We are going to address two questions in this sermon, about prayer, but these two simple questions have more people stumped and confused than anything in our Christian walk, leaving many of us hopeless and powerless before Satan and his horde. 1) Do you ever privately feel (even if you don't want to admit it to yourself), that prayer just seems to be useless to you? (Doesn’t make a difference?) That it doesn't really change anything in your life? That you just kind of do it because you are supposed to do it? And if you don't do it, somehow things could always get worse? As though He will be mad if I don't pray, but He's gonna do what He wants anyway? 2) Do you ever privately feel like you really don't even know how to pray as you should? Some people quote Scriptures supporting how we should be bold in what we want from God—claim it in faith—your words are power leading to reality from Heaven. Your true belief, and your passion will determine 100% if God moves. Others say God has His will for this earth, and He's going to do exactly what He wants to do, and accomplish exactly what He wants accomplished, no matter what we do, therefore, it really doesn't matter what is prayed. What should I ask God for, and what should I not ask Him for? What should I be bold about in prayer, if ever? What should I humbly ask for?
Let's start with whether it is important in God's Plan, and in our plan, to even pray or not? Does it really make a difference? Does it make anything change? How many own a smart phone? If you pulled it out right now, could you get me the weather? News? Facts about Chihuahua's? Absolutely! How? Because the signal is in the air around us all of the time. But we have to connect to this unseen world of information that is there all around us, even at this moment. Listen to these passages from Daniel: Daniel 9:20-23: Commands were given in Heaven, the moment God's man prayed. Don’t you clearly see how God reacts to the righteous prayers of His Saints? Now listen to a similar scene just one chapter later: Daniel 10:12-14: This angel came again, from the moment Daniel prayed, but the answer to Daniel's prayer was so important that, "the prince" of the kingdom of Persia fought the angel in literal combat for 21 days. Ephesians 6:12: This was not a human prince, because the Archangel Michael, the "Chief Prince" came to beat this fallen angel back, and allow the messenger through. If prayer didn't really make a difference, if God were going to do what He wanted to do whether we prayed or not, why was an angel dispatched with commands from Heaven, at the moment of prayer, by one of God's children? Just like the radio, cellular, and internet signals around us constantly. We have no idea of the spiritual warfare surrounding us at all times. We have no idea how much our prayers limit or strengthen that warfare. Listen to the attitude with which God calls us to pray:
Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:11-12; Hebrews 10:19-20. These verses say that we should not only have access to God in prayer, but that we should come boldly to Him in prayer—not because we are so awesome, but because our right to step intimately into the Holiest of Holies (where only priests went once a year with offerings), and speak with the God of the Universe was paid for with the literal sprinkling of the blood of God (as Sacrifice). Entering behind the sacred veil that separates from the rest of the world—the veil of His flesh. According to these verses, which explain how and why we have access to prayer—you tell me if you think prayer matters; you tell me if you think God even listens when we pray.
If your child had to die in order to give you access to something, how precious and sacred would you hold that thing accessed? Not only are your prayers heard, not only do your prayers matter, but anything and everything done with God's Power and Blessing, will be done through prayer first. This is why Satan wants us to be ignorant of how important prayer is; this is why Satan wants us to have a passive and apathetic attitude towards prayer.
According to what it cost God to allow prayer; according to the attitude of Boldness God says we should have when we pray; according to the illustrations of how Heaven commands angelic forces of the highest rank at the first speaking of a prayer; and according to the fact that all our struggles in the physical stem from the spiritual, it is very apparent the vast majority of us underestimate the importance and power of our prayers.
That brings us to our second question: If prayer is so important, “How should I pray? What should I expect from God in prayer?” Almost every one of us misses the foundational truth of what prayer truly is. Once we grasp the true concept of what prayer is meant to be in our lives, how we should pray, and what we should expect, become crystal clear. Let me ask you a question: “If a nine-year-old daughter asked to spend the summer with an uncle whom the father knows is a convicted child molester and pedophile, would her loving father allow her to go?” Absolutely not—because he knows her desires would hurt her, in her ignorance of truth. As that little girl grows up and gets out on her own, the father sees that she is struggling along financially. The father is loving and wanting to help, but she doesn't want his help, so he stays uninvolved. If she were to come to him and ask for his help, do you think it would change her course of events in life? Absolutely—because the father respects her independence, but would take on the world if there were something good he could provide for her. Here lies the secret of prayer at its simplest foundation: prayer is not just having enough faith to get what you want or what you think that you need out of God; it is not commanding God by twisting His Promises into a legal contract to make Him serve you; it is not assuming that we can be smarter than Him in knowing the perfect will for our lives and those around us; it is not thinking that our carefully chosen words and actions can make God bend to our desires whether they are good for us or not—this is blasphemous. If this were the case, how many of His children would be hurt or ruined? [All of them] A loving God will never give His children a free ticket for anything they want in their fallen nature and limited knowledge. But prayer also is not a useless, ineffective exercise that we mindlessly practice out of obligation, that doesn't accomplish anything He wasn't already planning to do anyway. Prayer is finding God's will and asking for it. It is, being the reason God brings that desired Will into play. It is seeing the things God wants to do in our lives, but will not do unless someone opens the door through prayer, and being the one who opens the door. There are things that God wants to do, desires to do, but absolutely will not do, unless we humbly pray and ask—meaning our lives will be touched; meaning things will be changed, only because we did pray—and not until we did pray.
Notice two conditions on every one of these Promises from Jesus Himself to answer our prayers powerfully: John 14:12-14; John 15:7-8; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14-15. What were the conditions? 1) Know His Will, want it according to His Name, His wisdom, His plans. 2) Ask in faith that He will keep His Promises because of His character and love for you. Know He has given you the ability to make a difference or not, to alter history or not—He will not work until you ask. Prayer at its core, is not bending God to our will with enough faith, it is searching the Scriptures for His will, with all our hearts; it is learning through prayer who He is, and what He is wanting to do in our lives and those around us, seeing spiritual and emotional needs, and then being the one who desperately calls His will to this earth in boldness. Will there be times, because of our emotions, immaturity, or even God's own design, that we don't know His will to pray? Absolutely! How do we pray in those times?: Romans 8:26. We ask the Spirit to pray for us, then we pray with open hands and hearts, asking God at that point, to make us ready to accept whatever His will brings in wisdom and eagerness to glorify Him through whatever comes. Will there be times that even though you love God, and are walking righteously, that what God wants and what you want may differ? To answer that question, let me tell you that if God Himself came to live here as a Man like us, in the middle of all this sin and pain, there would be times that even He would not like His own will from this side of the conversation. Case and point: Jesus Christ: Luke 22:41-44. How do you pray in these circumstances? When you disagree with God, or you are unsure of His will, it is Scriptural and very God-honoring, to humbly ask God to accomplish His own will if the two conflict.
How do you charge your cell phone battery to be sure you are getting a strong signal with God? Begin to search and learn His Word for a true picture of who He is, of what His promises really are (not twisted or over applied), of what's important to Him and His Plan. Use part of your prayer time asking and listening to God about His personal will for your life. Focus on the needs of others, based on their eternal destination, and their heart, not just their material needs, and then based on His written promises, and His desire for what needs to be done, in and around your life, then pray in boldness—knowing what it cost God to give you that privilege, knowing that God will often not move until you pray, knowing you can be used to make the difference, bring the miracle, change the direction—and be ready to be used in the answer to those prayers when they come.
Where do you already know you need to submit to, and pray for His will over your own? That's a good place to start.
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