“Active Prayer”

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”

“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud.
A man should pray with eyes fast-closed
And head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hand should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Well, I pray while resting every day,”
Said Mr. Henry Pack.
“So I should think you say your prayers
While lying on your back.”
“Last year I fell in Murphy’s well—
Headfirst,” said Cyrus Brown.
“With both my knees a’stickin’ up
And my head a’pointin’ down.”

“And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A’standing on my head.”

“So, if your prayers come
From mouth and not from soul;
God may just someday let you
Fall into a hole!”

Prayer has been a hot topic around here lately. There are many of our members who are going through trials in varying ways and we give them prayer to sustain them. There are those we love who are not members of our church who need our prayers. As God leads Redeemer into ministry, we pray we will clearly hear His call and obey. As our nation seems to be heading more and more into worldly trappings, we pray that she will come back to being one nation under God, indivisible. There is much to pray for, so how do we do this more effectively? Well, I believe the church spoken of in our lesson in Acts is the best model.

Our reading starts out with these words about that church, “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  To me, the most important word in this section of Scripture is the word, “devoted.” They devoted themselves to the teachings, they devoted themselves to fellowship (which includes Bible Study), they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and they devoted themselves to prayer.

Redeemer is blessed to have a number of dedicated prayer warriors and for that we are very thankful because a vibrant prayer life is absolutely essential to the dynamics and success of any church. The act of praying and the belief that those prayers are being heard by God are crucial to the life of a Christian and the life of a church body.

If we are to be effective in our witness and outreach for Christ, if we are to be effective in making disciples for Christ, we need Spirit led and spirit filled prayer. A ministry cannot be most effective without it and in this post-modern world we find ourselves in, we need all the prayers we can get.

But to be most effective in our prayer lives we must be devoted to it. So what does it mean to be devoted to prayer? The Greek verb for devoted used in this case means that the church was continually devoting themselves to the ministry of prayer. The New Testament Church knew that without that foundation, they would falter and die. They knew that without direct communication to God through prayer, their chances of growing and sustaining their new church were doomed. They knew that the power could not be found by their own efforts, so they devoted themselves to prayer. It was not something they could take or leave at will so they disciplined themselves to be diligent in their efforts.

They were persistent to follow Paul’s charge in Romans 12:12 to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And as a result of this it says in our text that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 

 

So together we praise the Lord that He has already instilled in many of our hearts the vital component of any church, prayer.  Martin Luther said, “Wherever a Christian is, there the Holy Spirit is, who does nothing else but pray constantly. For though a Christian is not constantly moving his lips and speaking words, his heart nevertheless moves and beats (just like the pulse in his body) and always throbs with such sighs as these: Dear Father, may thy name be hallowed, may thy kingdom come; May thy will be done by us and everyone. And the harder the blows of life or temptation and trouble press and beat upon him, the stronger such sighs and prayers become even vocally. Therefore you cannot find a Christian without prayer, just as you cannot find a living man without a pulse. The pulse never stands still; it is always throbbing and beating by itself, even though a man is sleeping or doing something else and therefore, is not aware. God asks us to pray continually, Martin Luther is saying that every Christian answers this call to pray in every part of his or her life by the way they live their lives. Prayer is more than words, It is also shown in our actions, it is shown in how we treat each other, it’s shown in how we care for one another. Prayer is shown in the condition of your soul. Prayer to a Christian should be as essential to us as the beating of our heart. In all you do, glorify God, and you will be answering His call to pray constantly.

But, many of us find in this world that it is difficult to live that kind of life because honestly, we are a lazy people.   Martin knew this too, he says, “It would not be surprising, and surely should not be so, for a Christian to appeal to God in prayer every hour and to grant Him no rest; for He speaks so graciously to us, constantly appeals to us, and says: Ask, seek, knock. Oh, that we were as diligent in praying (at least with the sighing of our heart) as God is in inciting, inviting, commanding, promising and urging us to pray! Ah, we are altogether too lazy and unthankful! God forgive us, and strengthen our faith for us. Amen.” Martin was not known to mince words.

So, if prayer is so vital, how are we doing? Like I said, some of our members truly believe in prayer and live it out in their lives and are a testimony to the power of prayer, but even they can do more and if I were to make a guess I would say that everyone of you here this morning could be doing much more in your prayer lives. We too have become lazy communicators. So I am going to invite you to do two things to help us all make progress in becoming more effective prayer warriors.

First I want you to pray for this church. We all want to see her grow and prosper but more importantly, I ask you to pray that through the ministries of this church we are making a real difference in the lives we touch.

In Colossians 4:4 Paul asked the congregation in Colossae to pray for him that he would “proclaim the Gospel clearly, as he should.” In that same vein I ask you all to pray for me and for every worship service. Pray for me each week as I prepare God’s Word that it will be His Word and not mine. Pray for God to bless His Word so that when it is proclaimed it might reach willing hearts and work to change lives. Pray for our families that, together, we can live up to the expectations God has for us. I testify that without the support of my family, I would be pretty useless. Volunteer to pray with me about all things to do with ministry here at Redeemer. It would be great if people could take some time out of their busy week just to come and pray for the church, it’s Pastor and it’s ministry for 10 or 15 minutes. It would be awesome for a group of us to pray before and after each service that it might touch the lives of those who witness it in a God pleasing way.

Secondly, I ask you to pray for all the ministry that is happening outside these walls every day. Pray that God would use us in great and mighty ways to make a kingdom difference in the lives we are blessed to touch. Pray that the people of Redeemer would be known for what they do in our community and for the godly ways they live their lives. Pray for the disenfranchised, the hungry and the hurting. Pray for the lost, the lonely and the ailing.

Become prayer warriors in every facet of your lives so that others might hear the sigh in your heart that Martin Luther speaks of. You do that by living your entire life to the glory of God so that others can’t help but notice.

The Lord has amazing things planned for Redeemer, plans to grow, plans to proclaim, plans to make a significant difference for Him. But to properly follow His call, we need to dedicate ourselves to pray for each other that we might be willing to do what it takes.

There is a story told about a faithful old deacon whose often repeated prayer expression was, “O Lord, touch the unsaved with thy finger.” One prayer meeting night he was leading in prayer when he abruptly stopped praying. Supposing he was suddenly ill, someone went to him and asked if there was anything wrong, if he were ill. “No,” he replied, “I’m not ill. But something seemed to say to me, ’Thou art the finger’.”

 

Prayer is vital but it should only be seen as a beginning to further action. If our lives are to be in constant prayer, it takes more than simple words. At the end of your prayer, when you say AMEN, what ACTION do you do? Do you pray for the sick and then leave it at that? Or do you pray for the sick, and then pick up the phone and call them to let them know you are thinking about them. Do you ask if you can do anything for them? A hot meal brought to their home? Medicine they need to have picked up?
Do you pray for the poor and hope God does something about the poor? Or do you pray and ask God to use you? Do you put actions to your prayer, giving to the poor, working with Habitat for Humanity, donating to a food bank.
Do you pray that God would help our church grow and then hope that God inspires someone to do something? Or do you pray and put your prayer into action by telling other’s the Good News and where they can hear it. Our lives are so busy. We need to stop from time to time and go to that solitary place for prayer. And then at the end of the prayer, get up and get busy with the things that are most important – the work of God.

God’s ear is always open to each of us and He longs for us to come to Him in prayer. He waits in anticipation for us to put our complete hope and trust in Him. He has laid the groundwork for this relationship already in the death and resurrection of His Son. Now it’s our turn. So join me in being devoted to prayer. May God hear the yearning within us to do our part in the growing of His church. May He feel the love that has been preserved for Him alone that overshadows all the worldliness we might aspire to and may we all make prayer an essential part of our lives, so important to us that we could not imagine to be without it. Don’t settle for anything less. Amen

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