The Power of Prayer

Series: A Constant Sense


Pt.#14 – A Constant Sense

Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / October 25, 2015

If my memory serves me correctly, one of the first sermons I ever preached (as a teenager) was titled, “The Power of God.”

That word POWER captivated my attention way back then - - and it still does. 

I hope that is not just a reflection of my ego, but rather an earnest desire to tap into the mighty things of God.

So here I stand, almost 45 years later - - still trying to grasp the power of God as displayed in the power of prayer.

I cannot tell you exactly how it works, I just know it works.

I’m not very mechanically inclined.  I know some basics.

If you asked me how my GMC runs like it does, I would struggle to go into depth with you.

Let’s see - - you put gas in it … you turn the key … you move the gear shift … and you push down on the gas pedal.

And if you really want to feel the power, you push down really hard on the gas pedal.

(Hold on when Gale Wheeler passes somebody with her Saab).

Actually I know a little more about how an engine operates that what I’m pretending.

On Saturdays Carl Slaggle and Jim Gahaggen do troubleshooting on a wide range of auto-related mechanical issues.

I sometimes listen in amazement - - I could no more host that show than the man in the moon.

Sometimes I try to pretend that “I’m the mechanic” and I quickly try to imagine what would my diagnosis be?

Most of the time I marvel at the extent of their knowledge and expertise.

The fact that we cannot adequately explain in detail why something is so powerful, does mean it isn’t.

That’s kind of where I’m at with prayer.

I don’t know the intricate details of how it works, I just know it works.

In the interest of full disclosure, sometimes prayer appears seems to not work as well as we’d like (we have all tasted this).

I don’t always understand why, but I trust that it is not because God is uninterested and incapable or responding.

I have concluded that sometimes I ask amiss.   I have also concluded that God know’s best.

I have shared this story with you.  Let me share an abbreviated version one more time.

When I was in high school I dated a girl that I wanted to marry.

I went away to Harding (to study for the ministry) and she wrote me a “dear John” letter.

I was distraught.  I wondered WHY? 

While I did not actually doubt God, I was sorely disappointed and not real happy for a while.

Having been dumped, I was really “in the dumps”.

And then I met Jeannie.

Some might call it “happenstance”, but I consider it to be “providence”.

I was looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with (in service to God).

I am convinced that somehow, someway God had a hand in overriding things to help me find the best wife in the world.

The confidence that I have in asserting this is not based on wishful thinking,

but rather on the character of our Almighty God, as revealed in the sacred Scriptures.

In Hebrews chapter 11 the writer chronicles the lives of some of God’s faithful.

He notes how “Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain” (vs.4). He tells of Enoch (vs.5 …and Noah (vs.7)…

and Abraham & Sarah (vss.8f)…Isaac & Jacob (vss.20-21)…Joseph & Moses (vss.22f)…and Joshua & Rahab (vss.30-31).

And then in vss.32-34, he writes:

What more can I say?  For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David

and Samueland the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness,

obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,

from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight…etc.

R. C. Sproul in his book, Effective Prayer, employs a similar format in casting a net over the power of prayer.

By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile manner (Gen.32).

By the prayer of Moses, God brought plagues upon Egypt, and then removed them again ( Ex.7-11).

By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance.

By prayer the strength of Samuel was restored, and he pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines,

so that those whom he slew at his death were more than all he had slain in his life prior to that (Judg.15-16).

By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh.10).

By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years, and then by prayer, caused it to rain again (1Kgs.17-18).

By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2Chron.14).

By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and slew in one night 185,000 men in Sennchaerib’s army (2Kgs.19).

And time will fail me to tell of Abraham, who prayed for and received a son at the age of one hundred years;

And Moses who received help at the Red Sea; and the Israelites, who were delivered from Egypt after much prayer;

And David, who escaped the treachery of Saul by prayer;

And Solomon, who received great wisdom as a result of prayer;

And Daniel, who was able to interpret dreams, after prayer;

People were delivered from peril, healed from diseases, saw loved ones cured,

and witnessed innumerable miracles as the result of fervent prayer.

Indeed, the words of James (Js.5:16b), seem to be an understatement when he declares,

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Yet, I want to issue a warning about prayer.

As is often the case, power (all power and the power of prayer as well) can be badly mismanaged and even abused.

It is quite easy to isolate a few select passages about prayer and thereby mislead yourself and others.

For example,

  “Ask and it shall be given to you…” (Mt.7:7).

  “Everyone who asks receives” (Mt.7:8).

  “If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them” (Mt.18:19).

 “All things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive” (Mt.21:22).

If we are not careful we can distort the Scriptures and do tremendous harm to ourselves and others.

Prayer is not magical.  God is not to be viewed as a celestial bellhop who jumps at our every call.

All of our praying needs to be continually anchored in THE WILL OF GOD.

R. C. Sproul tells of meeting a man with cerebral palsy (Effective Prayer, P.71).

His faith was vibrant, his attitude was contagious with pleasant optimism, his productivity was exceptional.

He had graduated from college with a superior record.

He came asking, “Dr. Sproul, do you think I am demon possessed?”

Sproul responded by asking, “why would you even ask such a question?”.

He proceeded to tell of his encounter with some Christian friends who had “claimed” the promises.

They “agreed” that he should be healed.  They laid hands on him and offered “a prayer of faith”.

When he was not healed, they chastised him for his lack of faith.

(Apparently they had not read the book of Job).

Then they argued that he must be engaged in some heinous secret sin that was blocking the healing.

Finally, they concluded that he was demon possessed and they could not help him.

Sadly this kind of abuse of prayer happens far too often.

Let me close with a few very important reminders about how to approach prayer.

How do we properly handle the privilege of having access to the power that accompanies prayer?

Here are four directives from the apostle John.

  1. God promises to listen to those worship Him and do His will / Jn.9:31
  2. We must abide in Christ / Jn.15:7
  3. We must be obedient and strive to keep His commandments / 1Jn.3:22
  4. We must ask our prayers in accordance with HIS will / 1Jn.5:14 & Jn.14:13

Sometimes we ask amiss and God overrides our petition.

This might be one of the greatest blessings to the power of prayer - - that GOD IS IN CONTROL!

Moses was a man of faith, but, like us, his prayers were not always as they should have been.

Ex.33:18 tells of a time when Moses said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory.”.

God graciously reminded Moses, “No man can see me and live!” (vs.20).

We must be careful not to approach God, presuming to know what is best and what is the right thing to do.

The psalmist reminds us (Ps.115:3), God does whatever He pleases.

I want to close this sermon and this series on prayer with one more passage of Scripture.

My intent here is not to discourage us in any way from having constant and unceasing prayers,

Rather, my goal is for this text to guide, guard and direct us to approach God.

We must draw near with the utmost humility, ever mindful that He is GOD and we are not.


Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in though to bring up a matter in the presence of God.

for God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.

Our spoken words of prayer in the form of adoration, confession and thanksgiving,

and even the “casting our anxieties”, can be (and should be) endless and ever flowing,

But when it comes to making supplications to God with promises or vows,

we must guard our words and gauge our thoughts carefully. 

We cannot strong arm or intimidate God. 

We cannot negotiate with God with the goal of obligating Him to do our bidding.

We cannot sweet talk God.  We cannot seduce or entice Him with flowery words.

And we never presume to know more than God - - Our Father always knows what is best.

As Jesus Himself prayed, so let us pray, “Not my will, but THY WILL BE DONE” (Mt.26:39, 42 & 44).

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