Summary: This message deals with the difference between “praying” verses just “saying prayers.” Faith is first and foremost a heart issue; but it is not complete until it is express in our actions.
We have been talking about prayer. To be a real New Testament church, prayer is essential and foundational. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer….”i This is the missing element in today’s church. People interact with people; but are they genuinely interacting with God? We cannot spend 95% of our time with other activities; then tack on a religious prayer for good measure—and call that New Testament Christianity. The engine that drives a New Testament church is prayer. Do you want to solve the mess we have in America? Begin in 2Chron.7:14 “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray….” Let me approach that statement this way. “If my people do all kinds of other things (they are friendly and pass out free bottles of water, they have a very talented band, they are socially responsible, they are good citizens, they vote and get involved in the political process)—but they don’t pray—it won’t work! It might build a local gathering of people for social interaction; but it won’t transform lives.
So why don’t Christians pray? Perhaps they tried it, but did not seem to get any results. They’re too polite to say that. But if you repeatedly do something and it repeatedly gets no results, at some point the brain says, “This is not working.” My elderly parents live in Texas. A few years ago I gave them a computer. I had to come back to Missouri when I took it to them, so I had very little time to show them how it works. They fumbled around with it for a few weeks; and then gave it away. The computer did not work for them, because they did not know how to use it. That’s why new computers come with an instruction manual.
For the last few weeks, we have been looking at the instruction manual for prayer. The Bible reveals some conditions that must be met for prayer to be effective. I won’t rehearse what has been said over the last six weeks. I will say that today’s message needs to be understood in connection with those previous messages. There are things we have already covered that I won’t even have time to mention this morning.
Today’s message is entitled “Praying in Faith.” Jesus often explained unanswered prayer as a problem of unbelief. In Matthew 17 the disciples had tried to cast a demon out of a boy. It didn’t work. Nothing happened in answer to their prayers. The father came to Jesus and asked Him to pray for the boy; and Jesus was delivered. The disciples could not understand why their prayers didn’t work. So they asked Jesus why their prayers were not answered. Jesus gave them the reason in verse 20. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” If we are to operate in effective prayer, we must deal with the issue of faith.
There were also times when Jesus connected answered prayer with the person’s faith. In Mark 5 the woman with the issue of blood was asking to be healed. Jesus said to her, verse 34, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction." He said similar words to Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52). In Matthew’s account Jesus said to the blind men, “According to your faith, let it be to you” (Matt. 9:29). Some people in the Word Movement thought every unanswered prayer was due to unbelief. That is not true; and a lot of people were hurt because of that error. On the other hand, faith is a major factor in getting prayer answered. So today we deal with that issue of prayer.
I want to share five propositions on the subject.
I. Faith is essential for effective prayer.
Without faith it is impossible to please God.ii Paul tells us in Rom. 14:23 “…whatever is not from faith is sin.”
I want to suggest that there is a difference between “saying prayers” and “praying.” Praying is real interaction with God. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24) The Amplified says in “reality.” The Pharisees were very good at “saying prayers.” Their motive was not right, and they were not actually communicating with God. They were simply going through the mechanics of a religious activity. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to avoid doing what they did. Matt 6:5-8 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.8 "Therefore do not be like them….”