Summary: This sermon is meant to give some training disciplines for the regimen of prayer
The Amazing Race: Prayer
The call of Jesus is to be a disciple. Disciple and the word discipline are closely associated. To make a commitment to be a disciple is to make a commitment to follow Jesus in the discipline of his life practices. When I say yes to Jesus, I am not just saying I believe in Jesus. I am making a commitment to practice the lifestyle of Jesus through the daily disciplines of Jesus. Of all the spiritual disciplines we talk about and do daily, the discipline I tend to struggle with the most is the discipline of prayer. I think a lot of people are in the same boat. It is easier for me to do something. Bible study is doing something, serving is doing something, giving is doing something, but there is something in me that finds this resistance to prayer. Even when I begin to practice prayer, I find distractions come readily, but the discipline of prayer is not an option.
Last week we talked about the word and this week we’re talking about prayer. The word and prayer are our primary weapons to deal with the demonic power of evil that strategically schemes and works against us. Many people today believe that evil doesn’t exist. Yet the Bible tells us the power that works against us, the power that we are battling against, that rips at the very fiber of our culture, isn’t an enemy of radical Islam or any human force. It is a dark, evil, unseen power that we are fighting against. Jesus said one of the reasons the word of God, the living word, has some difficulty taking deep root in our lives is that evil is ready to steal it away as soon as we hear the precious word of God. So this is a power that we cannot deal with in our own strength and resources.
In our Scripture today, Jesus encountered evil. It is amazing how evil is so blatant. Evil is a like an equal opportunity employer. Evil doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care who it reeks havoc on. Evil doesn’t discriminate. If evil is everywhere, why do we resist the discipline of prayer? There is a delusion of control that tells us we can fix everything on our own. Many of us possess this overconfidence in our own human abilities, our education, technological advances and even in our own wealth. This overconfidence gives us this false sense of self-dependence and that we are in control. Too often we depend on pop psychology, on self-help books, on getting a whole bunch of information. And this information tells us: I can do this on my own. I can beat this one. I can handle it. I can fix this one on my own. Realize that you can’t chain or tame evil. To defeat evil, we must possess a disciplined prayer life. I am not talking about just a casual nod to God during the dinnertime prayer. I am talking about a disciplined prayer life that is totally dependent on God because we can’t beat evil by ourselves. We are talking about a radical prayer life that helps us totally depend on God because we can’t defend evil on our own.
Transformation can only happen when I come to a point in my life where I realize I can’t, but God can. Evil doesn’t discriminate. But somehow in our daily schedules, we forget that discipline is not an option. Discipline is like playing golf. If I know I am going to play golf, then I have to go to the driving range and hit golf ball, after golf ball, after golf ball. If I am going to play serious baseball then I have to go to the batting cage. That is what I am talking about: disciplined training prayer. When we have that kind of prayer in our lives we are recognizing the ultimate power and authority of God.
The second step of the 12 steps in a recovery program is this, “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It is not information or sermons that are going to restore us to sanity. There is not a pill that we can take or education that will fulfill us. It is a power greater than us. You know what I mean when I say you can believe right and still get kicked in the butt by doing wrong. How many will admit that right now? You know what is right, and you even say you will never do it again. Yet how many of you keep doing it again? Evil is stronger than me, and knowing right and being able to quote scripture is not a defense against evil. Jesus is stronger than evil. Jesus is the ultimate authority and is God’s plan. What God did on the cross shows Jesus is the ultimate authority over all authorities. If you look at verse 12, evil has to beg Jesus for the privilege to go live with the pigs. When I, through disciplined prayer, grab on to Jesus as the ultimate authority every day in my life, it is evil that will go live with the pigs and not me. It is why we have to train ourselves in praying in Jesus’name. We have to train ourselves continually.