Greetings Church Family,
As we enter this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season I would like for us to focus on God’s gift of prayer to His people. The gift of prayer is a gift for which we should be most thankful and also a gift we desperately need to unwrap. In fact, one of the greatest weaknesses of the family of God is that we spend more time talking about prayer than we do praying.
Prayer is essential to the life of every member of the family of God. It connects us with the heavenly Father and opens the door for Him to move in our lives, to impact our circumstances and to help us make wise choices. The disciples saw Jesus’ prayer life and the power He had with the Father and desired greatly that He would teach them how to pray.
Yet, few of us would claim to enjoy a satisfying prayer life. So how can we begin to cultivate a prayer life that truly makes a difference?
These next two series of sermons on prayer: THANKFUL FOR THE GIFT OF PRAYER and UNWRAPPING GOD’s GIFT OF PRAYER will help guide us in making prayer a part of our everyday life. Dr. Charles Stanley said the “Prayer is the ultimate resource for every believer.” So, we are going to be exploring:
How we can pray with authority
How we can receive answers to prayer
Why prayers can seem to go unanswered
How to pray in God’s will and
How we can effectively pray for others
Think About It…Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think about it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father.
My dad use to tell me often of how he grew to believe so strongly in prayer. He was a little boy playing one day and it grew cloudy as a group of clouds covered the sun. He begin to pray that the sun would come back out so he could continue his playtime. Just as he finished his prayer, the clouds passed and the sun reappeared. With great joy, dad cried out, “I knew it, I knew it, I ask God to let the sun come back out so I could play and He did!”
Prayer is a gift
Most of us want to develop a relationship with God that is fueled by prayer. But what does that guidance look like? With all the minivan driving and schoolwork and baseball practices, is there space to focus on building a powerful prayer life? Can’t we just pray during those expected times: before meals and bedtime, or when friends are sick and pets are lost?
But seeing prayer as another item to add to our schedule misses the point. Prayer isn’t a task, but an invitation to a relationship. The Creator of the universe beckons us to His throne, and He wants to hear what we have to say. What’s more, prayer connects us to God’s direction and strength so that we may stand against evil. When we pray or help our children see prayer as Scripture portrays it — as a resource, not a responsibility — we unwrap the gift of a deeper relationship with God.
He wants us to approach Him
It’s easy to see prayer from only our end of the exchange. “Is anyone listening?” you might ask. “Isn’t God too busy running the universe?”
The author of Hebrews reminds us that when we pray, we’re speaking to One who cares and can even relate: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
We need to recognize that the Creator of the universe really does care for our concerns — He is a loving, sympathetic listener. We can approach Him boldly, knowing that He wants to hear what we have to say.
His door is always open
How did you teach your child to speak? Probably not with a doctorate in English. What’s true of our child’s language development is also true of their spiritual development: The best teacher is the example we set.
So the first step to helping children experience the gift of prayer is to let them see their parents praying. Model a prayer life that communicates your constant reliance on God. Throughout the day, let them hear your prayers, and tell them how these prayers are answered. Then talk about what God is teaching you through your prayer life.
When I was younger, the apostle Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” baffled me (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Without ceasing? We’re supposed to go through life with heads bowed and eyes closed? This teaching refers more to a way of life, a constant awareness of God’s availability. We never stop returning to the resource of prayer. We seek God’s guidance as we head off to work and school, when we’re tempted or when we hear about a friend’s trials. We pray when we witness something noble and beautiful — or when we see evil. “Life becomes a continually ascending prayer,” wrote pastor John MacArthur. “All life’s thoughts, deeds and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with your heavenly Father.”
His ways are wiser
“Why didn’t God answer my prayer?”
I suppose most have heard some variation of that question, often we wonder why events didn’t turn out the way we wanted. First, we need to understand that answered prayer doesn’t necessarily mean getting what we want. Instead, God can grant requests or not, or change our hearts or do something else entirely. All are answered prayer.
The question isn’t whether He answers prayer, but whether it is in our best interest for Him to give us what we want. We need to stress that God, in His perfect wisdom, gives us what we don’t even know to ask for.
As parents, we have a unique perspective on this point. Our job is to know what’s best for our kids and to enforce the principles that help them grow in wisdom. And we want our kids to yield to our experience — we know that reasonable bedtimes make healthier children, that misbehavior needs correction and that dinners are not built out of doughnuts. Help your kids see that just as parents make wise decisions, which sometimes seem unpleasant, so also is God able to see a bigger perspective. For younger children, have them consider how their pet may not want shots or a bath but the shots keep the animal healthy and baths keep them clean. These are part of a bigger perspective, too.
He helps us even in prayer
It’s probably no surprise that God doesn’t judge prayers as humans do. He sees our heart, not our polish and articulation. Even when we don’t know how to pray, perhaps when we’re sad or having difficulty expressing our feelings, God’s Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
As we learn how to pray, we can also look to the many example prayers found in Scripture. We could start in Matthew 6, where Jesus simply says, “Pray then like this,” before giving us a model in the Lord’s Prayer. We can go through the Psalms, discussing the meaning of these beautiful prayers and even memorizing a few of them.
I also love to focus on how Bible heroes prayed. Daniel prayed when his life crumbled around him. King David, when victorious in battle, approached God’s throne with awe and humility. Mary, in complete faith, yielded to God’s perfect will. And God’s own Son constantly modeled the privilege of seeking His Father’s direction and presence.
The beauty of pastoring, like parenting gives me and opportunity to help us as a church family, like parents help their children learn about prayer, even as I watch us grow deeper in our prayer life. Together, we can witness firsthand how the gift of prayer is key to a relationship with God.
With Many Prayers and Christian Love,
Church Phone: 423-272-7676
Church Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.