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Essentials of Prayer

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The Essentials of Prayer

Selected Scriptures

Wednesday Evening 8/23/06

Introductory Verses

Colossians 4:2 states, Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;

And

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, pray without ceasing;

Introduction

These Scriptures I just read, and many others like them, point to the importance of prayer in the lives of Believers. So tonight I would like to do a brief overview of the essentials of prayer. Prayer is a difficult topic to speak on because it is so convicting when you begin to look at what Scripture says about it, you know that your practice rarely measures up to your preaching. And that is certainly the case with me.

Nevertheless, we must teach, study and understand what the Bible teaches about prayer because it is the one spiritual exercise that under girds all Christian experience and ministry. The importance of prayer can not be over emphasized, and yet, it is probably the most neglected ministry in the Church both personally and corporately.

Writing on the necessity of prayer, John Calvin said this, “Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely, with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon His name. By so doing we invoke the presence both of His providence, through which He watches over and guards our affairs, and of His power, through which He sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of His goodness, through which He receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace; and, in short, its by prayer that we call Him to reveal Himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences.

Calvin’s comment highlights the grave importance of our understanding and practicing the essential spiritual discipline of prayer. Prayer is the hand by which believers reach out to take hold of the gifts, promises, power, and provision of our God. As we briefly consider this important subject this evening we will consider 4 things as time allows. We will look at:

The Reasons for Prayer; The Requirements of Prayer; The Rudiments of Prayer; A Restraint to Prayer.

First then, let’s consider The Reasons for Prayer. Why should we pray?

The Reasons for Prayer

There are more, but I want us to consider 5 reasons the Scriptures give us to pray. The first is:

It is the Example of Christ

Here are several of the references in Scripture where we see our Lord exhibiting the practice of prayer. We don’t have time to look at all of these but note the number of references. Matthew 14:23, 21:13, 26:36 & 39; Mark 1:35, 6:46; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 11:1, 22:44. And these don’t even include the Gospel of John. For the sake of time we will just note one of these references.

Luke 5:16 But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

(Expound – If Christ needed to often slip away to pray, how much more us). So, the first reason to pray is that it is the Example of Christ. Second note that:

It is the Exhortation of Scripture

We see this Exhortation expressed both positively and negatively. That is, we are both commanded to pray, and we are told it is a sin not to pray. Note these passages:

Luke 21:36 “But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

1 Samuel 12:23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.

(Expound – So Scripture exhorts us, commands us to pray). Next then note that:

Prayer Exhibits God’s Glory

Note: John 14:13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

(Expound – when we pray and God answers, it puts God on display and magnifies His name). Also, note that:

Prayer Enlists Us in God’s Plans & Purposes

Note: Matthew 6:9-10 9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

(Expound – Prayer should be aimed at bringing God’s will to pass, not ours. Illustration – little boy praying for a bicycle). Finally, note that:

Prayer is an Effective Activity

Note: James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

1 John 5:15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

(Expound – God answers prayer. Pragmatically speaking, prayer works. I don’t have to understand that or be able to fully explain that, all I have to do is believe and practice it). So we have seen 5 good reasons to pray. Example of Christ; Exhorted by Scripture; Exhibits God’s Glory; Enlists us in God’s Plans & Purposes; and it is an Effective Activity. Next then we want to briefly note:

The Requirements for Prayer

Under this heading we want to consider two main points: The Principles of Answered Prayer; and The Problems Resulting in Unanswered Prayer. First note:

The Principles of Answered Prayer

Ask in God’s Will

Romans 8:26-27 26 And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

 

Ask in Christ’s Name

John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Ask in Faith

Matthew 21:22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”

Ask with Earnestness

Luke 11:5-10 5 And He said to them, “Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.

Ask in Awareness – we need to pay attention to what is going on around us.

Matthew 26:41 Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Ask with a Clean Heart

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

This last item points us logically and directly to our second point:

The Problems Resulting in Unanswered Prayer

Overall—Sin. Psalm 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

Specifically

·       Self-centeredness (James 4:3)

·       Indifference (Proverbs 21:13)

·       An Unforgiving Spirit (Mark 11:25)

·       Marital Troubles (1 Peter 3:7)

·       Doubt (James 1:5-7)

This brings us then to our third point:

The Rudiments of Prayer

What I am referring to here are the elements or content of our prayers. Let me suggest 3 things that the Scriptures indicate ought to be included in our praying. First:

Confession

Daniel 9:3-6 3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. 6 “Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(Expound – we need to confess our sins—clear the pathway so to speak). The second element of prayer I would suggest is:

Praise

Psalm 50:23 Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.”

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

(Expound – reciting the attributes of God is a good way to praise Him and of course thanking Him is a form of praise). The final element I would suggest to you is:

Petition

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

(Expound – there is nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs as long as it is done with a right heart and motive).

The final point I would like us to consider this evening is:

 

A Restraint to Prayer

In this matter I am not interested in discussing the hindrances to prayer that we all battle like sin, laziness, business, lack of commitment, etc.. What I want us to consider is a restraint to praying when our hearts are right and we want to pray earnestly and still we fail to pray as we should. So why do we fail to pray even when our hearts are right and we are properly motivated? I think the answer is boredom! (Expound – we pray the same things over and over until we get to the point that we feel like our praying is just vain repetition).

 

Let me suggest a cure for this problem—pray Scripture. (Expound and give an example using a few verses from Proverbs 21).

Proverbs 21:1-9 1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. 2 Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts. 3 To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the Lord rather than sacrifice. 4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, The lamp of the wicked, is sin. 5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. 6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. 7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away, Because they refuse to act with justice. 8 The way of a guilty man is crooked, But as for the pure, his conduct is upright. 9 It is better to live in a corner of a roof, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

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