Summary: Why do anything- why pray, why don’t we pray?
‘Prayer: why?’ (James 5:13-20) Brunel Runnymede, 13/11/02
1. Why do anything?
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
“It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm – this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the “why” arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement…There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer [the questions of suicide].”
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11, KJV).
• “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
• “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
• “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
• “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
Why do anything? Do it if it pleases God; don’t if it doesn’t as “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
2. Why pray?
A. God commands us to: “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17); “always pray and [don’t] give up” (Luke 18:1).
B. It is good for us…
o When in trouble (13)
o When sick (14)
o When in a sinful state (15,16)
C. It is powerful and effective, if we are righteous like Elijah (16-18, but note 2 Cor.5:21)
D. It leads to and accompanies action, which usually involves helping others (19,20; cf. Nehemiah 1&2)
E. It helps us avoid temptation (Matthew 26:41), the implication being that without prayer we will fall!
3. Why don’t we pray? [Passages may be studied further in small groups another time.]
B. Distractions and busyness (Martha, see Luke 10:38-42)
C. Unbelief and mistrust (Does God have our best interests at heart? Psalm 37:4-6 and 84:11)
D. Unconfessed sin (Psalm 32)
E. We would rather talk to someone else (God does not tend to instantly text message us back!)
• Prayer is a mystery, because we are presuming to ask things of a perfect God who already knows the best thing to do (Matthew 6:8).
• Prayer is a relationship and an act of love in which we talk to “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9) and recognise His authority, guidance and- most of all- loving provision in our lives.
• Prayer is a necessity (even Jesus prayed all night!) for the spirit as breathing is for the body. To not pray is to spiritually asphyxiate (Romans 3:10-18). To pray is to acknowledge God (Matthew 6:10), to declare Him not to be a liar (1 John 1:10), to express faith in Him, to admit our need of a forgiving Saviour and so to live (Romans 10:9; Hebrews 11:6). The most important prayer is the prayer of repentance and faith (Matthew 6:12) at the foot of the Cross of Christ, and that prayer we should return to each day for the rest of our lives (John 13:10).
Questions for further study
• What other reasons can you think of as to why we don’t pray (cf. Parable of the Sower)?
• What will overcome our reluctance to pray deeply and often (Psalm 73:25 and119:9-16, 67,71)?
• How can we keep one another accountable about our prayer lives (2 Thess. 1:3)?
• Are there any practical tools we can use to stimulate our prayer lives further (prayer diaries, etc.)?
• Is it possible to rely too heavily on either praying alone or praying with others (both have subtle dangers)?
• Is it possible to pray too much for yourself or too much for others (as above!)?
• Do we praise God enough in our prayers and acknowledge His rightful place, or are we shopaholic pray-ers?!
• Meditate upon the Lord’s prayer and ask yourself whether the emphasis of most of your prayers is the same as its emphasis. Finish by expanding and praying through its clauses with real life examples.