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Prayer - How Firm a Foundation Part 9

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
February 28, 2023 8:00 am

Prayer - How Firm a Foundation Part 9

So What? / Lon Solomon

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You know, Jesus said, John 16-24, ask and you will receive. And in saying these words, Jesus makes it clear that prayer is intended to get results. Prayer is much more, the Bible says, than just some psychological exercise that's intended to make us feel better when things are going rough or to ease our tension when we're undergoing tough times.

On the other hand, for the Bible is clear that prayer is all about a living, powerful, supernatural God who hears prayer and who answers prayer. Now, prayer, you know, is a lot like fishing. What I mean by that is that we've all seen it, two fishermen go out to the same lake and at the end of the day, one fisherman comes back with maybe one or two fish and the other guy comes back with a whole bucket load of fish. And so you wonder, how can two people fish in the same lake at the same time with such different results? Well, I'm not a very good fisherman, but I'll tell you what I've learned. I've learned that the difference is that the effective fisherman has taken some time to study and learn about the fish in that lake.

He learns how the fish runs or what time of the day they run and what kind of bait to use at what section of the lake at a certain time. Another way to put this is that the effective fisherman has learned how to catch fish on the fish's terms. Now, friends, an effective prayer is just like this. An effective prayer is a person who has taken the time to learn about God's conditions for answered prayer, to be a student of how God answers prayer and why God answers prayer. To put it another way, an effective prayer is a person who has learned how to pray on God's terms.

And that's what we want to talk about today in part nine of our series, How Firm a Foundation. We want to talk about the what and the why and the how of effective praying, of praying with power. Now, you know, it's interesting that when we look in the Bible, we find the word pray or prayer in the Bible used more than 500 times. So it's pretty obvious to me that as a follower of Jesus Christ, prayer is something God wants me to be doing.

But let's not assume anything. Let's start at the very beginning by asking the question, what exactly is prayer? Well, prayer, to put it simply, is communicating with Almighty God. Prayer is like a direct hotline that we have as followers of Christ to Almighty God, except that this hotline is intended to be for more than just emergencies.

Actually, prayer has some very everyday uses that are great and powerful in our life. Number one, prayer is meant to be a way of building intimacy between us and Almighty God every day. Number two, prayer is a means of us getting wisdom and direction from God. The Bible says if you lack wisdom, ask.

And where do we ask? We ask in prayer. Number three, prayer is meant to be a means for God to comfort and fortify us when we're going through difficult times. When we get on our knees and pray, there is a comforting, fortifying ministry of the Holy Spirit that takes place in our heart. Number four, prayer is a means of readjusting our attitude and our perspective to being in line with the will of God every day. We get out of tune and prayer is the tuning fork God uses to get us back in tune. Number five, prayer is a conduit for confessing our sin and receiving God's cleansing and forgiveness every single day. And finally, number six, prayer is a forum where God searches our hearts and shows us things in our heart that need to be corrected and need to be surrendered and need to be brought into line with the will of God.

The point of all this is that one of the major purposes of prayer, my friends, is to change you and me as followers of Jesus Christ. You know, I love the story of Gethsemane where the Lord, of course, goes in just before he's going to be arrested and taken to the cross. And the Bible says that Jesus came with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane and he said to them, My soul is deeply troubled even to the point of death, verse 39, Matthew 26. Then Jesus went a little beyond them and fell on his face and did what?

What did he do? And he prayed. You know, it's interesting that Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane distressed. He went in troubled. He went into the garden in agony of soul. And yet when Jesus comes out of the garden, he is strong, he is determined, he is resolute. And the only thing that Jesus did in the garden that made that change is what did he do? He prayed.

That's it. You know, I have to tell you the greatest problem in my life right now spiritually is the gap problem, G-A-P. And by this what I mean is the gap that exists between what I know on one hand the Lord Jesus wants me to be and on the other hand what I really am. See, I've been a follower of Christ now almost 39 years. I know what the Lord Jesus Christ wants me to be. My problem is when I look and see what I am, there's an enormous gap in between those two things. So as a follower of Christ, how do I close that gap?

How do I change my heart and my behavior and my values and bring them all into alignment with the will of God for my life? Well, how did Jesus do it in the Garden of Gethsemane? He did it by means of prayer and God has given you and me that same mechanism to use to close the gap problem in our lives.

I love what Studdard Kennedy said. He said, and I quote, prayer is not an easy way of getting what we want. It's the only way of becoming what God wants us to be.

End of quote. Well, this then is the first great purpose of prayer, namely to change us as followers of Christ. But there's a second great purpose of prayer and that is the second great purpose of prayer is not just to change me, but also to change the situations around me. Jeremiah 33-3, God says, call unto me, I love this verse, and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things that you know not in Ephesians chapter three, verse 20. The apostle Paul says that when we call out to God, God will do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or even imagine.

I can imagine a lot. And God says he can exceed it. God says you pray and I will move the world in response to your prayers. James chapter five says the prayer of a believer in Jesus Christ is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it did not rain in Israel for three and a half years. He changed his world through prayer.

You know, back in April 2005, I was leading the footsteps of Paul tour that I do. And we landed in northern Greece the first day. We came in in the evening and we went to the hotel.

And the next day we were scheduled to go to Philippi where Paul spent time and to Neapolis where Paul first landed on European soil. And the next day is all outside the whole day, nothing under cover. And they were calling for terrible rain the next day on the news. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This is just not good, Lord.

So at dinner when we had the whole group together, I said, now, here's what we need to do, friends. Rain tomorrow would not be good. We need to pray and ask God to take that rain and move it someplace else.

I mean, I don't care where he moves it. And I looked on the plane over at a little map. You know, I love to study those maps in the airplane booklet. And I knew Bulgaria was up above Greece somewhere. So I said, let's all pray that God take the rain and move it to Bulgaria. I just picked the country.

What do I care? And I thought, well, you know, there are no tourists in Bulgaria. What's there to see in Bulgaria? So I thought, just move it to Bulgaria. They probably need the rain. So I said, and let's do it and ask God to show his power. Let's ask God to show that he's in charge of the weather.

Let's pray that. So I did. I got on my face that night and I prayed, Lord, please move that rain. Well, we woke up the next morning and it was the most gorgeous, beautiful, sunny day you've ever seen in your life.

I mean, it was crisp. We went. We had a wonderful day. We never got rained on a bit.

The weather was absolutely picture perfect. We got back to the hotel at the end of the day. And just before dinner, I flipped on the television to the only English speaking channel where it was, which was CNN. And I'm watching CNN getting ready for dinner and suddenly they have this special report on CNN.

And the special report was about all the torrential rain and all the flash floods. Guess where? Bulgaria. I started laughing out loud. I said, Lord Jesus, you're something.

I'll tell you, you're something. Now, if you're from Bulgaria, don't write me a letter. All right.

I have nothing against Bulgaria. The point is, friends, does God answer prayer? Does God move the world in response to prayer? Yes, he does.

Yes, he does. The bottom line is God tells us in the Bible that if we will pray, he will answer. Now, that's as far as we want to go theologically in our treatment of this subject, because I want to stop now and have us ask our most important question. So are we ready? Here we go.

One, two, three. Yeah. You say, Lon, so what? You say, actually, Lon, you need to know I pray all the time, but I do not see God answering my prayers with the kind of power that you're talking about.

Well, what did we just say a few minutes ago? Didn't we say that to pray with power, we first have to do what a good fisherman does? We first have to become students of why God answers prayer with power and how God answers prayer with power, and then we have to adjust our praying accordingly. So in the time I have left, I'd like to give you four biblical principles about how to pray with power.

You ready? Here we go. Principle number one, want to pray with power? Number one, then we need to pray with clean hands and a pure heart. David said, Psalm 24, three, who may ascend the hill of the Lord and who may stand in his holy place?

Here's the answer. The person who has clean hands and a pure heart, that person, that person will receive blessing from the Lord. This is why David said in Psalm 66, if I regard sin in my heart, if I cherish sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. What the Bible is telling us here, friends, is if you and I come to God in prayer with known sin in our heart, with deliberate disobedience to God that we are harboring in our life, it will hinder the power and the effectiveness of our prayers. This is why David prayed this prayer in Psalm 139. This is the first step to praying with power, what he prayed here. He said, search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me. And if anything comes up when I'm praying this prayer, then what we need to do is take it right to the Lord and confess it and make it right before we ever ask God for anything at all.

We got to make sure the channel's cleaned out of all the gunk before we expect God to send anything through it. Number two, want to pray with power? The number two, we need to pray with a forgiving spirit. Jesus said, Mark 11, and when you stand praying, if you have anything against someone, forgive them.

Jesus said, as part of the Lord's prayer, Matthew chapter 6, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Friends, one of the most common hindrances to praying with power, one of the greatest roadblocks to praying with power is an unforgiving, bitter spirit. And if you and I want to see the power of God unlocked in our lives and our prayer lives, we must come to God with a heart that is free, a heart that is free of bitterness and free of hatred and free of unforgiveness and free of malice towards all other people. God has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to unforgiveness and grudges and malice and bitterness in our heart.

And this may be why you're not seeing more power in your prayer life. And if you don't think you can forgive that person who hurt you, then friends, my advice to you is get on your knees and tell God that and ask him to give you the power to do what he's commanded you to do. And I promise you, God will answer that prayer.

If you want to forgive somebody, I don't care how badly they've hurt you, God will give you the power to do it. Number three, want to pray with power? Then we need to pray in faith, believing. Jesus said, and all things, whatever you shall ask in faith, believing, you shall receive it. And I love what Matthew 13 says about the city of Nazareth. It says, and Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. It didn't say Jesus couldn't do many miracles. It just said he chose it not to because of their unbelief. One of the greatest obstacles to answered prayer, folks, is our unbelief. You know how it goes. We pray, Lord, I'm asking you to do this, that, or the other thing, but Lord, if obstacles are too big, Lord, if the roadblocks are just too many, Lord, if it's just too much trouble, Lord, if it's not your will, then that's okay.

Don't worry. You don't have to do it, and I won't be upset. Now, that kind of prayer is an insult to Almighty God. That kind of prayer is an affront to Almighty God. This kind of unbelief in prayer will quench God's power in prayer so quick it'll make your head swim. As a matter of fact, this was the big issue that God had with the Israelites when they were out in the wilderness with Moses.

God says, Psalm 78, verse 41, that they limited in their hearts, in their minds, in their spirits, in their unbelief, they limited the Holy One of Israel. You say, but, Lord, wait a minute, wait a minute, time out. What about that scripture that says that God answers prayer according to his will? Well, that scripture is in the Bible, 1 John 5.14, and this is the confidence we have before God that if we ask anything according to his will, we will have the request which we've asked for him. You say, right, right, there it is. So maybe I'm asking something in prayer that's not his will, and that's why I walk around all the time in prayer going, well, if it's not your will, don't do it. If it's not your will, don't do it. Well, ho, ho, ho, wait a minute.

It's true. God promises to only answer prayer according to, in keeping with his will. But, look right here, but God never intended that to be an excuse for unbelief, my friends, never intended that. You say, all right, well, then how do these two principles work together, praying in faith and God answering according to his will?

I'm glad you asked because I'm going to tell you. The way they work together is praying in faith means we come to God and we ask for the moon, friends, with the utter confidence that there is no human obstacle in the world that is a problem for God. We pray prayers with no boundaries on them at all that are imposed by us. And then we leave the slate open for God to actually answer that prayer according to his will any way he wants to. But here is the key.

Don't miss this. The key is our posture in prayer needs to be that the only person, listen to me, the only person who should ever place limits on what God's going to do is God himself, not you, not me, not our unbelief, never our human logic. Let God just turn him loose, friends. Don't run interference for God. God doesn't need you to run interference for him. Don't make excuses for God. Don't apologize for God. Don't give God a way out. He doesn't need all your help. You just turn God loose in prayer. Tell him you'll accept his answer, but don't you decide for him what he's going to do and not do because you'll never think big enough.

That'll be the problem. Trust me. Number four, and finally, you want to pray with power, then we, you and I, need to pray with God's glory as our motive. Jesus said, John 14, 13, and whatever you ask in my name, watch, for the purpose of the Father receiving glory, that I will do. Listen, prayer that brings the power of God to earth is prayer that has God's glory at its center and not man's welfare. Mighty men and women of prayer learn this lesson, and they learn this lesson well.

And if you look at some of the greatest prayers ever recorded in the Bible, prayers that exploded God's power onto this earth, you will discover that every one of these prayers had this as its core motive, not human convenience and not human comfort, but the glory of God. I love the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal up on Mount Carmel. We visit this every year when we go to Israel.

It's one of my very favorite places in the country. And if you don't know what happened up there, 1 Kings 18, let me give you a quick rundown of the story. The king of the northern kingdom, a fellow named Ahab, married a girl named Jezebel. She was actually a Phoenician princess. She wasn't even an Israelite. And this girl Jezebel, she was a bad Oreo.

You understand what I'm saying to you? And she decided to wipe out the worship of the true God from the whole northern kingdom of Israel. That was her agenda.

Well, she almost succeeded. And finally, it got down to Elijah standing for God, and that was about it. And so Elijah challenged all of her prophets and prophetesses of these idols to a showdown on top of Mount Carmel. There were 850 of them versus Elijah. And the people of Israel came to watch, and Elijah says, all right, here's what I propose.

He said, let's have a contest. And the contest is all these prophets, they can take a bull and build an altar and put the wood on it and build the stones and everything. And I'll take a bull and I'll build an altar in the name of the Lord God. And we'll both pray to our gods and we'll see which God answers with fire from heaven.

And whoever answers with fire from heaven, that's the real God. The people said, hey, that's a great idea. So he said to the prophets of Baal, you go first. So they took this bull and they built this altar and they put the wood around and everything.

And they danced around and cut themselves and did backward flips and all this kind of nonsense all day long. And he came up to them in the middle of the day and he taunted them. He said, well, maybe your God's out of town. Maybe he's on a trip. Maybe he slept in.

Read the story. He goes, shout louder. And so they did.

This went on all day. Finally, Elijah said, all right, enough. You all people come on over here. And he gathered the Israelites around him. And he said, now, he had built his altar.

He put this bull on. He said, I want you to douse it with water. So they poured water all over. He said, do it a second time.

He said, do it a third time. Finally, there was this huge ditch full of water. They poured so much water on the altar. And then here's what Elijah prays. Verse 36. Then Elijah prayed, oh, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, today, let it be known that you are God in Israel.

You hear anything there about personal comfort or convenience? No, no. He went on to say, answer me, oh, Lord. Answer me so that these people will know that you alone, oh, Lord, are God. Now, here is a prayer with the glory of God at the heart of that prayer. Here is a prayer that has as its purpose to bring down God's power and display God's reality to people on this earth. Friends, you pray a prayer like that, you better buckle your seat belt. Watch what happens next.

And then the fire of the Lord fell from heaven, that is, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up all the water in the trench. I'd call that an answer to prayer. Wouldn't you?

You bet. Wow, this is praying with power, friends. Listen, is there anything wrong with praying things for our personal convenience or our personal comfort? No, not a thing. Is there anything wrong with praying for a new car or a new house or a new job or physical healing or additional income or for God to bless your children and your grandchildren? Not a thing.

Not a thing. And you know, sometimes God answers those prayers the way you pray them, sometimes God doesn't. That's his call. Friends, there's nothing wrong with that motive in prayer. It's just not the highest motive in prayer. It's for us to pray that God would do something with the sincere desire that God would do it to put himself on display, to put his glory on display, to put his power on display for the world to see it and the world to understand that he is God. Now, if you can get to the point in your prayer where you can honestly say that that's why you're asking for it, man, you better bat in the hatches down because that prayer is going to get answered. God is obsessive about displaying his glory to man. And you pray a prayer that provides him a platform to do that.

You can take it to the bank. God's going to answer that prayer. And so it may be, my friends, that the reason you're not seeing more power in prayer is because you're asking for things not with bad motive, but just not with the highest motive. And if you would just take a little time to press through and ask yourself the question, why am I asking for this? Why am I asking for this?

Why am I asking for this? And to see if the Lord can get you to the place where your motive changes so you're no longer asking for it for your own comfort or convenience, but you now all of a sudden you really begin to honestly ask for it, for God to put his power and his glory on display by answering that prayer. I promise you, you will see more powerful answers to your prayers.

Well, let's conclude. What have we learned today? We've learned that when we pray, we need to expect results. God intended us to pray with an expectant spirit. God answers prayer, and he answers it powerfully if we pray according to his conditions. And they are, number one, we have to pray with clean hands and a pure heart.

We've got to unclog the channel before God's going to send anything through it. Number two, we need to pray with a forgiving spirit towards other people. Number three, we need to pray in faith, believing. We need to never limit God in the way we pray. And finally, number four, we need to pray with God's glory and God's honor as our motive. And I want to promise you something. Friends, if you will take these four biblical principles and you will make them the cornerstone of how you pray, I promise you.

Well, far more important than that. God promises you that you will see your prayer life become something that is effective and powerful, that will change you and will change the circumstances around you. God is waiting to answer prayer, but we've got to pray on his terms. Let's pray together. Lord Jesus, thank you for talking to us today about prayer. Without a doubt, one of the most powerful weapons in our entire spiritual arsenal.

And yet, sadly, probably the most underused weapon we have. And so, Father, I pray today that you would challenge us to become men and women of prayer. But Lord, not just men and women of prayer, but men and women of effective prayer, of powerful prayer, because we have taken the time to study the conditions upon which you answer prayer in power, and then we have adapted our prayers to your conditions. Lord, change the very way we think about prayer and the very way we do it, because we were here. Change our very relationship to you in prayer, because we sat under the teaching of God's word today. And so we pray and ask all of these things in Jesus' name. I pray that God's people say, Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-02 14:41:08 / 2023-03-02 14:51:43 / 11

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