09 January 2012

From The Heart The Mouth Speaks (Part1)

Col 4:2-4

Does prayer play an important part in your life? Before you answer that question listen to what some of the late great preachers had to say about the importance of prayer. Charles Spurgeon said! “We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be evident in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it. Did not our Saviour say that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” and did he not imply, by that form of expression, that, if they did not pray, they would be sure to faint? Prayer has become as essential to me as the heaving of my lungs, and the beating of my pulse.” The late great reformer John Owen said this “The faithful soul, pouring out without ceasing those prayers which are supplied to us by God’s Spirit in gracious provision for our infirmities, enjoys communion with God Himself as he shares in the understandings of the things of the gospel. By practice in prayer, he increases daily in fellowship with his Lord while his soul within him testifies to the extent of its progress, while assurance of saving knowledge waxes stronger daily. Such a soul – such a gospel student – is gradually admitted in the secrets of God’s covenant, plighted to the saints in Christ Jesus, while all the time it is growing more and more into the image of Him who is our Head and is Lord of all.” Augustine said “He that loveth little prayeth little, he that loveth much prayeth much.” Think about these questions as well. Does prayer play an important role in your life? How much of your time is spent in prayer personally and corporately? Do you have the same passion as these men did: Spurgeon, Owen and Augustine?

The reason I say all this is because Paul shifts gears again! By turning his attention to the body of Christ as a whole [individual Christian’s among the congregation]. He’s not speaking directly to the family anymore! He is addressing this section to local body of sinners saved by sovereign grace. He's shift gears by turning their attention to the importance of.............PRAYER! If you read the epistles of Paul you will see a repetitive plea to the church over and over again! When it comes to the matter of prayer. The importance of the Christian life is to be saturated in prayer! Look at what Paul writes in (v2-v4). There are four key elements we are to apply in order to have a proper prayer life!

1. A life that is devoted to prayer.
2. A life that is observant when it comes to prayer.
3. A life that is thankful that they are able to pray.
4. A life that is seeking the throne on behalf of the body of Christ.

1. (v2) “continue steadfast in prayer”

"Steadfast" literally means to “devote oneself” it’s a compound word that means “to be steadfast” or a life that “endures”. It’s persevering in your prayer life! A life that is devoted to this one thing.....prayer! Look at how Paul starts the sentence! He gives the command of prayer with an active verb “continue”. This literally could read “to be courageously persistent” or “to hold fast and never let go”. This isn’t just referring to verbalizing everything....it’s an action of God conscience! It's realizing that we are His chosen people and He is our Master and we aim everyday to please Him by having fellowship and communion with Him through the avenue of prayer.
So we continue each and every day with a passion for prayer because we are always thinking about Him [a God consciousness]. It also gives the call to be persistent [not pushy, selfish demands] but a continuing devotion to God in the matter of prayer! What does that look like? The Parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 18:1-8)
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'" ......." It’s being persistent, yet accepting God’s answer when it finally comes. This is what a person looks like when they are devoted to a great concern!
When we come to God with persistence it’s as one old man said......“When a farmer prays for a corn crop, God expects him to say ‘AMEN’ with a hoe.”. This is what the early church did! It says in Acts 1:14 “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer...”. Prayer is one of the major pillars or foundations of the local church. Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”See, a devotion to prayer is to be a Christian who is extremely grateful for saving their wretched souls. Sadly though the church has lost its love or reverence when it comes to the matter of prayer! John MacArthur said “Much of the contemporary church has lost its reverence for God. He is viewed as a sort of cosmic automatic teller machine. If we punch in the right code, He is obligated to deliver what we want. The Lord might as well ask the twentieth- century church what He asked the rebellious priests of Malachi’s day: "A son honours his father and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts....” Mal 1:6. We must always be conscience to His presence at all moments! He deserves and desires our devotion to be driven to and for Him.....

2. (v2) “being watchful”

"Watchful" means staying awake [keeping alert] and not falling asleep during prayer. It’s a constant spiritual alertness! Again a prime example can be found in the Gospel of Matthew “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matt 26:40-41. See, it’s not just about staying awake but also having an awareness of things going on around you! When we are deeply concerned and devoted to something we are always alert to the issue or situation at hand. John Piper said “What does this mean? You pray often and you pray regularly. Prayer is not infrequent and prayer is not hit and miss. Being "devoted to" prayer means that you are not haphazard and you are not forgetful. It means you take steps to see that it is part of your regular life, the same way eating and sleeping are.” This is how we are to be at all times! Prayer is apart of the Christian life. Keeping alert means that you work against distractions and hindrances.

3. (v2) “thanksgiving”

“Thanksgiving” this is referring to the spirit in which the prayers should be offered. It’s an acknowledgment of gratitude for what we [you] have already received. This is the 5th time Paul has mentioned gratitude in this epistle! The other 4 times are found in.... Col 1:12 [in salvation] “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Col 2:6 [in your sanctification] “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,” Col 3:15 [in fellowship with Christ and His church] “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Col 3:17 [in opportunity to serve] “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”. There is so much a believer can be thankful for! I’m I right? If you can’t answer that question....look back to your past year! Didn’t God see you through it? If that’s not enough! Look back to when He purchased your wretched soul from the slave market of sin and destruction! A thankful heart is a remembering heart of what we’ve been saved from! Take Joshua for example! Found in the writings of Joshua Chapter 4 when they placed the 12 stones at the shore line of the Jordan....The stones as a symbol for them to remember God’s sovereign grace as He helped cross on dry ground.....the grace that He displayed for the Israelites as they fled Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea. The Bible says “And he said to the people of Israel, "When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever."” Joshua 4:21-24. So likewise, we are to recall the stones of remembrance in our lives and give thanks in our communication with God. Paul is telling us that we are to pray with a God conscience that is persistent with thanksgiving at all times.

4. (v3-v4) “pray also for us”

"us" Nothing is more important than for Christians praying for other Christians. Whether it’s someone going through a crisis or a simple prayer of strength in times of struggle. Nothing is more encouraging then to hear someone is praying for you! Let’s be honest [were Christians right?] don’t you find it comforting when people are praying for you? Paul seems to think so! That's why he sought the church for this request. Why? So that he could proclaim the Gospel more clearly to the lost people around him...which were mostly Roman guards? The very thing that got Paul put into prison was the one thing he was requesting for the church to pray about the truth of the gospel. We see this throughout Paul’s letters.... 2Cor 1:11; Phil 1:19; 2Thess 3:1; Philemon 1:22 to name a few. Paul’s request with the church was for the purpose of the Gospel, so that he would have the right words to say to those who were still in bondage to Satan.  See we need to understand that Paul knew the importance of prayer as an individual.... but he also knew the power of prayer in numbers [the body of Christ]. Think about this truth! Before you answer a question, give advice, or make a decision! It should always be saturated in prayer and seeking the body of Christ to do the same on your behalf. For the simple reason found in (v4) “that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak”. So often we don’t do that! We think we have it all together and we don’t need anybodies help! That’s a lie from the pit of Hell......Paul was a man who knew his limitations and strength! That’s why sought the church for their prayers!...There is power in prayer! As it says in James letter.....“....the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 4:16

Prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a Christian......especially when they’re devoted, alert with a God conscience and have a heart filled with thanksgiving praying for one another in the body of Christ. So it's time we [the church] woke up from our sleep and do what Jesus commanded His disciples to do....PRAY! Let me close with this final statement made by J C Ryle “Let us pray more, and let us pray more earnestly. Let those who never prayed begin to pray. Let those who have prayed pray better.” CAN YOU SAY A HEARTY AMEN TO THAT STATEMENT?

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