A Strong Take on Prayer

The text for a message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, Sunday, February 13, 2022.

For the “Live in Church” audio message, please click here.

My wife and I were in the car listening to 95.5 The Fish, and we heard a commercial that was positioned for singles, which can be a sensitive topic around this time of year, Valentine’s Day.  The commercial was directed at single Christian men and women looking to date Christians, but the ad seemed to target Christian women who were looking for someone compatible with their morals and beliefs, and avoiding all of the issues that come with online and in-person blind dates.  It was interesting that, during the commercial, which lasted about a minute, that the narrator spoke about finding the right person that God would have you to be with, but there was no mention about prayer or anything like that.  It was, after all, a commercial to sell their dating service, but it called to attention the missing element that we, as believers, need to always keep at the forefront…prayer.

The commercial reminded me of all of the times I have heard about how single women were trying to find a man and going about it with more of a trial-and-error approach, and more often than not, it was a complete disaster.  For whatever reason, the desire to pray, for some, is more of a checkbox item than a sincere effort to really talk to God.  Please note that the men in this situation are seldom mentioned, but without a relationship with Jesus Christ and what comes with it, there is no obligation to remain prayerful as a single man and live as a virgin.  Where prayer is absent, the end result is often one filled with regret.

Note that this, along with many of life’s issues have a different outcome when we address these matters with the proper mindset and attitude for prayer.

Prayer is not a checkbox item.  Prayer requires a sincere desire to speak to the Lord and draw upon His strength.

I have encountered a number of reminders over the past few days that the time is right for us to have this discussion today.  Here are some questions to ponder:

Why is it that prayer is often an afterthought for believers? 

Do we lean on prayer as a means of damage control when we screw up?

Is it because our battles with the flesh are so encompassing that we prefer to lean on our own understanding in matters rather than give them over to God?

The answer to these questions, and perhaps any questions moving through your head, are worth consideration, and today, they will be our discussion points.

Let’s go back and address why it is that we tend to use prayer as an afterthought.  First of all, prayer should never be an afterthought.  The only “afterthought” about prayer should be thanking the Lord for deliverance, victory, and answers to prayer because you actually prayed in the first place.

We need to get back to brass tacks here.  Christians, who profess to be believers in the Lord, Jesus Christ, need to have serious moments of introspection as to what a relationship with Jesus truly means.  Jesus is not a genie from the magic lamp to grant your every wish.  He is not an idol that sits on a car dashboard.  He is much more than what we see or understand.

If our view of Jesus is anything less than what we see in the following verses, then we need to ask Him to show more of Himself to us:

Exodus 20:1-3 NIV

1 And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Malachi 3:6 NKJV

“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”

Isaiah 41:13 NIV

For I am the Lord your God

    who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, Do not fear;

    I will help you.

Exodus 15:26 NLT

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.”

Isaiah 48:17 NIV

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Here’s what these five verses are telling us as to who God is and why prayer must be at the forefront and not an afterthought:

  • He is Lord over all.
  • He is always who He is. (Thanks be to God.)
  • He is our strength and encouragement.
  • He is our healer—physically and spiritually.
  • He teaches us (when we pay attention to Him).

We fail to pray because we don’t see or appreciate who God really is.  The world dims our view of God, and sometimes, if we’re honest, we don’t pray because we already know the answer and we don’t like it or don’t want to accept it (!).

So, here’s a very good reason to pray, as if you really need one…pray that you gain wisdom and understanding as to who your Creator is.  Pray for His teaching and guidance in such a manner where you trust Jesus, who was “there” at the very beginning according to his Word, and to bring matters to Him right away and not as an afterthought.

John 1:1-5 NIV

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I’m thankful for how the provision of the indwelling Holy Spirit sanctifies every believer who seeks to learn more about Jesus.  Whenever there is a question as to God and His character (and He does want us to ask as often as necessary), we should go directly to Him.

John 14:16 NLT

And I (Jesus) will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that we need a constant help…all the help that we can get.

John 14:26 NKJV

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Plain and simple—we will pray more as we learn more about Jesus.

Are you reading and studying Scripture each day?

Are you meditating on what you read each day?

Are you living in obedience and in accordance to His Word?

Are you growing in His Word and enduring as you navigate through life?

Prayer must be a prominent part of how you communicate with God and make both large and small decisions as you go.

This is an essential part of living in a Christlike manner.  We can’t keep living in such a manner where we put the cart before the horse.  We won’t go anywhere when we do that.  We must take the matter of living for Jesus seriously and not use prayer as a means of just doing what someone tells us to do and not understanding what it really means.  Prayer is not to be an afterthought.  It must be at the forefront if you are truly living for Christ.

What needs to be fixed in your life right now?

Is it a relationship?  Is it your marriage?  Is it about money or a job?  Is it about where you are in your relationship with Jesus?

Do you think that you can fix these issues on your own?  Or do you think that Jesus needs to come first in this?

Prayer changes things.

Prayer changes hearts and minds.

Prayer changes your heart and mind to that of a heart for Jesus.

Ezekiel 36:24-28 NIV

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.'”

God is ready, willing and able to help you in your endeavor to pray first and to live in such a manner where we don’t look at the world’s answers to solve your issues and problems.  We must learn to look to Jesus first.

Colossians 2:6-10 ESV

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Philippians 4:19 ESV

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

So, here’s the action plan for those of us who desire to pray first and keep prayer at the forefront:

Pray with the intent of worship and praise.  Why?  Because HE IS LORD.  We are all still learning about the majesty (supreme power) of Jesus Christ.

Speak to Jesus to gain more insight, wisdom and knowledge through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Along with your practice of daily reading (the Two Year Bible Plan) and studies, develop a life of continuous prayer as you live each day.

This is how we combat the efforts of Satan, who does not want to see you succeed in any aspect of growing in your relationship with Jesus.  Satan lies to us and lies all of the time, but be encouraged because Jesus is firmly established and remains present to help you fight him.

1 Peter 5:8-10 ESV

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

John 10:10 ESV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

What keeps us from praying more often?  Our selfish desires and pre-occupation of the cares of the world.

Our prayers must come with a humble heart, the readiness to lay it all before Jesus, and the spirit to listen and follow His wisdom.

Jeremiah 29:13 ESV

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We should have the expectation and the confidence that when we ask for God’s help, He is going to help us.

Are there times, in our arrogance, where we refuse help?  Sure we do.  That’s when our prayers have been an afterthought.  We must humble ourselves to the majesty of Jesus Christ and seek Him first, not as an afterthought.  I trust you can see where prayer in any other manner is really more about going through the motions and using it as a checkbox item in utter futility.

Are you looking to change the course of your life?

Are you looking to fix the things in life that are broken?

Are you looking to live for Jesus Christ?

Pray first, stay in prayer, and don’t stop praying.

Watch and see what happens when you put prayer at the forefront of your life.

God will affirm you, step by step, as you seek after Him.

Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines.

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