#4 "Rules For The Redeemed"
“THE PRAYER RULE!”
TEXT: Matt. 7:7-11; 6:5-8; Luke 18:1-7
INTRO: Sometimes prayer is ignored or misused ... like the little boy who was told by his mother to say prayers before bedtime. The little boy didn't want to pray, but his mother encouraged him to prayer and to ask God for something he really wanted. So, he prayed very loudly, "Lord bless mommy and daddy, and (shouting) GOD, GIVE ME A NEW BICYCLE!!!" His mother protested, "God's not deaf son, you don't have to shout!" The son responded, "I know, Mom, but Grandma is in the next room and she's hard of hearing!" The boy’s idea of prayer needed some serious teaching!
Prayer is one of the most important disciplines that we can develop as a Christian. Jesus had much to say about this subject, an area in which He was much disciplined.
PROP.SENT: The Bible teaches us that prayer is to be an important part of our walk with God and that spiritual health is depended on it.
I. PERSONAL MATT. 7:7-11
A. Requests Matt. 7:7-8
1. There can be little doubt that Jesus' teaching on prayer here clearly shows the personal nature of it.
a. The text begins with an invitation to come in prayer, "asking, seeking, and knocking."
b. This must be connected however to
... "seek first the
c. It is not an invitation to simply ask for anything!
d. The idea is that we come and ask, seek, and knock for the right things!
2. It is important also that we recognize the character of God when we come in prayer ... and not just think of Him as "Santa Claus"... too often we ignore the great opportunities in prayer and settle for trivial requests.
ILLUS: The brother of a Seminary student one day visited him on campus. Traveling on campus he found himself lost. Along came an elderly gentleman he stopped and asked directions from him. Later as he described to his brother this older man he discovered that this was one of the most brilliant theologians of this century. The brother couldn't believe it! He had the opportunity to ask any question, and he asked only how to find a simple building! He missed a great opportunity to receive because he failed to recognize who he was speaking with ... how like this we are with God sometimes! – Source Unknown
3. The implied confidence of receiving therefore is in accord with proper asking!
a. This is where we sometimes fail in our prayer life; we need to evaluate both what we ask for and why we ask for it.
b. It is also quite possible that God's "failure" to answer may be THE answer!
c. Certainly the force of these early verses shows the personal nature of prayer!
B. Reasonable Matt. 7:9-11
1. When we pray what can we expect from God? This is a good question!
a. Too often we have a strange concept of prayer … we think that only if we beg or cry hard enough will we get God's attention!
b. Or, we may think that if we can present our case well enough, with enough logic and convincing arguments that perhaps God will respond!
c. Or, we try and persuade God by buying Him off ... promising all kinds of things and making vows as gimmicks to get our way.
2. Yet, God doesn't respond at attempts of manipulation, no matter what type we use. God answers our prayers simply based on relationship!
a. We are sons and daughters of God, as such He is our Father who loves us and will always seek our good!
b. However, what is good for us is not always what we ask for!
c. Many times when God answers our prayers we may fail to see it as an answer!
d. The point of these verses (9-11) is the APPROPRIATENESS OF GOD'S ANSWERS ... which can be very different sometimes from what we asked for, but is always better for us.
ILLUS: "I asked for strength that I might achieve; He made me weak that I might obey, I asked for health that I might do great things; He gave me grace that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy; He gave me poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; He gave me weakness that I might feel a need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; He gave me life that I might enjoy all things. I received nothing I had asked for; He gave me all that I had hoped for!" – Source Unknown
3. The phrase translated, "how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask" in Luke’s passage (11:13) is translated "how much more will your heavenly Father give the "HOLY SPIRIT" to those who ask." This means that the GOOD THINGS spoken of here are not necessarily material things as much as they are meant to be spiritual things!
a. This removes the "Santa Claus" dynamic to this passage; where we sometimes see this verse as an invitation to ask for lots of material wants.
b. The point is that God will NEVER WITHHOLD ANYTHING REASONABLE FROM US!
4. God is very personal ... this is why prayer is so wonderful; it allows us a very personal relationship with Almighty God!
II. PRIVATE MATT. 6:5-8
A. Rewarding Matt. 6:5-6
1. Christians have traditionally put great emphasis on public prayer, we have even fought battles over it, attempting to keep it in our public schools etc.
2. Much of our history reveals the importance we have placed on public prayer at special gatherings, even our Senate opens each session by prayer.
3. Yet, Jesus put little emphasis on public prayer, most of the passages in the Bible stresses the importance of private prayer!
a. Those that fight to keep prayer in our public schools had better have consistent prayer lives first in their homes and private lives!
b. It is the private prayer life that reveals the true nature of spirituality!
4. It is not that public prayer is unimportant, but it is only as important as our private prayer life really is!
a. The Pharisees particularly loved to make a scene with their public prayer life ... they attempted to appear very spiritual and very loud ... also to look very worn out by the intensity of their prayers to God!
b. Jesus says for them they already have earned their reward, the “praise of men.”
c. However, if it is the praise of God you seek, then this comes from a private relationship with God, the “private prayer closet!”
ILLUS: Our prayer life should be like an iceberg ... 10% above the surface is seen, while 90% of it is below the surface. This was discovered by a unique way. It was noticed many years ago by the early ships that sailed near the arctic that these "SMALL" junks of ice floating in the water seemed to defy the rules of nature ... they floated many times against the strong winds that blew! Sailors couldn't figure out how these "ice cubes" could do that when even large ships were blown along in the wind. Finally it was realized that the only way this was possible was if a huge mass of ice was below the surface and so was more influenced by water currents than wind currents. This truth works on prayer too ... if all we have is a public prayer life, we may not be able to withstand the winds of this world and we will find ourselves blown along by the "winds" of the world ... but if below the surface there is a significant prayer life we can resist the winds. – Source Unknown
5. This was Jesus' point about these Pharisees, they had majored on public prayer when they should have been majoring on “Private Prayer 101!”
B. Rambling Matt. 6:7-8
1. Jesus' point here is not teaching against repetitive prayers, but against ritualistic ramblings. Empty repetitions!
a. This is the meaning of "VAIN REPETITIONS" (KJV) or as here, "BABBLING." (NIV)
b. The intent of the repetition is simply to be heard by men, or to make you feel spiritual without really being spiritual!
c. There is nothing wrong with repeating prayers as will be seen by the next text we look at in Luke 18:1-7 where the woman persists in the same prayer over and over.
2. We are encouraged to take advantage of the personal relationship we have with God in a personal prayer life.
ILLUS: In Saudi Arabia, according to Arab custom and officially reinforced in 1952 by a decree of King Abdul Aziz, every subject has the right of access to his ruler, whether the rule is a tribal sheik, a governor, or the Monarch himself ... subjects can come with any cause and be assured an audience. Crown Prince Fahd recently explained the purpose of this, "Anyone, anyone can come here. That gives them confidence in their government ... they know they may look to us for help." And so it is with prayer for the Christian, we have a guaranteed audience with God, there is no need for rambling prayers, we can really share with Him! – Source Unknown
3. God desires fellowship with us ... this includes communication!
4. The example Jesus gives for praying is commonly called the “Lord's Prayer” but the point is to show how much content is included when we pray instead of the ramblings of the pagans which was done as mere ritual.
5. Praying is not a RITUAL for believers, it is a RELATIONSHIP!
III. PERSISTENT LK. 18:1-7
A. Resolute Lk. 18:1-5
1. Here Jesus encourages persistent prayer! The story (parable) is about a woman who will not quit praying for justice.
a. It is important to recognize that her request was genuine and correct. It wasn't a matter of just persisting for anything, but for the right thing.
b. Her persistence finally pays off ... she is rewarded with the justice she sought.
2. Why does God sometimes require this persistence in prayer before answering a good request?
a. Perhaps the judge in this case needed to know that the woman's cause was genuine and not frivolous, perhaps he wanted her to know the difference!
b. The waiting period would cause her to realize what is truly significant in life ... and not take for granted justice in the future.
c. Certainly the process she went through would make her sensitive to helping someone else who might in the future face the same dilemma.
d. This process too encourages us to be fighters and not quitters; perhaps this is what Jesus meant by the last comment on this passage where He asks, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
e. Jesus might have been asking ... "Will people be persistent followers?"
3. Prayer makes us resolute ... it
gives us drive and sticking power!
KEEP SEEKING AND DON'T QUIT UNTIL GOD HAS ANSWERED ...
a. Rather than discouraging repeating prayers, Jesus actually encourages persistence in prayer, especially when we are praying for the right things!
b. How long does it take to be persistent? Until the answer comes!
B. Responsive! Lk. 18:6-7
1. Jesus secondly makes the point that God IS responsive to us when we persist in prayer! Sometimes it is true that "we have not, because we ask not."
a. Sometimes we pray as though we really don't believe our prayers will be answered!
b. Prayer is a very powerful dynamic that should be nurtured in us; we are the biggest losers when we fail to pray.
ILLUS: A Scottish preacher prayed one Sunday morning in their worship service for rain. Later that afternoon as he was preparing to go back to the church and take his daughter with him, she stopped at the front closet and grabbed an umbrella, and then she said to her dad, "Here is the umbrella, Papa." Since it was sunny outside the dad looked confused and said to his daughter, "What do we need it for?" She said, "You prayed for rain this morning, don't you expect God to send it?" his daughter reminded him. A little embarrassed, he grabbed the umbrella and took it along, was he ever glad he listened to that little child-like faith of his daughter's. After church they were able to walk home under a drenching rainstorm! How faithful God is in responding to such faith! We should have it more often like this child! – Source Unknown
2. We need to realize that God has ordained Himself that prayer should be the vehicle through which He often works in our life ... that miracles are framed in prayer.
3. How many times have we suffered because we have failed to pray?
ILLUS: Shortly after Dallas Seminary was founded in 1924, it came to the point of bankruptcy. All the creditors were going to foreclose at noon on a particular day. That morning, the founders of the school met in the president's office to pray that God would provide a miracle. In that prayer meeting was the great Harry Ironside. When it was his turn to pray, he prayed in his characteristically refreshing manner: "Lord, we know that the cattle on a thousand hills are thine ... please sell some of them and send us the money." While they were continuing to pray, a tall Texan came into the Business office and said to the secretary, "I just sold two carloads of cattle in Fort Worth. I've been trying to make a business deal go through and it won't work, and I feel that God is compelling me to give this money to the Seminary. I don't know if you need it or not, but here's the check." The secretary took the check and knowing something of the financial seriousness of the hour went to the door of the prayer meeting and timidly tapped. When she finally got a response, Dr Lewis Chafer took the check out of her hand, and it was for the exact amount of the debt! When he looked at the signature, he recognized the name of the cattle rancher. Turning to Dr. Ironside, he said, "Harry, God sold the cattle." – Source Unknown
4. Years ago when our church needed $5,000 for landscaping, God did a similar type miracle through a couple in California who called and offered us the money, they did not know we needed it at the time. God had 2 weeks earlier already prompted their hearts to do this, before we had even prayed or knew the need ourselves!
5. Another time – the church I pastored in Vermont had just completed a new Teen Center, a dream of our Youth Pastor and the Teens of our church, but we had run $50,000 short on the budget to cover the building program needs; a lady from town called my office who did not attend our church and said she was so pleased that our local church was doing something to minister to the teens of the community by building the Teen Center that she wanted to give our church a special financial gift, and she sent over a gift of $50,000! We had prayed about the shortfall, and God had answered the need!
a. God answers prayers, but they need to be prayed!
b. God is a responsive God and He never gives less than the best!
(1. Will He give a stone when we ask for bread? NO!
(2. Will He ignore a need or miss a deadline? NO!
6. In fact, if God hasn't answered yet, it is because He is doing something we might not yet fully realize ... He doesn't with-hold without purpose!
a. No earthly father would do this to the children he loved, how much less unkind our heavenly Father is. He would never do evil!
b. God will not ignore our true needs, or ignore us … He will always do good!
CONCLUSION: An important rule for the Redeemed is the prayer rule! Prayer is what makes our union with God deeply personal on a day by day basis. Your relationship with God can only be as warm as your prayer life. Friends and family can always call free ... 1-800-GOD-HEARS, the lines are always open!