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It's Time to Pray | Are You Praying Wholeheartedly?

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2022 3:00 am

It's Time to Pray | Are You Praying Wholeheartedly?

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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May 31, 2022 3:00 am

In Hebrews 4 we read, “So let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” If God, in God’s Word, invites us to come to God in boldness . . . maybe we should! Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us take that direction to heart. We’re continuing our studies in the fascinating Old Testament book of Nehemiah. So many great lessons from the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Today's episode of A New Beginning is brought to you by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God.

Learn more at harvest.org. And while you're there, browse our library of free ebooks designed to help you grow in your faith. It's time to pray. The kind of a prayer where we go to God and we will not take no for an answer. Some people pray like they're afraid they're bothering God. Kind of an excuse me prayer. Pastor Greg Laurie encourages us to have confidence.

Did not Jesus say, ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open. I should pray with boldness. I should pray with passion.

I should pray with expectation. This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace how sweet the sound.

Again you hear when the angels are singing. This is the day, the day when life begins. In Hebrews 4, we read, so let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. If God, in God's word, invites us to come to God in boldness, maybe we should. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us take that direction to heart. We're continuing our studies in the fascinating Old Testament book of Nehemiah.

So many great lessons from the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. The title of my message is, Time to Pray. And when I say it's time to pray, I mean that it's time to pray fervently. I like the word fervent because it communicates something more than just what we might call a ho-hum prayer. You know those rushed prayers like when the food is served and oh we forgot to say grace.

Oh Lord, thank you for the vote. Amen. You know it's just like what a distraction. Or one of those worthless prayers that we say something along the lines of, Lord just save the world in Jesus' name. Amen.

That pretty much covers everything right? No, no I'm talking about passionate prayer. I'm talking about prayer with fervor. The word fervent means displaying passionate intensity.

Some synonyms for the word are ardent, sincere, wholehearted, avid. It's a kind of prayer that that woman prayed for her daughter who was possessed by demons. When she came to Jesus and she said, son of David have mercy on my daughter. She's possessed by a demon. His disciples said, stop bothering Jesus. In fact you're bothering us.

Go away. And she cried out even louder. And then Jesus said to her, dear woman your faith is great.

Your request is granted. Do you think it had anything to do with her persistence? How about blind Bartimaeus who heard Jesus was coming up the road. And he cried out, son of David have mercy on me. And they said, be quiet. Don't yell anymore. And he said, son of David.

Really loudly. Have mercy on me. And Jesus stopped.

Son what can I do for you? Lord I want to receive my sight. And Jesus heals him right then and there. Heard that expression.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Do you think passion had anything to do with that? Did not Jesus say, ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened. And by the way there is an ascending intensity in the verbs used in those statements of Christ meaning that we should keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. It is building the kind of a prayer where we go to God and we will not take no for an answer. You might say, Greg that is rather presumptuous.

Well that all depends. Because if I am praying for something that God wants to give me that is not presumptuous at all. I should pray with boldness. I should pray with passion.

I should pray with expectation. You know you think about Elijah. Now that is a guy who knew how to pray. And we think of Elijah as sort of a spiritual rock star.

Right. He was on another level. Man I could never be like him. Actually the Bible points out that he was an ordinary guy just like us.

And even had bouts of depression and things that others face. And here is what the Bible says about Elijah in James 5 16. The fervent prayer of a righteous man has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are. Yet when he prayed fervently that no rain would fall.

None fell for three and a half years. Then when he prayed again the sky rained down heaven. So you might say well I prayed about something but nothing really happened. I asked the Lord to do this thing and He didn't seem to answer. Wait. Did you pray a fervent prayer?

Listen. We need to pray for our nation right now like never before. America needs help. America needs God. We need to cry out to God. There are people that want to destroy us.

People that are bent on our destruction on the outside and in some ways even on the inside. And what we need in America more than anything else is a spiritual awakening. We need to pray with fervency that God would send one.

There have been a number of great awakenings in American history that changed the course our country was taking for the better. We need another one and we need it soon. We need to pray. And that is the theme before us now in Nehemiah. It is about prayer as we come to chapter 9. Now of course the overall theme of this great book is about building. Specifically rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. But it is also about building our lives.

We have seen a lot together in this series that we have done that we call the Rebuilt Life. We have learned how to motivate others when morale is slipping. How to respond to personal attacks and react when lies are told about us.

How to finish what you start and not let anyone or anything stop you from doing that. But just sort of to get the big picture in case you haven't been a part of this whole series the way this all started was God kept warning His people the Israelites to stop turning to idols. They kept worshiping these stupid false gods when they had a relationship with the true and living God.

Because all the other nations did it. You know when your kids say, Mom I want to do it because everyone is doing it right. And then you say if everyone jumped off a cliff would you jump off a cliff.

And they say if it was cool yes. No no you know. That is what Israel was doing. All the pagan nations around them worshiped false gods and they kept doing it. God warned them. Now you guys I am telling you.

You better stop doing it or I am going to send judgment upon you. And they kept worshiping false idols. He sent prophets warning them that judgment would come.

And they continued on. And so the Lord allowed the Babylonians to conquer Israel. And they were carted off to the distant land of Babylon for 70 long years. Babylon was ultimately conquered by the Medo-Persians. And they were allowed by Cyrus to return to their homeland.

The first wave of Jews was led by the priest Ezra. And what he did was he rebuilt the temple. The problem is he didn't completely finish the job. And the walls of Jerusalem still were in ruin. They were burned out.

Covered in weeds. And by the way walls mattered in those days. Not to just keep enemies out. They had a greater significance. They were there as a center of power effectively.

That is where the elders would be in the walls there. They were very important. So God raised up a man to finish the job. And it wasn't Ezra. He did his part. So the Lord found another guy named Nehemiah. The most unexpected guy of all. Ezra a priest was set apart to serve God.

Nehemiah well he had a very interesting job. He was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes. His job was to taste the king's food before the king ate it. Which is a pretty sweet job. Unless someone poisons the food.

Then well you're dead basically. And so he would taste everything that would be served to the king. And this meant that not only would he be in close proximity to the king but he would be a counselor of sorts. A confidant.

Even a friend. Probably no one spent more time with the king than Nehemiah. And the king trusted him. So he was living in the lap of luxury in the cushiest job ever. But one day someone told him about the state of the walls of Jerusalem lying in rubble and being a Jewish guy and a believer in the Lord God.

He thought I've got to do something about this. So he asked the king for permission to go back to Israel and rebuild the walls. Not only did the king give him permission he sent an armed escort and underwrote the whole project.

Which was pretty amazing. So Nehemiah arrives on the land. He faces a lot of opposition. A lot of obstacles.

But he manages to finish the job. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Hey everybody what are you doing this weekend? I'd like to hang out with you at Harvest at Home. What is Harvest at Home? It is a time of worship and Bible study exclusively designed for people that are viewing in from all over the place. So you can be a part of our extended congregation at Harvest at Home. Join us this weekend Saturday and Sunday for Harvest at Home at Harvest.org. Well Pastor Greg is presenting a message today called It's Time to Pray based in Nehemiah chapter 9.

Let's continue now. So now they're at the completion of the walls and it's time to bring Ezra out of mothballs. See this great priest had been there at the beginning but he hadn't been active in recent years so they said let's bring him back out to preach a sermon. And Ezra preached for three hours. So there's a lot of pent-up energy in old Ezra right.

He could hardly wait to speak. And as he spoke and opened the Word of God to the people they were deeply moved and they wept over their sin. And that's where we are in the story.

Nehemiah 9 is sort of like a flyover of the history of Israel and God's faithfulness to them this despite their persistent unfaithfulness to Him. I guess you could say one of the great lessons of history is we don't learn anything from history. It's been said that history is old news happening to new people. I love history. I love to read historical books. I love to watch documentaries. I love to hear the stories of people's lives.

And I like it better than fiction because you see all the twists and turns of real life right. And we can learn from what has happened to other people. But apparently they did not learn a lot because they kept repeating the same behavior over and over again. So Ezra brought God's Word to them and now they wanted to turn from their sin. Nehemiah chapter 9 verse 1.

Let's read together. By the way I am reading from the New Living Translation. On October 31st the people assembled again and this time they fasted and dressed in burlap and sprinkled dust on their heads. Those of Israeli descent separated themselves from all foreigners as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their ancestors. They remained standing in place for three hours while the book of the law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them. And for three more hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord. So are there any takeaway points for us?

Yes there are. I've got four if you're taking notes. Point number one. The people prayed with fervor. The people prayed with fervor and we should too. Verse three says for three more hours they confess their sin and worshiped the Lord.

And then point number two. They separated themselves from ungodly influences. They separated themselves from ungodly influences. Verse two.

They separated themselves from all foreigners. Our modern interpretation would be to just get away from bad influences. Ungodly people or places that pull us down spiritually. You know let's think about food for a moment. Let's say there are certain people you know who are really healthy. Really healthy. They're the kind of people that go and work out and say man that was a great workout. I've never had a great workout. To me I'm looking at the clock.

I can't wait till it's over. I mean I'm glad I did it afterwards I suppose but but it wasn't a great work. For some people it is. And they want I eat clean. I like to eat clean.

Okay whatever you know. And so they're very careful what they order and oh can I get that on the side. I don't want that. And when you're with them it kind of influences you. You just don't feel good about getting that burger deep fried in lard when they're having their tofu salad made out of kale right. So their choices influence you to make better choices. But then you have other friends. They eat every fattening thing on earth. And when you're with them you know it's going to be your downfall right.

Now let's take that and apply that in a different way. Certain people that bring you down spiritually. You know they're not believers.

And so they don't want to talk about your faith. And they like to tell dirty jokes. And they like to slander people.

And they're filled with anger. And so you hang out with them and after you're with them for a while it brings you down spiritually. And so I ask why do you hang around those people. Well to be a witness to them you respond.

Okay. Did you witness to them? Did you speak up for truth? No but I'm a silent witness. Hold on. Who's helping who?

Are you pulling them up or are they bringing you down? So that's the point here. The people of Israel separated themselves from these bad influences.

Point number three. They heard God's word and they acted on it. They heard God's word and they acted on it.

Listen to this. The Bible is a lot like a mirror. It tells us the truth about ourselves. I am liking mirrors less and less as I get older. You know. Especially magnifying mirrors.

Those should be outlawed. Right. Because then you see what everybody else sees. And oh my goodness. And actually the Bible compares itself to a mirror over in James chapter 2.

It says if you just listen to God's word and don't do what it says you're fooling yourself. You're like a guy who looks at his face in the mirror sees himself walks away and forgot what he looked like. Now think about it this way. It's maybe you're you know in your day everyone's smiling at you even laughing and they go wow I'm really impacting people today. And then you go in the restroom to wash your hands and you see yourself in the mirror and you find out why they were laughing. Because you have a big stain on your shirt that you didn't know about. Or you have spinach in your teeth. Or you actually have that little piece of pasta from lunch encrusted on your chin. Or worse of all you have all three at the same time.

No wonder they were smiling and laughing. So the mirror just told you the truth about yourself. Now you have a choice. You can walk out and ignore those things and leave them there. Or you can get yourself right.

You know clean yourself up. And so that's the idea of hearing the Word. It's not just hearing it.

It's doing what it says. The Bible must be our model for how we think and live. Sometimes people will say even Christians well I just did what I felt God wanted me to do.

What does that even mean? Do what the Bible tells you to do. Because your feelings can mislead you.

Emotions can deceive you. You say well I don't know what the Bible says about this subject. Well then talk to someone who's been a Christian longer than you. Talk to a pastor. And ask the question does the Bible address this area because I am dealing with this right now.

See God's Word has something to say to you. Spend time in it every morning. In the afternoon.

In the evening. Continue in the Word of God. That is the secret to spiritual success.

Over in Joshua chapter 1 verse 8 here is what God said to Joshua as he entered into the Promised Land. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them turning either to the right or left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this book of instructions continually. Meditate on it day and night. And be sure to obey everything written in it. And only then will you prosper and succeed in life. Folks this is not rocket science.

Ok. If we will just do our part you watch how the Lord will bless you. So coming back to Nehemiah 9 verses 7 to 10 talk about how God chose Abraham and let him out of the pagan world. God said to Abraham and his descendants the Jews that he would bless those that blessed them and curse those that cursed them. So Abraham went out and of course he married Sarah. And then he had his sons. And ultimately Joseph was born. And Joseph the son of Jacob who was the son of Isaac was sold by his brothers as a slave. But through God's providence he was elevated to be the second most powerful man in Egypt. He forgave his brothers and invited his family to Egypt to live with them. And their family grew and grew and time passed and they grew larger and larger.

Fast forward. There is a Pharaoh that does not know Joseph or why these Hebrews are even there. He is just using them as slave labor.

He is cruelly mistreating them. So the Jewish people are crying out for a deliverer. God answers their prayer and he sends Moses. And Moses takes them out of Egypt and they enter into the wilderness and here is how they thanked the Lord.

Nehemiah 9 verse 16. Our ancestors are proud and stubborn. They paid no attention to your commands. They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles you had done for them.

Instead they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of forgiveness. Gracious and merciful.

Slow to become angry and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said this is your God who brought you out of Egypt. Let me ask you this question. How would you feel if your wife left you tomorrow? She left you. You said well who did you leave me for? This guy. And you looked in her car and it was a mannequin from the department store. Your wife left you for a mannequin. Excuse me dear.

Can you explain why? First of all he is handsome and you are not. Secondly he never criticizes me and you do. And thirdly I can basically get him to do whatever I want him to do.

I can have him look at me the whole time just by going there it is you see. Oh I broke his neck. I will patch it up.

Ok. No problem. That would be pretty insulting. It is bad enough to have your wife leave you for a guy. But what about a mannequin.

A dummy. That is what Israel did. They were worshipping false gods again. The Lord could have said, you know what? We are done here. Bye bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Oh no. God was gracious. He was forgiving.

Giving them chance after chance. Here is the history of Israel. God blessed his people. They forgot God. Turned to false gods.

Repented. God forgave them. He blessed them. They forgot about them. Turned to false gods. God blessed them.

They returned. And it just went on and on and on. You said that is just horrible. Hold on. That is the story of our life too.

Is it not? Let's just say for this coming year God said, I have got you covered. No challenges. I am going to first of all give you more money than you can spend in a year.

So don't have to worry about finances. You are going to have perfect health. You are not going to be tempted one time. You are not going to have one conflict or one problem. When do you think the Lord will hear from you next?

Probably a year from now. But because challenges come our way, hardships come our way, needs come our way, we become dependent on God you see. So the very thing we don't like can actually be a good thing to help us. We are gaining such practical insight from our studies in Nehemiah. Many of us are seeing the book in a whole new way. Pastor Greg Laurie today on A New Beginning with a study called It's Time to Pray.

Our series in Nehemiah is called The Rebuilt Life. Have you heard about Pastor Greg's new book? It is called Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. It examines the way so many of the top music artists had it made, but their lives soon unraveled. Pastor Greg, I have tried to imagine what it must be like to be extremely famous. You can't even go to the grocery store without a mob developing.

You can't even open your window blinds for fear of paparazzi with telephoto lenses. And that's the point you make in the book. These music stars have a lot of stuff, but they have a lot of stress, too. Yes, they really do. I mean, it's been said, careful what you wish for, you might get it. And these are people that got what they wished for, and then it even went beyond their wildest dreams.

But the problem is that dreams in many cases turn into a horrible nightmare. You know, when you look at the founders of rock, if you will, they called them the Millionaire Quartet, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins. They were all produced by a man named Sam Phillips, who had Sun Records. These guys came from abject poverty in some cases. They were just country boys. All of them was sort of a gospel foundation. All of them were taken to church as young men, and of course, they all rebelled against it.

But interestingly, every one of those founders ultimately came to realize they needed to turn to Jesus. Elvis struggled through the years. He often sang gospel songs. There's a lot of fascinating revelations about Elvis Presley in this book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. Jerry Lee Lewis is the only one alive still of the four, but in recent interviews, he's talked about his need to get right with God. And of course, Johnny Cash became very strong in his faith. I wrote a whole book about him, as a matter of fact, called Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon. And then finally, Carl Perkins, who wrote Blue Suede Shoes and other great songs.

He was a raging alcoholic and actually came to the Lord while he was on tour with Johnny Cash and took his bottle of booze and threw it into the ocean and committed his life to Christ and served the Lord for the final years of his life. So yeah, these guys experienced it, and in some cases, girls experienced it and saw the emptiness of it. So this is a very honest book. So I start the book with these words. There'll be three surprises when we get to heaven. Number one, some of the people we thought would be there won't be there. Number two, some of the people we never thought would be there will be there. Surprise number three, you'll be there. So these are some of the people you never thought would be there who will be there, because no one is beyond the reach of God.

Yeah, yeah, that's right. Well, we hope you'll contact us for your own copy of Pastor Greg's new book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. The subtitle is The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll.

There are so many lessons to be learned from the lives of dozens of artists who show us where the pursuit of fame and fortune ultimately leads. And we'll send this book your way to thank you for your partnership. It's only through the investments of listeners that we can continue to bring Pastor Greg's insights your way each day. So thanks for prayerfully considering how you can help.

And we'll thank you with the book, Lennon, Dylan, Alice, and Jesus. Just call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-7 phone number, 1-800-821-3300.

Or go online to harvest.org. Well, next time Pastor Greg continues our studies in Nehemiah. More insights on the importance of prayer, and we'll see the effect of prayer demonstrated in a powerful way. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher, Greg Laurie. This is the day, the day when life begins. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to A New Beginning. This is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. So for more content that can help you know God and equip you to make him known to others, or to learn more about how you can become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-11 11:41:45 / 2023-04-11 11:52:03 / 10

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