Good morning and it is a privilege to be sharing from God’s word. So Lawrence approached me after the Carol service and asked if I would preach today as there was a hole in the preaching roster, obviously he had gone to everyone else and they had said NO! …. My heart always sinks a little when I am asked to preach because I am reminded of the great responsibility placed on those who teach the Word.

As I was reflecting and preparing for today my prayer was an is today that the Holy Spirit that lives in me will take my inadequacies and use me to share the message that He wants you to hear this morning.

I then asked Lawrence to give me a topic as that would will help me to focus my thoughts, Lawrence being Lawrence had a topic all ready for me and as he said the words my heart skipped a beat or two.

“The importance of PRAYER.”

WOW Lawrence you had to choose a topic that I feel the most inadequate about. If I had to take a straw poll this morning and ask who thinks prayer is important? I am sure to see a lot of hands, maybe even a couple of Amens. So we acknowledge that prayer is important and it is our way to communicate with our Father in heaven. If I asked, who finds praying easy? There may only be a few hands that stay up and if I asked who prays and welcomes our Heavenly Father into every decision or plan that is made daily? My gut says that fewer hands will be seen.

So as I share this morning on “What is prayer and Why is it important?” I am doing so not because I am an expert in this area and not because I find it easy to do myself, because I do not, but because it is a vital component of our faith and we are called to pray/talk to our Father in heaven continually.

Let us pray

O God our Father, creator of all things. Thank you for the opportunity to share Your word this morning. I feel overwhelmed and inadequate to deliver something of value, be ever gracious to me and give me confidence and clarity of thought. Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for dying on the cross for us and taking on Yourself the punishment meant for us. Holy Spirit help us to hear and take onboard the truths of the Word of God as we put into action what we learn this morning. We pray all these things in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is prayer?

Our prayers are how we to talk to God. It is a means of communicating and fellowshipping with our Father in heaven. We can pray silently in our hearts or out loud, there is no right or wrong way to talk to God the Father. From Genesis God’s desire has been to have fellowship with us and this is demonstrated to us by how God would walk in the cool of the evening and talk to Adam. After the fall, mankind had lost the ability to walk and talk with God because of our sin and God being holy. Throughout the Old Testament God would talk to certain individuals, this done through miraculous signs as in the case of Moses and the burning bush or sometimes in the gentle whisper of the breeze in the case of King David. But for most, the communication went through an intermediary in the form of a High Priest. It has always been our Father’s desire to communicate with each one of His children individually. This was made possible when God sent His only son to earth, to live then die and finally be raised from the dead on the third day to make a way for each individual to commune with the God of all creation and to enter His courts because Jesus, the perfect sacrifice made a way for all to have eternal life with God.

So this morning I am going to try and be a little practical and give some real life experiences of the power of prayer. But before I go there let’s open God’s word. If we look for an example of prayer we could look at Moses or King David, but Jesus’ disciples asked the question and we are given the answer in Matthew 6:5-13:

5 “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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’

So how to pray is highlighted in these verses. Jesus points out to his disciples not to be hypocrites. Making reference to those that pray publicly, but their private lives don’t match their supposed piety. Here Jesus is making a point to say that God knows your heart, so be honest with Him. There are examples throughout the Bible of men and women of faith being real and honest with God. As a parent, I know when my kids are being real when they talk to me or when they are saying what they think I want to hear. Even if you haven’t been a parent on the basis of you once being a child yourself I am sure you can recall times when you said things you thought your parents wanted to hear. It is important for us to be REAL.

We are called not to babble. This goes hand in hand with being real and honest with God. God does not get persuaded by how many words we use or how eloquently we can pray. I grew up in a Roman Catholic home and I was taught that prayers were formal and well structured and therefore you needed to learn them by heart. The problem with that is that it was not personal and I had a problem connecting with the words I was saying. When I became a believer, by accepting Jesus as Lord of my life, I struggled with prayer until I realised it is a conversation and I have the Holy Spirit living in me to help me fellowship with God the Father. Romans 8:26-27

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

A general rule when praying is that we pray to the Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. As a believer God the Holy Spirit is in you. It is by the person and presence and the power of the Holy Spirit that He teaches you to pray and prayer is communicating with God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God three persons they have eternal union and communion which means they are always communicating for all eternity. The Holy Spirit knows how to communicate with the Father and with the Son so the Holy Spirit in you helps you to pray. Ephesians 6 tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

So why is prayer important because in Matthew 6 Jesus tells His followers “...Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” So if He knows what we’re going to say, why do we even need to pray at all? The short answer is that prayer isn’t for God’s benefit. It’s for us. In fact, there are five key benefits that come when you spend time in prayer with your heavenly Father.

1. Prayer is how you let God be God.

Jesus starts the prayer in the same way. ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Here we let God be God and declare that He is Holy and knows all things and it is His will that is done both here on earth and heaven. So even though we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, we can come to the One that knows. Hopelessness is when you give up, Faith is when you give it to God. Prayer is an act of faith. It is saying that God does exist, He does hear and answer, He knows what He is doing and I can trust Him. Prayer is where I let God be God and stop trying to be god myself.

2. Prayer is where you let you be you.

Some here may fear that God is not near, you don’t see His presence and prayer is where it gives you hope, a faith, a trust that God is in my life and that he will never leave me nor forsake me, nor abandon me. God you be you and I will be me and I will trust you to take care of me. It is about a relationship.

3. Prayer is how you deepen the relationship.

There is conversation, it is heartfelt, it is REAL. It is you sitting down and talking to God as long as it takes about all that matters. God loves you and His heart for you is that of a father’s heart. The God who loves you is never exhausted, He can handle you. He is never overwhelmed. He is patient, loving, good, gracious and kind and whenever you need him your Father is always there to meet with you. It is how you deepen the relationship.

4. Prayer is how you release pressure.

How many of you when anxiety, trouble and trials come and you feel the pressure ramp up? OK so I am the only one with my hand up …

To be honest with you, I have struggled with this my whole life and as I have aged and I have experienced more of these, the pressure seems to build more quickly than before. My default action when I am faced with anxiety, trouble and trials is to go towards planning rather than praying. In my day-to-day job I am the one who plans for different possible scenarios and have an action plan laid out for each possible outcome. As I have been preparing for this message, God has laid it on my heart that although my gift is to foresee problems and work out scenarios; it should not be my default action. I need to pray. Ultimately planning is not a problem as long as you have prayed about it and found out what His plan is first. Here is one personal example:

Jeanette and I felt the Lord lead us from where we were teaching in Beirut to the small fishing village of Tyre. To do so we had to raise an extra 60% in support. We came back to South Africa for 6 months to raise the support. After 1 month of being back we had raised no extra funds. We met with the elders of Medway and sitting in Uncle Gavin’s lounge, the elders heard our desires, prayed with us and asked “What if you don’t raise the necessary support?” Jeanette and I answered that we both felt that God would provide. After 2 months, our support figure was still the same. Now we had 4 months to raise our support by 60%. In our prayer times we brought it before the Lord and Jeanette prayed very specifically and asked the Lord to provide just one new supporter. At the end of the 3rd month we had 1 new supporter. Our Lord heard our very specific prayer and answered. Halfway through our 6 months and we still needed to raise just over 50%. This is where I kicked into planning mode. I remember formulating ways in which we could sell some things to lower the amount needed. We had some pension funds that we could cash in and use to supplement our income. As I shared my thoughts with a more experienced believer, he asked me, “Do you believe God wants you in Tyre? If so, don’t preempt God and miss out on His blessing. Let God be God.” Here I was trying to plan instead of pray through the situation. We were leaving to return to Lebanon on the 27th December, we had all the necessary funding by the 16th December. God’s timing is perfect and not only that God hears prayers, later on we heard that Aunty Pauline and others were praying that we would get the necessary funds before Christmas, so that we could enjoy Christmas with our extended family and not be worrying about our support. God is good all the time and all the time, God is good. By praying about it I was able to not worry and release the pressure and know that my Father in heaven is in control.

5. Prayer is how you transfer burden.

Recently I took the personality traits test called the “ Enneagram” that is supposed to help me understand what my dominant trait is. For those of you who don’t know about it there is a 9 point scale and each number represents a different trait, the only reason you men are nodding your heads is because your wives made you take the test, otherwise you would still be clueless.

Well, I am a six - committed, responsible, anxious and attracted to clear structures. Jeanette is a two - caring, generous, people-pleasing and making people connections. Although these traits can be seen as very apt it can cause us to, as in my case plan before praying or for those two’s out there to take on burdens that are not yours to take. We are told in the Bible that we are going to face things that are hard, as Christians we are told that we are going to have to carry our own cross. Phillipians 4:13 tells us “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Which means that we are going to need Christ to help us. We are also invited in Matthew 11:28 by Jesus who says “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” In those days work was done by an ox and if the job was too big for one then they would yoke another ox in and they would pull together. What Jesus is saying is that there are things in your life that you are going to need Him to come alongside and help you pull through. You can’t bear that load alone, you can’t carry that burden alone. It’s a God sized burden and you need God’s help. How do I transfer that burden, you transfer it in prayer. This is something that I struggled with, this is something that I believe and sometimes I struggle to behave in that way. Praise the Lord that He is still completing a work in me and in you as well.

In our prayer we can make our requests known to Him, ask for help and ask for protection from the evil one. I close with another personal instance where God heard my prayer. For those that have heard this I apologise, but I feel that this event caused me to grow in my prayer life. Josh’s arrival into this world was as normal as could be expected. Both Jeanette and I were very excited to be first time parents. Even though we were living in Lebanon, both Jeanette’s parents and mine were there to welcome the first grandchild. Six to Seven weeks after Josh was born he became fussy and didn’t want to eat. After a couple of hours we took to the pediatrician who told us to meet him at the hospital. Josh had picked up a bladder infection and the doctors were talking about having to perform surgery. I remember crying out to the Lord and after three days Josh was released from the hospital without surgery. About a year later Josh started developing a fever that lasted 5 days every month, like clockwork. Jeanette and I prayed over our little boy and shared with others to pray, but no change. This lasted for just over a year and a half and it had doctors in Lebanon and here confounded. One of my responsibilities on staff was to share a message in the staff meeting from time to time. Jeanette and I were expecting Abigail and both of us were finding our strength in Christ as we shared our heavy burden. I shared in the morning meeting at Easter time what Jeanette and I were going through and related it to how God the Father, who had sent His only son to earth to pay the ultimate price and how He must have felt when Jesus was being beaten and crucified. If it is anything like me, my prayer many a morning was requesting God to give me the illness that was inflicting Joshua. Well that morning there was a visiting missions team in the meeting and one of the leaders asked if he could pray for Josh and us as a family. Josh was in the middle of one of his bouts of fevers and while I was being prayed for a very good friend of ours was praying with Jeanette over the phone. That day, the fever broke and he has never had a bout of fever like that ever again.

God answers prayer, sometimes it’s no, sometimes it’s yes and other times it’s wait. God hears your requests and petitions, although we may not get the answer we want when we want it. We can hold firm to the promise that God loves you and knows your heart. He wants to have fellowship with you. If you don’t know how, ask the Holy Spirit for help. It will grow your faith and change your life forever.