The Praying Church: What If...
- Sunday, January 08, 2012
If you think about praying, go ahead and pray. You don’t have to pray out loud. You can pray to the Lord without speaking any words at all, and the Lord will hear you from heaven. When the Lord speaks to you and says, “Pray,” don’t say “No.” Go ahead and pray.
When the Lord speaks to you and says, “Pray,” don’t say “No.” Go ahead and pray.
And pray about the things the Lord lays on your heart. Don’t be ashamed or worried that you won’t say the right thing. The Holy Spirit knows your heart and intercedes for us with wordless groaning (Romans 8:26-27). He comes alongside to help us when we pray so that our feeble prayers rise with power and enter the courts of heaven to be carried to the Throne of Grace. As an old gospel song says, sometimes we just need to “have a little talk with Jesus.” That song along says, “When you feel a little prayer wheel turning.” It’s hard to explain exactly what that means, but I know what that’s like. You can be sure that the Lord is turning the “prayer wheel” in your heart and moving you to pray.
So let’s not make this mysterious. Whenever you feel an inner urge to pray, do it! We would all pray a lot more every day if we became sensitive to the impulse of the Spirit in our lives.
IV. If you want your prayers answered, stay awake and keep on praying.
“Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (v. 18). Eugene Peterson gives us this version: “Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Paul uses a military term to get his point across. Consider a sentry guarding a base in Afghanistan, not far from a Taliban stronghold. Now compare that soldier with a security guard at the Kroger’s grocery store. Who will be more alert? It better be the sentry in Afghanistan. The one who believes he is on the front lines is going to be more alert. Our problem with prayer is that we think we’re a security guard at Kroger’s when in reality we’re like the sentry in Afghanistan. He has to stay alert because his buddies are depending on him. It’s life or death to them. We mess around in prayer because we think it doesn’t matter, when in reality we are sentries standing guard on the front lines of spiritual combat.
Whenever you feel an inner urge to pray, do it!
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be distracted when you pray? Just as you bow your head, the phone rings, or your pager beeps, or some music distracts you, or you suddenly remember that you have to check the roast in the oven. A thousand things come crowding into your mind. Sometimes it seems as if the devil’s best work comes when we decide to pray. He unloads his full armory of distractions against us. Or perhaps you decide to spend an hour in prayer. So you get on your knees and begin to pray. You pray for yourself, the members of your family, all your friends, the leaders of your church, the missionaries you know, then all the missionaries in the world, then every country in the world. Finally you pray by name for every person in every country of the world (or so it seems). Then you look up and discover you’ve only been praying for five minutes!
Several years ago, during an “Ask Pastor Ray” night, one of the junior highers turned in the following question: “If God is up in heaven, why do we have to close our eyes and bow our heads when we pray?” Good question. We’ve all wondered about that from time to time. Here’s the answer: You don’t have to bow your head or close your eyes when you pray. We do that simply to keep out distractions. In the Old Testament men often prayed standing up, with outstretched arms, looking up to heaven, eyes wide open. I find that I do my best praying when I’m riding my bike-and I assure you that I keep my eyes open! Whatever helps you stay alert is the right way for you to pray.
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