13th Sunday after Pentecost
“Pray for Me!”
 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.  He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
In this series, we’re wanting to inform you on prayer in order to enhance your practice and experience with it. Last week we talked about the motivation behind prayer and the importance of defining it properly. Prayer is misunderstood in our world and even in our churches from time to time. We treat God like a cosmic vending machine with prayer being the quarter. We put in a quarter, punch the button for the Snickers bar, and sometimes it gets stuck and other times we get our candy. Some of us think that if we bang the machine it will loosen the thing we’ve prayed for; like we deserve it because we put in the money. But a faith relationship with God just doesn’t work that way.
We saw last week that prayer is a living relationship, whereby God desires to give us Himself instead of mere things. We may ask and ask in faith but our focus must be on God. He has made His life about us through sending His Son for us and we make our lives about Him because He has saved us.
This week we look at what prayer can be and how it has so much more to do with others than just ourselves. First, prayer can be life giving and life sustaining when we make it a priority. Talking to God means keeping constant contact with Him. Yes, God knows what’s going on with us without us having to tell Him. So then why do we need to give Him the play-by-play? Because like any relationship, full participation means full disclosure.
All metaphors limp, but look at it this way: You and your best friend’s favorite movie is re-released in theaters. You go and see it and decide when it’s over you will go to the Varsity in downtown Atlanta because you haven’t been there in ages and you both grew up going there. You order and eat and leave, with you dropping off your friend after an hour car ride home. But, you never discuss the movie, you both ordered at different registers, you never looked up from the meal until you’d both finished, and you never talked on the way home. You had the same experience—saw the same great movie, had the same fun meal, had an entire car ride there and then back but never talked about your time or your experience.
In this scenario, there’s been no dialogue, no exchange of ideas, and very little processing has taken place. Where is the depth in a relationship that doesn’t draw two people near each other? Where is the intimacy that pushes the two together and then calls them back together again?
In our living relationship with God, there is an amazing life that awaits us; a life of possibilities, of experiences, of power and it is all connected to a life of prayer. James 4 says, “ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” It is in the sincere and willing drawing nearer to God that we will find Him drawing near to us. And it’s that kind of relationship, a growing and thriving relationship, that speaks volumes about our faith. Others can’t help but notice those who are steeped in prayer. They are the very ones that we are drawn to, that we go to when we are in need.
This is where we turn to our second point, that our prayer life is about so much more than ourselves. Think about “those couples,” do you know what I mean? It’s the ones you know or see out in public and they just have this way about them. They have a love that you can see and even almost feel. You find yourself saying, “I want that!” Many of us have felt this way, and sometimes about more than just relationships. For me it’s often when I’m watching Food Network…”I WANT THAT!”
It’s important that our faith and even our prayer lives be something that increase the faith and desire for faith of others. Jesus warns us in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 not to use our prayer for personal gain or attention. Prayer is very much personal and filled with humility. We can look at the prophet Daniel. He went and prayed everyday before God. But when he was seen praying through a window, after having been warned not to by the authorities who did not worship God, he maintained his prayer life and it saved him on more than one occasion.
Our text this morning is a perfect example. Look at the situation of Paul and Silas. They are thrown in prison for believing things and preaching things that the Romans said they shouldn’t. Once in prison, they begin to sing hymns and pray. Everyone was listening, both prisoners and guards. An earthquake hits and the doors fly open and their chains fall off. The guard prepares to take his own life because his first thought is that everyone will escape and he’ll be blamed and executed. But Paul and Silas do not leave the prison. They keep the guard from death, the guard asks about their faith, and he and his whole HOUSEHOLD become believers! And Paul and Silas still didn’t escape. The authorities let them go because of new information.
Were Paul and Silas praying for release? All it says is that they were praising God and praying. Their prayers were prayers of worship and thanksgiving, even in the midst of their circumstances. Because of their faith and their prayers, others found Jesus and those others were unlikely converts at that. From this and so many other examples in the Scriptures, we see how prayer, when directed toward God, when it is about God, changes things. We must make prayer about God. Prayer must be on going and maintained. If we desire growth in faith and in knowledge of God, we must pray and pray often.
Through maintained prayer, constant prayer, we find that our bonds are loosed, our lives are set free! Through prayer we enter onto a holy plane; a plane where we can live through and with the power of God rather than the brokenness of the world around us. My grandmother has told me time and time again growing up, “I just don’t know how people make through this life without God.” She is a person of great prayer, who gives both the little and the large to God. She finds her way and navigates her life through the wind of God and prayer is her sail!
You need to pray. Other’s need your prayers. I plead with you today, “Pray for me!” Help my faith! Pray for my family, for all my sweet girls. And don’t be afraid to ask for prayer, to say to someone, “Pray for me!” If you’ve heard my words today in your heart of hearts, then know that prayer works when it is about God. Pray that God would be glorified in the life of someone else, maybe in your own life. If we seek this in prayer, then we pray with right intentions, with right motives. Go now, and pray.