What Difference Does Prayer Make?

Bible Book: Colossians  4 : 2-4
Subject: Prayer; Christian Living
 
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES PRAYER MAKE

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com

Introduction

Colossians 4:2-4: "2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak."

It was Dr. A.J. Gordon who said, "You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed". Indeed, we come now to the bedrock foundation of that which Paul is sharing about our commitment to Christ. Remember that Colossians is a book about the preeminence of Christ! In the light of who Jesus is, we should behave in a godly manner. Who He is should effect our lives in the church, in the home, at our work-place - well, everywhere we go and in all we do, think and say. But this is impossible unless we pray!

By placing the subject of prayer in this passage, Paul has brought us to the bottom rung on the ladder of faithfulness, since before we cannot climb the rung of service in the home, in our employment, in our church, and any other service for Him, we must begin with faithfulness in our prayer life.

The Christian must constantly be reminded that prayerlessness is a sin. We often think of sin as something we do rather than something which we fail to do. But not praying is a sin. Samuel once said, "God forbid that I should sin against you by not praying for you..." (I Samuel 12:23).

Failing to pray is a threefold sin.

  • It is a sin against God because he clearly has told us that we "ought always to pray and not to faint.”
  • It is a sin against others, for many are depending on our prayers daily.
  • It is a sin against ourselves, for neglecting to pray injures us beyond description. It robs our power, steals our peace, and makes us hypocrites. It makes us hypocrites because it causes us to act as though we love God with whom we have had almost no communication in recent hours or days.

"Be sure your sin will find you out". The sin of not praying will soon come to light. Those who do not pray are forced to lean on their own strength. That may work just fine for awhile, but then a thing will come to light which is too great and a collapse will result. There was a preacher in the mountains who sat a home one day eating with a church family. After the meal, the church fired him. Someone asked why. One of the members said, "He was asked if he wanted more corn and he said, 'Yes', and handed them his glass."

Be sure you sin will find you out. If you neglect prayer it will not be long till it shows!

Let’s look at what Paul said about prayer when he wrote to the church at Colossae. There are three simple points here which we need desperately to apply in the Christian life.

I. COMMITMENT in Prayer

Paul told the Colossians to "devote" themselves to prayer. To be devoted means to give regular and constant attention to a thing. Thus, Paul was urging the Colossian Christians to give energy and time to the matter of prayer.

In our busy world and with a connection to the entire world through social media and electronic devices prayer can easily be shoved aside. We must guard against this with due diligence.

There are those throughout the Bible who revealed a devoted life of prayer and you can see how God used them. Our weakness and failure is often the result of a poor prayer life. Where there are great blessings in the Christian life one will find devoted prayer somewhere in the practice and habit of that person.

A. The Examples

The examples for consistent praying in the New Testament are far too plentiful for us to consider today. Jesus told the disciples to be "always praying." By that he did not mean that they were to be praying every minute - that is impossible. Rather, he meant that they were to be able to move in and out of prayer as easily as they would greet a friend whom they saw on the street. Also, he meant that they should never have a period in life when prayer was neglected or overlooked. Prayer should be like eating, you just don't forget to do it!

The New Testament church was praying when Pentecost came! After 3,000 were saved, they continued steadfastly in prayer.

Acts 3 begins with Peter and John going up to the Temple at the hour of prayer.

Chapter 4 tells of their great praying - and so on it goes throughout Acts.

Even in Book of Colossians Paul gave an example of steadfast praying. Look at 4:12 and see the great prayer life of Epapharas. "He is ALWAYS WRESTLING in prayer for you". That is the Christian way - to be always praying! You can be assured, if you prayer as you should, that your prayer life will resemble wrestling.

B. The Exhortation

Paul exhorts to prayer because praying is not an easy thing to do. Some of you know that praying is indeed "wrestling". Remember Jacob at Jabbok. He wrestled with the angel all night and would not let him go at day break unless he was blessed. Few will give the energy necessary to pray as Jacob did. That is why we are so often in scripture encouraged to pray! We need to be exhorted because we will find something else to do since so many other things are easier than praying.

Praying is not playing! Did you hear about the man who needed some food? He went to a home and asked if they had something he could do to earn a meal or two. The man of the house said that he had been planning to paint the porch out back and had not found the time. So the poor man took a paint can and brush and headed out back. In 30 minutes he was back. The owner said, "Are you through already?" The painter replied, "Sure am!" The owner said, "You mean to tell me you have painted that porch already?" The fellow said, "Yes sir, I finished it all right – of course  you don't know your car very well - for it was not a Porshce but a Mercedes in the yard that I painted."

Praying keeps us from misunderstanding God’s will. When we pray we receive clear leadership from God. On our own, we fumble around and make critical mistakes. If God tells us to "paint the porch," we don't want to misunderstand that and paint the "PORSCHE." Praying is hard work, but it eliminates errors and misguided decisions. It may be work to pray, but it saves a lot of wasted work when we pray correctly! To pray means to devote yourself to the work of praying. This will involve the will! The intellect will not want to pray! The mind likes to flit from place to place. The emotions will not desire to pray. The emotions are always looking for something to titillate and excite them. You must have the WILL to pray - it must be matter of commitment. Maybe that is why awakening tarries in the church today. We are more interested in expanding our mind and exciting our emotions than we are in bringing our wills into compliance with God's will!

II. CAUTION in Prayer

Paul also uttered a twofold caution to the praying Christian. He told us to be WATCHFUL and to be THANKFUL. Every Christian who would be successful at prayer must heed these twin warnings.

A. The Guarded Prayer Life

He told us to "watch" when we pray. Jesus said the same thing to the disciples. This must be an important issue.

A little lad asked his dad for a watch. The family was quite poor, something the little fellow could not understand. The father tried to put the boy off by telling him that he could have a watch when he got older. The little boy just kept asking for a watch. Finally the mother took the little boy aside and told him to stop asking for a watch since his father could not afford one for him. The persistent youth just kept asking. Finally, they made a rule in the house - the watch could not be mentioned! That night the little child asked if he could quote a Bible verse during devotions. The proud parents said yes. He then quoted, "And what I say to you I say to all: WATCH!" (Mark 13:37).

Every Christian must keep watch over his or her prayer life! What does that mean? If we are not on our guard, something will enter our lives which will hinder our prayers. Note some Bible examples:

Unforgiveness Mark 11:25

Wrong Motives Colossians 3:23; James; John 14:13

Material Selfishness Proverbs 21:13; Philippians 4:16-19

Hidden Sin Isaiah 59:1-2

Idolatry Ezekiel 14:1-3

Look at Nehemiah 4:9. Truly, Satan is always working against us even when we are "on the wall" for the Lord. We must work, but we must also pray! We must keep watch or Satan will add something to our lives to steal our victory in prayer. (See Mark 13:35; 14:38)

B. The Grateful Prayer Life

We are also told to be "thankful" in our prayer life. Why is this admonition here? A thankless heart is a haughty one and will soon leave off praying and will begin to trust in self alone. This is true today, especially in terms of the growing humanism within our culture! We are only ready to enter the battle through prayer when we have guarded our hearts and have grateful hearts! The poet said,

"Gird thy heavenly armor on,

Wear it every night and day;

Ambushed lies the evil one:

WATCH AND PRAY!"

III. CONCERN in prayer

Paul calls for intercessory prayer for himself. He asks the church to pray for him! As great as he was, Paul knew he was nothing without God's blessing and power in his life. In fact, the greater a Christian is, the more he relies upon prayer! But note that the call for prayer is for intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the act of praying for others. It is an important competent in a Christian’s prayer life. Even when Paul asked for prayer, he did so for the sake of others. He asked for prayer so that the gospel might reach the lost! His request was not a selfish one, but was a selfless one! God can and will bless that kind of request and that kind of prayer. Perhaps that is why Paul was such a great servant of the Lord.

A. Praying for the Opportunity

Paul was asking for prayer in order that the opportunity to minister might be granted. So many of our prayers are self-centered and are focused only on our personal wants and needs. Don't misunderstand me, we are told to bring our burdens and concerns to the Lord through prayer. However, when prayer is only about me and mine, we begin to treat the Lord like a holy bellhop. Note that Paul sought prayer so that he might be useful to God’s work. His concern was not for himself alone, but for God to be honored and glorified. He wanted God's work to succeed. Paul was praying that he might have the opportunity for God to use him. Now remember, when Paul was used of God it was often very difficult for Paul. He was stone, shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, bitten by a snake and faced other hardships while God was "using" him. So, when Paul is praying for the opportunity to be used by God, it was not like some of the prosperity evangelists or our day who ask you to give to their ministry so they can buy another private airplane! Paul's prayer was not personal - it was spiritual.

How much time do you think the average Christian spends praying for God to use him and give him opportunity to be effective in divine work? Let’s get more personal with this question. How much time do YOU and I spend asking God to use you, or to give you an opportunity to be used in His service? We pray about our finances, our health, our children, our employment, our safety, our happiness, et al. But, just take a moment and think about how seldom we pray earnestly for the Lord to open a door for us to be used for His sake, especially if that place of service is going to be dangerous and costly to us.

B. Praying for the Ability

But opportunity was not enough. Paul asked that prayer be offered in order so that he would be found capable of doing his best when the opportunity came. There was no presumption that he would succeed if given the opportunity. There was no pride or arrogance in Paul's request that prayer be offered for him.

We must take nothing for granted!!! All depends on God. Paul knew that. He wanted us to know that. He wanted us to practice that kind of faith and that kind of praying. The first prayer in the Bible was an intercessory prayer. It was Abraham praying for Sodom and Gomorrah. Since that kind of praying has always pleased God, honored the praying person and served as a blessing for the world, let us engage fully in doing the same!

Conclusion

The church, as a whole, is not succeeding in reaching our generation. Could it be that the main reason for that lies in prayerlessness or improper praying? It surely can and likely does! Today is a great day to renew your prayer life.

Will you make a new commitment to pray?

Will you make a commitment to be consistent in prayer?

Will you make a commitment to pray for others?

Will you make a commitment to pray for God to use you and to use others?

Will you pray for today for God to give you opportunities to honor Him in service and to make you able to succeed when those opportunities arise?

If we can bring ourselves to make these commitments and keep them, revival and renewal just may be right around the corner! God wants to bless His people. God desires to save the lost. He calls for a praying Christian to line up with Him in prayer so that these blessings can become a reality.

Does prayer make a difference? Indeed, it does. It does because God designed it that way. We can get in line with His design or we can fail. The decision is ours but success or failure lies in the answer we give to God’s call to prayer!