At the beginning of each year, I set aside a Sunday morning sermon on the topic of prayer. I do so not because the average church member would argue against the importance of prayer. Nearly every Christian would verbally agree that prayer is important.
But even while nearly every Christian would verbally agree that prayer is important, I wonder how many of our lives actually reflect the importance of prayer. That is, how many of us actually set aside time to pray?
And for those who do set aside time to pray, what is the content of those prayers? Are our prayers more concerned with keeping Christians out of heaven or are they more concerned with keeping non-Christians out of hell? In other words, do we pray more for our Christian brothers and sisters to get feeling better—for them to be healed? Or do we spend more time praying for the lost to hear the gospel and be saved?
I’m not at all suggesting that it’s wrong to pray for the healing of a brother or sister in Christ. I model this type of prayer every Sunday morning during my pastoral prayer. But if our prayers are nothing more than an “organ recital”—that is, praying for Aunt Sally’s stomach and Brother Bob’s kidneys, etc.—and we have no concern for the lost, then I can assure you that we’ve missed the mark.
Timothy Keller, who’s a retired pastor from New York City, wrote this in his book on prayer.
“It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure
Timothy Keller, Prayer, 20
Keller goes on to properly argue that it’s not wrong for us to pray for such things. Even Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread, but in Paul’s prayers, we learn what we need more than we need anything else—we learn that we need to know God better. We need to focus on kingdom-oriented prayers—prayers that bring us closer to Jesus. We need to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened (Eph 1:18).
I set aside a Sunday at the beginning of the year to preach on the practice of prayer because prayer is like oxygen to the soul of a believer.
Let me again quote from Keller. He writes,
“To discover the real you, look at what you spend time thinking about when no one is
Keller, Prayer, 22–23
For the next several blog posts, I will be writing about the importance of kingdom-oriented prayer.