Sermon

God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 45: Prayer, the Breath of the Christian Soul (Psalm 32:6 and Matthew 6:7-13)

INTRODUCTION

  • Decision to tackle “prayer” in Lord’s Day 45, instead of resuming the series on Mark (same theme with 1 Peter) or resume where we left in HC (mabibitin naman at the end of the year)
  • On childhood days, children are taught to memorize prayers in school
    • Help me God to love you more than I have ever done before. At home or school, in work or in play, please be with me throughout this day. Amen!
  • What wasn’t taught is: “What is prayer? Why pray? Who can truly pray?”
  • There are many aspects that we can discuss about prayer, but we’ll focus on two things: “How we should pray” and “Why we should pray.”

CONTEXT:

  • TRUTH: Only Christians can truly pray.
    • CLARIFY: Other people can express prayers to God (whatever idea of God they have), and God may permit what they wish for by his common grace and providence. Not because of their prayers, but because of his mercy.
    • Nevertheless, God is a holy God who doesn’t listen to the requests of the unrighteous and wicked.
      • Isaiah 1:15 – “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”
    • At the same time, no person will naturally pray and seek God’s face. For Romans 3:11: “No one understands, no one seeks for God.”
    • EXAMPLE: Especially in times of distress and calamity, people—regardless of their beliefs—may cry out to God for mercy, and he may grant it. But it is not the prayer that God wants and delights.
  • The only prayer that enters the courts of heaven and pleases God is the prayer of his children. Why?
    • Because for any prayer of a sinner to penetrate into the throne of God, there must be a perfect mediator first. And Christ intercedes only for his people.
    • For any prayer of a sinner to receive God’s favor, his Spirit himself must grant the words, purify it, and guide it. And the Spirit dwells only within the believers.
  • Hence, prayer belongs to the children of God. None of us can ever truly pray unless the Spirit of God first works within us. And the moment we confessed our sins and believe in Jesus Christ, that’s the moment we start to actually pray to God from the heart.
  • That is why prayer is evidence of being a true Christian. Just as no person can truly pray until he becomes a Christian, there is no true Christian who doesn’t pray. 
    • ILLUSTRATION: William Gurnall — Praying is to a Christian what breathing is to a person or crying is to a child. The child is not learned by art or example to cry, but instructed by nature; it comes to the world crying.

      QUOTE: “Praying is not a lesson got by forms and rules of art, but flowing from principles of new life itself.”
  • So prayer is an expression of worship and trust to the God who saved us in Christ.
  • AND IT IMPLIES THAT THE REASON WE ARE NOT PRAYING IS BECAUSE WE ARE HAVING FELLOWSHIP WITH SIN RATHER THAN GOD
  • Of course, as believers, we know we don’t always pray as we should. And that’s part of our sanctification. Now that we “can” pray, God continues to teach us and encourage us so we will exercise and grow in it.

[TRANSITION]: So how should we pray and, later on, why should we pray accordingly?

SERMON POINT 1: How We Should Pray 

TEXT: Matthew 6:7-8 — “Do not be like them…”

  • Although the context is directly concerned about useless repetitions or empty phrases (i.e., external expression of prayer), this clearly implies that there is a right prayer and wrong prayer. A prayer acceptable to God, and a prayer that is not.
  • James 2:2b-3 — “… You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (Selfish and sinful desires)

[How then should we pray?]

  • READ 1 John 5:14
  • Our prayer must be in accordance with the Word of God, his revelation of himself and his commands
  • POINT: The revealed will of God must shape our prayers and our attitudes in prayers (e.g., Holiness, Maturity). God’s will must take priorities in our prayers.
  • CLARIFY: Does it mean we only pray for the things written in the Bible? How about “house and lot”? “Car”?

EXAMPLE:

  • Praying for a lifetime partner, so you can fulfill your sexual desires properly (which is not totally wrong). But pray for purity and contentment even while you are still single and waiting. That is God’s will for you right now!
  • Praying for a promotion and increase. But are you also praying that if that will keep you from attending church, give you no time for the family, etc.—”Lord, wag na lang”?
  • Good prayer: Asking for a child, and also asking for wisdom to bring up that child in godliness. But if it is not God’s will, then give us gratitude and contentment and faithfulness in our calling.
  • Again, the revealed will of God must shape our prayers and our attitudes in prayers.

READ 1 John 5:15 — “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask [according to his will], we know [confidence] that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

  • TO UNBELIEVERS: It is the will of God that you repent and believe in Christ that you may be saved. Ask the Lord for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for peace of mind, and he shall give it as he declared in his Word.
  • TO BELIEVERS: Praying for maturity and holiness, he will grant it. (Not that we pray and then still disobey what he already revealed in his Word. Nandun na rin yung sagot. No time to discuss though).

(Will learn more “what to pray for” in the next LDs). 

APPLY: Read and meditate on God’s Word. The more we learn God’s Word, the more we learn God’s perfect will. And the more we long for God’s perfect will, the more we can be confident that God will be happy to provide it for us.

[TRANSITION: Now why should we still pray? Why should we keep praying and grow in praying properly?]

SERMON POINT 2: Why We Should Pray

Three (3) reasons:

  1. Let us pray because it is God’s means to provide for us
    1. Matthew 7:7-8 — Those who ask and pray, receive.
    2. Taking Christ for his word, the reason we don’t receive is often because we don’t ask at all (James 4:2b)
    3. “Alam na naman ni Lord eh… sovereign na naman si Lord eh, why pray?” It’s like saying, “May elect na pala eh. Why share the gospel? Why repent and believe? 
    4. CLARIFY: Although God already knows what we need, and even though we cannot change what God has already appointed—he who appointed the ends (what he will give to us) also appointed the means.
    5. In the sovereignty of God, he appointed it this way and wants to give us his blessings through our prayers. He teaches us to pray, and he also provides us through

[Eh, bakit hindi naman sinasagot ni Lord yung prayer ko?] 

  1. Let us keep praying because it is God’s means of grace
    1. Prayer is not only to provide our requests, but also to provide our sanctification.
    2. Through prayer, we get to know God more and ourselves. Through prayer, we learn that God answers our requests or gives us something better than our requests. Even when God doesn’t give exactly what we request, it teaches us patience. We learn trust and submission.
    3. EXAMPLE: Before our wedding day, a client didn’t pay Php 27,000. Though I prayed, God didn’t answer my prayers and the Lord taught me to trust in him rather than my ways, that he can provide us even without it… Then after 2 years, when we were in great need, that client reached out and paid.
    4. Even if God answers “No” or “Not yet” or a different thing to our prayers, it’s still God’s provision. And nothing comes from God’s hands which is not the best for his people.

[And lastly…]

  1. Let us always pray because it is our special privilege as Christians
    1. Hebrews 4:14-16
    2. By ourselves as sinners, we have no ability—not even the right—to come to the throne of God. But now in Christ, though he closes his ears to the rest of mankind, God is pleased to listen to our prayers and supply our needs. In Christ, we now have access to him and call him “Father” and commune with him in sweet fellowship.
    3. There is no better privilege than having access to the heavenly throne of God from whom all the richest blessings and all perfect gifts come forth—both here and beyond.

CONCLUSION

In the end, for us believers, I won’t ask, “Are you praying?” But rather, “How are you praying? How often are you praying?”

We bought a book, “Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans.” And the first 2 sections are: “Teach Me to Pray” and “Help Me ask for Help!”

Perhaps, the best application right now: That we pray, “Lord, teach us to pray, to keep praying, and to always be praying.”

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