Ron Wayne is 76 years old and lives in Silicon Valley in Nevada. He spends his days selling stamps out of his home and many of his nights at the penny slot machines in various casinos throughout the area. If it is the middle of the month and he has just cashed his Social Security check then he will spend longer periods of time battling the one-armed bandits until upwards of 2 a.m. He is still waiting to hit the jackpot and is a prime example of what could have been. Few of you have ever heard of Ron Wayne though some of you have likely used products that stem from his creation. You need to know his story as a warning that you do not repeat the same mistake spiritually. You see, Ron Wayne along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were the co-founding partners of Apple Computer Inc.. Yes that’s right, there was a third founder of Apple. But few people know that because just twelve days after he signed the agreement he himself drafted that would have given him 10% ownership of the company, he sold back his shares for $800. If he had stuck it out, today he would be worth around $22 billion and one of the worlds 15 richest people. Ron bailed on Jobs and Wozniak because he doubted his present actions would pay any dividends into the future. He believed the work was too difficult and taxing and not worth the investment. Basically, Ron lacked faith and so he quit. And he missed out on billions. [a]
As your pastor, I am afraid that many of us are selling out and accepting an $800 payoff when we could make billions. Not physically obviously, but spiritually. Rather than investing the time and energy of growing spiritually and pushing through periods of difficulty, we take the easy way out. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your life story does not have to be a warning and example of missing out on what could have been. Severna Park Baptist Church can be a place where great stories are told to future generations to follow our example. God wants us to be a generation who believes and trusts in the power and promises of Him. That we believe every bit of our lives should be wholly dedicated to being used for His purposes.
One of the reasons why we may miss out on the opportunities God may be placing before us is that we do not understand the urgency of eternity. The Christian life is not meant to be lived with entire ease, comfort and luxury. Christianity is at war with a real devil. I spoke for several moments last week about the work and effects of Satan in stealing the benefits of spiritual growth in your life.
John Piper says, “…life is war. And it is utterly impossible for people to know what prayer [and spiritual growth] really [are] until they know that they are in a war… Most people show by their priorities and their casual approach to spiritual things that they believe we are in peacetime, not wartime…Millions of Christians… have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity. [They view prayer as a] walkie-talkie. They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars – not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den.”
In this message I want to raise the urgency in your life and call us to understand the importance of prayer in our spiritual growth.
Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Mark 1:35-39, 6:31-34, 14:32-42
Prayer is relationship (1:35-39).
We often read biographies of great people to learn the secrets of their lives. When you read the biographies of Jesus’ life, the gospels, you learn one of his great secrets. Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus praying at the beginning, middle and end of his ministry. His life was characterized as one of continuous dependence upon the Father. Jesus’ ministry opens immediately with calling people to follow him, preaching, teaching, healing and miracles. As he set out with His public ministry He knew He needed to stay connected to God the Father.
John 5:19-20 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.”
If Jesus, the Son of God, lived a life of prayer then how is it that we as His followers think that we can afford to trivialize or be casual towards it today? If he needed time alone with God, then we need time alone with God. We must better understand the nature of prayer and how to employ it as an active part of our lives and church.
Prayer is not an isolated event or program, it can’t be achieved or accomplished in a moment of time. It is a relationship that requires constant cultivation. The reason is because God is a person to whom we relate not an abstract idea or religious ritual to perform. God is a God of love, care and compassion. He created and redeemed you to fellowship with you. He gave/gives Himself to relate:
Galatians 4:4-8 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, sot that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Cf. Romans 8:26-39
ð Pray/Communicate to the personal Triune God the Father, the Son, the Spirit.
- Dinner @ Montagne’s: children constantly talking about anything and everything!
“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!” Matthew 7:7,9-11)
ð Do a Scripture study on ‘the names of God’ to better know Him personally.
ð Jesus prayed in the morning and at a desolate place. In cultivating your prayer relationship, it is helpful to do so by starting each day in an undistracted place.
Prayer is revitalizing (6:31-34, 46).
After more long days of ministry, Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region. Each day was filled with the stress of crowds. People brought to Jesus their difficulties, their diseases, their demons and even their dead to raise. He gave His all and in His humanity was sapped. He needed time away and alone with God to reenergize for ministry.
However, time is what we seldom choose to make for revitalizing through prayer. We all have the same amount of time but we all use our time differently. Where we spend our time reflects what we value and our values are too often on god-substitutes than God Himself. Jesus said, “come away or come apart”; and unfortunately many of our lives and families are coming apart because we lack a heart for God. We have bought the lies that other things (god-substitutes) will bring life and revitalization.
Paul Miller says,
“Learning to pray doesn’t offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart.”
“Jesus’ example teaches us that prayer is about relationship. When he prays, he is not performing a duty; he is getting close to his Father. Any relationship, if it is going to grow, needs private space, time together without an agenda, where you can get to know each other. This creates an environment where closeness can happen, where we can begin to understand each other’s hearts. You don’t create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can’t get to know God on the fly.”
ð Pray through Psalm 16, repenting of sin and delighting in God.
Prayer is readying (14:32-42).
This last time that Mark shows Jesus in prayer is before He goes to the cross. Again, in His humanity, Jesus shows His dependence on God. He prays personally, calling God “Abba, Father”. He prays for revitalization and strength “not my will but what you will”. And as Jesus prays He knows the mission of the cross awaits. He calls the disciples to “watch and pray”, or in other words, to prepare for the work God is about to do.
SPBC, do you want to see a great move of God that fills our souls with delight in God and fans out into our community? If so, this message is a call to personal and corporate prayer. Allow me to share an illustration:
I have 3 daughters – 2 that are about toddler age. When I play and wrestle with them they are always responding to my moves. At times they will make their own move but they seldom, if at all, initiate attack. However, as they grow they are learning of their opportunities and abilities to take advantage of offensive opportunities.
Likewise, many of us only pray reactively (defensively). We pray when we lose a job, have marriage difficulties, face challenges at church or other areas of our life. This type of prayer is good but if it’s the only type of praying we do then we stay immature in prayer. God wants to grow our prayer lives that we pray intentionally (offensively). That we become awake and alert to the Spirit’s moving and join God in advancing what He wants to do in and through us.
E.M. Bounds said of the church, “We are constantly on a stretch, if not a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel… The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men [and women]… What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men [and women] whom the Holy Spirit can use – [people] of prayer, mighty in prayer.”
Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
ð Set aside 5 minutes each day to pray for your “High 5” relationships (invest – invite – incarnate)
ð Join us in September as we study and grow in “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller.
- Join us September 26 to put action in our praying as we prayerwalk several local schools.
ð What if you could grow just 1% better in prayer each week/month?
There is a basic concept in investing that if you continuously invest small and stay persistent, the principle of compound effect will multiply your investment over time. For example, if you put a dollar a day in a mutual fund each year for 30-40 years, the accumulation will be exponentially greater than the initial investment itself.
This same principle of compound effect relates to our spiritual growth too. You see, many people try to make a few large investments in order to bring about growth. So you attend church & Bible study for a month or so and then for various reasons you get sidetracked. Then you look back on your ‘investment’ and see little return ‘growth’ so you give up.
This is not the best path for growth. The best path is the one of slow and steady input. In Christianity this is called practicing the spiritual disciplines. It means that you grow from the inside out, cultivating an authentic relationship with God that is not based on performance or your input but on grace. And from a daily grace-driven effort your growth increases to greater levels than ever before. In time, you have the prayer life, Bible-reading, Christian witness that you have always wanted.
ð Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
[a] Open and closing illustrations draw inspiration from www.stevenfurtick.com blog
 Paul Miller, A Praying Life. p.25.
 Paul Miller, A Praying Life, p.47.
 Power Through Prayer, pp.11-12.