Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What is Prayer?

We are beginning January 2018 with a series titled, "Devoted to Prayer" (cf. Col 4:2). Prayer is an essential activity in a Christian's life. It is natural to the child of God to pray unto Him. It is absolutely necessary to the Christian life. Prayer is just as necessary as doctrine. A well-balanced Christian has both an ever-growing knowledge of doctrine and an ever-deepening life of prayer. Knowledge is useless without prayer, just as prayer is useless without knowledge.

Consider the two extremes: First, consider the person who has no knowledge of true doctrine, but prays for hours a day. Devotees of false religions often pray many times a day, but their prayers are neither to the true God nor in the name of Jesus Christ. These prayers, though they be many, are ineffectual and unheard. Second, consider the person who has a doctorate in theology, but never prays. This person is a walking encyclopedia of doctrine. But he never prays. His theology is deficient in the sense that it has not made it from his head to his heart. It has never become anything other than academic. It has not affected him in any real way. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote "The ultimate test of my understanding of the Scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God.” Since theology (doctrine) is knowledge and instruction about God, then the more we know of His awesome character and His mighty deeds in history, the more we should be drawn into a relationship with Him through prayer.

Yet it would seem that there is nothing more neglected in the Christian life today than a life of prayer. How different that is from the New Testament. The early church was devoted to prayer (Acts 2:42), and they were effective evangelists. "The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The apostles devoted themselves to the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4). Yet not even many pastors could be characterized as "devoted to prayer." And like pastor, like people (cf. Hos 4:9). Let us challenge ourselves to devote ourselves to prayer as we begin the new year.

In four weeks, we are considering the "What," "How," "When," and "Why" of prayer.
You can listen to the sermons here:

First, we considered what prayer is. We defined it simply as talking with God. We drew nine statements that describe this activity of talking to God. These nine are by no means exhaustive, but are certainly representational.

1. Prayer is Worship -
Matthew 6:9-10 - "Hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done."

2. Prayer is the Natural Response of the Christian Heart to God in EVERY Circumstance
Philippians 4:6-7 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

3. Prayer is Heartfelt (Not Formulaic)
Matthew 6:7 - "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

4. Prayer is a Privilege Granted to the Christian
Hebrews 4:16 - "Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

5. Prayer is Something God is Most Ready and Willing to Hear
Proverbs 15:8 - "The prayer of the upright is His delight."

6. Prayer is Where the Believer Pours out Their Soul to God
1 Samuel 1:15 - "I have poured out my soul before the Lord."

7. Prayer is Difficult!
Ephesians 6:18 - "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."

8. Prayer is Something in Which the Devil Wants to Hinder Us
Ephesians 6:12 - "Our struggle is not against the 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."

9. Prayer is the Secret of Holiness
Psalm 51:10 - "Create in me a clean heart."

Let us devote ourselves to prayer, coming before our Father in adoration and holiness with great sincerity as a response to every situation, knowing that He is ready and willing to hear us.