The eternal value of prayer

Years ago I heard about a small church in Texas. Forty of its members fought in WWII. With the men of the congregation gone, the women decided to do the only thing they could to protect their husbands and sons. They prayed daily for those forty men by name. All forty returned home.

I was blessed to grow up with a praying grandpa and mom. Prayer was not a last resort or something to do before bed. It was a constant conversation, the answer to every problem, the response to conflict resolved.

The spiritual battle is played out on many fronts. Thank God for the frontline warriors who meet Satan’s fronts with articulate and eloquent responses. And thank the Lord for those training the foot soldiers with wisdom and skill: showing them how to dodge all Satan’s army would throw at them and to wield the truth to cut through worldly rhetoric. Thank God for the missionaries who enlist people, and thank God for the musicians who give us songs to keep up our spirits and redirect our thoughts when the battle is hard and long.

But it would be a great disservice to overlook those on the sidelines praying for the warriors, teachers, foot soldiers, missionaries, musicians, and the spiritual battle at large. Those prayer warriors are every bit as important as the frontline soldiers.

The apostle Paul is considered one of Christianity’s great missionaries. He not only traveled fearlessly from town to town for the sake of the gospel and started multiple congregations; he also wrote 11 books of the New Testament. What was his secret?

In part, he was not afraid to ask for prayer. He wrote in Ephesians 6:19,20: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

And to the Colossian congregation he wrote: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (4:3,4).

Who knows how many men and women prayed fervently for Paul to speak the gospel clearly and fearlessly through the doors that God himself opened? Prayer might seem like an unseen and underappreciated endeavor, but only because so rarely are we privy to the results this side of heaven. Only when we step into eternity will we see and understand how important those prayers were.

I was told about a woman in our congregation years ago who prayed that her husband would go to church. She died. Her husband came to church for her funeral and every week after. She never saw it, but her prayers were answered.

There is a reason the apostle Paul told us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is something we can all do, and those prayers have eternal significance and consequence.

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