THE MAN WHO PRAYS
1. Do you really want a true indicator of your real self?
2. Have you ever engaged in an activity that opened up the actual elements of your being and exposed them to your personal glare?
3. Many of us are adept at either ignoring or never knowing ourselves!
4. I ask these questions, in order to say this, prayer reveals as much about a man as all the other activities of his life.
5. The story is told of a soldier who was caught attempting to sneak back into his camp one night.
A. When taken before the commanding officer by the sentry that arrested him, the soldier explained that he went into the nearby woods to be alone in prayer.
B. The officer immediately commanded the soldier to pray audibly in his presence.
C. The soldier hesitated but was again ordered to pray.
D. Whereupon he kneeled in the officer's presence and prayed.
E. At the conclusion of the prayer, the officer ordered the sentry to release the soldier, saying, "Any man who can pray like that, must be spending a lot of his time in private, personal prayer."
6. There is an interesting story told by Jesus that highlights this point.
A. He tells of two men who went into the temple at Jerusalem to pray.
B. The story appears in Lk. 18:9-14. Read it, remembering that I've already suggested that prayer tells a man more about himself than all the other activities of his life.
7. One man, the Pharisee, said his prayer; the other, the publican, prayed.
8. One trusted in himself and his own righteousness; the other depended on God.
9. The Pharisee prided himself in his works; the publican was overwhelmed with the opportunity even to talk with God.
10. One was rejected: the other accepted by God.
11. In these two lives the same searchlight of prayer revealed their respective strengths and weaknesses.
12. With these thoughts in mind, I want us to consider for a few minutes "the man who prays".
I. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: POSSESSES GREAT FAITH IN GOD.
A. Only out of strong belief in God and His power to answer prayer, does one truly pray.
1. Hannah, prayed fervently for a son.
a. In the midst of her prayer, she made a covenant with God.
1) She said: "O Jehovah of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child, than I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head" (1 Sam. 1:11).
2. Most of us have, at one time or another, made similar commitments in our prayers but how few of us have felt the responsibility to remain faithful to such commitments?
a. We get very ill, or some other tragedy befalls us. We promise God, that if He will see us through such illness or tragedy, we will do this or that.
1) We usually forget these commitments very soon afterwards.
3. Hannah kept her covenant even though it meant giving up her child shortly after it was born.
a. She said: "For this child I prayed: and Jehovah hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have granted him to Jehovah: as long as he liveth he is granted to Jehovah" (1 Sam. 1:27).
4. Hannah believed in God so strongly that her prayer was answered and her agreement with God was fulfilled.
a. Take time to read her prayer to God after she presented her child to Him. (1 Sam. 2:1-10).
II. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: IS ONE WHOSE SOLE ALLEGIANCE BELONGS TO GOD.
A. On one occasion during Samuel's adult life as a prophet of Israel, the ark of the covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines.
1. For twenty years, the Bible says, "Israel lamented after Jehovah" (1 Sam. 7:2).
2. When the people of Israel came to Samuel for help he offered to pray for God's forgiveness and assistance in recovering the precious possession.
a. But Samuel set forth the following conditions on which he could acceptably pray to God: "If ye do return to Jehovah with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts unto Jehovah, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines" (1 Sam. 7:3).
3. No wonder Israel lost the tables of the law and other precious articles contained in the ark of the covenant.
a. They had forsaken God for false idols.
III. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: REVEALS HIS FAITH IN GOD BY THE MANNER IN WHICH HE ADDRESSES HIS PRAYER.
A. One of the distinguishing marks of the Pharisee's ineffective prayer comes in the words: "He stood and prayed thus with himself" (Lk. 18:11,12).
1. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began; "Our Father who art in heaven Hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9).
IV. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: WILL NOT ALLOW ANYTHING TO INTERFERE WITH HIS PRAYER LIFE.
A. Daniel faced a test of his prayer life, when some of the minor Babylonian officials obtained a stringent decree from the king that for thirty days no petitions or prayers would be offered to any other god or man save himself.
1. Those who violated the decree were to be thrown into a den of lions (Dan. 6:6-9).
2. Listen to God's word: "And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house (now the windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem): and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime" (Dan. 6:10).
3. A den of lions was no obstacle to this godly man's prayer life.
4. On a praying man could spend a night with the lions and then say to the very individual whose edict had sent him there, "O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lion's mouths, and they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt" (Dan. 6:21,22).
V. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: EXERCISES GREAT SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE.
A. The discipline of Hannah that fulfils a promise to God.
B. The discipline that confesses sin and engages in fasting like Israel when requesting Samuel to pray for their deliverance from the Philistines.
C. Hezekiah, King of Judah, prayed for life while suffering a fatal malady.
1. God answered his prayer, sending Isaiah the message that the King would have fifteen more years of life.
2. What an experience! Imagine knowing that you have exactly fifteen years to live!
3. But Hezekiah did not live in proportion to God's goodness.
a. "But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 32:25).
D. The discipline necessary for prayer creates a definite viewpoint toward temptation.
1. When Jesus found His three disciples asleep during His Gethsemane vigil, the night before His death, He urged them:
a. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
b. Prayer is fortification against the invasion of sin in life.
E. Prayer requires a spiritual discipline that will prepare one for long periods in communion with the Father.
1. One of the secrets to our Lord's unexcelled self-control can be found in His many all-night prayer vigils (Lk. 6:12).
a. He deliberately pulled Himself away from the crowds to talk with His Father (Mk. 1:35).
2. Prayer was so much a part of His life, accounted for so much of His time, that His disciples sensed its importance and requested of Him, "Lord teach us to pray" (Lk. 11:1).
VI. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: MUST ALSO LIVE CONSISTENT WITH HIS PRAYERS.
A. The widow in Jesus' parable of the unrighteous judge, continually petitioned the evil judge to settle her case (Lk. 18:1-8).
1. The judge explains that he did so only because she constantly came before him.
a. The conclusion to the story is twofold:
1) First, Jesus says that God will hear "his elect" when they keep praying.
2) Second, He urges all His followers to live like they pray, with all faithfulness and consistency.
B. This consistency in our praying, requires an unselfish approach to prayer.
1. Regardless of what you have been taught previously, Jesus says: "Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust" (Matt. 5;44,45).
2. Prayer is too powerful for selfish, inconsistent men to be allowed to use it.
C. But consistency in prayer often calls for our own efforts.
1. A little girl disapproved of her brother setting traps for rabbits.
a. In her prayer one night she said: "Please God, don't let the rabbits get in Billy's traps. I just know it won't happen God."
b. Her mother calmly inquired who the little girl was so certain of God's care over the rabbits, to which she replied, "Because I smashed the traps."
D. So, to be consistent in our prayers we must watch as well as pray.
1. Someone has said about this command: "Prayer without watching is hypocrisy; and watching without prayer is presumption."
VII. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: MUST HAVE A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF EXPECTANCY.
A. Because Jesus has said: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened unto you, For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Lk. 11:9,10; Jas. 1:5,6).
VIII. THE MAN WHO PRAYS: MUST REALIZE THAT HE HAS NEEDS THAT ONLY GOD, CHRIST, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN FULFILL.
A. In a North Carolina cotton mill there is a card on the walls of the workroom that reads: "If your threads get tangled send for the foreman."
1. A new worker didn't follow instructions on her first brush with "tangled threads."
a. A mess of twisted and knotted threads resulted from her efforts.
b. She finally sent for the foreman who said, "You have been trying to do this by yourself, haven't you? Why didn't you send for me like the sign instructs?"
c. The new worker replied, "I was trying to do my best."
d. "But you didn't," said the foreman, "Remember that doing your best is sending for me."
2. So, our Father invites us, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,... Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near" (Isa. 55:1,6; Matt. 11:28-30; Rev. 22:17).
3. Prayer requires a father-child relationship. We can be children of God by rendering obedience to the gospel.
1. What about your prayer life? Is it the type that pleases God?
By Jim Sasser
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