The place and priority of prayer Mt 6:1-8 WBC 5.1.02 am
Baptismal Service of Timmy Hayward
An elderly gentleman passed his granddaughter’s room one night
and overheard her repeating the alphabet in an oddly reverent
way. "What on earth are you up to?" he asked.
"I’m saying my prayers," explained the little girl. "But I
can’t think of exactly the right words tonight, so I’m just
saying all the letters. God will put them together for me,
because He knows what I’m thinking."
This is the start of a series on prayer
- you know- my approach to it all is really very simple
- a bit like this child! (maybe we can learn a lot from children!)
- I haven¡¦t got it all sussed. Not going to make this a marathon
- so, let¡¦s journey and learn, together, eh?
- one thing I want us to do is actually DO it! Pray more than we talk about it.
- come weekly
You see, what this passage is talking about¡K and what we know¡K is that prayer is about RELATIONSHIP
- in fact- the whole of Christianity is about relationship
o not religion or ritual
o many people make the mistake of thinking it is these, and then wonder why
„X it frustrates them. Doesn¡¦t work. They get bored
A plane full of retirees headed for Florida was gripped with
fear when the pilot announced, "Two of our engines are on fire;
we are flying through a heavy fog, and it has eliminated
virtually all our visibility."
The passengers were numb with fear, except for one... a
semi-retired minister..."Now, now, keep calm, folks" he said.
"Let’s all bow our heads and pray."
Immediately, the group bowed their heads to pray... except
one fellow near the back. "Why aren’t you bowing your head
to pray?" the minister asked.
"Well, I don’t know how to pray," replied the passenger.
"Well, just do something religious!" piped up another well
So the man got up and started down the aisle passing his hat...
It¡¦s about a relationship
- relationships are fluid, flexible things
o they need work¡K communication¡K time together
- so it is my belief that as we come together more, and DO IT more
o the relationship will grow
„X and so- the prayer will flow
Jesus clarifies, here
Prayer is not about externals:
a) How you sound
- ¡§do not be like the pagans¡¨
- gentiles used to think that if you could get the words right¡K use the right formula incantation.. ¡K use the right ¡¥god¡¦s¡¦ name
„X ¡K you¡¦d get the answer you wanted
o kind of formulaic.. magical. Almost like ¡¥pester power¡¦
- fails because it is: superstitious, exhausting¡K has a childish impression of God
o like ¡¥if I can back Him into a corner, pull a fast one¡K I¡¦ll get it¡¦
o it¡¦s illogical, actually- and makes God TO SMALL
Nope- the words don¡¦t matter. How you sound doesn¡¦t matter. You don¡¦t have to be eloquent, wordy¡K like anyone else!
- God sees your heart!
- Knows what you need before you ask it
o (so your words REALLY don¡¦t matter! He knows!
o Why pray, then, you ask? Will address more as the weeks go on- but basically because He wants you to be PART of the PROCESS, REALTIONSHIP, REWARDS!)
- Words don¡¦t count:
o sometimes God just wants to hear the groans of your heart
o silence is prayer
o can be ¡¥in prayer¡¦ and it can be ¡¥wordless¡¦
„X = abiding in Him
„X ¡¥practicing the presence of God¡¦
o can be a gush of stuff from your tongue
- THAT¡¦S PRAYER!
o It¡¦s about heart. Attitude. Relationship.
o ¡§Oh Lord, you¡¦re so Bl**dy marvellous!¡¨
So- things like repeated prayers, prayer chains, beads etc can be either very helpful or harmful
- like many of you, I find the Lord¡¦s prayer v helpful
o (Illustr: the difference between me praying it as superstitious unbeliever and Christian)
- , I find liturgy v helpful
o such depth. Can really put ourselves into it
- do you see- if the RELATIONSHIP¡¦S there, and you¡¦re ¡¥that kind of person¡¦ this stuff can really help
- but if the relationship isn¡¦t can be:
o the most damaging thing ever. God replaced y a deceptive placebo
„X put in a box, held to ransom by a formula
o Deadly substitute for the real thing
- probably only God and the individual knows whether it¡¦s real or not
Also- we mustn¡¦t think in praying for someone, prayer ministry, inviting God to come¡K we have to say the right words
- He hears¡K comes to those who know Him and He knows
b) who sees you
Jesus mentions here about not being like the hypocrites
- lit ¡¥the play actors¡¦.
¡§who love to pray to be seen by all¡¨
- it¡¦s not knocking public prayer!!!
- Lots later & in Mt 18, 19 about praying together. In services etc
- Rather: prayer 3 times a day. ¡¥time of prayer¡¦- ¡¥caught in prayer¡¦ on a street corner
o Their prayer wasn¡¦t mouse like like ours!
Nope- there is an audience in prayer. Someone you do it for. Who listens
- God. Jesus! It¡¦s all for Him. An audience of one
o Again: it all springs out of relationship with Him
Knowing this affects how we pray privately:
- He¡¦s the ONE listening. The only one you try to please
- I sometimes have to stop myself from ¡¥praying to others¡¦
o (know what I mean?) ¡§Lord, please PROVIDE someone..¡¨
- some prayer letters ¡¥please pray the funds will come in¡¦!
- *** just say it to GOD.
In fact: public prayer should spring out of our personal prayer
C) getting all worked up
Prayer is not about a certain manner, approach¡K either
- ¡§thinking you¡¦ll be heard BECAUSE¡K¡¨
ie : ¡¥silent prayer is the most powerful¡¦, ¡¥shouting is the most powerful¡¦
- ¡§foaming at the mouth really brings God¡¦s power!¡¨
No they don¡¦t! Being in relationship and ASKING is what counts
- all the other aspects are merely soulish, human, cultural expressions and preferences- and as such are neither here nor there
o so: pray in the way You and JESUS want (just be mindful of others)
having said that: I do believe there are times of burden, expression where words fail and tears, groans are unavoidable
- but it¡¦s the heartfelt request, not the noise or enthusiasm that gets the answer
There is a God. Oh, yes, there is.
And there are rewards, too! The issue is- where would you rather get your rewards from?
- from people. In applause. Prominence. Popularity. Being seen as ¡¥spiritual¡¦. Getting Pharisee points
- or from God? ¡K who REALLY knows how to reward
I know which I¡¦d prefer! Trouble is- I get afraid he won¡¦t actually ¡¥come through with the goods¡¦¡K so in the meantime a bit of reward from people wouldn¡¦t go amiss!
- then¡K when I sense GOD¡¦S approval, reward, presence, pleasure, intimacy- because I
- gave in secret¡K - did something just for Him!.... got my HEART right
¡K man¡¦s reward seems pitiful!
- have faith in God that HE IS there and ABLE to reward!
So- what are the rewards? Are we promised anything?
- ¡§seek first¡K. ALL YOU NEED¡¨
- troubles, misunderstanding, rejection
- HIS PRESENCE¡K increasing peace¡K RELATIONSHIP
Do you want to be rewarded?
- then seek no reward, from man OR God. Just seek God
o and you will have it
Jesus shows us the right place of prayer,, here, too
- that it starts in private, on your own, in the secret place
o where you foster that relationship
o build up the pool of living water that will sustain you
o make deposits to your spiritual bank account
- he goes on to take it into the corporate domain
o when you pray say ¡¥OUR Father¡¦
But he also shows the right place of prayer on our priority list
- at the top!
"The Difference" Author unknown
I got up early one morning
and rushed right into the day.
I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.
problems just tumbled about me,
and heavier came each task.
"Why doesn’t God help me?" I wondered
He answered "You didn’t ask."
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
but the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said "But you didn’t seek."
I tried to come into God’s presence;
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and loving chided
"My child, you didn’t knock".
I woke up early this morning,
and paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
that I HAD to take time to pray.
¡§WHEN you pray¡¨
- not IF you pray
- it is simply assumed that followers of Jesus will pray
o like He and the disciples did
Can I challenge you with this?
¡§But I don¡¦t feel like praying¡¨ ¡§It¡¦s such hard work¡¨
- maybe the reason we ¡¥can¡¦t pray¡¦ is because we¡¦ don¡¦t pray¡¦
o the cycle must start somewhere!
o Start praying. Anyhow! Come join us! Let us help you!
"The inability to pray is the punishment for the refusal to pray"
¡§Seven days without prayer make one week¡¨
- certainly do! And your spirit can whither and die if you don¡¦t feed it regularly
So, friends. Let¡¦s
- put prayer in it¡¦s right place. At the top of our individual and church priorities
o prayer is the FOUNDATION for things happening
„X in our lives
„X in our church
o ¡§you don¡¦t pray FOR the work. Prayer IS the work¡¨
- seek to please God¡K and it all be about Him, Jesus
- remember this is all about RELATIONSHIP
o I need to ask- do you have this??
„X Alpha? Start?