Monday, January 26, 2015

The Power of Prayvailing (PrayerLife)

Judge & Condemn                                      Rescue & Save
Yesterday at Redeemer I spent time teaching our 2nd-5th graders. I asked them a question: "What do you think I do as a pastor?" A lot of the kids responded, giving answers such as...

... "You preach."

... "You do weddings."

... "You do funerals."

... "You spend time with people you love."

... "You play games with kids."

... "You get to have a wife."

... "You drink coffee in the church kitchen."

... "You meet with people in your office in Panera Bread."

... "You help people who have problems."

What great answers! All of them are true.

I especially like the last one. I love being used by God to help people.

After spending time with these kids I went into the sanctuary and preached on 1 John 5:16, which reads: 16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. If I see a Christian brother or sister screwing up I am not to judge them, condemn them, finger-point them, post their screw-up on Facebook, slander them, or gossip about them. I am not to view myself as above them and bask in the glow of my own superiority. What I am to do is pray for them, with a promise.

I am to pray for my fallen friend. I am to be on their rescue team. The Greek word we translate as 'pray' is aiteo (αἰτέω), which can be translated as:

  • to ask  
  • to beg
  • to crave
  • to desire
  • to require
  • to command

All these words ramp up the intensity. 

I remember getting off the airplane in Mumbai, India, and walking out of the terminal, only to be surrounded by begging children. One of them was maybe 12 years old. His teeth were brown and rotting. They were touching me, pleading for money. I remember their eyes. 1 John 5:16 says that when you pray for a brother or sister who is engaged in wrongdoing your eyes should look like this, before God. This is praying as craving something; viz., the rescue and saving of people you love.

This is travailing praying. To "travail" is physical or mental work that is sometimes painful. The word is used of a woman in labor about to give birth to her baby. We see an example of travailing praying in Colossians 4:12-13, where Paul writes of Epaphras who is always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. Paul writes that Epaphras is filled with deep concern for his Christian brothers and sisters.

Travailing praying has two foci:

  1. Love for the followers of Jesus.
  2. Concern for what sin can do to them.
Sin can crush a person. Sin can separate a person from God, and can destroy friendships, families, and marriages. We cannot love and help people if we do not have compassion for them and towards the ramifications of wrongdoing in their lives. The foundation of rescuing people is love + concern.

If we see a brother or sister stumble and fall we are to travail over them in prayer. In this we are given a promise, which is: God will give them life. Jim Goll writes, "The prayer of travail is God desiring to create an opening to bring forth a measure of life and growth." Travailing prayer brings prevailing in the fallen person's life. Travailing praying brings prevailing. I call this prayvailing

What if we all went after our stumbling brothers and sisters with prayvailing? What would the environment in our churches look like? They would be safe places. They would be rescuing places. They would be loving and healing places. There would be a new level of holiness and a new level of unity. Fault-finding and gossip would unavail, intercession and love and life would prevail. Wholeness would return to churches, and they would be what God has always intended for them. The Church is a great, prayvailing rescuing community.

This is the power of prayvailing people. It begins with love for one another. It takes sin and wrongdoing seriously. It knows the power of praying for others in the community. Heaven's gates are opened. As we prayvail God gives us life!