1. A few weeks ago I attended a conference put on by "Strategic Renewal." While I was there I purchased a T-shirt with the slogan, "Make the Church Great Again." Perhaps one of the ways God will make the church great again is through the prayers of His people.
2. We know that God is anxious to hear our prayers (Jeremiah 33.3).
3. In fact, prayer is so important to God that Jesus gives us instruction on how to prayer in Matthew 6.1-14; Luke 11.1-4.
4. Matthew 6.5-8
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
5. Please notice:
I. The Assumption of Prayer
A. WHEN you Pray, NOT IF you Pray
B. Like Giving and Fasting -- When, not IF
1. Everyone gave -- "Righteousness" -- Matthew 6.33 (seek kingdom and RIGHTEOUSNESS of God)
2. Everyone fasted at Yom Kippur and special occasions; Pharisees -- twice/week
II. The Instructions of Prayer
A. The Negatives of Prayer:
1. Not for the Attention of Men --Putting on a Show (6.5)
a. Prayer is Private
b. Prayer is also Public
c. Both have the same ends in mind
2. Not to Out of Superstition (6.7)
a. Empty Phrases/words
Mark Twain attended a Sunday morning church service one time. He met the preacher at the door afterward and told him that he had a book at home with every word he had preached that morning. The minister assured him that the sermon was an original. Twain still held his position. The preacher wanted to see this book so Twain said he would send it over in the morning. When the preacher unwrapped it he found a dictionary and in the flyleaf was written this: "Words, just words, just words." Preaching or prayer can be just words. There must be meaning and intent.
b. Sociologists -- "The more comfortable we are with someone, the less we need to speak."
B. The Positive of Prayer -- The Prayer Closet
1. War Room -- Private Prayer closet
The word for closet, tamion, in the Greek, appears four times. It can mean "inner rooms" (Luke 12.3, NASB) or "storeroom" (Luke 12.24, KJV, NASB, NIV). It is clear that a private chamber for solitary prayer is not the necessary meaning. This is especially difficult with the "you" being plural in this passage. It would appear that this would indicate a room large enough for corporate meetings.
In old places of royalty -- King's Closet was a meeting room.
2. Corporate Prayer Closet -- The obvious historical application is seen in Acts 1.12-2.1 where the disciples are seen in an upper room, out of the public eye, in extended group prayer. Additional instances: Acts 4.23-31; 12.12-17; 13.1-3
1. We cannot underestimate the importance of prayer -- Acts 6.4
2. "Prayer cannot be retired as a secondary force in this world. To do so is to retire God from the movement. It is to make God secondary. The prayer ministry is an all-engaging force. It must be so to be a force at all. The estimate and place of prayer is the estimate and place of God. To give prayer the secondary place is to make God secondary in life's affairs. To substitute other forces of prayer retires God and materializes the whole movement.
"It is better to let the work go by default than to let prayer go by neglect. Whatever affects the intensity of our praying affects the value of our work. 'Too busy to pray' is not only the keynote to backsliding, but it mars even the work done. Nothing is done well without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account. It is so easy to be seduced by the good to neglect the best, until both the good and the best perish. How easy to neglect prayer or abbreviate our praying simply by the plea that we have church work on our hands. Satan has effectively disarmed us when he can keep us too busy doing things to stop and pray."
~ E.M. Bounds