We have spent several weeks now showing how God's ultimate desire—even above obedience, even above service or giving—is intimacy with His people. How that one thing is literally why we are here, is the reason He gave His life, is why our sins hurt Him so deeply; how our hunger to know Him and our real love for Him are more important than anything else we could possibly give. The most natural thing to study together after learning His true heart and how to hunger and thirst for Him more is how to draw closer—how to become more intimate with Christ. The answer is so simple, and yet so difficult. If you met someone you might like to get closer to, what is the first thing you would begin doing in order to know them better? In order to draw closer? You would spend time with them; talk with them, so you could get to know them and could share with them—get to know who they are and what's important to them. The exact same thing is true with God. If we want to become more intimate and close to Him, one of the absolute most important things we can do is talk with Him—spend time with Him. Prayer is the key to deeper intimacy with God, but it is one of the hardest, most neglected, most underrated things in our Christian walk.
How many know that we should pray more? We are wanting and willing, yet it remains one of the most elusive things in our life. This has been the case since the 12 disciples walked with Christ: Matthew 26:40-41. Why don't we pray as we should? We have to start by being honest with ourselves if we are to change our prayer life and ask the question of why is it so hard to pray as I should?
Here are the top four honest answers: #4) Angry at God. If you are angry with someone, does it ever make things better to simply stop talking to them or ignore them? Absolutely not. It makes you build resentment and fuels the anger. You have to talk it out. Silence increases distance. #3) Feeling that God is distant or unhappy with us. If we pray as we should, both of these will take care of themselves as we pray. If someone is unhappy with you—you feel the distance, you know it's your fault and you love them dearly—do you let things go on the way they are going? Or do you feel compelled to make things right? If you love God and you feel He is not happy with you—1) He still wants to be close to you 2) You should not stop until you can get past what you feel has driven a wedge. You should be driven to prayer in love, otherwise it is self-love preventing it. #2) I am just too busy with other things (nothing else fits). Was anyone more in demand or did anyone have a more pressing task at hand, a more important job than Jesus? Luke 5:15-16. Yet He found more time for prayer than anyone and made time again and again. How about taking an account of how much time you spend in one day [on social media, gaming, watching television} and compare it to how much time you give to prayer. You will find time for what is important. Do you want more of Him, or not? If so, then do what it takes. #1- You honestly don't feel that it is very effective. ("I tried praying, it just doesn't work for me.") This truly is the number one answer because if we did think it was effective, the other four reasons would not stop us. Whatever you have thought about prayer up until now—about whether it is effective, how important it may be—unlearn all you have assumed and recognize these absolute truths about prayer. If you do, it will change your urgency and willingness to pray. When you come to God in prayer, you must know with all of your heart it is the most advantageous thing you can do on this earth. You must believe it does make all of the difference in the world.
Why is prayer so important? What exactly does it accomplish? "I mean, God already knows all that I need—if He loves me so much, why do I have to ask? He's Sovereign. He is going to do what He wants anyway, so what difference do my prayers make?" Prayer brings two things to us in incredible ways: intimacy and power. 1) what prayer does in our lives intimately: prayer is not just an avenue for getting things from God. It is not a religious act of obedience and it will not be a chore or task when you discover what a treasure it really is in life. It is a close and personal two-way communication with Someone who loves us and is loved by us in return. It can be the sweetest, most important part of your day. It is the biggest part of why we were even Created: fellowship. It is so special to God that He died to bring us that close to Him. Since the first day of Creation, He has coveted personal, intimate time with us in communion: Genesis 3:8-9. It's very unlikely that God just decided to show up walking in the Garden, asking where they were after their sin. It is very apparent God was visiting and walking with them regularly. When you regularly have intimate time with God, it keeps you aware that He is always with you. It makes you see things in life from His perspective as you talk with Him about life events and people. It makes you realize your own sins as you admit reasons why you may have disappointed Him. It causes you to stop and realize what's important. As you discuss worries, hopes and fears with Him, it causes you to see the worth and desire He places on you alone. That He made all of this for you; that He is interested in your feelings and events; that He wants to comfort and help you. Prayer changes you by spending time with Him. You take on the characteristics of those you spend time with. 2) there is real power given to us in prayer. God Created this world for us to have dominion over, under Him. God Gave us free will and choice for a reason. God wants us to have the same love and care for Him and others that He has in His heart. Therefore, He will very often wait for us to get involved with our desires, concerns and petitions before He gets involved. He does allow our prayers to completely alter and effect the direction of events, blessings, curses and provisions. God parted seas for one man's faithfulness. God killed 185,000 troops for one King's prayers (Hezekiah). God stopped the very sun in the sky for Joshua's petition. God spared the entire Nation of Israel because of Moses' plea. God stopped the rains for 3 1/2 years because of Elijah's prayer. God will do things in your life and others simply and only because you cared enough to pray in faith. If you will get this—believe this—it will change you. As a matter of fact, almost everything God does on this earth is in accordance with the prayers of His people. Prayer is a massive weapon of power and influence. Prayer alters lives. That is why Satan works so very hard to keep us from doing it, and to keep us from believing in it's effectiveness. When you pray faithfully, lives do change. When you pray faithfully, God does move. Yes, God is Sovereign and does have His perfect will accomplished. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t a part of that Sovereign plan. In His Sovereign plan, He has included the events which the faithful prayers, the obedient will, and the passionate desires of His treasured people have prayed in that Sovereign will. Our prayers can and do move the hand of God to change things in amazing ways. If many of us would just trust Him, believe Him—if we could just pray in real love, desire and faith—we could see Him moving and changing things...
as clear as day in our lives.
So why do we even have to ask if He knows we need these things? Why wait for us to get involved when He knows what He wants? 1) Because He wants us to see that it was Him who did it. If He just moved in every need, answered every desire instantly and without prayer, we would never see that it was His power, never see it was His love, never see our need for Him in our lives. We would simply attribute His goodness to ourselves and become self-righteous and proud or Allah, horoscopes, other people, or fate and miss reality: Psalm 145:5-7. 2) He wants us to join with Him in the fight in affecting the Creation He made for us to watch over: James 5:16. He wants us to be sold out on helping, healing and loving the people He placed in our lives: John 13:34. He wants us to grow in empathy, compassion and desire for others: Galatians 6:2. He wants us to join Him as one in passion and works: Ephesians 2:10. He wants us to love enough to pick up the sword and fight beside Him. He doesn't want us to be immature brats crying and being spoon fed. He wants warriors, ready to protect and care for what He has given. Prayer literally sets the Hosts of Heaven free to do Battle for Christ: Daniel 10:12-14. So many times in life we go without; we suffer unnecessarily; we miss blessings or opportunities; we watch others struggle; we do not accomplish amazing things; we try to get things in a wrong or sinful way—and it’s only because we do not have the faith, the will or the love to become involved in prayer and action: James 4:2-3; Psalm 37:4-5; John 14:12-14. These are not Promises for us to get anything our selfish hearts desire, to become spoiled monsters who only think of themselves—but invitations to join Him in His work in this world, to know Him so closely and love Him so dearly—that our desires become His desires, that we will pray for what we want and get it because we think and love so much like He does—that we will ask for things in our own lives and He will grant them; because our hearts belong to Him, we trust Him, and we are not asking for wrong reasons in our own lives. Prayer is the key that opens the door to intimacy with Christ: Revelation 3:20. It is the sword by which you can fight to for God's Kingdom and the loved ones in your care. It is the foundation to all Christ died to share with us. It is the greatest, most powerful weapon God has given to us and it works. You can make a difference; you can change the course of the world through your petitions to your God. He has given you that privilege. It is like we have a spiritual atomic bomb sitting in our basement and Satan is hoping you never find it: Ephesians 6:10-13, 18.
It's time we understand the effectiveness of prayer. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul tells us the Spirit is our sword. Prayer is how we draw that sword. It's time we draw nearer to Christ than ever before. It's time to become a force to be reckoned with in the spiritual world. It’s time for us to call on the Holy Spirit in faith. And set the Hosts of Heaven free to do God's Will in our lives through prayer. Church will not grow or be used because of preaching or giving alone, but because we passionately pray in expectation. Some of you may be inspired in faith and excitement by the Truths you've just heard, but are still hesitant or fearful because you don't even know where to begin.
Next week we will learn real Scriptural answers on how to cultivate an intimate and life-changing prayer life by following the examples of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
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