A Healthy Church Member Is Devoted to Prayer

April 26, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

Finally we have come to the last mark of a healthy church member, which is devoted to prayer. As I said, I am following the chapter headings of the book of Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member. The last mark of a healthy church member in his book is A Prayer Warrior. I will however use the description “devoted to prayer” instead of a prayer warrior and you will see why in a little while.

  Before we look at the last mark, here again are the nine marks of a healthy church member that we have already talked about:  
  1. an Expositional Listener

  2. a Biblical Theologian

  3. Gospel Saturated

  4. Genuinely Converted

  5. a Biblical Evangelist

  6. a Committed Member

  7. Seeks Discipline

  8. A Growing Disciple-maker

  9. A Humble Follower

  Today we will look at the 10th mark, which is devoted to prayer.   Perhaps all genuine Christians will admit that prayer is important and is a vital part of the Christian life. Though everybody recognizes its importance, it is a sad fact that many Christians neglect it and find it a burden and seemingly ineffective. Neglect of prayer is not only true on a personal level but also on a corporate level. In most churches, the least attended gathering is the Prayer Meeting.   Neglect of corporate prayer for a member of a church should be consideredabnormal especially when we survey the activities of the early church and discover that one of the central things the early church members devoted themselves to was prayer.  
  • Ac 1:14[ESV]- All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
  • Ac 2:42 [ESV] - And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • Ac 6:4 [ESV] - But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
  • Ro 12:12 [NASB] - “…devoted to prayer…”
  • Col 4:2 [NASB] - “Devote yourselves to prayer…”
  The early believers were so committed to prayer that Luke described their lifestyle as being devoted to prayer.   I want you to turn back toActs 2:42to highlight an interesting point.  
  • Ac 2:42 - And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  Here, the verse does not just say that the believers devoted themselves to prayer but to “the prayers.”   Take note of the definite article “the” and the plural noun “prayers.” The phrase “the prayers” refers to specified times of prayers that the Jews were accustomed to. What this means is that Luke is reporting that the earliest Christians did just not devote themselves to prayer in general, but that they also committed themselves to attending their scheduled or specific times of prayer.   For example, in Acts 3:1 we read, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.”   It was the habit of the early believers to join the scheduled corporate prayers of God’s people. They did not just attend once in a while but regularly.   Look at that phrase once more, “devoted to prayer” or “devoted to the prayers.” The word “devote” comes from the Greek word proskartereōand it means:  
  • be devoted to
  • hold fast to
  • to busy oneself with
  • be constantly diligent in
  • to be steadfast and faithful to
  • to give unremitting care to
  • pay persistent attention to
  • to persevere and not to faint in
  • to be earnest towards a thing
  And so when we read that the believers were devoted to the prayers it means that they were busily engaged in their times of prayer, they paid persistent attention to them, they were steadfast and faithful to them, they occupied themselves diligently to attending their scheduled prayer gatherings.   They not only attended Sunday services, they attended their prayer meetings. And during that period the place where they held their prayers was the Temple area. And so you read in Acts 2:46, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.”   Note: The ESV uses the word “attending” here,but actually the Greek is proskartereō,the same word that is translated “devoted” in Acts 1:14 and Acts 6:4. This is why the Holman Christian Standard Bible says:   46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house   And so if you want to be a healthy church member you should do as Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”   Healthy church members are devoted to prayer and to “the prayers.” They are constantly diligent in doing their private prayers, but they are also to be steadfast and faithful in attending the scheduled prayers of the church.     One of the reasons why believers are not “devoted” to prayer is because of what we could call the “flat tire mentality.”   This is what I mean.It’s like the attitude of many drivers. Most of them rarely think about their spare tire. But the moment they have a flat tire or a blow out, the first thing that I think about is theirspare tire. They don’t even think about it until the blow out happens.   This is the same attitude most unbelievers have regarding prayer, and sadly, so do many believers. Let me read to you a story that illustrates this:   One night in 1968, the pilot of an airliner bound for New York realized that the landing gear of his jet would not engage. Traveling ever closer to his destination, he continued to work the controls, trying to get the wheels to lock into place, but he had no success. Circling over the airport, he asked the control tower for instructions. The ground crew, responding to the impending crisis, sprayed the runway with foam, and emergency vehicles moved into position. The pilot was instructed to land the plane as best he could.   The passengers were asked to prepare themselves for the worst and to put themselves into crash position. Moments before landing, the pilot announced over the intercom: "We are beginning our final descent. In accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God, you should commence praying." The plane then performed a belly landing, and miraculously, came to a stop with no injury to the passengers.   If that pilot hadn't found himself in a crisis that day, his passengers would never have known about the airline's hidden provision for prayer. But isn't that the way it is for most people? As long as everything's going smoothly, they rarely think about talking to God. But as soon as a situation becomes life or death, they turn to Him for help.   That kind of thinking towards prayer is the"flat‑tire mentality."   Today, I want us to talk about this last mark of a healthy church member by looking at the prayer life of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.   The Gospel of Luke is one of the so-called Synoptic Gospels, which include Matthew, Mark, and Luke.   Synoptic, in Greek, means "seeing or viewing together," and by that definition, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called Synoptic Gospels because they “see together with a common view.” Matthew, Mark and Luke cover many of the same events in Jesus life—most of them from Jesus ministry in Galilee—in similar ways and in much the same order.   But while Matthew, Mark and Luke report many of the same episodes in Jesus' life in similar ways there are dissimilarities also which reveal the distinctive emphases of the separate writers.  
  • Luke emphasized the universal message of the gospel more than the other Gospel writers. Just one example:Luke quotes from Isaiah 40. Matthew also quotes this passage, but Luke includes the words, “And all mankind will see God’s salvation” (3:6).
  • Luke also had great interest in those who were generally held as of no account in the first century: women, children, the poor, and the disreputable.
  • Luke has deep interest in the Holy Spirit.
  • Another key concept for Luke is repentance.(Mt and Mk combined use the word repent or repentance 10x; Luke 13x) Some Bible teachers refer to Luke as the theologian of repentance.
  • Luke also emphasized the place of prayer, especially in the life of our Lord Jesus.
  Luke leaves his readers in no doubt about the importance of prayer in Christian living. The Lord Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”If we are going to be healthy church member, we are to be like Jesus. Here in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is portrayed as one who is devoted to prayer. So we who claim to be disciples of Jesus should also be devoted to prayer as our Master is.   What I intend to do today is simply to survey all of the passages from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus taught on prayer and practiced prayer. Then we will look at some lessons that we learn from the prayer life of Jesus and see how they apply our Christian life today.  

Christ’s Instructions on Prayer

 
  1. Jesus directly taught on prayer (Lk 11:1-13).
  1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “ Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “ When you pray, say:    “ Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”   5 And he said to them, “ Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘ Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him ’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  
  1. Jesus taught that his disciples should always pray and not lose heart (Lk 18:1-8).
  1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “ In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary. ’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘ Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming. ’” 6 And the Lord said, “ Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find {the} faith on earth?  
  1. Jesus warned against the wrong kind of prayer (Lk 18:9-14).
  9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:10 “ Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:‘ God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.  
  1. Jesus declared what the temple was for (Lk 19:46).
  … [Jesus said to them], “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”  
  1. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for laborers in the harvest (Lk 10:2).
  And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  
  1. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray even for future deliverance and salvation (Lk 21:36).
  But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.  
  1. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for their enemies (6:28)
  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  
  1. Jesus urged His disciples to pray so that they will not be tempted (Lk 22:40,46)
  40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “ Pray that you may not enter into temptation. … 46 and he said to them, “ Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  

Christ’s Practice of Prayer

  Luke records eleven times Jesus prayed. (*There are 8 instances where similar events were mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels but only Luke mentions Jesus praying.)  
  1. *During His baptism (Lk 3:21-22)
  21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “ You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  
  1. *After a successful ministry (5:15-16)
  5:15-16 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.  
  1. *Prior to his selection of the Twelve (6:12-13).
  12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:  
  1. Shortly before the feeding of the 5000(Lk 9:16)
  16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then  
  1. *Before Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ(Lk 9:18-20).
  18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “ Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “ John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “ But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.   (cf. Mt 16:16-17 Simon Peter replied, “ You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “ Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.)  
  1. *On the Mount of Transfiguration (9:28-29)
  28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.  
  1. The return of the seventy-two (10:17-21)
  17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “ Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.   21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  
  1. *Before Jesus predicts Peter’s denial(Lk 22:31-32).
  31 “ Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.  
  1. In the Garden of Gethsemane (22:39-46)
  39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “ Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “ Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “ Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  
  1. *At the cross while soldiers gambled for his clothes (23:34).
  34 And Jesus said, “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  
  1. *At the cross just before He died (23:46).
  46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “ Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

SevenLessons Based On The Prayer Life Of Jesus

 
  1. Jesus believed prayer is work and that it works!
  This is why Jesus often withdrew to an isolated place to pray. Luke 5:16 (NET): "Yet Jesus himself a frequently withdrew to the wilderness and prayed."Because Jesus believed in the power of prayer, Hespent one whole night for prayer. Luke 6:12 - In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.  
  1. Jesus prayed with full consciousness of his relationship with His Father (Jn 11:41-42)
  This is implied in all of those instances that Luke mentions the prayers of Jesus to His Father. But this is clearly stated in John 11:41-42:   Jn 11:41-42 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “ Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.   Jn 12:27-30 “ Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘ Father, save me from this hour ’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven:“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  
  1. Jesus prayed with dependence upon the Holy Spirit. (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 50:4)
  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.   Isa 50:4 … Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my earto hear as those who are taught.  
  1. Jesus prayed persistently and earnestly.
  Lk 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. "Then Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1). Jesus did not pray in a cold, distant manner, but in heartfelt supplication, demonstrating genuine communion with and love for God.  
  1. Jesus prayed everywhere and under varying circumstances.
  • during His baptism
  • After a successful ministry
  • Prior to his selection of the Twelve
  • Shortly before the miracle of the multiplication of food
  • At the mountain during His transfiguration
  • Upon hearing the successful ministry of the seventy-two (10:17-21).
  • At Gethsemane before His crucifixion (22:39-46)
  • At the cross before He died
  • The only prayer Jesus did not do is the prayer of confession because He never sinned.
 
  1. Jesus prayed for others.
  • for the lost
  • for His disciples
  • when they were tempted
  • when they were successful
  • when they were going to abandon Him
  • forthe His enemies
 
  1. The great lesson:
All of the instructions of Jesus about prayer, His own practice of prayer, and His desire for His house to be a house of prayer clearly point to one thing. The Holy Spirit wants of the Christ’s disciples to be devoted to prayer just as their Master was.   This is why when we come to the history of the church in the book of Acts, we find prayer both on a personal and corporate level to be a central practice in the life of the church.   Bible teachers tell us that Luke has set up in his gospel in Luke and his history in Acts a parallel between prayer in the life of Jesus and prayer in the life of the church.  
  1. As Jesus believed in prayer is work and that it works, so did the church. We find the disciples devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42)
 
  1. As Jesus was fully conscious of His relations with His Father when He prayed, so the church was fully conscious of their relationship with God when they prayed.
  Ac 4:29-30 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  
  1. As Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit in His ministry, so the Holy Spirit filled God’s people with Himself when He has a special task for them to do.
  Ac 7:55-60 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “ Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “ Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  
  1. As Jesus prayed earnestly, so did the church.
When Peter was put in prison, the response of the church was to hold a prayer meeting and pray for him. Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.  
  1. As Jesus prayed everywhere and under varying circumstances, so did the church.
  • when they were in the upper room
  • when they were in prison
  • when they were in the Temple
  • when they were in the synagogues or other places of prayer
  • when they were at the beach
  • when they were in a storm at sea
 
  1. As Jesus prayed for others, the church also interceded for others.
   

Closing Words

I started this study by mentioning that one of the reasons why Christians neglect prayer and especially its corporate aspect such as joining prayer meetings is because of the “flat tire” mentality. Prayer has become the last resort when everything else fails.   Let us not wait for a crisis to arise before we start joining our prayer meetings. As we have seen in the life of our Lord Jesus, He prayed under varying circumstances.He did not just pray when he was about to face a crisis in his life. He prayed when he experienced success, when he was to be baptized, when he was to make a choice regarding his disciples, and many other varied situations.   Whenever we pray we are admitting to the Lord that we cannot do anything of eternal value and advance His kingdom apart from His blessing.   When we pray we are saying, “Lord, we need you. Apart from you we can do nothing. Unless the Lord builds the house those who build labor in vain.”   When we pray we admit that it is, not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that we can accomplish anything for God’s kingdom.   If Jesus who is God in the flesh prayed when He was here on earth, and still continues to interecede for us before the Father in heaven, and if He taught us that we are to pray so that God’s name will be glorified, God’s kingdom will come, God’s will be done here on earth, then why do we not pray more?   What a privilege God has given us as His children to come to Him in communion and prayer. Let us respond to God’s gracious call for His children to pray.   Let us depend upon the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us a provision when we do not know to pray.   Let us come with confidence to God’s throne of grace for He delights to have His children come to him to have communion with Him and to have His people ask for His favor.   Let us pray, not only in private but also together with the community of believers that we may become healthy members of the body of Christ.