Successful Christian Living, Pt. 5 – Prayer

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 14, 2001

Successful Christian Living, Pt. 5
Priority of Prayer
Over the last couple of weeks I have been putting an emphasis
upon the responsibilities God has given to us in living the Christian
life successfully. Remember that a successful Christian is a person
who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in
Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to Hisname by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submittingthemselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness andblamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand

It is God that enables us to live the Christian life successfully, but
contrary to what is popular theology in some circles, God is not going to give you a “second blessing” or “zap” you in some way that you will suddenly no longer struggle with sin and live a holy life. The Bible clearly presents the facts that we must flee from sin, resist Satan and pursue holiness. In order to do those things we must be able to discern not only between what is good and evil, but also between what is good, better and best in pursuing godly goals. We then must be self-disciplined with our time, talents and finances to do what is best. We step out in faith to obey what God says and then He enables us to be obedient and fulfill His will.

Several weeks ago we discussed the importance of knowing the
Bible in order to know God’s will. This morning I want discuss
another fundamental aspect of the Christian life that is vital to
knowing God’s will and obeying Him. Prayer.

Failure to live the Christian life successfully can be traced to a
lack of prayer just as much as to ignorance of God’s Word or a
inadequate self discipline. Often a lack of proper prayer is directly
linked to either ignorance of God’s Word or inadequate discipline.

There is much confusion about prayer in our age because so many people have ignored what the Bible says about it and have made it a mystical religious exercise or have treated it as a means of manipulating God to get what they want. The reality for many is that they treat prayer as some magical incantation.

A simple definition of prayer is “talking with God, ” for that is
what is occurring in prayer. You are communicating with your
Creator. John Bunyan has given one of the better descriptive
definitions of prayer. “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate
pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the
strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the Church, with submission in faith to the will of God.”

Prayer is sincere. Nothing is hidden, nothing is held back. There
are no pretenses. You can’t fool God.

Prayer is sensible. It is not senseless gibberish, but is done with
both emotion and understanding.

Prayer is an “affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God. –
There is a strong & deep longing of the heart to commune with God.

Prayer is accomplished through Christ, by the strength or
assistance of the Holy Spirit
– Prayer apart from Christ is not heard, and when we struggle in prayer, the Holy Spirit is ready to assist.

Prayer is for such things as God has promised, according to the

Word of God – the Bible. The Bible reveals the will of God so that we can pray properly. Without its guidance we will pray our own desires, and not God’s will.

Prayer is for the good of the church – It honors God, it seeks to
advance the cause of Christ, it is for the benefit of God people.

Prayer is made with submission in faith to the will of God. Only
prayer made in faith in submission to the will of God is heard by God and therefore answered.

This is what true prayer is. I believe that if we would pray
properly as Bunyan defines and that Jesus gives us as a pattern in
Matthew 6:5-13 we would see dramatic changes in our lives. Our
many errors in prayer would be corrected and we would see God at work in our lives and the lives of others.

“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they
love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]'”

We do not pray for the purpose of trying to impress other people.
We pray for the purpose of talking with God. The proper practice in
prayer is to tell God what is on our hearts and then trust Him to do
what is best. Our is God real and personal. He is not impressed by the  length, eloquence or repetition of our prayers, but He loves us and will hear and answer the prayer of the humble man or woman that seeks His will. The pattern Jesus gave us for prayer addresses God with reverence and yet with intimacy. It is selfless in that it focuses on God by desiring His kingdom to come and His will to be done. It trusts Him to provide for daily needs while seeking His forgiveness for sin and desires to walk in holiness.

(If you want a fuller exposition, then order the audio tapes of the
series I did some years ago or ask me for my notes of them).

But there are other requirements for proper prayer mentioned in
the Scriptures. There are actions we must take and attitudes that must have if we are to pray with confidence that our prayers will be heard and answered by God. I have listed them in your notes along with their references so that you can follow along refer to them later. I have put these into 12 groups since some of them are similar to each other.

1. Be in Christ – (John 14:6)

The first one listed is to be in Christ. This fact is not popular
because it is exclusive, but it is true. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am
the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me
.” Jesus could not have said it any plainer. Christianity is exclusive. The road is narrow and the gate is small that leads to heaven and few find it. People want to come to God under the conditions they set up for themselves, and not the conditions God has set up, but God’s condition is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only true Christians can approach God in the intimacy of calling
Him, “Father,” as Jesus calls us to in Matthew 6:9, because only they have been adopted into God’s family (John 1:14, etc.).

The first requirement in order to pray properly and effectively is to
be in Christ. The key reason for this is seen in the second prerequisite.

2. Pray in righteousness – (1 Peter 3:10-12)

For, “Let him who means to love life and see good days Refrain
his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. 11 “And let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil”
(1 Peter 3:10-12).

God pays attention to the prayers of the righteous, but He is
against the unrighteous. But how can man be righteous before God when all our righteous deeds are like a filthy rag before Him (Isa. 64:6)There is only one way. You have to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you – i.e. credited to your account. That is just what God has made available to us through faith in Jesus – “He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him – 2 Cor. 5:21. Romans 1:17 says, For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Even for the Christian who has been made clean before God
through Christ, there is the matter of practical living in Holiness.
Psalm 66:18 says, “If I hide iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not
heart men.”
God is not under obligation to pay attention to your
prayers if you are not seeking to live in holiness before Him.
Confession of sin removes the hindrance sin brings into your
relationship with God (1 John 1:9).

3. Pray according to God’s Will – (1 John 5:13-15)

Prayer is about seeking God’s will. We should desire God’s will
to be done in the here and now as quickly without reservation as it is done in heaven (Mt. 6:10). God’s promise is to answer our prayers and grant our requests if and only if those prayers and requests are according to His will. If they are not, He is not even obliged to pay attention to us. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

Don’t ever fall into the delusion that God is here for your pleasure.
You were created for Him. We are to seek out His will, not ours. The great thing about this is that because He knows everything and He loves us, He will always do what is best for us.

4. Pray with correct motives – (James 4:1-4)

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:1-4).

The most common reason for ineffective prayer is that people pray
according to their own desires to get what they want. Certainly we
pray to have our needs met. Jesus’ pattern for prayer includes “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt. 6:11). The problem is that we are not satisfied with daily bread. We want a porterhouse steak with all the trimmings plus desert. We crave our lustful wants fulfilled, and not just our needs being met.

5. Pray in the name of Christ – (John 14:13,14)

John 14:13,14 says, “And whatever you ask in My name, that will I
do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me
anything in My name, I will do it.

Tragically, many people think they can obligate God by ending
their prayer, “in Jesus name, amen.” They treat this as some sort of magical incantation which will then require God to give them what they want. However, as we have already seen, God is not even obligated to hear, much less answer, a prayer unless it is prayed according to His will by someone who is in Christ and is walking in righteousness. What does these verses mean then?

To pray “in Jesus name” is to pray in accordance with what Jesus
would want. It is to pray in keeping with His character and desires.
Names may not mean a lot in this society, but in that culture names represented all that the person is. A name was not just the title by which you called something, but also a reference to all that person was. That is why we are not to take the name of the Lord in vain. We never speak of or make reference to God in any irreverent manner because His names are not just words, but represent Him!

To pray in Jesus name is to pray in accordance with all that He is.
In a sense it is to conclude a prayer by saying, “grant this request
because it is in agreement with what Jesus would ask.” To conclude a prayer in Jesus name is to declare that all that has been prayed is in harmony with His will. It is not an incantation. There is nothing “magical” about it.

Of course, it is easy to pray properly in Jesus name if we fulfill the
next prerequisite and:

6. Pray in the Holy Spirit – (Romans 8:26, Eph 6:18, Jude 20)

Jude 20 simply states that believers should be “praying in the
Holy Spirit,” as does Eph. 6:18 – “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit . . .”. How does a person pray in the Holy
Spirit? By being filled with Him and walking with Him (Gal. 5). To
be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
As a person walks in the Spirit, living according to the Scriptures and doing what He says, they become more sensitive to Him. They
develop a perception of His prompting and leading. In prayer they
become more adept at seeing things from God’s perspective and
therefore praying according to His will.

When such a person is confused by their emotions or a lack of
understanding about what God’s will would be and so they are not
sure how to pray, they can take comfort that as Romans 8:26 says, the Holy Spirit will intercede for them. He will pray for them Himself on their behalf.

Praying in the Spirit is not letting your mind drift or abandoning it,
nor is it speaking in tongues. Proper prayer requires your mind be
present & active as the next point proves.

7. Pray Thoughtfully

7a. Pray with your mind (understanding) 1 Cor. 14:14,15

7b. Pray with sound judgement – 1 Peter 4:7

7c. Pray with sobriety – 1 Peter 4:7

1 Cor. 14:15 states: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but
my mind is unfruitful. 15 What is the outcome then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also.
” Let me quickly add here that the grammatical structure here does not mean that Paul prays sometimes with the spirit and sometimes with the mind. He is stating that he always prays with both. His mind is present and active when he prayed and he knew what He was trying to communicate to God.

This is backed up by Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4:7 “The end of
all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober
[spirit] for the purpose of prayer.
” The idea of sobriety ( the root
meaning here is “abstain from wine”) is to not be influenced by
outside sources. Your mind is clear, unhindered. Sound judgement
come from a word meaning, “mind / thought,” joined with a word
meaning among other things, “make whole.” Sound judgement is
whole thought. Prayer is for thinking people. It takes the careful
thought of a whole mind unhindered by outside influences.

8. Pray in piety/reverence – (Heb 5:7)

Hebrews 5:7 speaks of God the Father responding to Jesus, God
the Son. In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and
supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.
The idea of piety is one of proper caution, circumspection, reverence. This is the idea of “hallowing” God’s name in Matt. 6:9. Reverence requires the mind to be centered in the other person, and in this case, on God while you pray. Heb. 4:16 tells us that we may come with confidence before God’s throne of grace, but that does not mean we come barging in or come nonchalantly to Him indifferent to His majesty & holiness.

This is more of a danger than we realize because it is easy to start
taking our access to God for granted since we can come to Him
anytime, anywhere. While I do not want to detract in the least from
that great truth, there is something to be said for assuming a humble position, like kneeling, when we pray. Give God the proper reverence due Him.

9. Pray with thanksgiving – (Phil 4:4-6, Col 4:2; 1 Tim 4:4,5)

We are also to pray with an attitude of thanksgiving or gratitude.
Three verses mention this specifically. 1 Timothy 4:4,5 speaks about sanctifying everything we receive by a prayer of thanksgiving. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” This is very basic, yet is exposes our attitude toward God. Are we truly grateful for what God provides? Do you understand His goodness and grace? Do you give thanks for your meals regardless of where you are or what is being served?

Paul adds in Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping
alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
Our general attitude in
prayer needs to be one of thanksgiving for all that God is and what He has done. Paul expands on this in Philippians 2:4-6 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your forbearing [spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thanksgiving needs to be an element of all our prayers. Why?
Because that is part of the sacrifice of praise that is due to Him (Heb. 13:15). In order to give Him thanksgiving for all things, including things that are less than what you wanted, you have to put yourself in a position to see things from God’s perspective. When you take the eternal view rather than the temporal one, even hard things are seen as part of the overall plan to make us into what we need to be, and so thanks can be given for them as well. When we genuinely give God thanksgiving in our prayers we place ourselves in a position were we are trusting God for what we are talking to Him about. It is the trust in Him that brings the peace. And that brings up the next item:

10. Pray in faith, not doubt – (James 1:6,7)

James 1:6,7 6 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of
God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it
will be given to him.
But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 [being] a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Now faith always has an object and the object of faith in all our
prayers is God Himself. It is not in getting what we want. It has
become popular in some circles, particularly in Charismatic ones, to view faith itself as a means to get what we want. We get it because we have faith to get it. It is similar to and often a part of the positive confession movement which is sometimes also referred to as “name it, claim it.” My positive statements about something in prayer will guarantee that I will get what I am asking. Again, such an idea goes directly against the command to pray for the will of God.

The object of my faith when I pray is God. I trust Him to know
best and to do what is right for me and those I pray for. In some things I can stand firmly on what He has promised and know what the outcome will be. On many other things I am not sure what His perfect will may be. For example. I can be absolutely sure that He will hear and grant forgiveness to the true prayer of repentance. I can not be so sure if He wants me restored to perfect physical health if I am sick. There may be quite a few things He wants me to learn through the experience and may glorify Himself better through my being weak than being strong. Paul learned to be content with that and in 2 Cor. 12:9 he remarked, And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.

My trust is in God, not in getting the specific request I may be
making. I am to have no doubts about God, His power, goodness or love. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I express my own heart, but pray for His will to be done. I can be absolutely assured that He will do His will. I then have to be content with that whether or not I get what I want or prefer. There may be doubts about my request, but there is never any doubts about my God.

11. Pray earnestly – (James 5:16-18)

James 5:16-18, Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and
pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit

Elijah is given here as an example of effectual prayer and we are
told that he was just like us. What is effectual prayer? The phrase
“prayed earnestly” in verse 17 has two similar words that intensify the meaning. It was not just prayer, but earnest prayer, intense prayer, serious prayer. The phrase “effective” or “effectual” in verse 16 adds to this idea. We get our English word “energy” from it. There is work involved in prayer. It is not an easy task. If we really want to see God at work, then we can not be flippant or superficial in our prayers. It takes energy and intensity to pray effectually. Effectual prayer can not be half-hearted or be done lazily.

12. Pray Consistently

12a. Pray with devotion – (Col 4:2)

12b. Pray with awareness – (Eph 6:18, Col 4:2)

12c. Pray with perseverance – (Eph 6:18)

12d. Pray without ceasing – (1 Thess 5:17)

Colossians 4:2, which we saw earlier, says we are to “Devote
yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
To be devoted is to “attend constantly” or “stand ready for.” It is the idea of always being ready to pray. Prayer is a priority item in your life.

The idea of being alert, which is also seen in Ephesians 6:18 “With
all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in
view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the
means to “keep watch, to be sleepless.” It brings an active
element to the idea of being devoted. You are not just ready to pray when a need comes up, but you are actively looking out for what may need to be brought before God.

The idea of perseverance, which was also mentioned in Eph. 6:18,
means to be “steadfast.” It is to continue on and persist regardless of circumstances or hindrances. We can easily get wrapped up in our emotions and fail on this point. We get discouraged and want to give up, or we get side tracked and try to do it ourselves. God wants us to steadfastly persist in our prayers.

That brings up the final element found in 1 Thess. 5:17 to “pray
without ceasing.”
This literally means to “not leave off,” and so the
idea of “constant,” “unceasing.” Certainly God knows we must sleep and give our attention to work to provide for ourselves and our families, but this phrase brings together many of the other elements and stresses the priority of prayer in our lives. We are to be ready to pray properly at any time and anywhere.

An effective prayer life has everything to do with your daily walk
with God. Prayer is much more than saying grace before meals and spending a few quite moments with God before going to bed. It is far beyond coming out for a prayer meeting. Prayer is the life & breath of the heart that beats for God. It is an element of normal life for someone successfully living the Christian life. What about you?

Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) How many times is the word “prayer” mentioned? 2) Talk with your parents about what prayer is and how you can be more effective in it.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is a successful Christian? Do you consider yourself a successful Christian? Why or why not? What is true prayer? What do you think of John’ Bunyan’s definition (see Sermon Notes below)? What is the pattern of prayer that Jesus gave us? Explain the pattern. True prayer has prerequisites. Explain each of the following and their importance to true prayer: 1) Being in Christ;
2) Praying in righteousness; 3) Praying according to God’s will; 4) Praying with correct motives; 5) Praying in the name of Christ; 6) Praying in the Holy Spirit; 7) Praying thoughtfully including praying with your mind, with sound judgement and with sobriety; 8) Praying with piety/reverence; 9) Praying with thanksgiving; 10) Praying in faith without doubt; 11) Praying earnestly; 12) Praying consistently including praying with devotion, awareness, perseverance and without ceasing. Describe your own habits of prayer. Do your prayers fit Bunyan’s definition? Do your prayers follow Jesus’ model? How can you improve your prayer life? What role will self-discipline play in that?

Sermon Notes – 10/14/2001 A.M.

Successful Christian Living, Pt. 5: Priority of Prayer – Selected Scripture


A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ,
and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand

John Bunyan’s Definition: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through
Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His
Word, for the good of the Church, with submission in faith to the will of God.”

The Pattern of Prayer: Matthew 6:5-13

Prerequisites to Proper Prayer

1. Be in Christ – (John 14:6)

    1. Pray in righteousness – (1 Peter 3:10-12)
    1. Pray according to God’s Will – (1 John 5:13-15)

4. Pray with correct motives – (James 4:1-4)

5. Pray in the name of Christ – (John 14:13,14)

6. Pray in the Holy Spirit – (Romans 8:26, Eph 6:18, Jude 20)

  1. Pray Thoughtfully

7a. Pray with your mind (understanding) 1 Cor. 14:14,15

7b. Pray with sound judgement – 1 Peter 4:7

7c. Pray with sobriety – 1 Peter 4:7

8. Pray in piety/reverence – (Heb 5:7)

9. Pray with thanksgiving/gratitude – (Phil 4:4-6, Col 4:2; 1 Tim 4:4,5)

10. Pray in faith, not doubt – (James 1:6,7)

11. Pray earnestly – (James 5:16-18)

12. Pray Consistently

12a. Pray with devotion – (Col 4:2)

12b. Pray with awareness – (Eph 6:18, Col 4:2)

12c. Pray with perseverance – (Eph 6:18)

12d. Pray without ceasing – (1 Thess 5:17