In a few days we will be setting up the chapel at Grace Point for another 24 hours of continuous prayer. We hold these prayer times every two months and encourage people to sign up for an hour or two.
Why do we do this? I firmly believe that prayer is the single most important activity of the church and if we want to see transformation in our lives, our church, our families and our community, then the starting point is prayer.
A few weeks ago, I attended a conference where Dr. Steve Gaines spoke on prayer, Dr. Gaines is the senior pastor at the Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis Tennessee, and he is the author of the book, “Pray like it matters”. Below are some of the insights that Dr Gaines shared from Matthew 5:5-15, which we know as the Lords’ Prayer.
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray by praying the greatest prayer in the middle of the greatest sermon ever preached (Matthew 5 – Matthew 7).
Our lives need to be saturated by prayer, and any day that is not begun with prayer is a wasted day for the follower of Jesus. We all know that prayer is a discipline and as such it requires daily maintenance. Every day we connect our cell phones to a charger, but we struggle to see the importance of being connected to the all-powerful creator the same way.
Dr. Gaines stated that God will never anoint a prayerless preacher or a prayerless church. The most important asset we have in the church is the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and he is poured out on us in response to our prayers. The anointing comes from prayer, thus there is incredible power that comes from prayer.
There are three lessons that we can learn from what Jesus taught in what we call the Lords Prayer.
1: Pray in secret (verses 5 and 6).
There is no heavenly reward in praying to be heard and to impress those in the room. This is the very definition of a hypocrite. The real Christian life is what happens when you are alone with God. As we spend much time in secret with God, we develop our relationship with Him, and we develop holiness. As a result of the secret times spent with Jesus, other people will know as they encounter you during the day. Sometimes we don’t feel like praying, but that is when we need to obey despite our feelings.
2: Pray sincerely (verse 7 and 8).
As we pray, we must focus on the kingdom of God and the fact that every prayer uttered comes before the throne of God (Revelation 5:8). As we pray sincerely, we leave the results of our petitions in God’s hands because He knows what is best for us, He won’t give us what we don’t need nor will He give us what will be harmful to us or to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:7-11).
3: Pray systematically (verses 9 to 13).
I have always used the acrostic “ACTS” for prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). Jesus modelled for us a systematic approach to prayer in his teaching on prayer.
In Verse 9, Jesus began with praise and worship, calling on the name of God. It is a valuable study to look at the names of God in the Hebrew language and pray specifically worshipping the names and attributes of God.
In verse 10, Jesus taught us to pray in submission to the will and the kingdom of God, as he modelled for us in Matthew 26:39.
After we submit to the will of God, we boldly come before God presenting our requests as a child does before their father, as we see modelled in verse 11. We pray in faith, knowing that our Father loves to give us good things and as we present our requests, we are filled with the peace of God as we leave our petitions before the throne.
In verse 12, Jesus teaches us to pray for forgiveness for our sins, as we trust in the promise of 1 John 1:9. And then we forgive each other. We must forgive those who have wronged us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. Jesus modelled this for us on the cross as we read in Luke 23:34. As followers of Jesus, it is impossible to walk with Jesus while at the same time harboring unforgiveness towards others (Matthew 6:14-15).
In verse 13, Jesus teaches us the crucial need to pray prayers of prevention. We see in James 1:14, that we are easily tempted, and we need to pray without ceasing for temptation to be nipped in the bud. If we begin a day that has not been bathed in prayer, we are extremely vulnerable to falling prey to Satan’s schemes.
And finally, we need to understand that our prayers are an act of warfare. As we know from Ephesians 6:12, we need to take authority over the enemy by the power of prayer. So often we focus our attention on people and situations as the problems in our lives, when in reality the problem is spiritual. We have a very real enemy and his purposes are to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a).
As we turn our attention to gathering to pray as the Body of Christ, we must realize that this is way more important than we could ever imagine. It is important for our church, our lives, our families, our city and our nation.
Dr. Gaines concluded with this statement, “The church is not a cruise liner, it is a battle ship.”
Are you prepared to go into battle?