Continue in Prayer
Continue in Prayer: Pray With Perseverance
A. Continue Defined
1. From: καρτερέω strength; to be strong, steadfast, firm, to endure, hold out, bear the burden.
a. Used in Heb. 11:27 – he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
b. The term Paul uses is this term with a prefix that intensifies the meaning.
2. προσκαρτερέω –
a. Zodhiates: To continue steadfastly; to cleave faithfully.
b. Strong’s: to adhere to, to be an adherent, to be devoted.
c. With persons it means to be loyal to… (Acts 10:7)
d. In the New Testament, 6 out of 10 times it is used, it is in reference to prayer to God and fellowship with the saints.
B. Continuing in Prayer
1. Paul commands the believers in Colossae (and in Salem!) to persevere in prayer.
2. The pattern of the early church – they continued in prayer.
a. Acts 2:42 – they continued steadfastly… in prayer.
b. There was a set time of prayer and the believers gathered together for corporate prayer.
c. This is what saints DO when they are together.
d. The early church continued steadfastly in prayer.
e. We are given a window here in the life of the early church.
f. Several things were important to the life of the early church… all spiritual in nature: the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship of the saints, the Lord’s Table, and prayer.
g. Social activities occurred, no doubt, but that is not listed as part of the life of the early church. They gathered for spiritual things… for prayer.
h. And they gathered together consistently… regularly… faithfully… they continued steadfastly…
i. Acts 3:1 – at the time of prayer Peter and John were there! Even before the church was organized, these church age saints felt the need to gather together for prayer.
j. Acts 4:24 – with one accord, they lifted up their voices to God in prayer. Acts 4:31 – and when they prayed, the place was shaken!
k. Acts 12:5, 12 – the church gathered together for prayer…
l. Acts 21:5 – saints gathered together on the beach and prayed as Paul departed.
m. The epistles give us the commands to continue steadfastly in prayer. Acts gives us the historical account of the early church that DID in fact continue steadfastly in prayer.
n. Prayer was an ongoing and integral part of church life… at least in the New Testament pattern… in spite of the fact that we are seeing prayer meetings and evening worship services closing down all over the country… due to a lack of interest in spiritual things!
o. The early church revolved around teaching and praying.
3. The pattern for the individual believer…
a. Paul addressed the Body of believers at Colossae and told them all (plural) to continue in prayer.
b. Individual believers are also to continue in prayer… in our private prayer closets… our daily devotion time should include prayer.
c. Col.1:3 – Paul and Timothy prayed for the Colossians ALWAYS!
d. Col. 1:9 – we cease not from praying for you!
e. I Thess. 3:9 – Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.
f. There are MANY verses which speak of the fact that Paul and other apostles followed the example of Christ in prayer: they continued steadfastly in prayer.
C. Prayer in the Context of Colossians 3
1. Col. 3:1 – our heavenly position.
a. We have been risen with Christ and are seated with Him in heaven. (Cf. Eph. 2:5-6)
b. Paul tells us in Col. 3:1 to SEEK those things which are above. Seek things in harmony with the fact that we now dwell in a heavenly sphere…
2. 3:2 – our affections (minds and hearts) ought to be on things above.
a. That will radically change our prayer lives.
b. We might discover that instead of constantly praying about our aches and pains and bills, we will be praying primarily for spiritual concerns.
c. Spiritual concerns are mentioned in Col. 1:9-11.
• Filled with the knowledge of His will… (vs. 9)
• Wisdom and spiritual understanding…
• A worthy walk… (vs. 10)
• Fruitful in good works…
• Increasing in the knowledge of God… to know Him!
• Strengthened with HIS might… not our own. (vs. 11)
• To experience His resurrection power in our lives…
• Patience, longsuffering, with joyfulness!
• These are the sorts of things we are to be praying for…
• Pray for things related to our heavenly sphere in which we are to dwell…
d. Col. 3:3 – our new life is hidden away in heaven with God.
• Col. 3:4 – Christ is our life… and we are to abide in Him… where He is… like a branch abiding in a Vine.
• We are to abide above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.
• We are to dwell there… in our glorious heavenly position.
e. From that heavenly position, we will see life on earth from an entirely different perspective.
• From earth’s perspective, our biggest concern might be our aching back and the mortgage payment.
• From eternity’s perspective… from heaven’s vantage point, that lower back pain won’t be nearly as an important item to deal with as a bitter attitude that has gone on way too long.
• You can have fellowship with God with lower back pain… but not with a bitter spirit.
• From heaven’s vantage point… heavenly riches will motivate our prayers far more than earthly riches…
• God’s will reigns in that heavenly sphere… not our will… When we abide there, we will pray like the Lord Jesus in whom we abide: Not my will but thine be done!
• When we are abiding in our earthly condition, (that’s all we see… that’s where our affections are)… then we will pray for earthly things. IN our earthly condition we tell the Lord that we need this and that.
• But if we abide in our heavenly position… like a branch abiding in the Vine, we will discover that Christ is all we need. He supplies all we need.
• From that perspective, the CONTENT of our prayer will change dramatically…
3. Dwelling in that heavenly position will not only change the CONTENT of our prayers… it will also change our CONCEPT of prayer.
a. Prayer is a spiritual privilege… not an earthly ritual.
• As a young boy, I remember being taught a different concept of prayer.
• Prayers were WORKS that you had to do… laborious duty… painful exercises…
• At confession, if I was pretty good for the week, I was only given 5 or 6 prayers to say.
• But if I was really bad, I had to say 20-30 prayers!
• Saying prayers was a punishment for being bad…
• It was penance… a form of suffering to help pay for my sins… or so I was told.
• I wonder if there are believers who still have that concept of prayer… that prayer is a religious obligation… something that we HAVE to do whether we like it or not… because God ordered us to.
• That kind of prayer is nothing but the empty babbling of a dead religion… what Jesus referred to as “vain repetition.”
b. For the believer, prayer is the awesome privilege of being allowed to enter into the very presence of the Majesty on High…
• In prayer, we are approaching Almighty God… an infinitely HOLY God…
• This is at the same time, a fearful thing… and a glorious, marvelous privilege…
• It is not a duty but a delight… it is not an obligation that we have to perform, but an inner desire that craves to be satisfied.
• And it isn’t the act of praying that satisfies that thirsty soul… it is GOD HIMSELF who satisfies our hearts…
• It’s the Person, not the process that satisfies the soul.
c. Isa. 6:1-7 – The right concept of prayer is coming into the very presence of God Himself.
• No one can come into the presence of God (in person, in a vision, or in prayer) without being conscious of his sinfulness.
• If we are conscious of who He is… conscious of His holiness… then we will not dare to come to Him in a light and frivolous manner.
• We can talk to one another in a casual manner, but there isn’t anything casual about coming into the presence of the Creator of the universe!
• We are coming to the Divine throne of grace to speak directly the Lord God Almighty.
• Our biggest problem in prayer is forgetting into WHOSE presence we enter through prayer!
• God is not a man. (Num. 23:18)
• Ps. 50:21 – our tendency to think that God is like us… He is one of us… and we can therefore approach Him as if this were so.
• Prayer is not a believer on earth making a long distance call to a God is afar off!
d. Think of prayer as a believer who already dwells in heaven… walking right up to the very throne of our heavenly Father with a formal request… or a word of praise… or thanksgiving…
• This is to occur continually… in seasons and out of season… praying like this without ceasing…
• Continuing in prayer is an ABIDING relationship in which fellowship and communication with God is without ceasing…
PURITY: THE Prerequisite for Prayer
a. Sin separates the believer from that abiding relationship of communion and fellowship.
b. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system was designed to teach us this important truth.
• There was only ONE door to the tabernacle: one way in: God’s way.
• God was distant and hidden away from the sinner.
• God dwelt in the Holy of Holies where NO man could approach. He was too holy.
• Only the High Priest could enter into God’s presence… and only if the sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat…
• Because of sin… sinful men were kept at a distance from God.
• Only when a perfect cleansing occurred (symbolized by the blood of the sacrifice) could ANYONE enter into that Holy of Holies.
• Sin SEPARATED men from God.
c. Isa. 59:1-2 – Sin separates us from God’s face. He WILL not hear.
d. Ps. 66:18 – If we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear our prayers… be they ever so flowery and erudite!
e. For an infinitely holy God to hear our prayers, our hearts have to be perfectly cleansed… 100% pure… nothing less will do. ANY sin separates us from God… whether it is murder or a bad attitude… or resisting His will.
f. 100% pure might sound a little intimidating. Perhaps some are thinking that we will NEVER be able to pray.
g. I John 1:9 – when we confess our sins, He forgives them… He forgives them every sin we confess… and He cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness… even those sins we are unaware of!
h. When a believer has honestly confessed his sins, he IS 100% pure in God’s sight, because God washes 100% of our sins away… covered by the blood…
i. I John 1:7 – and as we walk in the light- abide in Christ, the blood of Christ CONTINUES to cleanse us from ALL sin.
j. When ALL sin is gone, we are 100% pure in God’s sight.
k. God who is infinitely holy accepts us into His presence on that basis… and on that basis only… because the Father acknowledges the VALUE and the POWER of the blood of His Son.
l. Our heavenly Father receives us into His presence on the basis of the blood of Christ. He hears our prayers only when we are cleansed by the blood of Christ… by confessing our sins.
m. Then God delights in hearing our prayers. What father wouldn’t want to hear what is on the heart of his dear child?
2. A pure conscience…
a. From God’s perspective, in order for prayer to occur, it is necessary that our sins be confessed… for sin separates us from Him. He won’t hear us.
b. But from our side, we also need a pure conscience.
c. It is similar to communion in this sense… (Heb. 10:22)
• Let us keep on drawing near… (for there are continual influences to draw us away…)
• The Old Testament priest entered into God’s presence only one day a year and then left.
• The New Testament priest enters into God’s presence and we are to ABIDE there…
d. We are to approach God with a TRUE heart—no hypocrisy… open and transparent… a true heart is broken and contrite…
• A true heart has only ONE Master… and is surrendered to Him…
• A true heart before God is an undivided heart…
e. We are to approach God in a heart of full assurance.
• Full assurance means a heart that is fully confident in his approach to God… not SELF-confidence, but FAITH… confidence in the finished work of Christ which truly cleanses… and enables us to enter into God’s presence. No wavering on that.
f. We are to approach God with a heart sprinkled and thus cleansed and purged from a guilty conscience.
• The Old Testament priests were literally sprinkled externally with blood at their consecration service.
• New Testament priests are sprinkled internally… our hearts…
• This purging cleanses us from the guilt, shame, and burden of sin that would keep us away from a holy God.
• It frees us to enter into His glorious presence… with boldness and confidence!
g. A guilty conscience and doubt will keep us away from approaching a holy God in prayer.
• It is one thing to BE forgiven and to have our sins removed and our hearts cleansed.
• It is another thing to KNOW and BELIEVE that the blood of Christ takes away our sins… and buries them beneath the sea… He remembers them no more.
h. But we also need to know and believe that when we confess our sins, God really does remove them as far as the east is from the west… and that He cleanses us from ALL sin.
i. We are (whether we feel like it or not) 100% pure in God’s sight at that point! That is the ONLY way we can approach a God who is too holy to look upon sin.
j. This truth… and trust/confidence in this truth that FREES the believer from a conscience that would otherwise keep distant from God.
k. In the truly purged conscience, the barrier is removed…
• We have the awesome privilege of entering into an ABIDING relationship to the Living God!
• Nothing between my soul and my Savior!
l. This means that the new man in Christ can do what he naturally longs to do and he can do so unhindered:
• The new man HUNGERS after God… now he can continually FEAST his soul on the Lord.
• He DESIRES communion and fellowship with God…now he can enter in…
• He SEEKS things above… and DELIGHTS in God’s Word… now he can SEEK God’s face in prayer… and ABIDE in His presence.
• He can CONTINUE in that abiding relationship of a heart open to communicate with the Living God: prayer!
• He can pray without ceasing! In season and out of season!
3. A pure heart…
a. II Tim. 2:22 – calling on the Lord out of a pure heart.
b. Those who call upon the Lord with a pure heart is Paul’s way of saying a BELIEVER! That’s the norm.
c. A heart in full devotion… a heart totally surrendered and yielded to the Lord… Nothing between…
d. The heart of this believer is WIDE OPEN to the Lord.
e. A pure heart will NATURALLY call upon the Lord… all day long!
f. The believer who demonstrates a pure heart will naturally LOVE the Lord with ALL his heart.
g. His heart is wide open to the One he loves.
• Think of what that means with respect to praying continually.
• Consider the contrast between the man whose heart is PURE and open before the Lord and the religious man.
» The religious man (forced to pray as a form of penance!) 50 Hail Marys! Torture! Punishment! I had so many other things to do… taking that much time out of my schedule was a pain in the neck… but you’ve got to do it. It’s your duty. You did it… as a burden… a chore.
» The believer whose heart is pure and open to Christ has another mindset altogether.
» Prayer is not a duty but a delight. He LOVES the Lord.
» To the one who is in LOVE with the Lord, time in prayer is different. This one loses track of the time in prayer… 10, 20, 30 minutes go by in no time!
» We have a young couple here about ready to get married.
» Peter: if you had 15 minutes at lunchtime to spend with Caity, would you consider that a pain in the neck? A burden? A chore? Torture? Or, would you be thrilled and consider it a privilege to have that time and wish it were a whole hour?
h. I Pet. 1:22 – The apostle Peter tells us to love one another with a PURE heart fervently.
• How much MORE will a pure heart love the Lord fervently?
• A pure heart before God will call upon the Lord all day long!
• There is nothing between to hinder that abiding relationship of love.
• Prayer is as natural as breathing under those circumstances.
• It isn’t forced. It isn’t something that HAVE to do. It is the normal, natural life of the new man in Christ as he walks in NEWNESS of life.
• Forcing a Spirit filled believer to pray is like forcing a person to breath. If there is LIFE there, it comes naturally!
i. So if praying continually comes naturally to the new man, why the commands?
• Because there are so many hindrances…
• A pure heart can become polluted with other “things.”
• A pure heart can be defiled… a heart dedicated to Christ can be lured away to another master…
• THEN praying becomes a chore—even for the Christian… because his heart is not right. Now we can no longer sing, “Nothing between.”
j. John 15:7 – An abiding relationship to Christ and continuing in prayer go hand in hand.
• The branch that belongs on the Vine doesn’t always ABIDE on the vine. There IS something between the Vine and the branch. (Hence the command of vs. 4.)
• But the branch that DOES abide in the Vine experiences fruit… a spiritually fruitful and prosperous life in Christ.
• Vs. 5 – without that abiding relationship, we can expect NOTHING… because when there is something between us and the Savior, we can DO nothing on our own.
• Vs. 7 – but if we continually abide in Christ, we will be continually praying and continually receiving from the Lord!
• Of course that abiding relationship to the Lord has a remarkable INFLUENCE on our will…
• Thus it has a profound effect on the CONTENT of our prayers.
• In that abiding relationship, our will is submitted to His… and in a sense, His will becomes our will!
• We will be praying from a heavenly perspective… with eternity’s values in mind…
• Our prayer will not be, “Lord stop the pain,” but “Lord teach me THROUGH the pain.” Not just “Lord take away this trial,” but “Lord, teach me of your grace, power, and compassion in the midst of all of this pressure!”
• And “it SHALL be done unto you!”
4. A pure faith…
a. Believing that we CAN come into God’s presence in prayer will cause us to continue in prayer.
b. If we really believed that we had access to the Creator of the universe… One who has all power… and One who answers prayer… we WOULD pray without ceasing!
c. It is unbelief that causes our prayer life to dwindle down to nothing.
• We don’t believe what God’s Word says about prayer.
• We don’t believe God answers prayer.
• We don’t believe that our will counts in prayer.
• We don’t believe that prayer is effectual.
• We don’t believe that God can move mountains… or perhaps He can but He won’t.
• We don’t believe that OUR prayer will be heard.
d. Sometimes people who are desperate will try anything to get them out of their desperate situation. God refuses to be one among many things “tried.” That’s not faith. That’s desperation. That’s seeking to USE God to accomplish OUR will.
e. God refuses to be tried out like some new product on the market, to help cure whatever ails us. He demands to be trusted.
f. Prayer is not the believer telling God what to do. Prayer is bringing our requests to the Lord whom we believe is ABLE to do anything… and RESTING in the sweet will of God… believing that He knows best…
g. Whether the answer is yes or no… we can REST in His love, care, and wisdom—knowing that His ways are perfect.
h. If we really BELIEVED that God’s perfect will for our lives were accomplished in part through prayer, we would pray without ceasing… we would continue in prayer…
i. Even if His will involves trial and tragedy… illness and suffering… loss and failure… faith moves us to pray for His perfect will… and rejoices in the good fruit that comes from it!
5. When things are not right in our hearts, and we begin to back away from the Lord… when backsliding is in its infant stage… the first thing to go is prayer.
a. Long before we enter into gross sin… long before we stop attending church… long before we stand aloof from fellowship with the saints… our prayer life begins to diminish.
b. At first it is gradual and perhaps even imperceptible. We might not even realize what is happening at first.
c. Gradually the delight of prayer turns to duty…
d. The duty turns to drudgery.
e. Soon other things crowd out our time to be alone with the Lord in our prayer closet.
f. Before you know it, a godly habit of praying every day… has turned into “whenever you can fit it in.”
g. Then you notice that your ongoing communication with the Lord throughout the day has ceased! (The countless, silent, praises and thank yous and requests no longer occur.)
h. When that happens, it is the first indication that the heart is no longer pure…
i. Now there IS something between you and your Savior…
j. And that is the time to deal with it… before it develops… and begins to manifest itself in all kinds of other ugly “forms” and shapes… like no longer attending prayer meeting… skipping evening services… avoiding phone calls to other believers… then forsaking the assembling of yourselves altogether… and off into the world we go…
k. But we keep that prayer life fresh with the Lord… and ABIDE in a relationship to Christ wherein our hearts are replenished and refreshed by communion with Him.
l. The old writers used to say, “Pray through it.”
m. If that is happening to you, nip it at the bud before it develops into something much more serious.
n. Get your Bible out and read and pray right THROUGH all those allurements and attraction to other things… read and pray—wrestle with the Lord UNTIL the Lord blesses you… and your love for Christ is revitalized… and prayer becomes a DELIGHT all over again!
o. And what if, after praying and seeking for a long time for a return to a warm sensitive heart, that our heart still FEELS cold and distant from God?
• What if we pray all day? What if we pray for that all week? What about a year?
• Well, the Lord may be testing our heart.
• Keep on praying. Continue in prayer—even if you don’t feel close to God… (BELIEVE that you are!) Even if your heart feels cold… keep on praying. We are not to go by our feelings, but by FAITH… which rest in the facts.
• Keep on abiding in Christ… obeying His Word… worshipping at His feet… fellowshipping with His people… regardless of how we FEEL.
• And in God’s good time… when the time of testing is over… when by CONTINUING in prayer, we have demonstrated a love for the Lord based on faith not feelings, in God’s good time, the WARMTH will return. The relationship will be sweet again. Prayer will once again be a DELIGHT not a duty.
• Don’t stop at Marah (bitterness)… when Elim (oasis) is right around the corner!
• Continue in prayer. Pray right through Marah UNTIL you come upon Elim! Pray in season and out of season. Pray with out ceasing.
• Take your focus off the process (praying) and focus on the Person… the One to whom we pray! The sweetness will return.
IF YOU ARE NOT BORN AGAIN….
God won’t hear your prayers UNTIL you are ready to BELIEVE on Christ and be saved!