Summary: “Prayer is not a means of coercing God to do what we want. It is a process of recognizing His power and plan for our lives.
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, May 15, 2011
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
“Praying … Not Preying!” [Part Two]
In the entire arsenal of spiritual weapons available to the believer, prayer is one of the most powerful; exceeded only by that of praise. Perhaps you’ve never thought of prayer as a spiritual weapon, but in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he speaks of our need to put on “the full armor of God” [Ephesians 6:10-18]. And this is because we find ourselves embroiled in a spiritual battle; a battle over the hearts and minds of our fellow man. It is Paul’s contention that: “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this present darkness” [Ephesians 6:12].
The word “prayer,” and its various derivatives, appears some 544 times in the Bible. It may surprise you to know that the Bible has more to say about Jesus’ prayer life than either His healing or preaching ministry! Repeatedly, the Bible speaks of Jesus going off by Himself to pray to His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:36; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:29 et. al.). For although Jesus is the Son of God, He found it imperative to pray, and to pray often.
Yes, “prayer is one of our greatest blessings, but it is also one of our biggest struggles” according to the Reverend Richard L. Pratt in his book titled, Pray With Your Eyes Open. Sadly, prayer has become burdensome to many, awkward to most and seemingly passe to a large majority of Christians. We proclaim our love of God and (we) express our desire to obey Him. Yet we spend so little time with Him. If we yearn to have a meaningful relationship with God, we must spend time with Him. And spending time with God means talking to Him, conversing with Him … praying to Him. But most importantly, we need to afford time for God to speak to us!
As one Reformed pastor declared: “Show me a church where the people are on their knees praying and I’ll show you a church where God is at work.” With this in mind let us examine our prayer life, both individually and corporately, so that we may come away with a better understanding as to why we should pray, how we should pray, and what we should pray for.
In this morning’s passage there are, I believe, three questions we must ask ourselves: first of all, WHEN WE PRAY, WHO SHOULD WE PRAY FOR? Secondly, WHEN WE PRAY, HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? Third and finally, WHEN WE PRAY, WHAT SHOULD BE THE RESULTS? Put simply, it is the WHO, WHAT, and HOW as it applies to our prayer life.
And the first question we need to ponder is this: WHEN WE PRAY, WHO SHOULD WE PRAY FOR? (repeat).
When we pray the main impetus should always revolve around the motive(s) of our heart. At some point in time we’ve all asked ourselves: “Is it wrong or is it selfish of me to pray for myself?” Or, put another way, “Are my prayers more pious and noble when I am praying for others?”
In verse 5 Paul reminds his listeners to: “Let your forebearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” This phrase, “The Lord is near”, has two implications. Paul may well have been referring to Christ’s imminent return, which many first century Christians believed that the Lord would return during their lifetime.
However, the apostle might also have meant that the Lord draws near to us when we come to Him in prayer. I say this because throughout the pages of Scripture we are repeatedly assured of God’s promise where He says: “Draw near to Me so that I may draw near to you” [Zechariah 1:3, Malachi 3:7, James 4:8]. In a word, God is near and dear to those who seek Him! The psalmist, David, in Psalm 34, speaks of God longing to hear from His children!
So, is it wrong for us to pray to God about ourselves? The answer is “No!” God wants to know the desires of our heart. We should be mindful that God is already acutely aware of our desires, but He wants us to ask Him. And if we ask with proper motives God’s answer will always be: “Yes,” “No,” or “Later”; never “Maybe!” And the more precise we are in our petitions, the more precise God will be with His answers! We may not always like His answer, but we can be certain that He will always uphold our best interests.
As for praying on behalf of others, it is also important to address our motives. In verse 2 Paul urges these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to resolve their differences amicably so as not to cause further strife among the brethren. Keep in mind these were two godly women who were also quite influential. They may even have played an integral part in establishing this church at Philippi alongside the woman named Lydia. So Paul pleads with them to reconcile their differences in accordance with 2 Corinthians 5:18 which speaks of our being called to the “ministry of reconciliation.”