This is our twelfth and final sermon in our series on prayer. We are wrapping up our series by examining the concluding exhortations in James chapter 5. James teaches us that regardless of our circumstance, the proper response is prayer. We should take every concern to our Sovereign Lord. James brings specific attention to those who are suffering or sick. Prayer is the prescribed antidote to our suffering and sickness. Through prayer and petition we receive from God the strength, stamina and healing- physical and spiritual- that we need.
We look to Paul's prayer for the church in Ephesus as an example to follow and also strive to be strengthened by Christ's indwelling presence through the Spirit. Awareness of God's great love for us in Christ is essential and transformative for healthy prayer lives.
For all who trust in Christ, God is both the source and sustainer of that faith. If we desire to see our faith grow then our knowledge and understanding of who God is and what he has done for all believers must increase. Like Paul, may none of us cease asking God to grant us greater revelation and knowledge of Him.
Many people experience anxiety around a sense of self and purpose. It’s often said that a Christian should find one’s identity “in Christ”. But, what does that really mean? We are also aware that we should take our concerns to God in prayer. But, how do we experience God’s direction for our lives if he doesn’t speak audibly? How do I separate God’s leading from my own desires? We might just find these answers somewhere between the garden of Gethsemane and Wreck-It Ralph.
We all go through trying times when it doesn’t seem that God is near, or that he is not answering our prayers. More often than not, we find in hindsight that God was there all along - comforting us, guiding us and protecting us. We were just unable to see it because of the circumstances we were in. But are there times when God is actually not answering us? Times when our relationship with God is so broken that we are not communicating? Sadly, yes. Today, we are going to look at two portions of Scripture where we are told that God is not answering us, and the reasons why. The good news is this is not a death sentence! God desires a reconciled relationship with us when our actions have damaged that relationship, and He has provided a way back.
Suffering will either push us away from the Lord or push us closer to him. The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned teaches us the secret of contentment in suffering and how to rely upon the Lord. Through prayer we present our needs and cast our anxieties upon God. And He is more than sufficient to strengthen us and grow our faith.
As we've been studying, prayer is absolutely vital to the Christian life. Prayer is indispensable to our relationship with the Lord. And yet, our desire to pray fades so quickly. Jesus, knowing our weak and fickle hearts, routinely encouraged his disciples to pray and not lose heart. In multiple parables, Jesus encouraged his followers to persist in prayer knowing that they have a good and loving Father in Heaven who hears them and will give them good gifts.
In teaching us how to pray, Jesus tells us how to ask for and receive forgiveness of sin. Then He instructs us to prepare for the future by asking that we may be preserved from sin and evil. Temptation is always around us; it is always so close. Temptation is also potentially deadly. All of us should have a humble, realistic view of ourselves. We all have the capacity to sin in ways we never thought we could. Hence, we need to pray for God to preserve us and keep us from temptation and evil that would lead to our faith failing.
This week we continue studying how to pray by looking at Jesus' instruction in the Lord's Prayer. Jesus provides a model for prayer that is God-centered and dignifies our needs by leading us to petition God for them. As His children, we are instructed to petition God for our material and spiritual needs.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus graciously teaches teaches us how to pray. He also teaches us how not to pray. Our prayers are not to be ostentatious or mindless repetition, but rather sincere petitions to our Heavenly Father. This week we examine the first half of the Lord's prayer and learn how to pray such that our prayers are radically God-centered.