Prayer is…

[If you’d like to listen to the Audio Record of this message, click the Spotify player at the bottom of this post.]

I want to briefly look at the topic of prayer. For many of us, it is not an unusual topic. In fact we have been focusing much of this particular service on prayer. Prayer for our church and it’s ministry in Viroqua. Prayers for our local, state, and federal civic leadership. Prayers for our community at large. Prayers for other countries like Haiti and Afghanistan. 

And if that was your first introduction to prayer, you might wonder if we do anything else.

Three things about Prayer: 

  1. Prayer is Paramount. 
  2. Prayer is to Glorify God, not us. 
  3. Prayer is an important way to join God’s work. 
  1. Prayer is Paramount.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

2 Chron 7:14 ESV

Prayer is Paramount. If we do nothing else but pray throughout the week, even when we gather together…if all we intend and plan for is prayer: connecting with God – speaking to him, quietly, patiently listening…we’re in good shape.

If we would do that, I have no doubt that God would move us to ACTION. The sad thing is, for antsy people like me…we usually put the cart before the horse. We do the actions we think are right without really taking time to commune and listen to God.

While on the South Texas District, my wife and I went to a Pastor and Spouse type of pre-ordination training weekend. One of the last exercises and tests we were to do was get into a small group and talk out how we’d solve the following problem. “Someone has donated $5,000 for you and your staff to take a prayer retreat. How would you use the money, what would you do, what are your plans for the retreat? Also, you only have 30 minutes to plan.”

That was a training exercise I will never forget. Some of the guys around in the circle had strong personalities. They were task orientated people. A few spoke up and made suggestions. Perhaps they asked what people thought about a certain idea. Our spouses were not joining in, most likely feeling left out of the planning. Near the end of the time limit, it was pointed out that we have a Spanish speaking pastor in our group. He had another person translate with him. We didn’t intentionally connect with him or even ask his thoughts on things.

Once we were encouraged to inquire what he thought, he said, “30 minutes is not enough time. I would say ‘thank you for your gift’ [to the person who gave $5,000] and then pray about how to best use the money.”

I learned in that group to slow down and listen. Take other’s ideas and thoughts into consideration and don’t leave people out. Best of all, don’t be pressured into making decisions without taking it to God in Prayer.

  1. Prayer is to Glorify God, not us.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Matt 6:5-8 ESV

Anytime a person earnestly prays, they are reaching out to the One who is higher, more powerful, who is Holy. When we pray it shouldn’t have air quotes around the word “pray.” Prayer is a conversation between us and God. We ask him things…because he knows…everything. We ask him to move in a powerful way because…we believe He can, [and he can.] Perhaps we have seen it in our own life.

Jesus makes it clear here in Matthew, if we pray for our glory we have received our reward. But if in humility we ask him for forgiveness, restoration, healing, guidance…all the things, and we do so not to garner attention from the world but truly to connect with God, He is our great reward. 

  1. Prayer is an important way to join God’s work.

Just a little a few verses later, Jesus gives us the best example of a humble prayer that reaches out to God, calling on him to do what He wants. But in doing so, we join with him in His desires.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

Matt 6:9-15 NIV

I’d like to put that in my own words if you will. 

Holy is your Name. Bring your kingdom here and now. Give us just what we need. Forgive as we have forgiven. Protect us from stumbling and falling in sin.

As we pray that with an honest and open heart, we join together with God…seeking his kingdom coming, now. Doing what we hear him say to do in order to see His kingdom continue to take root. 

Care for the widow and the orphan. Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit and teaching them everything Jesus commanded us. To have compassion on the needy. To have faith in Jesus, that he can do anything.

Do you truly believe Jesus can change anyone’s heart?

If yes, then pray that way.

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