home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 June 17 Praying Prayers

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

¶ Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1

WHAT IS PRAYER?

Put simply, prayer is talking to God. It can be done by speaking audibly to God. It can be done silently. It can be done in writing. For those who do not understand what prayer is, it is – at least what they think is – a way to make God do what they want. While it is true that we can submit our requests to God in prayer (Phil. 4:6), true prayer actually begins by submitting ourselves to God first (Rom. 12:1). The person who begins to pray by telling God what to do is bound to be disappointed with God when they eventually discover that it is God who wants to tell them what to do! Perhaps this is why “unanswered prayers” is offered as one of the main reasons why atheists do not believe in God (even though it reveals the gravitational pull on every human soul to seek and connect with God).

Prayer is a mystery. Why does the all-powerful Supreme Being invite us, His creatures, to have direct access to Him through prayer? This is astounding! But even more astounding is that He invites us to share in His government over our world through prayer to Him! Notice the opening lines of the Lord’s Prayer:

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:9-10

It is almost like the parent who has not only provided their growing child with a comfortable bedroom in a comfortable family home that they can call (and to some extent, make – by their decorations and furnishings) their own, who then must ask their child for permission to enter. Even after they have told their child to tidy their room, the parent still enters after their child has left for school and does the last of the tidying up that their child didn’t notice (and still doesn’t even afterwards). There are times of course, when the child may be overwhelmed by the task to tidy their room. In those moments they may call out to their father, “Can you help me?” I sometimes see this as being like our prayers to God. He has given us our lives; He has given us our world; He has told us to keep them tidy; and, there are times when it is just too overwhelming to do it. It is in these times that we call out to Him for help. And just as our earthly parents love to help their children, our heavenly Father loves to help His children who call out to Him for help. 

Our prayers express our trust in God. When we pray to God we are acknowledging our dependence upon Him. The highest prayers we can pray sound very similar to the highest prayers ever prayed which were recorded by the Gospel writers, Matthew (Matt. 26:39) and Luke, who recorded what Christ prayed just prior to Him entering into His suffering for the sins of the world:

[Jesus knelt down] saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

This is the greatest example of a prayer ever prayed. It models exactly what prayer is about – 

  1. surrender to God “not My will” (this is the essence of worship); 
  2. trust in God “but Your will be done”;
  3. talking to God “Father…”; and 
  4. then submitting a request to God “remove this cup [of suffering] from Me.”

 

HOW NOT TO PRAY

Jesus taught His followers how not to pray. 

¶ “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.
Matthew 6:5-7

Praying is talking to our heavenly Father. It is not done merely to impress others. Jesus called this type of praying hypocritical. It is not a matter of having the right words, more words, long words, or even many words. Our praying should come from our hearts to God. Because praying is firstly an act of our surrender to God, we do not pray with a tone of telling God what He must do or how He is to do it. When we pray, we are not talking to the devil or any evil spirit – we keep addressing our heavenly Father when we pray. And when we are praying we are addressing the Only One who declares and decrees what will be, therefore we do not declare to the air what things must happen or how they are to happen.

 

PRAYING LIKE JESUS

Jesus praying.Jesus spent time by Himself and prayed for certain people. This is remarkable. Jesus told Peter that He had been praying for him that his faith would not fail and that after he had been restored he would be able to strengthen his fellow disciples (Luke 22:32). How much more then, should we be praying for one another? When Jesus reached the tomb of His dead friend Lazarus, His praying for this moment had all been done. Thus, His prayer before raising Lazarus from dead was remarkably short:

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.”When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
John 11:41-44

It’s also amazing to me that as well as Jesus praying for Peter – and each of His other disciples (John 17:9-11) – He also prayed for all future believers yet-to-be-born!

¶ “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
John 12:20-21

This tells me that I can pray for my great great great grand-children who are yet to be born to love God and walk after Him with all their heart. It also tells me that I can pray for our church family who, in two or three or four hundred years time, will be a witness to their community just as we are being a witness to ours now.

And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.
Luke 10:2

Jesus often spent time on His own praying (Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 11:1; 22:41). He prayed for the will of God to be done and taught His disciples to do the same (Matt. 6:10). Perhaps this may mean that praying to God does something profound to us in the process. Quite possibly, praying for God’s will to be accomplished in the earth transforms our hearts and minds to be conformed to God’s will in the process. If this is the case then it might be worth our while examining the prayers that were prayed in the Bible – particularly by Jesus and His apostles as recorded in the New Testament epistles. By praying these prayers we may also become conformed to them and discover two beautiful things. Firstly, our hearts enter a rest with our Saviour even in the midst of any turmoil we may be encountering. This is what we see Jesus doing in Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed. Secondly, our souls find peace with God as we openly and transparently commune our petitions to Him and ask our Daddy to join us in our moments of overwhelming mess to help us to clean up what we could never manage on our own. This is why we should pray these prayers. Let’s pray.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...

HOW TO OPEN LIFE’S LOCKED DOORS

When I turned 50, I decided to do something really difficult. I enrolled in a university course to learn Biblical Greek. And, trust me when I say, this in no way is a brag – because I struggled through it and took far far longer than the average Biblical Greek student ordinarily takes to complete this course. I had to do twenty translation tests and then two major translations exams of the New Testament’s Greek text into English. I scraped through the course and somehow managed to pass it. I can testify that learning another language later in life is really hard! This is why I have the utmost respect for non-English-speaking migrants who come to our country and manage to learn English. Learning languages is not the only thing I find difficult. I envy those people who do the things easily that I find difficult to do or understand (like quadratic mathematic equations for example). Over the years I have pondered why it is that different people doing the same task can result in a person finding it incredibly easy who then gets it done quickly, and why another other person finds it next-to-impossible and as a result gives up trying to do it. I have discovered the answer to this conundrum lies in the “mat” principle. 

JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.