If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it. John 15:7

 

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Series: Learning to Pray Effectively (Part 3 of 5)

 

“Personal Prayer”

 

 

 

This is our third week in our series on prayer. Today we will be talking about personal prayer.  

Jesus said… (John 16:24) “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

Most Christians feel guilty when the subject of prayer is brought up. We believe in the power and importance of prayer but just don't seem to do enough of it.

Why don’t we ask?

Let’s be honest about it. We don’t pray enough because we don’t want to enough. Here are some reasons why:

We don’t want anything. Too many of us lead satisfied, complacent lives. Other than an occasional problem or two, things go pretty well for us in our comfortable homes and churches. Why pray a lot when we’ve got basically everything we want

We don’t care enough about others. We say "Good morning" and "Have a nice day" to people at work and at church, and we commiserate with our neighbor about the yard and the weather, but that’s about as far as it goes. We don’t care enough about others to go beyond bland superficiality, so we don’t pray for them much.

We think small. Our world revolves around the daily routine, television, minor aches and pains, and visits to restaurants and the mall. Not much to pray about here.

We don’t want to get involved. We pay the pastor to run the church, the missionaries to evangelize, and the government to care for the poor. They’ve got things well in hand, so why pray?

 

Our God is too small. Most of us believe in God, that is why we come to church and yet there is a part of us that is convinced by all of the lies around us that God doesn’t care, that God is not active in the world today, that God started the machine like a clock and He is just letting it run.

 (http://business.baylor.edu/phil_vanauken/PrayerDont.html)

I sometimes feel like we are the disciples, Jesus’ closest friends, on the night he was betrayed he went away with them to the garden to pray.

Wait here and pray, he instructed them as he went on ahead. As Jesus prayed in his most challenging hour, the hour he so wanted to change the will of God, to change the course of future events, his disciples fell asleep. (Matthew 26:36-46)

It happens THREE times, three times, Jesus is disappointed, couldn’t you stay awake for just one hour and pray. Pray that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I am left to wonder if we just don’t have the faith to make the sacrifice. Or we simply don’t believe God wants to be involved.

--Worse yet, we make the assumption, that God already wants the very best for us, so why bother him with asking.

Yet as a parent, I absolutely want the very best for my children, but if they don’t ask, I might not give them anything. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 7

  9  “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

10  “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

11  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

   

This is a HOW MUCH MORE argument, if a FATHER loves his children, then HOW MUCH MORE will OUR HEAVENLY FATHER love His children and give them what they ask for.

But we are even worse, we don’t even want to ask, because we assume, that God knows we need a fish.

Is it possible that prayer is more about helping us see that we NEED a loaf and that thing that we want is just a distraction? Prayer is about our relationships. When you realize the power in prayer, it gets exciting but more importantly when you begin to comprehend the PURPOSE in prayer it is even more exciting.

It is interesting. I believe that we want God’s power in prayer, for our will to be done, but I believe that God wants our perseverance in prayer for us to grow and understand His will.

In Luke chapter 11 one of the disciples sees Jesus praying and asks him, Lord, teach us to pray.

Jesus shares a parable and like some of his other parables it is hard to decide who is God and who are we and which one should we strive to be.

There is a traveler, and he shows up at your door at midnight. You don’t have any food left, but there is a social obligation to provide bread for your travelling friend that has just arrived, so you go to your neighbors and you knock.

PLAY VIDEO CLIP http://sermonspice.com/product/5661/knock-without-narration

 

So I think most of us watch that and we are the guy sleeping in bed, right? I mean we don’t answer our phones after 8 p.m. and certainly after we have gone to bed we are not getting up to answer that door. Of course I’m the sleeping neighbor, it is late, my wife and kids are already asleep, I can’t be bothered.

It is hard for us to put GOD in the place where we see ourselves the easiest. Then in verse 8 we read, that EVEN if he won’t do it for your friendship, he will do it if you persevere in asking.

        See in this parable God is hiding in our HUMANITY. We can’t imagine God being the selfish lazy neighbor, so we have to make God one of the other characters, but God doesn’t fit there either.

If we are real arrogant, God is the one in need, knocking on our door. God is knocking waiting for us to get out of bed to serve Him. To simplify the story we make God the traveler in need who arrived at our house and now we need to take care of him, but that isn’t what Jesus intended in the story.

This story gives us a different perspective, this story Jesus tells, shows one of a friendship with God.

If we come to God as a Friend, we must show ourselves to be His friend.

First, we are concerned not just with our own needs, but with the needs of others. To be a friend of God is to be a friend of THOSE in NEED.

Lord, I have a friend in need, I must help him. AS a friend I have committed to help him. Lord, I know that you are my friend and that your kindness and riches are infinite, without limit. I am sure that you will give me what I ask. If I, being evil, am ready to do good for my friend, then how much more will You, my heavenly Friend do for your friend what he asks?

If I am a friend of God, I must be concerned for others, to put others before myself.

When Jesus gave the instructions on prayer on the Sermon on the Mount he ended with a similar recommendation to friendship.

Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Luke 6:31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

See our faith is about relationships. Our relationship to the Lord and our relationship to others.

The great commandment…Love the Lord your God with all of your heart with all of your soul and with all your mind this is the greatest commandment and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.

So shouldn’t we expect when Christ teaches us to pray it is still about relationships. To ask in His name means to ask in the right relationship, we are in a right relationship with the Father, and we are in a right relationship with our friends.

The friendship analogy plays even further here. As a child, the father is obligated to take care of a child, but here the analogy of a friend is extended. A friend is not obligated like a father is. For the father it is a duty to provide for his child but a friend helps out of kindness and compassion. A friend has mercy. More interesting is that a father-child relationship is one of dependence, the smaller child is dependent upon the parent, but a friend is a relationship of equals. God wants us to approach him as a friend, but the friendship analogy takes one more step. See a child is always a child of the father, but friendships come and go. To be a friend means to be in harmony, to be in good standing. We will always be a child of God, but are we always His friend?

John 15:14 Jesus says, you are my friends if you do what I command you.

Do you maintain all of the same friendships throughout your lifetime? Friends really come and go. Think about the friendships that you have had the longest. Why?

Because you have stayed in touch, because you have been present, because you have showed them that you cared. That is what God wants from us, TO BE THERE, to BE PRESENT, to be in the RELATIONSHIP.

Jesus says, (John 15:7)        “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you

To abide in Christ is to choose each day to be a friend of God. I think that many people are content to be a CHILD of GOD. There is no more obligation, we are children just by being born of the parent. TO BE A FRIEND requires work on our part. We must choose to seek him each day, we must choose to OBEY Him, to show our love and our desire to be his friend.

To be a friend of God gives us the right to pray in his Name, it is to ask in his will. Jesus teaches us to ask and we will receive, if we are a friend of God. Jesus shows us that trust when he prays in the garden of Gethsemane. Father not my will but your will be done. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will even at the cost of his own life. That is the greatest example of abiding in the Father. Jesus wanted something different, but through prayer the Father’s will became his will and he submitted to it.

That is the commitment the Lord expects of us in our prayers. If we are aligned to the Lord’s will, if we are living in HIS NAME, then he assures us that he will give us anything that we ask.

That is what the rest of that story in Luke is meant to remind us.

Perseverance in prayer is necessary. Even if the Lord knows what we need, even if the Lord wants to give us what we need, he requires us to ask and to ask persistently, this is a question of our faithfulness.

This is the challenge. How does a God who loves us sit in his bed grumbling about us coming to Him so late? Can you envision God turning over in His bed and covering his head with his pillow? Maybe that is why it is hard to picture this parable being about God and the friend in need banging on the door bugging him until he concedes.

Yet, that is the test.

How much do we believe that God wants to provide what we need? If we know that we are in His will, if we have come to Him to do something we KNOW that he wants, then how much easier is it to keep knocking?

If I know that my friend HAS THE BREAD and I KNOW that he wants to give it to me, it is easy to stand there and knock.

BUT… If you doubt your need…

I mean I don’t really need bread, my friend who just showed up so late, it is kind of his own fault that he is hungry. He can wait until morning.

What if you doubt the friend. “You know, maybe he doesn’t have any bread left over. It is kind of late…his kids are sleeping right inside the door on the floor. I should leave him be.

Have you ever felt like you are a bother to God? I mean you don’t want to be a pest, He has plenty of other important stuff to take care of, I mean a loaf of bread for my friend, that is just silly. Wow, what was I thinking?

Yet scripture is full of stories about how the answer to pray is tied to our persistence.

Luke writes about another story Jesus tells in chapter 18

The story is about a widow being ignored by an unjust judge. This parable, similar to the ask and receive stories that Jesus tells in Matthew and Luke, it is a HOW MUCH MORE story.

So, how much more is a GOD who loves you going to respond to your persistent prayers if this UNJUST Judge manages to do the right thing because the widow persists in nagging him?

How much more is GOD going to help you care for the needy and poor when you come to him at midnight and you keep on knocking?

How much more does God want to be your friend and care about your needs?

This story in Exodus always amazes me and reminds me of the importance of prayer for the battlefield.

In Exodus chapter 17 The Israelites are battling Amalek.

Verse 8-13 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”

10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

 

The image of the battle is an intriguing one. The story introduces us to Joshua, whom we meet for the first time in this chapter of the Bible. He is going to have an important role among God’s people during their wilderness journey; he is going to succeed Moses as their leader and take them into the Promised Land; and he will have a Bible book named after him. Yet we know virtually nothing about him at this point, simply that he is a first-rate swordsman, who goes into the battle against Amalek.

Meanwhile Moses, Aaron and Hur go to a mountain plateau from which they are able to survey the battle. While Moses’ hands are raised, Israel prevails, but while his hands are lowered, Amalek prevails. No doubt the raised hands portray Moses as a prayer warrior and an intercessor (Ps. 141:2). Eventually Moses finds that his arms are heavy and sore, so Aaron and Hur hold up his hands while he himself sits down. This way he was able to raise his hands until sunset, and Israel prevailed.

 

Do we believe that God wanted Israel to win this battle?

Why would God make the battle dependent upon the intercession of Moses?

The staff of Elohim, the POWER of God. When the staff is raised it is the power of God empowering the soldiers, the Israelites to prevail. God’s presence working in the army to help them win.

 

When the staff is lowered, God’s presence leaves the men and they are left to battle Amalek on their own and they FALTER, they will lose.

 

The interesting thing is that Moses doesn’t even have to hold his arms up by his own strength, he can have intercessors helping him.  He can even have objects helping him hold the Staff of Elohim in the air so that they prevail in battle. In fact he can sit down and prop his arms up on a rock, so that the presence of the Lord is with Israel.

 

That is the kind of persistence the Lord wants from us. EVEN WHEN WE KNOW that he wants what we WANT.

 

God wants us to win the battle, to defeat the enemy, to triumph over the evils of this world.

 

When we are IN GOD’s WILL we can PRAYER IN Faith and in CONFIDENCE and PERSISTANLY and the Lord will answer our prayers.

 

UNTIL NOW you have asked for NOTHING in MY NAME, ASK and you WILL RECEIVE.

This is a battle, we are in a war and our greatest weapon is going unused. Paul tells the Ephesians of the battle.

Ephesian 6:12      12     For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Paul goes on to remind the Ephesians to EQUIP THEMSELVES for BATTLE. This is a war and we have all of the weapons necessary to defeat the enemy.

Sometimes we come to prayer in an EFFORT to change God’s mind. But the Bible tells us that is not what we should expect, the Bible explains that through prayer we wait on GOD so that he can change our wills to His will. As we pray, God changes our thoughts, dreams, plans and prayers.

Prayer engages us in the spiritual battle.

Brothers and sisters, we are at war and if you want to sit idly by and allow the enemy to control the playing field you are being foolish.

 

We have been given the greatest weapon, the greatest advantage in this battle and we are not using it.

So how can you start?

1.  Start where you are. If you don’t pray at all, start today. Start with a five minute prayer time. Set aside five minutes to just talk to God. You can talk to him about prayer. “Father, I don’t have a clue how to do this? Help me learn what to say and how to pray? How to talk to you.”  Just start a conversation. Remember God wants to be your friend, talk to him like you would a friend over coffee. Then each day as you talk set aside more time to spend with your friend God. You could easily commit 30 minutes to an hour and the time would be well spent.

2.  Start praying for specific people. Not too many because you can be quickly overwhelmed. Start with one family member, one co worker and maybe one neighbor. Write their names down and pray for them each day when you talk to God.

3.  Practice prayer arrows. When you seek to follow Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING, you need to be talking to God all of the time. These are short prayers throughout the day as things come to your mind. Pray for the person in the car, just pulled over by the cops, or the bicycle riding along the side of the road. The lady in line behind you in the grocery store. Look at the label of your shirt when you put it on and pray for the country where it was made. When you watch the news pray for each story or each country mentioned by a story. There are a lot of ways that you can pray throughout the day, just saying God, Bill is on my caller id, take care of him and his family as I answer his call.

4.  Find your own rhythm. You should not try to copy Gene or me or any other leader. Martin Luther woke up each day at 4 a.m. to pray. If you don’t like to be awake at 4 a.m. you will never be successful trying to pray at 4 a.m. You need to find what fits your personality, and lifestyle. Some folks pray while running, Gene prays on his treadmill. I know some folks with long commutes that spend the whole time talking to God. (I don’t suggest praying with your eyes closed, if you pray while driving.) There are night owls who pray at midnight and talk to God before they go to sleep each night. You can make prayer a part of your daily walk with the Lord, but you must start somewhere and you should do it at the same time each day so that it becomes a part of who you are.

AS we close in prayer if you haven’t become a friend of God we want to invite you to do that today. Jesus paid the price for your mistakes and He wants to show you how to live today as a friend of His Father.  Please find me or one of the other pastors in the lobby; we would like to know about your decision today.

 

If you feel you need to ask God for forgiveness because you haven’t been a very good friend, I invite you to do that now as we pray.

 

Father God, daddy, my friend, I confess that my heart is too small to comprehend that you can be God and want to be my friend. I confess that I don’t feel worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made to make my friendship with you possible. Forgive me for my lack of faith and my lack of prayers.

 

 

 

Lord, teach me to know more of your power, to persevere in prayer. Help me to grow in my friendship with you by obeying your Word. Thank you for the grace to love me despite my failures. Thank you Father that you want the very best for your children, for your friends, help us to have the courage to ask, help us have the faith to believe. Lord help us to spend more time together and make our friendship a priority each day.

Now may it be my joy to act as agent for my Friend in heaven and care for all the hungry and perishing – even at midnight. I can do this in confidence because I know my Friend always gives to him who perseveres, all that he needs.

Amen.