1 Thessalonians 5: 17 says “pray without ceasing” which is the title of our sermon today.
I have recently been reading the biography of George Muller, and like many others I have been very much inspired in reading about his amazing prayer life. It is recorded that on many occasions, Muller had to rely on God for his provision of food and daily necessities, as he was not given a set wage from his church but received only money from offerings, and trusted wholly in the Lord to supply his wants. Well, on many an occasion it is recorded that he is virtually down to his last meal and he prays for provision from God and god sends some money by some miraculous means. He tells us that this happened on many an occasion, but God has always given him something, never has he gone without a meal or necessities of life.
Well, I don’t know how you feel, but I find the thought of completely relying on God for all my necessities quite daunting, and I fear I don’t quite have the faith do such an act.
But it’s not only Muller that has had experiences like this, I remember Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, being in exactly the same situation.
So what the big difference between Muller and Taylor and myself? The answers right there in front of us in our text. PRAYER! These two great men had a great prayer life. But don’t think that they are any kind of super human and not on our level. We all have the potential to become great prayerful men and women of God! And in the following sermon I’m going to show you how. And don’t think I’m standing here telling you to do something I’m unwilling to do myself; I too need to take the following measures to procure a closer walk with God!
Paul Washer notes that those men of God who are used so powerfully in the work of God and in revival have also been those men who have had a great prayer life.
I remember once there was girl I loved so much in my youth, I thought that we would be together forever, and I thought that I could never live without her! But now I hardly ever thing about her... the truth is that I really can live without her. So what changed between then and now? I’ll tell you what changed... I spent time away from her, I moved thousands of miles away, so I never saw her, I didn’t hear her voice and she didn’t hear mine, there was no conversation. For weeks after that my soul was pining for her, but in time I forgot that she even existed, I started to like other girls etc etc.
The same thing can happen with God. Soon after my conversion, I loved to hear about God, I wanted to know whatever anyone said about Him, I lived and breathed Him, I prayed without ceasing. Then things seemed to go really well I was on top of the world, but I soon developed a proud nature, and got it (subconsciously) in my head that it was because of my good deeds that everything was going so well, and because in some manner I had become a semi-god, I gradually done away with my prayer life little by little, I even got to the point where I wasn’t praying in the morning when woke up, indeed the only time I ever prayed was if I was in dire need.
So what are some of the problems here?
Pride is one of the major things here, there’s not much we can really do about pride, but a great prayer is that God would give us a thorn in the flesh like He gave to Paul, that ever reminder that we are mortal and need the help of our great Redeemer. Sometimes God will give you a disease or a disability that will always remind you that you are a frail worm. George Muller had some major sicknesses which were instruments to bring him closer in prayer. These things are really hard to think about, but what is a thorn in the flesh compared with eternal condemnation and separation from God?
Another thing that was a big problem with my prayer life was that I thought that it was only the big things that needed to be prayed about, like family troubles or if I was worried about my health. But let me be clear, if you can’t decide what breakfast cereal to have in the morning PRAY about it! God wants to hear about the little things too!
Do you remember when we were little children? We used to think that dad knows everything! And the slightest question we would go and ask dad! Well God tells us to be like little children, and that means that every little thing we should ask our Heavenly Father! Even right now, when I’m thinking of what to say next I’m saying a little prayer in my head to God asking Him!
Let me be clear, Prayer is our only connection to God in this life. Forsake prayer and you forsake God!
Another thing that was wrong with my prayerless life was that I hadn’t planned any time for daily communion with God in reading the Bible and praying. I had an idea that it was stupid to arrange a time of prayer because prayer was something that just happened and that I should only pray when the spirit of prayer fell on me. That sounded Biblical and all, but now that I have a bit of experience and all, I realise that it was a very stupid thing, and it gave my sinful nature the excuse to give up reading and prayer altogether. So the first thing I did after I became aware of my prayerless state was to introduce a morning and evening devotional session. A time of Bible reading and prayer.
Have you noticed that reading the Bible and praying is very much like having a conversation with God? We read a portion of the Bible which is God’s way He chooses to talk to us, then we respond in prayer.
Have you noticed that when you hang around with a group of friends for a long time, they might introduce you to a kind of music which previously you didn’t like, but because they play it so often you gradually became used to it and started to prefer it more that the former music you used to listen to? This is kind of like communion with God, the more time you spend praying and reading the Bible, the more you will become like God, loving the things God loves and hating the things God hates. This is what it was like for Muller and Taylor, it wasn’t any great deeds of their own, but through spending much time with God, they began to mirror God!
We’re kind of like monkeys in a way, you know, monkey see monkey do. So this is a great piece of psychology for all of you, if you want to be a pop star all you need to do is hang around all the pop stars, if you want to be a movie icon, hang around the movie stars, if you wanna have a fun time, go to the pubs and the clubs where everyone is well versed in how to carnally amuse themselves. I assure you, spend time with them and you will learn their ways and become like them. But if you want to be like God, read the Bible and pray!
Now there are endless examples in the scripture of people praying and their pray being answered, here are just a few:
Jonah: Jonah’s just like me, he was told to go and preach to Nineveh, but, probably because of prayerlessness, he refused and took a ship to Tarshish, but in God’s mercy, Jonah was sent a thorn in the flesh, Jonah was cast into the sea, he saw his life flash before his eyes, and he was eaten up by a whale or a big fish. There was just enough air in the belly of the whale for Jonah to breath, but I imagine that he had great difficulty breathing, and seriously feared for his life. I think that Jonah must have been in such a wayward state for God to have to use such measures to bring him into submission. I don’t reckon he spent much time in Bible reading and prayer. But in God’s mercy, even Jonah wasn’t beyond hope, and neither are you or I. Jonah prayed, and renewed his relationship with God.
I’m sure the road was a bit rough in places and Jonah had times when he forgot to pray, and I’m sure those times felt far too many, but I’m sure after an ordeal like that, Jonah started to have a deeper prayer life!
Manasseh: Manasseh was probably the most wicked of all the kings of Judah, he was responsible for turning all Judah away from the true God and got them worshipping idols, but even he, at the end of his life was given that wonderful gift of prayer, and He prayed to God to forgive him of his sins, and I am sure that if I were to die this very evening I with go to Heaven and see Manasseh there worshiping at the foot of the throne worshipping God that had mercy on such a sinful sinner as he.
David: I could say so much about King David and prayer, but I have run out of time. But let me finally point you to the Psalms, and you will see that each one of them is a prayer and most of them are Davids. Some of them are short like Psalm 117, some of them are long like Psalm 119, God doesn’t care about the length of the prayer, all God cares is that you pour out your soul to Him, just say everything that is on your mind!
And remember, God is only a prayer away!
God be with you all, and I look forward to seeing you become a praying people!