A Florida Highway Patrolman spotted a car puttering along at 10 mph on I-10 just west of Jacksonville and pulled the car over for going way to slow and being a danger to traffic. As he approached the car he noticed that there were three other elderly women in the car who were wide eyed, looking like ghosts, and mumbling prayers. The driver obviously confused said, “Officer, I don't understand, I wasn't doing over the speed limit! What seems to be the problem?" "Ma'am," the officer said, "You are driving so slow, you are a danger to everyone else on this interstate". “But, Officer, I am only driving the posted speed limit of 10 mph.” The highway patrolman, realizing her confusion, explained that 10 was the route number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned, thanked the officer for pointing out her error. But before letting her go, and still noticing her distressed passengers praying, he asked, "Is everyone OK? To which the driver replied, "Oh! They’ll be alright in a minute Officer, we just got off I-95."
There’s lots of reasons to pray isn’t there and being in fear for your life is just one of them. But today I want to talk about other reason for praying and especially praying when we know God’s sovereign will is perfect and thus, not subject to change. As we saw or as I hope we saw last week, our prayers are God’s ordained means of bringing about His ordained plans and purposes which are perfect. They enable us to participate with God in the unfolding of His eternal purpose which He foreordained before the world began.
But not only should we pray because God has ordained that He will use our prayers and our work in accomplishing His Purposes on the earth—We should pray for the simple reason that God commands us to. Listen if God said it—that settles it…right?! Have you seen the bumper sticker that says: “God said it. I believe it. That settles it!” There’s only one thing wrong with that sentiment. Do you know what it is? It’s the “I believe it part.” Listen, whether you or I believe it or not—if God said it—that alone settles it. So, we pray because God tells us to. That’s enough.
But, in His grace, God goes beyond telling us to pray and actually does give us several reasons to pray even though He is sovereign and in control of all things. So, besides the fact that we need to pray because God has planned to use our prayers in accomplishing His purposes—why else should we pray? In this message, let me give you four very important reasons why we should pray.
1. Prayer Enables Us To Do The Work of Christ On Earth
Here is a major accelerator to my motivation to pray, and it stems from an amazing statement Jesus made in John 14:12-14. It would be good to open your Bible there because you’ve got to see it to believe it. It is the night of the Last Supper, and Judas has left to betray Jesus. His leaving allows Jesus to talk to His true disciples about some really important stuff such as His deity, His union with the Father, and the works of God in the world. And in this private teaching time, He makes this statement:
“Truly, truly . . . he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he shall do; because I go to the Father.”
Look at that statement carefully. Jesus does not say, “greater works than these they shall do.” Rather, He says, “greater works than these, he shall do” referring to the one who believes in Him—the Christian. What works did our Lord do on earth? He cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, raised the dead, preached the Word of God, disciple leaders, and ministered to children to name just a few.
So, in what way can one believer do these same works that Jesus did and as Jesus said—even greater works than these? How is this possible? Well, look at the verses which follow verse 12. Verses 13 and 14 relate directly to verse 12 and they are talking about prayer.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Jesus’ point is that it is through prayer that one single believer has the power to do the very works that Christ did and even greater works than Christ did. Listen, most of us will not be worldwide evangelists, though a few will be. Most of us may not be spiritually gifted in the healing of others, though some could be. Most of us will not be great preachers and teachers, though there may be a couple among us. But every one of us can kneel down and pray.
We can pray, asking Jesus to touch the lost masses of earth and help snatch them from eternal darkness to eternal life. Every one of us can pray asking God to open the eyes of unbelievers to see Jesus and then draw those unbelievers to Himself, and then save them. Every one of us can participate in Christ’s healing power spreading both medically and miraculously across the earth by prayer. Every one of us can be involved in missions and never leave our bedrooms just by praying. Every one of us can have a stronger marriage and a stronger more Christ like family simply by giving ourselves to pray for the same. And every single one of us can be involved in the fight to uphold the sanctity of human life, prevent marriages from crashing and burning, giving our church kids a passion for living for Christ, and seeing our churches fulfill their mission just by praying. And let me also add, you can have a better pastor if you’d just pray for him more! Every one of us can do these things through our prayers!
Listen, today you can spend 10 minutes pouring your heart out to God to give you a greater appetite and passion for Him and He will. Today, you can spend a few minutes in prayer and impact entrenched Muslim minds all over the world. Today, you can stand against abortion, pornography, rape and incest, and child abuse in the far-flung towns of this country. This afternoon, you can go anywhere in the world through prayer and touch the unreached, the orphan, and the outcast for Christ. You see, every day, I get to participate with Christ in accomplishing His mighty life-transforming works through my prayers. It matters not what type of gifts, talent, or personality I have; it matters only that I take this time to cooperate with Him in my praying.
2. Prayer Helps Us In Preventing And Overcoming Temptation
Prayer is also an important instrument in our overcoming sin and temptation. And you can really see this in Luke 22:39-41. Luke sets the scene. It is the night before Jesus’ death. Jesus and His apostles have left the upper room and have navigated the winding path they knew well, up the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. Jesus knows that great temptations are soon to assault His men and Him. Mindful of their need for fortitude, He says to them: “Pray [in order] that you may not enter into temptation.” What did He mean? Simply that their antidote to yielding to the temptations that fear, discouragement, and horror would soon present, was prayer. Prayer would fortify their trembling faith and courage.
How could He know this? Because He, too, faced His own darkness. Looming in the next few hours were insults, torturous beatings, being nailed to a cross. But far beyond that, He knew He would, on that cross, absorb the full fury of His Father’s wrath for the sins of every single person who would believe in Him. And He knew He would be deserted and abandoned by His Father as He paid the full penalty for our sins as that was part of the punishment He endured in our place. Can you imagine the terror that must have clutched at His throat? We are naive if we think it did not occur to the humanness of Jesus, to abort His mission, to find another way, to look for a way out. But what did He do? He modeled exactly what He had told His disciples: He prayed so that He could defeat temptation.
We are told by Luke that His prayers were so heartfelt, His struggles so intense, that He was literally sweating blood. He began His prayers with, “Father if there is any way that this cup can pass from Me…” At the end of that hour, He rose from prayer, having settled the issue with His Father, saying, “not My will but Yours be done.” Prayer was the means of His victory.
But when He returned to His men He found them . . . asleep! He had told them to pray. Instead, they followed our motto: “When in doubt; sack out!” He confronted their tiredness, probably their crankiness at being awakened, and said again “pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Notice that He commanded this in the beginning of this passage, then He demonstrated it in the body of this passage, and He reiterated it at the end of this passage. When you face temptation, PRAY! That is what will see you through. But instead, usually we pray only after we have yielded. What about seeing prayer as our first option so that God can give us courage and strength prior to our temptations? If we would pray more, we would yield less!
3. Prayer Helps Us In Spiritual Warfare
Prayer is a major weapon in fighting the spiritual battles we are all engaged in as believers. Ephesians 6:10-20 reminds us that ultimately our struggles are not against humans, but against powerful spiritual beings and forces. The picture here is that of a war. Life as a Christian is not a playground; it’s a battlefield.
We are instructed by Paul, an experienced soldier in this combat, to be appropriately prepared for our struggle. Modeling a Roman warrior, we put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, loins girded with truth, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit (the Word of God).
Now, it seems we have a complete set of armor and weaponry. And if I were writing this passage, I would say, “Now get out there and fight the battle!” But interestingly, Paul does not say that. In fact, he waits until verse eighteen to get to the heavy artillery of this arsenal of God. Notice what he says: “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, praying for all the saints.” In one verse, we are commanded to pray four different times.
Do you think God is making a point? He is attempting to seize our attention concerning prayer’s power in our fight against Satan, his minions, and even our own sinful flesh. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 10:3,4:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”
The weapon of prayer softens up Satan’s fortress. It is the cannon, reducing the wall to rubble so that the troops can go through. Too often, the gospel moves slowly because the softening-up process of prayer has been neglected. When practiced, however, prayer “puts the wind at the back” of Christ’s soldiers.
4. Prayer Takes Us Into Heaven
In Hebrews 10:19-25, the writer of this great Book is talking to us about our right, our duty, our privilege, and in fact, our great joy in being able, as those who have been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Christ—to enter into the holy place and to draw near into the very presence of God.
And that Holy Place he is talking about is that place where God’s presence, holiness, power, majesty, glory, magnificence, and beauty is most fully seen and experienced and that is Heaven where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. But, this passage is not talking about our future entering into heaven—it is talking about us going into heaven now and drawing near to God now even as He sits on His throne.
Look at how verse 19 reads—it is present tense. Look at verse 22—it says we are to draw near now not later. In other words, the Holy Spirit of God is telling us there is a way to experience Heaven right now while we are on earth and that way is through prayer. That is the only way in which we can come into God’s throne room right now. So, when you pray—you are not bringing God down—He is bringing you up for a visit and a chat.
Wow, no wonder God wants us to pray! When we really pray—really take the time and put in the effort and pour out our hearts before God—we are able to experience heaven on earth. And in this time of prayer, God gives us a reprieve from earth’s pull and problems to give us a taste and a desire for Heaven.
But this kind of prayer requires more than we sometimes want to invest. This is not saying “grace” or asking God to fix your broken toys. This is the kind of praying that requires time—maybe all night like Jesus prayed. It requires work and maybe even some sweating—like Jesus sweat. It encapsulates and encompasses our whole being as we fight to lift our hearts before the Almighty so as to draw near and enter His gates with that bold confidence that believes that in Christ Jesus you are welcome in God’s presence.
This is the kind of prayer that wants one thing and one thing only and that is to see and experience Jesus and His glory as much as is possible this side of glory. This is the kind of praying that Moses did when he beseeched God to see His glory.
This is the kind of praying David did when he said in Psalm 27:4 who while being surrounded by enemy troops ready to kill him asks God for just one thing—listen to what it is:
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”
He wants to dwell in the “house of the LORD” all the days of his life to just simply gaze at and enjoy the beauty of the LORD. And keep in mind…he is not talking about the Temple because it has not been built yet—he is talking about heaven. And he is talking about coming before the LORD in heaven through his prayers that he might enjoy the presence and the beauty of God.
Listen, this is really what prayer is all about! It is about coming into the God of Heaven’s presence and spending time enjoying His company. Man…you want to talk about something that will get you out of bed in the morning or out of the pit you are wallowing around in.
And note back in Hebrews 10:25 that as we draw near to God in prayer—we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the habit of some. This verse is in the context of prayer not just church on Sunday as we so often use it. God wants us to experience Him individually and corporately through prayer! Why does He want us to not forsake praying together? Because there is a sense that when we pray together and worship together and praise Him together we intensify our joy as we magnify His glory.
That is what he says in 2 Corinthians 1:11 the text we started with last Sunday when we began talking about prayer.
You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
When we pray together and then God answers our prayers—He receives the thanks and the praise and the glory from many people not just one and thus His glory is magnified and multiplied. He gets the intensity of the glory which He deserves and we get the joy that surpasses understanding which, we do not deserve!