There are a lot of things that are uniquely Christian that we do: communion, fellowship, evangelism, and baptism for example. These are all traditionally Christian activities, but of all the Christian "things" we do however, the thing we probably do most often, is pray. We pray when we eat, when we worship, when we're alone, at devos, when visiting sick people, during times of trouble and despair or when we are very happy - we pray.
We probably rack up more time praying than any other spiritual "exercise" we do as Christians. For this reason, the activity of prayer seems to get a little stale, a little boring sometimes. Like anything else, if you repeat it often enough it begins to feel old and ineffective.
This morning I'd like to encourage you not to stop praying and give you some reasons why you should persevere. You should persevere in prayer because:
Prayer is Needed
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In Ephesians 6:12 Paul tells us that the true struggle going on in this world is not between countries or economic systems (these only reflect the true struggle). No, the true struggle is, "..against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." The battle is against Satan and his evil forces that are continually trying to destroy the church and the spread of the word of God.
Some people have wisdom from below and can only see the small picture of human wars, politics, power. To some, God has given through His word, the ability to see the bigger picture and that is, that the battle in the spiritual realm creates the battle on the physical realm. Some choose to fight with guns and diplomacy and financial wheeling and dealing - the local battles for territory, money and temporary power. Others choose to fight the battle on the first front, the spiritual front against the true enemies and they fight this battle with the Bible, the Holy Spirit and prayer.
Paul says that the "wages of sin is death" in Romans 6:23. Peter says that Satan continually prowls around to devour. In other words he is continually trying to find ways to seduce people into sin in order to create death and its symptoms in their lives. Prayer is needed to counteract his attacks in many ways:
- We need to pray for workers to go out and preach the gospel so Satan will not destroy the ignorant (Matthew 9:38).
- We need to pray for those who suffer because of the direct and indirect results of sin in their lives:
- Victims of war
- Victims of disease / suffering
- Victims of broken families
- The list of damage due to sin goes on and on
- God tells us to pray for healing, support, and restoration from these things. James 5:15
- We need to pray that God opens our eyes to see the big picture.
- Elisha prayed that his servant would see the host of heaven encircling their enemies so as not to be afraid (II Kings 6:17).
- Paul prayed that the brethren could see the heavenly gifts awaiting those who were faithful to Christ (Ephesians 1:18).
We need to pray for vision, not just things. Vision to see how we fit into God's picture and what position we will fill in the on-going battle against those forces in the heavenly places. Every prayer, whether it is for our breakfast, or to restore one from illness or to gain strength or for vision is always needed because it is relevant to what life is really about.
Continue to pray because it is needed, but also because:
Prayer is the Basic Ministry of the church
We know the ministry system in the church: Education, Evangelism, Fellowship, Service and Worship. When each of these activities is being carried out, the individuals as well as the entire church grows. But each of these individual ministry groups needs prayer to be effective. We need to:
- Pray for teachers and their faithfulness
- Pray for our outreach efforts
- Pray that the brethren draw close together
- Pray that God provide the resources and the talents so we can serve effectively
- Pray that our worship is in sprit and truth
- Pray that our leaders remain wise, faithful as well as healthy and focused.
Prayer is basic because no matter what your physical or economic limitations you can make a difference in this church through a strong and persistent prayer life.
Never stop praying because:
Prayer is Powerful
Sometimes I hear people say things like, "We could always pray" or "Let's pray, it can't hurt." Statements like this reveal that we don't recognize the power of prayer. Prayer is not wishful thinking or desperation! Prayer is powerful for several reasons:
- It is strong enough to defeat our most powerful enemy. Satan is a mighty spiritual being, much stronger than a human. Jesus tells us that prayer is our defense against him (I Peter 5:8; Luke 22:31-32).
- It is directed towards the God who is all powerful. The reason prayer is so powerful is because the object of it has all power. A million prayers to an idol are worthless. A zealous prayer with sacrifice without a clean heart is useless. Any prayer made without reference to Christ or longing for Him is not heard. But the smallest voice, the weakest hands lifted to God in Jesus' name is heard and forever remembered by the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
- Prayer is powerful because it works. Raise your hands those of you who have had prayers answered in the past. Prayer works when nothing else does. Prayer works in its own time, its own way, its own purpose - but it does work! Prayer works while we sleep; it works despite us in certain situations.
God is able to do so much more than we ever imagine - He's always surprising us - and prayer is our lifeline to that power.
This is one of the reasons that we have a prayer and fasting weekend. The spiritual exercise goes as follows:
Our goal is to have at least one person offering prayer and worship to God over a 24 hour period. In other words, from 6pm on a Friday to 6pm on the next day, somebody from our congregation is praying to God without a break.
The way we do this is that different people take responsibility to pray for half hour blocks. We have people sign up on the list until all the time slots are full. More than one person can sign up for a time.
We finish with a fellowship meal to "break fast"
There are always lots of questions such as "What do I pray about for one hour?" or "How do I fast?" To start just do two things:
- Ask members to sign up for a time of prayer that you will be responsible for. They will pray from home or wherever is convenient for you and the time you choose. They should have more than enough things to pray and meditate upon to fill more than one hour.
- Begin listing on the other sign up sheet the things you want the church to pray for during this 24 hour period.
Now in my lesson today I have not covered every aspect of prayer; the types of prayers to be made; or examples of how we should pray. In the weeks to come, I will give you more information about prayer and also more information about fasting - why and how to do it effectively and safely. But today, I wanted to remind you not to give up on praying as part of your Christian life and encourage those who do not pray regularly to begin making it part of their daily walk with the Lord because:
- It is needed in the church and in your life. Probably the thing needed the most. We do not just think we ought to pray, we need to take the time and actually do it.
- It is for everyone in the church. Not only do we all need it, we can all do it! We can all do it for ourselves and we should begin doing it for other people as well.
- It is the power that sustains the church in its work and supports our faith.
One prayer that is often on my heart is that each person in this building is right with God. I pray that those who are putting off obeying the gospel will hesitate no more and obey God in repentance and baptism so their prayers for salvation and other matters will be heard. I pray constantly that brothers and sisters will have the courage to remove whatever sin or hardness of heart that separates them from God or their brethren. I pray that the Lord will send us godly people who will want to join our church family.
If these prayers are calling you in any way I pray that you will come forward now and accept the Lord's invitation as we stand and sing.