Prayer Makes a Difference

Text: Matthew 6:8-15

Introduction: We are commanded to praise God and to worship Him. Praise is thanking God for what He has done. Worship is thanking Him for Who He is.

Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”

Quote: “It has been said that the apostles prayed for ten days and preached for ten minutes and 3000 were saved. Today we pray for ten minutes and preach for ten days and we wonder why we are not having an affect.”

In Luke 11 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray like John’s disciples were taught to pray.

In Matthew 6, beginning in verse 5, the Lord begins to speak of prayer. He gave two warnings. Don’t pray as the hypocrites – to be seen. Don’t pray as the heathen – in vanity and repetition.

I. His Guide for Our Prayer

In this passage (and in Luke 11) we see His guide for our prayer. 

A. Begin with an emphasis on God.

We see He desires praise (6:9) and wants our priorities (6:10) to be right.

The Lord prayed for God’s will.

Luke 22:41-44 “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

B. Pray for your needs second.

The prayer then switches to an emphasis on our needs. The pattern is that we pray for provision (6:11), our personal relationships (6:12), and protection (6:13).

C. Conclude with an emphasis on God.

The Lord’s pattern prayer turns back to an emphasis on God – His kingdom, His power, and His glory.

II. His Purpose for Our Prayer

Secondly we see His purpose for our prayer. 

A. Keep us connected to the Saviour.

We seem to doubt the veracity of prayer. It appears to the casual observer that Christians pray because they feel they have to, not because they feel it gets any results. We pray like the little girl praying, with her mom and visiting grandma in the room. At the end of her prayer the child said loudly, “And, Lord, you know I really want that bike.” Mom was startled because she said it so loudly. Mom said, “Honey, you don’t have to yell. The Lord is not deaf.” The girl replied, “Yeah, but grandma is!”

Often times we have a meager and bare spiritual life simply because we do not pray. We do not spend time with God in prayer and, therefore, we are powerless Christians. It would be like having a cell phone or a cordless phone that is not put on the charger. We have too many cordless Christians who forget that the Bible says, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” God’s Word reminds us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Are you a shallow, powerless Christian? 

Quote: “If the old saints of the past were to look upon the church of today they would probably note that we are a mile long, but only an inch deep.”

B. Follow His guide for prayer.

The Lord’s prayer is not a liturgy to be recited, it is a pattern. It is a “manner” of prayer, a guide.

We see it begins with and emphasis on God (v. 9-10) – Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will. When we pray according to God’s pattern we are saying to Him, “Your name, Your will, and Your kingdom are more important to me than what I have. The emphasis turns to us with a simple pattern - give us, forgive us, deliver us.

His purpose for our prayer is that we would pray complete prayers. We find four aspects of the Lord’s prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Always start with Him! That is the pattern in our text. We are reminded of this truth in Psalm 100:4,Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” 

III. His Desire for Our Prayer

Thirdly, we see His desire for our prayer. His desire is that we would acknowledge Him. 

When you walk into a room, you can say hello to someone and acknowledge that person, or you can ignore him. Are you acknowledging God in your life?

Illustration: I like the story told about President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Apparently President Roosevelt got tired of smiling the expected presidential smile and saying the usual expected things at all those White House receptions. So, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was really listening to what he was saying. As each person came up to him with extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." People would automatically respond with comments like, "How lovely!" or "Just continue your great work!" Nobody listened to what he was actually saying, except for one foreign diplomat. When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," the diplomat responded softly, "I’m sure she had it coming." 

Do you listen to God and speak with Him, or is your relationship with God becoming mechanical? Do you acknowledge Him every day? What does it mean to acknowledge Him? By definition the word acknowledge means to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of. 

A. Acknowledge His sovereignty.

What is it we are to acknowledge about God? We are to acknowledge that He is sovereign.

That means that we recognize His power and authority.

Isaiah 33:3, “Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.” 

Illustration: We have probably all heard about the children who were lined up in the cafeteria of an elementary school for lunch. At the beginning of the line was a large pile of apples. A teacher made a note, and posted it on the apple tray: "Take only ONE. God is watching." Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples.” 

B. Acknowledge He is the source of all good gifts.

Acknowledging Him means we understand that He is the source of all good gifts. Be thankful.

Illustration: Melinda and I had stayed after the service in Brooklyn to meet people and talk with church members and guests. We left the church at about 2:00 to drive to Stony Brook for the service, stopped in Arby’s to get a bite to eat and saw two men in the table next to ours with drinks. We noticed them bow their heads to pray and thank God for the drinks. What were they doing? They were acknowledging God. They recognized that God owns everything and provided those drinks for them. James 1:17 tells us that truth when it says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

C. Acknowledge that we belong to Him.

To acknowledge Him means to recognize that we belong to Him. We recognize that His rules/principles are more important than ours. He is the source of truth, and what He says goes! David understood this truth.

Psalm 51:3, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”

D. Acknowledge your responsibility to praise and adore Him.

To acknowledge Him means that we are to praise Him and adore Him. Don’t ask for anything from God until you have adored Him. Parents, did your children ever come up to you and say something like, "Dad, you are so smart…and handsome." "Mom, you are the best mom, and your hair looks beautiful today!" What do you begin to think? You think one of two thoughts – what did he do wrong? Or…what does he want from me? One of the best things my boys ever do for Melinda and me is when they come into our room at night and just want to talk. They just want to share the moment. In a culture that understands and desires instant coffee, instant news reports, and instant potatoes, why not have instant prayer as well? It is because the concept of spending time with God is clearly shown in Scripture.

In an age when the term praise and worship has been misunderstood, let us praise Him and worship Him in a true biblical manner. He has met our needs, provided for us, been longsuffering with us, and saved us. His character is amazing. He is forgiving, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

Notice this scene from Heaven in Revelation 7:9-12, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

David gave us a glimpse of his worship of God in Psalm 29:3-4. Perhaps he was viewing a powerful thunderstorm pass over the Judean hills because those verses seem to describe a thunderstorm. As he heard the thunder he said, “God that is just like Your voice. You are powerful!” Moses did this in Deuteronomy 32:3-4. Moses wrote these words right before Israel was to be led into the Promised Land. He said to the Lord, “Lord, you are like the Rock.”

We can do the same thing when we see a beautiful sunset, the power of a storm, the stars at night, a sunrise. Let’s live with our eyes open to see the majesty of God all around us, and let’s praise Him and worship Him. Charles Spurgeon said, “Neither men nor angels can confer anything upon Jehovah, but they should recognize His glory and might, and ascribe it to Him in their songs and in their hearts.”

Conclusion: I read a story about football Coach Bobby Bowden. He used to tell a story about his baseball days in college. He said that he never hit a home run, but he got very excited one day when he hit a line drive down the first base line and was able to run the bases easily. When he arrived at home plate, the whole team was giving him high fives. But then the opposing pitcher threw the ball to first base and the umpire called him, “Out.” You see Bobby Bowden had not stepped on first base. Coach Bowden used that story to illustrate to his players, “If you don’t take care of first base, it doesn’t matter what you do.” There is a lesson in prayer to be learned from the coach’s advice. If we go to God in prayer without first honoring Him for Who He is, we are missing first base. That is why many of our great hymns were written. They are simply an expression of praising God for what He has done and for Who He is.

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