Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. In Gethsemane, Jesus roused his sleeping disciples, asking, Could you not pray with me one hour? Erwin Lutzer is asking each of us the same question today. Let's covenant to set aside one hour a week for Jesus.
From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, many of us might find it hard to set aside one hour a week, since even ten minutes seems difficult. And you know, Dave, the reason that ten minutes seems so difficult is because many people think of prayer as simply asking God for things.
Well, after you've gone down the list, what is there left to say? But if we change our thinking and realize that prayer involves worship, it involves the adoration of God, it involves our own personal experience of submission to God, then we can indeed pray for an hour. And in this culture, we desperately need prayer. I've written a book entitled No Reason to Hide.
At the end of this message, I'll give you some contact info as to how it can be yours. But meanwhile, let us remember the words and the experience of Jesus as he gives us a pattern for submission to the Father. My challenge is one hour, one out of 168 hours a week. Jesus prayed when things were going well, when things were going poorly, when he was rejected. He prayed under pressure. He prayed without ceasing. You see, many of us think to ourselves that we're too busy to pray. That, of course, is not true at all. Are you going to watch at least one hour of television a week? Many of us watch a lot more than that.
It's not a matter of saying that you don't have the time. We're getting to the real matter now as we come to the third question. And the third question is, what are the struggles that we're going to encounter when we pray? Why is there so much resistance? Why is it that when we begin to do it, it seems as if every demon in hell begins to show his face?
Well, you can begin to understand that, don't you? What are the struggles that we're going to experience when we pray? What is going to be in opposition to you if you say, yes, by God's grace today, one hour a week in addition to my regular devotional time? This is just one special hour a week in addition to what I'm doing. What are some of the struggles that you're going to have? Well, number one, a place to pray.
If you live in a very busy home, perhaps a small home, you might find it difficult. That's why your prayer time may be early in the morning or late at night. I believe it's very important. Jesus always went to Gethsemane. It says that whenever he went to Gethsemane, the disciples knew that it was there to pray. Jesus said, it's time to pray. Gethsemane is a place.
I love that. And we love the Garden of Gethsemane today, don't we? If you've ever been to Israel because that's where Jesus prayed. Do you have a place of prayer? I have a place at home and I also have a place here at the church and I always say that that is my place of prayer. When I'm really serious and when I need some time to pray, that's where I go. Do you have a place to pray?
Now, you always can't pray there, obviously, because you may be traveling and because of schedules and so forth, but there should be a place to pray. But that's not going to be your biggest struggle. Your biggest struggle is going to be your motivation. The Spirit is willing.
Oh, yes, we heard that message and we signed up. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak because there are all these other things to do. And furthermore, my day is falling apart and nothing's going right and today is not the time to do it.
Because as I'm saying, the opposition is going to be relentless all 52 weeks. I have in my hand something that was written by Sidlow Baxter. Now, he was a Scottish pastor, a great preacher. And as I read about his struggle with prayer, I wonder if you can identify, I mean, this is my story too, so I know I can. He says that he wanted to get up early in the morning to pray and to do so with some regularity. But he says just as the stars in their courses fought against Cicero, so the stars in their courses seemed set on smashing my well-made plans. He said I would begin and so forth, but then he says I won't take the time telling you all of the subtle subterfuges which Satan used to trip me up and trick me out of keeping my plans. And he says it isn't necessary because he says you know them all. Many times he says my time for prayer and Bible study were getting crowded out and, he says, I was getting used to it.
Are you used to it? And then, he says, he began excusing himself and his prayer life became a case of sinning and repenting. Every time I got down to pray I had to start weeping and ask God's forgiveness because of my prayerlessness.
Then all of it came to a crisis. At a certain time one morning I looked at my watch and according to my plan, for I was still persevering, I was to withdraw for an hour of prayer. I looked at my watch and it said time for prayer said, but I looked at my desk and there was a miniature mountain of correspondence and something within me said you ought to get those letters answered.
So as we say in Scotland, I swithered. I vacillated prayer or letters, prayer or letters, yes, no. And then a little voice began to speak into my inner conscience that said, look here, Sid, what's all this bother? You know very well what you should do.
The practical thing is to get those letters answered. You can't afford time for prayer this morning. And the voice said, look here, Sid, don't you think the Lord knows how busy you are? You're having conversions.
The church is growing. God is pleased with you. Look, Sid, you'd better face up to it. You're not one of those real spiritual ones.
He said, I don't want to use extravagant phrases, but if you had plunged a dagger into my bosom, it couldn't have hurt me more. You're not one of those spiritual ones. He said, I looked within and I found that there was a part of me that wanted to pray and there was a part of me that didn't want to pray. Anybody here identifying or am I all alone up here this morning, huh?
I'm not alone? All right. He said, the part of me that did want to pray was the intellect and the will. The part that didn't was my emotions. Suddenly I found myself asking, Sid LoBaxter, are you going to let your will be dragged around by your changeful emotions? So I said to Will, Will, are you ready for prayer? Will said, here I am.
So I set off to pray and all of my emotions began to talk. They said, we're not coming. We're not coming.
We're not coming. So I said to Will, Will, can you stick it out? He said, yeah, I can if you can.
A little bit of schizophrenia going on here. So Will and I dragged off those wretched emotions by the scruff of the neck and we went to prayer. If you had asked me, did you have a good time? Did you have a good time?
I said, of course not. He said, what I would have done without Will, I don't know. In the middle of my most earnest intercessions, I found that one of my principal emotions was a way out on the golf course playing golf.
I had to run out to the golf course and drag him back. He says, a few of my emotions had traveled a day and a half ahead and were preaching a sermon I hadn't even yet prepared. I had to say, come back. He said, it wasn't a good time.
It was exhausting. He said, this went on for about three weeks, but Will and I stuck it out. And then one morning during that third week, I looked at my watch and I said, Will, it's time for prayer.
Are you ready? And he said, yes, I'm ready. And just as we were going in, I heard one of my chief emotions say to the other, ah, come on fellows.
There's no use wearing ourselves out. They're going to go pray no matter what we do. Suddenly, one day while Will and I were pressing our case at the throne of heavenly glory, one of the chief emotions shouted, hallelujah. And all of the other emotions said, amen.
And for the first time, the whole territory of James Sidlow Baxter was happily coordinated in the exercise of prayer. Of course, it's going to be tough. Of course, you're going to have opposition. Of course, the kids are going to misbehave.
Of course, your husband is going to be irritable. Of course, expect all the opposition because the devil knows that if you're really serious, you are going to do some serious damage to the kingdom of darkness and he will resist you. And you'll say to yourself, I'm not spiritual enough for this.
Well, that's a good reason to sign up. We've answered three questions today. Why should we pray? When should we pray?
What are the struggles we're going to have? How do we pray with Christ for one hour? How do we do it in your bulletins today?
There is another insert. I wonder if you take out the time right now to get it out. It's a little pamphlet entitled Your One Hour Prayer Guide. Have you found it?
It should be there. This prayer guide is a guide for you to pray one hour. However, I suggest that you use it only for the first two or three weeks because if there's anything that is disappointing and monotonous about prayer, it's always when you do the same thing in the same old way. So this is a guide that goes through the Lord's Prayer. Our Father who art in heaven tells you how to meditate, some ideas, the key concepts of the Lord's Prayer, and then praying for other specifics like your immediate family, your relatives, and so forth.
This serves only as a guide. My suggestion to you is that you follow this for a while and then you begin to plan your own prayer time, and yes, I mean plan your prayer time. Pray scripture. Take Romans chapter 12 and pray it for Moody Church or pray it for some member of the family. You have somebody you're really serious about praying about. You read Colossians chapter 1, Paul's prayer in Colossians, Paul's prayer in Ephesians, and in his other letters, and you begin to pray those prayers on behalf of others because those are scriptural prayers, and then you also spend a lot of time not just in intercession but in praise and in yieldedness.
My own time goes something like this. First of all, there's a time of real silence before God. I don't say anything. I meditate on a passage of scripture, and all that I'm doing is asking God a single question.
What is there in my life that I need to confess and to make right? That occupies me for the first while. Then I go into some time of worship and praise, and then I begin to intercede on behalf of others. Somebody asked me this week, well, what if you don't do the whole hour? Can you do a half at one time and a half at another time? And the answer is yes, of course, because however your schedule divides itself up. But I personally think that one hour that's well planned in God's presence, I think there's something about being there with Jesus for one full hour.
So this is your guide. But creatively think of ways that you can pray using scripture and using other guides. And once you get hooked on one hour a week, you'll ask yourself, how did I ever do without it? Why is it that we don't pray more often? You know, that's a very, very easy question to answer.
That's the simplest question that I could possibly answer today. Why don't we pray more often? It's because we don't believe God answers prayer, pure and simple. We've been disappointed because of unanswered prayer, and we think to ourselves, if I should go to prayer meeting, things are going to be the same after I've been there as before. So why the hassle?
Don't bother. And because we've bought that lie, we therefore don't pray. You know that if we believed as a church that God answered prayer, we wouldn't have enough room in Capler Hall for our prayer meeting. We'd have to move up here to the sanctuary.
If we actually believed that things would be different because we prayed, we couldn't have enough room. But we don't believe it, do we? Let me tell you a story that was told on this platform just a few weeks ago. Jim Cymbala has a daughter whose name is Chrissy, and Chrissy was here and told her own story, and some of you know the Brooklyn Tabernacle and its great ministry in New York.
What a story. Here she is. She is a teenager, loves her daddy, loves her church, but she begins to get into clothes and looking just right. And then she meets a man, a guy who tells her that she's beautiful, and that began a downward spiral.
She left home, lived with him, had a baby, which she kept. And there were weeks when Pastor Cymbala and his wife did not know where Chrissy was. Pastor Cymbala called a pastor, and the pastor said, well, you know, your daughter's Chrissy is going to do what she's going to do.
There's nothing really that you can do about it. I mean, she's 18 now, and she's going to live the kind of life she wants to live. Cymbala hung up that telephone and said, no, I'm not going to accept that verdict. And he began to give himself to prayer, but he didn't tell his congregation about his wayward daughter. But during one of those prayer meetings, and they do have 2000 people at their prayer meeting, my wife and I were there years ago, and you have to, people were lined up partially around the block before the doors opened to let people in for prayer meeting, because they have this crazy idea there that God actually answers prayer, really something. So anyway, at prayer meeting one night, somebody handed him a note that said, tonight is Chrissy's night. So Pastor Cymbala shared with the whole congregation the story of Chrissy. And everybody began to pray. And according to reports, it was as if it was a birthing room, as if women were giving birth to children as they agonized and prevailed almost with wailing for Chrissy, who was away from home.
And mom and dad didn't know where she was. After that prayer meeting, Cymbala came home and said to his wife, tonight we reached heaven. If Chrissy doesn't come back, there is no God because we reached heaven tonight and she will return. In less than 36 hours, Chrissy was at the door with her baby saying, as she knelt before her mother and father saying, oh, do whatever you want me to do. She kept saying over and over again, who prayed for me Tuesday night?
Who prayed for me Tuesday night? Well, let's hear her part of the story, which she told us here on this platform a couple of weeks ago. She's sleeping Tuesday night and God awakens her in the middle of the night and a demonic spirit comes to her in all of his evil and says, I've got you and I want your baby.
He's next, the one sleeping in the crib. But at the same time, God revealed himself to her. And it was as if Jesus came to her and almost put his arms around her. And for the first time, she could pray.
Because, you see, as long as you're walking in disobedient, your mouth is closed. I mean, you know, how do you begin to cry up to Jesus when you're doing your own thing and you're living a lifestyle of evil? She was able to pray. And she humbled herself and pled with God and repented of her sins and all the evils that she had been into. And she came home now. And today she's the wife of a pastor here in the city and they are beginning the Chicago Tabernacle Church.
And the little daughter that she bore before her marriage is now a teenager walking with Jesus. You see, that's what happens when people really believe that God does answer prayer. Now here's my challenge to you. I would like to dedicate four prayer meetings and have as many POPS as possible present. I know what you're saying. You're saying, did we hear you right?
Isn't that what you're asking? POPS, P-O-P-S, yeah. POPS stands for Parents of Prodigals. I'd like to have as many present and we're going to be praying for your children in fasting and praying, believing this notion that God actually does answer prayer. And with you praying with Christ for one hour as parents and as singles and whoever you may be as teenagers, you're accepting this challenge to pray with Jesus for an hour. Can you imagine what God may be pleased to do? Can't even imagine it if we really got serious and believe that God answered prayer. Did God answer the prayer of Jesus?
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. No, the cup was not taken, but in the process of praying, Jesus had the strength to go through with the cup, but his Father gave him the death on the cross. And then in the end, God answered the prayer by raising him from the dead in a different way than maybe the request was answered.
But God was there. God is for us and with us even when we don't get the answers that we seek. But I want you to visualize Jesus in heaven today saying to us, I know that we're not Peter, James, and John, but saying to us, can you not watch with me for one hour? Is one hour a week too much for you and me to get together and to pray? This morning, what we want you to do is to sign up to pray for an hour. Now I can tell you that I'm going to be praying with Christ for one hour this week, for sure. So you can ask me anytime, are you keeping up with your commitment? By the way, you said you're going to pray an hour and how's that scripture reading coming?
You can hold me accountable, but who's going to hold you accountable? Sign up with a partner, find somebody after the service who has the same vision as you to say, yes, we'll do this together and we'll hold one another accountable to accept the invitation from Jesus to do some serious damage to the kingdom of darkness. God does answer prayer. God does answer prayer, but sometimes he doesn't until we get dead serious. And then the blessed Holy Spirit of God who helps us to intercede brings about the transformation. Would you join with me as we pray? Our Father, we ask in Jesus name that this church would be known as a house of prayer. As you asked that the temple in the Old Testament be known, not just a house of worship, but a house of prayer. But Lord, we can't change human nature. We can't take unmotivated people and motivate them. We can't implant within the human heart the desire to pray. That's all your business.
Our business was simply to lay out the opportunity. Would you stimulate your people that together we might see your glory and your power at the Moody Church. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Amen. You know, as a pastor, I'm so thankful for the many evangelical churches in America that continue to preach the word of God and continue to pray. I've always believed that prayer meeting is one of the most important times when we get together to intercede.
Let me ask you a question. Are you aware of the fact that we are living in a culture also, however, where there is what we could call the Christian left? That is to say, Christians who are beginning to submit to the culture, giving the culture what it wants instead of standing against it. That actually is one of the chapters in my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. Here's how you can connect with us.
Go to rtwoffer.com for a gift of any amount. This book can be yours or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The Bible says the gospel is the power of God. That power was felt in the early church and next time we'll trace the impact the gospel made in the first century. Erwin Lutzer will begin a series on Light Shining in Darkness, How the Gospel Impacts Culture. We'll start off in the Book of Acts and watch as the light shines in a prison.
It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor's book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, will be sent as our gift to you when you give a gift of any amount to support Running to Win. Just call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. Online go to rtwoffer.com.
That's rtwoffer.com. Or write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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