Three Keys to the Christian Life: Part 3
Three Vital Experiences
"Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer" (Romans 12:12)
There are three main experiences in the Christian life expressed in this verse. In this third part of a series we will see the matter of persevering in prayer.
As a review, rejoicing in hope is the foundation. It is the joy of Christ within us related to His eternal purpose, which gives us daily hope. His desire is to live in us, to grow in us, and to make His home in our heart, until we all become full grown sons of God, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and even the eternal abode of our God. This will be the fulfillment of His kingdom on the earth. What a joy to partake of this Christ every day! He is our spiritual food and drink. He is our living hope!
But God has an enemy on this earth who tries to frustrate God’s plan. Satan sends tribulation to us every day. Thus we are called to be endure in affliction. This means to be immovable from our stand and hope in Christ. Again, it is the power of Christ Himself, who endured every persecution in His human life, to be the one in us who is truly enduring. Indeed, God uses the tribulations to purify our faith, and to cause us to grow even more.
Finally, we are called to be persevere in prayer. What does it mean to pray? What does it mean to persevere?
Persevering in Prayer
The difference between the Greek words for enduring and persevering is helpful. Enduring is the Greek word hypomeno, which means to maintain your position against all trials. The Greek word for enduring is different: proskartereo
Proskartereo comes from a root word kratos, which is a dynamic power or strength in action, often translated as "dominion." Proskartereo implies a dynamic and unceasing joining ourselves to another, for example as the word is used in Acts 10:7:
"When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants (proskartereo)."
In Romans 12:12, we become an empowered, close follower and personal attendant of the unceasing prayer of our great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. We add our incense to the fire of His prayer (Rev 5:8; 8:3). It is not our prayer in the sense of being initiated by us, or being empowered by us. Genuine prayer is initiated by Him, and is empowered by Him. It is from Him, through Him, and unto Him (Rom 11:36). Indeed, such a prayer is Christ in us (Gal 2:20) We join ourselves to the indwelling Christ praying in our spirit, who is joined by a heavenly ladder to the Christ on the throne (John 1:51). We, through our prayer, become Jesus’ “personal attendants,” constantly absorbing His will and breathing it out through our prayer, our utterance, or even our groaning, when no words can be found (Rom 8:26-27).
In brief then:
Endure means immovable, steadfast, DO NOT MOVE!
Persevere means keep moving, keep active, keep going, DO NOT STOP!
Through Christ in us we are IMMOVABLE from afflictions
Through Christ in us we are UNSTOPPABLE in prayer.
The Essence of Prayer
The reason we continue in prayer non-stop is because God is still working. He is a God of transformation, building and spreading. He has a purpose to fulfill, in growing Christ into our heart and transforming us within by His Spirit into the many sons of God and the Body of Christ (2 Cor 3:16-18; Rom 8:19; Heb 2:10; Eph 4:11-14). He is constantly operating to spread His kingdom all over the earth through the gospel. This process is still unfolding. If we stop in our prayer, we are saying either God is done with His gospel work, or possibly we have given up hope that the Lord is able to do more. More likely we are expressing a lack of knowledge of who He is, what His purpose is, and what the power of Christ in us can do. Many still think that we get saved by believing, and now we wait to go to heaven. This half-truth cheats us of God’s constant salvation from the inner-working Christ.
We must realize it is not really we who are praying, but Christ who lives in us (Col 1:27-29). Remember the situation in the garden, on the night of Jesus’ betrayal. He asked His disciples to stay awake and pray with Him. They all fell asleep. Jesus said to them “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41).
That was before the resurrection. Now things are different. Peter told us in his epistle that God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). In His earthly ministry, which was from His conception in the virgin Mary unto His death, Christ was always active, not just with activity, but with constant oneness with the Father (John 10:30). He seemingly broke the Sabbath rule of rest, by healing on the Sabbath. In one case, Jesus made it clear what He was doing: “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:16-17). God cannot rest until His purpose is fulfilled. Jesus’ working was always in accordance with the working of the Father. But at this time, ONLY Jesus was working. The disciples had not yet been born again with the Spirit of the resurrected Christ. No wonder they had no ability to pray with Christ.
Now Jesus is in His heavenly ministry, which started with His resurrection and continues unto His return to earth, when His earthly Kingdom ministry begins (Rev 12:10). He is today a great High Priest (Heb 8:1), who is constantly working again to constantly pray for us (Rom 8:27), to grow Himself into our heart (Eph 3:14-19), and to spread His Kingdom worldwide (Matt 28:18-20). We no longer have the excuse of being too weak to pray, like Peter and the disciples. The mighty, operating Christ, who is now in resurrection and is seated at the right hand of the Father, is living now in us. Our duty is to be daily strengthened by His Spirit into our inner man (Eph 3:16). This empowers us to pray unceasingly. Our spirit now is willing, and also our spirit is able!
This is why Paul says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philip 2:12-13). This is why Peter and the other disciples, after the resurrection, could be "all with one mind were continually devoting themselves (proskartereo) to prayer" (Acts 1:14). This is why the early assembly of believers in Jerusalem could be "continually devoting (proskartereo) themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).
I encourage you daily to REJOICE in hope, the Christ who lives in us, to ENDURE afflictions through Him, and to PERSEVERE in joining yourself to the unceasing prayer of Christ.
- Hymn: Prayer is the incense of a holy heart
Christian hymns and spiritual songs with wonderful truths and music.}