We all believe in prayer.

We all agree that praying is a good thing to do.

In fact, all of us pray, one way or another.


Some of us pray in the morning.

Some of us pray every night.

Maybe we pray before meals.

Maybe we offer these little quickie prayers all through the day.


Some of us spend at least 30 minutes a day alone with God.

Some of us spend an hour or two each day alone with God. 


Of course, only God knows what kind of prayer life each of us has.  But it's a safe bet that very few of us are satisfied that our prayer life is truly healthy.  It's also a safe bet that very few of us are worried enough about our prayer life to make changes. 


After all, we aren't a bunch of monks and nuns.  We're ordinary people.  We have stuff to do.  God understands. 


Besides, what's there to pray about?   We pray for our loved ones. 

We pray for our church.  We pray for the Pastor Jones and his family.  We pray for all the hungry people in the world.  And all the sick folks.  What else is there?


And another thing: you can't see God.  You don't get any feedback.  It's pretty hard to stay focused.  If you want to know the truth, it's pretty hard to believe that someone's actually listening on the other end.   Think of all the times we strike out --- when we pray for the sick, when we pray for our kids, even when we pray for guidance. 


Let's face it, the reason we don't put much time or effort into prayer is because, deep down inside, we're not convinced it really works.


Jesus tells us it does.

Paul says it does. 


Come to think of it, perhaps if we understood prayer the way they do, we'd be moving mountains too. 


For instance, if everybody reading these words became convinced, not only that prayer works, but that it is essential to our lives….and if we actually allowed the Spirit of God to show us how to do it, in six months' time our churches would be jam-packed with people --- through prayer alone.  Our personal lives, and our life together would be radically transformed --- through prayer alone.


He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples."                        Luke 11:1


Why did this disciple ask Jesus to teach them to pray?  Nobody ever asked Jesus to teach them to heal, or cast out demons, or even how to preach.  Jesus told them to go out and do it, and they did it.  But prayer --- that's where they knew they needed help.  "Lord, teach us to pray."


So he did.  


First Jesus gave them the pattern for prayer --- what we call the Lord's Prayer.  We all have that down cold.  We know the Lord's Prayer.  Many of us pray that prayer every day, and we should.


But merely repeating the words of the Lord's Prayer won't get us very far --- until we get hold of the second thing Jesus taught them that day, the lesson the Lord Jesus has been trying to teach us for years:  that nobody gets to first base with prayer until they get help from above.


And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'?  I tell you though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him whatever he needs."

                                                                        Luke 11:5-8


How is this man going to feed his friend at midnight, unless he gets bread from his friend next door?  He's out of bread.  His friend next door has bread.  So he does the logical thing.  He goes for help.


But it's midnight.  It's not a good time.  His friend's lights are out.  The whole family is asleep.  It doesn't bother this guy.  He marches over there and starts pounding on the door.  Nothing happens.  He pounds some more.  Still nothing. He picks up a rock and starts rattling the whole house as he pounds.  A window flies open.


"Hey!  Knock it off!   We're all asleep in here.  Or at least we were until you came along."


"Look, a visitor just arrived at my place.  I need three loaves."


"Get out of here!  It's midnight!  My kids are in bed.  I can't get up and give you bread in the middle of the night."

"O yes you can.  And you will, if you want any sleep tonight."


So the friend gets up and gives him the bread.  "Here are five loaves.  Is that enough?"


And what about all the needy people who come to us at midnight, at high noon, or whenever they find us?   People who desperately need our prayers.  Prayers that work.  Prayers that bring God's power down into their lives. 


One problem:  our cupboard is bare.  We don't know how to pray.  We don't know how to call God's power down into these needy lives.  We need help.  


So why don't we go and get some help?  Why don't we go over there and start banging on our heavenly Father's door?  


And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?                                Luke 11:9-13


And when the Father gives you the Holy Spirit, he's giving you the power to pray.  You want the Holy Spirit to teach you how to pray?  To enter your prayers and intercede for you with sighs too deep for words?   Ask.  And keep asking until it's clear to God and to yourself that you're serious.


We're not talking about prayer as a religious formality.  We are talking about prayer that connects with the living God and enables his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  


Coming out of the Nursery…


Most of us are still toddling around in the spiritual nursery of prayer.   We're childish.  Don't get me wrong, it's good to be child-like, teachable, open.  We should be child-like all our lives.


But not childish.  What a pity when grown men and women are still childish when it comes to prayer.  Scattered.  Easily distracted.  Lazy.  Sloppy.   It's time for us to grow up and start praying like men and women of God.  We will never learn how to live like men and women of God until we learn how to pray like men and women of God.


Here are four basics to remember about prayer.  Once our hears are grounded in these four basics, the Spirit of God will lead us out of the nursery into the real grown-up world of prayer.


#1.  God does answer prayer.


Prayer is not an exercise in futility.  Prayer is the most effective work before God that you can ever perform. 


And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart…….


"And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long over them?  I tell you he will vindicate them speedily."                                     Luke 18


If there is any lesson that our Lord keeps drumming into his disciples --- including us --- it's that God does answer prayer.  Prayer is not like buying a lottery ticket, where your chances are a zillion to one.  It's surprising how many people approach prayer like they're buying a 6-4-9  or a "Power Ball" ticket.  "Maybe I'll get lucky.  Doesn't cost much." 


Prayer is not like asking your best friend for a favor.  You friend might help you, and then again he might not.  Maybe she can't.


Prayer is connecting with the Lord of the Universe, who happens to be your heavenly Father.  He know you.  Everything about you.  He loves you.  He listens to you.  He answers. 


#2. We are all lost, when it comes to prayer,

            until we ask for and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 


The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to pray.  If we're going to come out of the nursery and pray like men and women of God, we're going to be asking for and receiving the Spirit day after day. 


"But I thought I already received the Holy Spirit when I became a believer."  Of course you did.  How could you ever come to believe in Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit?   And yet…..


The Holy Spirit was with Jesus from the moment of conception.   All through those 30 years of obscurity, the Spirit was there.  Then Jesus went down to the Jordan and was baptized by John.  As he came out of the water, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove.  That's when Jesus became the Messiah, the Anointed One.  That's when his ministry began.


The Holy Spirit was with the disciples all through their time with the Master, during his ministry of flesh and blood.   Still something was lacking.  After the resurrection, the Lord instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for power from on high.   It happened on the Jewish festival of Pentecost.  The Spirit fell upon them in a new way.  That's when their ministry began.  


Methodists call it the Second Blessing.  Pentecostals call it the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Call it what you will.   There is a moment when this first happens to you. The Spirit comes, enters you, fills you.


But then you keep drinking from that well every day for the rest of your life on earth.  You drink by continuously asking and receiving.


  "Lord God, let me walk in the Spirit today.  Let me pray in the Spirit.  Let me think in the Spirit.  Let me be under the Spirit as I mingle with my friends and fellow workers, as I reach out to people."  


Pray like that, and heaven will flood you with all the help you need.


#3. Prayer becomes powerful

            when we line up our will with God's will.


When we're in the nursery, we're constantly trying to get God to fit into our program.  And he often does, with unspeakable kindness.  "Give me this!  Give me that!  Get me out of this mess!"


But when we come out of the nursery and start praying like disciples of the Lord Jesus, our aim is to fit into God's program.  That's when our prayers start moving mountains.  


"If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."                John 15:7


"If you abide in me --- line up your will with my will….If my words abide in you --- my words bringing your will into my will….


            then go ahead and ask, whatever you will, and it will be done.

            Because your will and my will and the Father's will have

            become one."


That's when the mountains begin to move in awesome ways.  Yes, awesome things are waiting to happen out there --- in people's lives, in the life of our churches --- when we learn to step down and line up our wills with the Master's. When we get under his yoke and learn from him to pray like men and women of God. 


#4.  Prayer is not preparation for the work.

            Prayer IS the work.


I'm sure you have had the same experience I often have.  I'll be praying in the morning.  Reading some scripture, waiting on the Spirit, lifting names of people before the throne --- when the thought comes into my mind, "As soon as I get these prayers out of the way, I've got to do this and this and this.   I've got to make this phone call.  I have to touch base with So and So."   ….As if prayer were merely the pre-

lude to the real work of the day. 


Time and again the Spirit of God seems to haul me up short.  "Hold it!  Wait a minute!  All that stuff you're stewing about --- that's not the work!  This is the work!  Prayer IS the work.  Slow down and concentrate, because nothing else you will do today is more important than these prayers you're praying for these people."


            1. God does answer prayer.

        We are at a loss, when it comes to prayer, until we ask for and receive (and keep asking for and receiving)

       the gift of the Holy Spirit.


2. Prayer becomes powerful when we line up our will with God's will.


3. Prayer is not preparation for the work.  Prayer IS the work.


I know that it is beyond my power to move either you or me out of the nursery into a life of real prayer.  Only God can do that. 


But not even God can give us a real prayer life until we do what only we can do….until we get serious enough to ask for help, and keep asking. 


If we will do what that disciple did, if we will turn to the Lord Jesus and simply say, "Lord, teach me to pray."   And do it every day.  Every day.  "Lord teach me to pray!"  He will. 


And soon we'll be out of the nursery.  What we bind on earth will be bound in heaven.  What we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.


And those mountains will begin to move…..


Through prayer alone.