Prayer is the most important exercise that we as God’s children can engage in. More than preaching, more than teaching, more than singing, more than giving, more than going, more than any other thing - we must pray, and pray again, and pray some more. Prayer is the fuel that makes the car go, and apart from a continual supply of it we will soon find ourselves and our ministries with gas-tanks empty, stranded on the side of the life’s treacherous road.
We began our video-based sermon series “When God’s People Pray” two weeks ago by establishing that it is God’s desire for us to “call upon His name”. God wants us to practice prayer; to continually, fervently seek His face. The Bible assures us that God is not reluctant or hesitant to answer us, but rather longs to give us the best that He desires for us. God’s heart is for us. The prerequisite is that we ask.
Last week we saw the powerful testimony of a man who was far from God. Then one day, the LORD led a Christian woman to him who prayed with him there in the moment. She prayed urgently, humbly, and out loud so that he could hear and experience her cries. Her petition set things in motion in such a way that years later he came to Christ, still remembering the words that she’d prayed. We too must have the courage to seize opportunities to pray with others.
This morning’s message is called “The Amazing Power of Prayer”. We all know that prayer can be extremely powerful, but what makes it so? Why do some seem to have a more powerful prayer life than others? What role does the Holy Spirit play in prayer? We will seek to answer these questions and more as we study God’s word today.
DVD TEACHING SEGMENT (video not available online)
I. LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY (LIKE YOU DO)
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” - Luke 11:1
What an amazing thing it must have been to be one of the 12 apostles! For over three years they walked with Jesus every day and listened to His every word. They heard Him deliver the “Sermon on the Mount”. They saw Him perform countless miracles and wonders. They sat with Him around cozy campfires and listened as He taught. What they experienced defies our comprehension.
Yet, seeing all that He did, the one thing that the disciples wanted to know from Jesus was how to pray. They didn’t ask how to preach, how to lead, how to do miracles, how to sing choruses, how to overcome obstacles, or any other such thing… they asked that He’d teach them to pray. Why? Why would the disciples make such a seemingly bizarre request?
Could it be that they understood that the source of Jesus’ power and authority was His connection to the Father through prayer? Time and time again in the gospels we find Jesus in prayer. And it was these times of prayer that gave authority to His speech, gave influence to ministry, and gave strength to His activity. If the disciples ever hoped to become the great men of God they dreamed of becoming, it would boil down to one thing… their ability to pray effectively.
II. PRAYER IS MADE POSSIBLE BY WORKING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:26-27
It does not matter how many books we read on the topic, how many sermons we hear about it, or even how many religious courses we take to study it - Paul is clear when he states that “we do not know how to pray as we should.” If anyone could know how to pray it would have been the Apostle Paul, yet he confesses his complete inability to pray as God desires. How could it be that a man such as Paul would be unable to pray rightly?
The truth is that none of us can “pray as we should”. As human beings, we are carnal creatures living in a physical reality. But prayer is a spiritual enterprise that transcends our present reality. The spiritual nature of prayer makes it impossible for fallen creatures such as ourselves to pray effectively apart from the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly why the Holy Spirit comes along beside us to intercede for us and with us in accordance with the will of God.
When our prayers do not invoke the help and the direction of the Holy Spirit, they are often self-centered or misguided. Such prayers are feeble and weak. Effectual prayer - the kind that produces results - is spirit-led, not person-led. Apart from the integral working of the Holy Spirit, our prayers are seriously hindered.
III. GOD’S WORK IS ACCOMPLISHED AS HE POURS OUT HIS SPIRIT
And He said to them... “for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” - Matthew 17:20
Each of us face mountains throughout our lives. Perhaps yours is an incurable, terminal disease. Perhaps it is a wayward child. Perhaps it is an unrelenting addiction. Whatever your mountain is, it can seem completely immovable. And in and of yourself, you are way too weak and hopelessly unable overcome it. Yet Jesus teaches us to pray that these mountains some how step aside. If not by our own efforts, then from what source will the power come to move them?
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” - Zechariah 4:6-7
The power of God - the mighty strength that can level the mountains before us - is found through the work of the Holy Spirit. As the LORD pours out His spirit upon us, seemingly impossible victories are won. God’s power is channeled through the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit who causes insurmountable obstacles come crashing down before our very eyes.
The Holy Spirit is the divine Person through whom God powerfully answers our prayers. The Holy Spirit is also the divine Person through whom we offer our prayers. In other words, He helps us to ask while already knowing the answers to the questions. He groans on our behalf, and then responds to His own groanings with the provisions we need. The Holy Spirit is active both at the beginning and at the ending of prayer, intimately involved in the petitions from us and the responses to us. As we pray in the spirit, God answers through the Spirit!
“Oh Father, teach us to pray. Beyond that, help us when we pray. May our prayers be shaped by the Holy Spirit, that we might pray as we ought. May they be directed by the Holy Spirit, that they would be consistent with Your perfect will. May they be empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we would see mountains moved. Oh LORD, teach us to pray like Jesus did. Amen.”