Summary: Too often we let things keep us from one of the most important things - prayer - and we need to make prayer a priority.
I was looking at a past issue of Pray Magazine, a great magazine that is about, in the editors’ words, “encouraging a passion for Christ through prayer.” As I perused some of the articles I had a spiritual revelation. God told me that I wasn’t putting prayer as a priority. I didn’t want to hear that. In fact, I didn’t want to believe because I pray. I enjoy praying. I lead others in prayer.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth – I have let prayer become more of an “oughta” than a “gotta.” I’ve let prayer become something I feel I ought to do, like it’s an obligation, and not something I’ve got to do, a priority...with a great sense of urgency.
In other words, I’ve let prayer take a back seat to such things in my life as worry, busyness, work and even such unsavory things as gossip, temptation and anger.
And here’s another part of God’s revelation to me – I’m not alone! It’s an epidemic, this putting a low priority on prayer! It’s hitting our churches like this year’s version of the flu! And it’s making the church sick!
The truth is that most of us have made prayer more like a new year’s resolution than a priority.
It’s kind of like making a promise with our fingers crossed – “This year I will spend an hour day in prayer and make prayer a part of everything I do.” Uh-huh. How’s that promise going so far?
I’m not going to go the way you may expect this morning. I’m not going to do a sermon on how to pray.
I’ve seen you pray and I’ve heard your prayers, so I think we know how to pray.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s important that we know how to pray. Maybe we just need a quick reminder of it’s important. Not a sermon just a quick review.
Here’s what I think – If prayer is meant to be a priority, and it is, then the most important request the apostles made of Jesus was, “Teach us to pray.”
He told them it was personal – it was between them and God and was key to having a personal relationship with Him.
He told them to pray from the heart, not by rote – it’s not about the words but more often about the spaces between the words.
Then he gave them the model prayer (recite the Lord’s Prayer).
- prayer is about recognizing who God is; this is worship, praise and thanksgiving.
- prayer is about recognizing God’s daily care of us; we can ask for and receive his provision.
- prayer is about recognizing our sinfulness and God’s grace; we can ask for and receive His
- prayer is about recognizing God’s guidance by the Holy Spirit who will counsel us, lead us, nudge
us and even guilt-trip us if necessary into going God’s way.
- prayer is about recognizing God’s protection; He will deliver us from evil and move us out of
Are you beginning to see the importance of prayer; are you getting a sense of what God revealed to me about it becoming a priority – a “gotta,” not an “oughta”?
Let me get further into preaching mode here.
Let me first share with you...
Three Things to Pray For
Here’s what I think: Being specific in prayer makes it easier to make prayer a priority.
The three things I’m proposing we pray for are Jesus-inspired from his very personal and powerful prayer in John 17, which you can read on your own. According to the NIV Bible, here are the headings for the portions of our Lord’s prayer and my own transliterations:
1. “Jesus Prays for Himself” = Pray for yourself. That’s not selfish, just common sense. How are you going to pray for others if your relationship with God is ragged and rusty, or if you have unmet needs and extra baggage? What do you need prayer for?
2. “Jesus Prays for His Disciples” = Pray for your church. Those first disciples were the congregation of the “First Church of Jesus Christ” and Jesus knew they would need God’s help if they were going to continue his work in the world. He said, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” He prayed that they be faithful, protected and sanctified (set apart for God’s purpose). That’s all stuff we can pray for our church, isn’t it? Think of the difference it would make. What does your church need prayer for?