Summary: Statistics show that almost everyone prays. But do you ever wonder if your prayers really reach Gods ears? Do you sometimes feel like you’ve got a bad connection? If you have questions about prayer, you're not alone. This sermon series will help.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 9/16/2012
There was a pastor who had a pet parrot. All the parrot would say was, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.” The pastor tried to teach him to say other things but to no avail. He learned that one of his deacons had a parrot. The parrot would only say, “Let’s pray, let’s pray.” So the pastor decided to invite the deacon and his parrot over to his house. When the deacon arrived they put the parrots into the same cage to see what would happen. The pastor’s parrot says, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.” And suddenly the deacon’s parrot shouts, “Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.”
Prayer works, doesn’t it?
Politicians come and go, fashions evolve and the culture shifts with alarming frequency. One thing remains constant in this country, though.
Americans pray. A lot.
According to a study released in 2008 by Brandeis University, ninety percent of us have a spiritual interlude with God every day. Half pray several times a day, in fact. Another study found that even among atheists and agnostics, nearly one in five still pray daily. Isn’t that interesting?
With all these millions of prayers going up on a daily basis, have you ever wondered how it works, what God says about it, and how you can know for sure that your prayers are heard? If you’ve got questions about prayer, you’re in the right place. And, you’re not alone. The Bible tells us flat out: “we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how to pray as we should…” (Romans 8:26 TLB). Even Jesus’ closest followers had to ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). But if you’ve got questions, the Bible’s got answers.
Last week, we talked about what to do when it feels like God isn’t listening. Hannah’s example taught us to pray persistently and passionately and to take comfort in the promises of Scripture—especially in the promise that all things work together for the good of those who love God.
But what else—other than helping me get through a bad day—is prayer good for? What should we be praying for? And how should we be praying? The Apostle Paul helps answer some of those questions in his letter to the church in Ephesus. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives us some keys to a meaningful and effective prayer life. The first key has to do with the people for whom Paul prays.
• THE PEOPLE
The first thing I want to draw your attention to in Ephesians 1 is the simple fact that Paul prayed for people other than himself! Here’s what Paul says: “Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15 NIV).
When I started preparing this message and I came across that verse, I was more than a little convicted. I don’t know about you, but the majority of my prayers are all about me: “Lord, help me. Lord, forgive me. Lord, give me. Lord, why me?” We have a tendency to think about ourselves and our own problems, far more than we do other people. But Paul wasn’t like that.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was sitting in a Roman prison. His circumstances were incredibly difficult. He had no money, no freedom, and was facing the possibility of execution, but he was still thinking and praying about other people. Like I said last week, as long as we are still breathing air, we will have good days and bad days. You may lose your keys in the morning, forget all about your 1:00 meeting, get caught speeding on your way home, but we mustn’t get so caught up in our own trials and troubles that we forget to pray about other people.
There will always be other people who need our prayers. We ought to be like little eight-year-old Diane, who prayed: “Dear God; I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is only six months old and he can’t do anything but sleep and wet his diapers.”
The other day I visited a young man, Nathan, in jail. Nathan’s a good kid. He just made a bad decision that landed him big trouble. But as he sat on the other side of a glass window, wearing an orange jumpsuit with the phone held to his ear so we could talk, Nate asked me how Dale Tosh was recovering from his stroke and if he could walk yet. Even while sitting in jail, he was thinking about other people.
Let’s resolve to be more like that. Life will surely throw some unpleasant circumstances toward us, but let’s resolve to pray for other people even in the midst of our own struggles. The second key Paul gives us is the purpose of prayer.