Summary: One thing we can be sure of, if the church is ever going to have an impact in the world, all we do must be surrounded by prayer.
February 22, 2004
Text: John 17:20-26
Subject: Jesus’ Prayer for Believers
Title: What Will It Take?
I look back on our 2-½ years here at First Assembly and a lot of good memories begin to flood my mind. I think about the newlywed game at our first Christmas party and I laugh at the mental pictures I get. I rejoice at the new church members that came in the first year and the baptisms out at the lake that summer. I remember the work done on the sanctuary and the parsonage when we first arrived. I look back on the encouragement I have always received when a new face shows up in church. I especially remember the morning that three received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. But most of all I look back and see a change in your attitudes and your willingness to move forward.
But as I reflect on all these good things I also have to look at the present situation of the church and wonder what I have been doing wrong. Now before you start shaking your heads and saying that the problem isn’t the pastor (not everybody is going to say that, but many of you have) stop and consider this. I have and I take this very seriously. If we had not been appointed to this church, if you had voted us in, after the first year, would you have voted to retain us? (probably, giving us the benefit of the doubt.) With the progress, or lack of, that came in the second year, would you have voted to retain us? (maybe) Now as we go into our third year, I look around and see pretty much the same faces that were here when we got here. It’s true that if we had those people who have attended in the past on any given Sunday morning all at one time, the church would be full. But it isn’t. So how would you vote at the end of three years? Listen, don’t get nervous. We aren’t going anywhere. But I just want you to know that I see a problem and am serious about fixing it.
It is not an easy fix. It is not one that I can accomplish by myself. It is a problem that can be dealt with once and for all. And it is going to be done through prayer. Our Sunday night emphasis has been on prayer and it will continue to move in that direction. Whatever is going to happen in this church is going to come about through much prayer and fasting.
A little girl went to her mom and said, “Mom, I guess everybody up in heaven must think I am dead.”
“Why would you say that?” Mom asked
“Because I haven’t said my prayers for over a week now.”
I want to begin today by stressing the importance of prayer. Jesus thought it was important. Before He began His earthly ministry, He went to the desert for 40 days. No, it wasn’t a vacation. It was for prayer. The disciple saw the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life and said, “Lord teach us to pray.” Jesus often got away by Himself to pray. In Luke 22 we see, “He went out to the mount of Olives as He was accustomed…” This particular time of prayer in Luke was right before the biggest trial of Jesus’ life – His arrest and crucifixion.
We pray! I don’t have a doubt that each of you prays every day. You have established a good habit. Now we want to find direction and to put wings on our prayer for the building of the kingdom.
I am going to read to you today all of John Chapter 17 and I want you to understand what Jesus is saying and doing.
Prayer is central to the accomplishment of God’s plan for this church and this community.
I. PRAYING FOR YOURSELF.
A. Glorifying God. Verse 1. If you are like most people, you consider prayer for yourself to be last on the priority list of things to pray for. I want you to notice where Jesus put prayer for Himself. It is at the beginning of his prayer. All our work for the Lord must be bathed in prayer. If we don’t cover ourselves in prayer, what is going to happen? I am sure that the impact you will have on the world will be less than if you had begun in prayer. John Bunyon said, “You can’t do anything more than pray until you have prayed, but you can do more than pray once you have prayed. It is not selfish to pray for yourself. It could be considered vain not to pray for yourself. Don’t let pride enter into your prayer life. When it came right down to the end of Jesus’ life, His prayer was that He would be glorified so He could glorify the Father. Listen to what Jesus said when predicting His death. “Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father save Me from this hour? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Are you willing to face opposition, oppression, or even death so that God may be glorified in you? If not, then pray that you can stand up to the trials you will face. Then God will be glorified in you.