“HOW SHOULD WE PRAY?”                                 By Pastor YAU

Colossians 1:9-14; Luke 11:1-4                                 March 11, 2007.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A funny story: A story was told about a vendor who sold bagels for 50cents each at a street corner food stand. A jogger ran passed and threw in a couple of quarters into the basket but didn’t take any bagel. He did this same thing everyday for months. One day, as the jogger passing by, the vendor stopped him. The Jogger said, “You probably want to know why I always put money in your basket but never take a bagel, don’t you?” “No, sir,” the vendor replied. “I just want to tell you that the bagels have gone up to 60 cents.”

2)   A not-so-funny lesson: Too often, as children of God, we treat God with this same kind of attitude. Not only we are ungrateful for what He has given us---we feel He hasn’t given us enough and we want more all the time. Some how we think that God owes us all that we want. In fact, God doesn’t owe us anything and yet He has given us everything even His own son. I guess all of us may agree that the bagel vendor was ridiculous in asking the jogger to give more for nothing, some how in our attitude and prayers to God we act as did the bagel vendor.

 

THINGS WE USUALLY PRAY FOR: Here is a common prayer list:

1)   We pray for our needs: This is the most usual way in our prayers: we need something and we ask God to provide. This is legitimate even Jesus taught us to ask for our daily needs. (Matt. 6:11) When we ask God to provide our needs, we recognize His sovereignty over matters and His authority to distribute them. In asking God to provide our needs, we also subscribe to His loving care in meeting our needs like parents provide the needs of their children in tender loving care. In the later part of this same chapter in Luke 11, Jesus taught his followers not to worry about their daily needs because our Father in heaven knows our needs and will provide us according to His abundant grace. (6:25-32)We don’t have to worry about our daily needs.

2)   We pray for our wants: Wants are not needs. Needs are basics for physical survival but wants are things for our hearts. Jumping from needs to wants is a sign of an unsatisfied heart: we are not happy with what we have and we want more or something different. When the Israelis were in the wilderness during the journey to Cannon and was without food, God gave them the basics---the manna to keep them alive. (Exodus 16:14-18, 31) But soon they were tired of what God had provided and began to complain. (Num. 11:4-9) That complaint caused Moses to ask God to take his life because he couldn’t take it any more. (11:10-15) Meeting needs is easy but meeting wants has no end. Be careful when you pray for wants. God may not always answer prayers for wants.

3)   We pray for things we can’t do: Being human there are things we can’t see or do and we pray that God will help us see through them or help us to accomplish them. This is what Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13) Pray for God’s help to see things in the future and strength to go through them is an important part of Christian privileges. We need to see God as our shepherd who will lead our way, protect us from harm and provide us all that we need. We are not exempted from all the perils of the world just because we are Christians. But we have God to lead our way and walk with us each and everyday.

4)   We pray for His blessings: Pray for God’s blessing is nothing wrong. It demonstrates our dependence and trust in God’s good will and power of giving blessing. In fact God promised His blessings when we follow His lead. (Gen. 12:1-4) When we ask God for His blessings, we should not design our own path and ask Him to accept our design and bless it. God gave His promise of blessing to Abraham when He gave him direction and promised His blessing if Abraham obey and follow God’s path. Our problem is we want to take charge of our life and ask God to bless our plans. That is exactly the opposite of God’s promise. God wants to be in charge when we ask His blessing. We can’t have both ways.

 

PROBLEMS IN OUR PRAYERS: It’s all about wrong attitude.

1)    We think we are entitled: The idea of entitlement is a modern day American thought. Many Americans sincerely believe that this world, especially the government and all others, own them a good life and all the things to make it happen the way they want it to. Politicians bow to these people for their votes to office and had created a society almost like a Communist country: the government designs all things, controls all things and provides all things. But this theory doesn’t work. That’s why the communist system has completely collapsed. We can’t treat God this way. We are not entitled to anything or any blessing from God or anyone else. Anything and everything God or others have provided us is because of love and grace. Some get angry against God and others when they did not get what they want.

2)    We think we deserve everything: All grownups know that there are things they want but can’t have and settled with that. No one in this world has the power of having everything he wants. Although God is all powerful and He does own the whole world, that doesn’t mean He has to give us everything we ask. There are many reasons God may not give us some of the things we ask for and often times He doesn’t give us a good reason. We need to know that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He takes better control on what we can have and what cannot. Getting upset with God will not change God’s mind but will hurt our relationship with Him.

3)    We ask much on worldly matters: If we are honest to analyze the contents of our everyday prayers, I am sure more than 90% of them are about worldly things: our needs, wants, family, job, finance, health, relationship, worries, and the list never end. While it may not be that bad when we pray so much on worldly things, when all that we care are worldly things, where is our spiritual side? Jesus told us not to worry so much on worldly things and advised us to pray first for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness because God will provide all our worldly needs. (Matt. 6:33) When our mind and heart are so occupied with things of the world, we have little or no room for things of God.

4)    We never have enough: When Rose Dawson, the titled actress of the tragic movie Titanic confessed to her grand daughter on how she kept her love story with Jack Dawson for over 75 years, she said, “A woman’s heart is as deep as the ocean.” I think all human hearts, men’s and women’s alike, are deeper than any ocean that no one has ever been able to fill it up with things he/she wants. It doesn’t matter how much we already have, we still want just one more whatever it may be. On things we can get on our own, we will get them. On things we can’t get on our own, we ask God to give them to us and the list of requests never ends.

 

A MODEL PRAYER: Read today’s text: Colossians 1:9-14

1)   Pray for spiritual wisdom: (1:9-10) “Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work.” Paul prayed for his friends to increase spiritual wisdom so they will live their life worthy of the Lord. The focus of his prayer was on spiritual growth of the Colossian Christians so they may bear fruit to glorify God. Spiritual wisdom is the key to make right choices so we may live our life worthy of His call. (Eph. 4:1)

2)   Pray for spiritual power: (1:11) “Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” Paul prayed for these early Christians for spiritual power to endure hardship, persecution, setbacks and all failures that are part of being human in this world. Paul did not pray for their need of material provision. He prayed for their need of spiritual strength so they may stand firm and unshaken on their faith in difficult times.

3)   Pray for Kingdom inheritance: (1:12) “Joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the Kingdom of light.” Again, Paul prayed for spiritual things, inheritance not in this world but in the Kingdom of God. Paul pointed out that it is nothing we can do to qualify us to receive the inheritance in God’s Kingdom but God qualifies us through the blood of Jesus so we may receive that heavenly inheritance and that is eternal life. We see the difference of Paul’s prayer and our prayers in terms of the focus: inheritance of this world or inheritance in heaven.

4)   Pray for salvation of men: (1:13-14) “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” With hundreds of millions of people never hear the gospel message and scores among our families and friends who have not been saved, shouldn’t we spend more time praying for their salvation instead of praying for more worldly things to make our life richer, higher and more enjoyable? How many of the worldly things we may bring into heaven when we are done in this world? Why would we spend so much time and energy praying for things that will not last beyond our breath? There are many more important things we can pray everyday.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   Time to see the truth: We all pray for things we consider important. It is a good start to see from our prayer list the things we consider important. If the list consists mostly worldly concerns, may be it is time to concern about our spiritual condition.

2)   Time to expand your prayer list: If you truly care about God and His business, will you expand your prayer list to include things of spiritual nature? Start to pray for spiritual guidance for your family, for spiritual wisdom to make godly decision, for salvation of your family, friends and colleagues and God’s power in your church leadership team.

3)   Time to say that “Sinner’s prayer”: In the parable of prayer in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told us the “sinner’s prayer” in verse 13, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” If you have never confessed your sins to God before, this may be the day you need to do just that. Ask God to forgive your sins and invite Jesus into your heart so you will be given eternal life.