Summary: Prayer is easy to neglect due to pressing cares and responsibilities of life. However, prayer is our lifeline to heaven for the resources to effectively discharge those responsibilities and live in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Richard Tow 11.15.15
My assignment this morning is to encourage you toward prayer.
In 1 Thess.5:17 Paul told the church to “Pray without ceasing.” Don’t stop praying. Keep on praying. The easiest thing in the world to neglect is prayer. Daily cares and responsibilities of life can crowd it out of our routine so easily. Yet that is what keeps us going as Christians. It’s really the most important thing we can do. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer….”i
Most churches in America could scarcely be called a house of prayer. At best they might be a teaching center or a social center. Some are nothing more than an entertainment center. But the real deal, according to Jesus, is a house of prayer. That’s what was happening on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church. It was prayer that sustained the early Church through persecutions and prayer that empowered them to evangelize the world. When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple he said, “It is written,” quoting Isaiah 56:7 “’My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" You have made it into something it was not supposed to be. We must be very careful that we’re not making God’s house into something other than a house of prayer. Prayer is to be the heartbeat of the Church. And where there is little or no prayer, God’s purposes cannot be fulfilled.
I want to encourage you toward prayer in two ways. First, I want to talk about what happens when prayer is neglected. Then we will explore what happens when we do pray.
I. Alternative to prayer is not good.
In Mark 14 the disciples are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They are facing the ordeal of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Mark 14:33-42, speaking of Jesus, “And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch." 35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." 37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39 Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. 40 And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.41 Then He came the third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."
Of course, we know the rest of the story. When the pressure got on, the disciples were not prepared for the challenge; and they all collapsed. Peter had boasted that he would never deny the Lord; but that’s exactly what he did. All the disciples forsook the Lord. Here, in this passage, we have insight as to why they failed. In verse 38 Jesus told them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation….” You have to pray now in order to be equipped for what is coming tomorrow. You can’t neglect prayer now and then think you can play catch up in the crisis.
Prayer clothes us for the battle. The last message I preached here was from Ephesians 6 concerning the armor of God. That text began in verse 13 with this exhortation. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day….” The passage is about preparation for an inevitable battle. The soldier cannot be putting on his armor while the arrows are flying all around him. He needs to be already suited up if he is going to win. Of course, anybody will pray once a flaming arrow hits right beside you. But Ephesians is talking about a lifestyle of prayer that keeps us equipped so that the evil day doesn’t blindside us. Eph. 6:18 “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, be watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication….” Paul’s message is similar to the one Jesus gave in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation….”