The third tid‑bit of wisdom which Paul admonishes the Thessalonian Believers to incorporate into a daily lifestyle while they await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is to pray continually.
The Bible indicates that prayer is as important to your soul as air is to your lungs. If I were to ask you this evening, "Is prayer fundamental to a believer's spiritual life?" I am sure I would receive a resounding AYes@ from every one of you. Yet, if many believers were honest with themselves, they would have to admit that if they breathed air as inconsistently as they prayed, they would suffocate!
In relation to our text this evening I want to leave you with three thoughts. The first is this:
I. PRAYER TO GOD IS WORSHIP
- the offering and burning of incense in the temple at Jerusalem was a twice‑daily event during the lifetime our Savior
- once in the morning and again in the evening a priest would enter the inner Temple with fire taken from the altar of burnt‑offering
- he would place it upon the altar of incense, and then the incense itself would be emptied upon the flame
- the priest would then bow toward the Holy of Holies and then retired slowly backwards
- the incense, as it wafted through the temple represented the prays of the people being carried to God
- it is a beautiful Old Testament illustration of the believer's prayers ascending to our Heavenly Father
- even King David recognized this
- Psalms 141:2 "May my prayer be set before you like incense;. . ."
A. PRAYER RECOGNIZES THE CENTRALITY OF GOD'S WILL IN YOUR LIFE
- prayer is saying; "Okay Lord, what's next on your agenda for me and my life?"
- this leads me to an observation
- I think one reason why Christians may not pray like they ought to is because if we did we would find out what God's will is for us and it might conflict with what we wanted to do
- prayer is saying; "I need you God. . ."
- ... to help me handle my problems."
- ... to tell my frustrations to,"
- ... for simple fellowship."
- at this point let me hasten to say that we would be better off if we spent more time seeking God's face rather than seeking His hand
- too often our only reason for going to God is when we want something or need His help
- "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 12Remember thewonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced," /(1 Chronicles 16:11‑12, NIV)
B. THE GREATEST ACT OF WORSHIP IS TO SIMPLY ENJOY GOD'S PRESENCE
- what's the highest form of compliment which you can pay to somebody else?
- think about it for a minute
- the highest compliment you can pay someone is the enjoyment of their presence
- how do we seek God's continuos presence?
- through continuos prayer
- ILLUS. George L. Johnson, a Missourian who taught Bible at Southern Illinoise University for 25 years, had a favorite saying: "Every morning, lean thine arms awhile upon the window sill of heaven and gaze upon thy God. Then, with that vision in thine heart, turn strong to meet the day."
II. PRAYER TO ME IS WORK
- another reason so many Christians pray so little is that they really don't believe they are doing anything important when they pray
- ILLUS. One of the many cartoons I have in my cartoon file, shows a pastor in his office. He is on his knees deep in prayer. As his cracks the door to peek inside, her comment is, "Oh good, you're not doing anything important!"
- ILLUS. Do you know what the motto of the Benedictine Monks is? Prayer Is Work!
- "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1‑4, NIV)
A. EVEN JESUS HAD TO WORK SOMETIMES AT HAVING A QUIET TIME WITH GOD [Matthew 14:1-35]
- John the Baptist has been beheaded v. 9
- John is Jesus' cousinCmaybe even a first cousin
- they were probably boyhood friends
- I imagine they looked forward to family reunions
- Jesus is distressed & goes off to grieve & to pray v.9
- as was his practice, he sought to be alone with his Heavenly Father
- ILLUS. James Stalker, in his book on the life of Jesus, wrote that The first thing Jesus always sought out whenever he went somewhere was the nearest mountain.
- he heals the sick all day long v. 14
- deals with faithless and selfish disciples and a bunch of hungry people vv. 15-21
- finally, after dinner, he sends the disciples and crowd away v. 22
- the shortest distance between two points is a straight line!
- that straight line just happened to be right across the Sea of Galilee
- so Jesus just takes off!
- Psalm 119:2 "Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart."
- Heb. 11:6 ". . .he rewards them that diligently seek him."
- what is that reward?
- His presence!
- if prayer was that important to Jesus & even as the Son of God, had to work that hard at times to get it done, then, my stars, what does that have to say about your need and my need to be with God?
- Jesus, the Son of God, Jesus, the Eternal One, Jesus, the Living Word, needed continuos communion with God and guidance from the Father
III. PRAYER TO SATAN IS WARFARE
- every prayer you breath heavenward to God is like raising a battle standard in Satan's face
- if Satan can keep a child of God from prayer he has won a tremendous victory
- when we pray it is a tremendous triumph and it forces Satan to flee from us
- ILLUS. One of the great anthems of our faith say: "At the sign of triumph, Satan's host doth flee. On then, Christian soldiers, On to victory. Hells foundations quiver at the shout of praise. Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthem raise!"
- you see, Satan cannot stand the presence of God
- God is light and Satan is a creature of darkness
- prayer puts us in the presence of God before the very throne of grace
- "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)
A. THE BIBLE IS CLEAR--SATAN IS OUR ENEMY Eph. 6:10-12
B. THE BIBLE IS EQUALLY CLEAR--WE DO NOT WAGE WAR AGAINST HIM WITH ORDINARY WEAPONS
II Cor. 10:3-4 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
- are you winning your battles against Satan and his temptations?
- or have you been losing the battles of life?
How the churchCthe people of GodCneeds to experience a revival in their prayer lives! Paul says, "Pray. Continually." Many believers face extremely difficult situations in life because of neglected prayer. We either pray too little or too late or not at all.
There are so many infinite discoveries to be made in life when we pray continually and begin to see our life through God's eyes. A.B. Simpson, a great preacher early in this century, wrote: "Our God has boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small. Our expectations are too limited."
I want to challenge you this evening to begin having a regular devotional time with God this week. For many you are going to have to work at finding time to pray. Satan will not give in easily. His desire for your life is that you continue as isCout of touch and out of fellowship with God. God's desire is to be found and worshiped. If you diligently seek His face this week you will find Him and your prayers will be like the sweet smell of incense to Him!