Statistics
1452 sermons as of August 14, 2017.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Ted Gray
 send email...
 
Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Why Do Christians Need to Pray?
Text:LD 45 Psalm 116:1-19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:01/04/2015
Added:2015-02-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
01/04/15 – p.m.
"Why Do Christians Need to Pray?”
Psalm 116:1-19; H.C. Q&A 116

Over the course of history the 116th question of the catechism, “Why do Christians need to pray?” has been asked innumerable times. After all, the Lord certainly knows what you and I need in life better than we know ourselves. Furthermore, the Lord knows the words that we will speak before they are even formed on our lips. As David wrote, with amazement, O LORD, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD  (Psalm 139:1-4).

Jesus taught a similar truth. When He taught His disciples about prayer He pointed out, in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Consequently, the question of the catechism is certainly understandable, not only by thoughtful Christians but also by the skeptics of Christianity. Many skeptics have asked with derision, “Why do you Christians need to pray? Doesn't your God know what you need in life? If God is really omniscient, as you say He is, why do you have to ask Him for things that He already knows you need?” 

As the catechism answers both the thoughtful question of the Christian, and the hostile question of the skeptic, “Why do Christians need to pray?” it gives a two-part answer:

Prayer as an Expression of Thankfulness

First, God commands us to be faithful and fervent in prayer because it is an important part of expressing thankfulness to God. The catechism points out that “prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.”  

The catechism, with its answer, is pointing us to a purpose of prayer that is often neglected by believers and never pondered by unbelievers. If we are not careful and thoughtful in our prayers we may begin to see prayer as a shopping list. Just as we line up items that we need from the store, we tend to go to the Lord with a list of things that we perceive we need in our lives.  

It is true that we are to go to the Lord in prayer with our needs, our cares, and our burdens, but prayer is also an opportunity that God gives to us so that we may verbally express our praise and adoration to Him for who He is. And prayer is an avenue – a  very broad and beautiful avenue – to praise Him for what He has done, is doing, and will do throughout all eternity.

We see the many purposes of prayer in Psalm 116, which is one of the main Scriptures cited by the catechism for its answer to the question, “Why do Christians need to pray?” The Psalm begins with praise for the Lord because the Lord had heard the psalmist’s prayer for mercy. From verse 3 we understand that the psalmist had been close to death, that he was overcome by trouble and sorrow, but as verses 1, 2, and 4 point out, the psalmist had called on the Lord and the Lord had spared him and answered his cry for mercy.

Verse 8 teachers the same truth, but with a distinctly spiritual point as the psalmist says, “You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death.” The psalmist delighted not only in whatever physical healing had been given him, but he was overjoyed that his soul was delivered from death. In other words, he expressed joyful gratitude for his salvation; and he did so through prayer.

His thankfulness for salvation comes out clearly in verse 12 and 13 where he asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” And answers this question by saying, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”

Both the catechism and Scripture teach the importance of using prayer to express our thankfulness to God for all his blessings. Those blessings include physical health, daily bread, and other material blessings that we often take for granted. But those blessings also include our salvation, that our soul has been delivered from death as we are saved from our sin through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Many of you are familiar with the acronym for prayer, ACTS. The “A”, of course, stands for adoration. The “C” for confession, the “T” for Thanksgiving and the “S” for supplication. That is a good acronym to use when you and I pray to the Lord. Two out of four letters have to do with thankfulness and only one letter, the last letter of the acronym, is for supplication.

Whenever you get into a drought in your prayer life, and it does happen to every Christian at times, try writing out your prayers using that acronym. Spend at least a paragraph on each letter. By writing you are forced to think out specific things that you adore the Lord for. Putting them on paper reinforces them in your mind and increases your adoration of God.

The same is true for a paragraph on confession. Prayer is a crucial means for us to confess our sins to the Lord and to ask forgiveness for them. Spend another paragraph, or several paragraphs, on Thanksgiving. There again, when we sit down with paper and begin to think and to write, we find that we have so many things to be thankful for that we often overlook in our daily prayers.

And then finally, as you conclude the prayer, think of supplications, not the wants that you have, but rather the needs that God has promised to provide. Although He has promised to provide, God has also instructed us to pray for what He has promised to provide, including our daily bread.  

Why does the Lord command us to ask Him for what He has already promised to give us? By having us ask for what He has promised God graciously allows us to express our dependence upon Him as our heavenly Father. Just as earthly children express their dependence on their earthly fathers for the necessities of life, so too in prayer we express our constant dependence on our heavenly Father.

Praying for God’s Grace and Holy Spirit

After making the point that prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness that God requires of us, the catechism goes on to portray what we might call a very “spiritual” side to prayer, that is, it focuses on how prayer is the means God gives us to receive His grace and Holy Spirit. The catechism teaches that God gives these spiritual blessings “only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.”

What are the gifts that the catechism is speaking about? Specifically, the gifts given in answer to prayer are God’s grace and His Holy Spirit. God’s grace is always the best answer to any prayer. That includes a prayer that is so-called “unanswered.” We know that God answers all prayers, but when the answer is not what we expect or desire we often say it is an “un-answered” prayer.

The apostle Paul had what could be called, in strictly human terms, an “unanswered prayer.” You know how he prayed three times over, which many commentators believe is a euphemism for innumerable times over, that the thorn in his flesh, – whatever that may have been, – would be removed. But the Lord did not answer the prayer as Paul initially desired. Instead, the Lord answered the prayer by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a).

When Paul realized that his prayers would not be answered as he initially desired but instead would be answered by the promise of sufficient grace from God to deal with the thorn, do you think he was disappointed?

Given the choice between the removal of the thorn or additional grace to live with that thorn in his life was an easy choice for Paul. He goes on to write in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s grace is always a better answer to the problems in our lives than the answers that we might seek in our fallible prayers. And it is through the process of prayer that we begin to see and experience the power of God’s grace to deal with the specific problems we are praying about,  even if those problems are not removed.

Because of this, our prayers should be focused on the spiritual realities of life more than the physical and material realities of life. Jesus clearly taught this in Luke 11:9-13. That is one of the passages where the Lord taught His disciples how to pray using the pattern of the Lord’s prayer. He asked, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

The disciples may have expected some sort of material or physical answer, such as, “If you then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give you good health, a great job, and prosper you with many material blessings.”  But, of course, that isn’t always the case.  It isn’t always the case because God knows what is best for us. And what is best for us is not always what we want, or what we expect would be best in our lives. Instead what is always best for us is God’s Holy Spirit and the full measure of God’s grace, which is, again, sufficient for every thorn, for every trial, for every hardship in life.

Praying for the Holy Spirit’s growing presence in our life and praying for an increased measure of God’s grace is an ongoing process. In other words, it’s not a one-time prayer, or a prayer just on Sunday when maybe we are feeling closer to God. Instead the catechism teaches that the Holy Spirit and God’s grace is given “only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.”

The Focus of Scriptural Prayers

That our prayers should focus more on praise for God, with requests for spiritual blessings, and less on asking for material and physical blessings, is also abundantly clear in many of the prayers that are recorded for us in Scripture.

As an example of how our prayers should focus on spiritual matters more so than physical consider Paul’s prayers in just a few of his many letters:

Ephesians 1:16-19a: I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Is it possible that some in the church at Ephesus were in need of employment? Or healing? Or some other material or physical need?  I'm sure there were those needs, and Paul may well have prayed for those needs, too. But what he stressed, and it serves as an example for us, is the spiritual requests: the requests for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and that the eyes of (their) heart would be enlightened.

Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Here again, he stressed the spiritual aspect of prayer. He prayed that God would strengthen the Ephesians with power through His Spirit in (their) inner being, that they would grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and that they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Philippians 1:9-11: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

Here again Paul focused on the spiritual needs of the believers in Philippi, that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, that they would discern what is best and be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:9-10 - For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

In each case, as the Apostle Paul prayed for those in the churches, he prayed for their spiritual welfare and their spiritual growth. We can learn much from his prayers on how we should pray. It is certainly not wrong to pray for physical healing, for “our daily bread,” and the other material and physical needs of life. God has made us body and soul, and both are important to Him. In fact, Jesus has specifically taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” a request which encompasses all the material needs of our lives.

Likewise, the prayer found in Psalm 116 reminds us that in times of sickness and in times of great trouble it is right and proper to go to the Lord with petitions for healing and deliverance. But as in all things, there must be balance. And it seems that we often pray far more for physical and material blessings than for spiritual blessing and spiritual growth.

The catechism does a beautiful job in its answer as to why we need to pray. It reminds us of the balance that we need in our prayers. It points out that prayer is an important part of our thankfulness, and also that prayer is the means by which we receive the Holy Spirit’s power and God’s grace to handle the various difficulties in our lives.

* * *

Over the course of history the question of the catechism, “Why do Christians need to pray?” has been asked innumerable times, not only by skeptics, but by sincere Christian people.

May you and I use our prayers to express our thankfulness to God for all His blessings. And may we fervently and faithfully continue in prayer, seeking spiritual growth as God “gives His grace and Holy Spirit to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him.” Amen.

 

 

 

 - bulletin outline -

 

How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. – Psalm 116:12-13

“Why Do Christians Need to Pray?”
Psalm 116:1-19; H.C. Q&A 116

 

I.  Since God knows our needs better than we do (Matthew 6:8) and knows our words they are on our tongue (Psalm 139:1-4), the 116th question of the Catechism
    is often asked, with derision, by skeptics: “Why do Christians need to pray?”

 

 

 

II. God commands us to be faithful and fervent in prayer because:

     1) It is an important part of expressing thankfulness to God (12-13)

 

 

 

     2) God answers prayer by giving His grace and Spirit “to those who pray continually and grown inwardly” for those spiritual gifts (Luke 9:11-13)

 

 

 

 

III. Application: Our prayers should focus more on praise for God with requests for spiritual blessings, and less on asking for material and physical blessings
    (Ephesians 1:16-23; 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-14)

 

01/04/2015 – p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 01/0, Rev. Ted Gray

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner