Summary: T/F QUESTION: True or False… God wants us to pray about something over and over and over again.
NOT-GIVING-UP KIND OF PRAYER
Starting a sermon with facts and figures is always fun for some of us, so let’s do that today! Get ready to be astounded and amazed at the numbers and what they show us. Barna research says slightly more than four out of five adults in the U.S. (84%) claim they had prayed in the past week. That has been the case since Barna began tracking the frequency of prayer in 1993. A Newsweek poll titled "Is God Listening?" indicated that, of those who pray, 87% believed that God answers their prayers at least some of the time. Even so, unanswered prayers did not deter them from praying. 85% insisted that they could accept God's failure to grant their prayers. Only 13% declared they have lost faith because their prayers went unanswered. 54% say that when God doesn't answer their prayers, it means it wasn't God's will to answer.
The things people pray for include health, safety, jobs, and even success, valid or not. 82% said they ask for health or success for a child or family member when they pray. 82% believed that God does not play favorites in answering prayers. 79% said God answers prayer for healing someone with an incurable disease. 75% asked for strength to overcome personal weakness. 73% answered that prayers for help in finding a job are answered. On the lighter side, 51% agreed that God doesn't answer prayers to win sporting events. 36% have never prayed for financial or career success.
Those numbers tell us that people pray. The articles tell us that people report that they pray. Today we will be looking at a passage that encourages us to have persistence in prayer.
BACKGROUND AND INFORMATION
Before we jump headlong into our passage today, we sort of need a little bit of background. We need some background in 2 different areas.
First, what is prayer? John Piper, a well known minister in the United States, when preaching on Colossians 4:2-4 defines prayer as, “Mainly it means asking God for things. By "things" I don't mean objects - stuff. I mean, generally, whatever your heart desires or needs. And, of course, what your heart needs most is God - to know him and trust him and love him and obey him. I know that we should come to God with more than asking. We should come confessing sins and giving thanks and praise. In a broad sense, prayer includes all that. But, speaking precisely, prayer is requesting, asking… But prayer, in the strict sense, means requesting. So I define it as asking God for things… the essence of prayer is the expression of our dependence on God through requests.” (http://pipersnotes.com/piper2k/1-9-00.htm)
I like that definition of prayer. Prayer is the expression of our dependence on God through requests. It can mean praise. It can mean confession. It can mean all those things, but let’s face it, the purpose of any prayer is to praise God, but at the same time we also need from Him. He is the Almighty God! He is the One who Forgives. He is our Provider! So now we know what prayer is and we are all on the same page this morning when we speak about prayer: Prayer is the expression of our dependence on God through requests.
As a side note, I wonder often what the prayer life of people I talk to is like. Most of the time our prayer life probably swings in one direction or the other… you are in one category or the other. The first category is those folks who pray when times are bad. Some of us are great at expressing frustration or criticism and when life is not going our way, we cry out to God to fix it and heal it and make it all better. Sometimes we pray only when it is the absolute last thing we can possibly think of… when we are at our worst and at the end of our rope… then we pray and ask God for help.
The other category is those folks who are great at expressing gratitude and pray when times are good. We pray and we thank God for all that He has done and for blessing us. Yet, when life “goes to pot” or is crashing down around us, we don’t know how to pray to God because we aren’t all that thankful for the things going on. We feel angry and it feels irreverent to speak to God like that.
Let me clue you in to a little secret. A true life of prayer has one foot in each of these categories and exemplifies 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which says, “pray continually.” A true life of prayer is one that builds up our faith and gives us a rich relationship with God as Jude 1:20 commands us, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” A true life of prayer is a constant conversation with our Heavenly Father no matter the situation and no matter how we are feeling. That is why in my own prayer life I try and talk to God all throughout my day… when I am in the car, walking on the treadmill or working out in the gym, or when I get super frustrated. I do my best to stay in the loop with my Heavenly Father. I am not always successful, but I try. What is your prayer life like?