January 18, 2023

January 18, 2023

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
January 18, 2023

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Matthew 6:5-7

Notice that Jesus here uses that phrase “when you pray” three times—verses 5, 6, and 7. What is Jesus assuming? He is assuming that we pray and there are clear mandates in our bibles with regard to praying. You have at least I think 5 verses in the bible that tell us to pray continually, Col. 2 for example, devote yourselves to prayer; 1 Thess. 5, pray without ceasing. I think two of the easiest things to prove from your bible with respect to God is that he hears prayer and with respect to ourselves that we are commanded to pray or God expects us to pray. But it is always easy for us to fall into bad habits, slip and slide when it comes to prayer and we can neglect prayer. So, it is always good to be reminded of the importance of prayer and why we pray. There is an excellent sermon that I’ve gone back to it over the years it is by our good friend J. C. Ryle and it’s found in I think in that book titled “Practical Religion”, but he has a sermon on prayer and it’s shaped by a question. Here’s the question “Do you pray? He comes back to that question maybe 6 or 7 different times. But he asks the question and then he gives you reasons why we should be praying. So, I’m going to kind of steal some of those things from him tonight. So, the title of the sermon is “Do You Pray?” and the first time he asked the question he said “I asked the question because prayer is absolutely necessary for a person’s salvation.” He said you can be saved without reading your bible but you can’t be saved without prayer. We are to pray for the unconverted but they should also pray for themselves. Remember, what that man in Luke 18 said when he goes into the temple, he says God be merciful to me the sinner and he goes home justified. We also read whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. So, that’s the first time he asked the question.

The second reason Mr. Ryle asked the question again “Do you pray?” Here is why he said we should. Prayer is the habit and one of the surest signs of a true Christian. Again, go back to what he just said here in Matthew chapter 6—when you pray, when you pray, when you pray. He’s assuming that we pray. A Christian prays. The very first time we get a spotlight shining on the Apostle Paul after he’s converted I believe, is he prays. The man has been changed—he did a lot of talking but he wasn’t praying before he was converted.

Here’s a third great reason for prayer. Ask the question again “Do you pray?” Here’s why Mr. Ryle said we should ask this question, there’s no duty more neglected than prayer. I’ll quote him again. “I believe that hundreds upon hundreds (and you could add this, thousands upon thousands) never, never utter a word of prayer.” They eat, they drink, they sleep, they rise, they go forth to work and return to their homes, they breathe God’s air, they enjoy God’s mercy but they never speak to God. Think of Romans chapter 1—isn’t that the first major indictment Paul brings against the unregenerate man that they refused to give thanks? The fourth reason why. Again he asked the question “Do you pray?” Here’s the answer he gives. “Prayer is an active religion in which God gives great encouragement.” It’s a command we said already but it is also a privilege. You just have to simply look at God himself. God, the Triune God three Persons, but every one of those Persons you could say encourages us to pray. We pray to a Father, Our Father which art in heaven. We come to a God who is also our sympathetic High Priest, his Son who hears us and helps us and then we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. So, that’s three encouragements right there just with respect to God himself and then you have all of those promises in the bible which encourages us to pray. Ask and you shall receive, knock and it will be opened, seek and you shall find. Even Jesus gives us this promise, whatever you ask in my name I will do. So, there is great encouragement to pray.

Why pray? Well here is another good reason. Fifth reason: Mr. Ryle why should we ask the question “Do you pray and why should we pray?” Because diligent prayer is the secret of emanate holiness. Again, I’ll give you the words of Mr. Ryle. “Some of the Lord’s people who seem to get converted, born again, why do they remain babes all their lives and there are others who always seem to be advancing? They grow like grass after the rain. They are adding grace to grace. How do you account for the difference? What’s the reason why some believers are so much brighter and holier than others?” His answer is “prayer, the diligent use of prayer.” The final warning he gives, I’ll just touch on it—a sober warning—a warning about backsliding. The greatest cause of backsliding is often found here, declension of prayer. So, brethren, a good question—do you pray? I trust we can all say I pray. Do we pray the way we all desire to pray? I’m sure we don’t. We would want to pray more faithfully, more boldly, more consistently. I find it interesting that Jesus’ disciples on the front end of his ministry and then at the back end of his ministry asked the question teach us how to pray. So, it’s obvious they knew they were still on a learning curve. They were taught by Jesus in Matthew—I think it was Matthew and then they were taught again back in Luke’s gospel. On two different occasions they asked the question teach us how to pray and he was always teaching them how to pray. We always need to be taught how to pray and we’re always on a learning curve—that’s the point I’m making.