A LESSON IN PRAYER

Religion

This sermon is from the series THINGS JESUS TAUGHT US and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on Sunday, October 13, 2013 by Pastor Paul Mims.

Matthew 6:5-14Mark Richt was being interviewed immediately after the Georgia Tennessee football game and was asked a question about the last two minutes of the game in which Tennessee was leading. The question was, “What were you thinking at the time?” He said, “I trusted my quarterback, Aaron Murray, and I prayed a lot.” Georgia got a touchdown and then the extra point was successful and that evened the score just as time ran out. They then had to go into overtime. Many on both sides were praying. Tennessee got the ball first and did not score. Then it was Georgia’s turn. A field goal won the game for Georgia. Coach Richt said, “Praise God!” Perhaps it is not proper to pray to win but to pray that all players will do their best.

Do you understand how prayer works?

There are some who say they do and there are two major views on how prayer works. One is the Calvinistic view which says that God will work his will regardless of whether we pray or not. In contrast to that is the Armenian view that says that God’s actions to us are influenced by our prayers. This view maintains that our prayers influence God to do what He ordinarily would not do on our behalf.

Which of these views do you hold? I imagine that you would respond like this: “I believe with all my heart that God is sovereign and that what He wills to do in the world, He will do. Also, I do believe that God is influenced by our prayers and it is more than just our lining up with his will. God does hear us when we pray and acts on our behalf.” Would I be correct in stating that as your belief?

Of course we believe that God is sovereign, and the scriptures encourage us to pray and he will answer. In fact, Jesus gave us a lesson in prayer in what we call THE LORD’S PRAYER or THE MODEL PRAYER.
You will notice that the prayer is short and is only 50 words. There are seven great truths in this prayer that I want you to see.

I. IT TELLS YOU WHO YOU ARE AND WHO GOD IS – “Our Father” Father and Child.

It was not common for the Jews in the Old Testament to refer to God as “Father.” But Jesus made it plain that we must call God “Father.” This helps us to put our hearts into our prayers. If we pray without it coming from our hearts the whole prayer is meaningless. He is not impressed by our long prayers if they do not connect with him. Our human spirit connects with his Holy Spirit. Or, in more human terms, our hearts connect with the heart of God. What God is interested in from us is our fellowship with him through prayer.

We get a call from our children every few days and it is a delight when I answer the phone to hear them say, “Hi, Dad!” What I want is fellowship with them across the miles. It matters not so much what we talk about but just the fact that we share our lives with each other. They are interested in what we are doing and we are interested in their activities. Do you imagine that I would refuse to do anything for them that is in my power? No, I am interested in their well-being and I will see to it that they are cared for.
The Father desires fellowship with us and he redeemed us unto himself for that very purpose. Prayer becomes personal when we view it as a child talking to his or her Heavenly Father.

II. GOD IS NEAR BUT TRANSCENDENT “ in heaven” “Hallowed be Thy Name.”

Here we come to the realization that intimacy must always be in the context of reverence for our Heavenly Father. We do not approach Him without an understanding that He is different from us, but He made us in His image – that is, spirit and spirit, to be able to communicate with each other. He is here, but He also occupies the heavens. He is big and we are small. He sees us, but we can’t see Him. He listens to us and delights in the times that we bow before him.

III. GOD IS RULING TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WILL “Thy Kingdom come.”

He is the Sovereign. I am his subject. I come to the Sovereign praying that what He wants to happen will happen in the world and in my life. It is a prayer for His ultimate rule on the earth.

It was Tennyson who said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: ’”We have staked the whole future of our new nation NOT upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”’

George Washington, appealed to God while he was President “Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United states at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Our nation needs our prayers at present.

IV. WE CAN KNOW GOD’S WILL IN OUR LIVES “Thy will be done

This petition is that what God has willed will be fulfilled in the world and in our lives. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but aligning ourselves with His perfect will. It is a very low view of prayer that feels that we must beg God like a child begs for something that the parent forbids. Jesus instructed us to “Keep on praying, keep on searching, and keep on knocking” and the doors will be opened to us. There are times when we have to wait in order to be ready for what He has prepared for us. Ruth Graham, the late wife of Billy Graham said, “God has not always answered my prayers. If he had, I would be married to the wrong man.” So you see, she had to wait until the time was right for the man God wanted to be her husband.

V. GOD CAN MEET OUR NEEDS “…our daily bread

God invites us to ask him for what we need. There was a wonderful, elderly, Christian lady. She had very little money and lived in a rundown house, but she was always praising the Lord. Her only problem was with the old man who lived next door. He was always trying to prove to her that there was no God. One day, as the old man was walking by her house, he noticed the woman through an open window. She was kneeling down in prayer, so he crept over to the window to see if he could hear. She was praying, “Lord, you’ve always given me what I’ve needed. And now you know that I don’t have any money, and I’m completely out of groceries, and I won’t get another check for a week.” She continued, “Somehow, Lord, can you get me some groceries.” The man had heard all he needed. He crept away from the window and ran down to the grocery store. He bought milk, bread, and lunchmeat. He ran back to the woman’s house carrying the groceries. He set the bag down on by her door, rang the doorbell, and hid beside of the house. You can imagine how the woman reacted to seeing the bag of groceries. She threw her hands over head and began praising the Lord. “Thank you Jesus,” she shouted. “I was without food and you provided the groceries.” About that time the old man jumped out and said, “I’ve got you now.” She was too busy shouting thanks to Jesus to pay any attention. “I told you there was no God,” the old man said, “It wasn’t Jesus who gave you those groceries, it was me.” “Oh no,” the woman said. “Jesus got me these groceries and made the devil pay for them.” She had the right attitude toward God.

Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to Zaire, told the following story. “A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded. ‘Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won’t feel so lonely.’ That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, ‘If God sent that, I’m sure He also sent a doll!’ And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child’s sincere requests, and 5 months earlier He had led a ladies’ group to include both of those specific articles.”

VI. GOD WILL FORGIVE OUR SINS “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

God’s forgiveness of us is conditional on our forgiving others or would you like to be like the lady who was bitten by a rabid dog. It looked like she was going to die from rabies. The doctor told her to put her final affairs in order. So the woman took pen and paper, and began writing furiously. In fact she wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally the doctor said, “That sure is a long will you’re making.” She snorted, “Will, nothing! I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!” Or are you like this truck driver?

Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists – of the Hell’s Angels type – decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his french fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.

When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?” She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.”

It is natural for us to strike back at others who strike at us. It is supernatural for us to forgive them just as it is supernatural for God to forgive us.

VII. GOD WILL PROTECT US FROM EVIL “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

This petition is in contrast to the self-righteous who pray “God, you know that you can count on me. Just test me and you will see.” The opposite side of that is “Lord, you know how weak I am. Lead me away from temptation and evil.” This is an expression of humility and dependence. It is a desire for God to be the Guide as I am a pilgrim walking through this daily life. I need his daily guidance or I am going to stray. It is easy for us to stray even in good things and get out of God’s will which then will act the same as evil in our lives. But prayer can keep us under the favor of God.

Dr. Wilbur Chapman often told of his experience when, as a young man, he went to become pastor of a church in Philadelphia. After his first sermon, an old gentleman said to him, “You’re pretty young to be pastor of this church. But you preach the Gospel, and I’m going to help you all I can. I’m going to pray for you that you may have the Holy Spirit’s power upon you. Two others have covenanted to join with me in prayer for you.” Dr. Chapman said, “I didn’t feel so bad when I learned he was going to pray for me. The 3 became 10, the 10 became 20, and 20 became 50, the 50 became 200 who met before every service to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me. I always went into my pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the prayers of those who had faithfully prayed for me. It was a joy to preach! The result was that we received 1,100 into our church by conversion in three years, 600 of whom were men. It was the fruit of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer!”

The model prayer closes with a Doxology of praise to God for the seven blessed things that God does for us as His children. It was not in the original manuscripts and was added perhaps around the second century.

THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER, AND THE GLORY FOREVER AMEN!”

Praise Be To His Name!

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