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The Prayer Path

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 22, 2024 12:00 am

The Prayer Path

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 22, 2024 12:00 am

In this episode, Stephen Davey delves into the power of prayer through the example of Nehemiah, a man burdened by the brokenness of his people and city. Discover the three components of a godly burden and how they can lead to a life of extraordinary impact.

Learn the first two steps on the prayer path that will help you gain the maximum attention of God: recognizing His sovereignty and acknowledging your own sin. Through practical insights and biblical wisdom, you'll be equipped to deepen your prayer life and experience a greater intimacy with God.

Join us as we explore the transformative power of prayer and discover how it can lead to personal revival and a renewed passion for serving God's purposes.

For more life-changing Bible teachings from Stephen Davey, visit wisdomonline.org.

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Praying, in effect, places God on His throne and mankind at His feet. Praying is not us having our way with God.

It is God having His way with us. Prayer is not our attempt to manipulate and control God. It is our effort to have Him control us. Prayer is not us putting pressure on God.

It is God placing pressure on us. The people who know how to gain the maximum attention of God are people who know they are sinners and they do not pray with loopholes in mind. What is it that burdens you? What is it that drives you to your knees in prayer?

And when you do pray, do you ever try to bribe or manipulate God into doing something for you? Nehemiah was deeply burdened for his people. If you've ever been so burdened for someone that it drove you to your knees, you know exactly how Nehemiah felt. In this message, you're not just going to learn about Nehemiah's burden. You're going to listen in on a powerful prayer that's a model for how you should pray. This is wisdom for the heart and Stephen called this message the prayer path.

We've discovered thus far in the book of Nehemiah, a man who deeply wanted the maximum attention of God. He wept profusely. He fasted not so much for the discipline of his own soul and heart before God, but because he had lost his appetite. He mourned as one who mourned over the dead.

And he prayed a lamenting, beseeching, begging prayer for four months and more. He was a man who was deeply burdened over the condition of his broken world. The burden of Nehemiah is to become our burden as well as we seek to represent the glory and honor and authority of our wonderful God in the face of a broken down world. His burden could be best defined, I believe, three different ways or with three nuances.

Let me give them to you. They sort of fill out a complete picture of what a godly burden looks like. Number one, a godly burden is an overwhelming concern over or with some aspect of human distress or sin. I had a call from an attorney in our church who had taken a cross country trip said, you know, I believe God may be burdening me to go back to an Indian reservation where I was in the Dakotas. He said, What do you think? I took it. I saw the poverty and the brokenness and the need. Do you think God would have me perhaps roll my sleeves up and go back for a week or two serving in whatever way possible, communicating the gospel? That was an easy yes. A godly burden has a way of interrupting your life.

Rarely is it convenient. Secondly, a godly burden includes an irresistible conviction that God has an available remedy. We believe we have the answer for the world. It is found. It is bound in Christ, the Redeemer.

That is our conviction. Third, a godly burden surrenders with unreserved compliance that God used me to deliver the remedy. That's where you step forward. That's where you discover whether or not you had it to begin with this burden. When you gain the maximum attention of God, you share the anguish of God over a fallen world and you, like Jesus, weep over Jerusalem. Godly burden has a way of disrupting your life, and the average Christian is burdened about nothing because it will cost him something.

For Nehemiah, the burden will cost him everything, and it seems that he knows it will. So he prays, Let thine ear, verse six, be attentive, and thine eyes open to hear the prayer of thy servant. Does he think God isn't always listening?

Lord, please listen now. Does he think that God's eyes are temporarily closed? Verse eleven, O Lord, I beseech thee, may thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant.

Does he think God is somehow absentmindedly roaming about his universe? I think what's happening here is that Nehemiah doesn't want to take another step until he knows that he has the attention, the ear, the eye of God in its fullest measure. Maximum attention could be described, in other words, in that intimacy, in that communion, that fellowship with God, which God says that he will reward in that seeking heart that pursues him above all other things. And then God will grant to that one the necessary courage and resources and faith and strength to restore some part of the broken world that God has burdened you with. Before any man or woman can walk the path of a restorer and a rebuilder, he or she must first, like Nehemiah here, travel the path to God in prayer.

For our study, I want us to view this prayer as if it were a path to God. One author said that the secret to Nehemiah's service was what Nehemiah discovered in secret. What made Nehemiah successful in public before mankind was that he was successful in private with God.

And what you basically have in chapter one is the public record of Nehemiah's private life. We are given his prayer, and so I want to divide it along the lines of four stepping stones and along this path we should, with him, walk in gaining the maximum attention of God. The first step along this prayer path is a clear priority of sovereignty. Notice how Nehemiah's prayer begins in verse 5, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God. Ladies and gentlemen, the prayer that gets past the living room ceiling is prayer that recognizes first and foremost that God is sovereign and man is servant. Proper praying in effect places God on his throne and mankind at his feet. See, proper praying is not us having our way with God.

It is God having his way with us. Prayer is not our attempt to manipulate and control God. It is our effort to have him manipulate and control us. Prayer is not us putting pressure on God. It is God placing pressure on us.

And if you don't want that kind of pressure, whatever you do, don't pray like this man prayed. And as he prayed, he recognized that God was totally sovereign. Donald Gray Barnhouse, I've read, once shocked his congregation. He was a well-known pastor, expositor. By the way, you think I spend too long in a book. Barnhouse took his congregation to the Book of Romans over 14 years.

You know, we're coming up on Romans. He shocked his congregation by speaking on the subject of prayer. And his first words were prayer changes nothing. And they did what you did.

Your wheels are spinning. Prayer changes nothing. Not exactly an exciting introduction on why we should pray. What he was trying to do was get his congregation to focus on the sovereignty of God, that God is seated in the heavens, that nothing ever surprises him. Nothing falls outside of his control. God then in prayer cannot be bribed or cajoled or impressed or turned. That which is recorded in scripture is God repenting of or God changing his mind is what we call theologically anthropomorphisms, that is, God having some human characteristics so that we can somehow understand God. But God is unchangeable. So when we go to God, it isn't to somehow say the right words and twist his arm. It is to discover what God wants.

He is sovereign. We are servant. So you're ready to pray, not so that you can change God, but so that God can change you. You're not really ready to pray.

In fact, I would add to Barnhouse's statement to say this. Prayer changes nothing of God. It changes everything of us. Nehemiah began, O Lord God of heaven. By the way, the Lord taught his disciples in Matthew 6, verse 9. Here's how I want you to pray. Not here's what you pray, but here's how you pray. Pray like this, and you begin with the words, say with me, Our Father who art in heaven. Nehemiah prayed, O Lord God of heaven. We're to pray, O Father who art in heaven.

The prayer, the model prayers that were of the Old Testament believer is the model for the New Testament believer. It begins with a recognition of this priority, and this priority is God's sovereignty. O God, you reign in heaven.

And that is not so much his address as it is his attribute. O God who art above all there is. You reign above. You are transcendent. You are other than. You are majestic.

You are in control over. And so we think of you as we pray as being beyond, as it were, in the heavens, a reference to his sovereign attribute. Although we happen to come boldly to this Heavenly Father, we then acknowledge he is a holy father.

That's what David meant from Psalm number 99. The Lord reigns. Let the peoples come and slap him on the back. And no, let the peoples tremble. He is enthroned above the cherubim.

Let the earth shake. Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool. We read holy is he. This is a way of reshaping the way we pray because it reshapes our view of a God who most often becomes in our minds somewhat less than that.

We make him somewhat smaller or manageable, safer. This is the living God who told Job, as I peruse the book of Job this week, he thunders with his voice. He told Job that he wore the clothing of dignity and eminence, honor and majesty. He commanded the morning. He made the dawn to know its place. He laid the foundations of the earth and created its measurements. He entered the currents of the sea.

He walked the recesses of the deep ocean. This is the sovereign God who knows where the light lives and the way of the east wind. He is the one who has created the purposes of floods and thunderbolts, ice and hail. He leads forth the constellations. He determines the orbits of planets. He counts the clouds and tips the water jars of heaven.

He has created the animals with their instincts. He is the one who has spread the heavens like a mirror. He is the one exalted in power and surrounded by majesty. Try praying to that one.

This one is seated in the heavens. He is both loving and terrifying. He is both gracious and holy. So you don't pray to him like a genie who will give you three wishes if you rub this lamp of prayer hard enough. You don't go to him as if he were some doting grandfather with lollipops in his pocket, as if he were, as one man said, a gumball machine.

You insert your quarter of prayer and you get some candy. No, picture him as you pray high and lifted up upon his great and majestic throne with angels hovering about him continuously since the dawn of creation, simply chanting, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy. How can you picture that?

How can you describe that? Nehemiah can't. As he prays, you look at the next phrase. He says, oh Lord God of heaven. He just goes on to say the great and awesome God. That's the best you can do.

You are great and you are awesome. J. I. Packer wrote of Nehemiah at this point as a man who grasped the greatness of God himself. See, this kind of perspective, men and women, as you pray, leads to this kind of priority of God's ownership and rulership. And I want to go on to say that a confession of God's sovereignty is always followed by. It always involves the next thing, and that is a confession of sin.

We get a glimpse of his sovereignty. We will have an accompanying sense of our sin. Isaiah saw a vision of God's glory, and he immediately responded by saying, Oh, God, I am a man of unclean lips and I happen to live around a group of people of unclean lips. The apostle Paul, who grew in his understanding of the character of God, said near the end of his life, I am the chief of sinners. A person who doesn't have a clear priority of God's sovereignty will never pray with a clear understanding of his own sin. Thus, the path of prayer is cut short of all of its rich, wonderful benefits. So we need, secondly, a contrite acknowledgment of sin if we want the maximum attention of God. Nehemiah, in verse 6, prays, Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open to hear the prayer of thy servant, which I am praying before thee now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel, thy servants confessing the sins of the sons of Israel, which we have sinned against thee. I and my father's house have sinned. You can circle these pronouns. I, we. He doesn't say, Oh, Lord, let me tell you about what my forefathers did.

Did they ever mess it up? Let me tell you about my father. Let me tell you about my relatives, my father's house.

Got a lot of prayer content there. No, I and my father's house have sinned. Perhaps for the first time, Nehemiah was struck by the fact that he wasn't supposed to be in Susa. He was supposed to be in Jerusalem. He refers to the covenant in verse five. He calls God by his covenant name, Yahweh. He elaborates on that covenant in verses eight and nine, and we're going to reserve that step until later. The covenant with Yahweh, however, for now that he refers to, is what we call the Palestinian covenant, the covenant of the land. But for now, for our study, he begins to confess, almost as it were, with a fuller understanding that he wasn't where he was supposed to stay.

Have you ever been there? You have been in some position or some lot in life, maybe involved even in some activity, but then you understand something about God that reveals something about you, and you know you can't stay there. He doesn't belong, from this point on, in the palace.

He belongs in Palestine. He says, I and my father's house have sinned. May I ask you something? Do you want the maximum attention of God? Have you ever heard yourself? Can you say, do you say, oh God, I am a sinner?

You notice he didn't say, Lord, we might've done something wrong here, or Lord, I've made a few mistakes recently. You understand. You know about me and my little indiscretions, Lord.

You know how flexible my expense report is. I suppose you saw that little episode of, shall we say, righteous indignation. That's just the way I am. Lord, I'm so glad you understand me. No, ladies and gentlemen, God does not forgive excuses. He forgives sin. I owe you an apology. I got up here and made light of what God has convicted me about, and I told you that story.

You remember? And I had you all laughing, and that sort of made me feel better about me traveling at 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour speed zone. I told you my six-year-old daughter was with me, and she said, Daddy, I believe you're going about 60. And then later she said, isn't it 45? And I told her that 45 was a guideline. Several days ago, I was stopped by a man who didn't believe it was a guideline. I pulled in, and literally around a barn, so no one would see me, to follow me.

And, you know, I thought about it as I was studying this passage about how I have reworded this. And so for the last several days, I've done something I've never done before. I've gone the speed limit. I've set the cruise at 45 on Penny Road. Do you know what it's like to go 45 on Penny Road? I need to now pray for safety.

I'm a traffic hazard. And we'll go to court, and we'll stand and say, you know, I'm guilty and all that. I'll tell you about that, I'm sure, later.

But this really came back to me as I was studying all week. It's not right. Don't just stop with the word sin, by the way. I mean, if you have trouble saying that little word, notice what Nehemiah goes on to say in verse 7. We have acted very corruptly against thee.

Have you ever used that kind of language? Lord, I am, I am corrupt. I have acted corruptly. If sin tends to be that which we do, corruption tends to reflect on who we are. So we don't usually say that. I am corrupt. Say that with me. I am corrupt.

Strange, isn't it? We have acted corruptly against thee and have not kept the commandments nor the statutes nor the ordinances which thou didst command. I serve in Moses, that is, we're guilty of sin, we're guilty of corruption, we're guilty of disobedience, we're guilty of breaking the law.

Did he leave anything out? The people who know how to gain the maximum attention of God are people who know they are sinners and they do not pray with loopholes in mind. David wrote in his prayer of confession in Psalm 51, the sacrifices of God. He says these are the sacrifices that gain the attention of God. They are a broken and a contrite heart. Broken hearted people first over themselves, then broken hearted for the world because they have come to see his greatness and their sin and the desperate need of those they are surrounded by. We don't usually pray in a way where we're held accountable to both his sovereignty and our sin.

He did here. And the wonderful thing is the Bible promises that if you confess your, what, sin, he is faithful on the basis of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. He is faithful and he is just. He upholds the law. Christ paid the penalty of every law we broke. And then he is capable then in his faithfulness and his justice in cleansing us from all unrighteousness. It's a wonderful truth.

And it's something that we gain when we acknowledge his sovereignty and acknowledge our sin. My wife came home from the grocery store several months ago with a package of hot dogs, the kind we like to eat, no fillers, no byproducts, no artificial colors or flavors. She brought this brand home.

It's called Hebrew National, kosher, beef, hot dogs. As we were eating them, my wife who is the consummate teacher read this package to the children and as she read it, man, I thought, that is great. She finished, I said, honey, that would make a great sermon illustration somewhere down the line. Can I, can I have the package? And she's used to the strange behavior.

She emptied it out and gave it to me. I've kept it now for several months in this plastic baggie so they wouldn't give my study a rather kosher smell. Hebrew National, then the byline, we answer to a higher authority. Then on the back, you've heard the word kosher, but did you know that it literally means fit to eat? Hebrew National must follow strict biblical dietary laws, use only certain cuts of kosher beef, and meet the highest standards for quality, cleanliness, and safety. For over 95 years, our commitment to manufacturing products of only the highest quality means that artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, and byproducts are simply not allowed. Kosher also stands for quality and goodness, and that's why we believe our Frank's taste so superior. Hebrew National answers to a higher authority so that you can enjoy the best.

Isn't that great? I'm not getting any commission for this, by the way, so put your doubts aside. Imagine a company so convinced that they answer to a higher authority that it governs the way they make hot dogs. If only every Christian lived, as it were, with their lives, with their hands, with their hearts, with their feet stamped with this, I answer to a higher authority in the way I live my life. And when I go to him in prayer, I am not going to tell him anything. I am going to answer for everything. He is sovereign, and I am servant. We answer to a higher authority. Wouldn't that be a great motto for Christian living?

And for those here willing to use that as a standard for living, you are well on your way to gaining the maximum attention of God in prayer. There's more for us to learn as we continue through the book of Nehemiah. And when we return next time, we'll bring you the next message in this series. You're listening to Stephen Davey, your Bible teacher, on this daily broadcast called Wisdom for the Heart. We have a little bit of time today, so I want to share with you some notes that we've received from listeners. Kimberly from here in North Carolina said, Wisdom for the Heart has helped my family grow in the knowledge of Christ.

We have loved the snippets of historical facts that help explain the context of the culture in which it was written, as well as the very personal applications Stephen offers. We love supporting the ministry. Carol from Texas said, A group of ladies and I studied the life of Joseph from your Genesis series. I was also enthralled with the study of creation, as well as by all the research that you've done.

We felt the life of Joseph and those around him came alive to each of us in a special way that truly impacted us. I pray that God continues to provide for your ministry so that we listeners can continue to be blessed with these resources. Rhonda from West Virginia said, I enjoy listening to your broadcast on the internet, and I'm thankful for it and the resources on your website. Enclosed is a gift that I hope will help in some small way. Thank you, Rhonda.

And then one more. Roseanne from South Carolina said, As I enter my seventh decade of living, my eyesight has begun to diminish. However, my spiritual vision has greatly improved as a result of listening to the Wisdom program on my local Christian radio station. Thank you for studying the scriptures and being the light of truth to the world. Well, thanks to all of you who sent us these notes. I share those with you because I want you to know that your support of our ministry is making a direct impact in the lives of many, many people. We'd really enjoy hearing from you. You can write to us at Wisdom International, PO Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina 27627.

Once again, that's Wisdom International, PO Box 37297, Raleigh, North Carolina 27627. Our email address is info at wisdomonline.org. For the last several years, we've been capturing videos of Stephen preaching in the church he pastors. We post all of those to our YouTube channel. We also have the video version of Stephen's second daily program called The Wisdom Journey available on YouTube. Be sure and subscribe to the Wisdom International YouTube channel.

Before we close, we have a special resource for you to know about. Stephen wrote a book based on this current series called Nehemiah. If you want to go deeper in your study of Nehemiah, this hardback book will make a great addition to your library. It follows this teaching series as Stephen goes verse by verse through this very practical book. You'll be blessed and encouraged as you explore the life of Nehemiah. People have used it for personal Bible study and small groups and Sunday school classes have used it as a guide to their Bible study.

It's available during this series at a deeply discounted rate. You can call us for information about Nehemiah. It's 866-48-Bible or 866-482-4253. Thanks for listening. Join us again next time to discover more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-22 00:35:02 / 2024-05-22 00:44:54 / 10

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