Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Can I Keep My Resolution to Pray Daily?

Part 2 of Resolutions

Text: 1 John 4:13-15

You can listen to this sermon here.



And this is the confidence that we have toward 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 that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15).


Resolutions Are Hard to Keep

This is the time of year when people are trying to keep New Year’s resolutions. Christians often make New Year’s resolutions. Two of the most common Christian resolutions are to read the Bible daily and to pray daily.

January 17 was Ditch Your Resolutions Day. Two ice cream franchises, Marble Slab Creamery and Maggie Moo’s, celebrated the fake holiday by offering a special by one, get one free ice cream deal. Why was January 17 picked as Ditch Your Resolutions Day? Because by this time, many people have already given up on the resolution. Resolutions are hard to keep. How can we keep our resolution to pray daily?


Keeping Our Resolution 

If we are to keep our resolution to pray daily, we should remember five things.

1. When we pray, we should remember that it’s normal to be frustrated with prayer. 

There are many biblical examples of people who were frustrated with prayer. One of these people was the prophet Habakkuk. The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet complaining to God about unanswered prayer: “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you, ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Hab. 1:2). Sometimes it’s encouraging to discover that other people struggle like us. (We’re not happy about the struggles of others, but we are happy to know we’re not abnormal.)

2. When we pray, we should remember that we’re approaching a loving Father. 

Throughout 1 John, John emphasizes that believers are God’s children (“born of God”). In 3:1, he writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” God is a Father who loves his children more than we can imagine. Because we know God loves us, we can have “confidence” (v. 14) when we pray.

When we approach God in prayer, we are approaching a Father who wants what is best for us. Jesus said, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:9-11). Sometimes God’s children ask him for stones and serpents, and God says, “No.” Sometimes God grants his children’s requests for bread and fish, but he says, “Wait.” Sometimes God’s children ask for bread and fish, but God says, “I have something else planned for you” (e.g., Paul’s denied request in 2 Cor. 12:7-10).

3. When we pray, we should remember that prayer really does work. 

Sometimes, when something good happens, we think, “Maybe that was going to happen whether or not I prayed.” But prayer is not a waste of time. It’s possible that when we pray we can “have the requests that we have asked of him” (v. 15). Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can make God do things he doesn’t want to do.

4. When we pray, we should remember that prayer isn’t all about us.

Prayer is about getting God’s will done, not ours (“if we ask anything according to his will,” v. 14). We should also prayer for the needs of others, not just our own needs (see v. 16).

5. Before we pray, we should have a plan. 

Instead of saying to ourselves, “I want to pray daily,” we should make a specific plan. An ideal plan would be to combine Bible reading and prayer. Here’s one possible plan: (1) set aside 20-30 minutes; (2) pick a quiet time and place; (3) read a portion of Scripture; (4) meditate upon the words you read; (5) ask God to speak to you through those words; (6) pray.