Prayer needs to be learned

Actually, the Chief Apostle wanted to be in the United States for a divine service on 13 September 2020, but had to cancel his plans on account of the pandemic. Instead, he held a divine service in the congregation of Thann in France. A small group of 26 people were overjoyed when Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider walked to the altar.

What is the right way to pray? What are the effects of our conversations with God? These and other questions the Chief Apostle answered in the sermon, which he based on Romans 8: 26: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Praying is important

Praying together is a very important part of divine service, the Chief Apostle said at the beginning. The Lord promised that He would be there where two or three had gathered in His name. “So when we come together to pray we can be sure that the Lord is present and prays with us.” He shares the sorrows and joys of the praying congregation and He joins in what we express in prayer. This is a special experience, the Chief Apostle said.

God will respond

Of course God will not necessarily give us exactly what we ask of Him, but we can be sure that when a congregation unites in prayer, God will respond one way or another. This does not exempt us from prayers at home; personal prayers are just as important. Today, with Covid-19 upon us, New Apostolic Christians have a lot more time. “And I asked myself: do we pray more than before? There are no congregational meetings, no choir practices—so do we take more time to pray?” He reminded the congregation of the saying: don’t pray when you have time, but take time to pray.

God prays for us

Another interesting thought from the Chief Apostle: “Whether we are talking about communal prayers or personal prayers, we must be aware that God prays for us. That may sound strange, but it is a biblical promise. It says that Jesus intercedes for us.” That means that Jesus is constantly ready to forgive. He gave His life for mankind and is willing to forgive. Moreover, it is His declared will that those who believe in Him should be saved. If Jesus is the intercessor, it means that He wants to save those who believe in Him.

The help of the Holy Spirit

We humans need help from the Holy Spirit for our prayers because of the large gap that exists between our human weaknesses and the omnipotence of God. “Even when we cannot pray because of our weaknesses”, the Chief Apostle emphasised, “the Holy Spirit will help us.” There are times of extreme weakness, of extreme sadness, when all we can do is sigh to God because we simply do not have enough strength and energy or even the desire to say a prayer. And there we have the guarantee that even such a sigh, such a call for help, such a non-prayer, as it were, will be magnified by the Holy Spirit and transformed so that it reaches God. This is very comforting: “When I’m physically, morally, or mentally in a state in which I can no longer pray but feel the need to turn to God, the Holy Spirit makes sure that my cries for help, my sighs, reach the throne of God.”

Let your prayers be inspired

That is why it is important that we let the Holy Spirit inspire our own prayers. Our Bible text states: “For we do not know what we should pray.” The Chief Apostle explained it this way: “What does this mean? If we allow the Spirit of God to work within us before we pray, the Spirit will remind us with whom we are speaking, with God, the Almighty, the infallible, the perfect One, the One who knows everything.” Seen in this light, our Bible text is also an admonition to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit in our prayers.

The Chief Apostle went on to say that the Holy Spirit, who is also a spirit of wisdom, reveals the will of God. “He allows us to discover what God really wants: He wants our salvation. He wants to deliver us from evil, He wants to lead us into fellowship with Himself.”

The Chief Apostle mentioned yet another point. The Holy Spirit is also a spirit of perseverance: “Don’t give up! Pray without ceasing and persevere until the end.” Perseverance in prayer is a matter of time, not of frequency or length or the proper wording. It is about the need to pray. “And perseverance in prayer means that our actions are in harmony with our prayers.” What is the point of praying for our own salvation if we are opposed to it.

In summary, the Chief Apostle’s message was as follows:

  • The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not always know what we should pray for.
  • The Holy Spirit teaches us and tells us what we should do.
  • The more our prayers are inspired by the Holy Spirit, the more certain we are that they will be answered.

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Peter Johanning
France, Chief Apostle, Divine service