Summary: A sermon looking at why we pray.
A mother and her children were taking a tour of New York City and were in awe of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The children were especially curious about the votive candles at the front of the cathedral, so the mother invited each of them to light one. She explained it was customary to say a prayer of petition or thanks as the candles were being lit. “These are not birthday candles,” she said. “You’re not making a wish but asking for God’s blessings.
After the family bowed for a prayer, they began to walk away. The mother asked the kids if they had any questions about what they had just experienced. “No,” said the five-year old, “but if there’s a pony outside, it’s mine!”
Surveys have found that most Americans understand or believe there is value in prayer. Gallup says 9 out of 10 American’s pray. Andy Greeley surveyed atheists and agnostics and found 1 in 5 pray regularly. That seems like a contradiction doesn’t it? But life is tough and at some time all of us feel a need to pray.
Here at Central Christian Church we want to be devoted to prayer. Our goal is to be a 2:42 Church based on Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
As Jesus conducted His earthly ministry, He expected that His disciples would naturally pray. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “5And 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. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”
“When you pray," "When you pray", "When you pray…” You can search the New Testament and you will find not one example of anyone trying to persuade Christians that they should pray. Prayer is so vital, so essential; that it’s simply assumed those who worship God will pray.
The idea that someone would consider themselves a follower of Christ, and yet altogether neglect the practice of prayer, is completely foreign to the New Testament. The Bible has no category for a "prayerless Christian.”
"Prayerless Christian" is a nonsense phrase, a contradiction in terms, like "freezing hot" or “jumbo shrimp” or “congressional intelligence committee.” It’s a mythical beast. No such creature exists, or ever has existed.
But I found that as I was trying to work on this sermon, it was very difficult for me to write about prayer. The reason is because I struggle with my prayer life. I do pray every day, but I know that I am weak in the area of prayer.
A comfort to me this week has been studying the fact that prayer is something we can learn. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1) Of all the things the disciples could have asked Jesus, they ask Him to teach them to pray.