"A Wide Door for Effective Service:
Let the Christians ’Pray Up’"
Author: Dr. Neal Gray
Passage: John 17:9-23, KJV
Purpose: "Pray?" you ask. "Why pray?" you ask. Because prayer is our great privilege! Talk to God. Let God speak to you. Let the Christians "pray up."
This Sermon Series
This message is the 5th of a 6-part sermon series titled, "A Wide Door for Effective Service." The key verse for this series is:
"I will tarry...until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." (1 Corinthians 16:9)
The emphasis for the series is this: each Christian member of this church is, in fact, a minister. The time has come for you to find a suitable and enjoyable service in your church; for you to contribute in ways more than you have practiced until now.
==> I believe strongly--very strongly--that there are many ways YOU can be in effective service in Christ’s church; and at the same time, YOU CAN BE MORE FULFILLED by doing the thing that you enjoy, but doing it for God and His people. Whatever your particular ministry may be...EVERY CHRISTIAN’S MINISTRY IS PRAYER!
People Who Have Prayed for Me
I grew up in a household where prayer was not an important thing. In fact, I can’t remember ever having prayer together as a family; not even at meals. On the other hand, that I’m sure my parents must have prayed for me, even if their prayers went something like this: "Oh God, please keep that boy from doing the damage he is surely capable of doing!"
Fortunately, my parents have always been God-fearing persons, and so I am sure that they prayed sincere prayers for me. (They are now church attending Christians, thanks be to God!) My Granny Swindell and Grandma Hollis, I am sure, used to pray for me. They are both home with the Lord now.
And, I have always known that my wife, Vicki, prays for me daily--probably she prays hourly for me! She is a godly lady, and she prays for me.
I’m also very sure that my pastor and his wife, Rev. Marvin McDaniel and Fran, pray for me often; probably daily.
And I know that MANY of you beloved people pray daily for me!
So, I have always known something about being on the receiving end of prayer. But, it wasn’t until I met a senior saint, a lady I’ll call Mrs. Allen, that I learned about the true effects of prayer. She attended the church where I began my pastoral ministry, i.e., Peniel Church of the Nazarene. She knew that I needed a lot of prayer, and she had the time, the faith, and the will to pray for me.
Rev. John Wesley’s Emphasis on Prayer
Friends, it takes prayer to change the world. And it takes much prayer to accomplish anything for God. The Rev. John Wesley recognized that when he said:
"Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God; and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or laymen. Such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer."
==> God’s hand MOVES WHEN PEOPLE AND PASTORS PRAY TOGETHER. Through prayer, God makes the impossible, possible.
Our Scripture is a great prayer of the Great Savior. We typically call this prayer by a title, "The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus." The whole prayer is found in John chapter 17; we will examine verses 9-23.
JESUS HIMSELF PRAYED FOR ME
I hope that you have experienced the joy and wonderment of having others pray for you. Christian, you really do need to have other Christians praying for you.
Prayer is Special, and Prayer is Tough
Prayer is communication with the Almighty God. Prayer is a very special activity. It is a God-ordained activity. And make no mistake, it is a tough activity to do.
Tough activity? Yeah, it’s tough! The proof is this: how much do you pray? Hmmm?
But think about the purpose of prayer: in prayer we speak with the Almighty God--with God! And so, in the scheme of God’s workings, only those persons who are very sincere in their relationship with the Lord, only they will find the time, desire, and strength to pray.
==> Prayer is a special spiritual activity. And God has given you the right to engage in it.
Jesus Prayed for Me
In our passage, Jesus is the one praying, and look who He prays for: "I pray for them." Jesus Himself prayed for the disciples, including me!
I know that many people have prayed for me. Parents. Grandparents. Wife. Pastor. Sincere Christians. What a tremendous blessing they have been for me. And what a wonderful testimony I can give about their faithfulness, their concern, their care. They PRAYED THEIR PRAYERS UP to God in heaven.
But what a wonderful thing it is that Jesus Himself has prayed for me! "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." Imagine that, will you? Jesus, the Christ, the Savior, the "King of kings, and Lord of lords" prayed for me! Imagine.
==> He prayed for you, too. Since you have believed on Jesus through the word of His disciples, you can be sure that Jesus has prayed for you.
JESUS’ CHURCH NEEDS CHRISTIANS TO PRAY
What shall we do, then? Shall we pray? Will God bless us if we don’t pray?
Doesn’t God Love Me Anyway?
Prayer is tough stuff. And I have not always appreciated the power and the value of prayer. No, it’s true; prayer has not always been my "strong suit."
In fact, I was once reasoned in this way:
1. Since God loves me, as the Scripture says,
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
2. He knows what I need, as the Scripture again says,
"Therefore take no thought, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or, ’What shall we drink?’ or, ’Wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." (see Matthew 6:31-32)
3. Jesus cares for me,
"Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
4. Why do I need to pray?
5. Won’t God give me what I need anyway?
==> Prayer is tough to do. Especially since you ask me to do it everyday; and to do it faithfully and sincerely and spent lots of time doing it. I want to know, "Won’t God bless me even if I don’t pray?"
Yes, God Will Provide
Friends, as soon as I got to the end of my reasoning and questioning, the Lord Holy Spirit gave me the answer. He said something like this:
"Yes, son, I will provide for you. But I will not prosper you."
And He gave me a good model of life to help me understand.
If I was a farmer, an ordinary farmer, and I chose to not prepare the ground, and to not plant the seed, then I would have no harvest. There would be no food from my land to eat nor to sell nor to give away.
But would God let me go hungry? No, I don’t believe God would let me starve to death. Mind you, I may have to leave my farmland and go begging for my food, or do some other sort of work.
However, if I tilled the land, removed the weeds, planted the seed, and cared for the crop that God would miraculously make to come up, then I would be bountifully blessed with food.
==> Farming is tough work. Prayer is tough stuff, too.
Prayer is Like Follow Through
One more example: prayer is much like "following through" in many sports activities. When I was younger, I used to bowl on a bowling league.
We had our own league shirts, complete with our sponsor’s emblem on the back. Coca-Cola was our sponsor. We had a huge patch on our backs. I was only in the third grade, so the patch took most of my back!
Let me quickly tell you about my teammate. Our mothers all gave us money to spend on refreshments. My teammate bought French fries one Saturday; and he used his bowling hand to eat those fries.
On his next turn to bowl, here he goes toward the foul line to throw his ball. On his back-swing, those little greasy fingers couldn’t hold on to the ball! That ball flung 6 feet high and came down with a solid, "Thud!!!" I laughed so hard I couldn’t bowl for five minutes.
Well, the bowling coach used to teach us to "follow through" on our swing.
* Approach the line
* Let the bowling ball go (preferably headed toward the pins!)
* Follow through
It was the "follow through" part that bothered me. I mean, I had already hurled the ball down the lane. Why did I need to continue raising my arm up? The ball had departed. What possible good could come from "following through"?
My Mom was a bowler. I remember that she had a terrific "follow through" on her swing. She reached for the sky. And she was a very good bowler.
The answer to why "follow through," is that MORE POWER AND MORE ACCURACY goes into your swing. True, the "follow through" happens after the ball is launched; but the ball is launched MUCH BETTER BECAUSE YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR MOVEMENT.
The same principle applies to a baseball batter slugging the ball, or the golfer swinging his club to drive his ball, or the quarterback passing the football. They all "follow through" on their swing or throw. Without the "follow through," their attempts would be far less effective.
==> This is how prayer helps us. We complete our holy actions with prayer. It absolutely takes dedicated prayer in order for us to be holy Christians, succeeding in our lives. Your prayer may seem like it accomplishes nothing while you are doing the praying. But, but, but...because you do pray, your life has more punch, more pizazz, more power!
God hears those sincere Christians who pray. And God honors the labors and lives of those sincere Christians who pray. Let the Christians pray up!
THE HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER MODEL
Jesus has challenged His church, that’s you and me, with a clear directive for shaking up and challenging this world. He has given us the Great Commandment, LOVE, and the Great Commission, GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES.
But before He left the world, He prayed a special prayer for all believers.
Jesus’ prayer is an excellent model for us. Look at the five prayer requests.
That People Would Sense God’s Glory
Jesus said, "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one," (John 17:22).
The "glory" that Jesus means here is the visible manifestation of the splendor, the radiance, and power of God. Jesus wants us to continually know that glory, and so He prays for us.
==> We will sense God’s glory when we become true worshippers and when the saints pray God’s glory down! Amen! Hallelujah! Let the Christians "pray up" that God’s glory would come down!
That We Would Follow the Word of God
Jesus also prayed that we would be followers of the Word of God. He said, "I have given them Thy Word," (John 17:14).
When the disciples received the words of Jesus, it gave their lives meaning, motivation, and a mission. Jesus desires for us the same things today.
When people in church study Scripture in an attitude of prayer, i.e., "God, please speak to me," they begin to grow and change into beautiful people.
==> God truly speaks to us when we read His Word. So let the Christians "pray up," and let God’s Word enter in.
That We Would Be United in God’s Love
Jesus prayed for all believers to be united in love. That’s because spirit-filled Christians who are united and unified in God’s love can do anything! They shake the very gates of hell. More significantly, they influence the blessings out of the gates of Heaven.
Jesus prayed, "that they all may be one, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me," (John 17:21).
Churches are nearly powerless when they don’t pray. Really--and I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you must hear the truth--churches that don’t pray are sad symbols of legalistic chaos. God help us.
==> But when a church prays together, they become unified, they become bold, they become used by the Almighty God to accomplish His purposes. The church that prays together has purpose and God’s blessing. So, let the Christians "pray up" all together!
That We Would Go Forth on Jesus’ Mission
Jesus prayed "that they also might be sanctified through the truth," (John 17:19). The word "sanctify" means to be "set apart for a special use." Our special use is to tell others about the Savior Jesus, to lead others to salvation in Jesus, and to make disciples in the name of Jesus.
Our mission is to bring the good news of life, life, life eternal to the lost and dying people, so that they can be saved, too. Any church that has lost sight of that will not have the blessings of God.
==> I am personally tired with the reality that churches simply don’t bring lost people to Christ Jesus! Let’s be soul-winners. Let’s be on fire for Jesus. Let’s have a passion for Jesus’ mission to save souls. Let the Christians "pray up" that they may save a soul from going down...down to hell.
That We Would Have Joy
And Jesus wants us to have His joy while we labor for Him here on earth. "And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves," (John 17:13).
Nothing brings joy to a body of believers like obeying God.
* Obeying God.
* Giving God glory.
* Following His Word.
* United in love.
* Carrying out His mission.
These things bring God’s joy. PRAYER GIVES US THE LIFE that makes it possible to do these things!
The conclusion of this message is so very simple. If I lost you somewhere during the message, will you focus now on the two words I’m now going to say? "JUST PRAY."
There is no substitute for prayer. Either you have prayed or you haven’t prayed. JUST PRAY. Let the Christians pray, Lord.
Look Up and Pray
Help me conclude. I said two words for you to do, i.e., "JUST PRAY!"
I want you as a congregation to shout in unison just one word to me, "PRAY!" when I give you the cue. Ready? Okay...
* Today, PRAY.
* Some way, find the time to PRAY.
* Driving on the highway, PRAY.
* Your life wasting away? PRAY!
* Want a heavenly getaway? PRAY!
* Don’t delay, PRAY.
* Lost your way? PRAY!
* Nerves on the fray? PRAY!
* Whether your life is solid or it sways, PRAY.
* A tough yesterday? PRAY!
* Looking for a better day? PRAY!
* Come what may, PRAY.
* What really pays? PRAY!
You get the idea. LET THE CHRISTIANS PRAY.
Do what Jesus did: "Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father...," and He prayed.
==> Lift your eyes to heaven today, and pray. Let the Christians "pray up."
Most of the sermon is my own, along with the Lord of course! The last section on "The High Priestly Prayer Model" is adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s excellent little book, "Partners in Prayer."
Hymns & Reading
Suggested hymns and readings from the Church of the Nazarene’s "Sing to the Lord" hymnal:
O How He Loves You and Me........Hymn #223
My Savior’s Love.................Hymn #224
And Can It Be?...................Hymn #225
Gentle Shepherd..................Hymn #626
What a Friend We Have in Jesus...Hymn #625
| Copyright 2002
| Practical Holiness Ministry (r)
| "BRINGING PRACTICAL IDEAS TO
| THE CHRISTIAN LIFE." (tm)
| You may reprint or publish or hopefully preach
| this material as long as it is not-for-profit,
| except that it may profit one’s soul,
| (see Mark 8:36).
| Dr. Neal Gray is the Senior Pastor of the
| Baltimore Parkville Church of the Nazarene.
| 8510 Fowler Ave -- Baltimore, Maryland 21234
| You can reach Dr. Gray by e-mail at:
| Also, please visit the church’s website:
| LEARNING. MENTORING. SERVING. (tm)
| 2 Pet. 3:18 - 2 Tim. 2:2 - Matt. 20:26-28
| All Scripture is the King James Version.
| Used with God’s blessed permission.
------------- FREE SUBSCRIPTION ---------------
| Receive our Sermon Messages each week at your
| e-mail address! Send a brief e-mail message to:
| Simply indicate that you wish to receive the
| sermon messages. You will receive only the
| sermon messages--nothing else, ever. And your
| name is not given to anyone. Godspeed to you.