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What It Means to Pray

See the fullness of prayer

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • April 1, ad 2012


PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,

Gods breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner’s towre,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six daies world-transposing in an houre,

A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,

Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,

Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,

The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,

The land of spices, something understood.

  1. A few weeks ago, 
    1. I preached from Revelation 8 on the heavenly and earthly influence of prayer,
    2. using the imagery of reversed thunder,
      1. which I got from a poem by George Herbert titled, “Prayer. (I)”
        1. However, he said much more about prayer and
        2. I want to use his poem as the outline for my sermon tonight.
      2. I am going to use each of his images, but
        1. I will put them in modern English, and
        2. I might not even use them as he originally intended.
  2. This is not a sermon on his poem on prayer, but 
    1. I shall use his poem to preach on prayer.
    2. For dramatic effect he left out the main verb, “is,” which I will use.


  1. Prayer Is 
    1. What does it mean to pray?
    2. Why do we pray?
      1. I do not know if I prayed before I became a Christian, except for one time.
      2. It was November 1975 when I was 17 years old.
        1. I had just graduated from high school and
        2. moved to Colorado to live with my dad.
          1. I went elk hunting with him and some of his friends.
          2. On one day, I decided to stay in the cabin
            1. that someone in the 19th century had built by
            2. Little Ruby Lake in the Rocky Mountains.
      3. The fishing was great and I was the only one there far into the mountains.
        1. Then it started to get late.
        2. My dad and his friends had not shown up yet, and
          1. we were supposed to leave that afternoon.
          2. We had no more food, except for the fish that I had caught.
            1. Then it became dark.
            2. It got still later.
              1. It started to get cold and
              2. I started a fire in the wood stove.
      4. I was convinced that something had happened to my dad and his friends.
        1. Fear enveloped me.
        2. I had no idea what to do.
          1. Then I thought about praying and
          2. just as I started to pray,
            1. they came charging up on their horses,
            2. hooting and hollering.
      5. That experience of prayer left a huge impression upon me.
    3. Knowing now what I know about prayer, and
      1. the abundant experiences I have had with prayer since then,
      2. persuade me that prayer is something exceedingly special, for
        1. we talk to the God of heaven, and
        2. the God of heaven listens to us.
  2. An Intense Spiritual Experience 
    1. Prayer Is the Church’s Banquet 
      1. It is not just the individual Christian’s banquet, but
      2. the church’sbanquet, for
        1. prayer presents before us
        2. as much as a banquet presents to the attendees.
      3. What can you not eat at a banquet?
        1. What can you not pray about?
        2. Pick anything and speak to God about it.

          6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God… (Phi 4.6).
    2. Prayer Is Angel’s Age 
      1. Angels are ageless, never dying.
      2. While man is lower than the angels (Psa 8.5), yet,
        1. by prayer we enter the place where angels live and work,
        2. rising to their level as our fellow-servants (Rev 22.9).
      3. Angels praise God in heaven, but
        1. humans praise God on earth when praying,
          1. connecting these present earth-bound soul-inhabited bodies
          2. with heaven where the angels surround the throne of God.
        2. When we pray our voices are heard in heaven where the angels are.
    3. Prayer Is God’s Breath in Man Returning to His Birth 
      1. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen 2.7), and
      2. in prayer that breath returns to God who gave it.
    4. Prayer Is the Soul in Paraphrase 
      1. Sometimes we say that we are just paraphrasing something.
        1. We might refer to a Bible known as a paraphrase.
        2. A paraphrase is a statement set along side the original one,
          1. expanding upon the original
          2. so that we can understand it.
      2. When we pray,
        1. we expand our souls.
        2. expounding to God, with the Spirit’s help, the contents of our souls.

          26 …the Spirit…helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Rom 8.26).
    5. Prayer Is the Heart in Pilgrimage 
      1. The heart is not at home on earth, but
      2. through prayer we look toward home.
        1. The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15
        2. shows that very thing.
    6. Prayer Is the Christian Plummet Sounding Heav’n and Earth 
      1. The builder uses the plummet to determine true vertical.
      2. The sailor uses soundings to know the depth of the water.
        1. By prayer, we go straight from earth to heaven,
        2. going so deep that we enter the throne room of God.

          16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4.16).
  3. Prayer Is Battle 
    1. Prayer Is Engine Against th’ Almighty 
      1. An engine, machinery with which to lay siege against an ancient city wall.
      2. Prayer is like Jacob wrestling with the Angel until he received a blessing.
        1. What do you see in the Psalms?
        2. Remember Psalm 80.4 in a recent sermon,

          4 O LORD God of hosts,
          How long will You be angry
          Against the prayer of Your people?
          (Psa 80.4)
      3. In prayer it is our will versus God’s will.
      4. We cannot enter the throne room of God easily.
        1. The sinner tries, but fails.
        2. The saint tries, but succeeds.
          1. Only special people can walk through the gates of a besieged city.
          2. That is the extreme power and influence we have with the Almighty.
    2. Prayer Is the Sinner’s Tower 
      1. At Babel, sinners tried to reach heaven in their own way (Gen 11.1–6).
      2. In prayer, sinners reach heaven in heaven’s appointed way.
        1. At Babel, God confused their understandable speech.
        2. In prayer, God understands our confused speech.
    3. Prayer Is Reversed Thunder 
      1. God thunders from heaven to us on earth.
      2. We thunder back from earth to God in heaven. (Said enough already)
    4. Prayer Is Christ-Side-Piercing Spear 
      1. A Roman soldier pierced the side of Christ with a spear.
      2. The Christian soldier pierces the side of Christ with prayer
        1. that we might have a clear path to His heart, and
        2. thereby have a straight and unobscured path to the throne of grace.
      3. As our Intercessor, Jesus opens His heart to us,
        1. that we might pray to God, and
        2. Jesus presents that petition to the Father for us.
      4. The Roman soldier pierced the side of Christ with hard metal, but
        1. the Christian soldier pierces the side of Christ with soft prayer,
        2. bringing not the blood of the Roman spear, but
          1. the outpouring of the grace of God
          2. that He would hear our humble prayers.

            19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10.19–22).
    5. Prayer Is the Six Days World-Transposing in an Hour 
      1. We can accomplish more in an hour of prayer
      2. than in six days working, because
        1. when we pray, we ask God to work, and
        2. I get the idea that God can do more than we can.

          24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11.24).
    6. Prayer Is a Kind of Tune, Which All Things Hear and Fear 
      1. Our prayers serenade our Father.
      2. However, not only does the Father hear our prayers, but
        1. the Son hears our prayers,
        2. the Spirit hears our prayers,
        3. the angels hear our prayers, but
          1. the devil and his demons also hear us praying,
          2. the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,
            1. all hear our prayers and
            2. they tremble.
      3. When Christians pray,
        1. the angels of heaven rejoice, and
        2. the demons headed for hell quake.
      4. Satan and his angels know
        1. that God enjoys our prayers as we enjoy music, and
        2. that God hears and often answers our prayers as we have requested.
  4. The Beauties of Prayer 
    1. Prayer Is Softness, and Peace, and Joy, and Love, and Bliss 
      1. Experience the spiritual beauties of prayer.
        1. Prayer brings softness from God,
        2. turning away His harsh treatment of us when we sin.
      2. Prayer calms the soul, bringing peace.
      3. Prayer fills us with joy, because we have given our burdens to God.
      4. Prayer deepens our love for God and God’s love for us.
      5. Prayer is the supreme bliss, because we connect with the Creator.
      6. Paul says that because of prayer,

        7 the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phi 4.7).
    2. Prayer Is Exalted Manna 
      1. God dropped down manna from heaven for the Israelites.
      2. We lift up manna to God when we pray.
    3. Prayer Is Gladness of the Best 
      1. Even as Jesus made the best wine for the wedding feast,
      2. so in prayer we offer to God what He considers the best.
        1. It makes Him glad to hear His children,
        2. who are the best of mankind because they have become His children.
    4. Prayer Is Heaven in Ordinary 
      1. Think of the things for which we pray.
      2. They might be the ordinary things of life, but
        1. we bring heaven into those things when we pray.
    5. Prayer Is Man Well Dressed 
      1. Even as past generations put on their best when going to worship,
      2. so when we pray we offer to God our best.
        1. We speak in a higher way.
        2. We speak with well-dressed words.
    6. Prayer Is the Milky Way 
      1. Prayer is as grand and limitless as the Milky Way galaxy in which we live.
      2. By prayer we leave the earth and go to some distant beautiful place,
        1. even as the Milky Way is beautiful and distant, yet,
        2. it is within the grasp of our eyes, and
          1. heaven is within the grasp of our words, and
          2. our hearts when we pray.
    7. Prayer Is the Bird of Paradise 
      1. Centuries ago people believed
        1. that birds of paradise—the bird itself, not the flower—
        2. lived in the air, in the trees, and never came down to the ground.
      2. Therefore, prayer is like always looking above to God
        1. as we pray without ceasing.
        2. In prayer we elevate ourselves above the things of earth.
  5. The Essential Things 
    1. Prayer Is Church-Bells Beyond the Stars Heard 
      1. Even as churches used to have bells that rang on Sundays,
      2. so that everyone in town heard the call to prayer, to come worship,
        1. so our prayers ascend far above our towns,
        2. going beyond the stars as they enter heaven.
    2. Prayer Is the Soul’s Blood 
      1. The Bible says the life is in the blood, and
      2. the blood of our souls is prayer, for by it we live.
        1. We speak to the God of our creation.
        2. Does that not give us life?
          1. Why did Jesus pray?
          2. Why did He wake up early in the morning to pray?
            1. It was the blood of His soul, and
            2. without it He separated Himself from God.
    3. Prayer Is the Land of Spices 
      1. Prayer takes us to an exotic land.
      2. Prayer is like the spices used for incense
        1. before the Holy of Holies, and
        2. before the throne of God.
    4. Prayer Is Something Understood 
      1. Take all that we have tasted, seen, heard, felt, and smelled in prayer, and
      2. know that what we say in prayer to God, He understands.


  1. What does it mean to pray? 
    1. It is breath, and
      1. it is warfare.
    2. It is music, and
      1. it is fearful.
    3. It is heavenly, and
      1. it is earthly.
    4. It is way out there, and
      1. it is right here.
    5. As the angels ascended and descended upon the ladder of Jacob,
      1. so we ascend and God descends upon the ladder of prayer.
  2. Why would we not pray? 
    1. What else is there on this earth that is worth doing more than praying?
  3. Pray, pray, then pray some more. 
    1. James 5 reveals something for which we should pray,

      16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jam 5.16).

      1. When we sin against one another, or
        1. when we sin against the church,
          1. we should confess our trespasses to one another
          2. that the rest of us might pray for that brother or sister.
        2. We pray for one another, because
          1. it heals us.
          2. Have you not needed healing in the spirit?
      2. I know that if you confess your trespass
        1. to a brother or sister
        2. whether in private or in public,
          1. you will be healed, because
          2. James by the Holy Spirit said
            1. the effective and fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.
            2. Remember prayer is reversed thunder.
    2. We do not always have to wait for someone to approach us and request prayer.
      1. Go to someone,
      2. tell them you are praying for them.
  4. Why then delay? 
    1. Why not let us pray for you now?