You can't pray like you are to pray unless you know the Word. Dr. Tony Evans says the most effective prayer is based on the Bible. Ninety percent of many of our prayers can be thrown in the trash can because they have nothing to do with God's revealed revelation. This is The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of The Urban Alternative.
Dr. Evans says praying with our children at bedtime and before meals is good, but it's not enough. Today we'll learn the kind of prayer that gives us real access to God's authority. You'll want to turn to Ephesians chapter 6 as we begin. Jesus Christ has granted Christians authority in heaven. Not our own authority, the delegation of His authority, which means it's dependent upon His power. God has given us a wardrobe of authority, six pieces of armor, three that you're never to take off, three that you are to pick up as needed. The first three that you are to never take off has to do with the belt of truth. There must be an objective standard by which you make pragmatic decisions. Righteousness, that your new identity in Christ whereby you have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ is to inform how you live. There is a carrying of our feet with the shoes of the gospel, the peace of God that should govern our decision making when we're operating according to God's truth, but then take up, that is have clothes enough to get you when you need it, your shield of faith, your helmet of salvation, and your sword in the spirit.
The only problem with those is that they can be a little bit amorphous. You might say, how do I get dressed? I'm being beaten. Satan is ripping me. He is destroying my family. He is capturing my children. He is destroying my mind.
He is addicting me to this kind of influence that is controlling me, whether it's alcohol or drugs or relationship or what have you. And I understood that I have to have the right attire on if I'm going to be spiritually victorious, but my question is, how do I get dressed? Because God has given you a powerful way to access the authority that you possess, but He's only given you one way to do it. It's not by programs. It's not by techniques. It's not by formulas.
It's not by doing some magical act. Some people would have you think if you say the right words the right way, if you go to this seminar, some of us are seminars out. We'd have been the 12-step. That became 24-step. That became 36-step.
Now we had a 150-step program and we still messed up. Not because there's anything wrong with the program, but because we must start at that which God has given us that works in heavenly places, and He's only given one thing. That's why after the discussion of the armor, Paul says in Ephesians 6 verse 18, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit and with this in view, be on alert with all perseverance and petition for all saints. To put it another way, prayer gains you access to the authority of heaven. To put it another way, prayer is what dresses you up. If prayer is not a dynamic, vital, vibrant, potent, consistent, controlling, encompassing area in your Christian life, you are a nude spiritual saint.
He has not only supplied the attire, He has supplied the dressing code. To put it another way, prayer is the means that we access spiritual authority. And so the issue is, how does this work? In the Bible, demons are the flea, not Christians. And without a dynamic, and I say this to my conviction and condemnation and to us as a church, you are walking on a spiritual treadmill, moving fast, covering no ground. We have made all kind of plans, spent all kind of money, made all kind of effort to improve our spiritual life only to find out we've been sweating on a treadmill, gaining no yardage.
How about trying in God's way? Everything you need to know is in verse 18. First of all, the significance of prayer. It's in the word with.
First word, with. In other words, prayer is connected to his discussion of spiritual warfare. In other words, you can't get into verse 18 if you don't remember verse 10. You can't benefit from the power of prayer in verse 18 if you've missed out on the understanding of the battle in verses 10 through 17. In verses 10 through 17, he says to stand. What does stand mean? It means don't give up any of this new territory God just won for you.
He doesn't mean passively stand by and do nothing. He says Jesus Christ has won a victory for you in heavenly places. He has raised us up with him.
Those who were under angels have now been raised above angels with Jesus Christ. Don't let the devil take your territory away. And for many of us, he's taken away the territory of our joy. For many of us, he's taken away the territory of our peace. For many of us, he's taken away the territory of a happy home. For many of us, he's taken away the territory of confidence in life. He's taken us away from the authoritative position that God has given us.
And so he says, with. That is, in connection with the armor that I have described, make sure prayer is connected to it. But if you pray without a realization of your standing in Jesus Christ, then you won't pray right.
What you do in prayer is make withdrawals, not make new deposits. God is not asking you to add to Christ. He's asking you to drop in and withdraw from the achievements of Christ. But if you don't know what Christ has done, then you're going to seek to add that which makes Christ look insufficient. He says, in light of this provision of God's armor, in light of the blessedness he's already given us, claim your authority with prayer.
That's how you do it. You do it with prayer. To put it another way, without prayer, you don't get to use any of the things that God has granted you. Prayer is simply communication with God.
That's it. Communication with God. Through prayer, you gain access to God's authority. Now, I don't know why God did it.
I can't answer this question. But God decided that there were certain things he would not do apart from prayer. Some of you asked the question because you've asked me, well, if God's going to do what he wants to do anyway, why pray? Answer, he decided that he won't do certain things without it.
See, without asking, you can do it yourself. What prayer does is it shows dependency and gains you access. Let me tell you the story, you don't have to turn there, but in Daniel 9, Daniel had a problem. The people of Israel were in captivity, and it was a big problem. So Daniel said in his heart, in verses 2 and 3 of Daniel, chapter 9, that he was going to take this mess to God. And he got on his knees, and he bent down, and he says, now, God, we're in a mess. But verse 2 says, before he prayed, he opened his Bible to the book of Numbers.
Because before he prayed ignorantly, he wanted to find out what God had set on the matter so he could put God on the spot. Do you know that prayer gives you the chance to put God on the spot? When is the last time you backed God up into a corner? You say, wait a minute, you can't back God up into a corner?
Oh, yes, you can. Ask Moses. God told Moses, look, I'm going to destroy Israel. Moses said, you can't do that. I pray tell, why not mow?
Why can't I do that? You can't do that, because if you do that, then the nations all around Israel are going to laugh at us. And they're going to say that God was big enough to get them out of Israel, Egypt.
He was big enough to open up the Red Sea, but he wasn't big enough to take them through the wilderness. And if you do that, your name is going to look bad, and you will be an embarrassment among the gods. And so in your own best interest, God, I say that that is not a good idea. I think you ought to preserve your people. You ought to forgive your people.
I think we can approach this another way. And the next phrase is, and when God heard Moses, God changed his mind. When's the last time you backed the God up against the corner?
You say, well, wait a minute, how did that really work? It really worked, because Moses understood God's nature. So Daniel prays. And the Bible says, as soon as Daniel opened up his mouth to pray, God told Gabriel, go answer. Angels were activated by prayer. He got down to pray, but we have a problem. Because according to Daniel chapter 10, verses 12 and 13, a demon met Gabriel and put up a block in front of him, put up a defensive line to stop him from answering Daniel's prayer.
Why? Because we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in heavenly places. And so the demon, the prince of Persia, blocked him. So powerful was the demon against God's angel Gabriel that Gabriel had to send back to heaven for help. And so God said, Mikey, that's Michael. Now, you've got to understand why he called Michael. Because see, Satan is an archangel. That is, he's a high ranking.
He's a bad dude. So he got Michael, who's also an archangel. Michael, why don't you archangel, go meet the other archangel and let him know that greater is he that is in you than he that is in him. So finally, finally, Gabriel breaks through, comes to Daniel. Daniel's frustrated because he'd been praying for three weeks. He says, for three weeks, I've been on my knees and nothing happened.
Anybody here like that? And you thought God forgot about? God didn't forget about you? There are defensive linemen in heaven trying to stop the angels of God from bringing the answer from God to you. Keep on praying, because one day, God's going to call Mike. And when Mike breaks through, prayer is necessary because the battle is spiritual.
Focusing on flesh and blood is the wrong focus. When you pray properly, it is a restraining order against the powers of darkness. Prayer is your withdrawal slip against the backdrop of Christ's deposit. And if you don't know a million spiritual dollars that have been put in your spiritual bank account, you're going to live like a spiritual pauper when you could have been a spiritual millionaire.
And a lot of us are living like spiritual paupers. So the significance of prayer is that it gains you access. Let's look at the scope of prayer. Verse 18, all prayer, all times, all perseverance, all saints.
Key word is what? All. The scope of prayer. If you're going to see this thing work, then prayer cannot be an addendum or an attachment.
It must be the controlling agenda. Paul put it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5, pray without ceasing. The key word is all. First of all, all types of prayer, all prayers. You know, in the Bible, prayers came every which way. They were praying standing, praying kneeling, praying laying prostrate, praying walking. You know, you can pray driving. You can pray in your mind without even moving your mouth because you're praying with your mind and thought. Prayer involves thanksgiving, involves praise, it involves supplication, involves intercession. He is saying bombard the heavenlies with prayer.
That's not what we do. When a country is in a war, they don't launch one missile. They bombard, they pound, they pound with missiles.
Because those missiles keep the enemy back. You are to bombard the heavenlies with prayer. He says all types. And he says on all occasions, pray when you feel like it and pray when you don't. Pray when you want to. Pray when you don't want to. Pray when you feel like praying. Pray when you don't feel like praying. You say, but if I don't feel like praying, I cannot pray. Tell God I don't feel like praying.
Because when you tell God you don't feel like praying, you just pray because you had to tell him that. Bombard the heavenlies with prayer on all occasions. Dr. Evans will have another illustration of how powerful prayer really is when he continues our message in just a moment. First, if your bombardment of prayer doesn't seem to be turning the tide, there may be a spiritual obstacle in your way that you can't even see. Tony will help you identify and deal with it in his powerful book, Victory in Spiritual Warfare. He'll shine a revealing light on the devil's tricks and tactics and equip you to start winning victories on battlefields like marriage issues, money problems, even depression or addiction. Right now, when you make a contribution to help support Tony's ministry, we'd like to say thanks by sending you a copy of Victory in Spiritual Warfare, or Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, your choice, along with all 12 full-length messages on CD or instantly downloadable MP3s from Tony's current two-volume series on spiritual warfare. Together, these powerful resources are a great way to dig deeper into what we've been learning. This special offer is only available for a limited time, so visit tonyevans.org today or call our resource request line at 1-800-800-3222. It never closes, so there's no need to wait.
That's 1-800-800-3222. Well, Dr. Evans will return right after this. The Bible makes it clear that you know when God has cursed a land, when its fathers are nowhere to be found. Dr. Tony Evans says that what becomes of the next generation of men depends on what happens with this one. Our kids need to see men in their midst who love God and who love them. But what does it take to be that kind of man?
You can find out with the help of the Tony Evans Training Center's free course called Kingdom Man. It'll teach you to see past the phony images of manhood that society surrounds us with and become the loving leader that a wife and family would want to follow. As with all of our courses, there's in-depth study material you can work through at your own pace. Lots of exclusive content from Tony, tightly focused Q&A videos, and an online forum where you can collaborate with other students. It's almost like having a seminary on your smartphone. Check out the free course called Kingdom Man and the growing list of other subjects waiting for you.
Visit tonyevans.org today and follow the link to the Tony Evans Training Center. Now, anybody who's serious about prayer know something. It's work. Why do you think it's so much work?
I'll tell you why it's work, because it's war. Satan doesn't want you praying. That's why sometimes you get on your face and your mind be going every which way. You can't even focus on what you're doing. So he will distract you.
That's one way. Another way he will do it is he will make you too tired to pray, because Satan understands that if you ever bombard the heavenlies with prayer, you're going to knock him back. You're going to force him back. He won't be able to do his thing if you keep bombarding him like that. By the way, the more intimate the relationship, the easier the prayer.
Still work. Anybody who's married knows this. Remember when you were dating, you used to communicate all the time? That's right, because you used to like each other, that's why.
You communicated all the time because you used to like each other. Now, how was your day? Fine. What did you do today? Nothing.
No? The lack of communication reflects the lack of relationship. People will say, well, why don't you talk?
Simple answer is why the other person doesn't talk, because the relationship has been interrupted. And that's what's happened. I want to guarantee you something. I know I'm going out on a spiritual limb. If you will bombard the heavenlies about the need in your life, God will give you some answers.
As simple as that. You'll see more miracles in your life. You know why the Church of Jesus Christ doesn't see miracles anymore?
It's not because God doesn't do miracles. It's because we don't know how to work from the heavenlies. When you pray, you enter into a whole other realm. You enter into the heavenlies, and anyone who has taken an airplane knows that the higher you get, the more orderly things look below you. See, once you take a high enough flight, you get a different perspective.
We've been on the ground too long. That's why we can't see anything. We have the wisdom from below, not the power from above, where Christ is in heavenly places. And so we don't see what God is doing. We only see, well, he shouldn't have said that to me.
He shouldn't have done that. I don't have to take that. See, all we did was look below. We didn't take a flight to heavenly places. Because up in heavenly places, God will tell you that that person has a messed up need in their life where they need some grace, not just you to retaliate.
But you only get that from up there. He says, pray for all saints. Remember, the Lord's prayer is not my Father who is in heaven. It's our Father who art in heaven. Whenever you become a selfish Christian where you're the only one you are praying for, God's not going to help you.
Because this is a family affair. And that's why it's our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. In other words, I'm not in this by myself. We are in this together. And that is why praying as a congregation is so important, where we are concerned about the needs of others so we can celebrate how God used our prayers for them so that they can celebrate how God used their prayers for us.
It's a collective thing. So if you only pray for you, God won't help you to become a more selfish Christian. Selfish saints will be unassisted by God. Finally, the sphere of prayer. He says, pray in the spirit.
Now, that sounds rather ethereal. How do you know you are praying in the spirit? Well, in the spirit is always contrasted in scripture with in the flesh.
You must be in the spirit. Now, hold your Bible here and turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Things which I have not seen, verse 9 says, ereth not heard, which is not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For God revealed them to us through the spirit. For the spirit searches the deep things of God. Who among man knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man, which is in him even so, the thoughts of God?
No one knows but the spirit of God. Now, we have received not the spirit of the world but the spirit who is from God that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God, which things we speak, not in the words taught by human wisdom but in those taught by the spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. If you're going to pray in the spirit, a couple of things have to be present, spiritual thinking. He says if you think like the world, you're going to pray like the world or act like the world so you won't be in the spirit.
If you're going to be in the spirit, you must have a mindset that is reflecting the thinking that comes from God and not the thinking that comes from the world. We still have too many secular saints. And guess what we're doing in Christianity? Defining deviancy down. God's standard is up here. And if the world keeps going down, you're not just supposed to go down and just stay a little above it. You're supposed to stay up here.
You're not supposed to define deviancy down. As long as you have secular thinking, then you'll have a secular result. You must have spirit thoughts. Now, how do you get spirit thoughts? He says they come combined with spiritual words.
In other words, you get spirit's thoughts from the scripture. You can't pray like you are to pray unless you know the word. 90% of many of our prayers could be thrown in the trash can because they have nothing to do with God's revealed revelation. If you don't know the word, then you won't be praying right. And God is not going to bless your prayer unless it's consistent with his word. So what you must do is be captivated by the mind of Christ, which comes in the spiritual words of God, so that you are addressing the spirit's concerns, the spirit's way. Turn to Acts chapter 4 and close it. And let's see what in the spirit means in prayer because you have it in Acts chapter 4. Here is a prayer in the spirit, an actual in the spirit of prayer.
Now, this one will rock you. The believers are being persecuted. They have now been released in verse 23. And look what happens. And when they have been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
Now, watch this. And when they heard this, they lifted up their voices to God with one accord and said, oh, Lord. Look at the theology.
It is thou who did make heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. Now, they've been threatened. They've been beaten. Who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David, thy servant said, why do the Gentiles rage?
And the people devised futile things. The kings of the earth took their stand and their rulers. They gathered together against the Lord and against this Christ.
Now, guess what this, did you just see what happened? Their prayer. They say, God, before we tell you about the mess we're in, let me tell you how great you are.
You're too good. We're in a mess, but you're a big God. Now, God, in case you forgot the Bible that you had written, let us quote back to you one of your verses. In other words, we're going to put you on the spot with your own word. Giving God back his own word. Telling God what God said. Because just as God can say negative things and bring judgment, he can say powerful things and bring blessing, they quote God's word back to him, and watch this. He says, this city that we're gathered to, against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, verse 29, and now, Lord, take note of their threats, because you already told us what you're going to do, and grant thy servant's boldness that we may speak with all confidence.
We're going to do what we're supposed to do, but we need help from you to do it. While you extend thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of thy holy servant Jesus, and they catch verse 31, and when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, they're in the spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness. Do you see what happened? When you pray right, something got to shake. Verse 31 says, the place shook. How come we don't see places shaken today? How don't we see impossible homes that can't be brought together shaken, and people falling back in love today? How come we see people addicted, and they can't get off of it today?
How can we see people depressed, and they can't get out of it today? I'll tell you why, because we don't talk to the same God that these men talk to. Dr. Tony Evans, sharing the secret to entering the presence of God. And he'll come back in a moment with an illustration to wrap up this lesson for us, so don't go away. Right now, I encourage you to look into getting a copy of Tony's current teaching series called Spiritual Warfare, a set of 12 messages that will help you readjust your spiritual armor.
It contains today's message, as well as plenty of material we won't have time to present on the air. As I mentioned earlier, it's yours with our thanks when you make a donation toward Tony's ministry. And as a special bonus, we'll also let you choose a copy of either Victory in Spiritual Warfare or Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, two powerful books from Dr. Evans that build on what we've been learning in this series of lessons. Take advantage of this special bundle of resources when you visit tonyevans.org, or call our resource request line at 1-800-800-3222 any time of the day or night.
Again, that's 1-800-800-3222 or online at tonyevans.org. They say life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Well, next time, Dr. Evans looks at what we can learn from a man whose life had more than the usual share of unexpected twists and turns.
Right now, though, he's back with this final illustration for us. A little boy one day went with his father to his amusement park. Father said, Lord and son, I'll keep the tickets. You go and you ride. As you need the tickets, come back.
And so you don't lose them, I'll give them to you. So he took some tickets and went on some rides. While the father was waiting for his son to come back, a young man who the father had never seen before came over to the father and said, sir, I'd like to have four tickets. Father says, four tickets? I don't know you.
Yeah, but I need four tickets. He says, I'm sorry, son. I don't know you. Just then the son came. He said, Daddy, oh, it's OK. That's my friend John from school. I told him you had the tickets, that he could come over and ask you for the tickets.
He just forgot to tell you I sent him. Some of us need some tickets. We don't know what a good time in life looks like. We don't know what victory looks like.
We don't know what strength looks like. And it doesn't look like we can get any tickets from God. But that's why you've got to close your prayer in the name of Jesus. You've got to have somebody the father knows to come over to you and say, Daddy, I know who he is. That's my brother.
He came to me on the cross, and he yielded his life to me. And you can give him some tickets. The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by the Urban Alternative and is made possible by the generous contributions of listeners like you. I'm Dr. Tony Evans, and I'll see you next time.
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