The Priority of Prayer

The Priority of Prayer

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Luke 11:1, Luke 18:1
Date: 04/16/2020 
Why is prayer so important?

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download

Teach Us to Pray - Paper or PDF Download
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Doug Batchelor: Prayer for the Christian should be like breathing. If the Bible is the bread of life and if witnessing is like letting your light shine and exercising, then prayer would be the breath of the soul.

You know, I remember hearing a story years ago, I believe it was A.W. Tozer, a famous pastor. He was sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on this ship, and while he was there, the captain knew he was there, and he said, "Could you please speak to our first class passengers?" Well, a number of people came to one of the main cabins and he talked to them about the power of prayer, and an agnostic, he's on the ship back then, they didn't have a lot of entertainment, he thought, "Well, I'll go, and I'll listen to this preacher and see what he has to say." And he listened and then some of the people that were in third class said, "Any chance that Pastor Tozer could come talk to us?" He said, "I'd be happy to talk to them." Someone asked the atheist or agnostic what he thought, he said, "Well don't believe a word of it, I don't believe there's a God, and I don't believe that He answers prayer."

But they invited them to come hear him talk, then, to the third class passengers, and on his way he thought, "Well, I'll stop by my room, I'm getting a little hungry, I'm going to get a couple of oranges." He got his oranges and he was walking back across the deck, and there was a woman, an old woman sleeping on the deck, she had fallen asleep trying to get some fresh air and she had her hands down in her lap. And the atheist, he had a sense of humor, he thought, "I can't resist this," he quietly took two oranges out of his pocket and he put one in each of her open hands as she was sleeping; then he went on and he heard Tozer preach to the third class passengers.

Well, he again talked about the power of prayer and he felt his heart being stirred, but he said, "No, how could God answer prayer, there really can't be a God that answers prayer." At this point, he leaves the meeting, a friend said, "Well, what did you think of Pastor Tozer's talk on prayer?" He said, "I'm still not sure I agree with that babbler." Then he walks down the deck and he sees the woman, that he had placed the oranges in her hands, she's eating one of the two oranges. He said, "Well that looks like you're enjoying that,"

She said, "Mister, you will never believe what happened." She said, "I came up on deck because I've been struggling with sea sickness, and I fell asleep, and I was dreaming if I could only have an orange I would feel better, and I started praying. I said, 'Lord, I know I'm out in the middle of the ocean, but if I could just have an orange I just feel like that's what I need and I'd feel better.'" She said, "I woke up and there was an orange in each hand," and he was kinda stunned to hear that, that here he had been the means of answering her prayer. He said, "Madam, I probably ought to let you know that I'm the one that put the oranges in your hands." And she said, "Praise the Lord, He can even use an atheist to answer my prayers."

So God is a God that answers prayer. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing." This is something that we all need to do friends, understand the priority of prayer. Getting into this, let's talk a little bit about the foundation of prayer.

Now if you're at all involved in real estate, you've probably heard it said that there are three rules for success in real estate. I can almost hear it echoing through the online fiber optics right now, it's location, location, location. It doesn't matter if you buy a mansion that's out in the desert, and nobody can get to it, and there is no facilities or water around, doesn't do you any good. Yet if you buy an old broken down house and it's in a really nice neighborhood and it's located near transportation and near services, you can put a mansion on it and then you've got something, location.

They say there are three rules when it comes to raising children: Example, example, example. And in prayer, in living the Christian life, that's really the answer, it's prayer, prayer, prayer. You're going to find it from cover to cover in the Bible. Sometimes we get distracted with things that are of less importance. E.M. Bounds said, "What the church needs today is not more machinery or better new organizations or more novel methods but men and women whom the Holy Spirit can use, men of prayer, mighty men in prayer."

Now if you come to church and you sing like an angel but you seldom pray, your singing will not save you. If you give generously to Christian causes, that's wonderful, much appreciated, but you cannot buy your way into heaven if you're not praying. If you show up at every church work bee and you slave in the kitchen but you don't pray, you're not going to be saved by your good works. At the same time, if you are praying the way you should pray, you'll be singing and giving and serving, and so prayer is really the foundation for the Christian experience.

So, let's talk a little bit about the formula for prayer. Now, I'm not going to suggest to you mixed a combination of chemicals or kitchen ingredients and voila, you're going to have secret prayer, but the Bible does say prayer is something that we can study and learn to do better. Luke chapter 11, verse 1, "It came to pass that as He, Jesus, was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of his disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray--'" not only did he say, "Jesus, teach us to pray, as John--" John the Baptist-- "taught his disciples."

And Jesus never said, well, no, prayer's just something you'll learn by feeling. He agreed that it was something that could be taught. And at that point Christ began to recite the Lord's Prayer, He says, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father, which art in heaven,'" so forth. And when He gave the Lord's prayer, He didn't say make sure and repeat this prayer, never said that, He said, "In this manner therefore pray."

So in the Lord's Prayer you've got an outline for how we should approach God in prayer, you've got seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer. It says, "Our Father," it's talking about God, asking Him to lead us, to forgive us, and then you've got the petitions between man and man, and it says, well, there it says, you know, lead us, forgive us, feed us; talks about Thy name, Thy kingdom. And so you've got the relationship between man and God in the Lord's Prayer, and then you've got the horizontal relationship.

Something else about the Lord's Prayer, never do you find the word me, doesn't say lead me, guide me, feed me, deliver me, it's lead us, guide us, feed us, deliver us, and it's Thy kingdom, Thy glory, Thy name. And so the key to successful prayer is it starts with God, and it's thinking about others, what are the great commandments? "Love the Lord with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself," someone once said that that's the secret to joy. Jesus, others, you, J-O-Y. Start with Jesus, others, you, if you keep that sequence the way it should be, you end up finding happiness by blessing and serving others and praying for others.

And so, well what do you do if you pray and your mind wanders? Anyone out there you struggle with that? You know, it just takes discipline, it's like you know, when you're a child you're easily distracted, and one of the things kids learn in school is they're taught to focus and give their attention to things. As you grow as a Christian, you'll notice that your mind wanders when you're praying and just whenever you're aware of it you bring it back. Pray for the Holy Spirit as you pray, talked about that last night, say, "Lord, help me to pray in the Spirit." When your mind begins to wander with trivia, because your mind is swimming with millions of thoughts, bring it back, focus. And when you talk to God, keep in mind you're not going through a religious exercise, you are in the presence of the King of the Universe and so focus on who you're talking to.

You know, it's something that your parents usually teach when you're children and says when you're talking to someone or we're there and talking to you, look at them, give them your attention. If you're talking to your kids, they're just going like this, you say, "That's kind of rude." Well, sometimes we do that with our prayers, we're just you know, I've got to go through this ritual of repeating the same thing, which brings me to the next point.

When you pray, try not to keep saying the same thing, because it's not that God doesn't know what you want, but it's good for you to really think about different ways to articulate what the needs are, and don't always have your prayers just be about you and your needs or what your wants are, intercede on behalf of others. I've got a text message the other day and someone said, "Please pray about this or that," right there in my office by my chair, I dropped to my knees and I prayed for them. Frequently, people will say, "Pastor Doug, can you pray for me about this and that?" and I say yes and then later I forget. So a few years ago I learned that if I don't want all these things to rise up against me in the judgment, when someone says, "Pastor Doug, can you pray about this or that?" I say, "Let's do it right now." And so whenever you're impressed about praying for something, no time like the present, you pray at that moment.

Something else I think is helpful in prayer is I've got an acronym that's on the screen, it's sort of a summarization of what's in the Lord's Prayer, adoration, confession, that would be another repentance, confession, thanksgiving, always thank the God before you give Him your shopping list, and supplication, part of supplication is not only for your needs, it's talking about the needs of others. And so there's a formula to successful prayer and so focus on these things.

Talk a little bit, point number three, about the frequency of prayer. Well, I think everyone knows the story about Daniel in the lion's den, and it tells us in chapter 6, verse 10, that, "When he knew the writing was signed, he went to his upper room and he opened his window and he got on his knees, and he prayed three times that day just like he had done ever since he was young." And I think one reason that Daniel prayed three times is Daniel was also a Bible reader, and he read where King David said, in Psalm 55, verse 17, "Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud, and He will hear my voice."

It's not a mandate that you must pray three times a day, here it talks about a morning and an evening prayer, and it says, again, 2 Chronicles 13:11, "And they burn to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense." And so they had this pattern in the temple that incense, you can read about this in Revelation also, that altar of incense represented the prayers of God's people, so these sacrifices and the incense aroma that was ascending to God, that would happen with the priest's intercession, and Jesus is our high priest. So, take time every day for feeding your soul, communion with God, sometimes our morning prayers, we're asking for guidance and particulars, evening prayers we're praying for mercy and asking for power to do better the next day, thanking God for His blessings.

So, talking a little bit about the frequency of prayer, why don't we talk about how often we should pray, and I don't just mean two or three times a day. 1 Thessalonians 5:16, now friends, if we capture what I'm about to talk about now, I think you'll be able to embrace just what's so important about a revival. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing." "Pastor Doug, how do you pray without ceasing?" You walk around all the time looking up or looking down you're going to collide with things, and how can you do your work if you're praying without ceasing?

Well you know the Bible says that Enoch walked with God, the Bible says Noah walked with God, no doubt Abraham and Moses and many of these patriarchs and prophets, they walked with God. And I think it's interesting the Bible tells us Enoch walked with God, he was the seventh from Adam and he was not, for God took him, he went up, he was translated without seeing death. We are now living in what I think is the last generation and I think it's the--we're in the last millennium before we spend the millennium with Christ, and this is the time where God is looking for people that will be translated. One of the characteristics of those who are translated when Christ comes, translated means, like Elijah, you're called up without dying, they walk with God.

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Doug Batchelor: We need to have an experience where we're walking with God. That means you might be working in a bakery making bread and you do your work and you make your bread but you continue to talk to the Lord, you thank the Lord while you're talking to others. You know, most of us can do more than one thing at a time, stay in a state of awareness of God's presence, and it's a wonderful thing if you can do that, friends.

You know, it's a lot easier to live a holy life if you sense God is right there with you, it's when we have separated ourselves from God or we try to follow Him from a distance we get into trouble, "Pray without ceasing." Luke 18:1, Jesus said, "Men ought always to pray and not lose heart," don't get discouraged in your prayers. You say, "Oh, but Pastor, I've been praying about this thing 20 times," or, "I prayed about this for years." You know Elijah prayed seven times before the rain came, prayed one time the fire came, he prayed seven times before the cloud came that brought the rain; be persistent in prayer.

I've talked to many spouses, might be a husband or wife, and they either married an unbeliever or they were converted and their spouse wasn't, or they got married when they weren't believers and they got reconverted. And they say, "You know now I want my spouse to be converted," and they prayed for them 15, 20, 25, 30 years and they think, "Is the Lord ever going to hear my prayers?" and then they're converted. I know parents that prayed for their kids for 50 years and then they were converted, and I know parents that they prayed for their kids till their dying day and they don't realize that God made a withdrawal on their prayers after they died, and their children were saved and they're going to be so happy to see them in heaven. So they've been storing prayers so to speak, and then God's going to surprise them, might even answer the prayers after the parents are already gone.

Do not lose hope or become indifferent, or discouraged is the word I'm looking for, in your prayers. Colossians 4:2, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 1, verse 3, it says, "We give thanks to God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you," and as I mentioned, in your prayers, make sure to mingle in your gratitude and your thanks. Someone once said that, "When you're grateful you make the way for further or future benefits."

You know, if I ever helped somebody, and they never say thank you, you know I might not make a big deal of it, but I'm less inclined to help them next time. When we're grateful to God, I think you pave the way for future benefits, always incorporate thanks in your prayer. "Oh, but Pastor Doug, I'm going through such trials I forget to be thankful," you know Daniel thanked the Lord before he went to the lion's den? In his prayer he gave thanks, so we should always, Paul says, "Thank God in everything," don't forget to be thankful, world becomes a better place when we do. Luke 21:36, Jesus said, "Watch therefore, and pray always that you might be counted worthy to escape all these things," talking about the trials at the end of time, we might be there now friends. "Watch therefore, pray always that you might be counted worthy to escape all these things that are going to come to pass, and stand before the Son of Man," when Jesus comes in His glory.

You want to be ready for the Second Coming, we should be watching and praying now. Ephesians 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints," well, there's a lot of alls in there; all prayer, being watchful, all perseverance and supplication for the saints.

Now, I talk about the fortitude of prayer. John 15, verse 4, Jesus said, "Abide in Me and I in you. The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches, he that abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit." This abiding in Christ talking about, in our prayers, just be in Christ, pray in His name, pray in His Spirit, praying in His name really is more than just using His name like it is the period at the end of a sentence. You say, "In Jesus's name, amen," and say, "Okay, I guess my prayer is done," it's not like the stamp of approval on the end of your prayer. You're saying that through His name, that's what gives your prayers efficacy, it's through His name, that's what gives our prayers authority, and it's in the Spirit of Christ we're praying in His name. John, 1 John 2, verse 24, "Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and the Father, and whoever abides in Him, perseveres in prayer, does not sin."

Now just a couple of words about the physics of prayer, and what I mean by that is, might even talk a little bit about a reverent posture when we pray. Acts 21, verse 5, "When we accomplish those days, we departed and we want our way; and they all brought us on our way with wives and children, until we were all out of the city, and we knelt down on the shore and we prayed."

Now I want to make it clear, you can pray in just about any situation, you can pray in a lion's den when you're surrounded by cats, you can pray while you're swimming like Peter when he was drowning, Jehoshaphat prayed while he was leading an army, Jehu prayed while he was driving a chariot. Jonah prayed while he was being digested, Nehemiah prayed while he was building, he also prayed standing there before the King. Elijah prayed out in the desert, Paul prayed while he was sailing, Elisha prayed in an attic, David prayed in a cave, Philip prayed under a tree, so you can pray anywhere, you can pray all the time.

But I think that it's important that at some point during the day and in every worship service, God's people get on their knees before the Lord and pray, just a few words on that. Acts 9, verse 40, "Peter put them all forth and he knelt down and prayed," and resurrected Dorcas. Acts 20, verse 36, "When he had thus spoken, he knelt down and he prayed with them all." Acts 7, verse 59, "They stoned Stephen, calling upon God," Stephen was calling upon God, "And saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And he knelt down and he cried with a loud voice, 'Lay not this sin to their charge.'" The last words of Stephen was a prayer for those that were killing him; some of the last words of Jesus was, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do."

It's interesting, these converted people, their dying prayer was for others, tells us something about the Spirit. And then you've got Ephesians 3:14, "For this cause I bow my knee unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Now, I'm just giving you a few, but it seems like you know we're living in an age where church is just become, it's a marketing thing, let's find out what the people want and let's give it to them, and if they're uncomfortable kneeling down then don't make them kneel; and I think we're losing the sense of reverence. You know, when we come before the Lord in our personal devotions we should try to kneel, now some people when you get old, you get down and you can't get back up, God understands that, or you know if it's not practical. I've been places where someone says, "Let's kneel," and they have you all kneel on rocky ground and it's digging into your knees and you can think about your prayer. So God wants us to be practical, but let's, in our interest of being practical, let's not start drifting from the importance of a posture of reverence when we talk to God.

And then there's the fervency of prayer, that means you just put in your heart and soul into it. Hebrews 11, verse 6, "But without faith it's impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is," we read this last night but notice, "And He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him in prayer." You know, I wonder how many miracles have happened because somebody prayed five minutes longer; some people give up. You know, we just read where Jesus said that parable about the woman who persisted in prayer, she just kept coming back, she kept coming back. And finally, that unrighteous judge says, "Give her what she wants, she is wearing me out," and Jesus said, "Look what the unrighteous judge says, how much more will your Father in heaven answer His children that cry to Him day and night?" So be persistent in your prayers.

Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek for Me and you will find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart." You need to put all your weight into that prayer when you're praying for those miracles, and then you know, you've got the effectiveness of prayer. Miracles happen when God's people pray.

The Bible, from cover to cover, is the story of how prayer works. Joshua prays and the sun stands still; children of Israel, caught with the Egyptians breathing down their necks, and it says, "They cried unto the Lord," the Lord parts the Red Sea. Hezekiah prays, angel of the Lord goes out and 185,000 enemy are slain in one night. God fights for them when they pray. The Bible tells us Jonah prayed, and you know, even when you think your situation is hopeless, that's when I think God does His best work. When you think, "Lord, I'm going to pray but it's not looking good," He said, "Well, I can do anything."

Jonah is in, he's in the digestive system of a sea monster at the bottom of the mountains, he's in the dark and he's suffering for his own sins. But in that dying moment he lifts his prayer and somehow his prayer gets from the farthest point from heaven you could be on earth, submarine, God hears his prayer and He works a miracle, and not only does the fish bring Jonah to the surface, he then deposits him on dry land; God is a good God.

Elijah prays, fire and rain comes out of heaven; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I think they claimed the promise that says, "When you go through the fire I will be with you," God answered their prayer and He air-conditioned the furnace, so God is a God that works miracles.

And make sure when you come to the Lord and you pray, as Jesus said, you've been reconciled with others. We talked about this. When you bring your gift to the altar, if you have odds with someone else, be at peace as far as you can humanly do, can't change everything. Be reconciled with others and then come in the Spirit of Christ, and He will not turn you away. God is more willing to answer your prayers than you probably are to ask Him.

I heard a parable one time about this man gets to heaven, angel's showing him around the golden streets and the palaces and it's all very beautiful. And then out there in the middle of the City of God are these huge Amazon warehouses, there's just acres and acres of warehouses, and he's thinking, "What in the world would angels be storing up here in heaven?" And he asked the angel, said, "What's with all the warehouses?" He said, "Those are full of prayers that we wanted to answer but nobody made a withdrawal."

There are so many prayers that God wants to answer that have not been answered because we don't ask. Jesus, "Up to now you have not asked, ask that your joy might be full." So friends, pray. There's so many things to pray about, but start making it a habit to talk to God and walk with God and you will experience revival.

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Announcer: The statistics are grim, millions have been infected by Coronavirus, thousands have died, race riots have broken out on streets, political tensions are at an all time high, does the Bible have anything to say about the times in which we are living?

Doug Batchelor: Hi, friends, this is Pastor Doug Bachelor. Many people are wondering if the world's about to implode, some are fearful that global events point to a coming crisis unlike anything we've ever witnessed. Did you know the Bible book of Revelation actually speaks about the days in which we're living now, and it contains a message of hope, if we would only listen? That's why I'd like to invite you to "Revelation Now," decoding the Bible's greatest prophecies. In this multi-part series, I'll be sharing relevant truths for our time from the last book in the Bible.

Announcer: Coming October 23rd. To learn more, visit RevelationNow.com. announcer: Would you like to know God's plan for our troubled world and solutions for your life's challenges? Beautifully redesigned and updated, Amazing Facts' 27 Bible study guides provides straightforward Bible-based answers that are enlightening, encouraging, and easy to understand. Giving you real, relevant Bible answers to questions like: how can I have healthier relationships? When will Jesus come? And much more. Order yours today by visiting AFBookstore.com or by calling 800-538-7275.

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