PRAYER: AN ACT OF SPIRITUAL LABOUR

The first act of Paul immediately after his conversion was recorded in Acts 9:11 where the Lord Jesus himself tells us that Paul "prayeth". This was not a one-off event, no, this will become the spiritual life pattern of the greatest apostle that ever walked the earth! And countless times through his epistles, Paul talked about how he was always in prayers(Colossians 1:3-6, 1 Corinthians 1:4- 9) or praying without ceasing(Ephesians 1:15-19) or praying night and day(1 Thessalonians 3:10-13). And taking a cue from his life Paul admonished us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to 'pray without ceasing'. This leaves one spiritual truth in my heart that we can glean from the prayer life of Paul: prayer is spiritual labor!

If you have ever had to have a reason to pray day and night for an extended period of time then you will reckon that prayer is spiritual labor that not only tasks your spirit but your soul and your body. And every one of us ought to embrace this lifestyle of spiritual labor!

Paul talking in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 talked about how he was the least of the Apostles but how through his spiritual labor he has become probably the greatest of them all!

"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

He was the least but through his spiritual labor became the greatest. This tells us that our spiritual labor can change our spiritual status! What matters is not our entry level into the kingdom of God but our spiritual input into the kingdom of God! Even Peter admitted that Paul was on another level(2 Peter 3:15-16), his spiritual greatness and insight could not even be contested by the foundational apostle of the church!

Paul's idea of spiritual labor becomes evident when we go through his epistles. Laboring in the word was one of the instances he uses the word labor. You will find this in 1Timothy 5:17 where he said 'let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labor in the word'. Therefore spiritual labor in this context for Paul was laboring in the word.

The other context Paul uses the word labor is in relation to his own work as a tentmaker and generally in reference to the dignity of labor(1 Thessalonians 5:12, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, Ephesians 4:28).

Lastly, Paul used the word labor in association with prayer. In Colossians 4:12 he said of Epaphras, one of his disciples, "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God". Epaphras was labouring in prayers so that the church, the new born into the Lord may stand perfect and complete in the will of God. Epaphras learned this from Paul, no doubt.

He was the least but through his spiritual labor became the greatest. This tells us that our spiritual labor can change our spiritual status! What matters is not our entry level into the kingdom of God but our spiritual input into the kingdom of God!

We see this in Galatians 4:19 where Paul was speaking of his spiritual labor in prayers "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,” From the original text Paul was said to be 'labouring in prayers with intolerable anguish and pains of childbirth'. This was where Epaphras learned that prayer is spiritual labor!

Paul knew that prayer is spiritual labor and so in Romans 15:30-31 he called out to the church to " strive" or use the word "labor" with me in prayers!

"Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints".

Prayer involves some form of spiritual striving and without this striving winning is not guaranteed!

This was what Jesus did at the garden of Gethsemane, he was striving in prayers for the will of God for humanity to come to pass, and the Bible recorded his sweat from that spiritual labor was like the flow of blood!

Prayer involves some form of spiritual striving and without this striving winning is not guaranteed!

Prayer is no spiritual fun it is spiritual work! It is no surprise then that our prayer meetings are not always filled up! It is no surprise then that today's churches have more of 24 hours of marathon praise than 7 hours of marathon prayers. Am not saying prayer is superior to praise or vice versa, each one has its place. The point is prayer is spiritual labor and many of us are too lazy to make that spiritual input that will change our spiritual status!

Prayer is labor and every labor commands reward. Hebrews 6:10 says "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister".

God does not forget genuine spiritual laborers. Like Epaphras, like Paul, many of us need to start laboring in prayers for the saints and for the kingdom of God. And when we sign up for this covenant lifestyle the Bible says God will not forget but will reward our labor of love.

 

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