Devote Yourselves To Prayer

Series: A Constant Sense


Pt.#6 – A Constant Sense

Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / August 16, 2015

Many of the religions of the world prescribe that prayers are to be uttered at specific times day and night.

Such is the case with the Muslim faith and such was the case with Judaism in OT and NT times.

The story of Daniel, as reflected in this morning’s Scripture reading illustrates this practice in Judaism.

“(Daniel) continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God.” / Dan.6:10-13

However, while the Christian faith makes no set prescriptions, it does emphasize a constant sense of prayer.

By this we mean that praying, for the Christian, knows no limits.

  It’s good to pray when you awaken in the morning.

  It’s also a good thing to pray in the evening, before you retiring to bed.

David’s 119th Psalm states, “I rise before dawn and cry for help” (vs.147) …

“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Thy Word” (vs.148).

  And, of course, it’s good to pray when we come together for group worship.

One of the central focuses of the apostles and first-century saints was their gathering for prayer.

Acts 1:12-14

They returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath’s day journey away.

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room where they were staying,

that is, Peter & John and James and Andrew, Philip & Thomas, Bartholomew & Matthew,

James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were

 continually devoting themselves to pray, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

For Christians, prayer is more than just an occasional perfunctory pause to perform a ritualistic expression of piety.

One writer (John McArthur, Lord, Teach Me To Pray, p.49) likens it to breathing.

“Prayer is like breathing for us.  The natural thing for us to do is commune with God.  When we don’t pray,

we’re holding our breath spiritually – fighting against the very existence and presence of God in our lives.”

What is stated in Acts 1:14 is restated in Acts 2:42, they were continually devoting themselves

to the apostles’ teaching (Bible study), and to fellowship, to the  breaking of bread and to PRAYER.

In Rom.12:9f, the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome contains a list of positive Christian behavior:

Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;

give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

rejoicing in hope; persevering in tribulation; (be) devoted to prayer (vs.12c)…etc.

In Paul’s epistle to Colosse similar words come across more as a command:  “Devote yourselves to prayer…” / Col.4:2

In the opening chapter of Colossians (Col.1:9) , Paul says, “we have not ceased to pray for you…”

In his writing to the church at Ephesus (Eph.6:18), Paul urges, “pray at ALL times

Earlier in this same letter, Paul writes, “I do not cease giving thanks for you, while mentioning you in my prayers.”

To the church at Thessalonica (1Thess.5:17), Paul charges, “pray without ceasing

Earlier he notes (1Thess.3:10), “night & day we keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face…”

Paul closes his letter to the Hebrews, with this word of admonition:  “through (Jesus) then,

let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Our Christian walk needs to be immersed in prayer.

We are too busy NOT to pray.

If we deem ourselves too busy to pray we have slighted the power of prayer to help us through our challenging days.

Our prayers need to be continual and constant.

Whatever happens in our life we seek to have a GODWARD RESPONSE.

When tempted, we pray for help;  When we experience something good & gratifying, we thank God;

When we witness the evil in the world, we pray for God with grant us energy to help remedy such.

When we interact with friends who are not Christians, we pray for wisdom as to how to speak and act.

When we encounter troubles, we turn to God for deliverance and/or the strength to endure. 

Our prayers also need to be fervent.

Js.5:16 / “the fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”

This word “fervent” implies warmth, emotion & passion.  It comes from an old word that means “to boil or glow”.

Our prayers also need to be persistent.

Lk.11:1f tells of a time when Jesus was praying.

After His praying, one of Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples”.

Jesus then taught them THE MODEL PRAYER.

And as a follow-up to that instruction He saw fit to illustrate the importance of persistence in prayer.

Lk.11:5-8 is a parable of sorts.

The key point of the story is found in the last verse (vs.8):

I tell you, even though he not get up and give anything because he is his friend,

yet because of his persistence (shamelessness) he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

The point here is not that God is like our friend, who has to be roused from his deep slumber.

There is something about the virtue of persistence that is character building.

Imagine a 16yr old son or daughter approaching his father desiring his own car (used would even be okay).

That child might ask and ask and ask. 

And finally, when he or she has a job and is more mature then the request might be granted.

What mother or father in their right mind always grants a child’s request the first time it is asked?

There is something about WAITING that is m-a-t-u-r-i-n-g.

David states in Ps.40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord…”

We sing of the value of waiting, do we not 4 4 4  Teach Me Lord to Wait.

Jesus puts an exclamation point on this parable of persistence by telling His disciples to A.S.K.

Lk.11:9-10 - Ask … Seek … Knock.

The story closes with this assurance (Lk.11:13):  “if you then, being evil (sinful), know how to give


Alongside this story from Lk.11 is another parable found in } Lk.18:1-8 

This parable has strong eschatological overtones.

The early saints were suffering miserably and fighting to hang on to their faith.

Their opposition seems to be gaining the upper hand and their hearts were melting with fear and anxieity.

They understood clearly that God was sovereign (vengeance is mine saith the Lord, I will repay/Rom.12:19).

They found great solace in the truth embedded in the declaration of their father Abraham (Gen.18:25)

Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?

In this parable Jesus makes an argument from contrast.

If this carnal-minded judge can finally be badgered into action by the persistence pleas of this poor widow.

just imagine how our loving Father in heaven will respond kindly to our repeated cries for help.

One more postscript to this sermon and then we will close.

We have read the Scriptures and we have seen quite clearly that we are to be a people of prayer.

Devoted.  Praying at all times.  Praying without ceasing.  Continual and Constant.

Fervent.  Persistent.  Asking…Seeking…Knocking.  We are to keep on praying.

Is there ever a time to STOP praying a particular prayer?

The same Paul who provided so many of these instructions on prayer, once stopped praying.

In 2Cor.12:8 Paul notes, as we studied last week, “I entreated the Lord three times…”.

I am confident that Paul did not persist his entire life in praying that God would remove his thorn in the flesh.

In Paul’s case, God made it quite clear that His grace was sufficient.

In fact, in 2Cor.12:7 Paul acknowledges that his thorn in the flesh was a “gift” from God “to keep me from exalting myself”.

Actually (and strangely on the surface) he speaks of it as a “messenger from Satan”.

His “thorn in the flesh” was quite possible the false apostles who sought to undermine Paul’s ministry in Corinth.

The best way to understand any difficult text is to read it in context.

When we read 2Cor.10 & 11 in advance of chapter 12, we get a strong sense that Paul’s problem was not a physical ailment

(poor vision or the ongoing effects of a bout with malaria), but rather it was a person or people: messengers of Satan.

In 2Cor.11:13-14 he refers to “false apostles, deceitful workers, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light”.

In the Old Testament numerous warnings are given by God about “thorns”.

Num.33:55 states, if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you,

then it shall comes to pass that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you..

Cf. Josh.23:13;  Judges 2:3  and  Ezk.28:24

In light of this revelation given to Paul, it would have been fruitless and against the will of God to keep on asking.

For whatever reason, for a while God allowed these Hebrew (2Cor.12:22) messengers of Satan to continue.

In 2Tim.3:11 Paul states, “what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

In the Old Testament (Deut.3:25) - - another verse we touched on last Sunday - -

Moses entreated the Lord, “let me, I pray, cross over and see the promised land”.

God’s response was to tell Moses very plainly, “Enough!  Speak to me no more on this matter” (Deut.3:26).

In this case, it would have been unfaithful for Moses to have persisted in asking.

God may not speak to us verbally as His did with Moses and Paul, but he has granted us discernment.

Sometimes persistence comes in the form of re-directing our prayers.

At a point in time in the long-ago past, Jeannie and I stopped praying for a newborn baby.

But I/we have never stopped praying that God might help me to be a positive influence on children.

Some of us will die unexpectedly, with little or no forewarning.

Others of us will die of old age and natural infirmities.

Still others of us will be die combating diseases that we may never overcome.

It is good to be persistence in prayer and to ask God for healing and restoration,

but a point may come when our prayer becomes, “God help me to shine forth in my last days.”

Dear Heavenly Father,

May we, like our first-century brothers and sisters, be a church that is devoted to prayer.

Grant us a Godward look that we might pray continually & constantly -- at all times, in the midst of everything.

May our prayers be fervent and persistent and even bold as we daily draw near Your awesome throne of grace.

Give us strength to wait patiently;  courage to accept Your “Nos”; and faith to acknowledge Your directing.

Through Christ, who not only shows us how to pray but also advocates on our behalf, we pray.  Amen  

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