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The Practice of Prayer

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(8/31) The year was 1984. Boston College and quarterback Doug Flutie was playing Miami with quarterback Bernie Kosar and Coach Jimmy Johnson. Both quarterbacks put on an offensive show, but with just 6 seconds on the clock, Boston College was losing 45 to 41. But BC had moved the ball with just 28 seconds left, from their own 20 to the Hurricaneís 48. And then it happened. With just 6 seconds left, Flutie or the coach called a play that would go down in football history. All the receivers would run a straight path to the end zone and close together. The hope was that one of them could either catch the ball or tip it to another. Against 30 mile an hour winds, 5í 9" Doug Flutie escaped a sack and then threw the ball 63 yards into the hands of one of his receivers, and to the amazement of the college football world, beat the Jimmy Johnson coached Hurricanes 47-45. That pass became known as the, "Hail Mary;" the only religiously named play (to my knowledge) in all of sports.

"Hail Mary," is part of the Catholic Churchís prayer system to ask Mary to intercede for them. It comes from the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 2. But Flutieís, Hail Mary pass, has forever become known as a symbol of a last chance desperation play. It is the last thing we can do and hope for the best.

I start out with that story because for many of us that is what Prayer has become- an act of desperation that is often the last thing we do and hope for the best. I told some of you several weeks ago about meeting someone with a, "Property of Jesus," tee shirt on. Debbie commented on the shirt and the young man came over and proceeded to tell us that he came to faith in Christ, because his son had developed a growth in his throat and though he never wanted to hear anything about faith or religion he was desperate for help. So, in his desperation he sought out a friend that he knew prayed and asked for prayer, a Hail Mary kind of prayer. That prayer led him to the Bible, to a church, and then to faith in Jesus.

I saw a sign, years ago, that said, "When all else fails, pray!" In our study of Holy Sweat Ė exercising to become like Jesus, I want to talk to you about the discipline of prayer, not what to pray, but the practice of Prayer. For those of you who were here, Bob Kimmel spoke about what to pray, as I have several times, with the Lordís Prayer. Today, I want to encourage you to pray, as a discipline, a daily routine, something you must do or the day canít be complete, like brushing your teeth before going to bed.

So how is your prayer life? Really? Most Christians would say that the one thing they are least happy with in their spiritual life is their prayer life. For many, prayer may be a mealtime, or bedtime thing, or a desperation thing, when there is nothing else left to do. (Like me being in a boat with a broken motor and Alligators nearby.) Such are sometimes called foxhole prayers, or jail house prayers.

I. What is Prayer?

Pray can be simply defined as talking to God. Or, it could be described as a child talking to his Father, or, prayer is asking God for something. Some see prayer as a desire to get God to give me what I want. I think it was a man named Robert Law that said, "Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting manís will done in heaven, but getting Godís will done on earth." But, the definition I like is what Dallas Willard said, "Prayer is talking to God about what we are doing together." (Repeat) You must understand this. 90% (I am just guessing) of our prayers is about what we want. We ask God to give it to us so we will be happy, comfortable, peaceful, enviable, etc. We want health, safety, money, things, a better job, etc. And there are guys writing books and on TV who will tell you that God wants you to have these things. If you know the formula, send them money, donít doubt, you can have what is behind door #1.

What if, we would prayer about what we know Godís will to be, and what God wants to accomplish in the world? What if, we prayed about Godís plan for our lives? What if we prayed about morphing into Christlikeness? What if we prayed for wisdom to know and do Godís will today. What if we prayed for the salvation of the people we meet today? What if we prayed to be about our Fatherís business today? What if we prayed to touch somebody for Jesus today? What if we prayed for just one person to tell about Jesus today? What if we really grasped the idea that praying is about talking to God about what we are doing together?

Paul tells the churches, that he wrote to, that he prayed constantly for them. Letís look in on what He wrote to the Colossians in chapter 1:9-14, "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins."

If we listen in on Jesusí prayers, we would see that they were entirely about what He was doing together with the Father. Even the prayer that He taught us to pray, is all about what God is doing and what He wants to do in and through us. Praying in Jesusí name is all about doing business on His behalf with the Father. John says if we ask anything according to His will, we know He hears us and we know He will grant us our petition. Sadly, we want to interpret that as hoping Godís will is our happiness or what we want.

Letís listen in to another prayer. This one is a church prayer meeting. Something that rarely happens anymore, because people donít want to take the time to gather, or are too embarrassed to pray with others. Acts 4:23-31, "And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

ĎWhy did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.í 27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus."

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Prayer is talking to God about what we are doing together. Before you pray, what if you paused and asked, "What are the chief concerns of my Father in Heaven today? The poor, the lost, the prodigals, my holiness, giving grace to those who donít deserve it? Prayer is talking to God about what we are doing together.

II. Jesusí Prayer Life

Letís just quickly remind ourselves that morphing to become more like Jesus is Godís goal for each of us. The Bible shows us that Jesus regularly took time to pray. Amazing, isnít it? God is praying, because He is also fully a man.

Mark 1:35, after a very brief time of rest, Jesus rose before daylight and went a solitary place to pray.

Mark 6:46, After He feeds the 5000 plus, he sends the disciples and everyone away and He departed to a mountain to pray.

Luke 5:16, says, "Jesus often withdrew into the wilderness to pray".

Luke 6:12, before naming 12 disciples as His apostles, He went up on a mountain and spent all night in prayer.

Luke 9:18, says Jesus was praying when His disciples joined Him and He asked them who people thought he was?

Luke 9:27, Jesus took Peter and the Sons of thunder up on the mountain to pray

Luke 10:21, after the 70 returned from their short term mission trip to Mexico, Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and prayed.

Luke 11:1, As Jesus was praying, the 12 came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray.

Luke 22:19, When Jesus broke bread, He gave thanks.

John 11:41, At Lazarusí tomb Jesus prayed

Luke 22:32, He told Peter that Satan desired to test them but He had prayed for them.

John 17, He prayed for the Apostles and then for you and me.

Luke 22:41, He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane for the Will of God to be done even though it would mean unimaginable horror and pain.

Luke 23:34, From the cross He prayed for those who condemned Him.

Always, He prayed about what He and the Father were doing together.

And, it was our Lord Jesus that said, "Watch and Pray lest you enter into temptation." Luke says that Jesus gave a parable in Luke 18:1 to this end, "That men should always pray and never lose heart."

III. Paul and Prayer

As I showed you earlier, Paul was a man of prayer that constantly was praying for the churches. And He instructs us:

Rom. 12:2, "Continue diligently in Prayer."

Eph. 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer, and supplicationÖ"

Phil. 4:6, "Worry about nothing but pray about everything."

Col. 4:2, "Continue in prayer and watch with thanksgiving."

1 Thess. 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

1 Tim. 2:1, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men." Here, Paul instructs His young prodigy, that the most important thing for Him and the Church at Ephesus to do is to pray, about what they and the Father were doing together.

I recently a little book by Thom Ranier, called, An Autopsy of a Deceased Church. Thom is a researcher and at one time and maybe still president of Lifeway. He lists 12 reasons why Churches die, and one of the 12 is that the church doesnít pray together about what they and God are doing together. The Church that doesnít pray together doesnít stay together. It dies. Prayer is to the church and to your own life what Oxygen is to your lungs.

IV. Holy Sweat Praying

Now, I really havenít shared much with you that you donít already know. However, knowing and doing are two different things. You know that diet and exercise will help you get into physical shape. Enough said. So here is what I am suggesting to you.

A. Plan regular, daily times of prayer. The opening Psalm (5) David said, "In the morning I will pray and I will look up." In Psalm 55:17, he says, "Evening, Morning and at Noon will I pray and cry aloud and He will hear my voice." Daniel knelt on His knees and prayed and gave thanks 3times a day as he had done form his youth (Dan. 6:10). If you are a morning person like Jesus and me, get up early and spend some time talking to your father about what you are doing together. If you are an evening person, spend some between supper and bedtime, praying about what you and your Father will be doing together, tomorrow.

B. Pray Spontaneously throughout the day. Paul says to pray without ceasing or to pray always. The idea is that praying become a natural thing with your Father though out the day. It is habitual and as normal as breathing to pray about everything. "Father, thanks for that. Father, bless that person. Father, save that Person. Father, give me wisdom. Father, help me make the right decision. Father, protect me from Satan. Father, help me to trust you. Father, I praise you." It is being conscious that God is always with me, and in every detail of my day. He is working it all for my good as He is morphing me into Christís image.

C. Have a prayer place. Go to your basement, a closet, the bathroom, your chair, etc. But make it a place where you can talk without worrying if someone will interrupt you or if will be tempted to do something else. I thought it was interesting as I was going over this message, that our Lord taught us to go into a closet and shut the door, yet His prayer closet was a mountain. He prayed outdoors, in the woods, maybe a tree stand, or a lake, on the side of a hill, or in a garden. Talk to God as you walk for exercise.

D. Find someone else to pray with. A prayer partner or a group. One of the absolutely essential days of my week is Thursday mornings. It is on that day that I meet with 10-11 other pastors and we pray for each other about what we are doing together with our Father. Find someone in this church or at your work and ask them if at lunch or breakfast or one break time each week, if you can meet and just pray for each other. Pray what Paul said he prayed for in Colossians 1:9-14.

150 years ago, Civil War Chaplain E. M. Bounds wrote multiple volumes of books on the subject of prayer and He said this, "The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men- men of prayer!"

E. Plan a Prayer Retreat. What if you took a weekend, and went somewhere and did not turn the TV on, but focused on the Bible and seeking Godís will. I will talk more about that next week.

F. Prayer could be intercessory, that is, praying for the needs of someone else, whatever it may be. It could be what the Bible calls supplication, or asking specifically about what you need or what God wants you to do. It could be a time of praise, or thanksgiving like at mealtime. It could be a time of confession and need for forgiveness. It could be seeking the will of God. But always, it is talking to God about what you are doing together.

G. Pray about what you and your Father are doing together. Perhaps use the Lordís Prayer as your model. Your Father already knows your needs." Go through that lesson phrase by phrase and pray it back to God. Pray through the 10 commandments. Pray though the 3 great New Testament commandments.

1. Love God

2. Love People

3. Love the World that Jesus died to redeem.

Jesus, our blessed Lord, told us to seek first, "What you and your Father are doing together, then rest knowing that He will work out the details, and will supply what you need becausee He cares so much for you. (Matt. 6:25-34). Talk to your father every day about what you and He are doing together.

H. Finally, remember the Nike logo from a few years back and, "Just do it."

I want to give you a few moments to do that now. Letís just bow and you take a few moments and do one of these. Pray about what you and your Father are doing or what He wants to do together with you.

If this is all new to you, maybe you need to know God by becoming His child today. You can if you will receive, by faith, His gift of grace in Jesus and then the Creator of the Universe will adopt you as His child. (John 1:12) I would love to talk to you about it.

Letís pray now for a few moments. Maybe you want to go and huddle up with someone and talk to your Father about what you are doing together.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman