Today’s message continues to be a challenge regarding prayer. You may not realize it, but it’s very possible that many pray “prayerless” prayers. What is real prayer and how can we begin to increase our prayer quotient? That’s the point of this message!
What is Real Prayer?
There is such a thing as prayer-less prayer. As in, praying, saying the words, being in a prayer posture, but not praying at all.
Have you ever gotten a request that you knew wasn’t what it seemed to be?
So, Robin and I have taken over her mom’s affairs and helped her into an assisted living situation near Albany. We pay her bills and take care of things for her, so we arranged to have her mail sent to us here in Brockport, rather than her old home address. You have never seen mail like this. Aside from her normal bills and such, there is a flood of mail now that I can only shake my head at. She got herself on a prize redemption list of some sort. So now, every day, she receives, and so we receive, 4-6 different mailings telling Irene that she’s won a contest prize, usually $10,000! All she would have to do is mail in a measly $15 and she might get the 10K. Inside the stuffed envelope, buried in all kinds of other stuff, is a tiny piece of paper that says “you haven’t actually won the prize yet.” How many folks have fallen for that sort of deceptive request? Apparently many! How would you view that request if it came to your mailbox? This isn’t legit! They just want some money by fooling me.
Just like phony requests, there is such a thing as prayer-less prayer.
So many people say “Oh yes, I pray!” but is it what God calls prayer?
Real prayer has certain characteristics. But let’s first ask ourselves the question, does God welcome prayer?
Psalm 2:8 A psalm of the Lord Jesus and also of His people, by relationship.
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
What does God say? He says “Ask of Me.”
Thus says the Lord,
The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;
And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.
What does God say? He says “Ask Me.”
In James 4, the Bible simply says “You have not because you ask not.”
Does God welcome prayer? Absolutely. Prayer is the lifeline between God and man. The progress of the Lord’s kingdom is dependent upon prayer. No small wonder we don’t see His Kingdom progressing the way it should, especially here in the US.
What is real prayer?
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
Real Prayer is:
1. Full of energy. Effective, fervent, earnest. Verses 16 and 17. There’s no doubt that, if someone was watching, that this is full of passion from the soul. Effective, fervent prayer is “energeo” prayer, something that comes from deep down inside. And so it uses language and body language that results from passion inside. That doesn’t mean that you have to jump up and down, wave your hands or anything else, necessarily. It does mean that if your prayers are half hearted, distracted and not focused, attached to a portion of your mind and not your soul, you aren’t really praying in the Biblical sense.
2. Inspired by, driven by, real life drama. Verses 14 and 15. Suffering produces the best, most earnest and most desperate prayers. It’s just human nature for us to be soft about prayer when things are great and on our faces passionate when something bad is going on. Did I pray while I was on vacation? Yes. But it wasn’t like the prayers I prayed over at Ralph and Sheila’s house when I visited or at Chris Tatar’s hospital room. God allows suffering and trial so that we trust Him and pray like everything depends on Him.
3. Has faith in the One you’re praying to. Verse 15. If you don’t think that God wants to answer your prayers or is interested in your life or the place where you live, then don’t bother. It says that God is different than He describes in the Bible that you don’t believe He is interested in, able and willing to answer prayer. That really means that we think the Bible isn’t true or that God is a liar, which He’s not. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. God is not a God who is afar off, but a God who is near. Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Call unto me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you. We often think that God doesn’t relate to me and my prayers because of, well, me. Marvelously, He has said that we are to consider the Throne of Heaven open to us because of what Jesus did to make us righteous. Jeremiah 33:3 says ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
4. Real prayer has great reverence for the One you’re praying to and honesty and humility in regard to yourself. Verses 15 and 16. If you don’t know that God is the perfect, all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, Supreme Being then you’ll handle your prayers the same way you order food at Bill Gray’s. That’s why prayer involves regular confession and repentance. There’s a recognition that I’m not someone who is here because I deserve to be, I’m in the presence of the Holy One, so I confess my wrongs and weaknesses, ask for forgiveness and you’ll tremble some if you’ve got that right.
And there’s much more to real prayer. Like time. We spend way more time watching television or reading or eating or anything else than we do praying. And prayer is the one thing that would make the biggest difference. We give it lip service, literally. We could be, should be, praying more, not less.
And how about persistence? Like repetition. Like to the point of ridiculousness. Jesus said that we were to pray always and faint not. And He used a word we don’t use much at all; importunity. That’s shameless persistence. Embarrassing persistence. You’re showing up again on that same issue? And it certainly isn’t to just ask for things.
Real prayer concerns itself with what God is concerned with. That’s why the Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, puts asking for daily bread at number three of the content of prayer.
Do you want to change the world? How about your little corner of it? Is there one thing you could do that would make the biggest difference? Pray more and better. Apathy is such a life drain. Renew your passions, renew your relationship with God and renew your prayer life.