E21: Prayer is work
PODCAST: As Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for the others!
This week, Milenko and Eunice talk about a vital aspect of prayer that might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of prayer. As Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for the others. Through prayer, we can work together with God to carry out His plan with His church. What a task!
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 20: Prayer is work
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.
Milenko: Hi, and welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel” podcast. I’m Milenko, and I’m here in the studio together with Eunice.
Eunice: Hello, hello!
Milenko: Hi Eunice. It’s already the middle of January. The last few weeks we’ve been talking about New Year and making the most of our time and so on. And you really see time does fly. What would you say is a big time-waster today?
Eunice: Sleeping and traveling, waiting in line.
Milenko: Yeah. The waiting in line bit. But I mean it depends how you use it. You can always use your time listening to a podcast for example.
Eunice: True, true, true. Well, I think it depends on what you prioritize in life. I was just kidding about the sleeping part.
Eunice: So, Milenko, a few years ago, we did a theme week on prayer. And that’s also something that, when you think about praying and you think about using your time well, that really falls into that category. Why did you think it was so important for us to focus on this topic?
Milenko: Well prayer is actually such essential part of being a Christian. Having a relationship to God. Having a relationship to Jesus. Prayer is, I think it’s almost like breathing for a Christian. You know, it’s so necessary. It’s where you get your nourishment. It’s where you get your help. It’s where you get comfort. It’s where you get strength. And I think it is just part of a really healthy relationship to someone, like, that you can talk to them. And just looking at the different aspects of prayer, I think is really interesting, very helpful and very inspiring. Not least, why prayer is so important and how powerful it is.
Eunice: The article that we are reading today is about prayer, a powerful secret weapon. And it’s written by Aksel Smith. It was actually written 107 years ago, 1912.
Milenko: Back in 1912. Wow, yeah.
Eunice: The original title was, “Prayer is work.” Which I think is a super interesting title, isn’t it?
Milenko: It really is. Showing, I think, an aspect of prayer that people might not always think about. Maybe you often think about prayer is asking for help, or prayer is telling God your problems or whatever. But that it’s actually a work, it’s a labor. I think that is giving a different aspect to that relationship.
Eunice: Let’s take a listen to the article first, and I think this is a super powerful, important article.
Milenko: Very important.
(Click to read:)
Prayer: A powerful secret weapon
Milenko: Well, that was a really good article and I think it is just as valid today as back in 1912. Maybe even more so.
Eunice: Thinking about the state the world is in.
Milenko: Yeah, and how easily you can get distracted, you know? But it is so important; it really wakes you up to how prayer is a labor and it is something that we Christians have as a responsibility in fact. It is not just ourselves it’s all about, but we are part of the Christian family, you could say. A Christian community. We are part of a work that God Himself is doing. And we can be along in that work. That’s pretty amazing.
Eunice: Think about what we said at the start of the episode about time and distractions. I could really identify with that article, when it said, you know, your mind becomes unusually active when you want to pray. I never actually really thought about it that way, but I have definitely experienced that also when I want to sit down, have some quiet time and read. And then all of a sudden, I am thinking about all these other things that I need to do or I get distracted by my phone or I fall asleep. You know. Also with prayer, I mean I am just being really honest here, but I think probably I am not the only one that experiences that.
Milenko: Well, obviously 107 years ago it was also a thing. And I think that’s part of human nature and it’s exactly what Aksel Smith is saying here, that this is probably also the work of Satan, that he is trying to distract you from what is essentially the most important part of your Christian life and the most dangerous part for him.
Eunice: I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote that I’ve read in one of Johan Oscar Smith’s articles, and he is Aksel Smith’s brother. He writes it like that: “Everyone who has diligently sought to follow Christ knows, to a greater or lesser degree, that we are actually battling against spiritual forces of wickedness and against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” I consider myself someone who is diligently following Christ, but I feel like I don’t understand this battle as much as I should be. What is this about, this battle that he is writing about?
Milenko: Well, the thing is when we want to serve God, we very quickly realize that we still have a human nature, as the Bible calls it, a flesh. And in that flesh, Paul writes in Romans 7, there is no good thing and you get tempted and you get attracted to things in the world, drawn away. But it is not just that. It is not just something in me, but it is actually something happening around us as well. There is a world around us that we don’t see with our natural eyes, but which is, if anything, more real than the world we have here. And that’s the spiritual world. And the spiritual world has got to do with God and it’s got to do with the other forces that are against God. And a lot of what happens around us is influenced by what’s happening in the spirit world. And here Satan is also very much at work, very much so in fact. Jesus also talks about that, the hosts of wickedness, and Paul writes about that too. The spiritual hosts of wickedness that we are battling against. And by overcoming sin, we actually also overcome those spiritual hosts. A spirit of pride, for example. That is one of the hosts of wickedness. What Satan is working with.
Eunice: His agenda.
Milenko: His agenda is to make people proud and arrogant and …
Eunice: Don’t need God.
Milenko: That they don’t need God. And it causes splits, it causes divisions. This is Satan’s work. But if I find that material in my own flesh, and I fight against that, and in obedience to God I overcame that, then I get power in the spirit world as well. That that spirit of pride doesn’t have power where I am. And other people notice that too. But what you become is, you become an ambassador for humility and an ambassador for goodness and an ambassador for mercy. Which is what you’ve gained. And that is also a powerful force in the spirit world.
And when we pray, then we are actually praying within that realm. Our prayers are a weapon in the spirit world, and I think this is what Aksel Smith is also writing about, that this is what defeats Satan. It defeats those powers that he is working with. Then you have a power from God instead. And think that you can be a tool in God’s hand in that spiritual warfare that is being waged. And it is not a war that is going to last forever. It will come to an end. There will be a time when God strikes the final blow that these forces are all defeated. But He wants me to be part of that, that I also have part of that, that victory. And I can have that authority in the spirit world already today. By overcoming firstly and foremostly what comes up in my flesh.
Eunice: It is also written in the article that, “The highest form of prayer is an inner, conscious, clear-sighted spiritual work in harmony with our great High Priest – that’s Jesus – to carry out God’s plan with His church.” What is this plan and how do we work with God with this?
Milenko: For example, in Isaiah 55. There is a strong exhortation to repent, to turn away from your own ways, to turn to God. And then it says – God says, “For My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts as the earth is above the heavens, so far are My thoughts from yours.” And that is often quoted to express how great God is and how small and insignificant we are, which is of course true, but in context, what He is saying is, “Turn away from your ways, because your ways aren’t My ways and your thoughts aren’t My thoughts, and repent and start thinking like Me!”
And my own ways, what’s that? That is seeking my own. That’s my wanting to give in to my lusts and I start going against those and then I start to learn what God wants with my life. And instead of His ways being above my ways, and so far away, I am beginning to learn to work according to His plan. And His plan, that is for our salvation. His plan is that those hosts of darkness, the evil, the sin in the world will be defeated. Which was done in Jesus, and now also in those who follow Him, that’s us. And to be able to do that, I need to have this communication with God, I need to have a relationship to Him. I need to learn to know Him. And that comes through prayer.
And it speaks about that those who are contrite in spirit, so those who are humble, who admit their own weakness and so on, it says that God has an intimate relationship with those. You can speak to Him and He speaks to you. Not with physical words that you hear, but in your spirit. You get to know His will and it all becomes very clear in the situations: This is what I am supposed to be doing. And in that way, we learn to know God. And we begin to see what a labor it is to come into.
And I think that is also important because that’s what Aksel Smith writes further: it is not just myself. Then I start really seeing the work that’s being done in all those who follow Jesus. And all those who maybe aren’t there yet, but who potentially can become God’s children and those who have a calling but maybe haven’t woken up to it yet, that I can start praying for them. And He says you can pray down times of blessing where there was dryness, and … But then the question is can I change God? Doesn’t He already have a plan? It is a good question, what would you say?
Eunice: Well, I have always just believed that God listens to our prayers. When I pray, I don’t pray with kind of that mindset that everything is already planned, and I am just praying, so He knows what I want.
Milenko: Like a fatalistic way of thinking.
Eunice: Yeah, definitely not. And I think actually that you need to have the faith that God listens, and His heart can be moved by the prayers of the saints. And also, I really believe that if I keep praying for somebody, God continues to works with them.
Milenko: And don’t you think God wants us to do that too? I really think He really wants us to get involved, to have that love for other people, to show that we really care. And the thing is God works according to laws. His laws are perfect. If they get followed, it is always a blessing. But that means also that if you break His laws, there’s a curse, right? And that’s what sin does; it creates a curse in people. And He has to follow those laws.
But if we pray for somebody, He can also start working in them. They feel that He is working on them, tugging at their heartstrings, if you like. And it can cause conversion, so then God’s laws, He still follows His plan, but His laws then turn to blessing instead. And we can do that for other people, and we see people in difficulties, people who are struggling, also people who it’s going well for, that you pray for them, that God continue to bless them. That He can bless their work. That He can bless their labor of love that they’re doing for the others. You see how they’re active. And pray God’s blessing over it. God does hear that; He has to work; we can move His hand. It doesn’t mean that we change God. On the contrary, but we are praying according to His will. Then we are praying within His laws.
So, I think it is really, really special that He wants us to be part of that work. Aksel Smith also writes about, we can expand, enlarge the place of our tents. Let more people in, also those that maybe we don’t have chemistry with to use that expression. That we, we might…
Eunice: Not naturally, you know become best buds right away.
Milenko: Because let’s face it, there are people that irritate you, naturally. Because our natures are different, but that we can pray for them especially.
Eunice: Also, not only that you pray that they can change always. But that you pray that you can change, and then that you can love them and not that this person will stop being irritating, but that you can learn to see the value in each person.
Milenko: And for someone I have prayed for, I can’t go around and backbite them or be jealous of them or be annoyed at them. Because I have been working with my own reaction and I have been working that God will bless them. That is what I want, right? So, prayer this is such an important part of Christian life. It’s where I get that relationship to God.
Eunice: So, I think this is something that we can begin 2020 with and I think it is definitely an area that I can say I need to work on and probably everyone could say they could work on, and …
Milenko: Really to work in prayer. Make this our priority and to see it, not just as asking for help – which of course we do as well; it’s a really important part of prayer – but that we work, that we labor. That it’s a battle.
Eunice: Yeah. So, if you’d like to read more about prayer, we have a topic page on our website and we’re also going to include a link in the episode description.
Milenko: And there is also a section on our website that maybe not everyone knows about: it is called, “Audio Playlists.” They’re categorized based on themes. One of them is the theme “Prayer,” so you can click on that and then you can just listen to one article after the other, talking about this theme. And it is really interesting, very inspiring and helpful.
Eunice: We are constantly updating our website with new recordings, every month. So, a lot to look out for.
Milenko: Yeah. OK, then we will leave it at that for this week. Have a good week everyone! Have a good week Eunice!
Eunice: Thank you. Bye!