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How to Pray, part 2

Let’s pose another basic question about prayer. And that is…

Who can pray?

The simple answer is that if we are talking about prayer in general, anybody can pray. All the heathen and all the pagans pray to their pantheons of gods, goddesses, nature spirits and whatever other illusions the mind of man dreams up.

But keeping the question in the bounds of Christianity, we answer that all Christians not only can pray, but it is also the duty of all Christians to pray. It tells us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that God gave gifts to the church in the form of special callings upon certain people to be apostles, and others to be prophets; and some, evangelists; and some to be pastors and some to be teachers.

There is often some overlap among these giftings. For example, many pastors are also teachers. At the outset of this ministry, I was ordained a pastor. But I came to realize that my major calling is as a teacher.

Pastors are primarily concerned with and intimately involved with ministering to a church body in a local community. Although we at SKM have two tiny fellowships (in eastern Tennessee and another in central Georgia), it is simply not practical geographically, nor possible time-wise for me to be a typical pastor to these beloved brethren.

Not all Christians are called to these ministries in a full-time commitment, but all are called to pray. And whereas sometimes it is a good idea for a pastor or teacher to have special training in languages, hermeneutics, church history and so forth; there is no special training required to be able to pray. Praying is everyone’s gift and privilege.

This is not to say that every Christian is automatically an effective prayer warrior. There are certainly numerous things we can learn in order to improve our praying, not only to be more effective in seeing results, but in being more pleasing to God as we perfect our prayer life.

We mentioned that prayer is the duty of the Christian. We support that here with two or three out of literally dozens of passages that could also be referenced.

Psalm 105:1 O give thanks unto the LORD (YHWH); call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.

4 Seek the LORD (YHWH), and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Luke 21: 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

This is not the time to go into a discussion of eschatology to determine whether these things being referred to by Jesus in Luke 21 are for the time period around 70 A.D. or if they are still future, but just as an important incidental remark—

Did you notice that Jesus not only exhorts us to be people who pray, but he begins by commanding us to watch, to be aware of what’s going on.

You and I know that there are so many Christians who think that since they’re saved, that therefore, all they have to do is pray, go to church, help get others saved, and wait for the rapture rocket to take them to heaven.

They have no concerns or interest in what is going on in the schools, the culture, and especially the government, although, praise God!…that is now beginning to change markedly, at least since the election” of 2020 and our subsequent national moral spiral of decline.

But I believe that Jesus was commanding us to watch, to observe, to be aware of what is going on in the affairs of state, and among nations, and even in weather patterns. What is most interesting is that Jesus seems to imply that those who do watch, who are aware and who pray, might be accounted worthy to escape. But escape in what manner or way remains to be seen.

Now of course, those who believe in the typical rapture theories of the futurists; they do think they will escape, and because of that, they then turn right around and have no interest at all in watching and observing so-called secular affairs: nation against nation, wars, earthquakes, etc. It’s really kind of a paradox, isn’t it?

Here below are two artists’ renditions of what the altar of incense may have looked like. We found these in old books and used them as overhead transparencies in our lecture series entitled The Tabernacle in the Wilderness back in the 1990s.

At the outset of this lecture, we have alluded to the fact that the altar of incense which represents prayers, praises, and intercession, is the closest item of furniture to the Ark of the Covenant, so let’s now look at…

The importance of prayer

From its prominent central location in the Holy Place, from the golden altar’s proximity to the Ark, to the Shekinah-Presence of God, we can see symbolically that prayer has great significance.

We have seen that prayer is a duty of all believers. From these two facts alone, we can conclude that prayer must be very important. Here’s where I want your help. Aside from those two reasons, can we come up with some other reasons why prayer is important?

[Audience provided answers, but were not recorded here.]

Here’s another thought why prayer is important. It is important to us, certainly; but it is also important to our Father. And according to your responses, then we have seen a few reasons why it is important to us: He provides our needs and some of our desires above and beyond our basic needs.

But it is important from God’s perspective as well. Our Father has a Master Plan for man. He’s been working out that Plan over thousands of years, probably thousands of millennia!

Some people think that since God already has everything already worked out that we don’t need to do anything. Well, that is not true, because the Plan that He devised includes our participation. He designed that Plan so that He won’t go into action until His people beg and beseech Him to do so.

We have an example of that going on these past few months. There is a horrible drought going on in some of our southern states, including right here in Georgia, and also out in Oklahoma and Texas and elsewhere in the country. You see, God knows how to put the squeeze on us, doesn’t He? (Remember, this lecture was first presented in August 2009.)

I saw on the national news a couple weeks ago how one town in Texas and the surrounding ranches were in desperate trouble. The folks in the town were obviously mostly Christian and the news report showed how they mounted a vigorous prayer campaign beseeching the Lord for rain.

We do not believe that our God is some kind of ogre who takes fiendish delight in putting the squeeze on His people just because He is mean or wants to show us who’s boss.

No, he is a loving Father. Sometimes a father who truly loves his children will have to use the principle of tough love. Our heavenly Father has to bring us to our knees, literally, so that we will repent of our wickedness and call out to Him for mercy… and rain.

That’s the way He devised the Master Plan. He doesn’t really need our prayers as though He were impotent without them, but He has simply designed it so that the prayers of His people are the signal, the catalyst which will cause Him to move and make changes—in this case, in the weather patterns.

We all know—because we are all given to the same shortcoming—that when it comes to prayer, that there’s nothing like a good crisis in our life to re-energize our prayer life.

It seems to be a universal instinct. Whenever there is a serious crisis whether in our family, the town, the nation, or the world; we then pray with more zeal and fervency than we have for probably many months or years before that. Let us now move on to examine…

The power of prayer

Here again I want the help of you in this live audience. I would like at least some of you to participate by telling me some examples of the power of prayer in your life or those of your friends and loved ones.

Before we begin with that, I remind you that I have my typical length message to present to you today, and the length of the cassette tape is limited, so I want to ask you, [grinning] I beg you, I beseech you, I pray you, please avoid the details and just give us a brief summary.

Let me give you an example from my own life. Now I could easily take 15 minutes to tell you all the details of this story and you would have a much greater appreciation by hearing all the details of how God worked in my life, but here’s the summary.

When I was beginning this ministry full-time in 1991, we were in desperate need of a car and we had no money to buy one, not even enough for a down payment, nor could we afford to make payments, even if we had a down payment. I went to our Father and told Him our need. The very next day, an elderly gentleman friend who lived only about 20 miles away called me to say he was in his mid-90s then, and he could no longer drive, so would I like to have his 1966 Chevy Malibu.

[We again did not record the audience responses in the manuscript. But we welcome the responses of those who wish to share in the Comments section in the Mighty Network posting of this blog. ]

We’ve mostly been giving examples of the power of prayer in personal and family situations—which is what I asked for—but let me close this segment by sharing a couple of examples of the power of group prayer. The first one is an illustration I gave to another minister a few years ago, and I know he used it in one of his messages; and so I hope it’s not a repeat for too many of you, but it’s a true story and it goes like this:

Several years ago there was a certain small town in Kansas which prided itself in the fact that they had no liquor stores. Eventually, however, an enterprising fellow with a sharp eye for a fast buck came along and built a night club right on the main street.

Members of the town’s leading church became so disturbed over this sinful intrusion that they conducted several prayer meetings for the specific purpose of beseeching God to destroy that den of iniquity” which had come to blight their community. A short time later, lightning struck the night club and it was completely destroyed.

Upon hearing what the church people had been praying for, the owner sued for damages. His attorney claimed that their prayers had caused the loss. The church, on the other hand, hired an attorney to contest the suit, claiming that they had nothing to do with the night club’s destruction.

When the case came to trial before a judge, it was thrown out because lightning is legally considered an act of God.” However, the trial judge, in writing his opinion, had a few interesting things to say about the church people:

It is the opinion of this court that, wherever the blame may lie for the fire, the night club owner is apparently the one who believes in prayer, while the church members do not.”

Interesting observation, isn’t it? And it ought to put many of us to shame for not believing like we ought to in our own situations.

Here’s another illustration of the power of corporate prayer, and I can assure you that each of the fellows praying this one definitely believed it. Psalm 91 begins, He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” and then proceeds to describe how God will protect those who put their trust in Him, and it concludes: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him, with long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”

During the battles of WW I in Europe, the soldiers of the 91st brigade agreed to recite the 91st Psalm—the soldiers’ psalm on a daily basis. The 91st Brigade was engaged in three of the bloodiest battles of the war: Chateau Thierry, Belle Wood and the Battle of the Argonne.

While other units who were engaged in those battles suffered up to 90% casualties, the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat-related casualty.

Finally, I want to relate a story of the power of group prayer from my own experience. My family and I drove from North Carolina to Colorado in August of 1992 to attend a week-long family Bible camp where I was also slated to do some teaching.

The theme of the camp was Victorious Faith” and we were provided with several pop quizzes by our heavenly Father. Early in the week as the 500 or so campers assembled for orientation, a man in the assembly rose to announce that Hurricane Andrew was predicted to wreak great destruction on the southeast coast of Florida. He requested and we all joined together to beseech the Father’s divine protection for the man and his wife’s home, which was a houseboat in the marina at Ft. Lauderdale.

The next day, our Christian brother reported that he had somehow managed to get through on the phone to a neighbor who told him that although there was great destruction and damage to many, if not most of the boats, our brother’s houseboat had come through unscathed and intact.

Some of you readers here in 2024 may have been among the 500 or so who remember that in 1992, anyone? But you may not have known the outcome of the next request, because the outcome was not known until many Bible campers had gone home.

We had no sooner thanked Father than when another brother requested the assembly’s prayers for the protection of his home and business in Lafayette, Louisiana. By this time, Hurricane Andrew had already crossed Florida, gone partway across the gulf of Mexico and turned north heading into Louisiana.

At the time of this second prayer request, Andrew was headed on a course to hit Lafayette head on. But we prayed and Father answered again in a most dramatic way.

Because later, on our way back home to NC, we saw in our hotel room a TV weather report wherein I saw the satellite photos which showed the path which Hurricane Andrew had taken across Louisiana.

It was absolutely astonishing to see what Father did! It showed how 15 miles south of Lafayette, Hurricane Andrew turned 90 degrees and headed east, then made another 90 degree turn and headed due north again, completely bypassing Lafayette! According to the weather reporters, this kind of hurricane behavior was bizarre and unprecedented!

Need I say? …that all 500 campers had received a vivid object lesson in the power of prayer from witnessing at least one of the miraculous deliverances!

(To be continued.)

-END-

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