We may be a loving people, but do we forget our love for others because we become offended?

Paul prayed that they should be “sincere and without offense” and not just sometimes. Sincerity should be unconditional. We should be sincere and genuine people no matter where we are or who we are talking to. That doesn’t mean we say everything that is on our mind because we are to be sincere AND without offense.

Being offended has more to do with how we react to things that offend us than how we feel about what might have been said.

We cannot control the actions and words of others, but we CAN have control over our own actions and words. At least that’s what we should be working towards.

It is also our task as Christians to not be offensive to each other. We are to live peaceably.

Instead of focusing on what might have offends us, we should focus on growing fruits of righteousness. Demonstrating Jesus Christ living in us and through us. All this to the glory of God, as Paul had written.

In his epistle to the Congregation in Ephesus, Paul addressed a group of people who were mostly from a Gentile background. They didn’t grow up hearing God’s word read to them. They might not have understood the concept of prayer. But they had been changed. The “mystery” of God’s plan of salvation had been revealed to them. God was working with them to make them a new creation, to bring them into His family.

The Ephesians were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 Ephesians 2:19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
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). It was for this reason that Paul had been sent to them, so they could have a chance to hear the truth and learn of this mystery they were now part of.

Ephesians 2:20-22 Ephesians 2:20-22 [20] And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
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20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Part of the mystery that has been revealed to us is the fact that we have direct access to God the Father through the blood of Christ. We can pray to God and He hears us. We don’t have to go to a prophet to ask them to petition our God for us.

But we are still to pray for each other. Just as Jesus had taught him, Paul demonstrated this to the Church by recording some of his own words of prayer for the saints of God.

Ephesians 3:14-15 Ephesians 3:14-15 [14] For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
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14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

The mystery that had been revealed to him gave him reason to pray. The opportunity he had to be an essential part in the teaching of so many in the family of God gave Paul reason to bow down before God and be thankful.

Paul always prayed to encourage and strengthen those he had served.

Ephesians 3:16-19 Ephesians 3:16-19 [16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; [17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; [19] And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
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16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

One of the main points emphasized in this letter was that of unity in a family (“with all the saints”).

Each one of us, as we are grafted into the vine, become one body. We have the same potential to be like God.

To know the love that Christ has for us which He demonstrated through His willingness to die for us.

Paul prayed that God would continue to work with this group of people so they could live up to their full potential of becoming sons and daughters of God.

It was for this reason that God sends shepherds to His sheep.

So all of His family can learn to live up to their full potential. It was for this reason that Paul taught as he had been taught.

He taught of praying prayers to God for the saints. So they could be encouraged and strengthened. So they could know they were loved and cared for even from a distance. So they could live up to their full potential.

This is a great lesson and example for me as a pastor in God’s Church, to carry on praying for all of you, God’s saints. And many more whom God will call.

I thank God for the wonderful opportunities I have already been given to teach and encourage this group of God’s people. To be here with you and learn so many things from you no matter the circumstance we find ourselves in.

I pray that we all continue forward, teaching as we have been taught, growing in the grace and knowledge of God our Father, and passing on the love that Christ has shown us.

I pray that we all can live up to the potential that God has set before us.

Although we are physically apart, we desire to see each other again soon. We have been bonded together through God’s Holy Spirit and we maintain that bond with each other by praying for one another daily as we have been taught to do.