Prayerfulness

[ how not to pray clip]

We have been looking this year at spiritual maturity and spiritual growth and have made it our intention to grow into that spiritual maturity as individuals and as a church.

In my NRSV Bible there is a passage marked by the comment “Marks of the True Christian”. It is Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; …No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is an extensive list of attributes of a mature Christian and we have already looked at some of them in depth. Today I want to pick out another.  This one was identified as a key attribute by the Leadership Team at its retreat, back in January. 

That is Prayerfulness

Prayerfulness means Being in the present with your eyes wide open to experiencing God and life in dynamic new ways.[1]

It means to be constantly present with God throughout our day in the manner of Brother Lawrence who wrote Practicing the Presence of God.

He wrote: “That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD’s Presence, by continually conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries.”

Brother Lawrence was a monk in the mid 1600s in France, yet his truths in his little book are timeless.

Romans 12:12 says persevere in prayer

Paul wrote to Timothy: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity…8 I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; (1 Timothy 2:1–8)

To the church at Colossi, he wrote: Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2).

To the church at Ephesus, he wrote: Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18).

To the church at Thessalonica, he wrote Pray without ceasing (1 The 5:17)

Prayerfulness is a key component of a mature walk with Christ.

Bruce Waltke reminds us that It is God's will to you to become a mature man or woman of God. He wants to see your character develop. He wants you to draw close to him and be changed. God's will is that you be holy, wise, mature, joyful, prayerful and submissive. [2]

Let me highlight that again                                          

God's will is that you be holy, wise, mature, joyful, prayerful and submissive.

South Korea has rapidly becoming one the greatest power houses of Christianity in the world today. They send out more missionaries than any other country.  In trying to identify causes for such explosive growth, David Wang lists the causes as faith, fellowship, radical obedience to the Word of God and fervency in prayer.[3]

Prayer and obedience/submission were vital keys to both Waltke and Wang’s analysis of church growth.

If we want to see God at work growing his church, prayer becomes neither an optional extra nor a position of desperate last resort. It stands as the one indispensable fundamental factor among all the other needed principles of church growth.[4]

Prayer is the basis of everything we do as Christians. It is the basis of our service, our zeal and commitment, our love, our use of gifts, and our offering of ourselves together as a holy, living sacrifice. Prayer is critically central to all that we are and do as God’s people.[5]

It is interesting that this stand-alone focus on prayerfulness continues our theme of it not being about us and being all about God.

When Paul calls us to persistence in prayer, he is calling us to a deeper reliance upon God’s actions, rather than our own.[6]

With such a biblical emphasis on prayer and if prayerfulness is such a key, then why do our prayer meetings throughout the churches lack people attending? 

What stops us from prayerfulness?

Some claim it is the busyness of life, yet Martin Luther is quoted as saying “I have so much to do that if I don’t spend at least 3 hours a day praying I will not get it all done.”

So that cannot be the reason.  We can pray together, we can pray by ourselves, we can pray in our cars or in the dentist’s waiting room, or outside the school gates as we wait to pick up the children.  Busyness still has many opportunities to pray. Get off your phones and get into prayer. You choose.

Some suggest it is our perpetual reliance on our own abilities and resources – sub text saying I can do it without God - which works until the wheels fall of and we are in crisis. People pray in crisis rather than praying to prevent a crisis.

 I was at Bethlehem Baptist in Tauranga when it was undergoing a massive increase in attendance and was in a very extensive and expensive building program. We had weekly prayer meetings that filled the prayer room. When I suggested to the pastor that we continue these prayer meeting after the build was complete, he sagely said, it won’t happen because people will not have a need that the prayer is addressing. And what he said was true. The prayer meetings died away when there was no need to seek God for the money for the building.

It is said that there are no atheists in the trenches in wartime. And it is said that the churches in USA were filled straight after 9/11.  But it is sad that we only turn to prayer in times of crisis.

 

Sometimes we think it is more important to do work rather than pray but Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is not a preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not a preparation for the battle, it is the battle.”[7]

Sometimes we think we have to learn how to pray before we can effectively do it.  This belief is borne out in the vast libraries of “how to pray’ books that litter best seller lists of Christian bookshops. Upstairs in our prayer room here is a bookshelf groaning with books on how to pray.

Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master the way we master algebra or motor mechanics. But the guru on prayer Richard Foster tells us that such a belief puts us in the ‘on top’ position, where we are competent and in control. But when praying we come ‘underneath’, where we calmly and deliberately surrender control and become incompetent.[8]

You see, prayer is not a matter of proficiency but a living relationship and a desire for God.[9]

A serious spiritual life is more than just following the rules and doing things the proper way. More fundamental is the attitude with which we enter into and carry on our quest.[10]

And there is a spiritual reason why we do not pray. The devil loves it when we do not pray

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 trembles when we pray. (Samuel Chadwick)

In C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in the fourth letter, Screwtape(a devil) writes to his nephew Wormwood (an apprentice devil) that Wormwood’s “patient” can be tempted, and so succumb, if the patient does not pray.

It is the discipline of prayer that brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. [11]

We should be known for our prayerfulness, just like Epaphras

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.

Let me play you a clip from the movie Shadowlands, about the real life of CS Lewis.  His wife, whom he had married late in life, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My favourite actor Anthony Hopkins plays Lewis:

[show clip]

 

 

 

 



[1] Barry Wicks Prayerfulness

[2] Alister MacKenzie, Wayne Kirkland, Annette Dunham Soul Purpose: making a difference in life and work  27

[3]Stuart Robinson Persevering Prayer: growing church supernaturally 83

[4] Robinson 23

[5] Marva Dawn Truly the Community 200

[6] Dawn 200

[7] Henry and Richard Blackaby Hearing God’s Voice 135

[8] Richard Foster Prayer 8

[9] Philip Sheldrake Images of holiness: exploration in contemporary spirituality 88

[10] Wicks 20

[11] Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline 43