As we approach the holiest time of year for Christianity, I am thinking more about the absolute necessity of prayer for our Christian life. Basically, Christians believe that the human soul is literally made by God for connection and relationship with God. In addition, because so much of this world is set against the grace, truth and purposes of God, prayer is even more essential to strengthen and keep us in the faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. So to that end, we hear the Apostle Paul sharing God’s Word about prayer in the biblical Letter to the Ephesians, writing as follows:
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and supplications. With this in mind, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the believers. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel…” — (Ephesians 6: 18-19)
We all need to pray, and we all need to pray for each other. This is why, after urging the Christians in Ephesus to pray for one another, Saint Paul pleads for their prayers for himself as an apostolic minister of the Word and Sacraments of Christ. So, as both Christian laity and clergy, we are all fighting our own battles in life that require our prayers for each other. In fact, Ephesians 6 is all about spiritual warfare against the “cosmic powers” that would seek to bring us down and harm us. Consequently, we are admonished to pray on all occasions, during good times and bad times, but especially when we are under some kind of spiritual assault in our lives.
Spiritual attacks can happen in many and various ways, but most often through the ill will of another person. In other words, haters are going to hate, so let us pray for one another in good faith in order to “quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6: 16). But these sorts of spiritual attacks are especially hurtful when the ill will is coming from a fellow brother or sister in Christ. So for this especially hurtful situation, a double portion of prayer is required, as well as confession of sins, just as we find in the biblical Letter of James, where it says:
“Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” — (James 5: 16a)
However, as Christians, we must always keep in mind the total victory of Christ Jesus our Savior over sin, death and the devil. The good news of the gospel of Christ is that his victory over these ancient enemies is absolute, even though it is not yet fully manifested in our lives and world. Therefore, as Christians, we fight the spiritual battles that assail us from the power of Christ’s once-and-for-all-time victory. In other words, we prayerfully engage in spiritual warfare on each other’s behalf from the power of Christ’s victory. Or more precisely put, we do not fight for spiritual victory, rather we fight from the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord. So, LET US PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER because we all need it, and let us also be kindhearted and hospitable as the Word of God in the Holy Bible exhorts us to do:
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of a disciplined mind for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms, each of you should serve one another with whatever gift you have received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” — (First Peter 4: 7-11)
The truth is that everyone sometimes needs to be set free from “unclean spirits” (as the Bible says) of one sort or another, and Jesus is the Great Physician who heals us from our every ill. So in the midst of the storms of life, our Lord Jesus is there healing, cleansing, protecting, loving and delivering. For Christ is The Victor, our victorious Savior. And when we pray for each other, we claim this truth for our lives and for the world by God’s grace through faith as a free gift.
Thanks be to God for all of this! As we sing on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week, “All glory, laud and honor to you, Redeemer King!”
Blessed Holy Week & Happy Easter!