"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail..." — Luke 22:31-32 NASB
We often talk about prayer as the means God uses to transmit grace to His people or our means of communication with God, and it is good that we speak that way because they’re both true; but today, I want to explore the intercessory and saving power of our prayer.
In a recent sermon, I discussed the modern purpose of the altar and made the point that we are no longer seeking to atone for our sins at the altar like those under the Old Covenant often did. Yes, we still ask for forgiveness of sins, and we ought to whenever sin occurs in us, but we know that God will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness because Jesus is our faithful High Priest. According to Hebrews, Jesus is our advocate, not our accuser. He died “once and for all,” so we can now approach God as the One whose delight it is to give us the Kingdom!
According to the original lyrics of the hymn, “Rock of Ages,” the blood of Jesus is a double cure to sin because it both “[saves us] from wrath, and [makes us] pure.” It doesn’t simply keep us from receiving what we do deserve, but also gives us the good that we don’t deserve. Since God has given us everything in Christ, the altar has necessarily transformed from a place of primarily paying off debts to God, to a place of conducting spiritual business that is toward the benefit of both others and ourselves. To be clear, once again, we ought always to repent of sin as it manifests in our hearts, but the new altar should primarily be a place where growth, transformation, and progress should occur.
Among many other things it does, prayer informs our actions—it tells us what we ought to do, and where we ought to go. The unfortunate fact is that our legs aren’t long enough to do everything God has planned for us; this is the function of prayer I want to emphasize. You might argue that God has given everything we need to do everything He wants, and I would agree. What I am saying is that God has ordained prayer to be our legs sometimes! Through prayer, we can reach people that we would never otherwise be able to reach.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He asked the Apostles to pray with Him, but they couldn’t do it. He told them to pray so they would not fall into temptation, but we find them absent in this assignment, and altogether asleep! Jesus had previously told Peter He prayed for him that he would not be sifted like wheat, and it was His prayer that kept Peter from falling away never to return (apostasy). Some people fall away never to return; the power of prayer is this—your prayer can prevent that! So, intercessory prayer can keep others inside of God’s Kingdom, as it did with Peter.
Fervent and faithful prayer can also lead to the salvation of others. Sometimes, the physical and spiritual distance between ourselves and another will necessarily hinder the flow of the Gospel message, but in such cases, prayer becomes a bridge of Gospel power that no man can deny! Sometimes, you will share the Gospel with a person once, and they will seek ways to avoid you after that one encounter. In those times, you can be calm and confident in your faithful prayers for them, knowing that they cannot run from what God will do through your prayer. So, pray! Even if you never find out what happened to them on this side of eternity, you might get a thank you card from them once we all get to Heaven.
My best friend from High School was won to the Lord through prayer, almost a year to the day after my own conversion experience, and he continues to serve the Lord and be an incredible husband, father, and leader in his church. One of my sisters came to the Lord through prayer about three years after my conversion experience, and she continues to serve the Lord faithfully in her church and community. My mother was won to the Lord relatively recently through both word and prayer, and she went to be with the Lord in July of this year. Though it may not be you alone praying for a person, it ought always to be at least you praying for someone!
It is time that we quit denying the power of prayer and embrace it. Maybe you would never admit to denying the power of prayer, but have you perhaps forgotten the importance of embracing its power somewhere along the way? I cannot afford to deny the power of fervent and faithful prayer that leads to restoration and salvation, and neither can you! So, when you look at your prayer list that has a name on it so old it is starting to fade, please remember hope, and believe afresh for the person you’ve been praying for, knowing that Jesus is still able to save today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ronnie Barnes is one of two millennial members on the General Men’s Ministries Board. A graduate of Holmes Bible College and Advantage College, Ronnie serves as the senior pastor of the Laurens Pentecostal Holiness Church in Spirit Life Ministries, the Upper SC Conference of the IPHC. He teaches Spanish at Laurens Academy. He and his wife, Estrella make their home in Laurens, SC with their two children, Claire and Josiah.