Saturday, October 20, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really Pray

“Real Christians Really Pray”
Real Christians
October 21, 2007
Matthew 6:5-15

This Fall, we have been learning what it means to be Real Christians.

Honest-to-goodness, sincere, authentic, true-to-life, Real Christians.

We’ve learned that:

Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel. That’s where it all starts.
Real Christians Really Love God. Once His enemies, now seated at His table.
Real Christians Really Love People. Even their enemies!
And Real Christians Are On a Real Mission, Making Real Disciples.

In other words, Real Christians have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ that changes every area of their lives.

And today, we’re going to talk about a key part of that relationship–talking.

Talking with God.

Today, we’re going to learn about that communication with God that we call, “prayer.”


If that sounds basic, and that’s because it is. We’re back-to-basics this Fall. And one of the basics of Christianity is Christian prayer.

Real Christians Really Pray.

Jesus taught about prayer quite a bit. And one of the most important teachings He ever gave, is found right here in Matthew chapter 6, verses 5 through 18.

Let’s read it and see what He has to say. Matthew chapter 6, starting in verse 5.

[scripture reading, prayer]

Jesus understands human nature, doesn’t He?!

He knows what we are like!

In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, what God’s righteous rule is like, what it’s all about.

What Real Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are like: Real Christians.

And here in these verses, Jesus contrasts Real Christians with fake ones. Hypocrites.

A hypocrite is someone who says that they are one thing but are really another.

In this case, someone who claims to be a godly person, but is only doing it for show.

Verse 5 again. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

Fake Christians may pretend to pray, but they don’t really pray.

Real Christians really pray.

Fake Christians put on a good show. So, it’s not always easy to tell if someone is real or fake.

But the real kind prays in secret. V.6

“But when you pray, [Real Christian,] go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Real Christians really pray. Do you pray?

J.I. Packer has said, “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we could ever face.”

In other words, our prayer life is a clear indicator of whether or not we are Real Christians.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne said it like this, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

That’s very convicting for me.

“What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”

I confess that being a praying man is one of if not the hardest thing about being a Christian for me personally.

But I recognize the truth of this statement: Real Christians Really Pray. And that’s why I return again and again prayer.

Real Christians Really Pray. Are you a Real Christian?

Now, it’s important to note that lots of people pray who aren’t Christians.

Muslims pray, Hindus pray, Jews pray, and so forth.

Jesus knew that, too. V.7

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Jesus knew that nonChristians pray, too.

Here he points out that their prayers are often full of babbling and endless, mindless repetition.

But there is a difference between pagan prayer and Christian prayer.

And the difference is one of relationship.


“Do not be like [the pagans], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Muslims don’t pray to God as Father.

God is Allah. To be submitted to and feared.

But Christians, Real Christians, have been adopted by God into His family because of what Jesus did on the Cross. We have become God’s own children! And therefore, our prayers are marked by relationship.

That is amazing!

We can pray because of the gospel!

We have access to God because of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians chapter 2, verse 18. “For through [Jesus we] have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

What Jesus did on the Cross opened up access between us and the Father.

We now call Him Father and are invited [and required!] to pray to Him as Father.

And that makes all the differences for our prayers. Real Christians Relate to God as Their Father. If you never really pray, then you aren’t a real Christian.

And here’s how Real Christians pray. V.9

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

I call this, the “Lord’s Model Prayer.”

It’s not really the Lord’s Prayer, because He wouldn’t have prayed all of the things in this, like: “forgive us our debts.”

But it is the model that the Lord gave us. So, it’s the Lord’s Model Prayer.

It’s model, not just to be prayed itself, but to teach us HOW to pray for ourselves.

Notice that it begins with relationship.

“Our Father in heaven...”

Do you sometimes wonder where to start when it comes to prayer?

I’ve noticed that some people have a hard time praying in a group because they don’t know where to start.

Start here. Reaffirm your relationship with God.

“Father. Daddy. Father. Dad.”

I like to say that prayer is simple. Think about whom you are talking to and then share your heart.

Don’t be flippant. This is God you’re speaking to. This is Your Father.

He’s in Heaven! But He is your Father. So talk to Him.

“...Hallowed be your name...”

This is adoration for Who God is and how holy He is. It is recognizing the Godness of God.

Too often, we run right into our requests. But this model prayer reminds us to start with Who God is.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.”

“...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This is a reminder that we need to pray for God’s will. For what God wants to be become a reality.

The amazing thing is that God wants to use our prayers to effect His will in the world!

Sometimes, we think that because God is sovereign, there is no need for us to pray.

But the truth is that [mysteriously!] God works out His sovereign plans through our prayers.

That’s part of how He does it!

“...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Real Christian prayers are kingdom prayers. They are ministry prayers. They want what God wants.

How is God’s will done in heaven?

How obedient are the angels?

God’s Will is done immediately. Perfectly. Gladly. Joyously. With no hesitation or deviance.

This is a prayer that God’s commands would be carried out by God’s people–especially by the one praying this prayer!

Did you ever think about how if you’re going to ask for things, you’ve got to be willing to be used for the answer?

But it’s not just the big things that we pray about it. It’s the small, every day items, too. V.11

“Give us today our daily bread.”

We pray for our needs. We pray for physical things like healing and provision, for jobs–for the nitty-gritty real things of life.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that our daily needs are too little for God to care about.

I had to send in my computer for repair a couple of weeks ago. And I asked the board to pray for me as I was without my computer for over a week.

Now, that’s not a big thing. Though I might have acted like a big baby about it!

It’s a small thing. But there isn’t anything too small to pray about.

And every request is answered.

Did you know that?

Every prayer request prayed by a Real Christian is answered.

Sometimes, it’s “Yes.” Sometimes, it’s “No.” And sometimes, it’s “Wait.”

We never get a busy signal. We always get through. And we always get an answer. The best one for us.

When Heather and I began praying for some land to build a house on, we got specific in our prayers. We had a list of 5 things we were looking for:

1. Land within 3 miles of the church campus.
Our house is just over a mile away!

2. Land in the West Branch School District.
Which of course was solved by the answer to #1.

3. At least 3 acres of land so that the kids had space to run around on.
We got to buy 5 and 1/3 acres.

4. We wanted a wooded lot.
We now have lots of trees to enjoy.

5. We wanted land that was north of Route 80.
And we now live a few hundred yards SOUTH of Route 80.

God said yes to 4, and no to 1. And He was right. Not us.

Of course, North or South of 80 doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

What about your important prayer request that you’ve prayed for years and years and God doesn’t seem ready to answer?

God is answering. Every time you pray....Sometimes, it’s not a NO answer. Sometimes, the answer is “wait, not now.” Wait, my child.

Have you ever said something like that you your children?

“Daddy knows what you want. And Daddy also knows what is best for you. And because Daddy loves you, He is going to ask you to wait for that.”

God always answers our prayers. But the answer is not always exactly what we want.

Of course, our physical needs aren’t as important as our spiritual ones. And we’re to pray for both. V.12

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Here are our spiritual needs: pardon and protection.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This is a reminder that we need regular confession of sin to stay current with God.

Our sins are paid for by the Cross, but we receive that regular assurance of forgiveness and steady stream of cleansing by confessing our sins. Pardon.

And protection. “...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

You know that Real Christians are in a Real Battle, don’t you?!

And we need Real Protection! “Deliver us from the evil one.”

Is prayer for spiritual protection a normal part of your prayer life?

Did you notice how personal these prayer requests are?

I’ve heard Christians say that they never pray for themselves. Just for other people. That praying for themself would be selfish.

But they don’t understand how needy they are. Real Christians Are Real Needy of Real Prayer!

Yes, we pray for God’s will to be done in the world and for others. Intercession is a huge ministry of prayer.

But we also pray for daily bread, daily forgiveness, and daily spiritual protection.

Real Christians Really Pray.

I’d to make this message really practical by ending with 11 points of practical application.

I don’t think that I had to work hard to convince you that Real Christians Really Pray.

But we could all agree with that and then not be changed by it very much. So I want to offer 11 points of practical application for us to consider this week.

#1. Trust Jesus for Access to the Father.

If you don’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord, you don’t know God as your Father.

You can’t say, “Our Father.”

But there is no reason why you can’t turn from your sins now and trust in the Savior.

Right here, right now, you can believe the saving Gospel of grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and be saved.

And if you do, you will become adopted.

And, then, you can really pray.

Tell God right now that you want to turn from your own way and trust in what Jesus did on the Cross on your behalf.

Tell Him that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised to life to give you new life. And that you want God as your Father.

And then #2. Thank Jesus for Access to the Father.

I don’t think we are thankful enough for what God has done through Jesus. We need to be Cross-Centered people who are overwhelmed with how we have been loved.

Every day, we need to be thanking Jesus for providing our access to the Father.

And then #3. Use Your Access to the Father!

Pray. Really pray. Don’t just pretend for show. Don’t just babble on like a pagan.

But pray. Really pray.


#4. Evaluate Your Current Prayer Life.

Where are you weak? Where are you strong?

Use the Lord’s Model Prayer. Are you praying the kinds of things we just went over?

How often?

Are you just praying for yourself and not for others?

Are you just praying for others and not yourself?

Are you praying Kingdom Come kinds of prayers or just Daily Bread?

Are you praying just Kingdom Come and not Daily Bread?

Evaluate your current prayer life.

I guarantee that noone here will be completely satisfied with where they are at.

That’s okay. But where has God met you in your prayer life? What is going well?

And what do you need to work on?

#5. Make a Plan to Really Pray.

Henry Ford said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

And that’s really true with prayer, isn’t it?

Have you ever noticed how prayer is one of those things that is easily forgotten?

I often forget that I’m praying when I’m praying!!!

So, we’ve got to plan for it.

When, where, what.

Make an appointment with God. I’ve said that a lot this Fall. We all need it.

When is your next appointment with God?

Where will it be?

What are you planning to talk about?

What’s on your prayer list?

Get a prayer list. I have several that I use. One is a list of all of the Fish Cards that we are praying for.

When, where, what.

Make a plan to really pray.

Here it said to do it in secret. That doesn’t necessarily mean that no one else knows when it will happen. Maybe you need an accountability partner for this.

Someone who will ask how many times you have prayed this week.

The key is to not do it for them! That’s the hard thing. You have to do it FOR the One who is unseen and is in the secret place with you.

But plan to do it!

I’ve begun to receive coaching from Super Jeff Powell on intentional living. And one of the requirements is a monthly prayer and planning retreat.

I’ll be praying for you on my next retreat which will be a week from Tuesday. On the 30th. It’s really helpful to me that I’ve announced that time and will be accountable to Super Jeff for that time.

It’s a plan. We’ve got to make plans to really pray and start right away.

On the flip side, #6. Live Your Life on Speakerphone.

It’s not enough to plan to really pray and then pray at those times. We need to be praying all the time!

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to “Pray continually.”

And when we get up in the morning, we need to hit the button for speakphone for our thoughts and heart, opening them up to God, and then to have a running dialog with Him all day long.

Here’s the other side to that, #7. Pray Out Loud Whenever You Can.

One of the best practical things I’ve ever learned is to pray out loud. It makes it so much more real to me when I pray out loud.

Praying in my heart is fine, on one level, but it’s so easy to get distracted, and for it to seem unreal.

If we want to be Real Christians who Really Pray, I think we ought to pray out loud, verbalizing our prayers as often as we can.

If you don’t want to do that when you are alone, fine. But I would ask myself why I don’t want to.

#8. Pray with Other Christians.

Real Christians pray in groups.

Come on Wednesday nights. We have about dozen people who pray and have a great time together.

Join a Link Group that prays. Every one of our Link Groups spend time praying together every week.

Sign up for the Prayer Phone Tree or the Email Prayer Broadcast.

Get a prayer partner. Do the 10 Second Prayer with other people here at church.

Here’s the biggest one: Pray with your family. Pray as a family.

If you are married, pray with your spouse. Out loud.

Heather and I say that every meeting with a couple we are taking through pre-marital counseling. Every meeting.

If you are married, pray with your spouse. Out loud.

I would doubt if anyone gets divorced if they are in the habit of doing that every day with their spouse.

#9. If you are able, actually get on your knees.


Let me show you. [Kneel]

Does this communicate humility, or what?

This is bowing before God.

It’s the opposite of rubbing a genie’s lamp and telling God what to do.

It is recognizing Who God is, “hallowed be your name.”

And it will help you to remember what you are doing as you pray.

I don’t do this enough. I’ve been learning to pray as I walk.

But I need more of this.

#10. Study Prayer.

Learn more about prayer. You do that by praying. That’s the best way.

The second best way is to learn by other people’s prayers.

I have several books that I recommend on the subject of prayer. Some of them are actually books filled with prayers that you can learn by praying.

My wife’s favorite is called the “Valley of Vision.” It’s a funky name, but a great book. I commend it to you.

E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murary, D.A. Carson, Bing Hunter, John Piper, Henry Blackaby. These all have good books that you can read and learn more about prayer.

And then, #11. Get Ready for Answers.

Because when Real Christians Really Pray, God Really Answers.

“Your Father, who sees what is do in secret, will reward you” (V.6).

Our family just finished reading a book about George Muller.

George Muller was a Real Christian who lived in the 19th century.

And he ran orphanages for British children.

He ran them on prayer.

He prayed for everything: money, food, clothes, buildings, everything.

He never asked for anything from others except for prayer.

And God provided in amazing miraculous ways.

The five orphanage buildings he built cost 100,000 pounds! And every dime was given to him as an answer to prayer.

Sometimes they didn’t know where the next meal was going to come from, and all of those little mouths to feed!

But they would pray. Sometimes, sitting at the table with no food in the kitchen.

And then, there would be a knock at the door. And someone would “just happen” to be coming through with a whole mess of food that had to get eaten.

When Real Christians Really Pray, God Really Answers.