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Praying Like We Mean It, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
September 24, 2020 7:05 am

Praying Like We Mean It, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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September 24, 2020 7:05 am

Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians

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On the road toward maturity in the Christian life, it's one of the last disciplines we seem to master. Early on, we learn to study our Bible, we listen to sermons, and we know what it means to cultivate friendships with other believers. But when it comes to praying, whether in public or private, talking to God doesn't seem to come naturally. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll presents practical instruction on prayer, squarely founded on his study in Ephesians 1 verses 15 to 19. Chuck titled today's message, Praying Like We Mean It. These are searching words, our Father. It is one thing to sit and hear our choir say it, but to say it personally is a searching question.

If ever I love thee, my Jesus, tis now, now, around 11 o'clock in the morning, now, now. There are so many things that draw us away from this life of love. Everything in our nature works against it. The world around us and the culture in which we have been thrown pulls at us and pushes us in another direction.

The current of the majority opinion pressures at work, struggles at home, but if ever we loved you, Lord, we do want it to be now. Thank you for wearing the thorns on your brow. Thank you for planning for those mansions of glory. Endless delight will ever adore you in heaven so bright.

But now, that's where the rub is. Help us to learn how to swim upstream rather than with the current. Help us to know how to be Christ-like, not abrasive and ugly in our faith, not fanatically out of touch with our times, but deeply entrenched in another citizenship based on another set of standards where values are not related to cost and where life is eternal in dimension. If ever we love you, help us to love you now like that. Help us, help us, Lord. In the dear name of Christ, of whom we sing, to whom we pray, amen. I want to read for you from five verses out of Ephesians chapter 1 to the surprise of no one who has been coming for some time. We are in the letter to the Ephesians, and we are working our way through the thoughts of the Apostle, and we find him in verses 15 through 19 on his knees, if you will. Remember, he is chained to this Roman guard. He is under house arrest, and yet he writes these words that describe his prayer for his friends.

While he is in Rome, his heart is in Ephesus. 115, For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. Now, keep your Bible open there. I've pulled a page from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message.

I want to read the same section through these words. Listen, maybe it will help some of it come alive in your mind. That's why when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the Christians, I couldn't stop thanking God for you. Every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks, but I do more than thank, I ask. Ask that the God of our Master Jesus Christ, the God of glory, might make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you see exactly what it is he is calling you to do. Grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians.

Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him. Endless energy, boundless strength. Endless energy, boundless strength. That's the way I want to live.

That's the way I want to die. That's the way I want all of us to participate in our worship. Endless energy, boundless strength. Before we express to him our worship and our offerings and gifts, let's bow again for prayer. Our Father, not only do we learn to love you through what you have said to us in your word, we learn how to pray. And what a prayer this is. I ask for you to give us enlightenment and understanding as you illumine our minds with the truth. Enable us to filter from the cares of our lives the things that have been dragging us down so that we might focus fully on you, our God, your Son, Jesus, as your Spirit works in and among us in this place on this cold day. Thank you now for the privilege of continuing in worship through our expressions in a tangible way our gifts.

We give them again because you love us, and it's how we express our love to you in return. In Jesus' name, and God's people said, amen. It seems as though one of the last disciplines we master in the Christian life is praying. Praying. You're probably much more comfortable even sharing your faith in public than you are praying in public. Most people I know live under the dread of being called on to pray in public.

And I can tell you from having done it for years, it is hard work. It is difficult. In fact, it's hard to pray alone.

It's a discipline that we all work at and labor over, and sometimes we feel like we have just struggled and not really been able to say what was on our heart. Praying is hard work. Bible study is more delightful and it seems rewarding than praying.

Some of you have studied the scriptures long enough to now be a teacher of the scriptures, and you're pretty effective at it, and you're grateful for the gift, and that seems to flow. Even more easily than praying. I read somewhere that Martin Luther reserved three of the best hours every day for prayer. Three of the best hours every day. I've prayed for three minutes and thought it was an hour, and I can't imagine setting aside three hours for prayer.

Why is it such work? Why is it we seem so seldom to connect in prayer? What is it about the apostles' great prayers, and the prophets' prayers, and these characters in the scriptures who pray and their prayers are recorded and made such a difference?

Why was that, and where are we missing it? Well, you probably are answering, well, I've really never heard a prayer that really made that much difference. Most of us could almost recite sermons that God used to capture our attention and turn us in another direction.

I know I can. I can give you almost word for word a few messages I've heard that turn my whole direction around. Are certainly the outline of passages of scripture that the preacher used, but can you remember a prayer that someone prayed that two, three weeks later you could still call to mind?

Well, I've come across one that made a difference. It was the prayer offered to the Kansas State Senate two or three years ago by the Reverend Joe Wright, pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas. He prayed this before the legislators. Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your word says, woe to those who call evil good, but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word and called it pluralism.

We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, O God, and know our hearts today. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide us and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of your will. Ask in the name of your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. Boy, is that a great prayer, huh? I'll tell you two things about that prayer. First of all, they'll never forget it.

Second, they'll never ask Him back. Do you know that it was uttered several years ago, and since then some things have been written about it. Several legislators got up and walked out during the prayer in protest. In six short weeks that followed, His church was inundated with calls. More than 5,000 phone calls came, only 47 of them negative. Less than 1% said, we don't appreciate that, but the vast majority wanted to know, can I have a copy of that prayer?

What made the difference? He prayed like He meant it, and He prayed to God rather than people, and praise God it was not politically correct. I love it that He had the guts to say the truth to God as He poured out His heart in all sincerity, forgetting His title, forgetting His reputation, forgetting what people would say, and forgetting the fact that you could hear the footsteps as one after another walked out on Him.

Who cares? They walked out on the prophets too. They crucified the only perfect one who ever lived, and to this day I will tell you a prayer that connects will have that kind of response.

It will make you uneasy. He exposed sins that they wanted kept covered, and we want kept covered. He talked truth when everyone else was talking lie.

He called it what it was when everybody else was retitling things, and God loves talk like that. He prayed like He meant it. G.K. Chesterton once said of true Christianity, true Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It's been found difficult and not tried. I'll say the same thing for prayer. Real prayer has not been tried and found wanting.

It's been found difficult and not tried. It's the hardest work you will do if you're ever called on to pray in public to say something rather than just have something to say. Prayer has come upon hard times. It has become a series of somewhat meaningless religious cliches, words that, well, preachers and priests and rabbis understand, but nobody else. I think the problem happened when they turned prayer over to the ministers, and they took it out of the pew, and it became a professional thing. I mean, you say, well, I'm not sure that's true.

Well, stop and think. You're ever in a group, a group of 20, 30 people, one is a minister, and it's time to eat? Guess who's called on to pray?

I know. More often than I'm ready, I'm asked to pray about something, and on occasion I've said, you know, I'm not the best one to pray right now. I'm just not into it. I just can't do it.

They look at me kind of like I'm another individual, but I sometimes think it would be refreshing if we had asked one of the teenagers to pray. Or you're thinking, not mine, please, not mine. Hey, why not? Why not? You'd get something very refreshing, very different. How about a guy that's been saved only one week, been a truck driver all of his life, or she's been a waitress most of her adult life, or she hasn't learned the language, so out come a few profane words that sort of spark up the conversation when it's over.

You know what? God finds that kind of thing refreshing and delightful, because they pray like they mean it, not like you want to hear it. All of this brings us to a prayer that, the more you study it, and I've been doing that now for hours, and the deeper I dig into verses 15 to 19 of Ephesians 1, the more I realize it says. And you know, this prayer, it isn't long.

You can read it easily in 90 seconds, maybe less, even pausing and letting the words sink in. It isn't length of prayer that makes prayer great. It isn't even using terms that are impressive that make prayer great. Paul prayed like he meant it.

Remember where he was? Under arrest. You tend to pray like you mean it when you're under arrest.

You tend to get specific when you're miles removed from someone you care about, and you can't be there to help make it happen. You resort to prayer. I'd venture to say that most of us know someone very well who lives miles and miles away, and our closest connection is in prayer for them. Now what would Paul pray and mean so much in praying it that would make such an impact that the Spirit of God would ignite his words and drill them into the text of sacred scripture? Because you know he had many prayers that didn't find their way into the scriptures, but this one did. This is a prayer, and if you hold there, chapter 3 ends in a prayer.

See 3.14, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father. So 3.14 to 21 is the second prayer, but the first prayer is not even that long. 1.15 to the period in the middle of the sentence in verse 19. Please understand that the verses and the chapter breaks are added by the editors of our Bible centuries after the Bible was written.

Originally it was one endless series of unseals, if you will. Letter after letter, letter after letter, not even a paragraph break in the original manuscript, in the autograph. So there's no chapter break. There's no end of a paragraph in the beginning of a new one, and in the study of the text, scholars over the years have helped us paragraph it, if you will. And I think true, verse 15 begins a fresh paragraph. He's had this grand doxology of praise in verses 3 to 14, and now he turns to a meaningful intercession, 15 to 19. Our tendency is to go all the way to verse 23, but that's about Christ, which we will consider next time, but this is the prayer.

For this reason, I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus, which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you. That's the first part of the prayer. While making mention of you in my prayers, here's that, and it goes on to the last part of the prayer. Now, I don't know if you like marking your Bible, but let me tell you how I've marked mine.

You may want to do the same. I've underlined giving thanks, and I put a little arrow pointing back up to verse 15. See, verse 16, it's kind of the hinge of this transition. 16 says, giving thanks, so that's because of what he just said in verse 15. Making mention, I've underlined and put an arrow down.

That's 17 through 19. He gives thanks for what he has just set forth in verse 15, and then he makes mention of things about which he intercedes in verses 17 through 19. Got it? Let's look at the first part. For what does he give thanks?

15, he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, which existed among them, and second, he gives thanks because of their love for all the saints. Learn to concentrate when you read your Bible. Learn to divide the text. Learn to separate words into meaningful chunks, I call it, into meaningful lines that tie together.

We're sort of taking this apart, and then we're going to put it back together. He says in 16, I do not cease giving thanks for you. What was it for which he gave thanks? First, when he heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, which existed among them, he gave thanks, and when he heard of their love for all the saints, he gave thanks. Now, faith in the Lord Jesus is not a reference to their conversion, okay? That was earlier. That's chapter 1, verse 13.

Go back there. In him, meaning in Christ, 1, 13, you also, after listening to the message of truth, that's the first step of salvation, you hear the truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having also believed, so you act on what you hear, you believe that Christ died for you and rose again. You believe that he forgives your sins. If you simply call on him in faith, you are converted. Verse 13, I've got written in my margin, conversion.

By now you can see why Chuck Swindoll chose this bold title for today's message, Praying Like We Mean It. This is Insight for Living, and there's much more of Paul's letter to the Ephesians we need to hear. So please keep listening as we present this comprehensive verse-by-verse study through Ephesians. It's a series we're calling Becoming of the Word of God. It's a series we're calling Becoming of the Word of God.

It's a series we're calling Becoming a People of Grace. To learn more about this ministry, be sure to visit us online at insightworld.org. And here at Insight for Living, we believe that some of your best learning happens when you have the privilege of sitting in a quiet spot along with your Bible and reliable study tools. Along these lines, we provide a daily opportunity for you to search the Scriptures with Chuck Swindoll. Every message is complemented by helpful study notes that give you an opportunity to follow along and take personal notes.

You'll find the Searching the Scriptures study notes at insight.org slash studies. This daily program and the free study notes are made possible through the voluntary donations of friends and our monthly companions. Together, we're bringing hope to people around the globe who, like Paul, are in a prison of sorts.

But relying on God's grace to set them free. And our goal is to touch lives with God's grace in every country of the world through Vision 195. In light of the pandemic and the harsh public discourse these days, Chuck feels a renewed sense of urgency to spread the message of God's grace far and wide. With boldness, we're calling on you to join us.

Together, we can implement the Great Commission of Jesus Christ by making disciples through the radio, our website, the mobile app, CDs, books, DVDs, the podcast, live streaming, and more. Whatever amount he prompts you to invest in Vision 195 will truly make a difference. To give a contribution today, call us. If you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888.

That's 1-800-772-8888. Or to give online, visit insight.org. Thank you for your generous support of Insight for Living. Most of us have been heartbroken to witness civil unrest in the public square, eclipsing the urgent medical needs imposed by the global pandemic. At Insight for Living Ministries, we believe there's never been a better time to extend God's grace to those in need.

In this emotionally charged era where shouting matches are commonplace, where people feel voiceless and overlooked and even condemned, would you be among those who give generously so that we can spread the fragrance of God's grace to those desperate for a second chance? We're looking to add more monthly companions to the team. Become a monthly companion today by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 1-800-772-8888. Or go to insight.org slash monthly companion. My friend, more than ever, Insight for Living Ministries is determined to serve as a lavish garden for people all around the world who long to smell the aroma of God's matchless grace, a safe place where imperfect, sinful people are forgiven, taught the truth, and redeemed. To become a monthly companion, call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 1-800-772-8888.

Or go to insight.org slash monthly companion. Join us Friday when Chuck Swindoll continues his message called Praying Like We Mean It, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Praying Like We Mean It, was copyrighted in 2000, 2001, and 2009, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-28 13:30:20 / 2024-02-28 13:39:33 / 9

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