The Purpose of Prayer Part 1 of 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

 We are to express to God the gratitude and the praise and the joy we feel in Him and in salvation.

We are to express to God the gratitude and the praise and the joy we feel in Him and in salvation.

6-5-04


Title: The Purpose of Prayer


Text: “Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 1:3-4).

Bible Reading: Colossians 4:1-4

Introduction:

A pastor is invited to a family’s home for Sunday supper. The mother brings in the food and they all sit down at the table to eat. But, before anyone says grace, the children start to eat. The embarrassed mother gives them a quick reprimand, while the children stare in confusion. The pastor then offers grace in the stunned silence. The mother explains, “We don’t always say grace before meals at our house.” Of course, this has been fairly obvious, but the pastor butters his roll and waits, because he knows there is another line to the script. “We just take it for granted that God knows how grateful we are.”

Folks, why should we pray? God does know how grateful we are. That’s the way it is according to the logic of the dinner table. The trouble with this kind of attitude is that it doesn’t stay at the dinner table. It leaves the table and roams all over the house. And soon we find ourselves saying, “Why pray at all? God knows everything that we need.” Didn’t Jesus Himself say that God knows all that we need before we even ask Him?” But Jesus also said, “Therefore, do pray.” This line of reasoning might lead a person to ask, “What if God refuses to read His children’s mail unless it is addressed to Him?”

We are to pray so that we might commune with God and share with Him the most deeply felt needs of our lives. We are to express to God the gratitude and the praise and the joy we feel in Him and in salvation. Paul elaborated on the purpose of prayer in Colossians 4:2-4. That’s the text for today’s message.

2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

I want to say two things about prayer.

First, THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS SEEN IN THE MANNER OF PRAYER.

Verse 2 said, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” “Continue earnestly in prayer,” means that we are to pray with perseverance. Prayer is not to be a spasmodic outburst in a moment of emergency, but it should be persistent calling on God for His guidance and blessing. Christians should take advantage of every opportunity to pray. And they should choose those times and places that will have the fewest distractions.

In addition to praying with perseverance, we are to pray with watchfulness. These two words go together: Pray and watch. They are very important. They remind me of an experience that Nehemiah had when the enemy tried to stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He didn’t just throw in the towel and cry out that he couldn’t do the job. And he just didn’t say, “Well, we will make it a matter of prayer,” and then go on the way he had been. No, this is what he told the people; “We have made prayer to God, so now let’s post a guard to warn if the enemy comes.” This is what Paul tells us here: “Watch and pray.”

An old pastor in Georgia made this statement: “When a farmer prays for a corn crop, God expects him to say ‘Amen’ with a hoe.”’ So if you’re praying about a certain matter, get busy with it. If you have a burden for someone who needs the Lord, pray for that person. And then go to that person and tell them the good news; that Jesus died for their sins.

There is a great Christian man in my church who is 83, who tells everyone that he takes all his physical problems to God. And he has a saying that I love, “You pay the doctors, but God does the healing.” I agree, but God also uses doctors and medicine to make us well. So my advice is to pray about it, and then go see a doctor.

This word “watchfulness” literally means to be watchful, to be alert when we pray. We need to guard against having wandering thoughts and an indifferent attitude. Prayer should not be reserved solely for times of crisis. We should pray before the crisis comes so that we have the spiritual resources to meet the testing time. Napoleon said that battles are not won on the battlefield; rather, they are won at the conference table in the planning meetings before the battle is ever begun.

We are to pray with PERSEVERANCE and WATCHFULNESS and in addition, we are to pray with GRATITUDE. Be sure and thank God always for what He does for you, and because He is going to hear and answer your prayer. Maybe it won’t be the answer you want, but He will answer. Our gratitude and thankfulness should spring from a heart that is thankful for all that God has done. But, above all, we should be thankful for our salvation. Verse 2, then, says that the purpose of prayer can be seen in how we pray: We are to pray with perseverance, watchfulness, and gratitude.

In addition, the purpose of prayer can also be seen in the object of prayer. Listen again to these words of Paul, and notice that he names two objects of prayer. He says--

3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”

The first objective of prayer is that we are to pray that God will give us an open door of service.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Colossians. He could have prayed for many things while he was in prison, such as release, the favorable outcome of his trial, comfort, rest and several other things. And it would make sense to pray about all these concerns. But Paul asked God for something else; He asked that God would give him an opportunity to minister.

He prayed that God would open doors. Not the door to his prison cell, but doors for preaching the Word of God. Paul is asking them to pray that he will have the opportunity to proclaim the Word of God. He is aware that his chains are the result of preaching Christ. He is kept in prison where his future is in doubt, but yet he has opportunities to witness. Paul told the Philippines, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12). He wants the Philippians to be informed that his chains led to more opportunities to witness. Paul turned his prison cell into a gospel chapel. His chains did not limit the gospel, but instead, they advanced it.

He says that the things that happened to him actually helped his witness. He is talking about being mobbed in Jerusalem, unjustly imprisoned, shipwrecked, chained to guards, etc. These things happened not for crimes, but for Christ. But he states that these things “Have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul’s affairs turned out just the reverse of what might have been expected. His imprisonment did not hinder his ministry of intercession, his ministry of evangelism, or his ministry of writing.

I want to tell you about an experience from my own life, which shows how God works through prayer. Approximately 10 years ago, my family was active in a church in Kansas City, Kansas. I was one of the deacons, and for my ministry, I worked with the Children’s Church. Sierra, my daughter Mary and I were the Children’s Church leaders. My best friend, Melvin, who was also a deacon, mentioned in a deacon’s meeting that he wanted us to pray that God would send someone to help me with Children’s Church. We all prayed about the matter, but the meeting broke up without having settled on someone to ask. The following Sunday morning Melvin came to me, with tearful eyes, and said that he was the one God had chosen to help. He struggled with the decision, but finally, he had given in to God’s will. I believe that God wanted him for this task all along, but He didn’t reveal it to Melvin until he prayed about the matter. Remember, if you are God’s child, He will answer your prayers, but you may not get the answer you want.

Paul had a spirit of evangelism. His one consuming desire was to take the gospel to those outside the family of God. However, history confirms that evangelism alone rarely produces spiritual awakening. Rather, prayer produces spiritual awakening, and spiritual awakening, as you might expect, produces evangelism. Consequently, two important elements that are often neglected are evangelism and prayer. Paul linked the two together in a way that makes one ineffective without the other. Any preacher that is more devoted to the activities of evangelism, with little more than a token commitment to prayer, will not bring the fruit God wants to give. Paul admonished both women and men to pray for “open” doors; and to pray for the ability to “speak” with an understood message and to pray for “open hearts,” that are receptive to the gospel.

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