# 1 THE PRAYERS OF THE GOSPELS
We begin this new year with a fresh reminder concerning the nature and need for prayer. My real desire is that we should grow in our desire for both private and corporate prayer , and that you and I should be encouraged by the many answers granted to us by God in response to our prayers .
I have just purchased a book at a Minister’s Conference entitled “ A way to pray “ by Matthew Henry. This book was first published in 1710 and now it appears in revised form , thanks to O. Palmer Robertson . It is thus a 300th Anniversary edition! This book is an attempt by Matthew Henry to lay out a method of prayer that is based altogether on the expressions of prayer in the scriptures . I shall attempt to use these frequently this year in my own pulpit prayers .
Something which Palmer Robertson says in his foreword strikes me :
“ Distinctive is Matthew Henry’s model for Christians to make exclusive use of the language of Scripture to express their prayers. What could be more obvious as a proper method of praying ? What could be more encouraging to Christians desiring to enrich their prayer experience and to make their prayers more likely to be heard and answered by the Lord ? What could be more threatening to the devil than to hear believers in Christ approaching the throne of grace with expressions in prayer that will be honoured by the Lord ?
Prayer in this form is nothing more and nothing less than what the old Puritans called ‘ pleading the promises’ . God has made promises to His people. His people respond by redirecting those promises to the Lord in the form of prayer . How could a God who is faithful to His word fail to answer prayers of this kind ? He has promised. If Christians would join together and form their prayers with the maturity and insight provided by Scripture itself , the impact on the world could not be measured…” 
The puritan pastor William Gurnall put it like this : “Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed , or God’s Word formed into an argument …” We need to be taught and to be reminded to pray . William Gurnall also said : “ Furnish yourself with arguments from the promises to enforce your prayers… the mightier anyone is t in the word, the more mighty he will be in prayer” .  Someone once said : “Show God His own handwriting ; He is tended toward it.”
At the outset of this year of our Lord in 2011, I have planned to do a brief survey of the prayers of the gospels , the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles with you . The object will be to draw you attention to the prayers of a Scripture so that you might be convinced once again concerning the important work of prayer .
- We need to learn to pray not only by learning to pray scripturally
- We also need to pray in obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ and by imitating His life of prayer
- We need to pray because such prayer is the most effective weapon against Satan’s work in this world . The apostle Paul reminds us that we must wrestle ‘ against the rulers , against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places .” ( Eph 6:12) . The Puritan pastor Richard Sibbes says: “When we go to God by prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him and therefore he opposes us all he can .”
We begin then with …
1. Our survey begins with the “ Lord’s Prayer “ in Matt 6:5-15 ( cf Lk 11:1-4) . In the “Lord’s prayer “ , Jesus gives us a pattern for prayer . He begins by discouraging us to use prayer in a hypocritical , ostentatious , babbling (repetitive) sense . He reminds us that true prayer is based on a real relationship in which we speak to the God who has created this Universe as our Father . We are encouraged to approach Him firstly by expressing our desire to see His Name hallowed, His kingdom extended and His will done on earth . After that we are encouraged to seek Him for everything necessary and legitimate for our life – whether is be our physical , emotional or spiritual needs.
The Lord’s prayer really sets the standard for our praying . It forms an appropriate outline for our daily prayers , BUT please note again that it is not designed for mindless repetition . It is given to us as a way or manner after which to pray .
It is important to make mention here that prayer can be hindered by the spirit of unforgiveness. The petition in Matthew 6:12 is picked up again in 6:14,15 , where Jesus makes it very clear that no prayer will be answered by God when forgiveness is not granted to others . This thought is also repeated in Mk 11:24,25 . So let us remember this important warning whenever we pray ! We cannot afford to ignore this . God absolutely means what He says . Jesus illustrated His commitment on the cross when He prayed for those that would kill Him : “Father forgive them for they know not what they do “ ( Lk 23:34)
It is also worth mentioning that , in this context, the Lord Jesus teaching about prayer adds some words about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18 . He does not explain what fasting is here , but it is clear from the teaching of scripture , that fasting is an activity that strengthens prayer . It adds intensity and resolve to our prayer . An instance of unanswered prayer of the disciples for a demon possessed by in Mk 9:14-29 is qualified by Jesus with these words : “ This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting ( some manuscripts) …”. We ought to consider the discipline of fasting in times when prayer is of an urgent nature .
The Lord’s prayer in Lk 11:5-12 stresses the importance of perseverance in prayer in the parable of “the friend knocking at the door at midnight” . This teaching is reinforced in Lk 18 :1-8 in the parable of the persistent widow , where the point is that we must pray and never give up ( provided of course that the request is in God’s will)
2. In Matthew 7:7-11 ( more fully stated in Lk 11:9-13) Jesus gives us one of the most remarkable assurances that our prayer – particularly for the gift of salvation will not go unanswered : and I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Such strong assurances of prayers asked in the name of Christ being granted by the Father are also found in John 14:13-14 ; 15 :7,16;16:23,24
3. In Matthew 9:38 ( Lk 10:2) Jesus teaches us to pray to God to send out workers into the harvest field . There are so many harassed , helpless people in this world – like sheep without a shepherd in this world . The task is overwhelming . Jesus says “pray for labourers ( shepherds) “ , and when He says “ pray” then He also means this prayer to be answered. Pray that God will add faithful shepherds to the ministry of our church and churches .
4. Matthew 11:25 ( Lk 10: 21) records an actual prayer of Jesus in which He reveals that the attitude of a childlike heart (in terms to receiving God’s revelation by faith ) will go infinitely further than those that continuously seek scientific proof for God’s existence and who will show no desire for the life of faith .
5. Matthew 14:19 ( feeding of 5000 ; see also Lk 9:16; John 6:11,23 ) and Matt 15:36 ( feeding of 4000) reveals that Jesus gave thanks to God the Father for the food that He ( and others) ate. Let us remember constantly at every meal time that the food which we receive daily ultimately does not come from the money we earn , but from the storehouse of God’s mercy .
6. Matthew 14:23 teaches us that Jesus frequently took time to pray alone. Communion with God the Father is the basis from which we must work if we are going to have spiritual success in our labours and triumph over Satan’s strategies . ( Other instances of Jesus in prayer with God is found in Mark 1:35; 6:31-32 ; 6:46’ Luke 5:16; Lk 6:12; Lk 9:18,28 )
7. Matthew 19:13-15 : Jesus prayed for children . We must faithfully pray for our church’s children . ( Get a prayer list for the children of the church going )
8. Matthew 21:13 ; Mark 11:17 ; Lk 19:46 : Jesus called the temple “a house of prayer “. That is the primary purpose of the church – to provide a place and a people who seek God in prayer so that He might bless us and cause His kingdom to advance through us .
9. In Matthew 21:22 Jesus connects the necessity of faith in prayer with receiving . Please note that this is not ‘ name it and claim it ‘ theology , for if we remember that faith’s object is God and if our desire is for His will to be done ( and not our will) then we may know that God will give us whatever we ask in accordance with God’s will . This principle is beautifully expressed in 1 Jn 5:14,15 .
10. Luke 18:1-8 tells the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee who come to pray in the temple . Here Jesus stresses the importance of humility in prayer .
11. In the context of the end times ( i.e. the times in which we are currently living) Jesus counsels us to pray that we might be kept from needless suffering ( Pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath – Matt 24:20). He also admonishes us not to become spiritually sleepy , but to ‘ watch ‘. ( Lk 21:36) Mark’s account of this in Chapter 13 is strong! The lack of watchfulness is illustrated in Matthew 26:36 ff ( cf Mark 14:32ff; Lk 22: 39-46 ) . In the hour of trial in the garden of Gethsemane we find Jesus praying against temptation , but the disciples are sleeping . We note that Jesus’ faith stays on course , while the disciples are caught off guard . The saddest words in Matthew must be found in Matthew 26:56 following the arrest and trial of Jesus : “Then all the disciples left Him and fled” . Their prayerlessness caused the Lord Jesus to experience not only the forsakenness of His Father , but the forsakenness by all His earthly friends – those into whom He had poured His life. But thankfully , Jesus’ earthly vigilance in prayer in the hour of temptation stimulates us to pray in times of temptation , and we thank God today for the active obedience of Christ when through wrestling prayer , He chose the cup of suffering above His own comfort . It is by His suffering , His death that your and my sin are atoned for . Praise God for that faithful prayer of Christ prayer by which he persevered for your and my sake .
12. John 17 records the longest prayer of Jesus . It is the profound prayer of the great Shepherd for His dear sheep as He faces the cross , He commits them into the hands of His Father , praying that they will be kept from the evil one and they will be unified .
13. The last act of Jesus before he ascended to heaven was to pray for His disciples , blessing them (Lk 24:50)
The prayers of the gospels are mostly the prayers of Jesus . He provides the model for what follows in the Acts and the epistles as the church pours out her heart to the Father in her prayers. He provides the model for our praying today .
I have shared this with you in the hope that you will continue to meditate on these things and learn the art of biblical praying , for the more we imitate Christ in His prayer life , the more favour we shall find favour with our heavenly Father who cannot deny the Word and the promises that He has spoken . Amen .