Our topic this week in the Believe series is prayer. The key Idea is
“I pray to God to know him, to find direction for my life and to lay my requests before him.”
If you’re reading the Believe book, you would have found passages of Scripture that relate to each of those aspects of prayer – knowing God, direction from God, and making our requests known.
Prayer is the privilege and responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ. It is one of the most important and powerful things a Christian will ever do. Yet, it is probably the most neglected and most misunderstood discipline of the Christian faith. Hopefully, we’ll bring a little clarity this morning.
This is not the normal “this is how or why we pray” sermon. So, get in the mindset right now that there will be some self-evaluation and with that, we want the Holy Spirit to speak to us individually and as a body.
I appreciate what NT Wright says -
“If we are serious at all about our Christian commitment, we will want to learn and grow in prayer.” ~ N.T. Wright.
He nailed it! Do me a favor – this is in your handout. Underline or circle the words that hit you the most. Now – what are you going to do with that? The Spirit is speaking already to some of us.
We must ask - how serious are we about our relationship and commitment to God (God in Trinity)? Our choice to engage in prayer will reveal our commitment and seriousness - or so I believe.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
God desires intimate oneness with His children. God desires to abide in us – to know us and we Him. The greatest human desire – to be known and loved. Listen - prayer is the key. Again, “If we are serious at all about our Christian commitment, we will want to learn and grow in prayer.”
I want to use a bicycle to help evaluate our engagement in prayer. You need to follow me so that when we get to the evaluation, it makes sense and you can listen to the Spirit better.
A bicycle has several components, but we’ll focus on ….
Now, a bicycle is designed for transportation - to get from one place to another. Prayer has a similar design – to get us or others from one place to another. However, a bike is useless without tires. Ever seen a person riding a bike without tires? Every serious or semi-serious cyclist knows the importance of proper tire pressure.
To get the max benefit from the tires, and the bike in general, the tires should be inflated equally and properly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The same is true of prayer -
To get the max benefit from prayer, and the Christian faith the tires should be inflated equally and properly according to God’s recommendations.
Let’s talk tires for a moment. Overinflated or underinflated tires can cause problems that hinder performance and can leave the rider frustrated, exhausted or in some cases stranded and immobile.
Underinflated tires create more surface tension which means it takes more energy to pedal – takes more energy to get where you’re going. This also creates more friction and heat which reduces the life of the tire – the tire will wear out faster.
Overinflated tires create less resistance to puncture, expands the tire beyond its design, and if we’re not careful, Kaboom! Both can cause damage to the rider and to others, make it difficult to manage the bike properly. Of course, properly inflated tires provide the best handling, a more pleasant ride, and the best chance of getting to one’s destination.
Riding bike is one of my favorite things to do, so tire pressure is important to me. I always check the tire pressure before I leave the house – this can be frustrating to people who don’t care about proper tire pressure. They’re like, “Come on. Just get on the bike. We don’t care about tire pressure.”
I believe too many Christians are like that when it comes to prayer - they have certain aspects of prayer that or either overinflated or underinflated and they don’t care. Now, what in the world am I talking about? What do tires have to do with prayer! Glad you asked.
If prayer is like a bike, then the two tires are a) doctrinal and b) relational.
A bike can’t go anywhere without the front and rear tire. Prayer can’t go anywhere without doctrine and relationship. Two have overinflated or underinflated doctrine or relationship creates problems which we already mentioned: less resistance, greater tension and friction, wear out faster, frustration, immobility etc. I provided some examples in your outline.
Let’s briefly look at the first tire, doctrine. When we talk about doctrine, we’re talking about the Biblical principles that form the foundation and boundaries of what we believe, how we behave, what we do and don’t do. For example – repetition or mantras in prayer ….
So this doctrinal tire is the foundation of prayer. Again, over or underinflated – problems.
1) Prayer is built upon the passion of Christ
Prayer is rooted in the truth that God is passionate about us. He loves us so much that He gave His son Jesus to die on a cross to do what? Pay for our sins and reconcile us to God (2 Cor 5). What is reconciliation? Enemies becoming friends. God desires all the above.
Our engagement in prayer must be rooted in this truth. SE – is my engagement in prayer rooted in the passion of Christ? Overinflated or underinflated? (overinflated might look like taking Christ’s death and love for granted)
2) Prayer is built upon the promises and attributes of God
There are hundreds and hundreds of promises we could look at, but this one more than any other should give us the great sense of confidence in prayer.
Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
SE – How much confidence do you have in approaching God in prayer through the blood of Christ? Overinflated or underinflated? What’s important here is that the Spirit is speaking.
“The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.” ~ A.W. Tozer
3) Prayer is built upon the purposes of God
If there is any air leaking from our tires, this is probably the one. What are the purposes of God? Redemption. Advancement of His Kingdom. God’s will. Personal transformation. Overcoming sin and darkness. Salvation of souls.
SE - Think about the content of prayers and put them in categories. What is the largest category? Who or what do we pray about the most? How much of our prayers are centered around God’s purposes? The vast majority of prayer requests are about health. Very rarely do I ever receive a prayer request for salvation, transformation, victory over sin ….
Read John 17 this week. Look up various prayers in the Bible. How many of them have to do with health or comfort or help things go my way?
Overinflated or underinflated?
4) Prayer is built upon the privilege given to children
John 1:12-13 – we have been given the right to be called children. Hebrews 4, the author talks about Jesus being our great high priest. He has opened the way for us -
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
God, our Father through Christ our priest has given us an open door policy to approach with boldness! Confidence.
Overinflated (pride) or underinflated?
1) Prayer begins with praise
Father in heaven, Hallowed … Come into His courts with praise … make all of our requests known to Him with thanksgiving (Phil. 4 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God)
Overinflated (mindless or generic thanks) or underinflated?
2) Prayer requires purity
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, sin hinders prayer. Wrong attitudes hinder prayer. If a husband is not loving his wife right – prayers are hindered. We must come to God in humility and purity of heart.
Key verse for the week
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
Overinflated or underinflated? Not care about sin … or
3) Prayer requires patience
We have to be patient for His presence. Think about how you engage the Lord in relationship and prayer. If you treated your friends the same way you treated Jesus … would you still have friends?
Know those people who are never around until they need something. All they want is something from you. Do we treat Jesus that way?
The relationship, and pray take patience. This past week … rushed in – slow down, enjoy ….
Patient for His answer.
Overinflated or underinflated?
4) Prayer is about persistence
Pray through -
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Overinflated or underinflated?
Pedals - freedom - engagement - for a bike to move, you have to pedal