Monday, November 16, 2009

Be the Church with a Praying Heart - Week 3

What would your life look like if you could not communicate to God? If you were no longer able to pray?

What time in your life did God answer your prayer in such a powerful way that you knew without a shadow of doubt that it was only God?
How so?

Today we will look at how Jesus describes the attitude God the Father has toward His children when they come to Him in prayer. In Matthew chapters 5 and 7 we see Jesus delivering His first major sermon, the sermon on the mount and when we get to Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus begins to tell us about prayer.

Matthew 7:7 Jesus says rule number 1 to having a powerful prayer life is..."Ask." Now I know some of you are thinking...."duh", or, "I went to public school and even I know that." Why did Jesus begin with "ask"?

1. Consider the time at which Jesus is preaching. At this point in history no one, except the priests prayed directly to God. If you had a prayer request you would wash the camel, put on the robe, and drive to the temple. Once there you would find a priest, make your request and hope that he prayed to God on your behalf. For the most part a personal prayer life with creator God was unthinkable. What Jesus was teaching in this sermon was scandalous. "You mean me, a mere man, unholy, unclean....pray directly to Holy God? That's blaspheme!" That's revolutionary and that's Jesus.

Hebrews 10:19-22 says that through Jesus we have a new, living way to God, that we can now enter into the presence of God, that we no longer need an earthly priest to access God, that Jesus is now our high priest. Jesus begins with "ask" because what He is saying is revolutionary. Revelation 21:22 Jesus says, "Behold I make all things new." This means wherever Jesus shows up He brings life. He makes us new, 2 Corinthians 6:17, and He gives us a new way to pray.

2. Jesus begins with "ask" because so many times we don't!

Here are ten common reasons why people often fail to pray.

1. Feel guilty - God is busy, this is selfish
2. They don't believe it will help.
3. They don't believe God will listen.
4. They don't believe God will answer.
5. Afraid God will say no - "better to ask for forgiveness than permission..."
6. Afraid God will say yes.
7. Think their prayers don't really matter.
8. Think that prayer in general isn't important.
9. Think prayer takes too much time or not enough time to pray.
10. They are bored of the same, tired, wish-list prayers.

Jesus begins with "ask" because more often that not we don't!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should pray without ceasing. As the church, as Christians, as children of God we need to recognize the power and importance of developing a prayerful heart and life.

Jesus said that God answers our prayers, He answers them abundantly, and that God answers our prayers wisely.
#1. God Answers our prayers. Matthew 7:7-8

"For everyone who asks receives." God is our Father (vs 11), we are His children, God loves us, takes great delight in us and loves it when we come to Him.

In verse 7 Jesus commands us to ask, seek, and knock which literally translated reads more like...keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. So when we pray we should be confident and bold knowing that God our Father is listening, He is a giving God (Matthew 7:7-11 uses the word give five times), and He answers our prayers.

#2. God not only answers our prayers but He answers them abundantly.

Matthew 7:9-11. Jesus compares us as earthly parents to God as the ultimate parent. You and I give good gifts to our children and we sin, we have false motives, we have done and do bad things so when God gives it is so much more that we could ever imagine because He is without sin, He is holy, He is righteous. Unlike our imperfect, earthly fathers, God is our perfect Father. He never gives with a grudge, with a "fine...take it!" mentality or a leave me alone heart. God never gives half-hearted or imperfectly. In fact James 1:17 says that God gives good and perfect gifts.

You may have questions...."How do you know God gives good gifts? How can you say that"? I know this to be true for two reasons: 1. I can look into my own personal life at the many times God has answered my prayers and 2. I can look toward Calvary. You want to know if God really does give good and perfect gifts? Look at the cross. God didn't give us another religious system or another set of rules to follow. Instead He gave His one and only perfect Son, Jesus to die in our place for our sins and He didn't hold anything back. If God does nothing else for us He has given us more that we could imaging or ever deserve.
#3 God answers prayer and He does so abundantly with discernment.

Matthew 7:11 God gives us good things and just like your parents who did not give you everything you wanted to protect you and because it was not practical, God gives to us wisely. God will not give us answered prayers that will harm us. God does not give us snakes or stones. God is all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing and He is not just focused on the right here and the right now but sees throughout all of eternity and just like a good Father He answers yes, no, or later.

Here are some simple prayer helps I would like to leave you with.

1. Read and pray scripture to rejuvenate your tired, routine prayers. Try the Psalms or Proverbs. What you will find is that your prayer time will begin to meld into worship time.

2. Make time to pray.

3. Ask - be bold, specific, and continual in your prayers. Keep asking, seeking, knocking knowing that God hears your prayers, God answers your prayers, and God answers your prayers wisely.

Will you make an effort this week to pray?

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