The BY, FOR, and TO of Earnest Prayer
Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27 and Acts 12.
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5)
Earnest prayer. To be earnest in any endeavor is to be serious, full of purpose, and focused in effort. Earnest prayer is zealous prayer. Earnest prayer springs from sincere and deeply engaged hearts.
Take the time to linger over what Luke is telling us in Acts 12:5.
Earnest prayer was made BY the church–ordinary men and women. I don’t know what you’ll “make” this week, but will any of it be of greater significance than fervent prayer? What a fascinating way to think about this spiritual blessing: prayers are “made BY” ordinary people with a heart for God.
Earnest prayer was made FOR Peter–a brother in the midst of an intense trial. The apostle Paul would later describe this sort of prayer as “intercession” (1 Tim 2:1). I don’t know what you’ll do for other people this week, but what could possibly carry greater significance for someone else than sincerely praying for them? What an amazing opportunity: to pray FOR the distressed, the hurting, the grieving.
Earnest prayer was made TO God. Incredible. Ordinary men and women could humble themselves, engage their hearts and focus their minds in such a way that the Almighty Lord of the universe would actually hear what they have to say. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Extraordinary. I don’t know what you’ll attempt to convey this week, but what could possibly compare with casting your anxieties on the God who cares for you (1 Pet 5:6-7)? Earnest prayer makes its way TO God.
BY the church. FOR others. TO God. This is the gift of earnest, serious, purposeful, focused prayer. And we are straightforwardly encouraged to engage in it “without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). May we reverently and joyfully walk in the prayerful footsteps of our spiritual forefathers this week.