Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. As we believers run the race of life, we get weary.
That's when we need a source of power for fresh strength. The Bible says, Those who hope in the Lord shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. How to tap into that resource of hope is our focus on today's broadcast.
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, your focus today is on channeling God's power. It is, Dave, and I have to say that the older I get, the more time I spend contemplating God and worshiping Him. The important thing is that we are in His presence, that we sense His presence. Prayer isn't merely asking God for things. It is responding to Him in relationship and faith. I want to thank the many of you who enable us to get this ministry to the lives and the ears of thousands upon thousands of people. Thank you in advance, but would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision. You need more info? Go to RTWOffer.com.
When you're there, you click on the endurance partner button, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let us always be quick to hear, but also quick to obey. You know, of course, that there is a new word that we all have adopted in the last couple of years. It's the word channeling. We're told by the New Agers that it's possible to go to a channeler and be in touch with ancient masters of wisdom, to be in touch with the dead, to be in touch with higher powers. Now, we shouldn't doubt these claims because there are channelers that are indeed in touch with masters of wisdom and all kinds of occult authorities and powers. The problem, of course, as all of us know, is that this is putting people in touch with the wrong spirit world.
There is a spirit world out there, a world of demons, a world populated by satanic spirits who want awesome authority and control over people. And so you go to channelers, basically ancient mediums, and they are in touch with a spirit world. But I'm not ready to surrender the word channeling to the New Age movement. Long before the New Age movement had its beginning, were not we as evangelicals singing channels only? It's a perfectly good word that talks about our ability to channel the power of God, the living and the true and the pure spirit who permeates the entire universe.
You see, the word channel, and we use it for television sets, the word channel simply means that we're able to be plugged into a signal. Well, today we're not talking about how to be plugged into the occult signal, but how to be so plugged into the divine signal that we actually become the conduit, if you please, of the awesome power of God. That's what we're speaking about.
Now, if you attend here regularly, you know that this happens to be the seventh message in a series of eight entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. And last week we talked about the power of Satan. We mentioned that there are four different levels of control that wicked spirits seek over people. The first level of control is dropping ideas into people's minds. If those ideas find a home, if they are welcomed, the second level of control is obsession, where we become preoccupied with those ideas. The third level of control is a stronghold. A stronghold means that that obsession now has become so deeply rooted that we are controlled by our memories and our past.
And then the fourth stage is invasion. On different levels, wicked spirits actually inhabit people. Now, what we're going to talk about today is how do we, through the power of prayer, become such a channel of God's blessing that we see obsessions and strongholds and even invasions of satanic forces melt and dissipate under the awesome authority of Christ.
How is that done? We all know it's done through prayer, but what kind of praying? You and I know that sometimes we offer prayers to God that could be best described as pablum. We say, oh Lord, so-and-so is in trouble. Please help them.
Please help so-and-so to get a good grade in school or do this or that. Now, those kinds of prayers may be necessary and good, but my dear friend, there are situations in people's lives that are so severe, so difficult, some are so far gone that there is nothing that will help them except an awfully strong jolt of the power of God to dismantle the strongholds. I'm speaking about addictions, as we have talked about in preceding messages, those who have been the victims of abuse, those whose past controls them. Now I'd like to ask you to take your Bibles and to turn just for a moment to Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians chapter 6, this is where the Apostle Paul talks about the armor of the Christian, and I want you to notice how in verse 18 he adds an important dimension in our spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6, 18, after he lists all the pieces of the armor that we should put on as believers, he writes, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. As I was thinking about this message, I was going to outline it on the basis of the four uses of the word all in this text.
I decided not to, but it was a temptation I found hard to resist. Notice it says, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, be on the alert with all perseverance for all the saints. What I'd like to do today, however, is to speak about prayer just a little differently than is outlined in this text.
But before I do, I must answer two questions. The first is this, why is it that we don't pray more? We hear messages on prayer and some of you perhaps already knowing that that is the topic, you sit there and you say, oh please, I dare you to try to tell me something new. And you may not be praying and yet the very mention of the word brings a yawn.
Why? I think there are several barriers that we sometimes have to overcome. The first is that we will not pray very much if within our hearts we doubt the wisdom and the love of God. You see, if you don't believe that God cares, you aren't going to be mentioning very many things in his presence, are you? Because down deep inside you will say to yourself, it's not going to make any difference because God doesn't care. It's one of the greatest barriers that those who have been abused have to get over. As someone said to me recently, God wasn't there for me when I was a child. What makes you think that he is going to be there for me as an adult?
I can never trust him. And to remind you lovingly that the Bible does say he does not forget the cry of the afflicted, Psalm 9 verse 12. That's a barrier you have to get over. But there's a second barrier and that is sometimes we don't pray because we get all confused about what is known as the will of God. You see, we've prayed for things that God hasn't done. We have asked for healing and we've asked for money and we've asked for circumstances that have not worked out according to the way in which we have asked God for them and so down deep in our hearts we've said, well, it must not be God's will and we begin to wonder that surely God's will is so inscrutable, why bother trying to figure it out? And we think to ourselves, if it's his will, he'll do it anyway. If it's not his will, all the praying in the world isn't going to change anything. So we don't pray. Now, it is true that there is some prayer prayers when we pray them.
We don't know what God's will is. I've prayed that way, you've prayed that way. We bring petitions before the Lord and then in the end we have to say, Lord, I commit these to you.
Do thy will. But my dear friend, there are some prayers that we can pray with absolute unswerving confidence knowing that we are praying the will of God. And the reason that I like to pray those prayers is because you can pray them with confidence, not with unbelief, not by getting to the end of the prayer and saying, now, Lord, these are the petitions, but do them if it be thy will. But you can pray them knowing that you have lined up directly with the will of God. It's the most effective praying and it's the only praying that will bring down the strongholds. What I'd like to do this morning is to point out that the Trinity, all three members of the Trinity are involved in effective prayer.
All that I'll do is to point that out and illustrate it in the message today. First, God the Father, God the Father, we must pray within the will of God to have the confidence I spoke about just a moment ago. Now you say, how do I pray within the will of God? Since your Bible is open to the book of Ephesians, I want to illustrate how the Apostle Paul did it.
For example, in chapter 1, you may turn there quickly. He says, verse 15, 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, I do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom, of revelation in the knowledge of him, that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you might 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. Listen to me carefully. You can pray that prayer for any believer, whether he's spiritually mature or already a seasoned believer in Christ, and you can pray it knowing that that is exactly the will of God. You can pray without doubting. Let me give you another example from the book of Ephesians.
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. As a father, I try to keep up with the needs of my family, with my wife and my children. I pray for them every day, but sometimes I don't know exactly how to pray for them. And so what I have frequently done is taken this prayer in Colossians chapter 1 and prayed it with utter confidence that I was praying within the will of God. I did not have to come to the end of the prayer and then say, now, Lord, these are the petitions if it be thy will.
Sometimes you have to do that. But how I thank God for those times when I don't have to do it because I know that this is exactly what God desires. Notice what Paul says, verse 9. For this reason also, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask seven requests to know the will of God, to be able to walk in wisdom, to make wise decisions. He says to walk worthy of the Lord.
What a request. The word worthy means weighty. And the Apostle Paul is saying to live a life that is making an imprint in people's experience and in their lives. He says, bearing fruit in every good work, we are either going to bring forth good fruit or evil fruit. And Jesus wants us to bring forth fruit that remains. Increasing in the knowledge of God with all spiritual strength, with stability, steadfastness, and patience, joyously giving thanks.
Now there's a prayer you can pray. You wives, wouldn't you like to be married to a man who has all of these qualities that the Apostle Paul talked about? Wouldn't that be a delight? You men, wouldn't you like to be married to a woman who has all of these qualities? Wouldn't you like to live with somebody, you singles?
Wouldn't you like to have a roommate that has all of these qualities? The reason I love the prayer is because when I pray it, I know that this is exactly what God wants to do in the life and the experience of every single believer, so you pray within the will of God. The praying that I'm talking about today is prayer within God's will that can be prayed with confidence. Secondly, there is also the power of the Spirit. Notice in Ephesians 3.18, Paul says, with all power praying in the Spirit. What is the role of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? To pray in the Spirit means that our lives are in harmony with the Holy Spirit. If praying according to the will of God has to do with the intellectual part of prayer, knowing what God's will is, praying in the Spirit enables me to have a heart that is in tune with God.
Why is that important? Let me ask you another question. Why doesn't God just go ahead and do things in the universe and answer prayers even if we don't pray them? Why doesn't he bless the missionaries whether we pray for them or not? Why doesn't he bring in the money whether we pray about it or not? Can't he do it?
Of course he can. But let me give you an illustration. Let's suppose you have in your family a child that is born, we'll say a boy, who happens to be strong-willed. Now that may not have happened in your family. It happened in my family when I was growing up, but it was my older brother who was strong-willed.
But you know the kind. Well, it is said that all of us are strong-willed. I know that all of us are strong-willed, but you know, I think that my older brother when he was born probably complained about the temperature of the delivery room.
I mean, there are some people who are particularly strong-willed. You tell the child at the age of six, I don't want you to watch television this afternoon. The child watches TV. And you decide you're not going to say anything about it because you want the boy to come to you and you choose to not make dinner that night just to see whether you can capture his attention, whether he'll come to you or not. Well, seven o'clock goes by, eight o'clock goes by. Finally at nine, the boy asks for his dinner. Now you could go ahead at that point and give him the dinner. You could have given it to him at six o'clock. You had the ability to do that. But you withheld it.
Why? Because you realize that the boy is asking for his dinner, but he actually has a more severe problem than that. It is the problem of his heart. And there's an issue between you and him that needs to be resolved. And the physical problem is but a symptom of a deeper spiritual emotional problem, an issue that must be taken care of.
And so even though he comes to you at nine o'clock and asks for dinner, you are not yet ready to give it to him because you say to him, there's something else that we need to talk about first. Now that's the way God deals with us. We come to him and we say, oh God, resolve this situation.
Our coming is a good sign. It means that we are bringing ourselves under the authority of Christ. But that isn't all that there is to it. God says, is there something in your life that has to be taken care of first before we can get on with the business of honoring the request? That's why it says in the Old Testament, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. And the reason that we must pray in the Spirit is to be in harmony with the Spirit in submission and in faith. So that we come having confessed all the sins that God has brought to our attention, we come in humility saying, I want only one thing and that is submission to God.
And in faith, we come to pray in the Spirit. I read a story of a boy who probably was one of those strong willed children. He was told by his father that he wasn't supposed to smoke cigarettes. The boy found a pack and went out into the field and lit some and began to smoke and he found out it made him cough and all those other things, but at least he felt grown up. But suddenly, because he wasn't too far away from the farmhouse, his father shows up. The boy tries to get rid of the cigarettes, puts one out, and then he tries to divert his father's attention by pointing at a billboard and said, look at that billboard over there, dad.
It's a reminder that we ought to be going to the circus. And his dad, who saw the whole thing, said, son, never ask for a petition when at the same time you have smoldering disobedience. But isn't that the way we are? We come before the Lord and we say, Lord, do this. And God says there's another issue that has to be dealt with, praying in the Spirit, submission and faith. I really resonate with that illustration, because isn't that true of all of us? We come before the Lord and we ask one thing, but actually there may be a number of other things in our lives which are hindering prayer. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who speaks Spanish.
Now, you must understand that the ministry of Running to Win is heard throughout Central and South America. The letter says, your program is such a blessing to my personal and marital life. I thank God for all of you who work in this ministry day in and day out with wonderful counsel and advice. May God continue to bless you and continue to be on the air. Well, the reason we can be on the air is because of people just like you. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner?
That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, you need info. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. And when you're there, you click on the endurance partner button. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Perhaps you didn't have an opportunity to pick up a pencil. I'm giving you that info again. Go to rtwoffer. Rtwoffer is one word. rtwoffer.com. Click on the endurance partner button.
Call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Dr. Lutzer, today's question comes to us from Ruth, who lives in Ohio. Explain faith, she asks. A man has faith that if he steals he won't be caught. Another man has faith he'll win the lottery.
And still another has faith he'll get that good job. And a woman has faith that she's marrying the right man. How do we know what to have faith for? Well, Ruth, that's a very good question.
And the answer is simply this. We need to have faith that God is guiding us. But make no mistake, there's no use trying to have faith that you're going to win the lottery, or faith that you won't get caught if you're stealing.
I hope you will get caught, and God may see to it that you will be. What we need to have faith for is, first of all, our own salvation, most assuredly. Then secondly, we have to commit our way to God. And when we make decisions such as the one that you referenced, the person whom we marry, that needs to be laid out in God's presence. And we have to be willing to accept whatever God tells us, however he leads us. So in a specific answer to your question, what is it that we have faith for? We have faith for everything that falls within God's providential will.
And if we don't know for sure that it is his will, we have faith to believe that he will guide us. God bless you, Ruth, as you seek God's will and as you exercise faith. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you, like Ruth, would like to have your question answered, you can go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Ever heard of warfare praying? On our next Running to Win, you will. Prayer is the key to channeling God's power to the destruction of Satan's strongholds. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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