Summary: A message on Prayer.
TEACH US TO PRAY
INTRO: Nels Ferre’ wrote of a Christian convert from Hawaii who spoke about prayer to a seminary in America. “Before the missionaries came to Hawaii,” she said, “my people used to sit outside their temples for a long time meditating and preparing themselves before entering. Then they would virtually creep to the altar to offer their petition and afterward would again sit a long time outside, this time to ‘breathe life’ into their prayers. The Christians, when they came, just got up, uttered a few sentences, said Amen, and were done. For that reason my people called them haolis, ‘without breath,’ or those who failed to breathe life into their prayers.”
Many people believe in prayer. And most of us do pray. However, the greatest need facing all of us is to breathe life and vitality into our prayers. This is the situation in which the disciples found themselves. Their request to Jesus should be our request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” In response to their request, Jesus suggested several principles for a vital prayer life.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF REGULARITY.
It was “while He was praying in a certain place” (v. 1, NASB), that the disciples came to Jesus with their request. This implies that the disciples had observed in Jesus’ life a regular pattern of prayer.
Regularity in prayer is an important principle for us today. This means to pray in a certain place, with a certain purpose, at a certain time. Power in prayer comes to those who discipline themselves to the regular practice of daily prayer.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF PREPARATION.
Jesus instructed his disciples to begin with this phrase: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” (Matt 6:9, NASB). This phrase did not locate God but rather it described God. It reminds us that he is a Heavenly Father, a holy God. Before we can experience power in our prayer, we must have a true awareness of who God is. We must approach him in the right way.
Nels Ferre’ declares that the two beginning steps of powerful prayer are relaxation and recollection. Relaxation keeps us from rushing thoughtlessly into God’s presence. Recollection reminds us with whom we are dealing.
It is not the arithmetic of our prayers that count (how eloquent they are), nor the geometry of our prayers (how long they are), nor the logic of our prayers (how convincing they are), nor the method of our prayers (how orderly they are), nor the orthodoxy of our prayers (how sound in doctrine they are). It is the sincerity of our prayers about which God is most concerned. That sincerity comes only as we are properly prepared to come into the presence of a holy God.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF INCLUSIVENESS.
In the Model Prayer which Jesus gave his disciples, he covered the whole gamut (range) of our needs, both physical and spiritual. The point is that we can pray to God about anything. When a little girl prayed, “God, help Elizabeth’s grandmother to get well in her nerves so that she won’t go nuts, and Elizabeth won’t go nuts with her,” I believe God heard her prayer. Everything that is important to you is important to God, and you can talk to him about it.
Andrew Carnegie once asked a friend, “Why should I pray? ...Name one thing that God can give me that I don’t already have.” Carnegie’s friend replied, “He might give you humility.” If you need it, you can talk to God about it.
IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF PERSEVERANCE.
This is the lesson of the parable in verses five through eight. Perseverance is the key which brings answers to our prayer. This is the lesson of Abraham (Gen. 18:23), of Jacob (Gen. 32:24), of Moses (Deut. 9:25), of Gideon (Judg. 6), and of David (2 Sam. 12:16-18).
Perseverance is the key to power in prayer. Unless we pray like Jacob did until the blessing comes, or like Gideon did until he received the assurance needed, or like Paul and Silas did until the doors of the Philippian jail swung open and released them from their bondage, or like the one hundred and twenty did at Pentecost until the power of God descended on them and transformed them into a mighty spiritual army, that is, until we learn to pray with perseverance, we have not yet learned to pray.
Hudson Taylor made remarkable gains for Christ in China before communism closed the door to missionaries. Prayer was an important part of his ministry. To find a quiet time for uninterrupted prayer, Taylor always rose early in the morning before daylight. He once told a friend that “the sun has never risen upon China without finding me at prayer.” That is the kind of persistent prayer that God answers.