Summary: Explaining how many American Christians are like the church of Laodicea, unfocused and with the wrong motives and reasons. (Audio will be placed at www.sermonlist.com/2007.html)
Christians talk a lot about prayer, and whenever we hear that something bad has happened to someone we know, the first thing we do is go into prayer. But I sometimes wonder if we go before the throne of a holy God - with the right heart and attitude.
In 1 THESSALONIANS, we are told to pray continually. And in PROVERBS we are told to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. It tells us to acknowledge Him in all we do and He will set our pathways straight.
Some years ago, a painting was shown in a London art gallery. As you viewed it from a distance, it seemed to be a monk with head bowed and hands clasped in prayer. But, upon close inspection, you would see that the monk was just squeezing an orange over a small glass as he looks down upon it.
Could that painting be a picture of us? Could it be that when we pray, all seems right - from a distance - but upon closer inspection, we are actually doing something else? Could it be, when we are praying, we are actually thinking about other things, or we pray with the feeling that God is not going to answer us? I think we sometimes tend to utter the words of prayer, but fail to have any heart felt meaning behind those words.
Norman Vincent Peale would tell a story of what happened to him as a young boy. He found a cigar on the sidewalk, so he picked it up and took it into an alley and lit her up! He said it tasted terrible, but as bad as it was, it still made him feel grown up.
Then, he said he saw his dad walking down the alley towards him. Desperate to keep his dad from knowing what he was doing, he quickly hid the cigar behind his back and pointed to a billboard across the street advertising a circus that was coming to town. He said he repeatedly asked his dad to take him to that circus, all the while, holding that cigar behind his back.
After a few minutes of this, his father told him something so profound that it affected his prayer life forever. His father said, "Son, never make an impassioned plea for something honorable while you are hiding sin behind your back."
Do we go to God in prayer, asking for His help while trying to hide our sin behind us? Do we approach God on one hand, as His child in Christ, while we hide the other hand behind us, because it is full of sin? Or, do we just go through the motions by uttering words while our thoughts are on something in the world instead of on God? We should always remember, when we pray it is better for our heart to be without words than it is for our words to be without heart.
Too many Christians go to God out of habit; out of repetition; out of everything but submissive dependence. We do that because we put our focus on the things we are involved in; like our friends or activities. We put our attention on the world – the same world that God told us to turn away from. But do we turn away? No, we don’t. We tend to be like young Mr. Peale. We keep our sin and try to hide it from God.
Let’s talk about some of the ways we sin in our attitudes toward God.
1. PRAYING WITH WRONG MOTIVES IS A SIN
MATTHEW 6:5 tells us,
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men."
When we pray, we should never pray while hoping others can see or hear us. That is akin to showing off, and one thing we never want to do is show off while in prayer to our Lord. God can see in our hearts and He knows the motives we have for what we do. When we go into prayer, we should only be concerned with God hearing our prayers.
In JAMES 4:3 it says,
"When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."
When we pray, we must pray with a servant’s heart. When we made the decision to become a Christian, we agreed to accept an awesome responsibility. That responsibility was to follow Christ; we made the choice to serve the living God through Jesus, our Savior. That gave us our purpose, and that purpose is to serve the Lord.
EPHESIANS 2:10 emphasizes that.