The Importance of Prayer (part 2)
April 15, 2018 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:
Topic: Prayer Verse: Luke 6:12–6:12
“The Importance of Prayer”
Theme: Jesus’ example in prayer calls every saint to kneel before God in regular, fervent, devoted prayer.
I. Priorities Energize Prayer – “It was at this time that He went … to pray …”
A. The Priority of God’s Glory
- One of the remarkable about Jesus’ life is the regularity with which He spent time in prayer – He was consistently said to have been seeking time to be alone with the Father
- One of the reasons for this was that His great priority was to be in complete solidarity with the will of God.
- Jesus’ life was completely devoted to the glory of God – in whatever He did – cp. 1 Corinthians 10:31
- His heart was absolutely committed to seeking the face of God so that He might insure that His will was in subjection to that of God’s – cp. John 12:27-28; Matthew 11:25-26; 26:36, 39, 42.
B. The Priority of Obedience – Psalm 32:6; Psalm 95:6
- Of course, the greatest way to glorify the Father is to submit oneself to the Father and obey.
- Part of the discipline of prayer is wrestling our independent wills into conformity to God and then demonstrating that by means of active obedience to God.
- Often in prayer, we find ourselves humbled to realize that what our hearts’ desire is not always what God’s will dictates!
- Jesus lived a life of complete obedience – an accomplishment that was possible because of the resource to which Jesus took advantage – the power and influence of God’s Holy Spirit gained through prayer.
- Jesus prayed in order that He might insure obedience to the will of the Father in what He did once He got up from His knees before the Father.
- Often when we struggle with obedience to God, it is preceded by an avoidance of consultation with God seen by a lack of prayerfulness.
- This is the classic “Its easier to get forgiveness than permission” attitude that was completely unknown by Christ whose entire life was lived so that no forgiveness was ever necessary because He sought permission for everything through prayer.
C. The Priority of Intimacy
- Still another reason that brought Jesus to prayer is the desire that consumed Jesus to fellowship with the Father.
- We are told that Jesus enjoyed unbroken fellowship with the Father – cp. John 1:18; 6:46; 10:30; 11:42; John 16:32; 17:21
- We know that – through Christ Jesus – we have the absolute confidence that God hears us when we pray; we have the ability to commune with God, speaking to Him directly and enjoying that rapport that is impossible without Christ, but is our guaranteed privilege through Christ - John 9:31; 1 John 5:14-15.
D. The Priority of Faithfulness:
- Jesus prayed when He was busy – Luke 5:15-16
- Jesus prayed when He was tempted – Matthew 4:2; Luke 22:40
- Jesus prayed when He was threatened – Luke 6:12
- Jesus prayed when He sought wisdom – Luke 2:52; Matthew 13:54; James 1:5.
- How What causes you to pray most fervently?
- If you were to pray in order to become more obedient, what would you likely pray about first?
- In what ways does prayer (or lack of prayer) affect your spiritual vitality?
- What does praying in time of need say about our motivation for prayer if we are not praying at other times as well?
II. Privacy Enhances Prayer – “He went off to the mountain to pray”
A. The Desire for Privacy
- One of the marked differences between the genuine godliness of Jesus and the powerless form of godliness of the Pharisees is that Jesus didn’t parade His righteousness about as a badge of self-accomplishment – cp. Luke 20:46-47; Matthew 6:5-6
- Instead, Jesus sought to be alone with the Father to spend genuine time being strengthened in righteousness and steadfastness in godliness – cp. Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46-47; Luke 9:18; John 6:15, 22
- His favorite place to be alone was indeed a mountain – a sense of being directed to the Father even by means of the terrain – Luke 9:28; 21:37; 22:39.
B. The Devotion in Privacy
- Perhaps the greatest litmus test for spiritual vitality is the desire to be alone with God in prayer; it measures one’s true devotion to God – not merely to a religion or even church.
- Compare this to the test of the vitality of one’s marital relationship in the ability to be alone with one another.
- Where do you find that you can be least distractible when you pray?
- What is the importance of closing your eyes in prayer? Is this necessary to pray biblically?
- Do you pray more fervently if other people are listening to you pray? Is this good or bad?
III. Persistence Escalates Prayer – “… and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”
A. The Need for Persevering in Prayer - Romans 12:12
- Literally, this reads: “with reference to prayer, attend constantly!”
- Being in constant and consistent communion with the Father is what enables us to preserve our hope, persevere in tribulation, and prevail over temptation.
- Here we see that as Jesus contemplates the hostilities that were swirling around Him - the plotting by His enemies; and, the knowledge that it is going to get much worse causes Him to go to prayer.
- In addition is the decision that He was about to make concerning the choosing of the twelve and His desire for wisdom.
- Jesus’ sense of needing the provision of strength and wisdom compelled Him to persevere in prayer – cp. Luke 21:36.
B. The Devotion in Persevering in Prayer - Acts 1:14
- Persevering in prayer is something that demonstrates devotion – as modeled by our brothers and sisters in the early church – cp. Acts 2:42; 6:4.
- The example of Jesus demonstrates this very reality - we are told the “He spent the whole night in prayer …”
- As noted earlier, this isn’t something that was a novelty in Jesus’ experience, He seemed to repeatedly yearn so greatly to commune with the Father that He either got up before dawn to go to prayer or spent the entire night in prayer.
C. The Concentration in Persevering in Prayer - Colossians 4:2
- The discipline of mind needed to persevere in prayer is beyond many of us – as our attention spans have become so short.
- Paul tells the Colossians that such devotion to prayer requires the deliberate effort to “keep alert in it” – that is, to not allow oneself to drift.
- There are ways to help ourselves with this – among which is to be alone – to find a place where distractions are minimized:
- Turn off all electronics.
- Schedule it when you are not tired.
- Utilize prayer lists and create an agenda for your conversation with God.
- Journal your prayers and His answers to them as a record of His faithfulness.
- Study Scripture before your prayers so that what you say to the Lord is in response to what He first says to you.
- Alter your posture while you pray – kneel, stand, sit without back support, raise hands, walk, lay prostrate, etc ….
- Pray aloud.
D. The Struggle in Persevering in Prayer - Ephesians 6:18
- The struggle in prayer is in reality the struggle to pray “in the Spirit” – that is, yielded to the will of God and the indwelling influences of God’s Spirit – cp. Jude 20b.
- This is not describing some euphoric trancelike loss of self-control, but rather the affect of being interested in the glory of Christ.
- The Holy Spirit’s entire ministry is to promote the centrality, glory, and preeminence of Jesus Christ in our lives.
- Hence, to “pray in the Spirit” is the same as to “walk in the Spirit” – to seek the will of God to the glory of Christ.
- Instead, we are so prone to petition, petition, petition – constantly wandering to the asking God for “stuff.”
- We are indeed commanded to ask of God – to turn to God for the various needs that arise in our lives and in the lives of other around us;
- Pray for people who you love
- Pray for people who offend you
- Pray for people who lead you spiritually
- Pray for people with whom you work
- Pray for people with whom you serve
- Pray for people who are lost
- Pray for people who live near you
- Pray for people who influence your children
- Pray for people who govern
- Pray for people who evangelize
- Yet, there is so much more we are able to talk about with God.
- We can talk to Him about His attributes, names, works, doctrines, blessings, and commandments.
- We are able to adore Him for who He is, confess who we are, thank Him for what He has done, and communicate with Him how we feel (A.C.T.S.).
- Our struggle is to escape the proclivity of having our prayers be all about us and what we want or need without expanding it to being about God and what He wants.
- Describe your most extended period of prayer - what had caused it?
- What are some ways that you can help yourself focus so that your prayers can be more concentrated?
- What is the value of fasting (from food, sex, sleep, etc …) and praying instead? What might compel you to do this?