Called to Pray

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(various scriptures)

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing in our “Called” series this morning. So far we have looked at being called to community, called to holiness, called to communicate and called to contribute. Today we look at another very important subject: Called to Pray.

I am excited to be talking about prayer this morning. Prayer is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life. You cannot live the Christian life without prayer, and you cannot live the Christian life well without praying well.

So what is prayer? One of the early church fathers, St. Clement of Alexandria, probably put it best, when he said, “Prayer is conversation with God.” That’s it. Simply put, prayer is talking with God.

And yet many Christians struggle with prayer. If you polled a group of Christians asking if they were satisfied with their prayer life, many would answer no. If you asked them, “In what one area of your Christian life do you most need to grow?” many would answer, “Prayer.”

As Christians, we have been called to pray, and so I want to take some time this morning to look at this subject of prayer. I want us to look at three aspects of prayer in particular: 1) prayer is a privilege, 2) prayer is a discipline, and 3) prayer is a responsibility. My hope is that through this study together, we will all be encouraged and motivated to pray, and to grow in our prayer life as believers. So, as we begin this morning, let us pray! (Pray.)

I. Prayer is a privilege.

Prayer is a privilege. Let’s go back to the basic definition of prayer: “Prayer is conversation with God.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Prayer is conversation with God! That one simple statement should overload every circuit of your brain. When we pray, we converse with God – God the creator, God the almighty, God the all-knowing, God the majestic one, God the Supreme Being and absolute ruler of all. We should never cease to be amazed that the God of the universe wants to talk with us! Prayer is a privilege.

    A. We enter God’s presence. (Psalm 84:1-2; Hebrews 4:16)

Prayer is a privilege first of all because through prayer we enter God’s presence. We read in Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2) The Psalm writer longed to enter God’s presence. His soul yearned for God as a hungry man desires food or a thirsty man craves water. Nothing else could take God’s place. There is nothing more beautiful, nothing more refreshing, nothing lovelier or more satisfying than entering the presence of God. And we may enter God’s presence through the privilege of prayer.

Now that’s something we could not do before we became Christians. God is holy, and we are sinful, and so we were separated from God because of our sins and barred from his presence. But Christ bridged the gap and opened the way for us to come back to God. And so if our faith is in Christ, our sins have been forgiven and our fellowship with God is restored. Therefore we may now enter God’s presence through prayer.

The book of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) We may approach God’s throne boldly and with confidence. Why? Because in Christ it is no longer a throne of judgment for us but rather a throne of grace. Christ has opened up the way to God so that we may freely enter his presence through prayer.

You might wonder, “Well, isn’t God everywhere? Aren’t we in God’s presence all the time?” Yes and no. St. Teresa of Avila said, “We are always in the presence of God, yet it seems to me that those who pray are in his presence in a very different sense.” When we come to God in prayer, we become conscious of his presence in a different sense, and there is nothing sweeter or more satisfying in life than resting in God’s presence.

    B. We address him as Father. (Matthew 6:9)

Prayer is also a privilege, because we may address God as Father. Jesus told his disciples in the Lord’s Prayer: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” (Matthew 6:9) Jesus said we may call God “Father.”

We are probably so used to calling God “Father” today that we miss the wonder of this. This was an amazing statement by Christ. No one called God “Father” in those days. God was sometimes referred to as the Father of all in that he was the Creator or the Father of Israel in that he brought the nation into existence, but no one called God personally “their Father” – no one except Jesus that is! And now in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus extended this great privilege to his disciples and to all of us who follow Christ.

That is an amazing privilege! In prayer you talk with God as a child talks with his or her own father. That means prayer is personal, respectful, trusting, and honest. You can talk to God about anything! As Francois Fenelon once wrote: “Talk to him in prayer of all your wants, your troubles, even of the weariness you feel in serving him. You cannot speak too freely, too trustfully to him.”

    C. We are invited to ask. (John 16:24)

Prayer is a privilege because we enter God’s presence, we address him as Father, and thirdly, because we are invited to ask. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24) The God of the universe invites you to ask him for anything that you need. That is amazing. You never have to be fearful or shy about asking. God has already given you permission in advance. He wants you to ask, and he delights to answer. Why? So that your joy will be complete. That’s how much God loves you. Prayer is an extraordinary privilege.

II. Prayer is a discipline.

So, if prayer is such a wonderful privilege, why don’t we pray more? Why do we struggle so much with our prayer life? We struggle because prayer is not only a privilege. Prayer is also a discipline. We must develop the discipline and practice of prayer in our life if we are to enjoy this remarkable privilege.

    A. Our sin nature gets in the way. (Romans 7:18-20)

Why is prayer a discipline? Well, first of all, prayer is a discipline because our sin nature gets in the way. The apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans 7:18-20)

Even though our sins may be forgiven as Christians, we still have a sin nature within us that fights against the things of God. And that includes the practice of prayer. I have the desire to do what is good – “I want to pray; I want to grow in my prayer life” – but I do not always carry it out. Why? Because my sin nature gets in the way.

    B. We don’t always see results. (Luke 18:1)

A second reason why prayer is a discipline is because we do not always see results. In Luke 18 we read that “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1) In this parable Jesus tells about a widow who kept coming to an unjust judge with her request for justice. For awhile the judge kept refusing her. But finally he said to himself: “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” (Luke 18:4)

The point of the parable is not that God is like an unjust judge. The point is that if even the unjust judge eventually answered this woman’s prayer, how much more will God answer your prayers when you cry out to him? God is for you. And so just because we don’t see the answer to our prayer happen right away or it doesn’t happen the way we think it should doesn’t mean we should stop praying.

If every time we prayed, we saw immediate results, I am guessing most of us would pray more often. I mean, why wouldn’t we? If prayer was a shortcut to getting the things you wanted, we would all be praying all the time. But that is not the purpose of prayer. Prayer is not about me asking and getting things that I want. Prayer is about me setting aside my wants and desires and going to God and seeking his will for my life. I need to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, O Lord.” And then I need to trust God with the results. As William Culbertson once said, “Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers.”

    C. We are called to persevere. (Matthew 7:7)

And then a third reason prayer is a discipline is because we are called to persevere in prayer. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7) In the original text in the Greek, the verbs in this verse are what are called “present imperatives,” which carry the additional meaning of “keep on” doing something. And so we could translate this verse, “Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” It is a picture of persisting and persevering in prayer.

Prayer is a discipline. And because it is a discipline, we must persevere. We must put some effort into developing the practice of prayer in our life. There will be days when we do not feel like praying, but we must pray anyways. Martin Luther once wrote, “Prayer is the most important thing in my life. If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.” And it is the same for us. The poet George Herbert said: “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” We should pray each morning as we start our day; we should talk to God at the end of each day before we fall asleep, and we should talk to God throughout the day as various events take place.

Now if you’re having trouble remembering to pray when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night, you could always try the prayer rock method. (Read Prayer Rock poem.)

Hey, it would be wonderful if we woke up each morning ready to pray and prayed our way through the day and prayed each night. But it doesn’t happen naturally. It is something we must develop. Prayer is a discipline.

III. Prayer is a responsibility.

And then finally, prayer is a responsibility. We are called to prayer not only as a privilege and a discipline, but we have a responsibility to pray as Christians as well.

    A. Prayerlessness is sin. (1 Samuel 12:23)

Prayer is a responsibility first of all because God commands us to pray, and therefore prayerlessness is sin. The prophet Samuel recognized this. When the people of Israel asked Samuel to pray for them, he responded by saying, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23) Samuel recognized that lack of prayer was a sin.

One of my favorite books on prayer is a book by Andrew Murray called The Prayer Life. It is a book that was birthed out of a conference that took place in April 1912. At the time there was a widespread sense that the church in general was lacking in spiritual power and effectiveness, and so over two hundred ministers, missionaries and theological students gathered in South Africa to study the problem and discuss it together. Murray writes this in the foreword of his book:

“The Lord graciously so ordered it that we were gradually led to the sin of prayerlessness as the deepest roots of the evil. No one could plead himself free from this. Nothing so reveals the defective spiritual life in minister and congregation as the lack of believing and unceasing prayer. Prayer is in very deed the pulse of the spiritual life. It is the great means of bringing to minister and people the blessing and power of heaven. Persevering and believing prayer means a strong and abundant life.” (Andrew Murray; The Prayer Life, p. 8 )

Murray went on to write his book on prayer as a reminder of the things they had all learned together at the conference, especially concerning the sin of prayerlessness.

    B. People depend on our prayers. (Romans 15:30)

A second reason why prayer is a responsibility is because people depend on our prayers. The apostle Paul often began his letters with prayer and ended his letters asking for prayer. Romans 15:30 is a good example: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (Romans 15:30)

Paul knew that he couldn’t make it without prayer. And neither can you or I. We need each other’s prayers, and so we have a responsibility to be praying for each other.

    C. God works through our prayers. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

And then finally, prayer is a responsibility because God works through our prayers. The Bible says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Wow! What a great verse! Never doubt God’s power to answer prayer. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. And how does he do that? “According to his power that is at work within us.” God uses us in prayer. It may seem amazing, but God has chosen to partner with us and to work in this world through our prayers. So, if we are not praying, then we are holding back on God’s power to work in the world.

If you are not praying for your family, you are holding back on God’s power to work in your family. If you are not praying for your church, you are holding back on God’s power to work in the church. If you are not praying for your community, you are holding back on God’s power to work in your community. If you are not praying for missions, you are holding back on God’s power to work in missions. And if you are not praying for your unsaved friends, you are holding back on God’s power to work in the lives of your unsaved friends.

It’s not that God cannot work without our prayers. Rather, he has chosen to work through our prayers. And that makes prayer an awesome responsibility.

CONCLUSION: As Christians we are called to pray. So let me encourage you to pray. Begin and end each day with prayer. (Use the Prayer Rock if you have to!) Pray throughout the day as various things come up. Pray together with your family and friends. When you gather in small groups for fellowship or Bible study, pray. Every Sunday morning at 9:30 we have a time for prayer in the home economics room before the service. If you can get here at 9:30, join us to pray. Every Wednesday morning we meet for prayer at the church office at 6:30 a.m. to pray for the needs of the church. If you can make it Wednesday morning, come and join us for prayer.

Prayer is an amazing privilege. Think about it – we get to talk to God our Father! It is a constant discipline – it is not always easy to pray, and we just have to stick with it. And it is an awesome responsibility – God works in this world and in other people’s lives through our prayers. We are called to pray.

© Ray Fowler

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