Sermon – May 27, 2018
Today we are starting a new sermon series pointed at deepening our knowledge of prayer, that we might be more faithful in prayer, and better understand the immense importance of our prayers. This series will look at several diverse types of prayer made by God’s people both in the New and the Old Testaments; but before we look at those prayers, it is important that we understand correctly why we pray. We pray because God rewards the prayers of the humble in faith. Let us look at each of the five major words in that reason in some detail:
In Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus warns us not to babble incessantly to God when we prayed. The reason for this is the knowledge of who the God that we are praying to is. First, he is not many. There are not many gods that you can honestly pray to, but only one. Therefore, you don’t need to shop your prayer around, wondering who will listen to it. Secondly, God is able to hear us. We are not heard for our many words, as though they awaken God to our plight. He can and does hear us. Third, God desires to hear us. He longs to hear the prayers of his sons and daughters; they are his delight! And, lastly, God is all knowing. The God that we pray to knows all things, therefore, let us not think that our prayers are primarily for him, so that he may be instructed on the goings on in the world. Rather the prayers of the saints are for the reward of the saints!
God does not just “answer” our prayers. To think that this is primarily what God does is to limit the concept of prayer down to mere request. But biblical prayer is much more than just asking God for things. It contains adoration, thanksgiving, confession, and praise. God rewards these things, with his presence and provision. We certainly can, and should, ask for the things we need, but don’t limit your prayers to God to that alone!
3. The prayers
Also, it should be noted that simply being around prayer isn’t enough. Listening to prayer, reading about prayer, meditating on prayer, and thinking about prayer accomplishes nothing without actually praying! Jesus here simply expects his people to pray – and so we should! But, if he expects it, why don’t we?
We likely don’t because we are prideful. James 4:1-7 shows the disastrous consequences of pride on the prayer life of God’s people. They have two problems. First, they don’t pray because they get all of their needs on their own (they covet, and instead of praying to God about it, fight and quarrel over it). Therefore, James tells them to humble themselves (4:6). Secondly, they ask, but only to waste it on themselves, so God refuses to affirm their prayer. Therefore, James tells them to submit themselves to God, even their desires (4:7). So should we! Recognize how much we need God’s good hand and provision, and humbling ourselves, pray that God might give us the good that he desires, not what our flesh desires.
All of this is surrounded by faith. We know God only through faith in Jesus Christ. We receive our rewards through faith. We will only pray through faith. We will only be humbled as we hear the word of God through faith. Faith is the oil that makes the machinery of prayer move.
We would do well to apply the words of John Owen to our own lives, even if we are not ministers of the Word:
A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is, and no more.
Remember friends, you may think that you are pretty well set, and have this old world mostly figured out. But Owen must be right: what you are before the Lord in prayer, that you are, and no more.