Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHRISTIAN’S PRAYERS”

 

Our Missions Conference begins next week, and it is vital to our church that our church generally, and our Missions Conference specifically, be blessed of God in answer to our prayers. So, my message tonight deals with a Christian’s prayers.

There is nothing terribly complex about prayer, though there are some foundational truths that people sometimes overlook in this terribly confusing world we live in. Therefore, I would like to clear up some of the confusion that well-intentioned people sometimes have about prayer. I have mentioned in many sermons that faith must have an object. Just believing, were such a thing possible, can actually accomplish nothing whatsoever. Properly understood, faith must have an object. You must believe in someone, with that confidence in another being based upon credible evidence. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Hebrews 11.1. In like manner, people sometimes forget that praying is seeking something from someone. Prayer is actually little more than one individual asking another individual for a favor. Thus, when you hear of someone who indicates he has been praying, and when you ask him whom he prayed to, the puzzled look on his face suggesting that he didn’t actually pray to anyone reveals that he does not really understand what prayer is. Prayer is asking someone for something.

For a variety of reasons, because of our upcoming Missions Conference, because of the declining economy and the loss of jobs, because of our inability to accomplish anything for God apart from His provision and blessing (usually in answer to prayer), it is not only important for you to pray, it is also important for you to know some things about what you are doing when you are engaged in prayer.

Therefore, allow me to address that issue in part by contrasting the prayers of the wicked with the prayers of the righteous:

 

First, NOTICE WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE PRAYERS OF THE WICKED

 

The wicked are properly recognized to be those people who do not know Jesus Christ, whose sins have not been forgiven, who are not reconciled to God through the death of His Son, who are still enemies against God by their very nature. You do not have to be a murderer, a liar, a thief, or a fornicator to qualify as wicked, though anyone guilty of those sins certainly is wicked. To fit into the Biblical category of wicked you only need to be in the same spiritual state you were born into, keeping in mind that “God is angry with the wicked every day,” Psalm 7.11.

Recognizing that just about everyone prays, even many who are wicked, what can we learn about the prayers of the wicked using God’s Word as our authoritative source of truth? Three things will suffice for this evening:

First, you need to understand that God has no obligation to hear the prayers of the wicked. How can we be certain of this? Keep in mind that God has no covenant relationship with unsaved people, is opposed by unsaved people who are His enemies, and therefore has no obligation to fulfill toward unsaved people.[1] Psalm 66.18 declares, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” However, also understand that the very next verse reveals, “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.” Does God have a relationship with lost people?[2] No. Are lost people dead in trespasses and sins?[3] Yes. Will God listen to those who regard iniquity in their hearts? No, as Psalm 66.18 declares, not even when a praying Christian is regarding iniquity in his heart. Therefore, though God does hear and answer the prayers of the unsaved when it suits His purpose, He has no obligation to do so. Thus, while every lost person should seek the Lord while He may be found, and should plead with God to deal with him so that he will want to become a Christian and will in fact come to Jesus, it should be sobering to recognize that God has no obligation to hear the prayers of the lost, much less answer those prayers.

Next, it should be no surprise that sin can quickly follow after a lost person’s prayers. Turn to Proverbs chapter seven, and read verses 6-23 with me:

 

6      For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,

7      And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,

8      Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,

9      In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:

10     And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.

11     (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:

12     Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)

13     So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,

14     I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows.

15     Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.

16     I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.

17     I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

18     Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.

19     For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:

20     He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.

21     With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.

22     He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;

23     Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.

 

This passage narrates an incident observed by the inspired storyteller, in which a woman who has given her offerings and paid her vows immediately sets out to seize upon the opportunity afforded by her husband’s absence to conspire to commit sin. Are we to presume she gave her offerings and paid her vows without praying? No, she prayed, all right. However, after she prayed and performed her other religious duties (everything being very superficial, mind you), she felt free to commit sin instead of being encouraged to be holy. Thus, it should be no surprise to anyone that the prayers of a lost man can occasion sinning rather than guard against sinning.

Third, the prayers of the wicked are usually more for public consumption than private benefit. I would not deny that the wicked sometimes pray their prayers in private. After all, the Christian monastic movement, with the word monastic being derived from the Greek word monoV (meaning alone), featured monks who devoted their lives to solitude and prayer. That said, however, the vast majority of those who are wicked but who pray, pray their prayers in public, and for public consumption and to show off, as Jesus illustrated in His parable found in Luke 18.9-12:

 

9      And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10     Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11     The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12     I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

This reminds me of a time I once observed a young woman reputed in her church for her great praying. My friends, anyone can pray in public, and can make a great show of praying in public. After a while, however, that young lady left her church and engaged in terrible sin. As I said, anyone can pray in public for the benefit of others and to make a name for himself. Therefore, though God would have us to pray together on occasion, be mindful that elaborate prayers in public are far less pleasing to God than genuine praying from the heart in private. The prayers of the wicked are not necessarily heard by God, can sometimes be very quickly followed by sin, and may very well be an occasion of showing off to those who overhear, instead of actually approaching God with requests.

 

Now, NOTICE WHAT WE KNOW CONCERNING THE PRAYERS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

The righteous, of course, is not a person who enjoys any personal righteousness of any kind. Rather, a righteous person is someone who possesses the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ, who benefits from the imputed righteousness of Christ. This begins when a sinner comes to Jesus.[4]

Allow me to quickly review some things associated with the prayers of a righteous person, someone who really is a Christian:

First, praying is related to knowing, specifically knowing God more intimately, Proverbs 2.3-6:

 

3      Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;

4      If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

5      Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

6      For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

 

Next, in Jeremiah 29.12, we read, “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.” To be sure, these words were uttered to the Jewish people concerning the end of their captivity. However, the important thing to remember is that these words were spoken to a people with whom God had a relationship. Can the same be said for Christians? Why else would Paul have written to the Thessalonian church, “Pray without ceasing”?[5]

So, Christians’ prayers are heard by God, resulting in knowing God more intimately, and Christians’ prayers are answered. In Matthew 7.7, Jesus promised, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As well, in Matthew 21.22, Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

Fourth, Christians pray intelligently, because we are taught how to pray. In Matthew 6.9-13, Jesus gave us, not a prayer to be repeated again and again, but a pattern to guide our praying:

 

9      After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10     Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11     Give us this day our daily bread.

12     And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13     And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

Fifth, in addition to being given a template for properly ordered prayers, our Lord also provided guidance concerning our attitude when praying. Prayer, after all, is a form of appeal, of requesting, of humbly asking God for something we need and cannot obtain for ourselves, as is illustrated in Matthew 23.12: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” It is appropriate to humbly ask God what you will of Him.

How many of us are actually worthy of God’s blessings? None of us, right? Therefore, when we ask of God, we do not ask for what we deserve. That is really dumb. The sixth thing we learn about praying to God is that when He once taught a parable about prayer, Jesus showed that we who are unworthy properly seek mercy from God, blessings we do not deserve. Luke 18.13: “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Seventh, and this might very pleasantly surprise you, a Christian’s prayer is both authored by the Holy Spirit and the result of the Holy Spirit’s intercession, Romans 8.26-27:

 

26     Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27     And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

 

How exciting it is to know that, despite our pitiful weakness and incompetence, the Spirit of God actually prays on our behalf when we do not know what to say. As well, is it not a great comfort to know that the Spirit of God makes sure that our prayers are always according to the will of God?

Eighth, it is good to know that a Christian’s prayers are authorized by God. Notice what the Christian is bidden to do on the basis of Jesus Christ being the believer’s great high priest. Hebrews 4.16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Finally, for this evening, though I have not exhausted Bible truth on the topic, turn to James 1.5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” God grants wisdom to His children in answer to prayer.

 

Should it surprise you that lost people’s prayers are, for the most part, a fraudulent deception? Should it surprise you that, for the most part, a lost person’s prayers are not likely to be heard by God, except when the sinner is pleading for his own soul? Here is another consideration. Why should God normally answer a sinner’s prayers? Why give a disobedient sinner something he wants, thereby showing him that he can get from God without turning to God’s Son? How likely is God to bless a lost man’s requests while that same lost man refuses God’s Son?

On the other hand, with Christians it is an entirely different matter. The Christian can pray with confidence because he knows God, he knows God’s Son, his prayers are heard, his prayers are answered, he has been taught how to pray, he has the right attitude when praying, he seeks God’s mercy when he prays, the Holy Spirit initiates and intercedes for him in prayer, he is actually authorized to approach God in prayer without being presumptuous, and if he asks he is actually given wisdom by God in answer to prayer.

All of this is made possible by Jesus Christ. None of this is possible without Jesus Christ. Therefore, we recognize that Jesus is the basis for all our praying. He pleases the Father on our behalf, and makes it possible for us to pray in His name.

Come to Jesus, so your sins will be forgiven, so the Father will bid you come to Him in prayer, so the Holy Spirit will make your prayers effective. After all, the prayers of a Christian really are different from the prayers of the unsaved, even if they sound the same when they are uttered.



[1] Ephesians 2.12; Romans 5.10

[2] Ephesians 2.12

[3] Ephesians 2.1

[4] Romans 5.1

[5] 1 Thessalonians 5.17



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org