Sermon:  Make the Most of Prayer


Summary:  Prayer is nothing more than communicating with God, which is not about position, posture, a spoken formula, or a performance.  It is about aligning yourself with God's will by asking God for what is most important, which is wisdom to live the Christian life in whatever circumstance you are in


Text: Various


Scripture Reading:  Eph 3:14-21



1.  Last year - Barna Research Group - Study on Prayer in America: Vast majority of Americans engage in some kind of prayer activity

a.     4% of those who pray typically pray with a group/others

b.     94% typically pray alone

c.     40% of non-Xn pray to some sort of deity

d.     28% those with no faith, pray to some kind of higher power!

2.  People in all walks of life are compelled to pray

a.     Those who believe in the God of the Bible

b.     Those who claim no faith

c.     People know intuitively that there is a God out there

3.  Q: Am I doing in right?  This thing called prayer

a.     Do I bow? Look up? Open eyes? Close eyes? Kneel? Stand? Claps Hands? Raise Hands?

b.     What do I say?  Do I remain silent? A formula?

c.     How often?  How long?  When?  Where - Chapel? Mountain?

d.     So many questions

4.  More Basic Question:  What is Prayer?

a.     Communication?  I communicate with you…but I don't pray to you

b.     Communication with God has different word - prayer

c.     Why?  Maybe because no one like God in the universe

d.     So we want to learn to pray, make the most of it (Mt 6:5-15)


I. Avoid Prayer God Does not Want

A. Not all kinds of prayer connects with God and pleases him

B. Notice the kinds of prayer Jesus says to avoid

1. Do not pray like the hypocrites

a. Who are the hypocrites - put on a big production

b. Pray in public places, pray aloud

c. People in awe with their beautiful, polished oratory

d. What is most important - How they look & sound

2. Do not pray like the gentiles/pagans

a. What is pagan prayer? Meaningless repetition

b. Think will be heard for their many words

c. If pray long enough, hard enough, enough times

d. If say the right way, the right formula, etc.

3. Jesus says - Don't pray that way

4. Then Jesus gives the "Lord's Prayer" - A model prayer

C. ILL:  Irony is when we do the thing with the Lord's Prayer that Jesus said not to do

1. "Why isn't God doing something? I already said 10 'Our Fathers!'"

a. That is exactly the opposite of what Jesus meant!

2. Even if don’t' say Lord's Prayer, can have same wrong attitude:

a. Phrase that bothers me - "Power of prayer"

i As if prayer in itself is powerful

ii Prayer by itself is just words

iii God is the one who is powerful

b. Another phrase that bothers me - My "prayer life"

i As if my prayer life is different from other parts of life

ii Not just about prayer life, but about my relationship with God

3. What is striking about his prayer compared to others?

a. Its simplicity, its shortness

b. No long ornate words

4. Jesus wasn't giving a formula to recite

a. He did not say, "Pray these exact words"

b. He said, "Pray like this . . . "

D. The way I pray reflects my understanding or misunderstanding of God

1. If I think prayer is about a formula - I misunderstand God

a. It not about a posture or position - We get hung up on this

b. Not about saying the right words/incantation - that's pagan

2. God is not a computer program - Input a code to get it to work

3. God is not like that


II. Pray to God

A. Put another way - Talk to your Heavenly Father

1. Don't worry about the "right formula"

2. Don't worry about filling the air with words

3. Prayer is addressed to our Heavenly "Father"

a. Not just God, the Almighty, the Creator

b. But, "Father" - Suggests a relationship, nearness

B. Jesus said go to your inner room to pray to the Father

1. ILL:  Reminds me of those special places for prayer

a. ACU - Prayer rooms in the Bible Building

b. York College - Prayer chapel

c. Some Church Buildings - Prayer gardens / rooms

2. Those things are good - but not sure that is what Jesus meant

a. Prayer is not about a place

b. You are a temple of God - you can pray anywhere

3. Jesus is simply saying - Pray, just you and God

a. Not go to temple and perform prayer rituals

b. Not public prayer, choose the right words

c. Just go to private place, talk to God

C. ILL:  Think about how you have a conversation with your spouse

1. What would she think if you wrote a poem for her?

a. What would she think if you recite it to her in public

b. What would she think if everyone gave applause

c. What would she think if you took a bow?

d. What would she think if you started doing autographs?

2. What would she think if you said, "I love you"

a. What would she think if you said it 5, 10, 20, 100 times a day

b. What would she think if you kept count, checked off a list?

c. What would she think if you said, "Why won't you do what I want you to?  I said "I love you" 100 times today!"

3. What does that say about me if I talk to her that way?

a. I don't understand her, don't know her well

b. I don't understand what relationship should be like

c. I have a lot of growing to do

D. Jesus is saying - Just talk to God, just you and him

1. No need to put on a performance

2. No need to fill the air with words

3. Just you and God


III. Pray God's Will

A. This means we pray, "your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven"

1. My home is on earth - Your will be done there

2. I am on earth - Your will be done in my life

B. I believe this may be one of the hardest things for us to learn

1. Think about some of the statements we make:

a. Prayer is powerful

b. Prayer works

2. Is this true?  Does prayer work? - This is the wrong question

a. It betrays the pagan attitude about prayer and God

b. Prayer is not some ritual, incantation to manipulate things

C. ILL:  If we think "prayer works" we will be disappointed

1. Example of Paul's thorn in the flesh

a. Paul prayed earnestly, multiple times

b. Guess what did NOT happen? Removal of the thorn

c. Does prayer work????  Maybe didn't do it right???

2. Example of Jesus in Gethsemane

a. Jesus prayed so hard, sweat drops hitting the ground

b. Prayed to let this cup pass - talking about crucifixion

c. Guess what did NOT happen?  Passing of the cup

d. Does prayer work???? Maybe didn't do it right???

3. Example of Larry in Vermont - Pray for his eyesight

a. Many trips to Dartmouth, treatment for eyes

b. Guess what happened?  He lost his eyesight

c. Does prayer work??? Maybe didn't do it right???

D. "Does prayer work?" - - Wrong question

1. That question betrays a misunderstanding of God and prayer

2. The right question - "Are we prepared for God's answer?"

a. Paul was prepared for God's answer

b. Jesus was prepared for God's answer

c. Even Larry was prepared for God's answer

i He didn't get angry or lose his faith

ii God could have prevented him losing his eyesight

iii For whatever reason, God did not

iv God did not - Because God cares, loves - that's faith

3. Sometimes its hard


IV. Ask God for What is most important

A. Reminds me of Solomon - When he became king - asked for wisdom

1. Didn't ask for wealth, long life, death of enemies - but wisdom

2. Prov 3:14 - Wisdom is more precious than jewels

a. All her ways are peace

b. Nothing you desire can compare to wisdom

3. (James 1:5) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously without reproach

a. Context - Dealing with trials

b. If struggling with wisdom on how to deal with it, ask God

4. We can learn from the prayers of the Bible:

B. (Eph 1:15-23) Notice Paul's big picture prayer

1. Prays for spirit of wisdom and revelation

a. I need wisdom to understand God better

b. Our Lord reveals his will, his goodness, himself at some of the most unexpected places

i Sometimes in the aftermath of the storm

ii Sometimes in the middle of silent prayer

2. Prays that we would know our Lord better

a. Not about me, but about our Lord

b. I want to know him, deepen in relationship with him

3. Prays that our eyes be enlightened

a. This prayer is from someone who has known hardship

b. (2 Cor 11:24-27) Can you imagine?

c. (2 Cor 4:17-18) Paul calls them momentary and light troubles

d. His eyes were enlightened - This is light and momentary!

C. ILL: We learn big picture prayers from prayers of the Bible

1. One of my mentors at Harding, Bill, not often pray for laundry list

2. He explained he took the queue from passages like Eph 3:14-21

3. Pray to comprehend/apprehend/overtake the breadth, length, height, depth

a.  God causes you to overtake what is in front of you

b. He not reduce the height, makes you overtake it

c. ILL: Basketball Goal behind Randy F's house - short

i Randy would dunk the ball - only 6 ft tall!

ii God does not bring the goal down

iii He works on us to overtake the goal!

d. Bill often prayed for us the same way

D. In this way, we can be filled up with all the fullness of God

1. Nothing is more empty than to be full of self - never happy, never at peace, never satisfied

2. Pray for wisdom and revelation, can truly be full

3. ILL:  Song by Melody Green, sung by Keith Green

a. First line:  "Make my life a prayer to you"

b. Not a ritual, not a performance



1.  Do you want your life to be a prayer to God?  (inv)

2.  In the meantime, make the most of prayer