Summary: What does the unchurched world hear when they hear us say "Prayer works" or "Prayer changes things". Is that enough of a clear message to actually mean anything to those who don't know what real prayer actually is?
Please open your Bibles to Revelation 7:9-12 which we will read in a few minutes.
This past weekend we saw two groups rioting against each other in Charlottesville, WV. Two groups from polar, political extremes. Each group intent on having their own voices heard, shouting each other down and finally turning to violence.
Will there be only whites or blacks around the throne of God?
Will there be only professors or policemen worshiping in eternity?
The book of Revelation answers these questions.
With that in mind let’s go ahead and read: Revelation 7:9-12
While the tragedy of Charlottesville and hate has been around since the time of Cain and Abel, are we as Christians in some way responsible?
Do we sometimes send half-truth messages with what we say or what we post online?
Often we will say things like, “Prayer works” or “Prayer changes things” we know that both of those statements are true and yet what does that mean to the unchurched person when they hear, “Prayer works” or “Prayer changes things?”
When we talk about prayer in this way we are talking about prayers being prayed by those who have come to Jesus for salvation and not prayer by those who are living lives in rebellion to Jesus Christ.
In this case we are talking about someone who is born again, someone who is a son or daughter of God, someone who is a believer in Christ Jesus, someone who is praying to the Father for a spiritual or material need.
But when we say “Prayer works” or “Prayer changes things” we need to ask …
Prayer to who? Prayer to Jesus? Prayer to the Buddha? Prayer to Allah? Prayer to some unknown deity? Prayer to a dead ancestor? Prayer to the universe?
When we just leave it at “Prayer works” or “Prayer changes things” it is left wide open for interpretation. What is the person who has no idea of Christian beliefs to think?
Can I pray to whomever I want and it will still work?
Can I pray to whomever I want and it will change things?
Naturally the Bible gives us many examples which we can use as guideposts in our prayer life.
Wherever we encounter prayer throughout the Bible from the very first to the very last verse it is always directed to God. The God of Heaven, the Creator of all and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 6:9 NIV
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name ,,.’”
We pray to God (the Holy Trinity) or God the Father. Those are the only examples we see in the Bible. Of course, if you start out your prayer with “Dear Jesus” I am sure that it is neither sinful nor disrespectful. I am sure the Lord can sort it out!
John 14:13-14 NIV
“I (Jesus) will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.”
Have you ever wondered why we end our prayers with “in Jesus’ name”?
Well, this is it.
When we say this we are not pronouncing a magical formula which will make the Lord do what we want.
When we add this on to the end of a prayer we are saying two things:
1. That we believe we are asking according to the Lord’s will
2. That we are asking according to authority of the name of Jesus.
A check completely filled out but with no signature has no value.
A prayer that is not according to the Lord’s will is invalid and will not be endorsed.
As we grow in Christian maturity we know more of Christ we will ask less and less for things which are outside the will of the Lord.
That is why we pray “in Jesus’ name.”
Now, of course, if you end your prayer with, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” that is fine as well. When we pray in the name of One we pray in the name of the Three in One.
Let’s review; we pray to the Father, in the authority of the Son Jesus Christ and, finally, by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 6:18 NIV
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
When we pray in the Spirit:
The Holy Spirit calls us to prayer
The Holy Spirit guides our prayers
The Holy Spirit translates our prayers (I especially love this one!)
Romans 8:26 NKJV
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”