Summary: The sermon lays the foundation for a fuller devotion to the praying for the church and believer.

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Getting Serious About Prayer

Jeremiah 33:3

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, Mo

Do you believe in prayer? Really believe in prayer. This is how one lady came to believe. This supposedly true story started this way:

One summer Saturday morning, a preacher had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and then was afraid to come down. He coaxed, offered warm milk, and anything he could think of. The kitty would not come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb, so the pastor decided to pull the branch down so he could reach the kitten.

He couldn’t pull it by hand so he threw a rope over a high branch of the tree and tied a rope to his car. He slowly drove the car away from the tree. He watched his progress carefully, waiting for just the right time when the tree would be bent over far enough that he could reach the cat or it would jump on its own. He drove farther and farther away. The tree bent further and further toward the ground.

Then it happened. The unexpected! Boooiiinning!! The rope broke; the tree flipped back in the opposite direction and one little kitten went sailing out of sight. Not being a “cat person” that would where the story would end if it had been me. The pastor felt terrible. He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they’d seen a little kitten. No. Nobody had seen either a stray cat or flying kitten. Finally, he gave up and put it out of his mind.

Monday morning, the preacher was at the grocery store and met one of his church members. He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food. Now this woman made no secret of her dislike for cats. So cat food was the last thing he expected to see her buying. “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?” She replied, “You won’t believe this . . .” and then she proceeded to tell her story.

Her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing. Then a few days before, the child had begged again, so the mom finally told her little girl, “Well, if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.” She told her minister, “That was last Saturday. I watched my little girl go out in the yard, get on her knees and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, I wouldn’t have believed this if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Just as she finished praying, a kitten suddenly came flying out of the sky, paws spread out, meowing to high heavens. It landed on all fours right in front of her. That’s why I am buying cat food!”

Do you believe in prayer? Do we believe in prayer? I know the answer is yes. But I also suspect that the practice of our faith regarding prayer can be a lot more than it is. This is the purpose of our evening studies together. I want us individually and collectively to be the kind of praying people and praying church that are more surprised when God doesn’t answer our prayers than we are when he does.

My core conviction is this: many things are important to the victorious Christian life. A few are absolutely essential. One of those items that we dare neglect is prayer. S. D. Gordon was right when he wrote, “The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer, nor those who believe in prayer, nor yet those who can explain about prayer, but I mean those people who take time to pray.”

Consider our text: Jeremiah lived about 600 years before Jesus. Jerusalem had fallen. Exiles had been taken away to Babylon. Jeremiah’s task was to keep calling the nation to repent and trust God despite the discouragement. His call to repentance was met by resistance. Others said he ought to be more positive. God will deliver us; we are his people, the false prophets said. Jeremiah kept saying, no he won’t unless you turn to him. They advised their leaders to make political alliances and military deals in order to solve their own problems. Jeremiah kept saying, their strength was in God not chariots and they needed to get serious about seeking the Lord and his will. He was imprisoned, ridiculed, harassed, and finally tossed in the mud of a cistern and left to die. This particular chapter is part of a promise that God would one day restore and renew the nation, despite how dark things looked right now.

A few chapters earlier is one of the most beautiful passages in all of Jeremiah. It reveals much about the heart of the God to whom we pray. Let’s read it against the background of our text: (Jer 29:4-13 NIV) This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: {5} "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. {6} Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. {7} Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." {8} Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. {9} They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD. {10} This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. {11} For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. {12} Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. {13} You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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