God Empowers Us Through Prayer.
We are heirs of an earth-shaking tradition. When Jesus died, the earth shook (Matthew 27:51); when He was resurrected, the earth shook (Matthew 28:2); when the church began, the earth shook (cf. Hebrews 13:26,27); when the disciples prayed, the earth shook (Acts 4:31); when Paul and Silas prayed in prison, the earth shook (Acts 16:25,26). God gives His people power in answer to prayer. We cannot dismiss this by saying, Well, that was when the church was more exciting, and God won’t give us power today. It is true that God does not give out miraculous power today (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), but untrue that He does not dispense providential power today. Paul wrote, Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Jesus said, and all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 22:21; cf. Mark 11:24). A prayer-less church will be a powerless church. A prayerful church will be a powerful church. Jesus told His disciples, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38), implying that they would receive strength to fight temptation by prayer. If churches prayed more, they would sinless. Sin is the greatest hindrance to growth, for it causes God to withhold His blessings, and sinners to be turned away.
God Enables Us Through Prayer.
There are four ways to affect church growth: convert lost sinners (bring them in the front door); keep weak members from falling away (going out the back door); restore erring members back to service; and lead unfruitful saints to fruit-bearing (John 15:1-5). Genuine prayer helps in each area. We can, and should pray for ourselves to be stronger (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4). (Remember a stronger church begins with me.) Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And God granted him that which he requested (1 Chronicles 4:10; cf. Psalm 121:7).
We can also pray for other Christians to be stronger. Jesus told Peter: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32; cf. John 17:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Paul wrote, “Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest,” (2 Corinthians 13:6; cf. Philippians 1:4-6; Colossians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 5:23). John wrote, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16). We have far more need to pray that we may not do evil, than that we may not suffer evil. The apostle not only desired that they might be kept from sin, but also that they might grow in grace, and increase in holiness (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:1).