For just a few moments, I want to talk a little bit about prayer and a lot about encouragement. We, as believers, need both prayer and encouragement to be spiritually healthy. Prayer is our line of communication to God through the Holy Spirit and encouragement should make up a large part of how we communicate with each other. In my experience, prayer is talked about and stressed as an essential spiritual exercise far more than encouragement is in our churches and homes. In that, I think we might be missing opportunities for growth and fellowship as a body of believers.
For an excellent example of both prayer and encouragement working together, let’s look at the third chapter of the book of Ephesians.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NASB)
Can you read the above passage and not feel encouraged? I know I can’t! Paul is telling the church at Ephesus (and by extension, us) that he is praying for us. And this prayer that he is praying is not a small prayer but is a bold prayer for power, for strength in the inner man and for us to be able to fully understand the love that God has for us. What an amazing, encouraging prayer!
As modern day Christians living in troubled times, we need amazing prayers and we need strong encouragement. Just as Paul did in the book of Ephesians, one of the best ways to encourage a fellow believer is to tell them that you are praying for them and then be specific in how you are praying for them. It’s one thing to tell someone “I’m praying for you”. And we should be saying that. But it is altogether better to say “I’m praying that God would touch you and heal your body and encourage you in your spirit.” That makes it personal and even more encouraging to the receiver.
Along with those prayers we need to make sure our words and our attitudes are uplifting to those around us, and especially to those who are fellow believers. The people in our churches and homes should be the ones we treat the best and this includes our spouses and children. They need to hear us speaking grace to them (unmerited favor) and they need to see that we love Jesus and are not ashamed of our calling or position in Christ.
As we go, unbelievers are watching what we do and say and the way we treat each other just might be the thing that convinces them that the love and grace of Jesus is real and necessary. Our encouragement can be that powerful when it is done in Jesus’ name.
We have such an amazing and unlimited resource in the love of God and the more we give it away and share it with others the more we will feel it in return. We have a responsibility to take that love and use it to shine light in to the dark places around us and to proclaim the good news to all. Let’s make sure that we are praying big, bold prayers and that we are always looking for opportunities to encourage those around us. It just might be the very thing that makes all the difference in the world to them.