AGCC Sun. a.m. 8/29/99
"POWER OF PRAYER"
TEXT: Eph. 6:18-20; Matt. 26:38-41
INTRO: Paul has spent considerable time explaining the armor of the Christian soldier, now he tells us where the battlefield is. Since he explained earlier that our battle is not against "flesh and blood" but against "the powers of this dark world…and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12) he now tells us that this battlefield is our prayer closet!
We underestimate the power of prayer! We also undervalue the importance of it! So many Christians have weak or non existing prayer lives. The biggest loser when we fail to pray is US! Prayer is the power to change everything … and the loss of prayer cannot be made up by the hard work we do as Christians. The well dressed soldier is not much good if he doesn't enter the battlefield!
Prayer is the underlying power to all that happens spiritually in our lives, the lack of it in our lives can have severe consequences, and the practice of an active prayer life can have dramatic power!
ILLUS: In "Point Man", Steve Farrar tells the story of George McCluskey. When McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted his kids to follow Christ. After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every day between 11 a.m. and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.
As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full-time ministry. The two couples produced four girls and one boy. Each of the girls married a minister, and the boy became a pastor. The first two children born to this generation were both boys. Upon graduation from high school, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates.
During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry. The other didn't. He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology. He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers. He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day. The man's name was James Dobson. Through his prayers, George McCluskey affected far more than one family. -- Loyal J. Martin, Newton, Kansas. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
PROP. SENT: The Scriptures teach us that prayer is the key to all spiritual influences in our lives, a failure to develop a personal prayer life can leave us spiritually ineffective and weak. The spiritual battlefield is our prayer closet, it is here we make war against Satan and sin.
I. PURPOSE OF PRAYER Eph. 6:18; Matt. 26:38-41
A. Foundational Eph. 6:18a
1. Paul explains here that "all occasions" demand prayer for the Christian soldier.
a. The Christian life requires communication with our commander in chief, this is what prayer does!
b. Everything a Christian faces requires prayer, good and bad.
2. What kind of prayers should we use? Paul says, "all kinds of prayers and requests"!
a. The variety of prayers is endless!
b. The point is "TO PRAY"!
3. Prayer is too often ignored as a critical aspect of life, even the most enlightened minds of history have understood the importance of prayer!
ILLUS: Doctoral student at Princeton, 1952: "What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?"
Visiting lecturer Albert Einstein: "Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer." -- Unknown, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.
4. Prayer is so foundational for our spiritual lives!
a. It is not just something you learn, it must be something you do!
ILLUS: Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet. Edward McKendree Bounds (1835-1913) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 8930-8933.
b. Jesus who was sinless made it a priority, can we do less?
ILLUS: The Christian church was born not in a clever sermon but in a prayer meeting.-- Jim Cymbala, Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 4.
5. Prayer was foundational to Jesus' life and ministry, it was foundational to the birth of the Church, and it is foundational for the life of the Christian!
B. Fortification Eph. 6:18b; Matt. 26:38-41
1. Paul admonishes the Ephesian Church here to be alert and always praying for each other.
a. Prayer builds us up, it is far more than just communication, it is fortification!
b. So often we think of prayer as the means by which THINGS will change, but in reality it usually changes us and thereby things change!
ILLUS: One night my 11-year-old daughter Eva noticed I was distracted as I tucked her in to bed. I told her about a friend's teenage daughter whose hair was mysteriously falling out and I encouraged Eva to pray for Amy. Her simple words, "Jesus, please hold Amy's hair on her head," touched me.
As the doctors experimented with different treatments, Amy continued to lose her hair. Eva continued to pray the same prayer.
After six weeks the doctors determined Amy had alopecia, an extremely rare disorder where hair loss is unpredictable but can be complete and permanent. When I told Eva, she took my hand and closed her eyes. This time her prayer was different. "Dear Jesus, if you won't hold Amy's hair on her head, would you please hold Amy?" Tearfully, I realized how sometimes God doesn't move mountains; he moves us. -- Elisa Morgan in Christian Parenting Today. Christian Reader, Vol. 34.
2. The primary power of prayer is what it does to us, not just around us.
3. Jesus attempted to take his closest disciples with Him to Gethsemane to pray, as much to strengthen them for what was coming as well as to support Him in His hour of need.
a. They fell asleep and missed out on the prayer - and later it proved to be a great loss of strength to them when the moment of sorrow arrived.
b. Jesus was ready when the moment of the cross came, He had prayed. Peter and John and the others however did not have the power they needed - they failed to pray, and failed to persevere in the moment of need.
c. How many times have we discovered the weakness that came because we had failed to pray, too many people wait to pray AFTER the crisis, it would be better to pray before it!
4. We lose the most when we fail to pray, not God!
II. PERSPECTIVE OF PRAYER Eph. 6:19-20
A. Faithfulness 6:19
1. Paul finally gets around to asking prayer for himself, but even here it is not for more comfort or less pain, it is for boldness to preach the Gospel!
a. Prayer was not seen by Paul as a means to making life easier for his creature comforts, it was seen as power to get the Gospel out!
b. Though Paul was a prisoner at the time of this writing, his request for prayer has nothing to do with his release, it has to do with other's release from sin!
2. What would happen if Christians all over the world focused their prayers on winning the lost instead of praying for a new vehicle or salary increase?
3. Paul's concern in prayer was that he be faithful not materially full!
4. We will never succeed for God without prayer, even if we become greatly skilled in everything else!
ILLUS: I'd rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher; Jesus Christ never taught his disciples how to preach, but only how to pray. -- D. L. Moody, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 1.
5. While most would have asked prayer for deliverance from prison Paul's request for prayer was that others be delivered from the prison of sin - prayer needs to be seen as the means to conquer Satan and sin … hence the battlefield.
B. Focused! 6:20
1. Notice how prayer had affected Paul's perception of himself - instead of calling himself a "PRISONER" he calls himself an "AMBASSADOR IN CHAINS".
a. Prayer hadn't changed his circumstances, but it had dramatically changed his view of them! - Dennis Marquardt
b. An ambassador was a high calling, they came from all over the world to represent great kingdoms to the Roman authorities, Paul puts himself into this class of people though he is actually a prisoner.
c. It was prayer that made him see opportunity where most would have seen opposition.
2. Prayer has a powerful affect on the way things are viewed, we must never underestimate the power prayer has to alter perceptions!
ILLUS: In his book "Living Life on Purpose," Greg Anderson shares the story of one man's journey to joy: ... his wife had left him and he was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, in God--he found no joy in living.
One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon.
In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don't we say our prayers here?"
The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, "Bow your heads."
Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food. Amen."
That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, "We should do that every morning."
"All of a sudden," said our friend, "my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl's example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn't have. I started to choose happiness." -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.
3. If we prayed more we would probably see less to ask God for in the way of things, and would probably be more focused on spiritual needs than material ones.
a. Whole communities have been changed by one praying person.
b. Whole nations have been changed by a few praying people.
c. Whole lives have been turned around by a prayer!
d. Not everyone will learn how to preach, but we can all learn how to pray!
4. Since prayer is what allows us to touch God, something powerful happens when we are in contact with Him.
a. There is no substitute for contact with God in this world!
ILLUS:Someone gave this good advice: "If you can't sleep, don't count sheep. Talk to the shepherd." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
b. No amount of skills or capabilities can replace what prayer will do in our lives.
c. Powerful people, as well as powerful Churches are praying people and praying Churches.
5. All the great people of the Bible and of history have been praying people.
6. Many times prayer can dramatically alter the landscape of any situation, it can cause us to see everything in a totally different way, from God's perspective rather than our perspective.
7. Without prayer a Christian soldier can have on all the armor and have no battlefield to fight on … prayer puts us in the battle, and also gives us the power to be victorious.
8. There is no greater power on Earth than prayer!
CONCLUSION: Now that Paul has described the armor of God he explains where the battlefield is - IN PRAYER! Since we do not fight against"flesh and blood" we do fight against spiritual powers, thus prayer is critical to the Christian soldier, it is where we fight the battle. No Christian can succeed without prayer, it is the place God's power is released in us and through us. How's your prayer life?