A Disciplined Prayer Life

SERMON TOPIC: A Disciplined Prayer Life

Speaker: Ken Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 19 February 2023

Topic Groups: PRAYER, DISCIPLINE

Sermon synopsis: A healthy personal prayer life is vital if you want to get to know the Lord and develop a close relationship with him. It will also enable you to determine His will and purpose for your life.
As you get to know the Lord on a more intimate level through His Word and by His Spirit and by spending time in His presence, not just asking, but listening, your Faith will develop.
Simply put, Faith is trusting God, and you can only really trust someone once you know them, and know them to be “Trustworthy”.

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A healthy personal prayer life is vital if you want to get to know the Lord and develop a close relationship with him. It will also enable you to determine His will and purpose for your life.

As you get to know the Lord on a more intimate level through His Word and by His Spirit and by spending time in His presence, not just asking, but listening, your Faith will develop.

Simply put, Faith is trusting God, and you can only really trust someone once you know them, and know them to be “Trustworthy”.

Prayer is our communication channel with God.

So this means that if you want your prayers to be answered, you need to get to know the Lord and His character, and to do that, you need to spend time with Him.

Matthew 7:7-12.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Philippians 4:6.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Colossians 4:2.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Matthew 5:44.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Job 42:10.

The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold.

Matthew 6:5-15.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Matthew 6:5-15.

This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:6.

ASV But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.

AMP But when you pray, go into your most private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.

God created human beings to have fellowship with him.

That's why He was walking in the garden: He wanted to meet with Adam and Eve and spend time with them.

Personal fellowship with God is at the very heart of our purpose for being!

But sin prevents that fellowship because God is light and what fellowship does light have with darkness (2 Cor 6:14).

Genesis 3:8.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Hebrews 11:5.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

We know that the period before the flood was a time when wickedness was multiplying, and the earth was corrupt to the core, but Enoch walked with God. He stood firm in the face of the ungodly tide of wickedness that filled the antediluvian world before the waters of judgment covered the earth.

Genesis 5:21-24.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Genesis 6:9.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

James 2:23.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

Chronicles 20:7.

Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?

Isaiah 41:8.

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend.

God had a deep friendship with Abraham, which afforded him great privileges.

Exodus 33:11.

The Lord would speak to Moses' face to face, as one speaks to a friend. 

As His friends, we will always give Him the glory and place of honour. When John the Baptist was being compared to Jesus, he didn’t claim glory for himself, but exalted Jesus, saying:

John 3:29-30.

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.

That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.

While we can enjoy closeness with God, our intimacy with Him is also built on a deep reverence for Him. 

Psalms 25:14.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

When we think in terms of a human relationship, this may be difficult to understand. After all, what does it look like to revere a friend?

One way that helps to understand this is to think what it’s like to make friends with a king.

Billy Graham was a close friend of several Presidents of the USA.

Friendship with God does not mean we lose a sense of reverence for Him; after all, He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.

Proverbs 22:11.

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

John 15:13-15.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.

Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 20:17.

Jesus said, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

Romans 8:23.

We ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

After a short discourse on the follies of trying to appear religious in front of people, Jesus talks about prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8). The Greek used here for “room” is (tameion), which means "an inner storage chamber or a secret room."

The point being, a public prayer, announced on a street corner, gives the pray-er all the attention he can expect to receive. A quiet prayer, directed at God and not passers-by, will reap spiritual blessings. Some have taken the admonition literally.

They set aside a room or a quiet corner in their homes, furnish it with a comfortable chair, table, Bible, and maybe a notebook, and use that corner for a regular prayer time. That’s certainly appropriate, but the fact that the room Jesus referred to most likely meant a pantry gives us a little more flexibility.

A “prayer closet” might be a daily commute, a bench in the back yard, or the kitchen table. John Wesley’s mother is said to have sat in a chair and thrown her apron over her head as a sign to her kids to leave her alone. Jesus usually went to a secluded hillside. The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.

Although there are good reasons to have a dedicated space for regular prayer, such as training the family to respect the quiet and keeping prayer-related materials in one place, that was not what Jesus was referring to. The passage in Matthew 6 talks about performing religious acts for the purpose of allowing others to see.

Any act, be it praying, giving, or serving, should not be done for the purpose of gaining approval from others. Praying, giving, and serving should be responses to our relationship with God and the mercies He has given us.

If a specific, dedicated location encourages prayer, it should by all means be used. If the cab of a pickup or a quiet stretch of beach suffices, that’s perfectly acceptable.

“One aspect of a Christ-enamored heart is a gnawing ache to get alone with him.” Johnathan Edwards

One delight, among others, in the born-again heart (which Edwards calls “true religion”) is to prioritize, and create, seasons to be alone with God to hear from him in his word and respond in prayer. Here’s how Edwards captured it some 250 years ago:

A true Christian doubtless delights in religious fellowship, and Christian conversation, and finds much to affect his heart in it; but he also delights at times to retire from all mankind, to converse with God in solitary places.

And this also has its peculiar advantages for fixing his heart and engaging his affections.

True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places, for holy meditation and prayer.

Do you “delight at times to retire from all mankind” in person, in sight, in sound, on screen “to converse with God in solitary places”? According to Edwards, such is not simply the instinct of the introvert, but a desire God’s Spirit sows in every heart he enlightens.

Edwards continues:

It is the nature of true grace, that however it loves Christian society in its place, yet it in a peculiar manner delights in retirement, and secret converse with God.

So that if persons appear greatly engaged in social religion, and but little in the religion of the closet, and are often highly affected when with others, and but little moved when they have none but God and Christ to converse with, it looks very darkly upon their religion. (Religious Affections, 3:10)

My own example of a private prayer life.

Your relationship with God is far more important than your relationship with your spouse.

Distractions.

One reason why a believer should consider creating such a sacred place to pray is because of distractions. It is very easy to not be able to focus on only the Lord when there are so many different events happening in your life. Having a place that is quiet and private makes it easier to meditate on scripture and what the Lord wants to say to you.

Privacy.

How can we pray freely and openly with God when there are others nearby, who may disturb us and listen to us pray at that moment? Having a secret meeting location with God prevents any hindrances to the unbroken communion that is essential for meaningful prayer.

Intimacy.

Without the safety of privacy, having any depth of relationship with another person is impossible. Even when intimate friendships or relationships are developed in a group setting, it’s because of a certain privacy that surrounds the group, allowing people to bond without the encumbering presence of outsiders. There is no intimacy without privacy.

Obviously, believers cannot limit prayers to simply praying in a closet, but that is where your relationship with God is forged.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Jesus had a prayer closet.

Luke 5:16.

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

Psalm 63.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name, I will lift up my hands.

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

In dire times our prayer life is often the richest.

Wang Ming-Dao spent decades in prison in China. Yet, even in solitary confinement, he found ways to preach the gospel.

More, his story shows that persecution, or seasons of hardship and difficulty, are a simplifying force. They push distraction away and force us to be totally dependent on God.

In 1955, Wang Ming-Dao was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. He lived during the Cultural Revolution in China; back when China was the equivalent to what NK is today, the front runner in the failing race to destroy God’s church.

One day Wang Ming-Dao was told that he could go free if he signed a confession to say he was not a Christian and would stop speaking about God.

He signed the confession; and walked away free. And then only a few steps away from the gate, he stopped.

He realized he’d made a terrible mistake; he walked back to the prison authorities and told them to rip up the confession and take him back in.

He spent the next few years in solitary confinement.

"When I was put in jail, I was devastated. I was an evangelist," he said.

But Wang Ming-Dao soon realized he could actually preach down the pit toilet in the corner of his cell, as all the sewage pipes were linked, and sound carried through them.

His prison cell became his pulpit, the sewage pipes became his megaphone... and over seven years 96 prisoners came to faith!

He said: "I had no Bible, no pulpit, no audience, no pen and paper. I could do nothing. Nothing except get to know God. And for 20 years, that was the greatest relationship I have ever known.”

“When I was in the cell the only thing, I was focused on was getting to know Jesus, it was only me and Him in that cell. You need to build yourself a cell where it’s only you and Jesus.”

The Apostle Paul spent much time in prison and was encouraged by the Lord Himself when his fellow believers deserted him.

2 Corinthians 11:23.

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

Paul spent much time in prison

2 Timothy 4:16-18.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it.

Paul spent much time in prison

Acts 23:11.

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome”

And in prison Paul wrote some of the letters that we have in the New Testament that for 2000 years have strengthened “The Body of Christ”

Build yourself a Cell.

Daniel 6:6-16.

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Finally, these men said, We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God. So, these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: May King Darius live forever!

Daniel 6:6-16.

The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.

Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed. So, King Darius put the decree in writing.

Daniel 6:6-16.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So, they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?

Daniel 6:6-16.

The king answered, The decree stands, in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.

Then they said to the king, Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing.

He still prays three times a day. When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.

Daniel 6:6-16.

Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.

So, the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!

Pastor Chen spent 18 years in a prison work camp in China. Because he came from a background of moderate wealth and opportunity, the guards at the camp worked hard to break his spirit and indoctrinate him. He was so hungry at times that he was tempted to eat toothpaste. He was separated from his wife and his young church. While he was in prison, his wife died.

One of his greatest hardships was that he had no privacy to worship, pray, read, or memorize the Scripture. He was under constant surveillance. Frequently, he prayed that God would allow him a place of privacy so he could enjoy fellowship with God.

Soon the prison officials gave him a new assignment. In order to break his spirit and indoctrinate him further they gave him the most difficult work assignment in the camp. They assigned him to the camp cesspool.

The sewer pit where he worked served 60,000 prisoners. His assignment was to scoop out human waste to be used for fertilizer. No one else wanted the job because it was lonely and repulsive, and they feared deadly diseases.

His heart was broken when he went to work on his new assignment. Day after day working in the foul pit he wondered if his prayers were heard. To withstand the hardship, he would sing, pray, and quote Scripture aloud. One day it occurred to him that his assignment was a specific answer to prayer.

Because he worked in such a foul hole none of the guards would get anywhere near him. He worked completely alone. He could pray, sing, and quote Scripture as loud as he wanted! He began to thank God and rejoice.

There was no one there to hear him but his faithful God. His cesspool assignment lasted six years, and miraculously he never contracted a disease from it.

When he was released, the church for which he had labored and prayed had exploded in growth and vitality. He traveled to poor villages where he saw the hand of God at work. He represented the cause of the suffering church in China around the world.

Speaking before a huge missionary conference years later, he told the story of God’s faithfulness to him in prison. With bright eyes he spoke of the fellowship that he enjoyed with the Lord in the prison cesspool. Standing before the huge crowd, the small Chinese pastor began to sing the song that he used to sing in the prison sewer.

I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses …

And He walks with me, and he talks with me

And He tells me I am His own

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known.

Pastor Chen had learned that the secret to rejoicing is not perfect circumstances, but a consciousness of the presence of the Lord Jesus. “… In his presence is fullness of joy …” (Psalm 16:11).

When you are discouraged by difficult circumstances, misunderstanding, pressures, responsibilities, or outright persecution, rejoice! The presence of Jesus can turn a cesspool into a garden.




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