Summary: 2nd Sermon dealing with Prayer as a conversation with God.
"It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless." (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary Matthew 6:5-8)
Jesus made it clear, prayer was a ministry it was that which we were to do, not for our own vanity, not so that we would be glorified but instead so that God would be glorified. It is amazing to me that we pray this prayer every week in our worship service, we call it the Lord’s Prayer, and yet so many of us don’t understand this prayer. This was given to the disciples and to you and I, who are the disciples of this age, so that we would learn to pray. To show us how to be in conversation with our God, and so we would experience God’s grace in our lives, and be able to extend that grace to others. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." (Psalm 100:4)
The psalmist says we are to enter into the place of prayer with thanksgiving and praise, thanking God and praising Him for all that he has done in our lives. Of course, the instruction that Jesus has for his disciples here is that they are not to be like the religious leaders of his day, their prayer was to show proper deference to God, and was not to be done so as to glorify themselves. I have to wonder, what if we were to suddenly be attacked inside our walls here. What if masked men invaded our place, told us that if we were Christians we would be killed. How many of us would confess Christ? How many of us would be on our knees in prayer, and how many of us would leave without a whimper, glad to be alive. The first century church faced that possibility all the time. Their leaders were killed, and tortured all the time, yet the church grew, because they prayed, and because they were not ashamed of the gospel.
Looking back on that first century church we find that those folks knew one thing before all others except that Jesus was Lord. They knew that prayer was the answer, not a last ditch attempt to salvage something, it was the first thing they did. After Jesus ascended and they were back in the upper room waiting, they were found to be in one accord and in prayer. Acts 1:13-14 " And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." (English Standard Version). They decided that they needed to replace Judas Iscariot and so they cast lots, in prayer, and came up with his replacement: Acts 1:24 "And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen" (ESV). The lot fell to Matthias and he was placed in the stead of Judas as the 12th apostle.
What is most interesting to me is that we see that these apostles and disciples, were in one accord and in prayer. It was while they were in prayer, in one place together, the day of Pentecost came and the Spirit of God came upon them and the church was born on that day in the fire and the wind of the Spirit. The power of God comes upon His people when they pray, and it is in prayer that things happen. I would hazard a guess and say that without prayer, nothing will happen, because without prayer there is no communication with God, the one who hears and answers prayer.
E. M. Bounds writes in "The Possibilities of Prayer" : "THE ministry of prayer has been the peculiar distinction of all of God’s saints. This has been the secret of their power. The energy and the soul of their work has been the closet. The need of help outside of man being so great, man’s natural inability to always judge kindly, justly, and truly, and to act the Golden Rule, so prayer is enjoined by Christ to enable man to act in all these things according to the Divine will. By prayer, the ability is secured to feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do everything in harmony with the law of love." (Chapter 1, The Ministry of Prayer).