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A Short Series On Prayer - Part 1

"The Lord And Prayer"

by David Legge | Copyright © 1999 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'We're turning in our New Testament to the Gospel of Luke, Luke's Gospel and chapter 11. Luke's Gospel chapter 11 and reading from verse 1: "And it came to pass, that, as he" - the Lord Jesus Christ - "was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."

I wonder, like these disciples of old, do we need the Lord Jesus Christ to teach us to pray again? Do we? Do we need Him to teach us to pray again?

Verse 1 says: 'And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples'. Let's just do that and come before the Lord, and ask His blessing and His unction as we come to His word this morning: Our Father in Heaven, we thank Thee for Thy truth and we know that Thy word is truth. Lord, Thy word is more powerful than we can ever imagine and therefore we bow humbly before it, not even realizing what it can do. And Lord, we know that Thy Spirit comes upon Thy word, and we pray that He would come, and He would breathe the breath of life, the breath of God, upon these pages. That He would illumine the figure of the Lord Jesus Christ to each eye here today. Lord, that we would be different believers, even if there is those that have not looked upon Christ in faith, that they would leave this place today, knowing Christ, knowing that they are born again. Lord help us, I need Thy help, fill me with that holy fire, that power of God, that pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit - Lord, that these words may be Thy words. For Christ's sake we pray. Amen.

Many people within the church of Jesus Christ today ask the question - and I'm sure all of us, if we're honest with one another, have asked this question - 'Why no blessing?'. Why no blessing? Why does God not seem to bless us the way He used to bless us? We read about it in books, we watch about it in films, we hear about it from pulpits - how God, in days gone by, God came by His Spirit, even in our land, even in our town, even in this district, up to fifty years ago: God came, and God moved, God revived, God saved, God regenerated - and it was not men that took the glory, but God took the glory because God did it.

Why are so few saved today? Why is there so little weeping within the pew? Weeping of contrition, weeping of penitence for sins that they have committed and they see God in holiness, God standing before them, that they cannot - they cannot - resist Him, and they fall on their knees in conviction of sin and they cry for mercy. Why? Why does it no longer happen? We know that it happens across the world. We were hearing from [our brother] even on Wednesday night how in places like Vietnam, in China, in Korea, God is moving - in South America God is moving. Now, I don't know about you, but as I see God moving all around the world it makes me - and I hope it's a holy jealousy - I covet that blessing! I long to see a day when in East Belfast, when in Iron Hall, when in Ulster, when in all of Ireland, God came again in blessing!

Why no blessing? Why does God not seem to bless us the way He used to bless us? We read about it in books, we watch about it in films, we hear about it from pulpits...

The question was often asked within the Old Testament, 'Where is the God of our fathers?'. The question was asked by Elisha, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?'. Gideon, as he stood there, he cried this prayer in Judges 6 and verse 13: 'Oh Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us and where be His miracles that our fathers have told us of?'. I don't know about you, but there are times - and I'm being honest with you this morning - there are times that I feel like that. Here is God's word, here are His promises, we can claim them as God's people but nothing, nothing seems to happen!

Now I've only been preaching much shorter a period than many people sitting before me, but in the time that I have been doing this, I have found it so hard to stand before people to preach the word of God and to watch, evening after evening, as men and women, as children walk out of the door seemingly unconvicted, seemingly untouched by the word of God, by the Spirit of God, or by the power of God. Now, I know that I cannot see into the heart of a man, and I know that I don't know what's going on in a man's mind, or a woman's heart - but my friend I hear it so often said to me to comfort me, 'As long as you sow the word of God, that is you being faithful'. You can challenge me with this afterwards: in the law of nature and the law of the harvest, it would be a strange if there was sowing continually going on but the fruit was never ever reaped. And every seed that is sown, some reaping will take place  - it will either be a reaping of judgement or a reaping of justification. My friends, I believe one of the answers - you can't give a blanket answer for these problems today, and let's face it today, it is a problem. There are many answers, but one of them I believe is this, it's found in James 4 and verse 2 and it's seven simple words, where James said to that little church: 'Ye have not because ye ask not'. He went on to say, 'Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts'.

Maybe you are asking for things, maybe you're asking God to bless - but you're asking with the wrong motives, you're asking because you want to squander it, you want to take pride in it, you want to make a name in it, you want it to happen in your church and not someone else's church. But something is happening brethren, something is going wrong, we are either not asking or we are asking amiss. I wonder like these disciples of old, in Luke chapter 11 and verse 1, do we need the Lord Jesus Christ to teach us to pray again, do we? Do we need Him to teach us to pray again?

You might say, 'Well, I know how to pray'. It's interesting, isn't it, that in this passage of Scripture the disciples who had sat and listened to the Lord Jesus Christ and had watched those honey, golden words drop from His lips day by day, hour by hour, they did not run to Him and say 'Lord teach us to preach!'. No, they realized that it was useless to preach, unless they knew how to pray. Isn't it interesting that within the word of God, God calls His house, God calls the place where He dwells - and today that is the church of the living God, not a building but you and I who are believers - He says 'My house shall be...', not a house of preaching. How many houses of preaching do you know? Can our churches - and this is the word that God has laid upon my heart - can our churches become preaching centres? Where we come to meet a preachers message, rather than coming to meet God, and do business with God, and find God, and look into the very face of God? He said 'My house shall be a house of prayer'!

Franz Baker, a Dutchman, said this: 'No matter who we are, if we haven't personally learned what it is to pray, we will meet an unknown God after death'. What a tragedy! To name the name of Christ, to name the name of Jehovah, but to live a life that is ignorant of who He is, of the power that He has, of what He can do in our families, what He can do in our lives, what He can do in our assembly - to not have ever tapped in to the dynamite, atomic power of God!

Franz Baker, a Dutchman, said this: 'No matter who we are, if we haven't personally learned what it is to pray, we will meet an unknown God after death'. What a tragedy!

John chapter 13 and verse 15 says this, the Lord Jesus Christ says: 'For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done for you'. You see, the Lord Jesus Christ, in some ways, is not our example and in other ways He is our example. He is not our example simply because we could never hope, ever, to live the way that He lived. In fact, the only life that God is pleased with today, and any day, is His life - the Lord Jesus Christ. So it must be His life that lives through us, and that practices what He practiced, to please God. His life, through His Spirit, must live through us. We can never, ever hope to emulate what Jesus Christ did. But thinking about that, when we have His Holy Spirit within us, when we know the power of God in our lives, we then have to follow Him, and follow His footsteps, and seek to emulate what He did.

And therefore, this morning, in the few minutes that remain, I want us to learn a lesson from the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there are four questions that I want us to ask of the Lord Jesus concerning His prayer life. The first one is this: Where did He pray? The second is: When did He pray? The third thing is: How did He pray? And the fourth thing: Why did He pray? Now I want to stress that this is not an exhaustive list about the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ - but it is the things that I believe we need to be [reminded] of.

Christ Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. Isn't it lovely when you hear a person, who is a new born babe in Christ, not long out of the womb of God, and you hear them pray for the first time, isn't it beautiful? It's like a child that has only learnt to walk, and maybe then they learn to talk and the first words that they speak to their mother or father - isn't it beautiful? It's something that the mother or father looks out for, it's something that they remember. And oh, how beautiful it is to listen to a new born babe in Christ speak the first words to Abba Father. There's no lingo, there's no rehearsed language, there's no set sentences, sometimes they get their words muddled up and maybe we think they don't use the right words - I don't know, but God, I believe this morning, thinks it is beautiful because it is from their heart! And many of us who pride ourselves in the fact that we do not believe in a liturgy - we do not read prayers - many of us rehearse our own liturgy when we rehearse it over and over again.

My friends, this morning, I want us to look at the prayer life of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I want us to learn something. Where did He pray? Well if you were to turn with me to Matthew chapter 14 and verse 23, Matthew 14 and verse 23 we read this: 'When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone'. That's the first place that we read of the Lord Jesus Christ praying, He prayed on a mountain. Then we read, in Luke chapter 5 and verse 16, that He also prayed in a desert, it says He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and He prayed. Both Matthew 14 and Luke 5 tell us that He prayed on a mountain, in a desert - but He prayed alone.

Was it not the Lord Jesus Christ that said, it is the hypocrites that stand on the street corner, that cry and pray aloud in public because they want to be seen of men, but in their closet there is an emptiness, there is a coldness, there is a lifelessness! Could that be us? Do we pray in public? Men, do we pray in public, but we do not pray in our closets? Could there be a facade? Let me ask you the question: does the closet - in general terms today, in the Christian evangelical world - does the closet exist? Does it? Does it really happen, where there is a place - and what the Bible is trying to get across to us when it said, 'Jesus went to a mountain', 'The Lord Jesus went to the desert', is this: that the Lord Jesus Christ got alone. Because He knew that it wasn't until He cut Himself off from the rest of humanity and He got in contact, 'electrical' contact with God, that things would start to happen. Is the powerhouse of evangelical religion dead? Is it? The place in your home - do you have a place? Where you have set aside as a place where daily you go to pray before God, to seek His face, to seek His blessing, to seek His salvation for the lost? Is there? Is there a place?

It is the hypocrites that stand on the street corner, that cry and pray aloud in public because they want to be seen of men, but in their closet there is an emptiness, there is a coldness, there is a lifelessness!

You know, the reason why I believe in many households there is not a place like this is because it's extremely hard. It is extremely hard - do you know why? Because no one is watching you apart from God. We can do great things for God, can't we, when the church watches us. We can do great things for God when our family watches us, or even when the unsaved watch us - but when we are alone with God, oh, it's hard even to spend five minutes with Him!

Why is the prayer meeting the least attended meeting in the church? I believe, sincerely, it's because you can't 'tart' a prayer meeting up. The essence of a prayer meeting isn't singing, the essence of the prayer meeting isn't getting your ears tickled with some new doctrine or new way of presenting it, but the essence of a prayer meeting is: you and God, and no one else - and that's hard. My friends this morning, do we have a place where we pray? Where we intercede Almighty God?

But secondly look at this: when the Lord Jesus prayed. If you look at Mark chapter 1 and verse 35 you read there, Mark chapter 1 and verse 35, that Jesus Christ prayed in the morning. Why did He pray in the morning? Well He prayed in the morning simply because He wanted to give the best hours of His day as a steward of the time that He had - He wanted to give His best to God. Watchman Nee had a little phrase like this, 'No Bible, no breakfast'. If he didn't get to read his Bible in the morning, or to get before the face of God in prayer he put everything back in the day that was ahead, simply because this was the most important appointment that he could possibly have. The great preacher Spurgeon said, 'Let God's face be the first face that you look into in the morning, let God's voice be the first voice that you hearken to day by day.

Do you pray in the morning? It'd be crazy to hear of someone who had a big Ulster fry for their breakfast, but they had it at evening. Wouldn't it? They're feeding their face and their body, in order to prepare them for the day, for a day, ahead yet they go to bed and they sleep on it. And then when they wake in the morning, what happens? They're not ready, they're not fit, they're not full of energy for the day that lies ahead - but so often that's what we do. We feed ourselves spiritually before we go to bed, and then we go to bed and squander it all. But the Lord Jesus Christ, He prayed in the morning. But we look in Mark 6:42 and we see that He also prayed in the evening. You see prayer, prayer is the key of the morning, it's the bolt of the night. And the day that is spent in communion before God - the word of God seems to indicate, and I believe it teaches - should be ended on your knees in prayer. What about Daniel? What about Daniel? Three times a day he prayed. Well, I believe that he didn't pray three times in the morning, but he probably spread them over the whole day, morning, afternoon and evening. David testifies to it, he says, 'Evening, morning, afternoon will I pray and cry aloud and He shall hear my voice'. Do you pray in the evening?

But this is what I'm really getting at, believers, this morning. It says in Luke chapter 6 and verse 12, that the Lord Jesus Christ - He prayed all night. It says this: 'He went into a mountain to pray, and continued in prayer all night to God'. I'm being honest with you this morning, that this is something that in the flesh seems impossible - and let me ask you today: when was the last time you heard of a fellowship of believers in Northern Ireland who met all night in prayer? When was it? Now ask yourself why the blessing doesn't come down! When was the last night I met with God all night? Personally, me, you? When was the last time, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I actually followed Him for a change and did what He did?

Let me ask you today: when was the last time you heard of a fellowship of believers in Northern Ireland who met all night in prayer? When was it? Now ask yourself why the blessing doesn't come down!

Charles Chinkweed (sp?) who was converted out of Roman Catholicism, and wrote that famous book 'Fifty years in the Church of Rome'. One day he preached a sermon - and the figure is unknown - but it seems that there were hundreds of people, maybe even thousands of people that day, that trusted the Lord Jesus Christ in simple faith - but do you know what the secret of that sermon was? He spent the twenty-four hours before it on his knees before God in prayer. Now listen! That is what twenty-four hours before God can do! And we can cry to God in our simple prayers, in our little prayers, in our weak prayers: 'Lord, why are You not blessing? Why are You not moving? Why do we not see people saved?'. But deep down within my heart, I'm not willing to count the cost. He prayed all night

That's where the Lord Jesus Christ prayed, He prayed alone; when He prayed, morning, afternoon, and evening and all night at some occasions. But how does the word of God say that He prayed? It says, in Matthew 26 and 39, that He prayed in the will of God. Now I'll hopefully deal with that in weeks that are still to come, about how we pray in God's will and how we get our prayers answered. It says also, in Luke 22 and verse 41, that He knelt in prayer. He got upon His knees before God and He prayed. Now, that doesn't mean that we have to kneel to pray, it says that Enoch walked with God, Enoch walked and talked with God. It says in the Psalms that David lay upon His bed and cried out to God. It says in other places that men sat and talked with God, but the point is this that their outward act signified an inward, an inward position. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on His knees before God, body, soul and spirit - He was in submission to Him.

But this is what I really want you to see about how He prayed. It's found in Matthew 26, if you turn with me to it, Matthew 26 and 42 - and we have there the account of the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26 and verse 42: 'He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done'. It says there, 'the second time'. Then verse 44: 'And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words'. He had prayed those words once, He had prayed them twice, He prays them now the third time and the point is simply this: that the Lord Jesus Christ was a persevering pray-er.

I want you to grasp this today, this is no church father we're talking about, this is no reformer, this is no revivalist, this is the blessed Son of God - and He prays, three times, the same thing. What does persevering prayer mean? It means this, it simply speaks to God and tells God that we mean - we really mean - and want what we're praying for. See if you're willing to hold on to a thing, if you're willing to grab God, if you're willing - like the Lord Jesus Christ said in Luke 18 verse 1: 'Men ought always to pray and not to faint' - to stand there in prayer before God until the sweat drops from you, until the strength dries from your very veins, crying upon God like Jacob: 'I will not let Thee go until Thou bless me' - that is persevering prayer! To wrestle, to wrestle with God.

I want you to grasp this today, this is no church father we're talking about, this is no reformer, this is no revivalist, this is the blessed Son of God - and He prays, three times, the same thing...

There's a story that's told of two monks in St. Catherine's monastery, near Mount Sinai in  Egypt. And twelve centuries ago those two monks vowed a vow of silence to one another, simply for this reason: to devote their lives perpetually to adoration, and to petition to the God of heaven. They were chained to one another through a cell. Think of it! As young men they vowed this vow that they would not speak but only to God - and through this cell this chain came and it chained unto their wrists, and whenever one needed to sleep and had finished praying he would tug the chain and the other would feel it and he would begin praying. And for all their lives they spent in prayer, until they died and their last request was that they would stay in those chains. And you can go today and visit their skeletons still in chains!

Now I'm not going to analyse the morality and the theology of that - but all I want to ask you this morning is this, do you not admire their devotion? Do you not? What drives a man or a woman to give their life over to prayer in such a way - whether they do it in sincerity, or whether they do it wrongly, or whatever it may be - what makes them do it? They're persevering pray-ers. When God visited the Moravians - who were a religious organisation and community - in the early days when God came in blessing upon them, what they did was they recognized and they appointed two prayer bands, one of men and the other of women. And there were 24 women and 24 men appointed - and one man and one woman out of each of those groups was assigned to an hour of the day, and they set apart those people, and continually for 100 years, two groups of those Moravians prayed over every hour, every minute, every second of every day. That's persevering prayer! Do you know what the result of that was? The revolution that we heard this morning from Raymond - the French Revolution - it was about to spread into England but those prayers stemmed it. Why? Because those prayers gave birth to two men, John and Charles Wesley, who were used of God to revive sweepingly over England and even across into America, the breath of God. What happened? The Moravian Church, through Moravian missionaries, was multiplied three times same as their home church that they had left. Why? Because they were persevering pray-ers!

'But I can't get out of my bed in the morning, I take the extra minutes. I can't cut my social life, I can't cut the amount of hours I watch the television, the things I read, the sport I play - not that they are wrong - but they will not, and I will not let prayer encroach upon my life!'. Is that not what we are like?

My friends, I am looking smack into my own face this morning and I think that I'm looking into yours and all I'm doing is asking us to rethink this again - to look at our Lord Jesus Christ and to ask the question, ought we not to be like Him? He prayed perseveringly, He prayed earnestly, Luke 22:44 says: 'He sweat as it were great drops of blood'. Earnest prayer! Fervent prayer! Bunyan said, 'The best prayers have often more groans than words'. Why? Because sometimes what is in our heart - if God gives us a burden - cannot be put into words, and we groan to God. And isn't it great that God loves prayers like that, simply because He is a God who searches the heart, not searches the mouth. Do we, do we pray earnestly?

What is earnest prayer? I want to read you a story written by Dr. Wilbur Chapman, and he wrote this to a friend in a letter, he said this: 'I have learned some great lessons concerning prayer. At one of our missions in England the audience was exceedingly small, but I received a note saying that an American missionary was going to pray for God's blessing to come down upon our work, the man's name was 'Praying Hyde'. Almost instantly', he says, 'the tide was turned, the hall became packed, and at my first invitation fifty men accepted Christ as their Saviour. And as we were leading out of the building I said, 'Mr. Hyde I want you to pray for me'. He came to my room' - listen to this! - 'he turned the key in the door and he dropped to his knees. And he waited five minutes without a single syllable coming from his lips and', he says, 'I could hear my own heart thumping and his beating. I felt hot tears running down my face, I knew I was with God. Then, with upturned face, while the tears were streaming he said, 'Oh, God'. Then for five minutes, at least, he was still again. And then, when he knew that he was talking with God, there came from the depths of his heart such petitions for me as I had never heard before, and I rose from my knees to know what real prayer was'.

My friends this morning, this is the Lord Jesus Christ who did no wrong, who knew no wrong, who learned obedience in His self through the pain that He had to bear - yet we think that we can get away without prayer!

My question, as we close this morning, is this: Do you know what real prayer is? The fourth, and last, question. Where He prayed, when He prayed, how He prayed, why He prayed. John chapter 5 and verse 30 we read this, listen, I want you to grasp this! This is the eternal Son of God speaking, this is the second person of the blessed holy Trinity, this is the One who set the stars in space, the One who named the stars! And in John 5 and verse 30 he says this: 'I can of my own self, do nothing'. I can't enter into the magnanimity of that, I can't enter into the humility of that - that Christ could do nothing! He couldn't do anything! So much so, that He had to spend His life resting in prayer, the only break that He could get from the work was to pray to God - for He knew that if He didn't pray to God, His work, even as the Christ, would come to nothing. My friends this morning, this is the Lord Jesus Christ who did no wrong, who knew no wrong, who learned obedience in His self through the pain that He had to bear - yet we think that we can get away without prayer! I can't do it, you can't do it, because Christ couldn't do it.

There's a story that's told of African missionaries who went out to tell the Gospel to those who were dying in their sins, pagans. And there was a great revival that broke out within that little township and what happened was simply this - they didn't have a church to go to pray in - but what they used to do was they all, each individual little African Christian, used to walk to their own little 'cathedral' in the forest, and there they waited upon God. But as they walked, day by day, to their little temple - with the trees, and the flowers, and the birds of the air - each one would walk a little trail in the long grass. And day by day, morning by morning, evening by evening as they walked, continually, they trampled down this trodden path in the long grass. Do you know what used to happen? Whenever a brother was not praying, whenever he had backslidden a little, whenever he had grown cold, one brother used to say to another: 'Brother, your grass is growing'. Is our grass growing? Do we need, as we close this morning - and I'm sorry for going a few minutes over - as we close, do we need to ask: 'Lord, teach us to pray'?

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, we ask Thee today in our lives, in our homes, in our assembly here, Lord: teach us to pray. Amen.

Don't miss Part 2 of 'A Short Series On Prayer': "Answers And Prayer"

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Transcribed by
Judith Watkins for
Preach The Word.
September 2000
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his short series on Prayer, titled "The Lord And Prayer" - Transcribed by Judith Watkins, Preach The Word.

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