The Power of Prayer | Mike Mazzalongo |

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– You know a lot of things that we do that are uniquely Christian, we’ve done some of them this morning. You know we’ve had communion,
the wonderful fellowship, evangelism, baptism. All these things are traditionally
Christian activities. But of all the Christian
things that we do, however, the thing that we probably
do most often is to pray. We pray when we eat. We pray when we are at worship, we pray when we’re alone. We pray at devos, we pray
when visiting sick people. We pray during times
of trouble and despair, or when we are happy we pray. In the Muslim religion
they are obliged to pray five times a day, and
sometimes people say, wow, that’s a lot! And boy we blow past that like nothing. Like nothing, you know? I mean just meal time we’re praying. We probably rack up more time praying than any other spiritual exercise
that we do as Christians. For this reason, the activity of prayer seems to sometimes get a little bit stale, little bit boring, ah what do I say now? Do I repeat the same thing over again? Like everything else, if
you repeat it often enough it begins to feel a little old, maybe even feel ineffective. So this morning I’d like to encourage you in your prayer life and
give you some reasons why you should persevere in prayer. You should persevere in
prayer because it is needed. It is sorely needed. In Ephesians chapter six, verse 12, Paul the apostle tells
us that the true struggle going on in this world
is not between countries, it’s not between economic
systems or ideologies. These things merely
reflect the real struggle. No, the true struggle, Paul
says, is against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. In the heavenly places. The battle is against
Satan and his evil forces that are continually trying
to destroy the church and the spread of the word of God. Some people have wisdom from below and can only see the small picture. And believe me, the small
picture are human wars and politics and power. I know they suck up a lot
of energy, these things, but that’s the small picture. But to some God has given through his word the ability to see the big picture, and that is that the battle
in the spiritual realm creates the battle in the physical realm. That’s the big picture. Some choose to fight
with guns and diplomacy and financial wheeling and dealing, and controlling the oil
reserves and whatever. You know the local battles
for territory and money and temporary power. Others choose to fight the
battle on the first front, the spiritual front
against the true enemies, and they fight this battle with the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and yes, with prayer. Prayer is the battleground
for the Christian. Paul says that the wage of sin,
or the wages of sin is death in Romans chapter six, verse 23. And Peter says that Satan continually prowls around to devour. In other words, Satan is
continually trying to find ways to seduce people into sin
in order to create death and the symptoms of death in their lives. You don’t just die when your
heart, like brother Rex, 95, his heart stops, he’s dead. You don’t just die then. The symptoms of death
are violence and anger and immorality and suffering. Those are all the symptoms
of the death that exists in this world because of sin. And so prayer is needed to counteract Satan’s attacks in many ways. For example, we need to prayer for workers to go out and preach the gospel, so Satan will not destroy the ignorant, Jesus talks about in 9:30. You know what do you think
this battle going on now that we read about, ISIS and
Al-Qaeda and all these groups, what are they trying to do? They’re trying to control territory. They’re trying to control land mass. Why? Because in all the land
mass that they control, there’s no way that the
Gospel will ever get in there. That’s what the battle is about. So we need to pray for workers who will go into places where
the Gospel can reach people who are trapped, who are prisoners. Not just in jail, but
prisoners of ideology. Satanic ideology. We also need to pray for those who suffer because of the direct or indirect results of sin in their lives. The victims of war, the victims
of disease and suffering. Victims of broken families. The list of damage due to sin
just goes on and on and on, we could spend all morning
just listing the victims. God tells us to pray
for healing and support, and restoration from these things, James chapter five, verse 15. And we also need to pray
that God opens our eyes so that we can continually
see the big picture, because the little picture is so loud, it’s go such a big microphone. It consumes all the media,
but it’s the little picture. We need to pray that God
opens the minds and hearts of people so they get
to see the big picture. Elisha the prophet prayed that his servant would see the host of heaven
encircling their enemies so as not to be afraid. In second Kings, his servant
and Elisha were being attacked and the servant was afraid because of the number
of enemies around them. And Elisha prayed that his
servant’s eyes would be opened so he could see that around the enemy there was another circle, and that circle was the angels
that were protecting them. Paul prayed that the brethren could see the heavenly gifts awaiting those who were faithful to Christ until death, Ephesians, one, verse 18. I wonder if that’s what
you see as you die, as you are transferred
into the next dimension. I wonder if that’s what you see. Not just a light, but you
begin to see the things that God has promised to give you for remaining faithful. A lifetime. We need to pray for
vision, not just things. Vision to see how we
fit into God’s picture and what position we will
fill in the ongoing battle against these forces
in the heavenly places. Every prayer, whether it’s for breakfast or to restore someone for illness, or to gain strength for vision, every prayer is always needed because it is relevant to
what life is really about. So we need to pray because it is needed. Sorely needed. We also need to pray because prayer is the basic ministry of the church. You know we have in the
past explained the quote, ministry system in the church, you know, you remember that, I’ve
said it many times. There are five basic
ministries in the church. Evangelism, education,
fellowship, worship, service. Those are the only five
ministries of the church. Those are the areas that we work in. Those are the Biblical ministry. And I’ve told you that when each of these activities is being carried out, the individuals as well as
the entire church, grows. But each of these
individual ministry groups needs prayer to be effective. And so we need to pray for teachers and their effectiveness
and their faithfulness. We need to pray for outreach efforts. We need to pray that the
brethren draw closer together. We need to pray that God
provide the resources and the talents so we
can serve effectively. We need to pray that our
worship is in Spirit and truth. We need to pray that our leaders
remain wise and faithful, as well as healthy and
focused on their task. Prayer is basic, because no
matter what your physical or economic limitations, you can make a difference in this church through a strong and
persistent prayer life. And so we should never stop praying, because prayer is needed. Because prayer is the basic
ministry of the church. And also because prayer is powerful. Sometimes I hear people say things like, you know things are going badly
and not sure what’s going on and they say, well you
know, we could always pray. Or let’s pray, it can’t hurt. I’ve heard somebody say that to me once, I said, shall we pray? He saaid, yeah go ahead, it can’t hurt. [laughs] It’s like I didn’t want to
then, you know what I’m saying? Oh yeah, nevermind then. Statements like this reveal
that we don’t recognize the power of prayer. You know prayer is not wishful thinking, prayer is not desperation. Prayer is powerful, and it’s
powerful for several reasons. First of all, it is
strong enough to defeat our most powerful enemy. Satan is a mighty spiritual being, much stronger than humans. Jesus tells us that prayer
is our defense against him, in first Peter Five and
eight, and Luke 22, 31 and 32. Our task is not to beat up
Satan, our task is to resist him. To resist him. We can’t beat him up. We don’t have that kind of power. But we can resist. And prayer is the first
step in that resistance. Secondly, prayer is powerful
because it’s directed towards the God who is all powerful. You know the reason prayer is so powerful is because the object
of it has all the power. A million prayers to an idol is worthless. Worthless. A zealous prayer with sacrifice without a clean heart is useless. Any prayer made without
reference to Jesus Christ or longing for Him is not heard. But the smallest voice, the weakest hands lifted to God in Jesus’s name is heard and forever remembered by the creator of the heavens and the earth. Those little children offering, you say well, you see
kids offering up prayer, you ask the kid to lead
the prayer before you eat. You know you going to be
eating cold food right? ‘Cause they go on and on and on, you know thank you for mommy and daddy and my bicycle and our
dog, and aunt so and so, and please help the astronauts
on the space station. And you know it just goes on and on, and we kind of smile and we go, oh nice little boy, that
kid’s prayer is being heard! Prayer is powerful in the name of Christ, because it reaches almighty God. And prayer is powerful because it works. I have an experiment, not an experiment, but a survey I want to make. And I want you to cooperate
with me if you can, if you’re able to. Raise your hand, those of
you who have had prayers answered in the past. Alright, I’m elected. [congregation laughs] Wish it was that easy, don’t you? Prayer works when nothing else does. Prayer works in its own time,
its own way, its own purpose. But it does work. Prayer works while we sleep. It works despite us in certain situations. God is able to do so much
more than we ever imagined. He’s always surprising us, and prayer is our life line to that power. This is one of the reasons
that we have designated the month of February here at Choctaw as the month of prayer. You’ve been hearing about that, so I’d like to kind of introduce that, segway into that idea right now. Our purpose here in the month of prayer is to focus the minds and the hearts of each person in our congregation to a guided time of prayer that will last, for not just for one worship
service or one weekend, but for an entire month. And that month will be February. So let me give you the nuts and bolts of how the month of prayer
is going to work, okay? And then the sermon will be yours. First of all, we’ve created a flyer and I think I have a copy of it up here, brought it with me, whoop. And I believe that every single person has received a flyer like
this with information about the month of prayer in your mailbox. So if you didn’t check your mailbox today, I give you two good reasons to check it. One, the flyer on prayer
is in the mailbox, and your income tax
receipts are in the mailbox. So there you have two
reasons to go look at your. Now if you’re a visitor and
you don’t have a mailbox, that’s okay, there are
extra copies of this on the little tables out on the foyer, and you can pick one up on the way out. Now the flyer has the
following information on the activities and the features that will be provided for
those who want to participate in our month of prayer. First of all, on the inside, as you see up on the slide
there, there’s a prayer calendar. On the inside of the
flyer is this calendar with suggested topics for
prayer for every single day of the month of February. Of course, you can pray for
and about whatever you wish, but our hope is that you
will include the daily topic, so that we have the entire
church focused on each topic every single day. So let’s say on the 12th of February, it says here, pray for the unemployed, the homeless and the poor. February 12th. Well we’ve got about 400
people in this congregation, it’d be nice if 400 people in this church were praying for the unemployed,
the homeless and the poor on that particular day
in their prayer time. You can add stuff, of course. But we sure would like for
you to at least include this particular prayer. Okay, so that’s one thing, the calendar. Now we also have online features as well. First of all, there’s an
online prayer calendar. Each day, the people
who have the Remind app, you know what the Remind app is? It’s an app for your cellphone, and it’s been designed for teachers to get in touch with their
students if there’s a snow day, or don’t forget your homework or whatever. So it’s like an enclosed group. So we’re using the app
mainly to advise our members, should there be a bad whether on a Sunday, we want to let them know
if services are canceled, you’ll get a message on your app, there’ll be a little push notification, a little red dot or something
that you’ve got a message. You click your app and it
says, service is canceled or service is delayed to
2:00 p.m. or whatever. Well we’re going to use that Remind app in service of our month of prayer. And so each day, those
who have the Remind app on their phones will
receive a notification of the daily prayer topic as well as changes or updates to the calendar. For example, if it was
today, we would add also, let’s pray for the Deatherage family because of the lost of Rex. You see, we keep it fresh,
we keep it up to date. Celesta will be either in the foyer or in one of the classrooms after services to sign you up to the Remind thing. I mean, I did it, so it’s not
very complicated, you know? She’s got forms and things
like that you can set up. The first notification
will be sent to those who have the app on Sunday,
February 1st at noon. That’ll be next Sunday at noon, you should get the first notification. Alright, another online
feature is the Prayer Board. There’ll be a special online Prayer Board that will be available for
members to post prayer requests, followups and comments. Just like you fill out the
blue cards physically here and you hand them to Harold or whoever and they come up and they read them, well we’re going to have
an electronic Prayer Board, and you can post those prayers on the electronic Prayer Board. Simply go to the church website,, or our Facebook page,, and that information is in the flyer. Another feature will be Marty looking like he’s going hunting, but no this will be prayer notes. And we’ve got Marty ’cause he was one of the very first ones that we videoed. These will be pertinent scriptures regarding prayer as well as comments, and videos by various
members sharing anecdotes and reflections about
their own prayer life. These will also be available
and here, ah, there we go. These will also be available
at, or the So what are you going to
get when you go there? You’re going to be able to
see videos of people talking, short videos, you know
a minute, two minutes, short video of people, our people, talking about prayer in their life. And also Marty will
also be providing ideas, special scriptures, notations, just a kind of a devotional thought from time to time on this website. We’re also going to have some activities. First of all, we are going to have a Pray with the Elders feature. Every Sunday morning
and every Sunday evening as well as Wednesday evening, two of our elders will be available in the Elder’s conference room to pray and offer pastoral
counseling to any members, any individuals that would need that. You simply go to the
Elder’s conference room after services and they will be there. And that will begin on
Sunday, February the 1st, Sunday morning, Sunday
night, Wednesday night, and the elders will rotate,
two elders to be there to take care of particular
needs during that month. Even if you just want them to pray for you as part of our prayer month. Another feature will be the preaching. It wouldn’t be a month of prayer if the preaching didn’t deal
with the subject of prayer. So each minister will
devote at least one lesson to this topic in the month of February, to kind of keep us focused on this idea. And then the last activity will be the prayer and fasting weekend, at the very end of the month, we want to add the component
of fasting to our prayer month. And so we’ll finish the month
off with a 24 hour fast, followed by a final fellowship meal, a break-fast if you wish,
here at the building. And a glorious time of prayer and praise and sharing at the end. So the fasting will be
Friday, September 27th, beginning at 5:00 p.m. and it will go ’till Saturday,
February 28th, 5:00 p.m. This is a completely voluntary thing. We understand a lot of people can’t, diabetics, new moms,
that type of thing, sure. And you’ll get information about that. But if you want to try it,
I know that Mike Coghill’s going to be speaking on
that topic in his lesson, he’ll be providing information on fasting. The marvelous thing, we finish the month, those who are able to and
willing with a day of fasting, focus on prayer, we all gather
here Saturday, 5:00 p.m. and we break our fast together with a marvelous fellowship
meal, potluck, fellowship meal. And then we’ll come into the auditorium and we’ll complete the
month with a great time of fellowship, prayer,
praise, and encouragement. You’ll see, we’ll give
you more information as the time draws near, as far as the prayer and fasting weekend. So I hope that everyone will participate in as many ways as you
can this coming month. Now, in my lesson today, I haven’t covered every
aspect of prayer, obviously. You know the types of prayers,
the examples of how to pray. These will come as the weeks
go by in the month of February. And in subsequent lessons and sermons, you’ll also receive more
information about prayer, and also more information about fasting. Why, how to do it effectively and safely, so on and so forth. But for today, I wanted to remind you, lest we forget in all the details here, not to give up on praying as
part of your Christian life. And encourage those who
don’t pray regularly to begin making it part of
their daily walk with the Lord. Why? One last reminder. Because it’s needed in the
church and in your life, probably the thing needed the most. We don’t just think we ought to pray, we need to take the
time and actually do it. It’s for everyone in the church. Not only do we all need
it, we all can do it. We can all do it for ourselves, and we should begin doing
it for other people as well. Take the time. If you tell me you’re watching four hours of T.V. a day and you
don’t have time to pray, if you’re telling me
you’re spending six hours playing video games to two in the morning, you don’t have 20 minutes to pray? Something’s wrong in your life. You need to turn that around. And remember it’s the power
that sustains the church and its work and supports our faith, not to mention every other
aspect of our daily lives. Now one prayer that is often on my heart is that each person in this building, and if I could take the time, I’d go and name every name, each person in this
building be right with God. Because when you go down deep inside, the problem many times causing our angst, our stress, our fear, is that
we’re just not right with God. For whatever reason. And so I pray that those
who are putting off obeying the Gospel, will hesitate no more, and obey God in repentance and baptism so that their prayers for salvation and other matters will be heard. And I pray constantly
that brothers and sisters will have the courage
to remove whatever sin or hardness of heart that
separates them from God, or separates them from others. That they’ll get rid of that thing so that they can be right with God. And I pray that the Lord
will send us Godly people who will want to join our
church family here in Choctaw. That’s what’s on my heart, that’s what my prayer is this morning. If these are calling you in any way, then I pray that you will come forward now and that you will accept
the Lord’s invitation as we stand and as we sing,
our song of encouragement.


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