Continuing Instant In Prayer

Continuing Instant In Prayer

Continuing Instant In Prayer

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Prayer: 

  1. Constant in History
  2. Concentrated On God
  3. Commissioned By Christ
  4. Continued In Faith 

Introduction:

We have in the last sermons been considering the different elements of this one verse found in Romans 12:12. The first was what it is to be “Rejoicing in Hope“, the second what it is to be “Patient in Tribulation” and today it is all about the command we have in the scriptures to be instant in prayer.

The topic of prayer covers so many areas it is simply impossible to consider them all in one sermon. Many books have been written on the subject, and in each of them there are gleanings of truth more profound than can be heard of in one message.

Nevertheless, this is one of the areas Paul has seen fit to include as the surest attribute and effort of the Christian. It is a command and not a request. 

Romans 12 to 15 is all about how we should live.

So this sermon is not to tell you why you should pray, or to encourage you to pray, or to tell you of its value and inspire you, why?

Because it is your duty to pray, it is part of that which is your “reasonable service”.

And like all our service to the Lord, it reciprocated back to us as the greatest of blessing.

Three identifiers that can be considered respecting Christians and their prayer life;  

THE CONSTANT CHRISTIAN

To some people Prayer is as natural as the air we breathe, they spend hours in prayer before the Lord, they are themselves truly “continuing instant in prayer”.

These gain to themselves such a love for God and such a confidence in the Lord that would make most other Christians blush. The nature of their private prayer life is manifested in their public prayer life.

You can always identify such Christians as these, 

  • they are NOT the person they were the previous year. 
  • They do NOT struggle with the same sins they did a year ago. 
  • They do not neglect their obligations to exercise their gifts for the sake of Christ. 
  • They are faithful in all things in the Church. 
  • They are often the first to arrive and the last to leave and 
  • they have the greatest love for the Lord you have ever witnessed.

They indeed Rejoice in Hope, are indeed Patient in tribulations, and all this simply because they “continue instant in prayer”.

This is a picture of those who’s prayer life is filled with Christ, and simply cannot get enough of his company.

THE COGNISENT CHRISTIAN

In the middle of the spectrum are those who do indeed pray each day, 

  • THEY KNOW the value of prayer, 
  • they are aware they should spend more time with the Lord in prayer, but fall short regularly in that effort. 
  • These Christians know that God loves to hear their prayers, 
  • and they know God answers prayer, 
  • they just don’t believe they pray enough. 

Yet they too Love the Lords company when they commit themselves to pray. They too can pray publicly, but may choose only to pray when called upon. They too are different today than they were a year ago, but they struggle to dedicate the time to spend with the Lord and their transformation in the Lord is slow.

They know it should be first on their daily task list, but often find themselves ‘under the circumstances.’

But they KNOW better, they just don’t DO better.

These are the COGNISENT CHRISTIANS, those who Know but don’t often do.

THE COMPLACENT CHRISTIAN

Lastly there are those who call themselves Christian but rarely call upon the name of the Lord. 

They do not have his company as their daily joy, they do not regularly pray, other than perhaps saying grace at the table, their greatest fear is being called upon to pray! 

They do not have a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord and as a result you should you expect to see any change in their lives from year to year. The struggles of yesteryear are the struggles of yesterday and today.

These are generally those Christians who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, and also have themselves as the focus of their efforts and at times the focus of their conversation. 

To the COMPLACENT CHRISTIAN, Paul’s command to “continue instant in prayer” falls on a deaf ear.

They may be known of the Lord, but do not themselves truly know the Lord. 

In other words, they may be saved and are known of God, but they themselves do not really know God; they don’t truly know his character, his nature, his power and faithfulness, his grace, his wisdom, all of this is somewhat foreign to them. 

Should they have had intimate knowledge of God, they would pray, INDEED they would be continuing instant in Prayer

It is sad to say that these are the most common of all Christians, but they don’t know it, nor will they likely admit to it.

In summary 

The CONSTANT Christian is identifiable.

The COGNISANT Christian is acknowledgeable (Ready to admit his lack)

The COMPACENT Christian is intractable (will not admit their lack)

Prayer: 

1.  Constant in History

Paul writes;

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

It is interesting because he writes as if this should be the most natural effort of the Christian that it simply should go without saying.

Prayer in the Christian life, particularly one who is “continuing instant in prayer” should be as natural as breathing. It should not need to be told them, and Paul almost seems to give a fleeting last note on the subject.

The truth is, that prayer in one form or another, fills the history of all peoples the world over.

It differs only in form and effort, but it has an historical design that differs in the pagan and heathen world than it does to those of the Jew or Christian.

To the Jew and Christian, God is petitioned and communicated with personally: to the pagan/heathen, the gods are largely invoked, cajoled, charmed or celebrated in honor for favour.

  •  
    • The Sumerian and Arkadian prayers to the moon god (a historical curiosity of Islam), “portray gods who are disengaged from the affairs of humanity and must be cajoled to take notice: “I am kneeling; I tarry (thus); I seek after thee” (Prayer to the Moon God, 21)
    • “the phrases “How long?” and “be appeased” recur throughout the Psalm to Marduk. The Akkadian Prayer to the Gods of the Night depicts the great gods of Old Babylon—Shamash, Sin, Adad, and Ishtar—asleep in their chambers, indifferent to the concerns of their devotees. 
      • These prayers often included the consultation of omens, oracles, and magic rituals as a way of appeasing the gods’ anger and arousing their attention (Lenzi, Akkadian Prayers, 9–68)[1]
    • The gods of the near eastern neighbours of Israel are unidirectional and not dialogical. In other words, there is no expectation of a direct answer, nor is there dialogue. (NB: Daniel 2 sees the Chaldeans argue against the King of Babylon saying the gods have no dealling with flesh. Dan 2:11)
    • The gods of the pagan world are seen to speak through oracles, or gives signs through animals or creation. Omens are sought through the entrails of birds is one example, so too are the Tibetan prayer flags and prayer wheels.
    • Incantations and charms are the implements of supplication used by pagans and heathen alike.
    • The consultations of the stars through astrology, the prognostications of imaginations of the learned are also present.
    • Luck and the seeking of good luck is yet another form of incantation used by those who know not God.
    • Magic, and its employments, whether it be through the creation of images of enemies again whom harm is sought, is found in many ancient cultures. From Islam through to other elements of paganism;

Lo, I am burying the corpse of Somebody, Do you assist in killing him or making him sick: If you do not make him sick, if you do not kill him, You shall be a rebel against God, A rebel against Muhammad,’[2]

Invocations such as this has carried on to this very day. Some through serious endeavors, make careers out of reading palms, tea leaves, cards or telling stars.

ALL These are HISTORICAL forms of communications, supplications and pleadings, all these are forms of historical prayer.

CELBRATIONS in HONOR are also forms of communication to the gods of the heathen, they are like incantations designed to move the gods toward their favour.

Remnants of such celebrations in honor of false gods are remembered to this very day.

One example is the ancient Babylonian celebration about the time of the winter solstice. 

In Egypt it was to the birth of the son of Isis (Isis is the Egyptian title for the Queen of Heaven).

In ancient Greece it is the death of Adonis whose myth is transported from the Phoenicians, the Bible references this same tradition in Ezekiel with “the Women weeping for Tamuz”, Tammuz was the Assyrian representation of the son of the queen of heaven, he is also known as Bacchus (The lamented one) in Babylon.

It is in his death and his subsequent re-birth that began on the 24th of the tenth month, with the burning of the Yule log at his death and continued on the 25th of the tenth month, the month December, of the appearance of a tree representing his new birth (NOTE: “Yule” is the Chaldean (Babylonian) name for Infant or little child).

Our Christmas celebrations are the remembrance of the most ancient and most handed down pagan incantations and celebrations of heathen history. 

They are the traditional representation of the ancient Bacchanalian feasts of Babylon.

This is what we ignorantly remember each time we build the tree, and each time the 25th of December is reserved.

But don’t let that ruin your Christmas 😛

Great! Now that I got myself in a lot of trouble…let me move on. 

Pagan prayers are impersonal, and without some form of passionate appeasement there is little expectation they could be heard. 

Turn to 1 Kings 18:26-29

26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. 27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. 28 And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

Prayer in all its forms is CONSTANT in history

2.  Concentrated On God

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Paul however was under no illusion as to whom it was that the Christian was to petition and pray to. The God of the Bible is now intimately known to all who have called upon his name. they know him no longer by the hearing of the ear, the know him by the Holy Ghost who is given to them and dwells in them.

To the pagan world, it is a God unknown, but to those who are born again through is blood, he is well known.

Turn to Acts 17:16-31

16 kNow while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. 19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said,

Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

It is this UNKNOWN God to the Pagan and Heathen world that our prayers are concentrated on. We know who it is that we worship, who it is that we petition and who it is that is both willing and able to answer our prayers.

God is one who has communicated in return to those who have known the Lord. He is not a God afar off but one near at heart.

We do not need to set up statues to every god, for there is only one God and he has revealed himself to us that we may know him.

Our prayers have their focus on the only one who can answer them.

3.  Commissioned By Christ

Matt 7:7-11

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Prayer is the petitioning of the Lord for our joy and comfort, and for his glory.

There is no counterpart in the customs of the heathen, the Lord alone delights to answer our prayer, he joys in giving to his children all things within his will, to both reveal his love for them and to increase the faith of him in them.

The prayers given in the scriptures are spontaneous and personal, but RELIGION alters such prayers to Liturgy and Ritual. We see this in the traditions of Roman Catholicism, in the Protestant use of the Book of Common Prayer.

These are Pagan practices that again distance us from the personal relationship that the Lord loves to have with his own. 

Jesus condemned such practices saying “14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matt 17:14).

It was not the length of prayer that concerned the Lord, he himself is recorded as spending all night in prayer, no, it is the “vain repetitions” he warned the disciples about when he taught them to pray;

Matthew 6:7-8

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitionsas the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Here we see Christ deliberately separating out the practices of the heathen to those that are true, Jesus rejects heathen customs attended to in ignorance, from those that are real, good and favoured by the Lord.

More so, he states categorically “Be not ye therefore like unto them”. What a misery it is that the Christians have no problem attending to pagan customs when the Lord desires so clearly a distinction.

But faithfulness to the Lord did not last long for the larger part of Christianity, they began to meet heathen practices half way.

Tertullion, in the third century lamented how the Pagans held tightly to their faith, never desiring to mix it with the Christians, all the while Christians had seen no qualm with absorbing the heathen invocations, celebrations and matras.

 “By us, who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia, (He is actually referring to Christmas Day and New Years day or Lady day) are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians.”[3]

Be not ye therefore like unto them said Jesus, because true Prayer is both commissioned by Christ and taught by him.

Turn to Matthew 6

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

First please notice that Jesus states this to be the “Manner” of prayer, it’s not to be the repetitive mantra he has already condemned in the previous two verses, it is a manner, a form of pray to follow rather than an incantation, spell or chant.

It is specifically directed to “Our Father …in heaven”, here is tells both of relationship ‘Father’, and that it is he who is ‘high and lifted up’.

God is to be glorified, hence we have his very name “Hallowed” that is, blessed, consecrated and revered.

The desire of our hearts should be that his kingdom in heaven is done in earth, that the joy, comfort and peace of heaven with him filling every void, is replicated here for the blessing of all mankind.

Verse 11 petitions him for the very sustenance of our lives, and in doing so we know he feeds us better than he does the birds of the air and clothes us more wonderfully that the flowers of the field.

Verse 12 pleads for the forgiveness of sin, indicating in one incredible verse that the children of the father are not yet perfect; but that also is seen that in our receipt of forgiveness is offered just as freely to those who sin against us, “Freely you have received, freely give”.

Verse 13 admits both to the keeping of our safety and the power of God who alone can accomplish it For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Verses 14 and 15 speak to a conditional aspect of prayer and expectation. You desire to be forgiven of sin, but you are harsh toward others, not willing to forgive them of their sin against you. In this case you can have NO EXPECTATION NOR COMFORT that your sins wont be revisited upon you.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

People do wrong against us all the time, just as we can do wrong against them. God freely forgave your sin, should you not overlook the sins of others?

If you will not, it is clear by the teaching of Jesus himself, you can have no comfort you are forgiven your trespasses. 

This is the reason some of you will continue to struggle with relationships.

No relationship can EVER be sustained without grace.

Beloved we Continue instant in Prayer because it was Commissioned by Christ.

4.   Continued In Faith 

Paul wrote that we are to be Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

No prayer is ever to be offered without the faith that the Lord both hears and answers.

God does NOT want vain repetitions, he wants relationship.

The Bible is the only place in the history of mankind where God both commissions and instructs man on how to pray, and that prayer is to be based on a knowing and loving relationship, trusting that the Lord can and will answer prayer.

Does God answer all our prayers?

YES, he does.

He answers them as ‘YES’, ‘no’ and ‘wait’.

Every time we pull up to a traffic light we are reminded of how God answers prayer!!!

Can we know the prayers the Lord will not answer?

Yes, turn to James 4:1-3

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 

Are there any hinderances to our prayers?

Yes, interestingly the hinderance of prayer is directed specifically to men, turn to 1 Peter 3:7;

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

How are you treating your wives my brothers?

Do you honour them or treat them with disrespect and disdain?

Do you speak to them roughly or do give them honour as unto the weaker vessel?

Do you put them down or lift them up? 

Don’t expect the ready favour of the Lord if you treat your wives with ANYTHING that differs from how Jesus Loved the Church, even willing to die for it.

Expect NOTHING from God if your representation of Christ love for his Church is NOT evident in how you treat your wife. Shame on you if your love for her does not represent Jesus love for you!!!!

Is there any other hinderance to God not hearing my prayers?

Yes there is. Turn to Psalm 66:18

18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

We come to pray and to seek the Lord, yet in our heart we are reminded of the sin we have every intention of undertaking, we “regard iniquity”, the Lord will not hear from you.

You cannot go to the throne of Grace with a corrupt heart.

James, in writing to the Church says “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:8-10)

No, iniquity in the heart will stop the ears of the Lord, he will not hear your prayers.

Ok, is there any other reason God won’t answer our prayers?

So far we have three;

  1. Lustful desires will always receive a “No” answer.
  2. Poor treatment of our wives will hinder our prayers UNTIL it properly resembles the Love of Christ for his Church. This is a “Wait” answer.
  3. Iniquity in the heart simply deafens Gods ear to the sound of it, he will not hear.

Anything else?

Yes, there is one more.

You cannot draw boldly to the throne of Grace unless you have received his forgiveness for sin.

Turn to Isaiah 1:13-18

13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 

16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

If God will not hear the prayers of his own Children who regard iniquity in their hearts, how will he hear the prayer of those whose hearts are filled with it?

Their sins are as scarlet, iniquity is a part of their daily life and habit, they have hearts of stone but…BUT, God desires to give them a heart of flesh, how?

1Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

There is one prayer that we know the Lord always hears.

It is one of reason, it is one where the sinner admits of his sin, believes Jesus died for his sin and calls to him for their salvation.

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Wrapped up in the passage where simply WILL NOT HEAR the prayers of the wicked, is a call to reason with him and a desire to wash away their sin that he may indeed hear their prayers for ever.

Is this reasonable?

Can two walk together accept they be agreed? 

Can you have a close relationship with anyone that you are at enmity with?

Such a relationship must first be restored, you move from no prayer heard to Continuing instant in Prayer, for the Lord LONGS to hear them.

Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,….

Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

Beloved, if these are the Acts of Christ and the Acts of the apostles, should “Continuing Instant in Prayer” be not our daily act?

.


[1] Hardin, L. T. (2016). Prayer. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Fallaize, E. N. C., Alexander, H. B., Langdon, S. H., Anesaki, M., Ball, J. D., D’Arcy, C. F., … Waddell, L. A. (1908–1926). PRAYER. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, & L. H. Gray (Eds.), Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics (Vol. 10, p. 154). Edinburgh; New York: T. & T. Clark; Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[3] Hislop, Alexander. The Two Babylons (pp. 180-181). GENERAL PRESS. Kindle Edition.

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