The Importance of Prayer
But the Bible tells us to:
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7:)
What does it mean to be “careful for nothing”?
Have you ever wondered about that phrase in Phil. 4:6?
When you’re CAREFUL w/ something, you put great CARE into it.
So this is saying not to put CARE into the things of this world that cause you stress or anxiety.
Psalm 145:18-19: “18 The LORD [is] nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. 19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.”
• And prayer is often compared to a “cry” in the Bible …
… because it’s often out of our distress & desperation that we call out to God …
PSALM 18:6: “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”
And that’s one of the most primal prayers. Calling out to God when we feel we need Him!
But THE PRIDEFUL or the STRONG MAN or WOMAN thinks they no need of prayer.
Psalm 10:4 says: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”
But as for the righteous, Psalm 34:15 says:
15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
& the Bible says that we should call on God at all times, not just when we have a need.
In Psalm 5:2-3, the Bible says to call on God in the morning:
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayerunto thee, and will look up.
The Bible says to call upon God both day and night in Psalm 88:1-2:
1 O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
And in Psalm 55:17, the Bible tells us to call upon God even three times a day: “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”
• In other words, the Bible is telling us, like Paul, to “Pray Without Ceasing.”
In Acts 6:4, Paul said that the apostles would give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
In Psalm 116:1-2, the Bible says:
1 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
* So we are supposed to be continually in prayer & this is to be the Christian’s regiment [& the reading of the Word his diet] his entire life.
If you’re not habitually in prayer, the FLESH is eventually going to win over.
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
• BY CONTRAST, the Bible says that the wicked are far from God and from praying and calling out to Him:
14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
Psalm 14:4: “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.”
Psalm 79:6: “Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.”
Speaking even of God’s own people in Isaiah 43:22, the Bible reads: “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.”
• When pastors don’t pray & seek the Lord, the Bible says that God will scatter the sheep:
In Jeremiah 10:21,25:
21 For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.
25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name …
And in Daniel 9:13-14, there is a warning against prayerlessness:
13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
14Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.
So we see that prayerlessness is associated with the wicked & the unbeliever.
• So let’s look at some of Paul’s words on prayer.
• Understanding how Paul prayed, gives us a clear example of what we should be praying for as a new testament church.
• And what we see in Paul is that one of the most important focuses of our prayers should be intercession for our brothers & sisters in Christ.
• Now don’t think you’re too big to pray for yourself. Even Jesus prayed for Himself in John 17; and we’ll get to that.
Colossians 4:12 is a perfect example of believers praying for one another: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
We should be like Epaphras, a servant of Christ, who ALWAYS LABORED FERVENTLY in prayer for other Christians.
Paul also wrote in Romans 1:9 that he prayed for the Saints without ceasing:
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
In Romans 12:12, Paul said that we should always be: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;”
Colossians 1:9 Paul said: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;”
In 2 Timothy 1:3 Paul says he prays night and day for Timothy: “I thank God, whom I serve from [my] forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;”
• We should ask others to pray for us. And we should pray for others in return.
PAUL SAID, in 1 Thessalonians 5:25”: “Brethren, pray for us.”
In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, Paul said: “Finally, brethren, pray for us …”
Paul often solicited the prayers of the Saints …
But it was most clearly for the purpose of preaching the GOSPEL.
1 thing I’ve realized over the years is that if I pray for God to open up the door for me to preach the Gospel, He provides every resource that I need.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
& PAUL SAID TO “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING” (1 THESS 5:17).
That doesn’t mean that we are in a posture of prayer, on our knees, eyes closed, 24 hours a day, praying.
That’s not possible.
What it means is that we are to be in conversation & communion with God throughout the whole day.
It’s an admonishment to make prayer a characteristic of our lives.
Paul said in Ephesians 6:18 that we should be: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for ALL saints;”
And then in v. 19, Paul asks prayer for himself to preach the Gospel boldly:
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
So, Paul’s requests, were exclusively for the purpose of preaching the Gospel & edifying believers.
In Colossians 4:3, Paul says: “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:”
In 2 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul requests: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:”
Romans 15:30-31, he says: “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in [your] prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which [I have] for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
That’s the other type of prayer that Paul often prays: that he would be delivered from his enemies, who were trying to stop him from preaching the Gospel.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:2: “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.”
Paul also frequently prayed that he could minister to the Saints face to face:
In 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 Paul prayed that he might be able to come and minister to the Saints personally: “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?”
In Hebrews 13:
18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
So are you getting the picture?
• Paul’s prayers consisted of:
(1) Praying for the opportunities to preach the Gospel.
(2) Praying to minister to the Saints face to face
(3) Praying for deliverance from the wicked so that he could do #1 and #2.
Paul was single-minded.
And this shows us that when our prayers are not answered, it’s because we’re praying for the wrong things, with the wrong motives.
1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Jesus did say: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”
… BUT WE MUST PRAY ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL:
That’s why we see in 1 John 5:14-15:
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
LOOK ALSO AT EPHESIANS 1:
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
• So Paul is continually making mention of these Saints by name in his prayers.
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
• He prays for WISDOM & KNOWLEDGE through REVELATION
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
This is Paul’s Prayer: That we have hope through our inheritance in Christ, and that we understand that the true riches & the glory that we have in Christ.
LOOK ALSO @ Ephesians 3:
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Paul emphasizes here in his prayers, the LOVE OF GOD …
… that we are to be GROUNDED IN LOVE & know the LOVE OF CHRIST which passeth knowledge!
• What is it to be GROUNDED?
When you’re grounded, You’re not high and lifted up with pride … or with your intellect & knowledge
You’re rooted …
And so we’re to be grounded, not in high & lofty things too high for us, but to be rooted in love.
This is an EXACT parallel to 1 Corinthians 13:
2 And though I havethe gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
• So a few practical tips on prayer:
(1) We must find time to pray regularly.
Make it a habit of it, like taking a shower, & brushing your teeth. Make it a part of your routine.
When I first got saved, I’d always hear about DEVOTIONAL TIMES.
And I thought it sounded kind of corny. But it’s really a great idea.
& I don’t hear about devotional times that often anymore.
• Set aside AN HOUR A DAY ideally … to just to pray & read your Bible.
• And I realize you have busy lives … but even if you spend 30 minutes in prayer a day …
… the rest of your day will be better structured & organized …
• So have that dedicated time alone with God.
• Jesus would often go up into the mountains in seclusion to pray …
In Luke 5:16, the bible says that Jesus: “withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
And at other times, Jesus took a few close disciples with Him.
In Luke 9, it says that Jesus took “Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.”
Matthew 6:5-6 also says to pray in seclusion & in private:
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Someone asked me recently if Jesus was speaking literally.
And the answer is no; He was being metaphoric.
GOING INTO YOUR CLOSET just means to go somewhere secluded, where you can shut out the rest of the world & pray.
• But you can take it literally too.
I used to go literally into my closet, shut the door, and spend hours on my knees or prostrate on the floor, praying
… & crying out to God to answer me.
And those were some of the best times in my life, where God would answer the deepest prayers of my heart!
If you do that regularly, you’ll hear God’s voice!
So either Go into the wilderness or go into the closet, but commit to praying regularly as a Christian
… and have deep fellowship with God …
*** And this is a side-note, but there are 5 different postures of prayer that we see in the Bible.
I was asked this question by a member of our church, so I’d thought I’d answer it.
While we can pray in any position physically … there are actually 5 postures of prayer mentioned in the Bible.
2 Samuel 7:18: “Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”
Mark 11:25: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
(3) Kneeling, which is the most prevalent.
2 Chronicles 6:13: “For Solomon had made a brasen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven”
Daniel 6:10: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
On the Mount of Olivet, even Jesus kneeled in prayer before God in Luke 22:41-42:
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
Peter also kneeled in prayer in Acts 9:40: “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”
And Paul in Ephesians 3:14: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Any there are many more passages on kneeling.
(4) Prostrate or your face & body to the ground:
We see this as a prime example when Jesus Himself prays in Matthew 26:39: “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
BEING PROSTRATE is being completely in submission to the will of God.
It’s the most vulnerable positions that you can be in with God.
We see this also in the Book of Revelation 7:11: “And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
We see other instances of this also, such as Abraham in Genesis 17 & there’s many more passages.
(5) We never see examples of hands folded in prayer in the Bible, like they teach in Sunday school.
* But we do see prayer in the Bible with “hands lifted up”.
1 Timothy 2:8: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
So if you want to lift your hands during worship or in church here, go right ahead.
It’s Biblical and I won’t call you Charismatic.
So our posture in prayer is actually important. You can pray anywhere, anytime, in any position.
But you don’t want to be a slouch either.
It won’t hurt you to kneel before God sometimes or to get on your face before Him and put yourself in a vulnerable position.
Jeremiah 33:3 says: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
There are so many more great verses in prayer.
• We didn’t even talk about the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.
We didn’t talk about James 5:14-15 about praying for the sick:
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
We didn’t talk about Matthew 18:19-20, where Jesus says:
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
CONCLUSION: John 17 –
2nd longest prayer in the Bible. The longest is Solomon’s dedication of the temple.