O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Attack on Prayer
"The Attack on Prayer"
Preached on March 7, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, how do you know if you are communicating effectively with someone? In the Canadian military, there are detailed radio procedures that must be followed to establish communications. Unless these exact procedures are done, one cannot say that communications have been established. And even once comms are up and running, there is always the risk that the enemy might gain access and use it to his advantage. He could stay quiet and listen to the plans going over the airwaves. Or he could be more forward and try jamming, spamming, spoofing, poofing, loofing or boofing - or any other kind of goofing. Both sides of the communication must be able to recognize such enemy behavior and respond with the appropriate evasive manoeuvres on the radio. If not, false orders could be given. Critical orders could be missed. In short, a great deal of trouble could arise. How do you know if you are communicating effectively with someone?
In any war, even a spiritual war, one of the best ways to win is to breakdown the enemy's communications. Stop the communications from one side or the other, and it is only a matter of time. It appears this strategy is an integral part of the devil's assault on the Christian. He is satisfied when one of two things happens, either you stop hearing the Word of God preached, or you stop speaking to Him in prayer. Either one and the devil has created a breakdown in communications. Either one and the poor Christian could miss critical orders from Command or fall victim to false orders from the enemy. But seeing as we are here tonight to hear God's Word preached, let us focus on the prayer side of communication with God.
Our report from our undercover spy in the enemy's camp shows that the devil knows much more about prayer than we might like. He knows that your prayer life is usually a good indication of your spiritual health, and so he works hard to keep you from God pleasing prayer. But thankfully you have Christ fighting on your side, and teaching you how to resist these evil works. This evening we will hear from our report how the devil is planning his attack on your prayer life, and we will hear how Christ has mounted His defence.
Now it may sound silly to say, but our Lord Jesus prayed regularly when He walked the earth, and He prays even now. So if our Lord and Savior, the Creator of all things prays, we Christians should be encouraged to all the more. But beware, the Evil One is trying to keep you from prayer. And he is more successful than we might suspect. In the last two weeks I've had a number of young Christians tell me that they don't pray. They may bow their heads at church, or with the family at meals, but throughout their personal life they do not think to speak to God, their Creator and heavenly Father. Communication has broke down, and it is only a matter of time.
Are we teaching our children and grandchildren how to pray? Are we taking the time to pray with them and form their prayer life? Or is the devil even getting to us and keeping us from prayer too? This Lenten season is the time to start again, both for ourselves and with those we love. The lines of communications need to be open again.
However, even when the lines of communication are open, there are a number of tricks that the Evil One uses to breakdown communication. And sometimes his prayer tricks are more effective than getting you to stop praying altogether. He wants you to think you are healthily praying when in reality he may be running interference.
One of his best tricks is to make you 'think' you know what prayer is without looking in the Scriptures. He wants you to view prayer as this spontaneous, inward, informal thing. Something that isn't regular or formal. He wants you to view it as a certain mood that you enter into, without any emphasis on your will or intelligence. Yet when we look to our Lord, we see that He specifically took time out of His day to pray. He would regularly go off and pray on His own in a formal way, and as we heard in our reading, He even repeated the same words three separate times. His prayers were planned, outward and formal - a discipline He practiced.
Of late, especially among Lutherans, the devil has also tricked us into having a low regard for our body position during prayer. He has overspiritualized prayer suggesting that involving our bodies in our prayers has no value - as if our bodies and souls are not connected. Certainly, our prayers are not made worthy by our physical actions, nor are there specific bodily motions that God has commanded. Yet when our Lord prayed in Gethsemane, He threw Himself on the ground. The Almighty God and Creator of the world now become man threw His face into the dirt He had made when He spoke to His Father. Christ knew His body was an important part of His person, and He expressed it in prayer.
Another way the Evil One interferes in communications is by trying to turn prayer into a feeling. He wants you to focus on your feelings in prayer, telling God how you feel instead of making a request. He wants your feelings to become such an important part of your prayer that you begin to base the success of your prayer on the way you feel. If you pray to be happy, yet you can't seem to feel happy, then you feel that God has not answered your prayer. This focus on feelings turns your prayer life into a rollercoaster, and your God into a talk show host, or a psychiatrist. But in Christ we see that prayer is about confidently asking yet humbly accepting that God knows best, regardless of the answer.
Finally, the Evil One is always trying to make you doubt whether God is answering your prayers. When a prayer seems unanswered, the devil will say, "See, proof that prayers do not work." However when a prayer is answered, the devil will draw your attention to the physical things that led to it so that you think, "ah but it would have happened anyway." Regardless of the result, the devil attacks.
And this is why Christ is such a mighty fortress and weapon. For as you heard last week, Christ prayed for you after the Last Supper. He had you in mind when He offered up petitions before His Father. He prayed for your safety from the Evil One. He prayed for the strengthening of your faith. He prayed that you may stay connected to Him - that the communication lines would stay open and unfettered - despite the attacks of the Evil One. And He continues to pray for you - even right now. Christ intercedes for you before His Father in heaven. And the Holy Spirit intercedes for you with groanings too deep for words. God knows how difficult it is to keep a lively prayer discipline, and so He keeps one for you. He knows you fall victim to the tricks of the devil, so He forgives you for it by His blood, and gives you the strength to start again anew.
The Lord is listening - He has bent down from heaven to hear what His little child has to say - He is not embarrassed to be found leaning, stretching His neck to hear your cry. He wants to hear from you - He wants you to know He is listening. Let us thank the Lord for His ever-open ear. Let us thank the Lord for His forgiving, protective Word. And may we never forget that it was the will of the Father for His Son to drink the cup of His wrath. So may we always join Him in praying, "not as I will, but as you will Father." In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr