So even though we can never really know how our prayers are heard, or when God assigns our prayers to be answered, and exactly what role the angels might play as they surround us unseen. What we do know is that our prayers are lifted to the throne of God, and from experience that the more people that lift up a single prayer request before God, the more powerful the outcome. It’s warfare. It’s strength in numbers.
Why does God want us to pray? Why did Paul ask the church to pray for each other and for the saints? Can’t one quick prayer from Paul himself do it?
Here’s something author John Piper said, Prayer for God’s help is one way that God preserves and manifests the dependence of his people on his grace and power. The necessity of prayer is a constant reminder and display of our dependence on God for everything so that he gets the glory when we get the help.
Jesus said in John 14 “13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” He reiterates that in the next verse. “14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” But did you catch it? So that the Father may be glorified through Jesus.
You see, prayer is a form of worship. We humble ourselves, we recognize that God is greater than our circumstances. He can be the only source of comfort, healing and answer for troubles that we cannot solve on our own.
And when we pray, we sense the spirit of God come upon us. Paul said to the church in Philippi: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we pray, we sense God’s spirit flow into us and give us peace in that situation.
And when we are prayed for by others, we sense that peace. And then when your prayer is answered, everyone who prayed for you gets to share in your victory and in your joy and everyone gets to praise God. His love and power is recognized by not just you whose prayer was answered, but by another person or a whole group of people, maybe even a whole church as a loving God who knows us and hears us and is on our side. Your faith and our faith is strengthened at the same time over the same answer to the same prayer. We all get to rejoice.
But even before the prayer is answered, when a group of friends, a prayer chain or church comes together in prayer, when you know that is happening for you—when you see it, when you hear it—how much more is your faith strengthened? How much more joy do you have in the circumstances that you are going through? Or when you are the prayer warrior for another, how much more is your spirit lifted by praying for someone else? There’s something about praying for another that lifts our spirits, doesn’t it? I’ve texted prayers before, and I’ve been the recipient of texted prayers, I still feel the joy in that.
Before and after a prayer is answered, we get to bond with each other and our church becomes more and more like a family. Like a Roman legionary, we come together in a tight-knit group to strengthen each other as one unit.
Paul was a perfect example of this. Just before he ends Ephesians 6, he makes a personal prayer request: 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Paul’s prayer request was specific and humble. You can hear the urgency and desperation in his voice. He was a prisoner in Rome, and wanted to minister where he was to the people he was surrounded with—the guards and fellow prisoners. In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul was writing from prison, and he said, “12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,[c] that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,[d] knows that I am in chains because of Christ.14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers[e] here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message[f] without fear”
“19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (1:12-14;19-20).
He—Paul, the big guy, the head honcho, the greatest of apostles (even though he called himself the least), the most inspired writer of The New Testament, the greatest evangelist, teacher, church planter and missionary of his day and probably in history—was not ashamed or felt too proud to ask the church that he was encouraging for encouragement. And you could hear just how encouraged he was by the prayers.
I know that there are some things that are personal. I know that there are some things you don’t want to be shouted out to the whole world. That’s okay. You don’t have to request anything that’s private. But, a prayer request is not gossip, it’s warfare.