Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

6-5-04

Title: The Purpose of Prayer



Text: “Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 1:3-4).


Bible Reading: Colossians 4:1-4


Introduction:


A pastor is invited to a family’s home for Sunday supper.  


The mother brings in the food and they all sit down at the table to eat.  


But, before anyone says grace, the children start to eat.  


The embarrassed mother gives them a quick reprimand, while the children stare in confusion.  


The pastor then offers grace in the stunned silence.


The mother explains, “We don’t always say grace before meals at our house.”  


Of course, this has been fairly obvious, but the pastor butters his roll and waits, because he knows there is another line to the script.


“We just take it for granter that God knows how grateful we are.”


Folks, why should we pray?  


God does know how grateful we are.  


That’s the way it is according to the logic of the dinner table.  


The trouble with this kind of attitude is that it doesn’t stay at the dinner table.  


It leaves the table and roams all over the house.  


And soon we find ourselves saying, “Why pray at all?  God knows everything that we need.”  


Didn’t Jesus Himself say that God knows all that we need before we even ask Him?”  


But Jesus also said, “Therefore, do pray.”  


This line of reasoning might lead a person to ask, “What if God refuses to read His children’s mail unless it is addressed to Him?”


We are to pray so that we might commune with God and share with Him the most deeply felt needs of our lives.  


We are to express to God the gratitude and the praise and the joy we feel in Him and in salvation.  


Paul elaborated on the purpose of prayer in Colossians 4:2-4. 


That’s the text for today’s message. 


2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 


3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 


4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”


I want to say two things about prayer.


1. The purpose of prayer is seen in the manner of prayer.


Verse 2 said, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”  


“Continue earnestly in prayer,” means that we are to pray with perseverance.  


Prayer is not to be a spasmodic outburst in a moment of emergency, but it should be persistent calling on God for His guidance and blessing.  


Christians should take advantage of every opportunity to pray.  


And they should choose those times and places that will have the fewest distractions.   


In addition to praying with perseverance, we are to pray with watchfulness.


These two words go together: Pray and watch. 


They are very important.  


They remind me of an experience that Nehemiah had when the enemy tried to stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.


He didn’t just throw in the towel and cry out that he couldn’t do the job.  


And he just didn’t say, “Well, we will make it a matter of prayer,” and then go on the way he had been.  


No, this is what he told the people; “We have made prayer to God, so now let’s post a guard to warn if the enemy comes.”  


This is what Paul tells us here: “Watch and pray.”  


An old pastor in Georgia made this statement: “When a farmer prays for a corn crop, God expects him to say ‘Amen’ with a hoe.”’  


So if you’re praying about a certain matter, get busy with it.  


If you have a burden for someone who needs the Lord, pray for that person.


And then go to that person and tell them the good news; that Jesus died for their sins.


There is a great Christian man in my church who is 83, who tells everyone that he takes all his physical problems to God.  


And he has a saying that I love, “You pay the doctors, but God does the healing.”  


I agree, but God also uses doctors and medicine to make us well.  


So my advice is to pray about it, and then go see a doctor.  


This word “watchfulness” literally means to be watchful, to be alert when we pray.  


We need to guard against having wandering thoughts and an indifferent attitude.  


Prayer should not be reserved solely for times of crisis.  


We should pray before the crisis comes so that we have the spiritual resources to meet the testing time.  


Napoleon said that battles are not won on the battlefield; rather, they are won at the conference table in the planning meetings before the battle is ever begun.

We are to pray with perseverance and watchfulness and in addition, we are to pray with gratitude.  


Be sure and thank God always for what He does for you, and because He is going to hear and answer your prayer.  


Maybe it won’t be the answer you want, but He will answer.


Our gratitude and thankfulness should spring from a heart that is thankful for all that God has done.   


But, above all, we should be thankful for our salvation.


Verse 2, then, says that the purpose of prayer can be seen in how we pray: We are to pray with perseverance, watchfulness and gratitude.


In addition, the purpose of prayer can also be seen in the object of prayer.


Listen again to these words of Paul, and notice that he names two objects of prayer.  He says--


3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 


4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.”


The first objective of prayer is that we are to pray that God will give us an open door of service.


Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter to the Colossians.  


He could have prayed for many things while he was in prison, such as release, the favorable outcome of his trial, comfort, rest and several other things.  


And it would make sense to pray about all these concerns.  


But Paul asked God for something else; He asked that God would give him an opportunity to minister.  


He prayed that God would open doors. 


Not the door to his prison cell, but doors for preaching the Word of God. 


Paul is asking them to pray that he will have the opportunity to proclaim the Word of God. 


He is aware that his chains are the result of preaching Christ. 


He is kept in prison where his future is in doubt, but yet he has opportunities to witness.  


Paul told the Philippines, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12). 


He wants the Philippians to be informed that his chains led to more opportunities to witness. 


Paul turned his prison cell into a gospel chapel. 


His chains did not limit the gospel, but instead, they advanced it. 


He says that the things that happened to him actually helped his witness. 


He is talking about being mobbed in Jerusalem, unjustly imprisoned, shipwrecked, chained to guards, etc. 


These things happened not for crimes, but for Christ. 


But he states that these things “Have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” 


Paul’s affairs turned out just the reverse of what might have been expected. 


His imprisonment did not hinder his ministry of intercession, his ministry of evangelism, or his ministry of writing.


I want to tell you about an experience from my own life, which shows how God works through prayer.


Approximately 10 years ago, my family was active in a church in Kansas City, Kansas.  


I was one of the deacons, and for my ministry I worked with the Children’s Church.  


Sierra, my daughter Mary and I were the Children’s Church leaders.  


My best friend, Melvin, who was also a deacon, mentioned in a deacon’s meeting that he wanted us to pray that God would send someone to help me with Children’s Church.  


We all prayed about the matter, but the meeting broke up without having settled on someone to ask.  


The following Sunday morning Melvin came to me, with tearful eyes, and said that he was the one God had chosen to help.  


He struggled with the decision, but finally he had given in to God’s will.


I believe that God wanted him for this task all along, but He didn’t reveal it to Melvin until he prayed about the matter.  


Remember, if you are God’s child, He will answer your prayers, but you may not get the answer you want.


Paul had a spirit of evangelism.  


His one consuming desire was to take the gospel to those outside the family of God.  


However, history confirms that evangelism alone rarely produces spiritual awakening. 


Rather, prayer produces spiritual awakening, and spiritual awakening, as you might expect, produces evangelism. 


Consequently, two important elements that are often neglected are evangelism and prayer.  


Paul linked the two together in a way that makes one ineffective without the other.


Any preacher that is more devoted to the activities of evangelism, with little more than a token commitment to prayer, will not bring the fruit God wants to give.


Paul admonished both women and men to pray for “open” doors; and to pray for the ability to “speak” with an understood message and to pray for “open hearts,” that are receptive to the gospel. 


He also asked God for the ability to express the Gospel boldly to all men.


Taking the initiative and being bold is not natural for most of us. 


But think about this: Perhaps we are not “bold” or able to speak well, because we have not asked God for these qualities. 


The disciples prayed for boldness.  


Their prayer was, “…grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). 


Not only are we to pray for others to be effective in evangelism, but we are also to ask God to make us personally effective in seizing every opportunity to spread the gospel.


When God’s people are in agreement, and they unite to pray for specific things, their prayer has been answered by God, and the answer has changed history.  


That’s true, not only in biblical times, but also in recent history. 


Dramatic results have come when God’s people prayed “in one accord.”


I’ll give you an example from God’s word.  


Following their release from prison, Peter and John met with other believers to pray. 


As they gave their report to their companions, we are told in Acts that they all “raised their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24). 


Scripture confirms that when believers unite “with one accord,” God hears and answers and lives are changed. 


People will act when they are concerned enough to pray. 


As Christians unite to pray in one accord, God enables them to be used to introduce others to Christ and to help change the world.


I believe that Christians should pray particularly for their ministers, and carry them upon their hearts at all times. 


This is what Paul meant when he said, "Do not forget us, whenever you pray for yourselves.’’ 


And then he says to pray that God would open to us a door of utterance, that is, that we be given the opportunity to preach the gospel.


It was for preaching the gospel that he was at that moment a prisoner in Rome. 


It would have been easy for him to become depressed, if he could only see his chains and his present circumstances.


But Paul had a strong faith in God, so he would work for Him as long as he was able. 


He wanted the Colossians to pray for him; that he would not be discouraged in his work, or driven from it by his sufferings. 


Paul desired to make the mystery of Christ known to those who had not heard of it, and to make it clear so they would understand.  


He had told them that he prayed for them, but here he asks for them to pray for him.  


Paul knew better than most how to speak; and yet he begged them to pray that he might be taught to speak. 


The best and most prominent Christians need the prayers of other Christians, and they must not be above asking for them. 


The greatest preachers need your prayers, that God would give them a door of utterance, and that they would speak as they ought to speak.


We need to pray that God will open a door of service, and then we are to pray that God will help us take advantage of our opportunity for service.  


To pray for an open door and an opportunity for service is just half the prayer.  


We are to pray also for courage and ability to take advantage of the opportunity that is there.  


Paul wanted the Colossians to pray that he might be able to “proclaim the mystery of Christ,” which is the gospel message.  


That should be our prayer too.


Conclusion


This is the purpose of prayer: We are to pray that we might commune with God with persistence, watchfulness, and thankfulness in order to have opportunities to witness for Christ and the strength to take those opportunities.


Amen.

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