You know I hear more comments about how difficult it is to pray or how confusing it is that God sometimes seems to answer and other times doesn’t or how God doesn’t really hear us or how nothing really changes because of our prayers. So I figure we need some teaching about prayer – so this is the first a series of messages about prayer, a kind of introduction if you like.
First I need to lay my cards on the table and say that I believe prayer is vital if we are to be effective Christian’s, and it is the most important thing we do as Church. Period. If we are not or do not become a praying church on our knees we will never ever be the people or the Community of Faith God has called us to be.
So why pray?
I believe because the evidence shouts out at us from the Scriptures we need to pray. Jesus we are told by the Bible often withdrew and found quiet solitary places to be silent with His Father. For example if you have a Bible in front of you look at Mark 1:35 where Jesus prayed very early in the dark morning, Luke 6:12 where He withdrew and prayed through the night. Look up Luke 9:18 and you will see He prayed on His own in the company of the disciples, then move down to Luke 9:28 you will see Jesus called a prayer meeting with James, John and Peter.
If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray before He made decisions or even just before he faced the day, then surely we the followers of Jesus have to do the same?
If Jesus felt it important to meet with his friends to pray then we have to too.
Indeed in His teaching in Luke 11 we see quite clearly Jesus didn’t think we might pray, for His advice is not if you pray but when you pray. Put very bluntly, Jesus prayed, therefore we pray.
But we pray not just out of guilt but because God hears us and answers our prayers.
Again the scriptures make it clear that God answers the prayers of His people. Prayers for daily bread, protection, rescue, healing, deliverance, peace, gifts.
We pray because we are inline with the great heroes of our faith like Abraham who interceded so boldly for the people of Sodom in our reading. A passage that shows quite clearly that not only can we influence the actions of our God but that He desires that we have such a relationship with Him. When did we last plead like this for our Sodom – for this town, this City?
Jesus promises us in Luke 11 that those who ask will receive, those who seek will find and those who knock will find the door opened to them. Church we need to start living in the power of the faith which we proclaim so passionately in our singing. We need to start asking and interceding and praying like we actually believe that our God answers prayer.
But we don’t just receive we are changed in ourselves as we pray. In our time with God we are opened up to God’s Spirit and our views change, our priorities are altered, and we start to see that we can be answers to some of the prayers we offer.
In short prayer changes the pray-er.
When do we pray?
Well let us think about those passages we heard from the gospels earlier. I said we needed to be acting like Christ and those prayers we saw showed that Jesus prayed: early in the morning, before he made important decisions, on His own, with His friends in a prayer meeting, occasionally all night long.
And that in a sense is the first answer to the when do we pray question. We do as our Lord did. I see no evidence at all that some Christian’s are exempt from Jesus call to be a people of prayer. No-one is left out of the calling to be at prayer on our own in secret and in groups together. Yet at our meeting last week we had only 11 people, which was I think the best attendance we have had. The norm is for 3 or 4. Why do we think that prayer together is so unimportant?
Jesus tells us in Luke 18:1 and 21:36 to pray always, while Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 says ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’
So it seems to me like we should be praying when we are driving and walking and working. So really the answer to where is everywhere! But it’s just so hard isn’t it?
Well it is, but then again most things that are worthwhile in this life come only after we have worked at them, and there in lies the important word I think – work.
We need to work at our praying. We need to practice this spiritual discipline if we want to get better at it. If we only pray occasionally and never in front of anyone else then is it a surprise that we find it hard?
Just imagine how poor your vocabulary would be and how nervous you would constantly be if you only spoke for a few minutes each day and never ever in public.
Just because it is hard doesn’t mean we should give up. We do not only do things that are easy – especially in Church – no we do things that are right, and it is right that we work and practice praying.
We are never more like Christ than when we are at prayer is what I once heard a speaker say and you know Church I believe that is true. So let us all endeavour to pray more faithfully and with more faith. Come along to the prayer meeting the next time we meet. Talk about prayer with your friends and let’s build up our confidence. Let’s work at this for the rewards will be beyond our wildest dreams.
In Jesus name.