Missions Month “Pray”

Sermon Summary
This message looks at the components of prayer and examines their application in regards to missions. Each letter of the word PRAY is used in an acrostic to help with retention of the components; Petition, Remember, Adore and Yearn. The text comes from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. A quick look at some objections to prayer and a response from C.S. Lewis is discussed. A large portion of the message comes directly from a missionary couple’s testimony of the power of prayer in their ministry in India.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. How important is prayer in your personal life?

2. Do you think to take time to pray for missionaries who are on the front lines of sharing the good news of Jesus in other parts of the world?
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Now I want to talk about some other matters. Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread quickly. Pray that others will honor it just as you did.
2 And pray that we will be saved from sinful and evil people. Not everyone is a believer.

3. Did hearing the stories from our friends in India help you understand why prayer is such a vital part of what we are called to do when it comes to missions?
Colossians 4:2-4  Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

4. Spend some time discussing the acrostic for the word PRAY. Petition, Remember, Adore, Yearn. Spend some time reading the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians and pick out things we should yearn for in prayer.
Colossians 1:9-14 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Full Sermon Notes
PRAY

“No longer a slave to fear, I'm a child of God!”

And oh the privilege we have as children to approach our very loving Heavenly Father and to actually communicate with Him! That's right, you and I can actually talk to the Creator of the vast universe! I love watching documentaries about the universe. So vast, so amazing, so complex and so mysterious! But here's the most amazing thing I think about, the Creator of all of that is my very best friend and I can talk to Him anytime I like. And I've learned something in my conversations with God through prayer and reading the Bible: Of all the things God has to do running the universe, His greatest concern seems to be the fate of the human creatures that inhabit a tiny little planet called earth!

He's so concerned that He calls all the ones who know Him to be His missionaries to the world. Some are missionaries where they live and others are called to do missions around the world. But we are all called to pray about missions. Our personal mission, and the mission of other missionaries. Let's pray right now and ask God to teach us why prayer is so important to missions.

Father God, thank You for the amazing privilege of communicating with You in Prayer. I can talk to You about anything and everything! I don't fully understand why You've allowed me this honor, but I don't want to take it for granted. I know prayer is such an important part of our relationship and I want it to grow. I also understand prayer is vital when it comes to effective missions. So I pray for my dear friends who are missionaries in other countries and I pray for my dear friends who are missionaries hear in the states. I pray for each of us as we seek to be Your missionaries in the work place, at school, and even at home. Teach us to pray, why we should, and help us to yearn for the relationship with You that is only found in the meditations of prayer! In the Name and Spirit of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

Paul the apostle was one of the most profound missionaries the Church has ever known. Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament. His personal prayer life was obviously powerful, but as powerful as it was, he requested the prayers of others on his behalf. Listen to the words he wrote from prison to the Colossian Church...

Colossians 4:2-4  Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

From these words, we know that Paul considered one of the major components of prayer to be that of petition! In fact he asked for others to petition God on his behalf!

Petition

Petition is to request, to ask, to entreat! This is a part of prayer that some have a problem with. For some the problem is that this is the only aspect of prayer they ever use. They only pray when they need something and thereby neglect all other components of prayer. That's got to break God's heart when we only go to Him when we want something.

But on the other hand, for some people the problem with prayer is the asking! They believe it to be useless and don't think God responds to prayer. Are you ready to go deep this morning? Put your thinking caps on! I'm going to share with you a small portion of an article written years ago by C.S. Lewis on this subject.
According to Lewis, here's the argument as stated by some who think prayer is useless...

"Even if I grant your point and admit that answers to prayer are theoretically possible, I shall still think they are infinitely improbable. I don't think it at all likely that God requires the ill-informed (and contradictory) advice of us humans as to how to run the world. If He is all-wise, as you say He is, doesn't He know already what is best? And if He is all-good won't He do it whether we pray or not?"

Lewis responds by saying…
"…If this argument is sound, surely it is an argument not only against praying, but against doing anything whatever? In every action, just as in every prayer, you are trying to bring about a certain result; and this result must be good or bad. Why, then, do we not argue as the opponents of prayer argue, and say that if the intended result is good God will bring it to pass without your interference, and that if it is bad He will prevent it happening whatever you do? Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they'll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn't, they'll remain dirty, (as Lady Macbeth found) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything? We know that we can act and that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit (quite apart from the question of prayer) that God has not chosen to write the whole of history with His own hand…It may be a mystery why He should have allowed us to cause real events at all;
but is no odder that He should allow us to cause them by praying than by any other method. Pascal says that God 'instituted prayer in order to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.' He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events...

Lewis goes on to say…"Prayers are not always--in the crude, factual sense of the word -- 'granted'. This is not because prayer is a weaker kind of causality, but because it is a stronger kind. When it 'works' at all it works unlimited by space and time. That is why God has retained a discretionary power of granting or refusing it; except on that condition prayer would destroy us." C.S. Lewis

Now here's the simple, country boy Larry's take on the subject. If even the slightest possibility exist for me to make both a temporal and eternal impact in the lives of people through prayer why in the world wouldn't I take the time to pray? Furthermore, I have personally witnessed many things in my life of which I can only attribute to the activity of prayer. I had a friend who was told that his answered prayers were simply coincidences. His reply was this…"All I know is when I pray coincidences happen and when I don't pray they don't happen!"

Paul believed prayer to be so important he told his readers to...

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Being watchful and thankful in prayer. What does this mean? Watchful would be watching in expectation for God to answer your prayers according to His divine will and the thankful part would be remembering how God has worked in your life in the past! So prayer is not only petitioning but also remembering!

Petition


Remember

When we pray, we remember! What is it that we are reminded of when we pray?  How about faith, love, hope, truth, God's grace!! Let's look back at the beginning of Paul's letter to the Colossians and see what he remembered when he and his young apprentice prayed for them...

Colossians 1:3-6 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints — the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel
that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

And maybe we remember what grace is all about! Grace is the undeserved favor of God! Listen to how Paul stated this in Colossians 1:21-23...

Colossians 1:21-23 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation —

When I remember my alienation from God and the darkness of my mind and the evil behavior I was so prone to fall into all I can say is what a miracle that God would even want to reach out to me! But He did! And the amazing thing I've been reconciled by Christ's physical body through His death and I am now presented in God's sight without blemish and free from accusation!

And don't think for a moment I am a perfect man, I'm not, but the precious blood of Jesus covers my imperfections and the way this continues to work in my life is I continue to have faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and not my own goodness! Paul said this in verses 23...

Colossians 1:23 ...if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Paul says this gospel, this good news of God's grace in Jesus was being proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and Paul mentions that He is a servant, and a missionary of that gospel message. Now, there may be someone out there wondering if this Bible prayer and missionary stuff is just history or if any of that kind thing still happens in this modern age. I'm so glad you asked. Get ready for an answer that may blow you away! I have some very special missionary friends. I'm not going to use their last names. But I communicated with them just yesterday. They were members of Northshore Church back in our early years. Listen to what they told me. Get ready because it's like pulling a page from the Bible. For their safety I will not mention their names.

“Hey!  Man we miss you guys!!!!!  We think and talk about you guys often! (Really!!)  
We can't do ANYTHING without prayer!  God is showing me that over and over... and even more so lately! I don’t even know where to begin!  We’ve been in India for over 10 years now (can you believe it’s been that long???) and every time we’ve sent out an email newsletter and ask for prayer for people or situations, we will see a drastic difference the very next day! We rely on prayer!  We desperately need prayers!
Prayer is the crux of everything we do!  Most H’ndus are coming to fa’th in India because of answered prayers and miracles. When we meet strangers or go to anyone’s house, while talking, we ask them if they have any problems or anything we can pray about.  God answers prayers like crazy and people come to fa’th!  Prayer is the best “tool” we have in reaching the lost!  

One example… One lady, who is a friend of ours.  She was a Hindu woman and while talking with her, she shared with us the she is concerned for her son.  He was 13 and had never spoken a single word.  They are a poor family and can’t afford anything special to help him.  The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him so they had given up. After she told us about her son, we told her about how Jesus loves her and loves her son and that Jesus could help him and help their family.  We then prayed for her family and prayed for her son.  We asked her to pray then as well and she prayed for her son for the first time.  

The next day we got a phone call… we answered the phone … the person on the phone said in a clear voice:  “Hi! My name is (and he said his name)! I’m (and he said his mother's name)I'm her son.  Thank you for praying for me!”  His Mom then got on the phone and told us that he began speaking and could speak almost perfectly!  

After this, her whole family started following Jesus!  Now our friend (who cleans houses for a living) goes house to house daily telling others about Jesus and praying for them!”

Pastor Larry’s comments - Now let me interject something very important. My friends would tell you that God hears every pray they pray, but that doesn't mean He answers every prayer just the way they pray it. However, they trust God to hear their prayers and to answer them in the way that He knows will be most effective in bringing life change for all involved. I've said this many times, but I believe the greatest faith is the faith that knows God can do anything but trust that He will do the right thing even if we don't understand! It's the faith that is willing to totally abandon self to the will of God and pray as Jesus prayed, "Not my will but Yours be done!"

My missionary friend then told me this…

“But what's interesting is that here... with the less educated people (who can't read and don't have access to the Bible and things)... God is answering prayers left and right... and the answered prayers are resulting in tons of salvations....
But... the prayers aren't always answered”

Not always answered, but she has story after story of miraculous things. Why does this seem to happen more in developing nations than more educated nations? I'm not sure, but it could be that in more educated areas no matter the miracle, we are skeptical and will find a way to rationalize away the miracle.

Matthew tells us Jesus did very few miracles in his hometown because of their lack of faith. To those people Jesus was just a carpenter's son, nothing more. Now the next thing my missionary friend told me is also something we're not used to hearing here in the U.S. It has to do with spiritual warfare. She said...

“Another example… I work in Delhi’s Red Light District.  One day we met a lady. She was tormented by evil spirits. She sees the spirits at night and is terrified. They come to her at night and hold her tight and hold her neck so that she can't move and can barely breathe. She was so scared when we met with her. We shared with her about Jesus and prayed with her. She had never heard about Jesus before!  We prayed and told the evil spirits to come out… something that we don’t talk about or seems weird in America… but is VERY real here…  
That day after leaving the Red Light District me and all of our team (3 of us that day) had major spiritual attacks… we all had bad dreams and other attacks…

This is one of the girl's dream…

‘At midnight I was awoken from a dream where I was in a dark room in the Red Light District with names of evil spirits written all over the walls and a voice told me there is no place to write the name of Jesus. I felt a hand from behind and I couldn't breathe or speak... Finally I was free after calling out the name of Jesus. I stayed up and prayed and read the Bible for the next five hours. In the morning I had a huge doubt if I was even called for this ministry. I thought it was too huge for merely a few of us going there. This was a big battle and we are not equipped for it. But that was satan trying to deter us from going forth... So I really want to request you to please uphold this ministry in your prayers. The name of Jesus needs to be written over their hearts. There will be victory... And that will come only through the fortress of prayer.’

From that day forth we made a prayer team that would pray for us while we were in the Red Light District. The next week when we went back to the Red Light District, we could feel the difference! We definitely felt the oppression as we walked onto the street… but we had confidence that only comes from Jesus!
When we went to visit our friend she told us that ever since we visited last time and prayed for her, the Evil Spirits have STOPPED coming to her!! She knew it was because of Jesus and prayer!”

My missionary friend then quoted this passage of Scripture...

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

She then continued…

"I could go on and on with story after story… I have a story just like these stories at least once a week!  God is doing amazing things through the prayers of his people!  We can’t do what we do without prayer!!!! I didn't clearly mention that with my friend from the red district... we hadn't been able to make any headway in her brothel or in her area... once we started the prayer group (of people in the US and India) that is when we were able to get into that brothel and meet her....   We don't get very far if we don't have prayer support... we're weak without it!!”

She then reminded me of their prayer newsletter and if anyone wants to be on it, just give us your email and we'll send it to them and they will send you the newsletter.

So in prayer we petition God, we ask Him for His help and His provision! It's okay to cry out to God when you have a need! But we also remember what He has already done for us in the past! Oh the grace and mercy of our God. And when we begin remembering God's love, grace and mercy for us we can't help but move into adoration!

 Petition


 Remember


 Adore

How can we not adore Him? I love the way Paul put it in chapter 3 of his letter to the Colossians...

Colossians 3:1-4 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Can you even imagine what that glory will be like? Can any of us fathom how it will be when Christ returns in all of His glory? But here's a beautiful thing…when we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things, we actually have the privilege of glimpses of future glory! We don't have to wait for heaven to begin praising God and adoring Him for all He has done in our lives and is yet to do! And one of the things I loved about the testimonies of those people from India was the way they adored God and immediately began sharing their love and adoration for God with others. You might wonder how we adore God in prayer. Well first of all, I believe God is honored simply by the fact we desire to talk with Him.

As a parent, one of the greatest honors afforded to me by my children is when they want to talk to me about something or ask my help with something. God's not weird! He loves to talk with His children! It's about a relationship!! In fact let me remind you of a Scripture...

1 John 3:1a How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

And I love what Paul wrote in his letter in Colossians 3:16-17...

Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And one of the most radical hymns ever written is not a contemporary praise song, but an old hymn. It says this...

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.

This was written by a music teacher named Helen H. Lemmel in 1922. It was inspired by the testimony of a missionary named Lilias Trotter who had wealth and influence but decided to fix her eyes solely on Jesus and spent 38 years as a missionary in Algeria.

Okay, one last letter in our acrostic for prayer!


Petition

Remember

Adore

Yearn

What are we yearning for in prayer?
Paul gives us quite a list in his letter. Colossians 1:9-14

Colossians 1:9-14 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

And when God has rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom you've been redeemed and forgiven of your sin, you will begin to yearn to rescue others! It's like the folks in India. They yearn for their families and friends to find the peace, the love, and the purpose they've found.

Let me be quick to say this. There are a lot of good people who aren't Christian. There are a lot of people in other cultures and other religions who are really nice people, and my missionary friends have met many of those people. But here's the sad thing. While they may be really nice, there's something missing, or should I say someone? Living a good life is not a bad thing, but living life with a purpose is a better thing, and living life with a purpose and an eternal hope found in the grace, mercy, love and peace of God in Christ is off the charts amazing and once you've experienced Jesus you will yearn for others to know the Savior, and the friendship you've come to know! Paul put it this way...

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

That’s what a missionary yearns for! Let’s pray!