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1: Fasting & Prayer

Crossroads Connection / Pastor Andy George
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2023 8:00 am

1: Fasting & Prayer

Crossroads Connection / Pastor Andy George

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The feeling here on January 1st is electric. It's powerful. It's something special. And I love that God has been here before we got here. And you're here for a purpose. You're here for a reason.

You are definitely not here by accident this morning. And God's got a plan in your life. I want to ask you a question as we start off the first sermon of 2023. In your life, in your family, in your health, in your finances, in relationships, in school, is that all you think God can do in your life? And I know the quick church answer is no, right, Pastor Ken?

That's the right answer. But I want you to think about the way that you live your life, the way that I live my life. Am I living my life in a way where if God would ask that question, is this all you think I can do, that not only would I say no, but my life would echo a no. That I'd be walking with Him in whatever He has for us in our life. There's a reason why I ask that question to kick off 2023 before we get to our main text, which, by the way, if you have your Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter 6. That's going to be our main text this morning. I got some instructions for us as we launch into the new year. But I wanted to start off with that question because I think that question is going to ring in our hearts and our minds.

Is this all you think I can do? And the reason I ask that question is just about a month or so ago, I shared this with our staff. I was in a place where I was just listening. And I would highly recommend as we launch this new year, we're going to talk about fasting and prayer and the Bible this morning. Finding a rhythm of prayer in your life is powerful.

Finding a rhythm where you not just pray and then go off to the next thing, but that you actually listen to what the Lord is speaking to you. And so I was in one of those moments where I was just listening. And I was just inviting the Lord just to speak.

I just want to hear you, just to speak to my heart. And I sat there. And in just a few moments, that question just shouted into my heart, Andy, is this all you think I can do?

And it wasn't just for my life, by the way, because I checked in. I sat there and before I answered that question, I really processed that question. And I thought to myself, God, is this all you think I can do, not just in my life, but what he was asking, is this all you think I can do at Crossroads? It was very clear to me that the Lord was asking me that question for us as a church. Is this all you think I can do at Crossroads? And then I went a step further. Is this all you think I can do on a Sunday morning?

Is this it? Is this all we do, is we just get together and sing songs, hear a message, and then leave? Or is there something more that God can do in our life? Instead of just answering that real quickly with a yes, I sat in that for a while. And I processed that for a while, that question in 1 Corinthians 2, 9, which I think is quickly becoming kind of my verse personally for this year, which paraphrase says that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what the Lord has in store for them.

Do you hear that? You can't even imagine what God has for your life this year. You haven't even seen yet the extent of what God can do in your life this year. And I'm believing that in your life, in my life, in and through this church, that we are going to see the impossible. That we will see the God of the impossible move in our life this year. And the challenge to all of us is to hear that, believe that, but then what happens on Monday and Tuesday walking in that?

And that's what I hope. My hope and prayer is that this year that as we preach through the Bible, as we walk through scripture, that you will be empowered on Sunday to live that out Monday through Saturday. And I hope for you is that on Monday and Tuesday, on Thursday, at that meeting or in school, or when you have that news hit you or that email hit you, that you still will believe that the God of the impossible can do incredible things in your life because this is not all there is.

Our end is not here. God has more in store for you. He has more in store for this church.

Amen. And that's kind of the attitude and the spirit that I want to take us through a church this year and give the Lord just opportunities just to move and just to breathe and just to speak to us on Sundays that will equip us and empower us throughout the week. And so I want to invite you this morning to join me on a couple of things. So a few things about our church as we launch into January and then we're going to jump into a message on fasting and prayer this morning.

But first of all is I want to invite you into a year-long Bible reading plan with us again this year as a church. Very excited about this and guess when it starts? Today. Right now.

January 1st. As a church we're doing an Old Testament and a New Testament plan. It's on our website.

You can go to resources and download a PDF of it. It's on our app and it's actually on the Bible app as well. If you go to the Bible app and you look up the Old Testament New Testament reading plan, it's the same reading plan. And so starting today, in fact today, this week, it's going to be Genesis 1 through Genesis 22 and Matthew 1 through Matthew 6 this entire week. And so it kind of runs parallel with each other, the Old and New Testament. And as the year unfolds, we're going to be preaching through what we're reading this year from different angles and different viewpoints and perspectives on what God's doing in the life of our church.

But here's the thing. I love the Bible. I know you do too.

I want us to be a church that values the Word of God, which we do. But I also want us to believe that everything that we need in our life is actually found in Scripture. How many know that's also true?

Right? It's also true. That everything I face, and as a pastor, we do a lot of meeting and counseling and helping ourselves and other people. And I can tell you, for the last three decades, I have never found a question that has not had an answer in Scripture.

It does. And the more that we know it, the more we stand in that foundation, the more strength that you and I will have as we venture into whatever this year holds for you. And we always hope on January 1st that this year is going to be the best year yet.

But what if it's not? What if it's a rough year? What if it's a tough year?

What if you're good, but the circumstances are rough and hard? Well, this is where we stand on Scripture, stand on who God's Word is. I also want to invite you to pray with us throughout the year, but then also to join us this month in fasting.

And I want to talk a little bit about the importance of that in just a few moments, of what does fasting and prayer together look like and what's that outcome in our life. But before we do that, let me just give us a little runway into Scripture, just real quickly. And so we've got the Old Testament, we've got the New Testament, and I want to talk just briefly about how that kind of intersects with each other, because it really comes true today as we start in Matthew chapter 6. But the Old Testament books, you can categorize these in basically four divisions.

You could probably spread it out a little bit more, but there's four divisions, 39 total books, there's five books of the law, there's 12 history books, there's five poetry books, and there's 17 prophetic books. And so this makes up our Old Testament. The first five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, this is known as the law. This is also known as the Torah. If you ever heard of the Torah before, it's Hebrew for law.

It's also known as the law of Moses and the Pentateuch. And so this is the beginning as we go through. And the very first book we all know is what? Genesis. Genesis, by the way, is the Greek word for the meaning of origin, source, generation, or beginning. That's what that word Genesis means in Greek.

That's where we adopt that name from. But the original Hebrew title, which is a pretty powerful way to start a book, is Bereshith. And Bereshith means in the beginning. This is where we get Genesis 1-1, in the beginning. So the Hebrew actual title of the book of Genesis is Bereshith, which means in the beginning.

And really, it is the beginning. It provides the foundation for the entire Bible. It provides the history of the Word of God. The theme and the purpose of the book of Genesis, which starts the entire Scripture for us, is God's choice of a nation through which he would bless all nations.

So the whole theme is that God is finding himself a nation, a people group, by which through he's going to bless everybody and every nation. Over 2,000 years pass between Genesis 1 and Genesis 11. So as you read your Bibles, Genesis 1 to Genesis 11 covers 2,000 years of history. The rest of the book, chapters 12 to 50, covers less than 300 years. And so as you take a snapshot of Genesis, the first 11 chapters include creation, includes the fall of man, the judgment of the flood, the spread of the nations. Then in chapter 12 it takes a quick turn that it focuses on salvation and blessing through a man and a family. The remainder of Genesis traces the story of Abraham. Come on, Father Abraham. There we go. See, you knew where we were going. And money sons.

And I am one of them. So let's just praise the Lord. Right arm. Come on, Father. How do you remember that song? It's such a great, it's amazing the songs you remember.

If you don't know that song, it was a top Billboard hit back in the 80s, so you'll be good to go. You can look it up later. But it follows Father Abraham, the descendants of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. Genesis ends, however, with a note of impending bondage for the Israelites. With the death of Joseph, Joseph dies. And soon thereafter, the Israelites are taken captive into Egypt for 400 years, and that's where Exodus comes into play. Then we've got Matthew, so that's just the beginning of Genesis.

We're going to dive way more into each book. My hope is every week we're going to give a little snapshot of the book, the theme, when it's written, why it's written. It's very important to understand scripture of why it was actually written.

Who was it written to? These are important questions we should ask when we read any kind of scripture. Today we're going to go into the book of Matthew, though, and preach out of Matthew. I'm going to preach a message. I'm not sure that I've ever preached a message quite like next week dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah and dealing with praying for a city. How do we pray for a city using Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of Lot and his family?

It's going to be a powerful, powerful time next week for sure. But Matthew is special because in the book of Matthew, the Old Testament prophets, which predicted the coming of the anointed one, the Messiah, the first verse of Matthew announces the long-awaited event. Matthew provides an essential bridge within the Old Testament and the New Testament, and here's why. This is what's special and unique about the book of Matthew. Matthew was written by a Jew to the Jews about a Jew.

It's very unique in that way. Matthew, each one of the gospels and several of the books are written to different people. Some of the gospels are written to Greeks, some of them are written to Jews, some are written to specific churches, and on it goes. Matthew, however, starts off and he is writing to the Jewish people. In fact, many scholars believe that the book of Matthew was actually the first evangelical tool that was used, that people would use the writings of Matthew.

Matthew wrote it early, mid-date, around 60 AD. So when Matthew wrote this and it began to get distributed, then people would use that to reach their own people, and here's why. Matthew is unlike any other book because he quotes the Old Testament so much. I think there's around 140 quotes that Matthew uses from the Old Testament to prove that Jesus is actually who he says he is. It's a very special thing, and so again, I love that because it is that bridge between here's all the Old Testament books and now here's Matthew reaching back into the Old Testament, trying to win over his own people group by acknowledging who Christ was. Matthew is the son of Alphaeus.

He's occupied as a tax collector. When Jesus finds him, he's a tax collector, and so he's not very well appreciated by his own people. Matthew is one of the disciples. In fact, he gives a large reception to Jesus. Jesus calls him, and I love Matthew because Matthew's first thought is, hey, why don't we have a party?

And why don't I invite all my tax collector friends over to the party? What a great evangelical tool that was. Here's Jesus. I'm going to call you, Matthew. Great.

Come to my house. I'm going to invite all my sinner friends to come over and meet Jesus. And so he has a party for Jesus, and he's one of the 12 disciples. The last appearance of his name in the Bible is in Acts chapter 1, verse 13, is the last we kind of hear about Matthew. But the theme and the purpose is to proclaim the words and the works of Christ.

That's his whole purpose. He wants to proclaim Jesus. He opens with genealogy that reaches back into the Old Testament. I read this as well that Matthew, I believe, is one of the only ones in the New Testament that reference around four women in the genealogy of Christ in the whole genealogy pool, which would have upset probably a lot of people at the time.

And I love just Matthew's tone and his attitude. I want to give you the full picture of who Christ is, his lineage, the genealogy, the background that Matthew validates that Christ is who he says that he is. And so this first Sunday at 2023, we're going to jump into Matthew chapter 6. In Matthew chapter 6 and the several chapters in thereafter, Jesus is speaking to the disciples, but people are gathering around and hearing the words of Christ. And what Jesus is doing is he's not just telling them how to get by and how to make it for today, which is why I love Matthew chapter 6 and the next several chapters.

He's actually teaching them how to live a kingdom life right here on earth, which is so critical to us. It is so important for you and I as followers of Christ to understand and know how do I actually live kingdom lifestyle, kingdom principles, right here on this side of eternity. And when Jesus goes into this, he speaks about many different ways.

He talks about giving, he talks about forgiveness, he talks about how to treat one another. He does all these things, but he also hits a very important piece in just a few verses where he talks about fasting and he talks about prayer. There's importance to fasting and prayer. And I want to start first off, only two things this morning I want to talk about, fasting and then prayer. So the first one is this is fasting.

If you have notes with me, I encourage you to jot some of these down. We give you a lot of content around fasting and the importance of fasting. Again, what we're doing is kind of welcoming you to join us in this month-long prayer and fasting.

Now, I'll explain what that looks like and what that means. And it's between you and God, what you do and how you want to do it. I can only speak for myself. Last year, we did this similar where we kicked off the year with prayer and fasting. For me personally, the month of January last year of prayer and fasting was by far the most powerful time that I had with Christ in a long, long time. The things that God put in my heart in January of last year were the very things that got me through most of last year. And it was because of prayer and fasting together.

It wasn't just one, it was both together. It's ways to draw closer to him. It's ways to draw closer to his presence to discover God's plan for my life.

We have to ask ourselves a question sometimes of, what am I allowing to come between me and God's presence? And fasting is one of those things that will help us to clear out some of the clutter so that you and I can hear Christ. I wonder, you don't have to raise your hands, but just think about if you've ever taken time to fast and to spiritually replace it with God's presence. See, fasting is voluntarily going without something and replacing that something with time with God. So if fasting is not, fasting is not a health kick just to do, to get on track, although that's fine and it can be used that way. It's not just intermittent fasting where you're not going to eat breakfast because you want to get healthy.

That's also fine. Fasting in the spiritual sense is I'm going to deny myself something and I'm going to replace that time or that energy with Christ's presence in my life. So for example, if I'm going to fast a meal, if I'm going to fast a meal, then I'm not just going to not eat for that hour and do something else. I'm going to spend that hour reading the Bible and praying. If I'm going to fast social media, instead of going to social media, by the way, I think all of us should fast social media for a long, long time.

I think it would be great for our mentality and everything, but if we're going to fast social media, you put it away, and the time you would have spent doing this for 30 minutes, you just do this for 30 minutes. See, it's real easy. You just pray. And so what I love about, and there's a lot of different ways to fast, which we'll talk about, whatever you decide to do, whether it's the entire month, whether it's a week, whether it's a day, it's just between what you and God want to do. Just make sure you place that time with who God is.

David Platt said it this way. He said, our spiritual need for God is far more fundamental than our physical need for food and water. And that's really the heart behind it, is my spiritual need for more of God in my life, to be the God that rules and reigns, to invite His kingdom into my life.

In order for that to happen, I need to get rid of something. It's denying ourselves something. And when we're emptied, whether it's physically, whether it's what we're looking at, whether it's spiritually, it allows God to do something and step in and do something incredible in our life. And that is the hope and the prayer. I love Andrew Murray's quote about fasting and prayer.

He says, prayer is reaching out after the unseen, which we all know, so praying is you're praying for something you can't see, and you're praying to a God that you can't physically see. But fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express deep and confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. Again, that is the heart and the attitude that I am willing to deny myself anything, because to me the kingdom of God is the most important thing.

And that's the attitude and the tone behind it. Jensen Franklin says, fasting humbles you and brings clarity, even allowing you to get unforgiveness and bitterness out of your heart. See, fasting does wonders, not just physically, not just for health, not just mentally, but spiritually. And I want to encourage you, again, it's an invitation, and it's a private invitation between you and what God's doing in your life. But I would challenge you, if you're sitting there going, I don't know about this, or I've never done this before, or I'm not sure I want to, before you make any decision, I would take a moment and get before God and just ask God what He thinks. Ask God what He thinks.

And then what specifically are you looking to see happen in your life? So let's address this. Why should we fast? Why should we fast? Matthew chapter 6 verse 16 to 18.

We're going to start here. Since Jesus is speaking again, He's speaking and teaching them kingdom principles. He says, when you fast, come on, everybody say, when you fast.

That's an important thing. Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces and their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward, but, here we go, say it with me, when you fast, anoint your head, wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will what?

What will He do? Reward you. Will He reward you with what?

Well, I think that is the beautiful thing. It's whatever it is that you're seeking and praying over and praying for and hungry for that God will reward you. The first thing about prayer and fasting, what is it?

Here we go. The first thing is, it's an expectation. It's an expectation you should fast. It's not even a suggestion. It's an expectation that you and I, at times in our life, should fast.

That's what we should do. It's an expectation. I love what Matthew 6 says. I love that they address the hypocritical part of fasting. Because what was happening at times is people would fast and then they would, let's just say they're fasting, they're not eating for a few days. They're just drinking water or they're drinking power smoothies, whatever it is they're doing. What they would do is walk around like, oh, I'm so hungry. Well, why are you hungry?

Well, because I'm denying myself for the Lord. And they would walk around and their faces would be sunken in and they would be downhearted. And they basically, so why would they do that? Well, they wanted the attention. That's why.

They wanted somebody to come up and go, you're a real spiritual guy. Man, look at, this guy's fasting. Look at him. Look how frail and weak he is. He is fasting. Look how spiritual he is. And they were just, you're wonderful. And what Jesus is saying is, well, that's his reward then.

He got his reward. Because all he wanted was the attention. I personally believe, and this is biblical, there's different types of fasting, that more times than not, fasting should be a private spiritual thing that you do. It's not something that you have to post all over Facebook that you're doing. It's not something that you got to tell everybody that you're doing. Now, if you want to for accountability purposes or whatnot, that's fine. But what it's not is, look at me, everybody. Look how holy I am.

I'm going to go 31 days and not talk to my wife one time. Look at how spiritual I'm fasting, communication. No, please, and I use that example because you can't do that one. That's not what fasting is. It's not proclaiming it. It's not announcing it.

It is an expectation, though. When you fast, when you do this, when you do this, this is how you do it. The next reason why we should fast is Jesus set the example in preparation for life and for ministry, by the way. Jesus set this example.

In Matthew chapter 4, verse 1 to 2, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, I love how they put this in there. What does it say? He was hungry. Are you kidding me? Really? You all fast for one meal and you're like, I am starving.

I need to eat dinner. He fasted 40 days, 40 nights, and he was hungry. But Jesus did it at the beginning of his ministry. This is the first thing, by the way, Jesus goes. He gets baptized.

You hear the Father saying, this is my son who I'm pleased. Immediately after that, he's led by the Spirit. He goes away for 40 days by himself in the wilderness.

He's just there fasting and praying. Then he kicks in a three-year ministry that changes everything. See, he did it for preparation for ministry and for his life. I'm just here to tell you God's got something for you in ministry and for your life. Oftentimes what we need more than anything else is not just good advice.

It's not just asking people what they think. It's spending time in fasting and spending time in prayer to hear what the Lord thinks about our life. The next reason for fasting is that we seek the Lord's direction in fasting. It's an opportunity just to ask him, just to say, God, what is the direction you want for our life? You find this in the Old Testament very regularly where not just people, but a nation at times would call fast together. They would just sit there, and they would fast, and they would just hear and inquire from the Lord.

This is the same thing for us. Sometimes we fast not just because of ministry or life or because we've got a big thing that we're praying for. Sometimes we do it because we just want direction in our life. I just want to know what's next. I want to know, God, what do you want me to do with my life even? Not just a specific thing, but sometimes a generic thing.

God, what do you want in and out of my life? Other things about fasting, fasting at times biblically also shows repentance. You see people that will fast over repentance of sins in their life. It aligns us with God. It kind of takes the physical part out and puts me right under and aligns with who God is. It's also an expression of our love. It's an expression of our commitment before God. These are all reasons of why at times we should fast, to line up with God.

It's an expectation to hear from Him, to get direction in our life, to pray for God's hand to move in powerful ways. By the way, there's all types of fasting. I'm just going to give you a handful of fasting that you could pray through and pray over.

I'll give you the one that kind of typically we would do together. First of all, there's a complete fast, which is nothing. You just fast everything for a certain amount of time, drinking, food, only liquids at some times. You kind of just fast everything out of your life, and that's a complete fast. There's other things that are selected fast, which is you kind of select certain things.

It could be that you want to fast chocolate for the next 31 days, or sugar, or TV, whatever it is. You kind of select it, and it's a very selective thing. And so again, if it's sugar, it's not like a meal, but you're just not going to put sugar into it and those urges. So this is how that works. Let me just kind of help you understand this.

I think it's so fascinating how this works. See, one of the things about, let's just use sugar for an example. Those of you who use sugar regularly, if you go without sugar for a short period of time, what happens? You crave sugar, right? You crave it.

It's at those craving moments, what should you do? You pray. You turn your attention to God. It's not like a meal where you just have like an hour where you're going to pray.

It's throughout the day. What I like about this is getting you into the rhythm where the Bible talks about praying consistently. Praying regularly. Praying without ceasing is what it says. This is the practice.

This is how we start to do that. That when cravings come up, or urges come up, that instead of just diverting your attention, or instead of just taking something else that will replace it, you take that time and you push through that urge or that craving, but you do it with the Lord. And you just spend time praying. And it could be small moments throughout the day, it could be long moments throughout the day, but that's how you kind of get into a rhythm, so to speak, of this prayer life. There's also partial fast, which speaks of specific times of the day. So not just certain meals, but certain times.

Sometimes it's sun up to sun down. This is kind of known more as a Jewish fast, where it's sun up to sun down, and then you'll eat after sundown. There's fasting for the soul, which is just eliminating things out of our life, and replacing it with a spiritual connotation. It's a good way to refocus areas of our life, where we're going to pray and do a soul fast to have health issues.

Sometimes people do this, or issues in their life that they just want to get lined up with what's going to happen. There's a total fast, which is no food, no drink. And so complete fast is kind of a little different, where you're fasting everything but liquids.

There's a total fast, and I want to focus on these next two real quick. There's a private fast and a congregational fast. And we're kind of doing a mixture of the two. We're inviting us together for a private fast. In other words, this is between you and it's between the Lord. It's just something that you want God to do in your life that you're focusing in on, and it's private.

It's between you. At the same time, I want to invite us all to a congregational fast. And what I mean by that is this, that as you fast, would you also just take opportunity to pray for the church? Pray for the ministries. Pray for our city. Pray for the opportunity for God to move in and through crossroads and all the ministries of crossroads as a congregation praying that on Sunday mornings that God would move in powerful ways. In fact, I really want to invite you to that last one.

That first question I asked, is this all there is? Church, I am believing God for great moments right here on Sunday morning. God can move all throughout the week. We've got great ministry partners.

There's great ministries that happen throughout the week. But when we're together here and we worship and we pray, would you commit with me, would you come every Sunday expecting God to move? Just expecting Him to move. And I would challenge all of us.

In fact, I had this thought. I wonder how many of us come to church on Sundays expecting a move of God, expecting God to save people's lives, expecting God to heal and restore relationships and bodies, expecting God to move in a powerful way, expecting God to meet us right where we are. Or how often do we come to church because it's what we do on Sundays and it's not a bad thing, but we kind of come in and we don't really expect anything other than some good music and a good message and meeting some people in the hallway and then we leave, all which is good. But what would happen if all of us came to church hungry for God to move, just hungry for the Lord to move in boldness? The Bible says that we boldly can go to His throne.

Do you know that? Boldly go before God, not with an attitude of ego, not with any kind of notion that God, you owe me something, but to boldly go and to boldly ask God to move in our life. So here's some questions we can ask about fasting. How can I experience God through this? These are good questions for you to write down to ask. God, how can I experience you and your grace through fasting? The second question is this.

You'll see them on the screen as well. What fears of fasting do I need to confess and release to God? Maybe you're nervous about it.

Maybe you're doubting whether it's going to work or not. What is that we can just put before God? The third question is what will obediently following the Spirit's leading to fast look like for me? What's it going to look like in my life? When we do this together, what's it going to look like for me?

I love this next question. How can I separate myself from the world to spend quality time in prayer and to listen to God? In other words, how can I spend time away from the noise and the chaos of the world around us and to spend time with God, to know Him, to really know Him? I want to take our attention to prayer now and go back to Matthew chapter 6 because they intertwine together so wonderfully. Matthew 6 and verse 5 to 8. So back up just a few verses of Matthew 6. Jesus addresses prayer.

And so here we go. Verse 5, it says, and let's say it together. No, when you pray. That's the part.

Sorry, I should have given you better instructions. Although that was really good. You were right on it. Say, here we go, and let's say this part together.

When you pray. There you go. That's the part.

There you go. You must not look like the hypocrites. Again, He addresses the hypocrites. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they receive the reward in full.

Real quickly, it's the same as fasting. If all you're doing is trying to pray so loud and so eloquently and using so many great words and theology that everybody looks at you and they think, wow, you're a great prayer. You're so spiritual and holy. And if that's our intention, then what He's saying is that's your reward then.

That's not what it is though. But here we go. Verse 6, we're going to try it again. Here we go.

Ready? But when you pray. There we go. Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees in secret will what? Reward you.

Again, there it is again. Verse 7. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.

For they think that they will be heard for their many words. I love that verse. Do you know sometimes the best prayer you can ever have is a heartfelt help? Just, Lord, help me. Lord, rescue me. Lord, speak to me. Lord, forgive me. Again, can I just tell you this?

Listen. God's not impressed with your words. He's not going to move just because you're a better prayer than somebody else with your words.

It's a condition of our heart. Verse 8 says, Do not be like them for your Father knows what they need before you ask Him. So here we go about prayer.

A couple of things. Prayer is an expectation. Again, it's an expectation that we should pray. Martin Luther says it this way. To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

How can we be a Christian and not have a prayer life? E.M. Bounds, who has a great book on prayer, by the way. He says, Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed.

A rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty. Probably one of my best quotes about prayer. It's not just a responsibility or duty.

It's not just, I guess it's time to pray. So here we go. Timer start.

Here we go. I'm going to give God a couple minutes and then the buzzer is going to go off. No, it is something to be enjoyed. Something to be enjoyed. There should be something enjoyable when we seek and hunger the voice of God in our life. When we really believe that God welcomes our prayer, He welcomes our needs, He welcomes everything that we have to give Him.

He welcomes all of that at His feet. In other words, it is not about praying vain prayers to impress anybody. Vain prayers to impress people is not the kind of prayer that Matthew 6 is speaking about. It's not about elegant words, but rather sincerity in our hearts. John Bunyan says it this way, another wonderful quote on prayer. He says, In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. It's not just about saying a bunch of words. I know sometimes in my life, probably like you, sometimes there are no words that come out, just tears that flow.

You ever been there before? You sit down to pray and you can't even find the words to pray. You sit down to pray and your heart is breaking, your soul is breaking, and you can't even begin to utter even a word.

To me, those moments, those moments where you kind of feel the arm of a Savior kind of put His arm around you. These are those sweet moments of prayer that if we don't go into with a heart that is open, we will miss what God has for us. See, the rhythm of prayer, church, is so powerful. The rhythm of prayer in our life to find whatever that rhythm is. Some people pray three times a day. Some people pray once a day. Some people pray all day.

Whatever that rhythm is, find that rhythm in your life. Find that opportunity not just to pray for a meal, not just to pray when we need God, but just to enjoy spending time in His presence just speaking to our Father. Just speaking to Him. I want to encourage you with one more thing before we put some of this into practice this morning. Whatever you do in prayer and fasting, can I just encourage you strongly, strongly, build in time just to listen. That's probably one of the best things that I've done this last year in my prayer life. It's not that I've not listened before. It's not that I just give God a list, but I've intentionally set a time aside every day, and this is all I say, and I would encourage you. You can try it. It's not like I own this, but it works.

It's so beautiful. Find time in the day and just simply say this, God, would you just speak to me? Would you just speak to me? And then just be quiet for a while.

Just be quiet for a while. For my rhythm, I do it every night, every single night. I have time, usually late at night. Sometimes it's in bed.

Sometimes it's in the man cave. Sometimes it's after a football game when I need to really hear from the Lord. But it's in those moments when everything's just quiet, and I say, God, just speak to me. And listen, it's not every night that I hear from God, by the way. In fact, I was sharing this with one of our pastors how frustrated it's been at times where every night you just do that, and sometimes you walk away, and you're like, I don't know if I heard anything. It's okay because consistency matters. The rhythm of it matters because there's going to be those moments where in the middle of the night, you're going to hear the Lord speak the way I heard Him.

Is this all you think I can do? And it's going to change everything. You're going to hear God give you that whisper and that voice that only you know. See, when it comes to prayer, a lot of people that are new to it, they hear Christians say, well, I heard the Lord say, or God told me.

Well, what does that actually mean and look like? And this is the only way that I can explain it to you. Because just like for many of you, I don't know if I've ever heard it audibly, God just go, Andy, this is God. How awesome would that be?

It'd be awesome. For me, I go back to the verse that says that the sheep know the shepherd's voice. And the shepherd knows the sheep. And this is not a scapegoat answer.

It's a true answer. You will know when God speaks to you. You just will. He created you. He knows you. He knows how to speak to you.

He knows how to get your attention. But if we never put ourselves in a position to hear from him, how are we ever going to do it? I think sometimes we wait for the writing on the wall. You look at the Old Testament, you see the scripture where God's hand literally wrote on the wall.

Now, that would get our attention, wouldn't it? We wait for the heavens to open up. We wait for what the shepherds experienced at Jesus' birth, where the angels came and the angels spoke and the angels proclaimed. Sometimes, though, it is just a gentle little whisper that you just hear right here. And you just know. And then it requires faith to move on it. Because even then, even then, come on, how many of you know what's next? Even then, you're going to think, was that really God? I think I heard God.

I think that's what he said. But the more you listen, the more you know. I've been married to Stacy for 28, going on 29 years. I know her voice. I know her voice.

My kids, I know their voices. Even when our kids were little, those of you that had babies, there could be a room full of babies and yours cries. How many of you know? You knew that cry, right? You knew that cry. You know and recognize that voice. It's the same thing with God.

You will know and you will recognize. And I will challenge you, this month especially, find times and rhythm, maybe this is the most important thing you get out of this morning, where you can just listen. Just shut it off, whatever the it is, just shut it off and just listen. And watch and see what God can do in your life. And you mix that with times of fasting, when you are hungry spiritually for God, and you're hungry for God to move in your life, and you're denying yourself something and replacing it. That is such a powerful combination. If you've never done it this month, try it. I'm telling you it will change your life. And I know it's going to change this church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-03 10:10:30 / 2023-01-03 10:27:47 / 17

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