A Call to Prayer (Sermon Recap)
A CALL TO PRAYER: AN EXPOSITION OF AN IMPORTANT BIBLICAL THEME
In our most recent sermon, we gave attention to the matter of prayer. Here is a brief recap of the message:
1) God's Word gives us the command to pray. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV) Consider also Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Peter 5:6, and James 5:13 for similar commands. God's will is that we pray.
2) God's Word gives us the basis of prayer. How is it that sinners can have any expectation that the Holy God would be attentive and responsive to our prayers? Only this: that we who trust in Jesus have been "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Romans 5:10 ESV) and through Jesus we "have access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18 ESV). Therefore the door is open wide for us to come to the Father – even to come and pray. And when we pray, we must not pray on the basis of our performance, but rather we must pray on the basis of God’s mercy given to us through Jesus.
3) God's Word gives us many examples of prayer. In Acts 1-2: The first disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by "devoting themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:14 ESV). Then after the Spirit was given and the Gospel was powerfully proclaimed, a few thousand people were converted to Jesus. This now 3,000-plus member church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42 ESV). Later in Acts 13-14: Paul's first missionary journey commenced with "fasting and praying" (Acts 13:3 ESV) and it was completed "with prayer and fasting" (Acts 14:23 ESV). Pray was an integral part of the Church's life and mission, and it should be for us as well.
4) God's Word gives us the promise of effective prayer. God promises to work through our prayers in order to accomplish His work. God grants spiritual blessing to us through our prayers (Matthew 7:7-11, James 4:2-3), and He also grants spiritual blessing to others through our prayers (John 14:12-14, 2 Corinthians 1:11). By reflecting on Mark 9:14-29 in conjunction with Matthew 17:20, we see that full-of-faith-prayer is one of the ways that ordinary disciples participate in God's mighty work. There may be any number of spiritual victories in ministry and mission that have not yet been granted because we, like the disciples in Mark 9:14-29, are deficient in faith-filled prayer. I wouldn't have that observation land on us in order to induce guilt feelings, but rather to put into our hearts a sober awareness of our responsibility to draw near to heaven's throne and ask our Father to do what only He can do, knowing that He delights to release His power through the prayers of His people.
5) God's Word gives us the right attitude of prayer. Healthy prayer involves the attitude of humble dependence on God. In prayer we recoginze our profound need for God's help! "All things are possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23 ESV) means that entrust our own and others' profound needs to the God who is able to do what is impossible for anyone else to do (see Luke 1:37) and we trust Him to come through for us and for others. As we express our trust by praying to God, we remember that He is our heavenly Father who cares for us (1 Peter 5:6), and we are His beloved children. We do not anxiously seek to take things from His hand, but rather we adoringly entrust our concerns to the Father's generous heart.
6) God's Word gives us the right content of prayer. Our prayers should be driven by the Word (John 14:13, John 15:7) and our prayers should reflect God's priorities (Matthew 6:9-13). Our prayers should be joyfully directed along these lines: that God's holy name be honored, that His kingdom advance, that the lost be converted, that believers grow in holiness and love, and that the Church be strong in her life and mission. These "kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33 ESV) priorities should shape our prayers, and other legitimate and important concerns should be viewed as secondary. Don't let important secondary concerns crowd out the most important primary concerns that ought to occupy our praying.
Therefore, in light of all this, pray! Go often to a place of private prayer, and pray often with others. Further, consider how good and right it is for the church community to gather together for the purpose of prayer. Since God calls us to be united in mind, heart, and soul (e.g., Philippians 2:2), then in light of the call to prayer, let us be united in mind, heart, and soul in prayer. Indeed, there is a special presence of Christ and a special effectiveness in prayer when believers gather together in His name and do His work with hearts that are agreeable with each other and with the Lord – and this work especially includes the work of prayer, the work of asking the Father for the spiritual things that need done (see Matthew 18:19-20).
Our newly designed midweek Prayer Service will begin this Wednesday at 7:00pm. It will include Scripture reading, singing, a short word of instruction and encouragement, and a significant amount of prayer. Will you join us?
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