Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 10:23-25
(23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
This is the first of many reader voted upon series that Christlike Ministries NWA is going to be doing on a regular basis. One of the most difficult subjects to talk about is the subject of prayer, and part of the reason for that is unless you’re a really strong prayer warrior…then chances are you’re like me and find yourself like the disciples as they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. I’m sure the disciples prayed, but I believe what attracted them to the way Jesus prayed was the boldness and confidence in which He prayed with…and because of that boldness and confidence (and faith that God would hear and answer Him)…Jesus’ prayers got results.
I know for myself…I’m much better at writing (everything) instead of speaking, and I don’t know why God didn’t create me to be a great speaker…but I am not. Often my prayers are simple and not very detailed. So…the reason prayer is hard to talk and teach about is because unless your Catholic and only recite the same prayers (and that’s nothing more than chanting in my opinion)…everyone prays different.
So…we’re going to talk about “Authentic Prayer” with one of my favorite of the lesser known preachers that is usually only found on the radio. Dr. James MacDonald is actually from my neck of the woods. In fact, I know where his pilot church is, and I frequently listed to his radio program called: “Walk in the Word”. The reason I like him and his teaching so much is that it’s very much biblically correct, and really good stuff.
So…I’m excited to do this series on Authentic Prayer, and I thought that I would allow the introduction he wrote to close out the introduction I’ve just written…so we can get into this series…Amen!?!
More than any other discipline, prayer can get away from you. This seven-day plan will help you access your prayer life, check your methods and motivations, and show you how to turn up the power of personal prayer. Use these daily readings to increase your confidence that God hears, answers, and can change your life through prayer.
Today’s Message: “Stirred Up to Pray”
You know, one of the things about prayer is that no two people pray exactly alike unless you’re repeating a prayer after someone, but there are so many styles and ways that people pray that it’s hard to teach about prayer. There are also those (like me) who know that they need to pray more, and could probably use a lesson or two on how to have much more religious sounding prayers because I’ll be honest most of the time when I talk to God…I’m not bellowing out some kind of something like this: “My Most Gracious and Awe-Inspiring Heavenly Father, how great Thou art, and if Thou wouldst incline Your Most High and Holy ear to Thy servant…”.
Believe me, I think the first thing God would say to me if I started praying to Him like that is “Who in the world are you, and what have you done with My child?” I know that sounds like a beautiful way to begin a prayer (and it is), but let me be as clear as God would be with me if I started speaking to Him like that.
Yes…it’s necessary to approach God with awe and wonder and respect and reverence, but it’s also important that we understand when we approach God…we’re approaching our Father! Listen, if I approached my earthly dad the way some people approach God…I honestly believe my dad would almost be insulted, and I think that while it sounds beautiful and religious to pray that way…I believe God is insulted when we relate to Him that way instead of relating to Him as our Father…or even our friend.
So…let’s get into today’s message, and see what we can learn…and more importantly what more God would have to say to us through today’s message…Amen!?!
Paul gives us a term that really helps us describe the kind of prayer we’re going after—unceasing. Unceasing prayer brings the glory of God down. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we are to “Pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean you’re not doing anything else. It means that just as you are always physically breathing in and out as you go about your day, you should always be spiritually in a conversation with God. Always talking: “Yes, Lord;” and “See that, Father?” and “Help me, God,” and always, always in an attitude of prayer.
This kind of gets me to where I was headed just a moment ago. Continual prayer. I know I poked a little fun a moment ago at the huge monologue opening of a prayer…but is there anyone other than me that thinks if we walked around “praying without ceasing” that God would get tired of hearing us come to Him like that all day? I promise you that if I spoke to God that way even some of the time He would ask me who I was and why I was talking to Him that way.
The truth is I’ve prayed that way…which is what I’ll call the vain religious way, and I’ve prayed the way I think God desires us to pray…and I can tell you I’ve gotten more results from the Authentic Prayer from my heart, and not some religiously beautiful sounding prayers.
My father-n-law has one of those religious sounding prayers, and can I again insert that I’m not saying that it’s inappropriate to pray with honor and reverence to our God. There are many times when I’m getting into serious prayer I’ll start out with something like “Heavenly Father” or “Dear Jesus”, but I’ll be honest…I probably start out about 95% of my prayers with just a simple “Lord”.
Going back to the earthly dad point. About 95% of the time, when I talk to my dad, I address him the way I have since I can remember…my dad to me is “Pa”. The other 5% is probably when I actually call him dad. Can I tell you that’s exactly how God wants us to relate to Him when we’re praying without ceasing?
A little secret…when I approach God by just saying “Lord”…in my heart I’m approaching Him like I would my dad when I call my dad “Pa”. That’s my point. It’s not so much about what you pray, it’s not even how you pray…the important thing is THAT you pray.
Again, I’m not saying there’s never a time to address God as our “Gracious Heavenly Father”…because He IS our Gracious Heavenly Father. We SHOULD address God that way to prevent us from being so casual with Him, but that doesn’t mean we should address Him that ways all the time. This is the point of being “stirred to pray”.
Let’s go on.
When it comes to prayer, God Himself is in the stirring-up business. He doesn’t do it for His own good but for our good. We need to pray unceasingly because it is immeasurably good for us!
See, God’s the One who draws us into prayer to begin with, and I think what’s important here is what I said a minute ago. I hear that in my spirit, and think it needs to be repeated. “It’s not what you pray, or how you pray that is important…the important thing is THAT you pray.”
Please understand that when I say that how we pray isn’t important I’m not talking about praying with faith or doubt. I’m talking about praying with the vain repetition and pretty words that Jesus scolded the religious people for. Don’t believe me? Here…I’ll show it to you in Scripture:
And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking. Matthew 6:7 (AMP)
Listen, there is only one thing that Jesus marveled about in the entire Bible, and it wasn’t the eloquently spoken prayers of the religious…it was faith. God isn’t impressed or moved by our multiple words or eloquently spoken prayers…God’s impressed by faith…and faith alone. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 and “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” James 1:6
Faith is the key element to getting prayer answered…not eloquently spoken prayer. That’s what Jesus had when He prayed that the disciples were after. Jesus was bold and confident because He had an unwavering faith that what He was getting ready to ask the Father for was already provided. “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8. After He said that, He went on to give what we know of today as the Lord’s Prayer, but Jesus wasn’t saying that we should recite that prayer over and over again…although some times…it is a good idea to pray it…but He was giving an outline of what prayer should be like.
However, it wasn’t what Jesus prayed that got Him the results when He prayed…it was His faith. It’s the same way with us. It’s not the words we pray that God responds to…it’s whether or not what we pray…we pray with boldness and confidence like Jesus because we know that what we’re getting ready to ask God for is already provided…or whether we wonder if we’re worthy of God providing what we’re asking Him because we know He can do it…but not really sure if He will for us.
Listen, I’m convince that the main reason most of us don’t see results when we pray isn’t because of the words we use, and it’s not because God is deaf to our prayers because of our sin. It’s because we ask with wavering faith not really sure if we’re going to receive what we’re asking God for. How do I know? “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” James 1:7. Let not what man think he shall receive anything of the Lord? The man that asks with wavering faith. Why? “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed…A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. “ (that’s the end of James 1:6, and James 1:8.)
Jesus was never double minded. He was always focused and full of faith…and that’s how He got results.
By the way…while I’m on the subject…I’m not going to stay on this very long, but I am going to make sure that I get this misconception out there, and debunk it by the supernatural unction of the Holy Ghost. This notion that God cannot hear our prayers over our sin is false. How do I know that? If God is no longer counting our sins against us…it would be Him going against His word to not answer our prayers or hear our prayers based upon something He’s no longer counting against us. It’s true that if we are regarding sin in our hearts we ought to confess that to Him, and seek forgiveness (1 John 1:9), but God’s not deaf. Our sin isn’t like ear wax in His ear…He can hear us just fine whether we’re full of sin or not…because if it were true that He can’t hear us because of our sin…then none of us are born again…because I don’t know about you…but when I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior I had a whole lot of sin in my life.
So…I don’t believe that God makes an exception to hear my prayer confessing Him as Lord and Savior, and then plugs His ears once I am born again because I have sin in my life…and therefore because of that He plugs His ears and refuses to hear my prayers. I believe the reason He cannot hear our prayers is because we come to Him more often than we don’t with that wavering mindset James spoke of.
I know I’m going to hear from some of the religious folk who believe that God’s deaf to our cries because of our sin, but like I said if that’s true than none of us are born again. I believe I am born again, and therefore I don’t believe that God’s ability to hear or not hear my prayers are based upon sin…I believe they’re based upon my faith.
Let’s wrap move on:
Let’s look closely at God’s move to stir up Jeremiah (and us) to prayer: “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time while he was still shut in the court of the guard. Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it—the LORD is His name: ‘Call to Me, and I will answer and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known’” (Jeremiah 33:1-3). Within these verses are four distinct promises from God to Jeremiah related to prayer. Do you see them?
Before I get to the four distinct promises…let me get to the word Authentic. Authentic is a nice word for just being real…being yourself…the person you are when no one else is looking. Authentic prayer comes from our hearts, and that’s the first thing Jesus told us when He gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Most people look at Jesus teaching us to say: “Our Father, Who Art In Heaven” as teaching us to open our prayers with these beautiful eloquently spoken opening lines, but what Jesus was really concerned with was getting us to relate to God as “Our Father”…because when I relate to God that way…then I can’t help, but to pray without ceasing because talking to Him is like talking to my dad or my friend…I’m speaking to someone who I love…I’m not talking to the President of the United States.
You know, I can guarantee you that Barak Obama’s children don’t come up to him and say “Mr. President”…I bet you they call him “dad”. They don’t approach him as the most powerful man in the world…they approach him as their dad.
That’s exactly the same way we ought to approach God, and the first point Jesus made when giving us that model for prayer. God’s the most powerful being in the world…period. Yet, He desires of us to not approach Him that way, but approach Him as “Abba, Father” which is a formal way of saying He wants us all to call Him “Daddy”.
He wants us to see Him as a Father who is ready and willing to do great and mighty things for us, but He wants us to believe that He’ll do those things for us. He wants us to ask in faith…nothing wavering…just like Jesus did. Jesus prayed with boldness and confidence out of that faith because He knew that whatever He sought His Father for…He was going to receive…and that’s the way we ought to pray also…Amen!?!
Be A Doer…Not Just A Reader:
There are two assignments for this message. As always, whether you do them or not…is between you and God. I’m not going to follow behind you, and I’m not going to beg you to comment or post your answers or what you experience. If you should desire to do that…I would welcome it. However, the important thing is that you do these assignments…not for me…but for your relationship with God.
So…what are your assignments?
(Jeremiah 33:1-3). Within these verses are four distinct promises from God to Jeremiah related to prayer. Do you see them?
Your first assignment is to read Jeremiah 33:1-3…and find the four distinct promises from God to Jeremiah related to prayer.
What’s the second…well…the second is related to prayer:
And when you do pray, ask God to bring the people and events into your life that will stir you up to pray even more. Stirring things are around us every moment, but we need the eyes and heart to see them.
Well, I’ve to say that I’m glad you guys voted for this topic to be our next series, and that if this message is any indication…this is going to be a really good series. I just hear again in my heart that it’s not what or how you pray that’s important…what is important is that we pray. God just wants us to talk to Him…about anything and everything.
Ya know, I am constantly talking to God about something. I know that people think a lot of times I’m talking to myself, but I’m not. Some times, I just start talking to God, and that’s what He wants. That is what praying without ceasing is about. God’s our Father…our Friend that’s closer than a Brother. He just wants us to talk to Him, and perhaps the first message of this series is spot on…maybe we just need to ask God to stir us to prayer by bringing people and events before our faces (like today’s presidential election) to pray about.
So…at the end of each message…there’s a sample prayer…and I think that it would be a good idea for us to do something silly, and don’t worry if someone sees you. Let’s go to God in prayer…and do this out loud…why? Because we need to make sure we’re in the habit of praying out loud. Not in our minds or thoughts…but out loud with our words…believing in our hearts and confessing these prayers with our mouths.
Father, continue to stir me toward a consistent attitude of prayer so that my sensitivity to immediate and momentary times for prayer is increased. Help me not only to pray without ceasing but to jump to special invitations to pray. Thank You for drawing near to me as I draw near to You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.