INTRODUCTION: TAPPING INTO THE POWER OF PRAYER
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Do you remember the movie Castaway?
The Tom Hanks movie where he plays a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a deserted island for years.
Well, I don’t know if you remember this, but not long after that movie came out, FedEx had an awesome super bowl commercial spoofing Castaway.
Take a look:
(PLAY FEDEX COMMERCIAL)
As we start our Wireless series on prayer this morning, here’s what I want you to know:
So many of us as Christians have an incredible amount of resources for growth and for strength…right at out disposal…but we’re not opening them up.
We’re not using them.
And for us…that’s prayer.
God wants to do incredible things in and through you, and most of us haven’t even begun to open this up.
And so maybe our first question is: Why?
Why don’t we really pray?
And believe me, a lot of us don’t really pray very much.
Whether you’re a new Christian, or you’ve been a Christian for 30 years, I find most Christians in general aren’t very good at prayer.
Oh, they know all ABOUT prayer, but finding a Christian with a dynamic, daily prayer life is unfortunately rare.
Which means from the start of this series, don’t let yourself say, “I know this already.”
Say, “Do I DO this already?”
WHY WE FALL AWAY FROM PRAYER
So why is it that so many Christians don’t have a regular, and great prayer life?
And by the way, when I say “great prayer life,” I don’t mean that you pray for your meals every day…or at church activities.
I mean, you and Jesus, sit down together every day, and have a good talk.
That’s what prayer is.
It’s a conversation. It’s growing in your RELATIONSHIP with God.
Let me tell you what I think:
I think a lot of Christians don’t have a great prayer life because their view of prayer is incorrect.
Sure, they could maybe answer this correctly on a test, but most of the time, what they think of prayer is closer to leaving voicemails in heaven, than it is a conversation with Jesus.
You might say, “no, no, no! I don’t think that”
But yet, how most of us pray, looks a whole lot more like a voicemail left in heaven than a conversation with Jesus
“And please help that meeting go well, and help my brother talk to me again, and help me stop yelling at my kids…I hope you get this message and can make those previous requests happen. Have a great day!”
We pray like we’re leaving voicemails…like no one’s actually listening on the other end of the line…and certainly like no one’s going to talk back to us.
And see, I don’t know if you leave a lot of voicemails, but it’s not a particularly inspiring event.
I don’t wake up in the morning excited to leave voicemails.
Something about that lady explaining, “After the tone, leave a message.”
I know lady, you’ve been saying this for 20 years, I know how it works, let’s get on with it
It doesn’t get me excited about leaving voicemails.
And so because a lot of us haven’t developed a very Biblical view of prayer, we’re not very excited about prayer.
A lot of us treat God in prayer almost like we do Santa Claus.
If we write our wish list, and be good little boys & girls for the elf on the shelf…then some of our requests might get answered.
But that’s not very personal.
In fact we’re going to cover that in more depth in week 3 as we tackle the subject of “Wish List vs. Prayer List”
For some of us…we have MOMENTS of excitement regarding prayer.
…A temporary passion that seems to come whenever the seas of life start to get a little choppy.
You find out your job might not be renewed next year.
The doctor tells you he wants to run some additional tests next week...he’s unsure about what’s ailing you. It could be serious.
And we turn to prayer…because we know God is God…and of course, He’s answered a few of our prayers long ago.
And for a few weeks or so, God sort of becomes our “Geek Squad”
He’s an expert we can call in to help us when things break.
But then what happens?
Eventually, the seas of life calm again.
And prayer becomes another forgotten thing.
And so…we don’t really pray.
And see it all comes back to your view of prayer.
JESUS TELLS US HOW TO PRAY
So throughout this series, I want to let the Scriptures begin to change your view of prayer…and deepen your view of prayer.
And over the 4 weeks of this series, I want to challenge some common misconceptions people have about prayer
See, prayer in the Bible is always intensely personal…conversational…relational.
Let’s, in week 1, take a look at what Jesus Himself tells us about HOW we should pray (what it should like)
So if it’s not just a quick voicemail…with some requests…what is it? And what does it look like?
(Matthew 6:5-8) – NIV
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
And so Jesus starts giving us some guidelines for what prayer can actually look like.
For one, it doesn’t have to be showy.
He says it’s the hypocrites who love to stand in front of people and pray, “Dear GAWD, may your everlasting righteousness rain down upon…….”
He says, “Just go in your room, close the door, and pray to your father”
He’s not describing throwing up requests to a cosmic vending machine…or leaving some quick voicemails”
This is incredibly personal.
In your room.
Close the door (you might be there a while)
And pray to your father
Not “The Heavenly King” or “The Almighty God” …
He uses “your Father” because prayer is a personal conversation.
And there are some principles here to help us develop a system for praying daily.
Jesus says “When you pray”…so we can see that it’s expected. It’s a discipline.
We’re to find a place…probably a time.
However…as soon as we start talking about a time to sit down and pray, many Christians adamantly push back at this idea.
They say, “I don’t need a prayer time…or a quiet time…or whatever you want to call it. I pray as I go. I pray as I’m walking into the meeting.”
I pray without ceasing…as 1 Thessalonians says.
The problem is, in logic, this is what’s called a false dichotomy.
You’ve narrowed it down to only two separate and distinct options, when really, one flows into the other (and it only works one way).
Let me explain: Some have illogically told themselves, “I don’t want to compartmentalize prayer into one time, so I’ll just pray all the time”
But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
You can’t get deep with God, when you only fit Him on the run.
I’m not messing with you, I’ve never met a single person in my life who has an awesome prayer life, but only prays on the run.
One flows into the other.
That is…a sit down (‘go into your room & close the door’ prayer life) flows into an on the run prayer life.
Listen, prayer is hard.
One of the reasons that most of us just have a fly-by prayer life rather than a sit-down prayer life is because we don’t yet know God as a deep friend.
He’s a friend, but a not a deep friend.
Think of perhaps the friends you have at work.
For many of them, your conversations are just sort of “fly-by” conversations at the coffee machine.
You talk about the weather, or the final four, but it’s not a sit-down heart-to-heart.
And the truth is, you can (and some of you have) work with people for 15 years, and still not know them that well.
And for many Christians, this is precisely where their relationship with God gets stuck.
You’re stuck…because your view of prayer is a fly by voicemail…not the type of prayer Jesus is describing in Matthew 6.
And if you would change your view, you would know Him better, and you would grow!
So how do you do THAT type of prayer?
Jesus says…get in a room…and pray.
Now, Jesus is not a legalist, so I don’t think you have to be in your room.
The greek for room here is actually closer to an inner room…or like a storage closet.
The idea is that you’re in a place where you’re not going to be distracted.
Where you can begin to have a conversation with Jesus.
And so, it could be your room.
It could be at your kitchen table before everyone else wakes up.
Could be your porch…or your deck (in the summer)
It could be your car…as you commute alone to work.
I think the idea is he just wants us to find our spot…where we can be alone with Him.
And these things can change over time.
I used to be able to sit at my house.
Now, with two 3-year-olds and a baby, quiet/peaceful times are only available at 3am…and even that sometimes is not guaranteed.
And so for the last year and a half, what I do every morning, is I get in my car…and I listen to my audio Bible on my 6 minute drive to the church office.
And when I get in the parking lot, I pray, in my car…in the parking lot.
It’s kind of weird. But for me, right now, it really works.
And pick a time of day that works for you too.
It might be the first thing you do.
It might be over lunch.
It might be on your commute home…or right before bed
Just pick what works for you.
And don’t be afraid to experiment some.
Jesus tells us in verse 7, that when we pray, “we ought not to keep babbling on and on like the pagans do”
In other words, we’re to avoid vain repetitions.
Which, evangelical Christians like to quickly say, “Oh we don’t do that! We don’t do those recited, memorized prayers like those other denominations do!!”
But sometimes our prayers are worse, and even more repetitious.
Every day we just pray the same thing, “Dear God, we just thank you for today, and we just thank you for gathering us all here today, for the good weather, and bless this food to our bodies, and give us all a safe drive home!”
It’s just as repetitious and half as beautiful.
Again, the idea here is that prayer isn’t a lifeless voicemail where you’re talking as if no one is on the other end…
Prayer is to be personal. Like a conversation.
Every night, when I talk to Lindsey after the kids are in bed, I don’t say: “I went to work today. I ate lunch today. I love you. Have a nice night”
And then the next night “I went to work today. I ate lunch today.”
She’d say, “What’s wrong with you, you robot?”
And I sometimes wonder if God thinks we’re all robots…
But we’re only praying like that because we have the wrong view of prayer!
We’ve turned praying into a boring listing of requests, rather than a personal conversation.
God wants you to tell him what’s on your heart.
And talk to Him.
Just as if…when you close that door, and go into the inner room, your Father in Heaven is sitting across the table from you.
That’s how we ought to pray.
See, prayer is more about the relationship than it is the requests.
Look at verse 8 again.
(Matthew 6:8) – NIV
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
When you pray, you’re not informing God of something He doesn’t already know.
You’re not adding to His wisdom about what His next steps should be.
And yet, in a dimension that’s hard for us as mere humans to comprehend, we’re still commanded to pray.
And our prayers seem to have an effect on outcomes.
God, like a a good father, loves to be asked to help.
In fact, you need to be back here the next two weeks, because we’re going to begin to parse out HOW exactly to listen to God for direction (since this is a two way conversation!).
Let me give you an example of this tension.
10 days ago, I was driving in my car, and I was praying for our Easter services.
And I told God, “God, I just want to see you do something amazing this Easter. I want to see 40 people stand up and come to Christ.”
And over the next few days, I prayed that we would see 40 people stand up and commit their lives to Jesus.
After our last Easter service, I walked to the back, and two of our leaders, Emily Stroud & Ryan Speck, (not knowing about my prayers), informed me that 40 people had given their lives to Christ over the weekend.
And I just sat down and cried.
And listen, I’m not an emotional person…nor have I ever been described as one J
But what’s happening here?
God already knows what I’m going to pray for!
He probably even put the number on my heart!
But yet, He’s working through my prayers.
And He’s working in me!
And then…I’m moved by this because every day it becomes more and more obvious to me HOW real God really is and How much he can really do!
Because remember, prayer is more about the relationship, than it is the requests.
The irony is: If you just make prayer about the requests (leaving voicemails), you’ll become disinterested really fast
But if you make about the relationship, you’ll get to see God do incredible things.
10,000 WAYS TO PRAY
And so I would say to you, once you know some of these basic guiding principles (it’s about the relationship…find a quiet, good place to pray…just talk to Him)…once you know those, just start praying.
Don’t overcomplicate it.
There are 10,000 different ways you can pray.
As long as you’re not flaunting your prayers in front of others, babbling, or making it completely impersonal, you’re probably doing just fine
I want to give you a number of ways to get started in prayer (or get started again) today.
Because I know many of you maybe have become stuck.
And maybe part of the reason has been your incorrect view of prayer.
But maybe for others, you need to freshen up your prayer life and try something different as well.
If you’re stuck, or having a hard time getting started or back into it, start with mixing up your time or place.
Find a different room in your house
Try the parking lot
I know a number of people in our church who commute and they start praying when they pass the same road every day, and stop when they get to work.
If a change in setting is not enough, try and change the content of your prayers.
Maybe the content of your prayer time looks too much life a voicemail message of the same old requests.
You may or may not be familiar with these methods, but try the ACTS or PRAY Methods.
A – Adoration P – Praise
C – Confession R – Repent
T – Thanksgiving A – Ask
S – Supplication Y – Yield
They’re helpful because they balance out our prayers…and keep us focused.
If you read through the next few verses in Matthew, you’ll see that Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer, which…if you break down…is simply all of those things.
You’ll get a chance to read through it in House Groups this week.
Which, if you’re not in one of our incredible house groups yet, sign-up in the hallway today…such a great way to meet people and grow in your faith!
If the change in location, time, and content isn’t enough…then change the method too.
Many people get to a deeper, more PERSONAL place in prayer when they bring music into it.
When I leave voicemails, I don’t sing…usually.
It’s just the facts.
But when we bring in music, we often bring our hearts along.
Get some worship songs off of iTunes or Spotify that you like from church, and pray as you worship.
It makes it much more personal.
Another method you could try is to pray while you read the Bible.
Unfortunately, many of us as Minnesotans, read the Scriptures like we pray…with our heads.
We read our chapter for the night, we have learned our information, and completed our duty, and thus we’re done!
But what if you pray as you read?
What if every few verses, you stopped to pray for 30 seconds?
Asking if you were truly living like that?
Do you truly believe God can do that?
I’m telling you this will make your Bible reading come alive AND your prayer life!
For some others, a good way to change up method is to begin to journal.
You can do this with a good old fashion journal.
Or you can even do this with your computer.
I’ve done this in the past.
I’ll maybe do 30 days of typing my prayers.
And because you can’t write (or type) as fast as you can think…there’s time for God to get a few words in.
It’s one of the best methods for hearing God!
And see, that’s the precise thing about so many of these different methods…
In contrast to our normal fly-by, voicemail-like prayers about the meeting or our doctor’s appointment, so many of these methods give God space to speak to you.
They help prayer become a two-way conversation.
If you’re still stuck…I recommend a big jump start.
Try fasting (a very common Biblical practical) …
Fasting is abstaining from food for the sake of prayer…for something like 24 hours.
And every time you feel hungry, you pray.
You won’t struggle to remember to pray.
You can pick up our Frequently Asked Questions sheet on Fasting in the hallway.
It’s super helpful for first time fasters.
Or, I’ve mentioned 1 or 2 times to some of you in the past, I highly recommend going on a prayer retreat once a year if you can do it.
(Start Preview Video of Wilderness Fellowship)
Many of us from Renovation go to a place called Wilderness Fellowship
Here’s a video preview of what one of their prayer cabins look like that I shot myself when I was there. J
It’s just $45/night…you get a nice cabin in the woods…and it’s a place to be alone…without TV’s…without endless noise…and just pray.
Go there for a night…and get some serious alone time with God, and jump start your prayer life again.
There are brochures in the hallway if you want to learn more.
MAKING A DECISION
No matter how you do this, know that it’s going to take a bit of work.
Just like if your marriage relationship is out of whack, it’s not easy to jump right back in.
It takes a little bit of work…and discipline…and commitment.
But I’m convinced that most Christians don’t have a great prayer life because not only do they not have a correct view of prayer, but they’ve never truly experienced how incredible it can be.
And I’m telling you, if you commit to this…and you let God start moving in your heart…
You let Him start moving in and through you…
You won’t want to stop praying.
It won’t be hard for you anymore to pray.
It’s just like working out.
Most of us think of exercise as torture.
And yet, for those that do it regularly, they love it.
They tell us, “You don’t know what you’re missing”
But it all starts with your decision now.
Do you believe that God longs for you to talk with Him in a personal way every day?
If so, make a commitment to do so.
In fact, grab your bulletin real fast (the one you were handed on the way in).
On the back, there’s a section to take notes
I’m sure you’ve completely filled it up by now.
But if you haven’t
I want you to scribble down some notes on what God has been laying on your heart these past few minutes (because that means something)
Write down the ideas you’ve had for what you could do…when you could do it…where you could do it.
And then write one more thing.
Write…I’ll try this idea out…for ___ days.
I recommend 10…or 14…or 21 if you can.
Then maybe even take a picture of what you wrote down with your phone…so you remember it.
I’m telling you…when you experience God moving in and through you…through relational prayer…conversational prayer…
You’ll never go back to leaving voicemails again.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.