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Sermon Ephesians 6-18 - On Prayer

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ESV Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Let’s begin reading at Ephesians chapter 6 verse 10 and continue through verse 20.

In this chapter God communicates with Christians how to live a victorious Christian life.  We are not going to be studying spiritual armor tonight.  Rather we are going to be looking at the prominence of prayer in the process.  In this passage, prayer is not a seventh piece of armor and it is not simply something we do in addition to putting on our spiritual armor.  Prayer in this passage undergirds, it supports our victory.  Prayer is how we are to go about standing firm.  In fact, verses 18-19 qualify how we are to stand firm it qualifies Paul’s instruction for us to “stand therefore” in verse 14.

DISCUSS:   Read “Stand therefore” followed by verses 18-19

We see from this passage of Scripture that Prayer is vital to our success as Christians.  Yet how much time do we spend each day on average in prayer? 

How many of us spend several hours in prayer each day? 

How many of us spend only several minutes in prayer each day?

How many of us spend only several seconds in prayer each day?

Before we can dig deeper into what Paul is teaching us in this passage of Scripture, we need to first come to a better understanding of what Biblical prayer is.

Prayer is our response…

Prayer is our response to the character of God.

·         As we get to know God better, as we get to know who God is, we will naturally respond to Him.  This natural response to God is called prayer.  There are five aspects of our prayer that is related to the Character of God

·         PRAISE is our response to the person, the presence, the position, the power, the greatness, the majesty, and the love of God.

o   Psalm 145.3 instructs us that God is to be praised for His greatness.  God is worthy of all our praise.  “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

·         THANKSGIVING is our response to the goodness, to the graciousness of God.

o   Psalm 116 reminds us that our proper response to God for his providential love for us is thanksgiving. Verse 12 asks the question: “What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? And 17 provides the appropriate response: “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.”

·         CONFESSION is our proper response to the Holiness of God.  God is Holy and he calls those who would his to be Holy.  We are to approach the throne of God with confidence trusting in His promise that if we repent of and confess our sins we will be forgiven through our faith in Christ.

·         INTERCESSION is our proper response to the Love of God for all people, including those in His family.  We are commanded to Love God and to Love our neighbors as our selves.  If we love one another, we will pray for one another.  Intercessory prayer is our praying for others as a result of our understanding God’s love for other and for ourselves.

·         PETITION is our response to the power and the wisdom of God who is our heavenly father.  We should ask specifically and he will answer specifically. 

So our prayers should praise God for who he is, they should be filled with thanksgiving for His grace and mercy, our prayers should include confession of our sins in response to God’s holiness.  Our prayers should be filled with intercession for the needs of others, the greatest of which is salvation.  And finally our prayers are where we should petition our heavenly father specifically for our needs and desires as we seek to align our will, our desires with His.

Prayer is our response to the Will of God

God’s will is perfect.  This means that the will of God is not only the highest good it is also the greatest achievement and the best thing any person could hope for in their life.  And we should remember that the will of God is also the command of God.  When we pray our prayers should be fully focused on the will of God.  We should not pray seeking to bring God to our viewpoint.  Rather we should pray seeking to bring our desires and viewpoint into alignment with His perfect will.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew chapter 6, verse 10, he did not teach them to pray that their will would be done but rather that God’s will would be done.

Our failure to not only seek the will of God in our prayers but our praying to change the will of God reflects our spiritual immaturity.  If God’s will is perfect, why would we pray for anything other than his will to be done?  Jesus tells multiple times in the Gospel accounts that when our will and God’s will is the same, when our desires and his desires are the same, that God will grant us whatever we ask.

Prayer is our response to the invitations of God…

God’s Word contains many invitations to us.

·         God invites us in the 27th Psalm to have fellowship with him.

·         God invites us in 1 Peter chapter 5 to cast all our cares on him and in so doing enjoy the rest that only he can provide.

·         God invites us in Isaiah chapter 40 to find strength and wisdom in him.

·         God invites us in the 40th Psalm to claim the protection and help that only he can provide.

·         And God invites us in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 18 to bear one another’s burdens, to be intercessors for each other.

Let me summarize briefly.  So far we have learned that prayer is our response to the character of God, it includes praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession and petition. 

We have learned that prayer is our appropriate response to the will of God.

And we have learned that our prayers are the appropriate response to the invitations of God.

I am sure that these aspects of prayer discussed so far tonight are not new to many if not most of us.  We must now ask the question.  If we know these Biblical truths about prayer why are so many Christians ineffective in their prayer lives? 

There are eight common reasons why so many Christians are ineffective in their prayer lives.

1. We tend to let prayer be our last choice rather than our first choice.  Our first and immediate response to any and every situation we face should be prayer.  If we are truly going to “acknowledge Him in all our ways” and if we are truly “seeking first the Kingdom of God” then we should be seeking his counsel first and continuously.  How many of you have seen the bumper sticker that reads “God is my copilot?”  If God is your co-pilot, you need to change seats.  God should be our pilot.

2. The second reason our prayer lives tend to be ineffective is that we tend to focus on our requests and only glance at God.  To have power in our prayer lives we must focus on God and who he is and only glance at our requests.  EXPLAIN  use the golf analogy.  The appropriate focus of our prayers should be on God and our relationship with him, on seeking, on discovering his will, not on our requests.

3. The third reason our prayer lives tend to be ineffective is that so many of us tend to pray from crisis rather than conviction.  We should not wait until we are in crisis to pray.  In fact if we daily pray form conviction we will avoid many crises.  Conviction praying is prayer for a situation on the basis on the known will of God, before the situation occurs.  It means that instead of making decisions on our own and then crying out to God for help, we seek first the counsel of God and make our decisions according to his will.

4. The fourth reason our prayer lives tend to be ineffective is that so many of us do not pray in the Spirit.  Praying in the spirit means that true prayer is done under the guidance, wisdom and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  For it is the Holy Spirit of God alone by which a person is able to pray in the will of God.

5. The fifth reason our prayer lives tend to be ineffective is that so many of us do not fill our prayers with praise.  There is nothing for which we cannot and should not be praising God.  Let me say that again.  There is nothing for which we cannot and should not be praising God.  We should praise God in all things.  Every opportunity, every trouble, every burden can be presented to God in praise.  This means that regardless of the situation, we are to praise God because we know that He allows some situations and causes other situations in our lives for our welfare and so that he can draw us closer to Himself so that we can more fully discover Him.

6. The sixth reason that our prayer lives tend to be ineffective is that so many of us pray wholesale rather than retail.  We say things like “I love you lord or thank you for all things or forgive me my sins or bless me.”  This is wholesale prayer.  We should be praying retail.  We should be praying specifically for specific answers as we seek God’s perfect will.  How many people here have children or grandchildren?  Think for a minute, how many children make generic requests of their parents?  I know from experience I made specific requests of my parents.  And Holly makes specific requests of me.  She doesn’t ask her mom to “make something good for dinner.”  She makes a specific request, she asks her mom to make pizza for dinner.

7. The seventh reason so many of us are ineffective in our prayer is that we spend too much time talking and not enough time listening.  We must spend more time listening to God and less time talking.

8. The eighth and final reason so many of us are ineffective in our prayer lives is that we simply are not praying.  For prayer to be effective we must pray.

Now let’s return to our passage in Ephesians.  God is telling us through Paul that for us to be victorious in our Christian lives we must pray. 

·         We must pray at all times

·         We must pray in the Spirit

·         We must pray for each other

·         And, We must pray for boldness in proclaiming the Gospel

Prayer is the means by which we stand firm in our faith.

Prayer is:

·         our proper response to the character of God

·         our proper response to the will of God, and

·         prayer is our proper response to the invitations of God.

To be effective in our prayers:

·         We must make prayer our first choice and not our last resort

·         We must focus our Gaze on God and only glance at our requests

·         We must pray more from conviction and less from crisis

·         We must pray in the Spirit

·         We must fill our prayers with praise

·         We must pray retail rather than wholesale

·         And we must learn to listen to God.


 

Pray with me:

We praise you:

“Great are you o’God, Father we lift up our praise to you tonight. For your greatness and holiness is beyond our comprehension.

We thank you

Father, We thank you tonight for your grace and mercy; we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on a cross for our sin.  For it is through him and His willingness to be obedient to your will that salvation comes.  We thank you for washing us.  We thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit through whom comes the power to live a victorious Christian life.  Father we thank you for your gift of prayer by which we can communion with you.

We confess

Father we draw near to you with confidence trusting in your promises that we may receive grace and mercy in our times of need.  Father, forgive us for our continued self centeredness, forgive us for so often focusing on our will in our prayers rather than seeking your will. Father forgive us our lack of faithfulness, for our lack of fruitfulness.  Father forgive us for our pride and our failure to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those we meet.

We ask

Father, tonight we lift up those who are in need and those who are in pain.  Father we ask that your Spirit aid us in rejoicing in all situations.  Father, help us to more fully trust in your perfect will.  Father we ask that you strengthen us, that you make us bold in our witness, and Father we ask that you make us faithful in our service to you.  Father we ask that your will be done in all situations.

We petition

Father we ask that our outreach this Saturday will result in at least 10 people placing their trust for salvation in Jesus Christ.  Father, we ask that you convict those in our fellowship who are able help this Saturday but have failed to sign up.  Father we ask that you forgive them for their disobedience.  Father we ask that they sign up on their way out this evening.  Father we ask that those who may not be able physically serve in any other way, that they would pray for this outreach ministry this Saturday from 4 to 8 PM. Father strengthen us for your service and for your Glory.

We ask these things in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

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