The closer we get to God and the more depth that we build into our relationship with Him, the more we begin to see God's power and presence in the world. This power and presence are elements of the character of God. This sermon is designed to be a powerful reminder of the character of God.
There is something exciting about the people of God getting together for times of prayer. Many of you have sat in church prayer meetings, class meetings, small group meetings, and even gatherings in the community for times of prayer. On some occasions these meetings are marked with moments where the group gets to share publicly some of the things that they would like to have lifted up in prayer.
Someone recently asked me, "What would Jesus want us to pray about?" It seemed like a simple question, but could you imagine what Jesus might say if He spoke out loud the next time people were sharing prayer requests? God's word gives us a great deal of direction concerning matters of prayer, but there are some requests that we forget. If we remember them, we are also reminded of dimensions in the character of God we sometimes forget.
I. Pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4)
In the text it is important to remember that the early church grew in the first century. History records this time as the Pax Roma, a time where a peace spread across the known world. This was a unique time in all of human history and mankind has never had this type of climate since. It was important to these first century followers that this climate continued, it accelerated the spread of the gospel.
In the world today we must still pray for our leaders and those in authority. Although times of peace seem much harder to come by, we have a task to be faithful to continue to lift those who carry the responsibility of leadership to God. As we pray we also must look for ways to reach into every nation, every land, and leave no place untouched with the life changing message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is easy to get frustrated as you watch the national news and see how politics seem to become more important than doing what is in the best interest of the people. Along the same lines, politics also become more important than doing the things of God. Christians carry the responsibility to touch the secular world in a sacred way. One of the ways we do this is by being strong prayer warriors for those who are leaders.
II. Pray for your enemies (Matt. 5:44)
Jesus was well aware of how difficult this was going to be. He took the time to remind us of how important love is. When you think about it, love is the context that God gives us to deal with our relationships. His teaching is clear: we are to love God, love our neighbors, love the body of Christ, and love our enemies. In other words, love is a choice that we make.
It becomes easier to love those who persecute you when you take the time to pray for them. Make no mistake about this; it is not an easy thing to do. But you find that it is far more difficult to stay angry and full of hatred over those that you struggle with if you spend time talking to God about them. As we pray for those who persecute us we must pray that their hearts would become sensitive to God.
III. Pray for the church (Matt. 9:37-38)
It should go without saying, but we have a responsibility to pray for the church and its work in the world. The message of Jesus is clear, but perhaps that is one of the reasons we forget to pray this so often. There are many who need to discover the love of Jesus, and very few that are willing to carry the message to them.
The church must have a Christ-kingdom mentality, not a personal-kingdom mentality. One of the things that gets in the way of the church being as successful as it might be is that we get caught up in building personal kingdoms. The church struggles to see how it fits into the "big picture" of God's Kingdom and is quick to forget that we all have a part in the body of Christ
Jesus purchased our salvation at a very high price. When we are not willing to take this message into the world around us we have lost perspective of how priceless this gift is. One of the needs we have is to take our focus off of ourselves and open our eyes to a world that needs to know Jesus.
This is not an exhaustive list of things that we are instructed to pray. Instead it should serve as a gentle reminder that we always have plenty to pray about and there is always much to be done. I think if Jesus stood up and shared at our next prayer meeting we would be eager to pray for each and every thing He asks. These are some things we need to remember in our prayers because Jesus lets us know they are important to Him. As we pray about His concerns, we begin to discover our hearts beat in time with His, and there is more joy in our prayer life.
Won't you be my neighbor?
One day [children's television's] Mister Rogers was making a trip to California and decided to pay a visit to a teenager with cerebral palsy. "At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him," [Tom] Junod writes. "He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room." Mister Rogers waited patiently and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers said, "I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?" On his computer, the boy answered yes. "I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?"
Junod says that the boy was "thunderstruck" because "nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too."
Tom Junod asked Mister Rogers how he knew what to say to make the boy feel better. He responded: "Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession."
Source: Wendy Murray Zoba, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Christianity Today (March 6, 2000), p. 45.
Prayer with impact
When the Gettysburg battleground became a national cemetery, Edward Everett was to give the dedication speech and Abraham Lincoln was asked to say "a few appropriate words." Everett spoke eloquently for 1 hour, 57 minutes, and then took his seat as the crowd roared its enthusiastic approval. Then Lincoln stood to his feet, slipped on his steel spectacles, and began what we know today as the "Gettysburg Address." No more than two minutes after he had begun he stopped. His talk had been so prayer-like it seemed almost inappropriate to applaud. As Lincoln sank into his settee, John Young of the Philadelphia Press whispered, "Is that all?" The President answered, "Yes, that's all."
Don't underestimate two minutes with God in prayer.
Source: Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishing) 1998, p.454-455.
Simple and honest prayers
Minister: "So your mother says your prayers for you each night. What does she say?" The youngster replied, "Thank God he's in bed."
Additional sermon starters
I can't stop praying (Luke 18:1-8)
What a powerful lesson we can learn about perseverance in prayer when we revisit the widow who would not stop asking the judge for justice. There is something that happens to us when we are faithful to keep on praying. If something is important, really important, then we will keep aggressively seeking it. When something is important and is weighing on your heart, keep on praying until an answer arrives.
The way we ask matters (Job 42:2-6)
When we speak to God we must remember to make requests, not demands. That was a mistake that Job made. When Job realized his mistake he repented. Often we live with a false sense of entitlement. We have convinced ourselves that God owes us as people. He owes us nothing; He has given us more than enough. But because of His love, He continues to bless us beyond anything we could have dared to hope for.