9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
[a]For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
My simple and humanly impossible goal this morning in this message is that you would all be devoted to prayer. This is my goal because this is what the Bible calls us to be. My text is Romans 12:12 which is part of a longer chain of exhortations. It says we are to be “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted (proskarterountes) to prayer.”
Your version might say, “constant in prayer” or “faithful in prayer.” Those all get at aspects of the word. “Devoted” is a good translation. The word is used in Mark 3:9 where it says, “[Jesus] told his disciples to have a boat ready (proskartere) for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him.” A boat was to set apart — devoted — for the purpose of taking Jesus away in case the crowd became threatening. “Devoted” — dedicated for a task, appointed for it.
Now, boats just sit there. But people are not dedicated that way. When the word is applied to a person it means devoted or dedicated in the sense not only of designation and appointment but of action in the appointed task, and pressing on in it. So for example in Romans 13:6 Paul talks about the role of government like this: “You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” That is, they are not only designated by God for a task, but are giving themselves to it.
What’s remarkable about this word is that five of the ten New Testament uses apply to prayer. Listen, besides Romans 12:12 there are:
- Acts 1:14 (after the ascension of Jesus while the disciples were waiting in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Spirit): “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
- Acts 2:42 (Of the early converts in Jerusalem): “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
- Acts 6:4 (The apostles say): “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
- Colossians 4:2 (Paul says to all of us): “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
So we may say from the New Testament Scriptures that the normal Christian life is a life devoted to prayer. And so you should ask as you turn from 2002 to 2003, “Am I devoted to prayer?”
It does not mean that prayer is all you do — any more than being devoted to a wife means all the husband does is hang out with his wife. But his devotion to her affects everything in his life and causes him to give himself to her in many different ways. So being devoted to prayer doesn’t mean that all you do is pray (though Paul does say in another place, “pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
It means that there will be a pattern of praying that looks like devotion to prayer. It won’t be the same for everyone. But it will be something significant. Being devoted to prayer looks different from not being devoted to prayer. And God knows the difference. He will call us to account: Have we been devoted to prayer? Is there a pattern of praying in your life that can fairly be called “being devoted to prayer”?
“Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer.”
I think most of us would agree on some kinds of praying that would not be called “being devoted to prayer.” Praying only as crises enter your life would not be a pattern of devotion to prayer. Praying only at meal times is a pattern, but does it correspond to Paul exhorting the church to “be devoted to prayer”? A short “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer at the end of the day is probably not “being devoted to prayer.” Hit and miss “Help me, Lord” in the car as you need a parking place is not “being devoted to prayer.” All those are good. But I think we would agree that Paul expects something more and different from followers of Christ when he says, “Be devoted to prayer.”
Let us not forget in all of this, as we saw last week, that the cross of Christ — his death in the place of sinners — is the foundation of all prayer. There would be no acceptable answer to why or how we pray if Christ had not died in our place. That’s why we pray “in Jesus name.”
As I have weighed the obstacles to prayer that I could address, some of them fall under the question, why pray? And some of them fall under the question how pray. I want to focus this morning on the how. Not that the question why is unimportant, but it seems to me that we can have all our theological answers in place as to why pray and still be very negligent and careless in the life of prayer. So I will give a short answer to the question why, and then focus on practical how questions that I pray will stir you up to venture new levels of “being devoted to prayer” in 2003.
A Passionate Prayer
By: George Vink, reframemedia.org
Scripture Reading — John 17:13-26
“[Father,] my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” — John 17:15
On the night he was arrested, Jesus prayed this prayer to his Father, interceding for his disciples and all believers. This prayer is filled with compassion, revealing Christ’s mission for himself and his followers.
Does he ask that we may never face hardships? No, he asks that we may persevere. It’s a prayer for unity among believers so that others will believe. It’s a prayer of deep love, asking that all people may grow to believe in him.
Reflecting on this prayer of Jesus, we can see that as believers we have a mission—and we will accomplish it only by remaining in him who is the vine (John 15:5). The Bible’s message is designed to draw us into relationship with our Creator, who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ, and by his Holy Spirit.
It is appropriate that we close this month of lessons with this closing prayer of the Canons of Dort: “May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to humanity, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of God’s Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.”
Following Jesus’ example, let’s be faithful in prayer. May we love as God loves—and share his good news everywhere.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit guide us in truth so that we may walk with you now and forever. Amen.
“There was a prophetess, Anna…advanced in years…a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” – Luke 2:36-38 NASB
Do our prayers really matter? Even Believers who pray regularly may have doubts, wondering if God really cares about them or hears their prayers.
We can wonder if Anna ever had these thoughts. If she candidly evaluated herself, she might have wondered if her life really mattered to anyone, or even to God.
Although a “prophetess,” Anna did not seem to have credibility in the eyes of the world. She did not seem to be well known or have connections with political or religious leaders. In fact, her life had been marked by personal tragedy, as a longtime widow.
The only noteworthy fact about her was her commitment to God. She always was in His house, totally dedicated to prayer, fasting, and giving thanks. It did not seem to matter what other people thought. She simply focused on God and devoted herself to serving Him.
Anna might not have mattered to anyone else, but it was clear that she mattered to God. He honored her, allowing her to be among the few to see the baby Jesus. He had heard her prayers and seen the commitment of her heart. And He rewarded her for her faithfulness.
Over history, others have had a similar testimony. These men and women of all ages and all backgrounds have had this in common: They weren’t concerned with their reputations but simply were devoted to serving God. Their lives were focused on serving Him…praising Him…and thanking Him. They were committed to prayer, and they prayed with faith and persistence. They interceded for the needs of others and for the advance of God’s Kingdom throughout the world.