Foundation for Living #7
November 20, 2005
And this is the record that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Scripture teaches that at the point of faith or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, every person who does so is saved. Sin is no longer an issue in terms of eternal salvation. Our salvation is secure for all eternity. Nevertheless, we continue to sin. We still have a sin nature, and when we sin it breaks fellowship with God, grieves the Holy Spirit and quenches His sanctifying, or spiritual growth ministry in our lives. Therefore it is necessary for us to recover from that sin and the procedure is a grace procedure based on 1 John 1:9, if we simply confess, admit, or acknowledge our sins to God the Father, and at that instant we are forgiven cleansed from all unrighteousness, that includes sins we did not know were sins, or forgot about, and the sanctifying ministry of God the Holy Spirit continues and our progress in the spiritual life is maintained. When we study the word of God, it is under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit. He is the one who helps us understand what is being taught, He is the one who stores the doctrine in our souls, and He is the one who brings it to mind so that we can apply it when the times are correct, when it is necessary. We always begin with a few moments of silent prayer to make sure we are ready to study the wore, use 1 John 1:9 if necessary.
Father, we thank you that You are a God who has loved us from eternity past and from eternity past You provided a perfect plan, whereby we could recover from sin, that we can be saved through the provision of a perfect sacrifice, our lord Jesus Christ. And that You provided a spiritual life for us. You provided Your word for us. You revealed Yourself to us, and You have given us all the information we need to live our life in a way that honors and glorifies You. Father, the Scriptures are our guide, our path. Scripture says that Your word is the lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. It is in Your light that we see light. Father , we pray now, as we study Your word this morning, that we might be willing to submit to the teaching of Your word, that God the Holy Spirit will challenge us with what Scriptures teach, that we might make these principles a priority in our life. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen
Last week we continued a new section of our basic series. We have gone through basics related to God, to salvation and to man, which I call Foundation for Life. In this part of the series, Foundation for Living, we have covered the foundational spiritual skills, which are laid out in Scripture, that every believer must master in order to advance spiritually. They are confession of sin, which we mentioned briefly this morning, walking by means of God the Holy Spirit, the faith rest drill, mixing faith with the promises, principles, procedures in the word of God, grace orientation, aligning our thinking to the grace of God, so it affects how we relate to others, doctrinal orientation, where we make the word of God a priority in our life. Those are the foundational spiritual skills. On top of that we have certain responsibilities and duties. We are all priests and have priestly duties.
1 Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This is foundational; we are a holy priesthood and this is the training session. For those of you who have been here on Thursday night for our Hebrews study, you know we are being prepared today for a future ministry with our Lord Jesus Christ when He returns at the second coming and He reigns during the Millennial Kingdom. During this time, we return with Him, in resurrection body, and we become that cadre that rules and reigns with Him. We are the administrative team, and for the fist time in many of your lives, you are going to use bureaucracy in a positive sense, because we will be ruling as kings and priests. Our training for that is part of our priesthood today. There are two basic elements to our priestly ministry that we are developing in terms of this basic series: the first has to do with prayer, and the second has to do with Bible study. That is a further development on doctrinal orientation. When we go back and look at the role of the priest in the Old Testament, a priest did a number of different things. He was responsible for the teaching, communication, copying and preservation of the word of God. That is vital. He was also the one who operated as a representative of the people. Each individual believer in the Old Testament could not come before God individually, there had to be a representative. That priest was the intermediary, or the mediator between God and man. In the church age, the Old Testament priesthoods, the royal priesthood of Melchizedek, the Levitical priesthood, the patriarchal priesthood, have all been set aside now. In the church age, every believer is a priest. Every individual has a right to go directly to God; this is part of our priesthood. Jesus Christ is out high priest, seated at the right hand of God the Father. He is the one who continually intercedes for us, and as a result of understanding His priesthood, in Hebrews 4:16 we read, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This is a foundational promise, a prayer for each of us that we have direct access to the throne of God, but when we come we have confidence; we can come boldly to the throne of grace. When we look at some of the prayers in the Scripture, in the Old Testament, but especially in the New Testament, we recognize there is a way to come before the throne of God with confidence and with boldness. We have direct access right into the presence of God every time we pray. But we have to understand what prayer is and also what prayer is not. Part of what I will do today and next week is look at some of the myths and misconceptions about prayer, because there is a lot of funny teaching that goes on about prayer. The first time I ran into this, this sounds kind of absurd to some of you, but I was teaching my first semester at what used to be Houston Bible Institute, now it is the College of Biblical Studies, some 20 years ago, and the first night of the first class I taught, there was a lady who came out during the break, and said, 'I am having a hard time understanding some of the things you are saying. To me, God is like a coke machine; you put in your coins, push a button and you get what you want.' I had never heard anything like that before, she had never heard anything like what I was teaching before, and that was the last time I saw her in class. She apparently did not understand what grace and the Scripture is all about. There are so many misconceptions in what I call popular Christianity today. And it is not just today, there has always been a pop religion view in any culture, at any time down through history. There are ideas that just of get out there, and people pick them up, and you here trite little clichés like cleanliness is next to godliness, everything will work out, just believe. Believe what? These little sayings you hear from people, they sound like they could be biblical, and sometime there is a grain of truth in there, but they are wrapped up in some error. We have to separate what is true about prayer, from what is false about prayer. The only authority for us in understanding prayer is the word of God. Before we get too far along, let's get a definition of prayer. This definition is developed from looking at a number of passages in Scripture. Prayer is the grace provision of the royal priesthood, whereby the church age believer has access and privilege to communicate directly with God. Let's break this definition down phrase by phrase.
Prayer is a grace provision. To understand prayer, you have to understand grace. Grace means it is an undeserved privilege. We do not do anything to deserve the right to go before God as fallen sinful creatures. God has given us this freedom, this privilege of direct access to Him. It is a grace provision of the royal priesthood, and that is what every believer is. We saw that back in 1 Peter 2:5, We are a holy priesthood. In verse 9, we find out that we are a part of the royal family of God. It is a royal priesthood. We are priests under the High Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is His priesthood? It is after the order of Melchizedek in the Old Testament, who was a royal priest. This is a grace provision, of the royal priesthood. That is who we are. You may not feel like royalty, you may not think much of aristocracy, but that is who we are as church age believers. There is no believer in all of history who has the privilege and all of the blessings and rights that you and I have as church age believers. There will never be another dispensation where the every day ordinary believer has all of the rights and privileges that you and I have. We are royal aristocracy. So prayer is that grace provision of the royal priesthood whereby the church age believer (that is us) has access and privilege to communicate directly with God. That never happened before in history, it was always through an intermediary priesthood. But today we have a mediator, and in 1 Timothy 2:5 we read that there is one God and one Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. You do not go through a human priesthood. That ended with the death of Christ on the cross. Christ's death on the cross, according to Romans 10, was the end of the Law. It ended the Old Testament Levitical priesthood. Now what we have is that every believer is a priest. This is foundational doctrine which was recovered in what was called the Protestant Reformation. There is no set ecclesiastical priesthood; we are all royal priests. We all have access and privilege to communicate directly with God. Your prayers and access to God are no less than a pastor or anyone else. Every believer has that direct access. Let me go over the first part of the definition again. Prayer is that grace provision the royal priesthood whereby the church age believer has access and privilege to communicate directly with God. Furthermore, the purpose of this communication is to acknowledge our sin, express adoration and praise to God, to give thanks, to intercede for others, and to convey our personal needs, petitions, and to conduct intimate conversations with God. The purpose of the communication: why do we go to God in prayer? First of all, it is communication. It is talking with God; it is part of a relationship. Christianity is not a ritual in which you just go through a series of ritual or rights; you have a relationship with God base on what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We are adopted into His royal family and we have the privilege to communicate. The purpose of that communication is to first of all, acknowledge our sin. We have to acknowledge our sin in order to have access. There is this whole principle we find in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, that to come into the presence of God there has to be a cleansing of sin because of His righteousness and justice. The purpose is first to acknowledge our sins, second, to express adoration and praise to God; that is a vital part of prayer. Each of these can be a prayer in and of itself. A prayer can include all of these. We present our adoration and praise to God, focusing on His character, His attributes, and actions in history; His actions and provisions in our lives. We are to give thanks, an expression of gratitude. Gratitude is related to our grace orientation. It is an expression of our humility. When we come before God, we recognize that He is everything, His plan is everything, and our plans, desires, hopes and dreams are merely secondary to His plans and purposes. We are to intercede for others. We are to pray for one another. This is part of the reciprocal responsibilities that are part of our ambassadorship. We have reciprocal responsibilities as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to pray for one another, admonish one another, encourage one another, and teach one another. All of those are part of those reciprocal responsibilities that are built upon the fact that within the body of Christ there is relationship between believers. It is not just a relationship with God. Because we are all part of the body of Christ, there is an inter connectedness. We are members of one another Paul says in Romans 12 when he talks about spiritual gifts. It is not just a bunch of isolated believers who are out there doing their own thing, totally apart from relationship with other believers. Too often people get that idea and they are just like a bunch of lone rangers out there without any connection to any one else. But that is not the picture we have of the body of Christ in Scripture. So we are to pray for others, we are also to convey our own personal needs, to talk to God about what is going on in our life. A tremendous model for this is to read through the Psalms. As believers, this is something you should do on a regular basis, read through the Psalms, and all of the scriptures. Many of the Psalms are prayers that were set to poetry and set to music and became part of the hymnbook for the nation Israel in their worship in the tabernacle and temple. When you read some of those prayers, especially some of the Psalms where David is lamenting the adversity in his life, and that is the technical term by which those Psalms are known, Lament Psalms, and as David is lamenting his condition, he is just yelling at God. Sometimes folk's don't think they can get upset and express how they really feel about things, they think that is sacrilegious. Well, go to the Psalms and David is saying, Lord, how in the world can all this bad stuff be happening to me and this guy next door, who is about as pagan, and lost and unrighteous as he can possibly be, and nothing bad ever happens to him, and everyone is against me and every time I turn around, something bad is happening to me. How can You be just and do this? He expresses himself honestly, and as he works through the situation, he goes from expressing his frustration, or his anger, or dealing with the situation in life, whatever it may be, and then he begins to focus on the character of God, and by the end of the Psalm the doctrine shifts and God is teaching him through that process and he ends up giving thanks and praising God. But so many people are afraid to be honest with God about how they feel when they are going through tough times in life. Your feelings are real, emotions are real, you do not want to make decisions on the basis of emotions, but we have to be honest with God in the process. We express our personal needs, our petitions, meaning we are asking God for certain things in out lives, and hopefully, you will learn as we go through studies in prayer, that these petitions are rooted and grounded in what the Bible teaches. There are many, many prayers in Scripture. One of the things I have wanted to do for a long time, is to go through the prayers of the Bible in order to extract the basic principles of how to pray. There is a tremendous range and variety of prayers in Scripture, and one thing that impressed me years ago when I went through prayers is for example, in Acts, when Peter and John had been arrested and they are being interviewed by the Sadducees, and the church comes together and are praying for them, and if you look at how they pray, it shows that they have gone back and studied two or three different Psalms, and they have structured their prayer like a tight legal argument to God. Many of the Psalms are that way as well, where the Psalmist goes back and looks at things God has said and promised in the past and he structures a tight legal argument to argue with God like a lawyer, and said, okay God, You said this, You did this, this is the situation, this is what is at stake in terms of Your character and reputation, now on the basis of these things, I petition You to act in this manner to be consistent with what You said. This shows a tremendous understanding of Scripture, these are not extemporaneous off the cuff random prayers; they show a tremendous amount of study and structure and the prayer. We present petitions before God, and then we have intimate conversations with Him, we just talk to Him. Scripture says that we are to talk to Him as if He is abba, which is a close intimate term like daddy. Its not a more formal term such as father, it is daddy. It is that intimate relationship that a child has with his father, to go to Him and talk with God about everything in your life. One of the myths that I hear people say is, I just don't want to bother God. What do you mean you don't want to bother God with that? God is omniscient and omnipotent, you cannot overload Him. He doesn't jus have a gig of memory, He has an infinite memory. No matter how minute the details may be in your life, and no matter how insignificant it seems to you, 'I just don't want to bother God with that', that in and of itself reflects a view of God that is very small. God wants to be a part of everything in our life, so we are told to come before Him and to bring all these things before Him, and in the process of praying, and thinking through the Scriptures, in relation to the details of our life, God the Holy Spirit is working, and often gives us a divine viewpoint perspective on what is going on, while we are praying for these things. So this is our definition for prayer.
Prayer is the grace provision of the royal priesthood whereby the church age believer has access and privilege to communicate directly with God. The purpose of this communication is to acknowledge our sin, to express adoration and praise to God, to give thanks, to intercede for others, to convey our personal needs, petitions and to conduct intimate conversations with God. Now those are different components of prayer we will see as we develop this study. Each of those can be part of one prayer, where we go through all of those at the same time or any individual part of that can be a prayer in and of itself. There can be prayers of confession, such as Psalm 51, which a confession prayer. It can be a prayer of praise; it can be a prayer just giving thanks ; it can be a prayer of just intercession for others. Any one of these can be a prayer in itself. It can be long or short; it can be just bullet prayers while you are driving down the freeway. There are times at work and there are examples in the Scripture many times where you have something happening. We saw this couple of weeks ago in Genesis where the faithful servant Abraham is sent by Abraham to find a wife for Isaac. When he is coming to the well there in the Padam Aran and he is not sure who is going to show up, or how to really spot the woman that God has in mind for Isaac, or how to identify the right one, he prays and he sets forth certain conditions, 'this is what I am looking for'. As soon as he Rebekah comes to the well, and she responds so graciously to give him water and to feed the camels, it says he bowed his head in worship. He was giving thanks, it was not a long term thing, it was not something he spent thirty minutes doing, but he immediately stopped and gave thanks to God in the midst of the flow of events. So, prayers can be short or they can be long. As I developed this, first I wanted to do this in an hour, but it is going to take a couple of sessions to do this. I want to talk about the priority of prayer, the prerequisite of prayer, the principles for prayer, some promises for prayer, and the procedures for prayer. That is going to take two or three weeks, but prayer is so important we need to spend some time on it. First of all we need to recognize that prayer is part of our priesthood. It is part of the priesthood of every believer and the role of a priest is to represent man before God, and we represent ourselves to God. We come before His throne of grace and we have access to His throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, as we have seen in Hebrews 4:16 which is one of the great promises for prayer in Scripture. And in the context of Hebrews 4 that we have been studying on Thursday night, we see that this is part of that warning passage that goes from about 3:6 to 4:16, that grow out of the last part of Hebrew 2, and the first part of Hebrews 3 which is focusing on the spiritual life and it is an outgrowth of what the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus Christ learning obedience through the things He suffered in His humanity. And that qualified Him to be our High Priest, and because He is qualified to be our High Priest, when we go through difficulty, suffering, and adversity, we can come to Him because He has been tested in all points as we are, yet without sin, therefore, because He has gone through every category of adversity, we can come boldly before the throne of grace, and find mercy in time of need. That is the point, that we are challenged and encouraged to continually come before Him and this is part of our priesthood and spiritual growth. Prayer is not what I identified as we went through the five basic spiritual skills. Why not? Because prayer utilizes many of these spiritual skills. Prayer is based on faith, related to grace orientation For prayer to be accurate, to be heard, we have to have doctrinal orientation. It is not a spiritual skill, it combines spiritual skills so we come before the Lord and present our prayers and petitions, based on faith, based on believing that prayer that is brought before the Lord in faith, believing we will receive, we understand grace, we understand doctrine, it pulls all these things together and makes that prayer accurate and more effective. As James says in verse 5 The prayer of a righteous man avails much. Prayer is part of our priesthood, and as such, prayer is to be a priority in the believer's life. It is to be near the top of our scale of values as we think about what goes on in our day to day planning and events; prayer is to be a priority. It is our communication life line to the Father, and it is to be a priority. Just as Bible study is to be a priority. In Bible study God is speaking to us through His word. In prayer we are fulfilling the other side of that communication in talking with the Father. Prayer is to be a priority. I find that too often today, prayer just somehow slips aside, or we have a superficial prayer life. This is true for all of us. We don't give it the attention that Scripture says we should. As we have seen many times the example for the spiritual life of the church age is Jesus Christ. Think about this. We know that Jesus Christ is our role model, He is our example. Again and again in Scripture we are told to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, He is our example. In His spiritual life He modeled for us all the principles and procedures that are to be part of our spiritual life. His spiritual life was not based on the same principles as Old Testament believers, His spiritual life was based on His relationship with God through God the Holy Spirit
Prayer was a priority for Him. Think about this. If Jesus Christ is undiminished Deity, and true humanity, united in one Person forever, the basic definition of the hypostatic union, and if He is sinless, He is impeccable, He has no sin, He was not born with a sin nature, He did not receive the imputation of Adam's original sin, He did not commit any personal sins; in His deity He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is omnipresent, but He is not relying on any of his divine attributes for his spiritual life, so if He is in this situation, and He, in His humanity is praying to God as much as He did, and He is sinless, and He is true humanity, then how much more should we be spending time in prayer, when we have a sin nature, we have a more intense struggle in some ways in sanctification , in our spiritual life because of indwelling sin, how much more is it incumbent on us to spend time in prayer. Let's see what the Scripture says about the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of His prayer life. Matthew 14:23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. This happens many times in Scripture, where He has been ministering to the crowds, He has been teaching the multitudes or the disciples and He leaves and gets away by Himself to pray. Why? So He can avoid distractions, relax and have time alone to refresh Himself in His soul, and He focuses on prayer. He goes up for awhile, it isn't for five minutes. There is a sense here that He is taking several hours to go pray. It is not something quick. He makes a point to go away by Himself. Matthew 26:39, this takes place when He is getting ready to face the cross. He is anticipating what is about to happen and He goes off by Himself, and He tells the disciples to watch and pray. He goes a little further into the Garden of Gesthemene so He is by Himself. And He fell on his face and prayed. 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed. This is a posture we often see in the Scripture related to prayer, now it strikes some of us as being a little too religious, to get down on our knees, to fall on our face and pray. But this is something you see again and again in Scripture. In Genesis we talked about Abraham's faithful servant, that after he discovers Rebekah and God reveals her to him, he falls down and worships. This is the posture of prayer. I am not saying that there is something mystical or magical or significant about getting on your knees, or falling down on your face, but this is a posture we do see over and over and over again in the Scripture. There is nothing wrong with this. What it is doing is putting ourselves physically in a position of humility and authority recognition when we are in prayer. I don't know about you, but I feel awkward doing this. I remember the first time I heard somebody talking about this and I decided to try it for awhile. It is not part of our culture to do this. It is very much a part of the Eastern culture to be much more outward in their emotional expression. In the Middle East and Mediterranean countries, they do not think anything of raising their hands in prayer. And you hear that in the Scripture where they raise their hands in prayer, and the Jews did that with their palms up. It is not the one handed thing you often see today, I don't want anyone to really see me do this, or I want to make sure everybody knows I am praising God. But this was more cultural, so I don't think a lot of this is necessarily prescribed. This is not a prescription for making prayer more effective, that you need to prostrate yourself, lie down on the ground or kneel, but there is nothing wrong with that either. What we see again and again in Scripture is that there is this physical posture that goes along with prayer. I think that part of that is that during times of significant pressure and prayer there is a relationship between the adversity that is being faced and the physical posture of the one praying. Another passage in Mark1:35 :
35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Principle number one: in order to have an effective prayer life you are going to get up at four in the morning and go prayer. I am not serious here. You don't derive that principle from the Scripture. However it is interesting how many morning people there were in the Scripture. For those of you who are night owls and bats, you just can't understand that. As I was doing a study on this, how many times in the Psalms, it says that the Psalmist rose up early in the morning to pray. And the Lord, early in the morning, long before daylight, He goes out, because this is the time when things are not happening. The phone is not ringing. People are not coming by; you are not already immersed in the daily schedule. It is a time you can set aside apart from distraction, that is really the principle. What ever your daily schedule is, when you find that time, whenever it is. Some folks, when it gets to be ten or eleven at night, do not really want to go to bed, but the phone is not going to be ringing, the kids are asleep, it is a time when they feel like they can concentrate and focus the best. My time is in the morning. If I had my druthers, I would be getting up at five o clock every morning. I get up about 5:45am, but I would be getting up at five every morning, and it is that time between five and ten in the morning that I am my most effective. I think that is the principle that under lies this, to figure out, in terms of your own body clock, when you are at your sharpest. When you can focus the best and concentrate the is the time for you to set aside to listen to the word, to study the word and to pray. This should be a daily thing for every believer. Whether it is thirty minutes or fifteen minutes, I know there are times when we get so busy. I remember back when Dan Ingram was in his first couple of years in seminary, he was saying, I don't have time to listen to a whole tape, I said, then listen for ten or fifteen minutes. Whatever it is, you grab that time. On the drive to school, you have a full schedule all day, we live very busy lives, we sometimes try to do too much, we try to grab this big chunk of time, thinking, I need 45 minutes or 30 minutes, sometimes we just cannot grab that time. So you take fifteen minutes and do what you can, and make that count. Make that a focal point. Jesus gets up a long time before daylight, goes out to a solitary place where He prays. Where there are no distractions, where you can focus on prayer. That was a priority in the Lord's life, and again and again. Luke 5:16 says 16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. He got away from everything, He made time. There is a principle here. Sometimes in life it is important for you to just take time to go somewhere, to a state park, a city park, wherever you can where you are alone, where you are away from your husband, wife, kids, work, and you can take a half a day or a whole day, just so you can focus and be refreshed about whatever is going on in your life. Take time to pray, to read scriptures. There was a time when I had a place or opportunity to do this , years ago I would go to Camp Peniel for a couple of days when nobody else was there. I would spend the time reading the scriptures, praying and thinking about what I was doing, where I was going, what I was teaching, what needed to be done once or twice a year. Now I go to Kiev to do it. That is one of the reasons I like going over there with Jim. This year I am teaching the spiritual life, which I have taught three time, the power points are all in Russian, I have my notes, I teach about three hours every morning and about four other times, but the rest of the time I don't have anything else going on. I go back to my apartment, there is nobody there, no television, no telephone, and I get a tremendous amount done. I read, spend time praying, and it gives me an opportunity to just focus on what has happened during the last year, what are my personal goals and objectives spiritually, what are the goals for the church, what I would like to do and see happen in the coming year, where have I just missed it, it is a great opportunity. Even though there is a lot of teaching going on and I am doing a lot while I am there, for the most part of every day, I do not have any distractions. It is a tremendous time for me to refocus and be refreshed. There are different ways you can do it. There is no set pattern. Not everybody is the same. When I first went to seminary, it seemed like every body was giving set ways to do things, and it was always ways that did not work for me. Whatever works for you, to get away and to refocus, reading Scripture, listening to tapes, prayer. I am not saying this is something you do every week, but maybe once a year, just to refresh and refocuses Luke 6:12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Now that that is concentration. That is focus.
18 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"
So He is again alone praying, not just ten, fifteen minute prayers, but spending the whole time praying. How do you spend a night praying? One way I think you can do it is reading through the Psalms and using them as your own prayers. To do that you have to read through the Psalms on a regular basis, identify Psalms that are personally significant to you, where the Holy Spirit is using your life, things of that nature. Luke 9:28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. Here is a picture of corporate prayer, not just individual prayer, lets get together with other believers and pray. Now some of you are saying, now doesn't Scripture say that wherever two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them. We will find out that has nothing to do with prayer, it is not a prayer promise, in fact, it has to do with church discipline and the excommunication of an unrepentant sinner in the congregation. Where two or three are gathered together in My name, those two or three are witnesses against the offending believer.
In Acts 2: 42, we see the same pattern develop in the New Testament church, at the very beginning. . 42 And they continued steadfastly - this is the Greek word proskartareo, which means to be steadfast, faithful, to persevere, something that becomes a weekly, daily habit pattern, - in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship,- that is what they are focusing on. But the way this is structured in the Greek, you do not have four things, you have two things. They focused on doctrine and fellowship, that was their priority for the local church. What is fellowship? Getting together and having coffee and cookies after church, going out to Sunday brunch after church with other believers? No, fellowship is defined by the next two phrases, breaking of bread, which is communion and prayer. The Lord's table and prayer. Who do you have fellowship with in the Lord's table? God. Who are you having fellowship in prayer? God.
That is what they were devoting themselves to, study of the word and fellowship with God. That was their priority, and fellowship with God involved two things, communion and prayer. Prayer was a function and priority in the body of Christ, and in the corporate meeting of the church. Prior to this we find out that there were five thousand people who came to know the Lord on the day of Pentecost. So this is not talking about some small house church group of believers, this is talking about that large group of brand new believers in Jerusalem right after Pentecost. And they are devoted in prayer. That means they come together corporately, as believers, to pray. Now this is one of the sad things, in most churches, when you have prayer meeting, as we do on Tuesday night, two or three men, and two or three ladies show up, and this is really sad, because this is supposed to be a priority of the body of Christ. It is not a priority to just show up at Bible class at 8 o'clock. Prayer is a priority, the corporate prayer, the meeting of believers in the church. In 1 Timothy 2 there is an emphasis on the men praying in verse 8 Paul says, I desire therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands- that does not mean literally lifting up your hands to pray, that was their cultural way of praying, but the emphasis in that verse is not on the hands but on the holy, in other words, they were in fellowship. But the main point is that the men, not the women, and typically in our culture, in western civilization, going back centuries, when you have prayer meeting, you have four times as many women show up as men. There are a number of books written, I have one called The Feminization of the Church, it is out of print now, and it traces this back all the way to the Middle Ages, that men do not make spiritual things a priority, they are not making it a priority in the local church, they do not make it a priority in the family, yet the Scripture says it is the males who are primarily to gather together to pray. They are to pray for the church and all the different things on the prayer list we put out every week. This is a priority, to pray. It is exactly how the Lord functioned in His life, and the early church set the same standard. Acts 6:4 we will give ourselves nd that is the same word, proskartereo, the New King James translated, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word, and this is talking about the apostles, and that was supposed to be a priority of the apostles, and as such it is analogous to the priority for the pastor of the church, to be devoted to two things, prayer and to the ministry of the word. That is the priority for the pastoral ministry. It is not weddings and funerals, and hospital visits and finding out who the visitors are and going to visit them and all these other things that have culturally brought into pop Chrisianity as things pastors and ministers are supposed to do. It is really funny sometimes, when I am out talking to unbelievers and some of these are family members, and I get comments like, in context of a funeral, there are all these things you have to do when somebody dies. They said, well, you know all about that because you are a pastor, and I thought well, the only reason I know about it is because my mother died and I had to go through it, but other than that I would not know anything about it. I am not a social worker. That is what happens in so many churches, the pastors is basically a social worker, he helps everybody with all the things people have to figure out with the different problems that come up at the time of death and other situations in life. But the priority in the Scripture is for pastors to be devoted to, to be steadfast in prayer and the ministry of the word. Romans12:12 says we are to be12Rejoicing in hope; (confident expectation), patient in tribulation; or adversity, longsuffering in adversity continuing steadfastly in prayer; same word, to be steadfast in prayer. Roman 15:30: I beg you brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me. It is striving, it is work, it is effort, it is priority. Ephesians 6:18: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; Perseverance, steadfast, it is that ongoing continuous priority for prayer. Colossians 4:2 uses proskartereo, continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving, it is a priority. And in conclusion, 1 Thessalonians5:17, to pray with out ceasing. The idea there is that it is continuous part of your life, whether it is bullet prayers or setting aside a regular daily time, for prayer or Bible reading when you are consistent with it. But prayer is to be a priority in the believer's life. If prayer was a priority in the Lord Jesus Christ 's life as busy as He was, with all He had going on, and we know that is a problem with us, we just get overwhelmed with the details of life. And one issue that is true for young people as well as old, we have a crisis in time management, we have a crisis in priority management and we have a crisis in personal self discipline, and that more than anything gets in the way of making prayer a priority in our life. But the Scriptural mandate is to focus on prayer. We will continue in our study next time looking more at the details and functions of prayer in terms of prerequisites of prayer and the principles of prayer that we find in the scriptures.
Father , we do thank you for this time to be reminded of the importance of prayer in each of our lives, not only personal , private prayer, but also the corporate prayer of the body of Christ. That we should be a church known for being a praying church, people who are devoted to prayer, to continuously giving ourselves to prayer. That prayer is recognition that we are dependent upon You, that Your grace provides for us. It is a recognition and an expression of our faith and dependence on You. Trusting You to provide for us on a regular basis. Trusting You to guide and direct us as a body of believers. Father, we thank you that we have access to you in prayer, because Jesus Christ tore that veil in the temple, He opened a path to direct access to You by His work on the cross. There He paid the penalty for our sins. We pray that if there is anyone here this morning who is unsure of their salvation, or uncertain of their eternal destiny, that You would take this opportunity to make the gospel clear to them through God the Holy Spirit. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the story does not end with us being condemned for sin, it goes on to indicate Your love and grace and that You provided a perfect salvation for us, and it is not dependent in any way on who we are or what we do. No matter what we do in life, no matter what sins we may have committed, the issue is not our sin, the issue is Jesus Christ. Right now, right where you sit, if you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, this is your opportunity to do so. The instant you put your trust in Christ alone, God the Father, in His omniscience knows when you have trusted and in and at that instant you receive the imputation of Christ's righteousness, you are declared just, you receive eternal life, you are born again, you enter into the family of God and you can never lose that salvation.. This is your opportunity to do so. Father, we pray for us as believers that You challenge us with Your word, the importance of prayer, to continue steadfastly in prayer. That we might be a people known for our prayer lives, that we depend upon You , and express our petitions, our thanks, our love for You, our praise for You in every thing that we do, we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.