This piece stands on the grounds of earlier posts in the series titled “How do we pray under grace? (New Testament Prayers).” There might be gaps in understanding of this piece if one has not gone through the earlier lessons.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who loved to pray loud, long, and repeatedly (Matthew 6:5-7; Matthew 23:14). There is nothing wrong in praying out loud or having extended quality time of prayer. In fact, the Bible teaches us to pray earnestly.
Jesus prayed out aloud for long hours, all night on many occasions in fellowship with the Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12, 22:39-46). Paul prayed the same things repeatedly, night and day, for believers (Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16-23; Philippians 1:4,9-11; Colossians 1:3,9-13; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:3).
The problem with the audience of Jesus on those occasions was not the loudness, intensity, length, or repetition of their prayers. Rather, it was the emptiness of their words and the condition of their hearts – their hypocrisy, that were in view.
To pray earnestly is to pray with the whole of your being. This manner of praying would involve your spirit, emotion, and stamina with the content of the prayer in line with the New Testament. Praying with understanding in the light of the true nature of God and our new creation realities is the beginning point, else one could pray with every intensity humanly possible and still pray amiss.
The example of Jesus
Luke 22:44 NIV “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
The word translated as “more earnestly” is actually one word whose meaning include, without ceasing, fervently, intensely or earnestly.
We see Jesus in that occasion, repeating the same prayer over and over again.
Mark 14:39 NASB “Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words” (also Matthew 26:39,42-44).
Hebrews 5:7 referring to his prayer life and this particular episode says “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” showing us the involvement of all of his being – his spirit, emotion, and the physical immersion.
Earnest praying in the Early church
Acts 2:42 BLB “Now they were steadfastly continuing in the teaching of the apostles, and in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”
Acts 6:4 BLB “And we will steadfastly continue in prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Again in Acts 4:31 we saw an example of where the church prayed so earnestly that “the place where they were meeting was shaken.”
Also Acts 12:5 NIV “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
Other translations rendered the expression, “earnestly praying” in the verse above this way:
AMP “fervent and persistent prayer”; NASB “prayer for him was being made fervently”; KJV “prayer was made without ceasing.”
From the above-mentioned, we can see that Jesus prayed earnestly, and the early church too.
The Apostles’ instructions/remarks and examples on praying earnestly
In addition to the many injunctions to the church and believers to pray, special mentions were made by the Apostles about praying earnestly:
Romans 12:12 WNT “full of joyful hope, patient under persecution, earnest and persistent in prayer.”
Romans 15:30 ISV “Now I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and by the love that the Spirit produces, to join me in my struggle, earnestly praying to God for me.”
Colossians 1:29 – Colossians 2:2 KJV “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,”
Colossians 4:2 WNT “Be earnest and unwearied in prayer, being on the alert in it and in your giving of thanks.”
Colossians 4:12 NLT “Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.”
Colossians 4:12 NKJV “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
James 5:16b KJV “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
James 5:16b AMPC “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].”
1 Peter 4:7 NLT “… be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.”
From the foregoing, we can see that to pray earnestly involves:
- Praying extensively
- Praying with intensity and fervency
- Praying repeatedly
- Praying relentlessly
- Praying passionately with, and from the heart
- Labouring in prayers
- Wrestling in prayers
- Being disciplined in prayers
- Praying out the purposes of God on earth.
Believers are to pray earnestly both individually (privately) and as a group.
In summary, to pray earnestly is to pray intensely and intelligently – scrutinizing our prayers by the Word in the light of the new covenant. When we do, we make tremendous spiritual power which is already resident in us, available that is dynamic in its working, effecting changes of eternal value and affecting things beyond us.
There are many things humans can achieve and heights they can attain without praying. But there are somethings that cannot happen on earth (in, among, and through a people) without men praying earnestly.
In all your praying, pray earnestly, also!
Really blessed reading through all the series of “How do we pray under grace”.