Practicing the Principles of Prayer
Sermon Summary
This message looks at a prayer prayed by the Psalmist in Psalm 86 and extracts from this prayer various principles of prayer. The principles are discovered by looking at the answers to three questions: What is prayer? When should we pray? How should we pray? The answers to these three questions give us the answers to what we should pray and why we pray! Prayer is communication with God. In prayer we communicate confession, petition, acknowledgement and thanks. We can pray anytime, and we pray at all times, both good and bad. There are many ways to pray, but the important thing is that we take time to pray and that we then take time to listen for God’s voice in reply!

1. Do you find that prayer is hard or easy for you?
2. Do you pray more when things are going good or when things are tough? Explain.

Psa 21:1  For the director of music. A psalm of David. O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give!

Psa 86:6  Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.
Psa 86:7  In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.

3. Prayer is communication, confession, petition, acknowledgement and thanks. Which of these aspects of prayer dominate your prayer life? Why?
Mat 6:9  "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Mat 6:10  your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Mat 6:11  Give us today our daily bread.
Mat 6:12  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Mat 6:13  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

4. Sometimes it is important for us to go to our prayer closet, close our eyes and block out all distractions when we pray. There is also a need to learn to be in an attitude of prayer even when we are busy with life. Discuss why both are needed.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray continually;
18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Full Sermon Notes
Practicing the Principles of Prayer

Psalm 86: 1-17
1Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
3Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
4Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.
6Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.
7In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.
8Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
9All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
10For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
11Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
12I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.
14The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a band of ruthless men seeks my life—men without regard for you.
15But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.
17Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Amen!


This Psalm, this prayer, gives us so many  principles of prayer. It gives us answers to so many questions about prayer. What is prayer? When should we pray? What should we pray? How we should pray?

What is Prayer?

We find the answer to this in the first sentence of the Psalmist's prayer...

1Hear, O LORD, and answer me...

Prayer is Communication!

Hear and answer! Prayer is communicating with God! Last week we discovered worship is loving God! Sometimes worship is prayer. Sometimes prayer is worship. The dictionary gives this definition...

prayer |pre(ə)r| noun
a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship:

Prayer is that, but it is so much more. For the world, prayer is a one way street. It's all about us asking God for something. For many people they never pray until something catastrophic happens in their life or something scary happens all of a sudden and they cry out to God without thinking. Now if you're praying to someone or something who is not real it is a one way street, but it is not a one way street for those who have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ! Prayer is us talking to God and Him responding in various ways to us…rarely an audible voice, but so clear to those who have learned to listen for God's voice. We hear God's voice as we meditate on His Word. We'll have a whole sermon on that next week.

We hear God's voice through mentors who have faithfully followed God down through the years. We hear God's voice through the gentle conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit of God as He tugs at our hearts. We even hear God speaking to our heart through our eyes when we see Him speak in His creation! Sunrises, sunsets, majestic clouds, mountains, lakes, and beautiful Louisianna bayous and swamps, teaming with wildlife.

We don't worship or pray to the creation, but God speaks to us through His creation!


Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Confession!

Psalm 86:1 Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

I don't care how much money you have, spiritually we are all poor and needy! We all need forgiveness, cleansing, mercy, grace, and new life! This is why we pray!! If someone thinks they don't need these things, my heart breaks for them.
Unless they change their minds, these folks will never know the exhilarating joy that comes over a person when they realize their past mistakes, mess-ups, and mishaps, have all been washed away.

They will never know the glorious power that could be theirs to overcome the weakness and foolishness that caused those issues in the first place. Folks who refuse to pray the prayer of confession are under a spiritual delusion that tells them they're fine and don't need to pray anyway! On the other hand, those who are willing to pray the prayers of confession find a freedom that motivates them to live each day to the max!! The Psalmist, David said it eloquently in
Psalm 32:1-5
1Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.Selah
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Petition!

Psalm 86:2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
3 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.

So, yes, prayer does involve asking, but look at what the Psalmist asked for…Guard my life, have mercy on me, bring joy to your servant, teach me Your way, give me an undivided heart, grant your strength, save me! Wow!! What a prayer list!! I God would be excited to hear a prayer like this. What a difference it would make if this were the prayer list of the majority of Christians. Sometimes I've been asked, "If God knows what we need before we ask, then why do we have to ask?" You may know what your kids need before they ask, but if you don't teach them to ask nicely you may end up with an obnoxious kid! And besides this, don't you love talking to your kids? God loves to hear our voice and for us to share our heart with Him. It's a relationship thing!

At times we petition God for someone else! The picture on our worship guide is a picture of my Mother and her Mom. I took the picture about 30 years ago when my grandmother was very ill and my mother would travel from Vicksburg to McComb MS every weekend to take care of her Mom.

It was a time of much prayer. Prayer for my Grandmother, my Grandfather, all the family. Prayer for healing, strength, and peace. It was a time of petitioning God. God answered our prayers for healing by taking her on home to glory to heal her. He gave us His peace, strength and His presence during that trying time and many others since then. Whatever your need, God wants you to come to Him with your petitions. Listen...

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Acknowledgement!

Psalm 86:5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

I like to start my prayers with acknowledgement of who God is, how amazing He is, and how loving and forgiving He is! After all, the very rational for praying goes away if God is not who He claims to be. When I begin my prayers with adoration, my prayer becomes worship, and you might remember from last week that worship is the spiritual love language that allows a mere human being to come into the presence of an almighty God and receive unconditional acceptance and forgiveness and so much more. It is so important we acknowledge God in our prayers.

Hosea 6:3
3Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. ”

What is Prayer?

Prayer is Thanksgiving!

Psalm 86:12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Even in my worst, most trying times in life, there has always been reasons to still praise my God and to thank Him for what He has done for me in the past and for what He is doing for me in the present and for what I trust and know He will do for me in the future when He calls me to my glorious home in heaven above!
Have you ever read Psalm 100. It is only 5 short verses, but wow, it is a prayer of thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
3Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
5For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

So sometimes prayer is confession. Sometimes prayer is petition, for you or someone else. Sometimes prayer is acknowledgement of just how Great God really is! Sometimes prayer is giving thanks! Sometimes prayer is just simple conversation between you and Father God!

What prayer is, is not the only question answered in our text. How about when do we pray? This could mean two things. At what time do we pray and at what times do we pray? The Psalmist answers these questions as well.

When do we Pray?

All the Time!

Psalm 86:3 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.

There's another verse of the Bible that puts it this way...

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray continually;
18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

You might be inclined to say there's absolutely no way you could pray continually, all day. You work or go to school and you don't think your boss or teacher would be happy if you spent all day praying and got no work done or didn't listen in class. God is not saying you are in a constant state of fully concentrated prayer with your head bowed and your eyes closed. He is saying you should be ever aware of His presence with you and be in an attitude of prayer.

In fact, if you are in a constant attitude of prayer, you'll be a better worker and student. You'll be a better husband or wife, parent or child! Prayer is a good thing anyway you look at it!

When do we Pray?

At all Times!

Psalm 86:7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.
Psalm 86:12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

So we pray in the good times and the bad times!  You can pray when you're busy and when you're relaxing. When you're mourning and when you're celebrating. When you know and when you doubt! When you plan and when you failed to plan. When your courageous and when you're really scared. When you're care free and when you're broken beyond measure. No matter what you're going through, pray to God! He is always near and will always hear!

How do we Pray?

Psalm 86:6 Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.

I will end our sermon today with what could be another whole sermon. So I will not expand these thoughts. I will just state them and pray The Holy Spirit will use these things to teach you how to pray. I will close with an illustration from scripture. How do we pray? Don't try to write these down. They'll come too fast. You can get them in the notes from our web-site. Just see them and let them speak to your heart. How do we pray….

How do we pray?


Standing
Kneeling
Sitting
Eyes closed
Eyes open
Alone
With your family
With your church family

How do we pray?


By speaking words to God
By writing words to God
By singing words to God
By thinking words to God
By crying words to God
And when you can't pray...
Be still and let The Holy Spirit intercede for you

 

How do we pray?


By listening for God to speak to your heart

I'll end with this amazing story. Elijah had won a great battle with some false prophets, but a very evil woman named Jezebel, the leader of those prophets swore she would end his life. He was scared and ran for his life. Let's pick it up there...  

1 Kings 19:8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
9There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
13When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Moral of the story…Listen to the God whisperer! He's trying to get your attention. Stop running. Be still. Pray. He'll hear you and if you listen, you'll hear Him!