Most of God's ministers have been asked this question on numerous occasions — especially by those who are new in the Church. This article will give you many helpful tips on how you can PRAY EFFECTIVELY for God's Work!
YOUR prayer time is one of the most critical areas of your entire Christian life. Yet it is an area of frequent discouragement and frustration. Why? Because many tend to get into a rut in their prayers. Let's analyze the problem and see how the pattern often emerges.
In the Beginning...
When you were baptized the chances are you didn't know a great deal about what real prayer was. It is likely you were accustomed to the traditional "sleepy-time prayer" that most little children learn — "Now I lay me down to sleep...." Perhaps you had been taught to repeat the "Lord's Prayer." Then again, you may have practiced some other form of vain repetition involving the use of beads or a similar device. Or you may never have prayed any kind of "prayer." After you learned that you should pray, you probably had much difficulty with those first shaky, unsure attempts. Perhaps it was hard to get the words out. Possibly you had learned that the words of Christ in Matthew 6 were intended as an outline for prayer. You discovered they were not meant to be vainly repeated over and over again until they lost their meaning. That knowledge may have represented a major breakthrough for you. So you opened your Bible to Matthew 6 when you prayed and went down the line. You hallowed God's name, asked Him to send His Kingdom and to do His will on earth. You asked God to forgive you for your sins and to provide you with your "daily bread." You requested that God would not lead you into sore trial and that He would deliver you from the evil one (Satan). Then you probably said "In Jesus Christ's name, Amen." You were not vainly repeating the prayer in exactly the words of the Bible, but you were using it as a guideline for prayer and you were doing fine. But after awhile it began to be "old hat." Your days as a novice in prayer were over. Now you wanted to go on to "bigger things." But you were a creature of habit like we all are. It was hard to break away from that outline and pray from original thought. Once a "Lord's Prayer" man — always a "Lord's Prayer" man — or so it seemed. Others get into other kinds of ruts. It's not always the "Lord's Prayer" rut. Another common one is the "pray for the ministry" rut. This is where you have gotten into the habit of praying for the ministers, starting with Mr. Herbert Armstrong and working your way down the list until you come to your own local area. But, of course, such lists can become obsolete — and most names on a list may be meaningless to you unless you know the person. Maybe you are praying for Mr. Hargrove "down in New Orleans" and then you suddenly realize he's been in Phoenix for some time. Perhaps you're still praying for Mr. Docken in the Philippines when you find out he was recently at Headquarters and is now in Australia. And with over 500 ministers it certainly gets complicated keeping track of who's where! Sometimes the names get mixed up. For example, there is Mr. Pinelli and there is Mr. Panella. There is Mr. Glen White and Mr. Valden White. There are several Mr. Coles. There are two Mr. Albert Portunes and a Mr. John Portune. There are two Mr. Neffs, two Mr. Clarks, two Mr. Waterhouses and several Mr. McNairs. It all gets very confusing, doesn't it? We might as well realize, brethren, that with so many ministers around the world, praying for all of them by name could become a full-time job! It's just not practical anymore to use such a list of ministers as a "prayer list." But that does not mean you should give up praying for the ministry, of course! Paul said, "Brethren, PRAY FOR US." The question is not whether to pray for the ministry, but HOW. Trying to pray a comprehensive, sincere and meaningful prayer for every minister in the Church by name has become impractical and virtually impossible. The main thing is that you pray for all the ministers in a general way, but zeroing in on those ministers who have key functions in the Work. Mr. Herbert Armstrong and Mr. Ted Armstrong are especially in need of constant prayers for protection, wisdom and success in doing the most critical functions in the Work today! This is explained more fully later in this article. And each member should certainly pray for his own local ministers in his own area. There are many other ruts yon can get into in prayer. Everyone has his own problem in this area. Every once in awhile we all need to take a "refresher course" in prayer and other aspects of Christian living from God's Word. Perhaps you need to re-examine the whole subject of prayer to gain a refreshing new perspective!
What Is "Vain Repetition?"
Some have felt that a vain repetition is only a memorized prayer such as the traditional concept of the "Lord's Prayer," or the meaningless repetition of multiple "hail Mary's." But that's not all a vain repetition is. Almost any prayer can become vain! To be "vain" means to be worthless, ineffectual — a waste of time and effort. Such a pointless babbling and mumbling of trite and insincere words is an easy habit to slip into. It call be like driving an automobile. If you've driven a long time you begin to drive more or less automatically. An experienced driver often will drive for miles, deep in thought, and not realize exactly where he has been! Perhaps you've had this experience. Some pray like this. They may be "logging time" and suddenly look up and not realize exactly what they've been discussing in their prayer! Notice how the New English Bible translates Matthew 6:7: "In your prayers do not go babbling on like the heathen, who imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard. Do not imitate them." "Sleepy time prayers" usually fall into this category. Mumbling into a pillow when you are half asleep is utterly ineffectual! You know how difficult it is to listen to a person who is talking to you when he is sleepy and drones on aimlessly, losing his train of thought frequently and repeating himself. It seems like he is not really interested in you, but that he is merely talking to hear the sound of his own voice. Well, how do you think God feels when His children are praying to Him in a half-hearted, disinterested way? When you pray, be alert, awake and aware of what you are saying to your Creator and why you are saying it! Remember the warning in Matthew 12:36: "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Would you like to have to go down the line and account for hours of aimless, meaningless blathering before God's throne? Surely not! Realize then that in order to be effective a prayer must be earnest, fervent and sincere (James 5:16).
What to Pray About
How you pray is important. When you pray is a factor. Your attitude in praying is critical. How often and bow long you pray are important considerations. But perhaps most important and Vital of all is WHAT YOU PRAY! Undoubtedly there have been many prayers in history that were prayed in all fervency, at the best time, of reasonable length, in alertness and sincerity — and yet were completely ineffectual. Why? Because the person praying was asking for the wrong thing! If you expect God to answer your prayers you must ask Him for things that are within the realm of His will. Christ said, "... Not my will but thine be done...." Notice how John was inspired to express it: "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (I John 5:14-15). What is God's will, and where can we find it? We find the will of God expressed throughout His Word, the Bible. We must search the Scriptures if we are to know what God wishes us to pray for and what kind of prayer He will respond to. Of course, the most basic starting point is Matthew 6, where the traditional "Lord's Prayer" outline is found. These principles are basic and fundamental. Our article "The Answer to Unanswered Prayer" gives much instruction and help in understanding how to use these principles. It is not the purpose of this article to cover the same territory that is already amply covered in reprint articles readily available to church members. Rather, it is intended to point out some additional areas where you can extend yourself in prayer. (If you do not have the abovementioned article be sure to write for it.)
How to Pray for God's Work
Most members are aware of the critical need to pray for the Work of God. In fact this is the most important area for prayer! But how to do this can be a problem. Simply asking God to "bless the Work" or "bless the money" or "bless the broadcast" is not sufficient. It is important to break your prayers down fine and be specific! So to pray for the Work you must know the needs of the WORK. How can you know those needs? There are a number of ways. First of all be sure to read and digest all the member and Co-Worker letters from Mr. Herbert Armstrong. As you read you will see the needs of God's great Work explained in vivid detail. Underline important sections. Open the letters before you in your prayer closet and use them as guidelines for praying for God's Work. Secondly, he certain to listen closely to the announcements in your local Church area every Sabbath and at Bible Studies. Often they will contain important news of God's Work. Most ministers read from the Ministerial Bulletin which they receive from Headquarters. It contains up-to-the-minute news of God's Work worldwide! Here you will learn of the progress of the radio and TV broadcasts and important contacts with world leaders that God is granting His servants. Mr. Meredith often writes of recent developments in the churches in the United States and the progress of the Tomorrow's World Bible Lectures. Mr. Ronald Dart has news about the Foreign Educational Service (the "Foreign Work"). As your minister reads portions of his Bulletin, be sure to jot down pertinent points that need your prayers! A third way to keep up with what is going on in the Work is to thoroughly read every issue of The GOOD NEWS. News about God's Work on the three campuses and in the foreign offices has appeared in the pages of The GOOD NEWS, and will continue to be presented in every issue. Another source of information about the Work of God is your TOMORROW'S WORLD magazine. Progress at the "dig" in Jerusalem, the foreign offices, activities at the three campuses including printing, television and other areas, have been discussed in recent issues. Be sure to read them and note the areas you can pray about. Yet another source of prayer material regarding God's Work can be found in the radio and television logs of your PLAIN TRUTH. In every issue you will notice that some station listings are accompanied by an asterisk. This indicates a new station or a the change. When God grants us a new station or a new time it is certainly important and worthwhile to pray that He will cause the broadcast to be successful there in reaching many new listeners!
Pray for the Ministry
The prime function of the ministry of God is to preach the Gospel to the world. Its secondary function is to feed the Church of God. God has mainly used Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong as the vanguard of the just commission. It has fallen their responsibility to take the message to this world through the media of the press, radio and television. Essentially the other ministers and all non-ordained personnel have backed up the ministry of these two men. But today many of our other ministers also reach unconverted people in a personal way. Dozens of additional evangelists, pastors and preaching elders have been pressed into service in the Tomorrow's World Bible Lectures. They are speaking directly to unconverted people by the thousands. These men need your prayers to fulfill this important responsibility. They need your prayers for wisdom, understanding and the ability to communicate their lifesaving messages to the minds of those who attend. Perhaps putting you in the picture will help you realize just how important it is that you pray fervently and daily for those who are in the forefront of the Work of God in all areas! Just think! What would YOU say to kings, prime ministers and other world leaders if you were suddenly ushered into their presence? How would you handle yourself in a royal palace or at a banquet attended by numerous dignitaries from foreign countries? Mr. Herbert Armstrong has been in such situations quite often lately. He needs your prayers for wisdom and discretion! And all of God's servants need your prayers for protection as they fly around the world or drive from city to city to perform the commission God has entrusted to them! God is not using supermen to do His Work! They are flesh and blood like yourselves who feel pain, have emotions, weaknesses and cares. Even the great prophet Elijah was "a man of like passions as we are..." (James 5:17). When the apostles Paul and Barnabas were doing the Work of God among the people of Lystra they told them, "Me also are men of like passions with you..." (Acts 14:15). They were mere flesh and blood human beings with weaknesses and sicknesses, fears and problems. Yet they were used by God to do a great Work! When the brethren got behind them and prayed for them, miracles happened! On two occasions God actually sent angels to release the Apostle Peter and others from Roman prisons! Read about it yourself in Acts 5:17-19; 12:1-12. Paul appealed to the brethren: "Finally, brethren, PRAY FOR us, that the word of the Lord may have free course [that God's Work may be allowed to be accomplished]... and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not [the] faith" (II Thes. 3:1-2). Being a minister of God is a rewarding and much blessed occupation, but it can also be a very dangerous one! It is historically true to say that most of God's leading ministers have been martyred for their service in God's Work. Not everyone believes as we do, brethren, and not everyone is reasonable about it. God's ministers need divine protection and help to freely fulfill their commission! Pray often and fervently about this.
All of our prayers should be mingled with gratitude toward God for all the blessings He so abundantly and frequently "dumps" on all of us. God instructs us, "... Be ye thankful... do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:15, 17). We should thank God just us fervently after we receive what we asked for as we were fervent when we prayed for it! God has blessed us with a greatly increased circulation of our literature. We have been granted many more radio and television stations in recent years. New churches are being constantly raised up all over the world. More dedicated men are being ordained to the ministry. Our building program in Pasadena and elsewhere has grown throughout the years, providing a fine and appropriate setting for the training of tomorrow's leaders. God has seen us through one financial crisis after another. Let's never neglect to thank Him for all these blessings fervently, and often!
Pray for Those Not in the Ministry
In recent years the importance of non-ministerial personnel has become increasingly evident in the Work of God. Today thousands in God's Work are not ordained ministers. Yet many of these people hold critical and key positions in the Work. These men are employed in vital editorial, press, legal, administrative and other areas. The Work of God needs them. And they in turn need your prayers and support. The writers for all of our Ambassador College publications need to be inspired by God if they are to say the correct things in the right way. Wouldn't you wish for God's inspiration if you had to sit down and write an article to millions of PLAIN TRUTH and TOMORROW'S WORLD readers? Where would you start? How would you know your "proofs" would stand the test of time, criticism and the scrutinizing eyes of very carnal, yet intelligent and learned people? In ancient Israel. God gave His Spirit to men who were employed in construction projects. They were craftsmen, skilled carpenters and laborers in other professions. Their function was not basically spiritual in nature. It was physical. Yet they were doing the WORK OF GOD! And because they were, God granted them HIS Spirit to enable them to better perform purely physical functions. Notice in Exodus 28:2-3: "... Thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, WHOM HAVE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM that they may make Aaron's garments...." Here we see God granting special help through the Holy Spirit to enable skilled craftsmen to fashion glorious and, beautiful garments for the priesthood. A purely physical function, yet God gave them spiritual help! Again in Exodus 31:1-4 we find another account of how God gave a certain Jew named Bezaleel His Holy Spirit to enable him to do physical workmanship involving the use, of gold, silver, brass and wood in the construction of the tabernacle. It was a physical service, but God's Holy Spirit was granted to enable him to perform it. This illustrates a basic principle. Whether the people doing the Work of God are ministers or not, they must do it by Gods, Holy Spirit! "Not by might, nor by power, but BY MY SPIRIT, saith the Lord" (Zech. 1:6). If it is the Work of God then it is clearly evident that it MUST be done by HIS SPIRIT! Therefore, those non-ministerial persons in the Word need your prayers also! Ask God to grant them more of His Spirit and to guide them in the performance of their functions — all of which are necessary, all of which are vital to the success of God's ever-expanding Work. Ask God, also, to move our Co-Workers to grow in understanding and to really put their hearts in God's Work. Ask Him to open the minds and hearts of many of those who read our literature and hear the broadcasts or watch the television program. And finally, brethren, ask God to grant His ministers and His Work favor in the eyes of world leaders so we can finish God's Work with increasingly effective power and dynamic impact! It has been said, and it is certainly true, that you are converted to the degree that your heart is in the Work of God. Never before have your heartfelt prayers for God's Work been more needed than now in this ever accelerating "home stretch" of God's end-time Work!