"Prayer and praise are the oars by which a man may row his boat into the deep waters f the knowledge of Christ."
Pastor Trey preached another excellent sermon Sunday night at The Church of Pecan Creek. One of the things I appreciate most about Pastor Trey is his exegesis and expository preaching. Currently, he is teaching us through the book of Ephesians.
He did not break to have a sermon regarding the latest cultural change but covered Ephesians 3:14-21 just as he would have if last week had just been another, uneventful week. Yet, the passage still spoke to our current situation. When a person teaches or preaches the full counsel of God, it will address whatever we are in at the moment.
Verse-by-verse, expository preaching is by far the most affective, efficient, and Biblical form of preaching, in my opinion. As a person preaches, verse-by-verse, you get the entire message, in context. With other forms, such as topical, it is common to have verses ripped out of context and twisted to fit into the topic the preacher has chosen to speak on that week. Also, with verse-by-verse preaching, you may address many topics in one passage rather than just one topic. Now, there is a time and place for topical preaching and, yes, there can be abuses in verse-by-verse preaching, but, on a whole, it is the safest and most beneficial for addressing the whole counsel of God. In addition, I doubt you will ever hear of a verse-by-verse expositor saying they have "run out of things to preach about."
This past weeks sermon touched on many topics but one topic especially resonated with me this week and it may be partly due to having thought about the subject a lot over the last few month. That topic was prayer. Not just that actual act or that we never do it enough, but what we really should be praying.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Paul stresses many times in his epistles praying for his and other brothers and sisters in the Faith spiritual health. Many times, in churches today, the prayer list reads like a list of diseases a physician my address. Not that we shouldn't pray for the health of each other, we absolutely should, we are to bare one another's burdens (James 4:14). However, what is so much more important is the persons spiritual health, his sanctification. While we should not neglect the praying for our friends and families health, it is vitally more important to pray that their faith is strengthened.
The best place to learn how to pray, is the Bible. I have found it most helpful to look at the opening and closing paragraphs of just about any epistle. Here are a few I have found especially instructive recently:
"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who was qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1:9-12)
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
"Finally brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ." (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all." (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
"I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." (Philemon 1:4-6)
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)
"Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." (3 John 1:2)
We are also instructed to pray for the leaders of our country, state, county, city, church, etc... This may not always be the easiest of tasks but no one ever said the Christian life was the easy life.
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quite life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)Here are some quotes by some wonderful men of God.
"Pray, and let God worry."
"You are close to people who are far from God -- will you beg God for their soul? Will you give them the gospel?"
"Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you."
"Let us resolve by God's grace that however poor and feeble our prayers may seem to be, we will pray on."
"Grant, Almighty God...[that we may] learn to elevate our minds higher, and so make continual advances in your spiritual service."
If you have the desire to read some of the most beautiful prayers written outside of the Bible, I would highly recommend purchasing"The Valley of Vision." It is a collection of Puritan prayers that will humble you and teach you how to separate yourself from our physical desires and seek God's will for our spiritual sanctification. Anthony and I try to read one prayer before bed each night. We fail more than we succeed but it is always a humbling and encouraging experience when we do. Here is one prayer, the prayer in which the book received it's name:
The Valley of VisionLord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold they glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley."