Prayer

Scripture: Luke 11:1, NLT

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

INTRODUCTION

One day, after Jesus had finished praying, His disciples came to Him with this request, “LORD, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples to pray.” It is a reasonable request, yea even noble. In my 47 years of ministry, I remember only one person making this request of me. This is not a derogatory comment on those who didn’t ask, it may have more to do with me being a poor model than them have no desire to learn. I think Jesus was thrilled with the request and He began teaching right away.

Furthermore, these guys ask the right question. I might have asked, “Lord, teach me to preach.” To which Jesus would have said, “You need to learn the art of prayer first.” There is no doubt that prayer is first base to ministry, if you miss it, you will not be successful.

I don’t preach many one verse sermons but this one stirred my spirit and I pray that the Ruach ha Kodesh {Spirit of Holiness} will stir me today along with your heart as well.

I. FIRST, JESUS HAD A PASSION [desire] TO PRAY

There is a very popular Greek word used in the N.T. , it is thelō and it is used 212 times which is a lot. It can be translated: to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose, to desire, to wish, to love, to like to do a thing, to take delight in, have pleasure in.

  • It is used of Jesus: {Matthew 8:3} Jesus reached out and touched him.“I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”And instantly the leprosy.
  • It can be used of God: {Matthew 12:7} But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
  • It is used of us: {Matthew 16:24-25} Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Although thelō is used in reference to God’s desire and will, it is used predominately in reference to man’s will. A couple of examples: [1] In Matthew 18, the parable of the unforgiving servant, it is used…So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

Why didn’t he forgive his fellow servant? He did not want to, wish to, he had no desire to forgive. Stay with me, this one word disproved 90 percent of what the reforms teach. It is used in reference to the Rich Young Ruler. {Matthew 19:17}  “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Why didn’t the ungrateful servant forgive? He didn’t want to or choose to.

Why did the Rich Young Ruler reject Jesus invitation to be one of His disciples because he choose not to. It was not his {thelō } will, desire to follow Jesus. His passion was for the world.

Why don’t you pray? Because you don’t desire {thelō } to, you don’t want to, you don’t pray because you don’t choose to pray. It is not God’s fault that we don’t pray or know how to pray. He will teach us if only we have the passion to learn. If we boil it down to one thing, it is passion, desire, thelō, we have not because we ask not, and who’s to blame?

If you are ignorant on the subject of prayer it is your fault, you are willfully ignoring the teaching of Christ set forth is this very chapter. I’m not going to say that all ignorance is willful but I would suspect that a great portion of ignorance is our own fault.

We could pray if we wanted to and we could learn more about prayer if we wanted to but that is the problem, we don’t want to and that is on us, not God. I refuse to give God credit for my sin. He is holy. He does not sin and He is not in my sin or your sin. He hates sin and has condemned it in the flesh.

II. SECONDLY, JESUS HAD A PRACTICE OF PRAY

It is easier to preach and teach on prayer than it is to pray. I have all kind of notes on prayer. I have read book after book on prayer. I have attended prayer retreats, prayer conferences but these are not substitutes for true authentic prayer. The most difficult discipline in the Christian life is the habit or practice of prayer. If you aren’t careful, you will do everything on your schedule before you stop and pray. 

I actually enjoy prayer but what I don’t enjoy is getting up at 4:00 a.m. I did it for years but the older I get, the harder it is to go to sleep, stay asleep or wake refreshed. My wake up time and get up time are two different things. After I wake up, the battle between mind and body starts and getting up is struggle.

Sometimes I have headaches that last for two or three days. I had one all day Wednesday and woke up about 4:00 Thursday morning with a splitting headache. I did not intend to get up. Every bone in my body was crying bed, bed, bed! I had to go to the car to get a B.C. powder and the brisk air refreshed me. I took the B.C.’s before going back inside and by the time I got to my study, which is our entrance 90% of time, I was wide awake. So I sat down and began rereading the highlights of an S.D. Gordon book on prayer.

A still small voice whispered, “Why don’t you preview Sunday’s scripture?” So I opened the bible and saw that my text was on prayer. One thing lead to another and by 7:00 a.m. I had a sermon and a prayer time. When I went outside to water the plants, I found myself thanking God for the headache.

I’m confessing my weakness but I am also challenging you to make prayer a priority. You have to make it the most important task of the day. I love Jack Taylor who told of the guy who began a meeting with this comment, “Let’s have prayer and get on with the business.” Dr. Taylor’s response was: PRAYER IS THE BUSINESS. It is sad that people my age who have been in church all their life do not understand what I just said. The most important thing a pastor can do is pray; the same is true with deacons. This is our problem, we want to take care of the business without “finishing” our prayer. Notice, Jesus finished praying. Peter embarrassed himself because he did not “finish” his praying in the garden of Gethsemane. It might not be such a wise idea to get on with the business before we finished praying.

III. THIRDLY, JESUS HAD A PLACE TO PRAY

As I have already stated, prayer is a difficult discipline and we get no help from the flesh, the world or the devil. These three are our foe and they will do anything in their power to keep us from prayer. We need all the help we can get. 

  1. Start small, just like a fire, you begins with twigs, then sticks, then limbs and then logs. Don’t time your devotion or prayer. I recommend that people begin with Our Daily Bread. You can do you entire QT in 15 minutes. Your goal is not to be brief or lengthy, your first goal is to establish a habit. Focus on consistency but don’t quit when you miss a day.
  2. Second, you need a place where you can’t be distracted. This is why Jesus recommended a closet. He said, “Go in and shut the down behind you.” We must disengage ourselves from the world and this requires a “Certain Place.”
  3. Your place of prayer needs to be a quiet place, away from the traffic, the noise of the world. A soul refreshing prayer time depends on this “Certain Place” away from the noise and distractions. The lady on the movie “War Room” had the right idea. Decorate your closet with bible verses, posters, sticky notes or even a prayer chest. I have a pray chest at home and at the office. I write most of my prayers and I use an open bible to help me. I don’t think these prayers will ever be read by anyone. When I am gone, I am pretty sure my stuff will be burned but I don’t write them for the public, they are personal letter to God. I would actually be embarrassed if you did read them.
  4. I am convinced that every prayer counts; just keep offering them one at a time.

Conclusion

I want to close with a story and one of my all time favorites. I can’t remember where I got it but it makes the point. A young minister went to an old minister and ask him to teach him to pray. The old man told the young preacher, “Prayer begins with a certain place and I have a place where I pray.” The young man said, “Would you show me this place of prayer?” The old man agreed and off they went behind the old man’s house, through the woods from one beaten path to another. Every few hundreds yard the young preacher would ask, “How much further?” The old man would say, “Just a little bit further,” but he would keep going, not even slacking his pace. The young man’s burden to pray was getting heavier by the moment and finally he said, “I can’t go any further, I have to pray now.” The old man stopped and dropped to a knee, then said, “We are here, this is the place.”

Most prayers begin with a burden and if you don’t have one, chances are, you will not do much praying.

One final comment: the key to prayer is a relationship with the Father. Do you have this relationship? You can’t earn this relationship, you have to be born into the family. Would you put your trust in Jesus today?

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