DEVOTIONAL INSIGHTS

INSIGHTS ON PRAYER

The Importance and Power of Prayer

DEFINITION OF PRAYER

Several great Christians have tried to come up with the definitive definition for prayer. One notable Christian said, "Prayer moves the arm that moves the world." Another has characterized prayer as the air the Christian breathes. Martin Luther once said that he had so much work to do that day that he had to spend at least 3 hours in prayer to be able to accomplish all he had to do. David Taylor related the story of Theodore Roosevelt who said that he prayed every day for one hour. When asked what he did on days he had a full schedule, Teddy replied: "Then I pray for 2 hours." The psalmist David writes: "In the morning, O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice, In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch" (Ps. 5:3). A notable Christian leader for Navigators has said that if he has to sacrifice any Christian discipline that day, prayer will not be the one sacrificed.

Whatever else prayer is, it is primarily fellowship between God and His people. It is the most direct form of communion and communication between God and His people. Whatever other element in the devotional life I may skip on a day, I don't skip prayer because of its direct connection with God.

The wild thing is this: God wants us to approach Him in prayer. Too often we think that we are to pray because WE NEED to pray. While that is true, it is also true that God wants us to pray to Him so that we will spend quality time with Him. Throughout the NT Jesus characterizes our relationship with God as that of being father/children: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit [the ultimate gift] to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13); "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). Any decent earthly father likes to spend time with His children. Well, as good a fathers we are, how much better a parent is God. If we love to spend time with our children, how much more so does God love to spend time with His children! (Until you grasp God's love towards us as that of being the ultimate love of a Father towards His children, you will not be able to comprehend God's love for us.)

Moreover, prayer is the key which unlocks the storehouse of God's power in heaven. We all believe that God is sovereign, and we all believe that there are certain things which will happen in history come hail or high water. Christ will return. Satan is going to be defeated. A new age which dawned with the coming of Christ is going to be consummated when Christ returns. Yet it is also true that certain things will not happen unless God's people get involved. At the very beginning of the Bible Moses writes: "In the beginning God CREATED . . ." What God has made is real. He is not going to sidestep His creation. He is going to work through it. If you and I refuse to get involved, God just may not work in our situations. On the other hand, when we do get involved, such as through prayer, then our faith unleashes God's power in our lives and in the lives of others.

Probably one of the best illustrations of our necessary involvement through prayer is seen in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when Merry and Pippin try to convince the Ents they are to help out in the war against Sauron. When the Ents refuse, Merry replies: "But you're a part of this world!" You and I cannot relieve ourselves of our responsibilities to the world God has entrusted to us. If we are not going to take seriously our responsibility, then why should God? If I as the head of the household don't care about my family, then why should God?

(Remember that as we emphasize prayer, it is not a substitute for witnessing, fellowship, Bible study, etc. All these are necessary disciplines within the Christian life. It is just that prayer, probably the toughest of the disciplines, cannot be sacrificed.)


THE CALL FOR MEN TO PRAY

Too often prayer has been the discipline of the godly Christian wife or mother. Too often men's prayers have been restricted to meal times (if even then) or to official functions. Paul though calls for men to pray: "Therefore, I want the MEN in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath or dissension" (1 Tim. 2:8). This is not to mitigate the importance of the prayers of women. It does, however, place the burden of the church, the home, the society, the nation, and the world, right squarely where it belongs--upon the shoulders of men. We need to remember over and over again that God has made the man His primary point person for the home. It is by no means an accident that when a woman becomes a Christian, there's an 18% chance that the rest of the family will be saved, that when a child becomes a Christian, there's a 33 1/3% chance the entire family will be saved, and that when the dad becomes a Christian there's a 92%+ chance the entire family will be saved. Gloria Steinham does not understand the way God and the family works. If a family fails, there's a 92% chance the father failed. If the nation goes down, there's a 92% chance the men in the nation failed. On the other hand, if a family or nation succeeds, there's a 92%+ chance the man stepped up to the plate and did God's will. It is time for men to resume their rightful places in the home, the church, and the nation.

IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

Throughout the OT the truly great spiritual people were pray-ers. They were not just pray-ers; prayer formed an integral part of their spiritual life. According to the following verses, which OT saints engaged in prayer?

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE OT SAINT WHO PRAYED
Gen. 18:22-33
Gen. 28:10-17
Exodus 32:11-14
1 Samuel 7:5-11
Most of the Psalms
Isaiah 38:1-8


Throughout the NT also the truly great spiritual people were pray-ers. They were not just pray-ers; prayer formed an integral part of their spiritual life. According to the following verses, which NT saints engaged in prayer?

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE NT SAINT WHO PRAYED
Luke 1:5-13
Luke 2:36-38
Acts 1:13-14
Acts 4:23-24
Acts 10:1-4
Acts 28:8


How important is prayer? Every documented revival which has ever occurred has always been preceded by prayer. For example, in Acts 1:13-14 you saw that the family and disciples of Jesus were praying from the time Jesus departed until ten days later when the day of Pentecost arrived. What occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4?


The last great revival in American occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. Although its greatest impact was felt in America, it did not start in America. A small group of Scottish Christians devoted themselves to praying continuously until revival broke out in Scotland. The winds of revival swept quickly and fiercely across Scotland AND Wales. It was said that so many people in Wales became Christians that the jail houses were emptied. Policemen for all practical purposes were out of work; therefore, they formed barber shop quartets so that they could perform special music in churches.

(Note one difference between our prayers for revival and theirs. We set a date for revival meetings and then pray up until that date. If revival comes, great. If it doesn't come, that's a shame. These Scottish Christians though prayed UNTIL revival came!)

From Wales this revival swept across the southern part of the United States. Two areas in particular were hit: southern California and Texas. The revival which swept California started as the Azuzu Street Revival (in New York). It is by no means a coincidence that southern California which experienced this revival is also the home of many of the strongest churches in the U.S.: Crystal Cathedral, Saddleback Baptist Church, Hollywood Presbyterian Church, Chuck Swindol's former church, first headquarters for Campus Crusade for Christ, etc.

This same revival also swept across Baylor University. Up until that time the only Southern Baptist seminary was Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. As a result of this revival, so many men committed themselves to the ministry that Southern Baptist leaders found it necessary to establish a new seminary. This seminary, while started at Baylor, was headed up by B. H. Carroll. It was later moved to Ft. Worth and renamed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born in the fires of revival and evangelism, it has produced more missionaries than any other seminary in the history of the world. Evangelism was so important at SWBTS that for the longest the President of the seminary was the professor for evangelism.

People just so fail to understand the significance of SWBTS (and the other major Southern Baptist seminaries). I remember in the 1970's and '80's when SWBTS was running 4000 in attendance on campus that Dr. MacGorman would tell me about encounters he had with professors from other non-Baptist seminaries. They would ask him how many students he had in his class. When he replied, "100," they would say, "Not the # in your seminary but in your class." Then he would tell them that was the # in his class and that the seminary had 4000. This is unheard of in the history of Christianity. Half of the missionaries sent out by Southern Baptists in the 20th century came from SWBTS. It all started with a group of dedicated Christians in Scotland praying until the Holy Spirit fell upon their country.


As important as it is that these OT and NT saints prayed, and as important as it is that prayer always preceded recorded revivals, it is most important though that this following person prayed (Luke 6:12):__________________. Can you think of any other times in the Gospels that this man prayed to God?



THE PRICE OF PRAYER

What occurred that made it possible for us to approach God in prayer (Eph. 2:13)?

Do you value prayer to the same extent that God wants you to value it? If so, how does your life show it? If not, why not?


POWER OF PRAYER

According to Exodus 14:13-18 what happened before God destroyed the Egyptian army at the Red Sea?


Read 1 Kings 17:1. According to James 5:17 why did it stop raining in Israel?


Read 1 Kings 18:41-46. According to James 5:18 why did it start raining again?


Ask yourself how many people prayed in 1 Kings 17-18 and brought about revival? So don't go feeling sorry for yourself if you think you're the only one. God can use your persistent fervent prayers to change a family, a church, a community, a nation, and a world.

Read 2 Kings 18:17-19:37. What desperate situation did Hezekiah the King find himself in? What did he do in response? What was the ultimate outcome?


APPLICATION

The question we have to face is if these episodes are simply historical or if they are normative? In other words, should we expect God to answer our prayers like He did these men in the OT, or should we simply relegate these episodes to the past? How does James answer this question (James 5:16-17)?

According to James what are the 2 reasons Christians are ineffectual in their prayer lives (James 4:2-3)?