The way of prayer

Matthew 6:5–18

God wants you to know him. He wants you to know all about him. That’s why he reveals himself in every way he can. God wants you to know him from his creation. God wants you to know him from his activities. God wants you to know him from the Bible. God wants you to know him directly. One day all mankind will know God.

In Hebrews 8:10-11 it is written – “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbours, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already.”

I am convinced that God’s goal is not for you to know him. I’m convinced that he wants you to know him because it leads to something else. The reason that God wants you to know him very well is that he wants to have an intimate relationship with you. God’s goal is intimacy.

God created each of us with a longing for intimacy with him. We need to understand this longing, what kind of relationship God is offering. As we grow, we will come to the realization that we were created for fellowship with our Creator. We need God and God desires us.

Although it is very important to read about God and learn his story in the Bible, we need to go further. We need to talk to God. We need to sit down and listen as he speaks to us.

The way we do this is prayer.

Prayer is a huge topic and I cannot possibly cover it all this morning. God works through our prayers to do amazing things. You have prayed for people and they have been healed because of your prayers. You have asked God for things in prayer and he has given them to you. You have engaged in spiritual warfare in prayer and gained victories. Underlying all of these aspects of prayer is intimacy with God.

A common example of the kind of intimacy that God wants to have with you is marriage. The Bible uses this example, talking about the church as the bride of Christ. God began in the garden of Eden by seeking an intimate relationship with Adam. He would walk together with Adam in the garden. Everything he has done since then has been to restore the intimacy that was destroyed by the fall of man.

Not only does God want to have an intimate relationship with you, he wants us all to have intimate relationships with each other.

We develop an intimate relationship with God through prayer. As I prepared this sermon I found a shocking piece of research from George Barna that is backed up by other research.

A huge 23 percent of non-Christians get divorced. Among Christian couples, the figure rises to 27 percent. Among fundamental Christians, it goes up further to 30 percent.

Why? What further study reveals is that a meagre 8 percent of couples pray together. Among these couples, the divorce rate is just 1 percent.

In other words, couples that pray together stay together.

Most couples would acknowledge that prayer is very important, but they simply fail to do it on any regular basis. The fact of the matter is that if we don’t pray very much, then prayer is really not very important to us. To those of you who are married, how often do you pray with your spouse? This does not include time spent praying before your meal. This means time set apart to hold hands and together pour out your hearts to God.

When you and your spouse hold hands and pray together, you are coming before God as a couple. It is not just you praying and it is not just your spouse praying, but the two of you praying together. You are united spiritually before God as a team. You are now operating on the level that God intended for couples to operate on. You are unified, joined together as one, partners together before God. Your prayer as a couple is sweet perfume to God.

Jesus prayed for unity among all his followers.

I just want to say that what we learn about developing an intimate relationship with God through prayer applies to us as individuals, as couples, as a fellowship and as the church.

Jesus taught us how to pray. He taught us by example, so in the Bible you can read how he prayed. And he gave us what we call The Lord’s Prayer, which is in our Bible reading today.

Jesus said to start by reminding yourself of who you are getting intimate with – “Our Father in heaven.” This is why we also need to know God.

A lot of us get stuck after that. What are you supposed to say to God? How are you supposed to say it? Should we use special words? Use your knowledge of God to start.

Look at the great examples of prayer in the psalms. In the psalms we discover prayer as a passionate outpouring of emotion and sharing of thoughts. For example,

Psalm 17: “O Lord, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help.”

Psalm 38: “I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief.”

In one sense you don’t need to use words. You can pray in silence. For myself, I find that hard. I find I need to put all of myself into this passionate act. I have to make a noise when I pray. And of course when we are praying with others it is part of sharing the intimacy.

For some people, they pour out their hearts best when they write poetry. This is one aspect of the psalms.

Some of us pour ourselves out best when we sing, and let our passions flow in music. Or dance. Or art. God is looking for the passion of your heart reaching out to him. God is reaching out to you with passion.

He wants you to share what you see when you look at the world. He knows there is injustice, but God wants you to share with him how you feel about it. And he will share with you how he feels about it. God wants to hear from you about your family. He wants to talk to you about the environment and global warming. It’s his creation, and he cares about it. He wants to know how much you love what he made for you.

Please don’t be restrained in prayer. Please don’t be polite and well mannered.

When you stop at 12.15 every day to take part in our daily prayer, for example, please don’t just read the words on the prayer card. They are only a rough guide to remind us. You can use them as a starting point to cry out to God, but real prayer comes from your heart in your words.

What will happen as you develop your prayer life is that you will change. As your heart and your mind and your passion meet with God, you will change. You will grow more like God, and God’s presence will grow more powerful in you.

Prayer will bring intimacy with God, and intimacy with God will transform you. Of course the devil doesn’t want this. He has many ways to try and break up this loving relationship. Couples that pray together, stay together. Prayer creates an unbreakable relationship between you and God. Prayer creates an unbreakable relationship between you and your spouse.

And so Jesus suggests we conclude our prayer with this request to God: “don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”

There is nothing you cannot say to God. There is nothing in your heart or thoughts God wants you to hold back from him. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and experience his passion for you.

Our faith in prayer is useless unless we act on it. We have to actually pray. Let’s do it.

Amen 아멘

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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