Summary: To live effective lives as Jesus’ disciples we need to pray.
I’ve preached on prayer many times and I’ve tried to do it in such a way that you will be able to easily remember how to pray and to be motivated to pray.
Yet I don’t think we are taking full advantage of this most powerful and useful resource we have as Christians. So, I am beginning a four week series for the month of April on Prayer called, ”Prayer Can Change Your Life,” which I have adapted from a Rick Warren series on prayer by this same title. I need this study on prayer because I need a more effective prayer life and because I want to be part of a Praying Church that is fired up and on mission for God.
Non-praying or ineffectively-praying Christians are the Jed Clampetts of Christianity. They’re like the Beverley Hillbilly’s who lived in poverty in hills of Arkansas barely eking out an existence while the whole time they were sitting on top of a huge oil reserve. ”Then one day while (Jed was) shooting at some food up thru the ground came a bubbl’n crude, Oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea. Well the first thing you know ole Jed’s a millionaire, Kin folk said, ‘Jed, move away from there; Californy’s the place you ought to be,’ so they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly, Hills that is; swimmin pools, movie stars!”
Imagine if ole Jed said, “Nah. I like being poor. I think I’ll just stay here and do the best I can with what I’ve got! Well, that’s just down right silly, now ain’t it? But that is exactly what we are doing when we don’t take advantage of the huge reserves of God that we are sitting on top of as Jesus’ disciples. How do we access these reserves? Through Prayer!
When I think of oil wells I picture the Texas oil pumps that are scattered all over the state. They look like ducks bobbing for a sip of water. The lesson I get from this picture regarding prayer is that the riches that God has for us need to be pumped up into our lives continually through prayer.
But, before we will be motivated to pray, we must realize our need for prayer. We need to realize that we could be living much more effective, exciting and richer lives than we are now. Many Christians don’t know the awesome resource they have in Prayer; and many churches are ineffective for Jesus for same reason. “How effective is your experience compared to Jesus’ in serving God?”
In our passage for today (Luke 11:1) the disciples saw Jesus praying (as was His habit), and they asked Him to teach them how to pray. Why did they ask to be taught how to pray? Could it be that they put two-and-two together? After all, they had seen him do many miracles (feeding the 5000; walking on the water; calming the raging sea). They had heard Him teach incredible truths about the Kingdom of Heaven, and had even seen Him raise Jairus’ dead daughter. Comparing their ministry activity, doing the best they could with what they had, with His, they thought, “Wow! I want to do what He’s doing and I want to know what He knows, and it seems He spends a lot of time in prayer before doing these things. Hmm! I wonder if there might be a connection here? Let’s ask Him!”
How effective is our ministry compared with Jesus’? Do we sense our need to learn how to pray the way our Master prayed? Our Typical Prayers are (Source; R.W.): (1) Genie in the Bottle Prayers: “Our wish is God’s command.” “God, I want this and that and these and those!” (2) Fire Extinguisher Prayers: Use only in the case of emergencies. Or Parachute Prayers: (Robert Leroe, Sermon Central) “We’re glad the parachute is there but we hope we’ll never have to use it.” Rick tells the story of a deacon who came up to his pastor one day. The Pastor said, “I guess all we can do is pray,” and the deacon said, ”Has it come to that?” When all else fails and we’re in big trouble, we finally pray.
There is also the (3) Sales Pitch Prayers: trying to sell God on what is best to give us. These are like the requests our children make at bedtime, ”Just one more TV show; May I have a glass of water. I’ll be good if you will let me go to Joey’s birthday party.” We negotiate with God in an effort to get what we want !
Then there are the (4) Religious Duty Prayers: “I have to pray. I ought to pray! It’s my duty!” These are boring, routine, empty, meaningless, guilt-trip prayers. I call them Gold Rush Prayers. Back in the days of the Gold Rush, there were wagon trains headed west by the thousands. There were so many that the streets had deep ruts in them. A sign at the west end of a main street said, “Be careful which rut you choose because you’ll be in it all the way to California.” When we pray only because we feel that we have to pray, we are in a rut.