The Purpose of Prayer

The Called - The Purpose of Prayer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Prayer is so much more than the way Christians talk to God, its how believers are connected to His Person and Power.

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Good morning.
Today, we continue with our journey through the life of Elijah, examining what it means to be a Called one of God.
As we do so, we are looking at 5 purposes to help us apply God’s truth in our lives.
Last week, we looked at the purpose of obedience. If you missed it, I encourage you to check out the audio online at
This morning, we will look at the purpose of prayer, and to get us started, I want to read a few examples of some common, and un-common modern proverbs of wisdom.
“Any fool can know, the point is to understand.” - Albert Einstein
“God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” DL Moody
“If you have a Bible that’s falling apart, you’ll have a life that’s not.” - Adrian Rogers
“All of us could take a lesson from the weather; it pays no attention to criticism.” - Unknown
“In the 60’s people took acid to make the world weird. Now, the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.”
“Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.”
“Health nuts are going to feel stupid one day, lying in a hospital, dying of nothing.”
“Give a person a fish, and they eat for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, or even years.”
“Pray without ceasing.” -
And this last saying might be the most important one for Christians.
Why do I say that?
Let me ask you all some questions?
How many of you like to watch TV without plugging in your television set?
How many of you like to go for nice Sunday drives with no gas in your car?
How many of you like to roast marshmallows over a nice pile of wet coals?
Of course, doing stuff like that would be stupid because it wouldn’t work.
If we do those things, we are trying to accomplish them without the power that is needed for those things to actually function.
Now, we can see that clear as day, yet somehow, how many of us will go through a whole day without talking to God even once?
How about two days? Three? A week? Two weeks? Maybe even a month or more?
Here again is another one of those weird dualities that Christians face.
We sing all the time about how our God is our everything, and yet we ignore Him day after day.
We come to Him when we want our colds to go away, and when we want to get somewhere safely, and when we want our favorite team to win, but do we ever just come to Him to be with Him?
“Lord Jesus, its so nice just to be with you. How are you? Are you pleased with my life? Have I pleased you today? Have I blessed you today? Jesus, tell me more about who you are. Help me to know you in deeper and richer ways.”
We don’t pray that prayer very often, do we?
When the apostle Paul talks about praying without ceasing, he does not mean that we should spend ever minute of every day in eyes closed prayer, but that we should continually be aware of the fact that we are in the presence of the Most High God. Because if we do so, we will depend on Him more, we will include Him in our lives more and more. Its when we forget that He dwells within us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, that we can confuse God to be just another daily appointment on our to-do lists that we can move around as we need to.
A few weeks ago, we were talking about the shared values that we have across our 3 locations as Valley Community Baptist Church, and I mentioned that prayer is practicing the presence of God. When we practice the presence of God, it means that we acknowledge that He is always with us, and His very presence changes how we live our lives. Just like how kids are different when their parents are around, so should we be different because Jesus is around. But unlike our parents, there is never a time when Jesus isn’t around. There is never a time when we are hidden from the eyes and Person of Jesus, and so we should, as Paul writes, “pray without ceasing.”
And this brings us to the Purpose of Prayer
Prayer connects us to the Person of God, the Power of Jesus Christ, and the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer connects us to the Person of God as we come to His throne on our knees in humility, reverence, and honor.
Prayer connects us to the Power of Jesus Christ as we demonstrate our total insufficiency, and our complete dependence upon Him for all things.
Prayer connects us to the Presence of the Holy Spirit as we affirm that He really is real, that He really is with us, that He really does dwell within us, and we live like it.
If you’ve got your Bibles, please turn to , and if you need a Bible, please raise your hand and one of our Valley Bristol team will bring one to you. The Bible we bring to you is yours to keep, or to give away if you know someone who needs the Word of God. All we ask is that if you take a Bible or two from us, do not give them back. God’s Word is not meant to be kept in a box at the church building, it’s meant to permeate our communities, and the only way it can do that is if you take it to those you know in our city.
Let’s pray as we come to God’s Word this morning.
Ok. To bring us to speed, Ahab is the king of Israel right now. He is married to Jezebel, and he is a serial compromiser of God’s Word. In response, God raised up and called Elijah as His prophet to rebuke Israel and bring them to repentance so that they might return to their true king, the Almighty God.
God told Elijah to tell Ahab that there would be a severe drought that would overtake the land, and that rain would not be seen until, basically, God said so.
At the beginning of , Elijah confronts Ahab, and this ultimately comes to a testing of the gods. Elijah sets up a test between the false gods and idols that Ahab has ushered into Israel, and the One True God of the Bible to see which God is actually God.
Of course, Elijah is not confused as to who God is, but nonetheless, the test of the gods begins.
Let’s pick up in , and I will pause as we go along to explain what is happening as we read, and then we will hopefully pull out some application for us today. As we go through this narrative, notice that most of what Elijah does in this example is pray.
1 Kings 18:20–46 ESV
20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. 36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. 41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. 44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’ ” 45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46 And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
There are two things that God showed me in the text that I want to convey to you this morning.
Elijah did not rely on his own strength because he did not neglect to connect to God through prayer from the very start.
From the moment Elijah comes onto the scene, we see a life of incredible prayer. Such prayer that Elijah had no doubt that God would do what He had promised.
Furthermore, if you look closely and think critically about what Elijah prophesied, he (Elijah) was only prophesying what God had already promised He would do should Israel continue in its disobedience.
Elijah, then, was proclaiming God’s promises.
As a side note, one thing about biblical prophecy is that, the prophets were not just predicting a future out of thin air, they were proclaiming what God had already promised.
Now, what Elijah did in debunking the false gods is really the ultimate in evangelism isn’t it?
He displayed God’s Truth to a non-believing people.
He overcame their objections and left no doubt who the One True God really was (and is).
You know, perhaps one of the biggest fears that a Christian has is actually sharing their faith with a non-believer, with someone who doesn’t yet know and place their faith in Jesus Christ.
So many Christians think that they don’t know enough to tell others about Christ. They are afraid that someone’s intellectual sounding, non-believing rhetoric will run circles around them.
Well, maybe that’s true, but that’s no excuse.
In fact, what did Elijah do here?
Did he ever engage in a debate as to whether God is real and/or that God was truly God?
In truth, that is not up for debate. God is God no matter what, and no matter how intense our belief might be to the contrary, God is still God.
God is not God because people believe Him to be so, He is God because He is God.
So Elijah starts from that foundation.
Then, Elijah lets the false gods have first crack at proving themselves.
When you’re in an argument, how often do you allow the other person to fully state their case?
Or how often is your mind just trying to think of what to say next that will prove them to be wrong, and you to be correct?
In fact, Elijah actually made fun of them while they were waiting for their false gods to reply.
But when Elijah spoke, he gave instructions as to how to build and treat the altar upon which the sacrifice would be offered to God, and then he prayed.
He didn’t offer any defense.
He didn’t explain systematic theology to them.
He prepared the altar, and he prayed to God.
Elijah let God prove Himself.
Is it just me, or are we, when we have an opportunity to share or proclaim our faith to others, are we easily tempted to try and be the ones who prove God, instead of letting Him prove Himself?
Because Elijah was connected to the Person of God, the Power of Christ, and His Holy Presence (the Holy Spirit was not yet indwelling humanity at this point) through prayer, Elijah could trust and be confident that God would prove Himself, and the God didn’t need Elijah’s help to do that, rather, God wanted Elijah’s obedience.
Elijah prayed that God would reveal Himself through the works that he was asking God to do, as opposed to just asking God to do him a favor.
How many of our prayers ask God to reveal Himself to us and to others around us through what we are asking God to do on our behalf?
Too often its too easy to fall into the routine of just asking God to make us feel better so that we can feel better and that’s the end of it.
We look at the healing miracles of Jesus and we are rightly amazed, but those were done in order that Jesus might reveal Himself to those who did not know Him.
Yes, Jesus healed people to help them, but the most important thing is that people’s faith in put in Jesus, whether or not they are ever healed, because what’s the point of good earthly health if your eternity is to be spent in hell?
I once heard a quote, and I forget who said it, but it went like this:
“Christians spend more time praying to keep people out of heaven than praying for people to go there.”
What this means is that, we do spend a great deal of time praying for God’s healing and rescue out of situations and circumstances, but its easy to forget that not only can God do that, but He can also show Himself as the God of the Universe through such times and in such a way that others might know that He is God.
Yes, pray for healing, but also pray that God might show Himself to someone through His healing work.
Yes, pray for restored relationships, but also pray that God will show Himself through His restoring work.
Yes, pray for provision, but also pray that God would show Himself through His care and supply.
Consider these verses:
John 9:1–3 ESV
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
John 11:3–4 ESV
3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
2 Corinthians 4:8–11 ESV
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
John 15:2 ESV
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Hebrews 12:10–11 ESV
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Practical Apps
Examine your prayer life. Are you connected to God at all when you take on the challenges of the day?
Listen to your own prayers. The things you pray about tell you a lot about who you believe God to be.
While you pray for God to keep making you who He really wants you to be, pray also that God would demonstrate Himself through you so that He can be seen for who He really is
Bring band up/Distribute Communion Elements
There’s another interesting truth that we can see from this section of Scripture.
We’ve talked about how its really God who does the miracles, and how we need to obey and commune with Him through prayer.
As we come to communion, there is a noteworthy contrast that has some spiritual significance.
1 Kings 18:28 ESV
28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.
The people of Israel were so desperate for their false gods and idols to show up, that they shed their own blood.
Every other system of religion is based on the work that you do.
Only Christianity is based on the work of God Himself.
The Israelites here were dancing and shouting and mutilating themselves, and all for nothing. Nothing happened. Nothing was accomplished. Their gods didn’t show up.
You see, other religions ultimately call for your blood to be shed.
Your prayers mean nothing because its all up to you.
Its all by your strength. Your goodness. Your blood.
But in Christ, its just the opposite.
Its by His strength, His goodness, and His shed blood.
And Jesus will actually show up!
And when He does, He doesn’t want your blood, He wants you.
And He doesn’t want you to prove yourself, rather He wants to prove Himself through you.
Will you let Him?
Will you obey Him?
Will you pray without ceasing?
Over 2000 years ago in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus gathered with the disciples as He awaited His arrest.
And there, in the Garden, He showed them the fullest extent of His love by symbolically picturing what was about to happen to Him.
That symbolic picture of Christ’s love was that of communion.
Jesus was showing that He was going to pay the price for our sin by offering Himself as a sacrifice to God in our place.
And the price that Jesus would pay was the breaking of His bones and body, and the shedding of His blood.
And you know, as Jesus is getting ready to do this on our behalf, you know what He wants? He wants to spend time with us.
He’s asking His disciples, won’t any of you wait up with me and be with me?
What incredible love!
We messed up, He is cleaning up our tragic betrayal, and He wants to be with us as He gets ready to pay the price on our behalf.
I don’t know about you but when I’m upset, I don’t want to be around the people who upset me.
But Jesus isn’t like us, is He?
He’s not like me, and He’s not like you.
He is so much better.
If Jesus wanted to spend time with us when He was about to die, how much more so do you think He wants to be with you, and for you to be with Him, since He is alive again? Since He raised Himself from the grave?
Is that not a God worth being with every day?
And the way we can be with God now is through prayer.
Practicing the presence of God, walking by faith, not by sight.
Prayer connects us to the Person of God, the Power of Jesus Christ, and the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
As we live a life of obedience and prayer, not only will God see us through the tough times, but He will reveal Himself to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear as He does so.
Let’s sing together.
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