I'm Not a Praying Person: Part 1
I’m Not a Praying Person
Attention: (George’s Prayer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54TQIE-DLmU :20 till end) George says, “God, I’m not a praying man…” and what I want to ask him is this- why not? Now, George Bailey is fictitious and Jimmy Stewart isn’t here this morning, so let’s turn this question to ourselves, but let me ask it this way- Are you a praying man? Are you a praying woman? Notice what the question is not- it is not, are you a man or woman who prays? You see, there is a difference between being a man or woman who prays, and being a praying man or woman. There is a difference between praying before meals and praying in the morning and/or night, compared to living a life that is characterized by prayer. And what I want for my life and for your life as passionate followers of Christ and as a part of the FBC Ripley family is for all of us to not be men and women who pray, but for all of us to be praying men and women. I want all of us to develop hearts for prayer- I want prayer to be the first thing on our minds, the greatest passion of our hearts, and the overall characteristic of our lives.
We just spent nine weeks talking about the unique vision God has for our church, but it doesn’t matter if we can quote it and if we know all the B’s of our process, if we don’t pray; if we don’t pray, nothing is going to change. We cannot accomplish the vision on our own; we cannot impact this community in our strength; we can make a difference only by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we won’t experience that power, that connection, unless we become praying people. Listen to some of these historical quotes on prayer:
-“There is no other activity in life so important as that of prayer.”
-“What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use— men of prayer, men mighty in prayer”
-“We can do nothing without prayer.”
-“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
-“It is in the field of prayer that life's critical battles are lost or won. We must conquer all our circumstances there. We must first of all bring them there. We must survey them there. We must master them there. In prayer we bring our spiritual enemies into the Presence of God and we fight them there.”
-“The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer.”
-“As is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
-“Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings him into active aid.”
-“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
-“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying.”
-“No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.”
-“The most important thing a born again Christian can do is to pray.”
-“He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.”
-“Oh brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper - and sleep too - than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray.”
How I pray we will let these words from believers in the past sink in and motivate us to become praying people, rather than simply people who pray. And if these quotes aren’t enough, and since we still have more time together, I want to give you three other reasons for why we should strive to become praying men and women. First, I should become a praying person so I can
Place My Focus on God
(Matthew 6:8; John 5:14-15)
We live so much of our lives with a blurry cross- yes we know Jesus is with us, but our focus isn’t on Him- it’s on me. Life is too often about me and God is just this nebulous force around me, rather than the focus of everything I think, say, and do. The way to change my focus is to pray. Prayer takes my focus and places it on God. Now, when it comes to becoming a praying person, maybe you’ve got some questions like I have had at times. For example, Matthew 6:8 has always seemed strange to me- even though I understand it, it still seems strange- look there with me (read). Doesn’t the fact that Jesus wants us to pray and, yet, He tells us that God knows what we need before we ask Him, seem strange to you? I mean, why should we pray if He already knows what we need? If God knows what I am going to say or think before I say or think it, then what’s the point of communicating with God? The answer is that by praying, even though God already knows what I need, I am expressing my dependence on Him. By communicating with God, I am training my heart and my mind to not take credit for anything, because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17).” In becoming a praying person, rather than simply a person who prays, I more consistently place the focus of my thoughts and the focus of my desires on God. I don’t know about you, but what I desire is a life in which my mind and my heart are consumed with thoughts and desires of God- it’s hard to mess up when He is my focus.
Another issue that may tempt you to not pray is the thought, “I’ve been praying, or I’ve prayed before, but God didn’t answer my prayers, so why should I become a praying person when it doesn’t seem to do any good?” This is what is so awesome about prayer- in praying, if I truly want to commune with God, my focus is placed on God, rather than on myself, and therefore I better accept His answers when they aren’t what I expected. You see, too often we treat God like a fairy godmother- we ask Him for something and we think because we prayed, He should wave His magic wand or simply speak and give us what we prayed for. Guess what- that is not how God acts; and that’s really not being a praying person- when I truly pray such that my focus is on God, such that I am seeking God’s face, rather than seeking God’s hand, then I realize that He knows what I need better than I do.
Here is a video clip from Evan Almighty that describes this situation:
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxPKjruTuxw 1:10-1:40) All of us can go back to things we have prayed for and God said no or wait or He answered with something different than we were expecting, and we realize that He knew best. God is not a fairy godmother- He works in our lives according to His will- He doesn’t wave a magic wand to give us everything we want or think we need. Prayer helps us remember that, by placing our focus on God. Prayer reminds us of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…” Good isn’t always what we think it should be or what we want it to be, but it is the best thing for us in our becoming more like Christ. Prayer recognizes my dependence on God and on the fact that what God wants for my life is better than what I want for my life, even though I may not understand why. Then second, I should become a praying person so I can
Grow Closer to God
(Mark 1:35; Philippians 3:10)
John 14:31 states, “..The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” How was it that Jesus knew what the Father wanted Him to do? Because He was close to the Father. How did Jesus get close to the Father? Now, don’t get all super theological and say, “Well, Jesus and the Father are One- duh.” Look at this from the human side of Jesus- How would He know? Look in Mark 1:35 with me (read). Jesus did what? He prayed. To be assured of what God the Father wanted Him to do, to be close to the Father, Jesus spent time in prayer. Now, if we look at the whole of Jesus’ life, we will easily see that Jesus prayed all the time- in all kinds of situations Jesus prayed. Jesus wasn’t a man of prayer; He was a praying man. To know the heart of God, folks, we must become praying people. To know God in all His fullness, we must become praying people.
Look at Paul’s words with me in Philippians 3:10 (read). How do you get to know somebody? You must spend time with them. And although God is always with us and He is always in control, how do we recognize that He is with us? Through prayer. It is in communication with God that we come to know God more. It is by becoming praying people that we draw closer to God.
Let’s use the age old illustration- how did you determine that you wanted to marry your spouse, or how will you determine that? What’s the number one thing you have to do? You have to spend time communicating with that person.
For example, in the Fall of 1993 I started attending the college SS at LBC. Periodically I would see Monica Weaver standing on stage with the worship team, or she’d make an announcement about a Bible Study she was leading, or she was barking like a poodle at a dog barking contest during one of Cliff Knight’s famous possum hunts. I went to Monica’s house one night with a bunch of other students, and then spent thirty hours on a bus with her and thirty other college students to snow ski in Winter Park, CO, and even went down a few slopes with her and a few other students. Yet, in all those times of being in Monica’s presence, I didn’t really get to know her. Sure I knew who she was and I knew about her reputation for godliness and discipleship, but in all those times of being in her presence, I wasn’t getting ‘closer’ to her.
You see, it wasn’t until the bus trip back from Winter Park that I got to know Monica Weaver. I was playing spades with three other folks, so I needed an outside seat that faced the other three players. The outside seat next to Monica was open, so I jumped in it and played spades. When the game was over, I didn’t go back to my original seat but simply stayed where I was next to Monica, and somehow, considering we are both so shy, we struck up a conversation that has never really ended. We spent many nights on the couch at her parent’s house talking into the wee hours of the morning- we spent hours and hours of time communicating, until, fight it as we may, we knew each other so well that we knew God had put us together. And we continue to talk and communicate and I am closer to her now than I was even when we first got married, because we continue to communicate.
And that is the way it is in our relationship with God- the more I communicate with God- the more I pray, which includes listening to God, the closer I get to God. One of the advantages to knowing and loving Monica more now than before, is that I know better now what pleases or displeases her. I know what makes her happy and what hurts her, because I am closer to her. In drawing closer to God, the same is true. The closer I am to God, the more aware I become of sin in my life, and the more aware I become of temptations to sin. One person put it like this, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Becoming a praying person will make you more like God, which means a greater passion for holiness and a greater hatred of sin- which is what we all need. You see, getting to know God is very much like getting to know a person- the more you communicate with Him, the more you know Him, and the closer you get to Him. Then third, I should become a praying person so I can
Have an Impact on Others
(Colossians 4:2-4; Matthew 9:36-38)
Here are a few more quotes for us: "The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray." “Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still." "Prayer is the real work; Evangelism is just the mopping up." "Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God's messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us."
Think about King David for just a moment- Why did God choose David? In 1 Samuel 13:14 we read these words from Samuel to King Saul, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people.” The literal translation of that verse says, “a man according to His own heart.” David was a man that had an eternal impact on those around him, on his country, and on our world even today, because David above all else was a praying man. How do we know he was a praying man? Just read Psalms- most of them were written by David. David prayed when in the field with his sheep; while hiding in caves; when times were good; when times were hard; when he needed to repent; and when he was rejoicing. David had an impact on others, because he was a praying man. If we really want to make a lasting impact on friends and family; if we really want to leave a legacy, we must become praying people.
Even the Apostle Paul realized the need and the impact of prayer for eternal matters. In Colossians 4:2-4 he wrote, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Paul understood that in order for his missions’ endeavors to be fruitful, prayer was key. Even Jesus indicated this truth- Look with me in Matthew 9:36-38 (read). Jesus said that there were people out there ready for the Gospel- we just need more believers taking advantage of those opportunities. How would there be opportunities and how would there be people seeing those opportunities to make an eternal difference? Prayer is what ultimately opens up opportunities to influence others, and it is prayer that makes us sensitive to those opportunities.
Others have put it this way: "There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer." "Intercession is truly universal work for the Christian. No place is closed to intercessory prayer. No continent - no nation - no organization - no city - no office. There is no power on earth that can keep intercession out." The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, put it this way, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
George Mueller’s prayers impacted his orphanage, but also his friends without Christ. The story goes that “One day George Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved.” To have an eternal impact, we must pray.
Conclusion: If we are going to become more like Christ as individuals, we must pray. If FBC Ripley is going to make a difference in this community we must pray. And the good news is that the more we pray, we will have a greater influence on others, we will draw closer to God, and more of our focus will be placed on Him and His desires, rather than on us, and when that happens we enjoy life more- not that circumstances get better, but things like joy and hope and peace and contentment grow in our lives- because of becoming a praying man/woman. Here are a few more quotes on prayer to take to the bank: "There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God." “Prayer should not be regarded "as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty." And one last quote from E.M. Bounds, who has provided several of the previous quotes: "Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer." How we need to become praying people. This week we have talked about why- next week we will talk about how- I mean that’s the ultimate question, right- we all know this, we all know prayer should be a focus of our lives, but how do we do it- I’m going to give you the how next week, alright?
I’ve Never Been a Praying Person (1)
Three reasons to become a praying person:
1. To place our ____________________ on God.
(Matthew 6:8; John 5:14-15)
2. To draw ____________________ to God.
(Mark 1:35; Philippians 3:10)
3. To have a ____________________ impact on others.
(Colossians 4:2-4; Matthew 9:36-38)
More in Prayer
October 11, 2015I'm Not a Praying Person: Part 2