Prayer ~ 20100117 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/17/10 - Prayer
We, as the
people of God, are called to pray. We are to be a people of prayer.
Prayer is to characterize the church of God. We must pray, and we
need to pray. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples devoted
themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). In the early church, the prayers,
alongside the apostles' teaching, fellowship and the breaking of
bread, was what the believers devoted themselves to (Acts 2:42). The
Apostles turned some of the physical ministry of the church over to
others so that they could devote themselves to prayer and to the
ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Earnest prayer set prisoners free
(Acts 12:5). If we want victory over the forces of evil, Jesus said
the power for that victory comes only through prayer (Mk.9:29). When
God told Ananias to go speak to Saul of Tarsus, who had been
severely persecuting the churches, he said 'behold, he is praying'
(Acts 9:11). When Jesus demonstrated his fury by making a whip of
cords and driving people out of the temple, it was because 'my house
shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations' (Mark 11:17;
cf.Jn.2:15). In Revelation, the prayers of the saints are being
poured out as incense before the throne of God (Rev.5:8, 8:3-4).
Over and over again in scripture, we are called to pray, and great promises are attached to our praying.
Jesus commanded that we pray:
Prayer is essential and we are commanded to pray. I believe that we will be more inclined to pray and more determined and disciplined to pray if we understand what prayer is and how it works. We will be more effective in our praying if we understand how to effectively wield the weapon of prayer. I say the weapon of prayer, because prayer is listed in the description of the spiritual armor that every believer is to take up in Ephesians 6:
R. Kent Hughes describes the scene of a soldier preparing for battle:
So, in order to obey our divine commander and take up this weapon of "All-Prayer", we need to know what it is. What is prayer? Most simply and broadly put, prayer is conversation or talking with God. To be more accurate, prayer is our part of the conversation. When we speak to God, it is called prayer. When God speaks to us, it is called divine revelation or Holy Spirit illumination. Prayer can describe anything we say to God, whether it be worship of who he is, thanksgiving for what he's done, confession of sin, questions, concerns or desires expressed to him, needs requested of him. But when prayer is distinguished from some of these other types of Godward communication, prayer is specifically the asking part of our speaking to God. Prayer is coming to God with needs that we request that he meet, calling on him for help.
So a prerequisite for effective prayer is an understanding of who we are in relationship to our Creator. We are weak; he is omnipotent in strength. We are poor; he has all resources at his disposal. We are fools; he all-wise. We are blind; he sees all and knows the end from the beginning. We are dependent; he is self-existent. We are helpless; he delights to stoop down to help those in need. We are miserable in that we often turn from him as the all satisfying source of true joy and fulfillment and back to the fleeting pleasures of sin that we know will leave us hollow and empty with a painfully bitter aftertaste.
To put it bluntly, if we don't know ourselves to be weak, poor, foolish, helpless, miserable wretches, then we won't pray. Or if we do pray, our very prayers will be an offensive stench in the nostrils of God. We may pray like the wretched Pharisee "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." (Lk.18:11-12). That is a pompous arrogant self-centered self-righteous boast, not a prayer. Until we see our acute sinfulness and desperate need, we cannot pray as we ought. If we hope to be given anything by God, we must come as a desperate beggar. That is what prayer is. Jesus told us that "apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn.15:5). We cannot come to God self-assured, self-confident, as if we had some talents or gifts or resources that he should be impressed with. God cannot accept us if we come to him with a high self-esteem. 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (1Pet.3:5-6). We are nothing, in fact, worse than nothing. We were created in his image with his dignity, but we have disfigured and distorted that image by wallowing in sin. We refuse to submit to his rightful authority, we are rebels against him and enemies of the cross. We have taken his good gifts and spat in his face. We have dragged his good name through the sewer. We must take our place with the tax-collector:
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' (Lk.18:13)
That is true praying. Asking. Crying out for mercy with a deep heartfelt sense of unworthiness and need. And yet boldly calling out to God because he is 'rich in mercy' (Eph.2:4). So prayer is turning away from ourselves to God in confidence that he will provide what we need. But where do we get this confidence? What makes us think that God will hear our prayers or be disposed to answer favorably? That brings us to the next point;
All our praying must be cross-centered praying. The cross is the expression of God's mercy toward sinners. What we deserve - justice and wrath and punishment and eternal separation from a good God in hell, God poured out on Jesus on the cross. What we don't deserve - forgiveness and welcome and kindness and favor and blessing, God freely gives to us who have taken refuge in the cross of Jesus. Our only safe place of meeting with God is at the foot of Calvary. If we come on our own, we will face the wrath of an angry God. If I come to him on the ground of the finished work of Jesus for me, I find love and peace and hope and joy and help. Jesus said:
Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no other access.
We, Jew and Gentile alike, gain access to the Father through the blood of Christ on the cross. We have been brought near to God through the substitutionary sin-bearing work of Jesus.
Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners. Because of the cross, God remembers our sins no more. They are gone! They have been punished, God's justice is satisfied! And through the blood of Jesus, we now have confidence to enter the presence of God. We can enter with confidence and a clean conscience. Even boldness.
Because of the cross, we can be bold in prayer. We can use our blood bought privilege to approach with confidence the throne of grace. We can cry out as needy sinners to the God of all grace who will supply every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19). We can have confidence because:
If Christ died for us while we were sinners, what do you think he is willing to do for us now that he has made us saints? He has done the infinitely hard thing in bearing our sins and turning enemies into friends. Now that he has transformed us, how much easier is it for him as our Father and Friend to answer our requests as we ask according to his will? This is how Paul argues in Romans 8:
We have his promise from the Psalms:
And we have the word of Jesus himself:
Prayer is essential. We as believers must take up the weapon of prayer if we are to stand our ground. Prayer is asking – coming to God empty with our needs asking God who is the all-sufficient source to supply our every need. We approach in humble boldness because of the cross. We have been forgiven and invited, even commanded to come. We bring glory to God as the giver by coming to him to receive.