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LEARNING TO PRAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

Lord’s Day Afternoon, August 23, 2020

Hymn Sung Before the Lesson:
     “Teach Me to Pray” (by Albert S. Reitz, 1879-1966).


Please stand and turn to James 5:14-20 (p. 1310 Scofield). Listen carefully as I read this passage.

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:14-20).

You may be seated.

I am lifting out the last part of verse 16 as our opening text: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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Elijah’s prayers give us one of the most important examples of the power of prayer in the Old Testament. Elijah prayed and it did not rain for three years and six months. “And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain.”

This is recorded by Christ in Luke 4:25. The lesson is clear, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We could paraphrase that as, “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” Elijah wasn’t a perfect man. He was “subject to like passions as we are” (verse 17). But he was a “righteous man.” Why? Because he believed and obeyed God?

My beloved pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, said, “A church that has a beautiful blooming prayer meeting will never be in the midst of a heavy snow storm at the same time. On the other hand, neglect of such prayer will cost us God’s presence and, thus, all efforts put forth will be striving after the wind and grasping for shadows. In the end there is nothing. May God have mercy on us” (The Secret of Church Growth, p. 99).

About four years ago, Dr. Cagan asked our congregation if they thought we were growing. Most of the people said “Yes.” Since we had not won anyone for months, I knew that the people were blinded regarding our instructions. It was then that I realized there was something wrong with our church. Most of our people did not read the assigned Bible readings. Most of them did not have private prayers. Most of them could not remember the sermons even though they were given typed out after they were preached. A number of them could not even remember why they needed to trust Jesus to be saved!

That was when I began to see that they were from an inner-city culture and couldn’t even read a newspaper! Very few of them were even trying to win a soul! Later I found out that the senior deacon was having secret meetings with another pastor, deciding how to split our church! Another deacon tried to get in a fist-fight with me! He was so bitter at me because his daughter had left our church! It was his fault (I Timothy 3:12b). His face got red and he tried to get in a fist-fight with me!

It was about this time that I began to meditate on two verses of Scripture:

(1) Matthew 7:6

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6; p. 1003)

and (2) Mark 6:11

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mark 6:11; p. 1052).

I had stayed as the pastor of our inner-city church for 45 years. Over time there was one church split after the other. I had preached the Gospel clearly and repeatedly. But the congregation, like those two so-called “deacons,” were too low culturally to remember what I preached.

God began to tell me it was time to stop casting my “pearls” before swine, and it was time to “shake off the dust from my feet” and leave the inner city. Then the chairman of the deacons took dirty photos of himself with his wife before they were married – and put these explicit photos on his website for all the world to see!

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12; p. 691).

Dr. Lin said, “The world may have a mixture of good and bad, but a church should only be an organization of the citizens of heaven. If any man in the church leads an unruly life, not according to the Bible, we should keep aloof from him (2 Thessalonians 3:6); or not associate with him…It is a lie to claim that you desire good health, prosperity and a bright future for your flock while you allow foxes and wolves to run around freely in the fold!” (ibid., p. 61).

HOW TO PRAY

Now I will stop and talk for a while about prayer.

I. First, hindrances to private prayers.

1. The Apostle Peter said that the husband is to honor his wife “that your prayers be not hindered,” I Peter 3:7.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (I Peter 3:7; p. 1314).

2. Again, Peter said that those who do evil will be hindered in their prayers, I Peter 3:12, 13.

“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Peter 3:12, 13; p. 1314).

3. Vain repetitions hinder our prayers, Matthew 6:7.

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7; p. 1002).

4. An unforgiving heart will hinder prayers, Matthew 6:15.

“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15; p. 1002).

5. Praying to show off will hinder prayers, Matthew 6:5.

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5; p. 1002).

6. Cherishing sin in your heart will hinder your prayers, Psalm 66:18.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18; p. 629).

II. Second, prayer in prayer meetings.

1. With one accord, Philippians 2:2; Matthew 18:19-20.

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2; p. 1258).

“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20; p. 1024).

   The Chinese Bible translates “one accord” as “with the same heart and the same mind” (the harmony of hearts).

2. Lead others in prayer. If they stop saying “amen” you are not leading them. You have bored them by giving a “laundry list.”