Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If you’ve read the Bible for any amount of time, you may have noticed that not much happens from one cover to the next without prayer. Whether it’s shouts of acclamation in total praise and worship of our One True God or cries for help that He would use His omnipotence to bring salvation, healing, and restoration to people. The Word of God is not at all bashful about pointing out the necessity of prayer in the life of the Believers and yet, of all the spiritual disciplines mentioned in the BIble I believe that true prayer is one of the most underemployed. I guess that’s why Leonard Ravenhill says that “The Cinderella of the church of today is the prayer meeting” (Why Revival Tarries, p19).
Prayer. If you haven’t noticed, a revival has begun in this place and prayer is at the center of it all. Every Sunday afternoon, 4 – 5pm, a group of you are huddled up in the prayer room to call upon the name of the Lord. Folks are in the prayer room as we speak asking God to show up in this service that the Holy Spirit of God would speak through me. Asking God to open the eyes and ears of the blind and deaf that they would know the Lord’s power to save and the depth of His love for each of us. God is doing something new at BCC and prayer is the conduit. Don’t miss out! There’s so much that we can learn from God’s Word about prayer, but my hope is that we will not only LEARN of prayer’s importance today, but that we will actually PRAY.
If you look in the 4 Gospels you will not find a single place where the disciples themselves actually prayed; they had plenty of opportunity to pray and it even appears that they had a desire to pray. Jesus taught them to pray. He instructed them to pray in the garden. He EXPECTED them to pray, but they never did. Sound familiar? But then, when we open the book of Acts we discover that everything the disciples do involves prayer! Jesus was gone, they needed God’s help to do God’s work so “they devoted themselves to…prayer” (Acts 2:42).
Today, for some of you, this message will jumpstart your prayer life, for others it will fan the flames of an already fervent commitment to prayer, and still some of you will walk out of here unphased. I believe that it will become evident which of us has switched from merely desiring to pray to actually praying.
So, I’ll give you 4 points this morning.
Point #1 – When we pray, Jesus says that we are to be sincere (Matt. 6:5-8). Listen to His instruction in Matthew’s Gospel.
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
The story is told that our…
“…English word sincere comes from two Latin words: sine (without) and cera (wax). In the ancient world, dishonest merchants would use wax to hide defects, such as cracks, in their pottery so that they could sell their merchandise at a higher price. More reputable merchants would hang a sign over their pottery — sine cera (without wax) — to inform customers that their merchandise was genuine.1” It meant that nothing was hidden, there wasn’t anything covered up.
Jesus points out three things that hinders a sincere prayer life: Hypocrisy. Jesus says that our prayers are to be void of pretense. We don’t have to put on a show. Attention seeking. In prayer we have one Audience – God. He invites us to come boldly into His throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Heb. 4:16). Do you realize that our prayers are incense in the presence of the Lord (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4)? Cornelius discovered that when the angel told him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:3-4). God is our only audience. The third thing that hinders our prayers is Meaninglessness. Don’t just fill the air with words that you don’t mean or even believe. Be sincere. You ask and do not receive because you ask with impure motives (James 4:3). In prayer, we have to be like the psalmist and say,
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting (Ps. 139: 23-24).
When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, be sincere.
Pray in Faith
Point #2 – When you pray, have faith. Jesus told His disciples,
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses ” (Mark 11:24-25).
Now, we know that this passage has often been misused to preach and promote a name-it-claim-it gospel and because that is the case, I am convinced that many Christians have allowed its misuse to hinder their prayers. The Hebrew writer reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Now, let me share a of personal story with you. There are two times in my life that my prayers have been seriously impacted by my faith in God, where I was moved from merely talking about what I believed God was capable of doing to actually trusting Him to act.
I remember being locked up in McAlester, OK and one of the guys that I was locked up with got a bad jailhouse tattoo on his leg. From the looks of it you could tell that it was seriously infected. He complained about the pain and refused to let anyone touch it. One day, I got the sense that God wanted me to pray for him. So, I asked the guy if I could pray over his leg. He reluctantly said yes, but under no circumstances was I to touch the area where the pain was. You could clearly see the infection creeping up his leg. So I prayed for him that the Lord would heal that young man’s leg and the next day there was no trace of infection. This opened a door for me to share the gospel with this young man and I started to disciple him. Now don’t get stuck on the healing piece of my story, whether you believe in that or not because, the goal in prayer is not to fix all that has gone wrong in our lives, rather it is to set right what is wrong in our hearts. That young man was at a place where he needed to know the Lord’s power to save and God convinced him by healing his infected leg. Mark Batterson puts it this way,
“The primary purpose of prayer is not to change our circumstances; the primary purpose of prayer is to change us” (Draw the Circle: 40 Day Challenge, p36). God rewards the prayer of faith.
Pray with sincerity. Pray with faith. But also…
Pray in the Name of Jesus
Point #3 – Pray in the Name of Jesus (John 14:13-14; 16:23)!
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:13-14).
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you (John 16:23).
These verses have also been used to wrongfully promote a Gospel of prosperity. I believe that it is literally impossible for Christians to pray sincerely or to pray in faith without praying in the Name of Jesus. But what does that mean? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ Name? Is it just something that we say to signal the end of our prayers? Or is it a magic formula used to influence the Father to do what we ask?
You see a name carries weight. It has significance and power! According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
“…the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is roused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i. e. for one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds, etc”.
When we pray in the Name of Jesus it means that we are “praying according to the will of God.” We are asking God to do what will bring honor and glory to Himself. It’s not just something we tag on at the end of our prayers. Believe it or not, we can actually pray in Jesus’ Name without ever mentioning those words. Do your prayers show that Jesus is the Lord of all lords? Do your prayers show that He is sovereign over all the earth? Do your prayers highlight the Lord’s power and desire to save? Do your prayers mention the Lord’s displeasure with sin and evil in our world? I believe that when our prayers are aligned with Jesus’ will to make Himself known in the hearts of the sinful, the broken, the lost and the hurting and so on, that they may begin to realize the depth of love the Father has for them God is glorified and we ARE praying in the Name of Jesus.
“[It is] the only Name given under heaven whereby men must be saved (Acts 4:12).
So again, we pray with sincerity. We pray with faith. And we pray those things which bring honor and glory to our God and Father – in the Name of Jesus.
Pray in the Spirit
Finally, Point #4 – Pray in the Spirit.
praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints– (Ephesians 6:18)
Praying in the spirit means to pray with the Spirit’s help. To pray as you are lead by the Spirit of God and to have your prayers aligned with the Spirit. It means that we are praying for who and what the Spirit of God is leading us to pray for. We often hesitate to pray because, What if God doesn’t answer that prayer? What if He doesn’t change that situation?
On another occasion, I was at the bedside of a person who had just died. I was the only one in the room. No nurses, no family, just me. At that time I sensed that the Holy Spirit was beginning to stir up inside of me. As I was standing there I was convicted. Tre, you say that you believe God can heal and do miracles, why aren’t you praying that this dead man comes back to life then? I thought to myself, you’re right! I do believe that God can do these things, so I laid my hands on the dead man’s body, closed my eyes and began to call on the Name of Lord. All of a sudden I heard a sound as though this man had just taken a deep breath in like his life was returning to him. I have to tell you that this was one of the most terrifying moments in my life! I was so afraid. Now, I wasn’t afraid because the dead man was coming back to life, I was afraid that God had actually answered my prayer. There’s a difference. I was afraid that I was standing on holy ground. Well, long story short, he never did come back to life that day, but something else was revived – my prayer life! C.S. Lewis once said, “I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” Praying as the Spirit leads me makes me desire to be led by the Spirit more. It makes me more sensitive to the voice of God. And it builds my faith.
One of the most prolific authors on the subject of prayer is E.M. Bounds. In his book, Power Through Prayer, Bounds once said this,
What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.
And I would add women and children as well. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. Pray sincerely. Pray with faith. Pray with the power and authority that Jesus has and finally, pray in the Spirit.
Call to Respond
So let me close with this. Pastor Mike has a mantra that he often reminds the staff of, it goes like this, plan the work and work the plan. In the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney said that when it comes to praying,
sometimes the problem is primarily a lack of discipline: Prayer is never planned; time is never allotted just for praying. While lip service is given to the priority of prayer, in reality it always seems to get crowded out by things more urgent” (p83). “…too little time, too many responsibilities, too many kids, too much work, too little desire, too little experience, [or whatever] are not excuses that exempt us from the expectation to pray” (p82).
I believe that John Piper was right,
“…one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to” (Desiring God: Meditations of a Hedonist, p182).
It’s not that we lack the desire to pray; the disciples had the desire, they just didn’t have the discipline.
So here’s what I want to do, I want to challenge all of us to DEVOTE ourselves to prayer for a minimum of 30 Days.
Here are a few Prayer Plans to help get you started.