!!!!! Rev. Bruce Goettsche . . .
March 15, 1998
\\ \\ Jay Kesler, the former President of Youth for Christ and the current President of Taylor University, was on one of his frequent flights.
When lunch was served the young man next to him declined a lunch tray.
During the whole lunchtime this man sat with his head bowed, apparently in prayer.
Kesler was impressed (and maybe a little humbled) by the man's devotion.
He commented to the young man that he wondered if he was a Christian because it appeared that he was fasting.
The young man replied with words that shook Kelser to the core of his being.
"I am a Satan worshiper and the members of my church have agreed to fast every Friday at noon.
During that time we pray that the leaders of the Christian world will fall.
We pray that they will fall into sexual sin, and that their family life would crumble."
I felt a chill as I heard that story and then immediately felt convicted.
I am much quicker to criticize fallen Christian leaders than I am to pray for them.
But the problem is not just about our lack of disciplined prayer for our leaders.
The problem is our struggle with any kind of prayer.
We all know we need to pray.
We know prayer is valuable.
But we still find it hard to pray.
This morning I want to observe some lessons about prayer that will help us to fellowship with the Father.
This morning we look at verses 9, 10 of the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossians:
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way:" }}}
This morning I want to focus on: The Importance of Prayer, The Content of Prayer, and then deal with some of the Obstacles to Prayer.
The Importance of Prayer
Three times in the first ten verses of this letter the Apostle Paul has told the Colossians that he is praying for them.
He tells them he is thanking God for them and that his prayers on their behalf are unceasing.
These are not nice platitudes only.
I believe Paul WAS praying for these people.
!!!! What is Prayer?
It seems that the first question we must ask is this: what is prayer?
The simple answer is this: prayer is talking with God.
We pray when we open our heart to the Almighty.
As simple as this is, it is also something people need to hear.
Too many people feel that prayer is a certain sound . . .
Shakespearean English, rich in theological terminology very often spoken VERY loudly.
Others feel prayer is something that takes place in a certain place or with a certain posture.
But none of those things are requirements for true prayer.
In fact, you can sound holy and not be doing anything other than talking to yourself.
I love to share the story Howard Hendricks tells of a young man who met Christ after many years of life in the world.
After his conversion he went to his first prayer meeting.
Everyone was getting up and uttering their flowery (and maybe showy) prayers.
Finally, this new convert stood to pray and said, "Lord, this is Mel.
I'm not sure whether you remember me or not . . .
I met you last Tuesday night.
I just wanted to say . . .
well . . .
Thank-you for changing my life."
And then he sat down.
The simplicity and honesty of that prayer brought tears to the eyes of many.
I suspect it brought a smile to the face of the Father, as well.
True prayer is honest, humble and personal.
!!!! Four Reasons for Prayer
There are several good reasons to pray.
* It is a great privilege.
Can you think of any greater honor than to have an audience with the One who rules over ALL creation?
We have been invited to talk with the one who put the stars in place.
We are invited to seek counsel from the One who is truth and wisdom.
We are invited to sit down with the One who knows all things.
The Puritan John Preston lays it out very plainly,
Prayer is a privilege purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Christ died for this end, it cost him the shedding of his blood, so that we, through him, might have entrance to the throne of grace.
And will you let such a privilege as this lie still?
If you do, so far as is in you, you cause his blood to be shed in vain.
For if you neglect the privileges gotten by that blood, you neglect the blood that procured them.
[The Puritans on Prayer p.17] }}}
Conversation is a part of any vital and growing relationship.
We sometimes measure the quality of a marriage relationship by how well the couples communicates.
Or to state it another way, one of the first things people point to as evidence that a marriage is in trouble is a lack of communication.
The same is true for our relationship with the Father.
True, honest, heartfelt conversation is a sign of a healthy relationship.
A lack of conversation, or conversation only in public is a sign of a relationship in trouble.
* We should pray because we are in a fierce battle.
Constantly we are warned of the Devil's intention to neutralize and demoralize us.
We are told that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
We are in a battle and we need the help of God.
The enemy has marshaled his armies . .
.when we neglect prayer, we go into battle unarmed.
Do you find it at all instructive that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, found it necessary to pray?
If He did not feel He could face the battle in His own strength . .
neither should we.
* Prayer is a deterrent to sin in our lives.
In the quiet times of private, honest prayer God exposes the rationalizations and the excuses that we use to cater to sin.
In prayer God holds a mirror up to our lives so we can see the way we really are. .
* Prayer makes a difference.
I can't tell you how it "works" . .
.I know that circumstances change when people pray.
Diseases are sometimes healed, strength is imparted, guidance is given, hearts are softened, needs are met.
I know that when I pray for others it helps them.
But I also know that when I pray, I am changed.
The Content of Prayer
One of the most instructive parts of our text is in noticing what Paul asks on behalf of the Colossians.
Paul does not focus on the material and temporal.
He is not primarily concerned with comfort . . .
He is concerned for their spiritual growth.
!!!! Pray that they discern God's Will
Notice that Paul's first request is this: I ask that "God fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding."
The word "fill" means to be completely filled or totally controlled.