Summary: Someone said, "The purpose of prayer is to draw us close to the heart of God so that our will, our deepest desires, will be those of God & not our own." (Powerpoints Available #410.)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints usedc with this message are available at no charge. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #410.)
ILL. Pres. Abraham Lincoln, in a National Proclamation of Prayer & Repentance in 1863 wrote, “We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, & multiplied & enriched & strengthened us; & have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom & virtue of our own.
"Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming & preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, & to pray for clemency & forgiveness.”
(The Presidential Prayer Team Website)
ILL. At another time he wrote, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, & all that is about me, seemed insufficient… One stormy night I tossed on my bed, unable to sleep as I thought of the terrible sufferings of our soldiers... I spent an hour in agonizing prayer.” (The Presidential Prayer Team Website)
ILL. Also, during that time Lincoln met with a group of Christian ministers for a prayer breakfast. Lincoln was a man of deep personal faith. At one point one of the ministers said, "Mr. President, let us pray that God is on our side."
Lincoln’s response showed far greater insight, "No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side." (Contributed by Sermon Central)
Someone said, "The purpose of prayer is to draw us close to the heart of God so that our will, our deepest desires, will be those of God & not our own."
Isn't that exactly the example Jesus gave us in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done"? (Luke 22:42)
A. Now, even as I'm concerned about people who misunderstand the purpose of prayer, I'm also concerned about those who do understand, but who seem to pray with no expectation of God honoring our prayers or acting on our behalf.
It's as if we're engaging in an empty ritual, sometimes with zeal, but with no expectation that anything will happen in response to our prayers.
If so, we're not the first to make that mistake. In Acts 12:1-19 we read about a group of Christians in the early Church who prayed fervently for the apostle Peter. Then when God acted to save Peter, they had a hard time believing that He had really answered their prayers.
Listen to what happened. Acts 12:1-5 tells us, “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
“When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by 4 squads of 4 soldiers each.
“Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”
King Herod was trying to win popularity with the Jews, so he arrested the apostle James & had him executed. That went over so well that he arrested the apostle Peter.
And to make sure that Peter did not escape, he was guarded by 16 soldiers, 4 squads whose watch rotated every 4 hours around the clock. At all times two guards were chained to Peter in his locked cell, & two others stood guard just outside his cell.
From all appearances it was a hopeless situation. The end was near for Peter, & these 16 guards would assure that Herod's bloodthirsty appetite would be satisfied.
I. PRAY EARNESTLY
Now, let's switch scenes for a moment & move from the locked cell holding Peter to the house of John Mark's mother where a group of Christians are praying for Peter.
If you remember, Vs. 5 says, "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him."
Now I want you to notice something. The Greek word that is translated "earnestly" is a medical term describing stretching of a muscle to its limits. And it is exactly the same word used when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Luke writes, "And being in anguish, He (that's Jesus) prayed more earnestly, & His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).