This week I sat briefly with a dollar bill in my hand. I wondered where it had been. What other hands have grasped it or given it? What human toil had earned it - then spent it - only to have someone else earn it? What small human needs had it fulfilled in its time? Was it ever once stolen, or lost, or found? Had anyone ever thought about it before?
Have you spent much time thinking about money? Sure you have. People plan their lives around money. Decisions are made with money in mind. Where will we live. Where will we go. What can we have.
Songs have been written about money. We let money promise us security, happiness and power. We don't like for it to get too far from us. Men have stolen, killed, lied, cheated and deceived for money. They guard it with their life. Some have even left their spouses, or have made their children sacrifice, and they have even robbed God for it.
There was a man who wanted to take some of his money with him when he died. He did not trust undertakers to see to it that he had some buried with him. So he gave each of his sons $100,000 in cash and told them to sneak it into the casket just before they buried him. At the cemetery, the first son went up and snuck a package into the casket. The second son did the same, followed by the third son. When they arrived back at home, the first son was moping around and finally called the other two into another room. He said, "I have to confess, I only left half the money." The 2nd son said, "I guess I should tell you, I only left a fourth of the money." The 3rd sons said, "Don't worry, I took out what you left and left a check for the full amount."
Money has been buried in back yards - in mattresses - in attics - behind walls. There are few things we are closer to than our money.
A barber in a small town was busy cutting hair one day when the local cop walked in to get a haircut. And the barber was feeling a bit generous that day, so he said to the cop, "Since you do such a good job protecting us, and watching over us, today's haircut is free." The cop said he appreciated that, and the next day when the barber showed up at his shop, there were a dozen donuts waiting for him. In walks a local florist. The barber tells him how much he appreciates all the work that he has done around town, planting bushes and flowers and making the town look real nice, so he gives him a free haircut. The next day, the barber shows up at his shop and there are a dozen flowers waiting for him. In walks the local preacher. The barber tells him how he is feeling generous that day, and how much he appreciates all his hard work with the children and taking care of the needs of the people, so the preacher gets a free haircut. The next day the barber shows up at his shop, and there are a dozen preachers waiting there for him.
We have been brainwashed into thinking our security, happiness and power is tied to how much money we have accumulated. For all the trust we put into money, we actually get no assurance whatsoever. Money cannot guarantee us one single thing.
There is One, though, that we can put our trust in, and can have total confidence and assurance of the return on our investment. He is who we should get intimate with. We should invest our time with Him.
Hebrews 10:22 NIV
22 Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
We have total assurance of our present and our future because of what God has done for us. And He is inviting us to draw near and have an intimate relationship with Him. How do we have such a relationship? By spending time in prayer - having a dialog with Him.
Today we continue in our series on Prayer. I hope you are all enjoying the book, "Too Busy Not To Pray" by Bill Hybels. Nearly a thousand people have purchased a book, and if we learn and practice what it teaches, our church will never be the same. I have heard so many good comments from people who are reading. Many are finding it difficult to put it down.
Matthew 6:8 tells us:
Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
This has led some people to ask, then why pray, if God already knows before we ask. Can't He just give us what we need? When I said my prayers this past week, "Dear Lord, Kay Doll's sister and brother-in-law aren't feeling very well this week, and LeeAnn Holman needs a permanent job, the Lord doesn't ever say, "Oh, I didn't know that. Thanks for filling me in, John." God is God, and He knows what you have need of before you ask.
So, today, the question we are going to answer is: "Why do we need to pray?" Actually, the question "If God already knows what I need before I ask, then why do I need to pray?" is a fairly easy questions to answer. My quick answer would be: The question only addresses things we would ask God for. We need to pray because not all prayer involves asking God for things." But, even beyond that answer, we are still instructed to pray when we need something.
Others have expanded the question to: "If God already knows the future and is already in complete control of everything, what's the point of prayer? If we cannot change God's mind, why should we pray?" This question will take some additional searching in the Scriptures, but the Bible does give us ample reasons for us to pray.
SO, IF GOD KNOWS WHAT WE NEED BEFORE WE ASK, WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE TO BOTHER TO ASK? IS IT ACCURATE TO SAY THAT IT WILL HAPPEN WHETHER WE PRAY OR NOT?
No, it is not!! In many specifics, God waits to be asked. Of course, there are many general blessings of God which come upon mankind without respect to the one who received them. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. The sun shines upon a man's field whether he is good or wicked. And even beyond this, we receive many blessings from our beneficent heavenly Father simply because we are His children and He delights in us.
Psalm 68:19 (NKJV)
19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation.
Why we should pray
1. Because God commands us to pray
Luke 18:1 NIV
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The only way to trouble God is not to come at all. He has told us to come to Him and pray.
Philippians 4:6 NKJV
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
A child of God is to pray for anything and about everything. There is nothing that concerns you that does not also concern our Lord. The fact that God has requested us to pray is an amazing thing. The God who created time and space invites us to pour out our hearts before Him. He invites us to share our burdens and longings with Him. 1 Peter 5:7 says: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Psalms 62:8 NIV
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
So, the first reason we should pray is because God tells us to do so.
2. Lack of prayer is sin.
1 Samuel 12:23 NIV
23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
Samuel was the priestly leader in Israel at this time. He said it would be sin against God for him to cease to pray for Israel.
"Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer."
Matthew 26:41 NIV
41 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
This should teach us that when we are struggling with temptation, we should take it to the Lord in prayer.
3. We need to Pray because there is a devil
Ephesians 6:12-18 NIV
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Prayer is one God-appointed way to resist the devil and his schemes.
4. Pray to have a relationship with God
To have a relationship with someone, we must:
a) spend time with them, Think of a telephone. When we talk on the phone, we can't see the individual on the other end. But we know they are there. We talk and they listen - they talk and we listen. Our relationship with God is similar. Prayer is a dialog with God.
b) share experiences with them, We are told to share our successes and failures with God. Talk with him about what you are going through.
c) communicate with them. The topic of the discussion is not as important as the time spent. God delights in your company.
Yes, God is all-knowing, but He also desires our fellowship with Him. The ultimate reason why we should pray is that our relationship with God grows. As we pray, we get to know God in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. Through prayer, we slip our hand into God's hand as He moves mountains. Of course, He could have moved those mountains without us, but He wants us to feel a sense of partnership with Him. And that "togetherness" with God through prayer will change your life.
5. Prayer is a form of serving God.
This certainly was true in the life of the prophetess, Anna.
Luke 2:36-38 NIV
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Some years ago a young girl was very sick and not expected to recover. Because of her love for Jesus, she was troubled that she had not been able to serve Him, and do more for Him in her short life. Her pastor suggested that she make a list of people in their little town who needed Christ and pray that they might put their faith in Him. She took his advice, made a list, and prayed often for each person.
Some time later, God began to stir a revival in the village. The girl heard of the people who were coming to Christ and prayed even more. As she heard reports, she checked off the names of those who had been led to the Lord. After the girl died, a prayer list with the names of 56 people was found under her pillow. All had put their faith in Christ, the last one on the night before he death.
Yes, prayer is a way to serve God.
6. We should pray because Christ, our example, prayed often
Mark 1:35 NIV
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
The Bible records that Jesus had a continuous fellowship with His Father. If Jesus felt the need to pray, we also should be aware of that need for ourselves.
"In the life of Jesus, prayer was the work and ministry was the prize. For me, prayer often serves as preparation for the battle. But, for Christ, prayer was the battle itself. After having prayed, He went about His ministry as and honor student might go to receive a reward, or as a marathon runner, having run the race, might accept the gold medal."
7. We should pray because if refocuses our perspective
Without prayer, we see only the visible. With prayer, God shows us the hidden dimensions of life.
Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Prayer helps us to see what we cannot without prayer. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that the a person using natural means cannot know the things of God. Only those who have had their spiritual eyes refocused can see things of a spiritual nature.
8. We should pray because it quiets our fears and calms our nerves.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We may come to prayer fearful and anxious. But when we give our worries to the Lord, and leave them with Him, we come away calmed and assured.
9. We should pray because prayer transfers our burdens.
1 Peter 5:7 NKJV
7 Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Through prayer, the big load we have been carrying can shift to the shoulders that can handle its weight.
Things looked bleak for the children of George Mueller's orphanage at Ashley Downs in England. It was time for breakfast, and there was no food. A small girl whose father was a close friend of Mueller was visiting in the home. Mueller took her hand and said, "come see what out Father will do." In the dining room, long tables were set with empty places and empty mugs. Not only was there no food in the kitchen, but there was no money in the home's account. Mueller prayed, "Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat." Immediately, they heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood the local baker. "Mr. Mueller," he said, "I couldn't sleep last night. Somehow I felt you had no bread for breakfast, so I got up at 2 o'clock and baked fresh bread. Here it is." Mueller thanked him and gave praise to God. Soon, a second knock was heard. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. He said he would like to give the children the milk so he could empty the cart and repair it.
We need to transfer all our burdens to our Lord who is waiting for our call.
Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
As the song says, let's take our burdens to the cross and leave them there.
10. We should pray because prayer upholds others who are in need.
William Carey changed the history of missions and the face of India more than 200 years ago. Few know of Carey's sister, who was paralyzed and bedridden for 50 years. Although she was unable to speak for much of that period, with great effort she allowed herself to be propped up in bed. She wrote long encouraging letters to her brother. And she prayed for him several hours each day for 50 years.
Galatians 6:2 KJV
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
I believe praying for others is one form of bearing one another's burdens. We are bringing them before the One who knows them best.
11. Prayer is a tool that God uses to accomplish His will on earth.
In the Lord's Prayer, recorded in Matthew 6, we are told to pray that God's will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. God doesn't need our prayers to accomplish his will. And yet, He chooses to work through our prayers to accomplish His will.
12. We should pray because of who we are.
I heard the story of a minister who visited on of his older members who was in residential care. Over time, she had become rather confused and forgetful. So to test whether she really knew him or not, he gently sat beside her, took her hand and asked her "Now - who am I?" She replied, "Don't worry son, lots of folk forget who they are in here, but if you ask that lady over there, she's one of the care staff and she'll tell you who you are. Perhaps, then, you will remember."
We are a unique part of God's creation, being made, the Bible tells us, "in the image of God." We, alone, have the capacity of knowing God and relating to Him. And this capacity is not an "extra" - the "icing on the cake," so to speak. The communication with God, as a result of who we are, is the very essence of our lives. It's what we were made for.
13. We should pray because of what we are.
All of us are different - every single one of us; but none of us - not a single one of us is all we should be. we should pray because of WHAT we are - SINNERS! Who among us can claim absolutely no regrets. Aren't there things you wish you had done differently - things you which had never happened. Prayer, therefore, has relevance for us, for prayer moves the hand of faith reaching out to accept God's offered forgiveness. All true prayers begins with this: "God be merciful to me, a sinner!"
14. Prayer is a means for receiving God's grace and mercy in time of need
Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Without God's grace and mercy, we would all be lost. Prayer is our medium of contact with God which will bring the power we need for daily living. Christ has promised that if we will come to Him, He will provide mercy and grace to help in our time of need. Our joy and the assurance that Christ is with us can only be sustained from day to day with prayer.
15. Prayer allows a means to invade the impossible
Jeremiah 33:3 (KJV)
3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
James Gilmour, a missionary to Mongolia, was once asked to treat some wounded soldiers. Although he was not a doctor, he did have some knowledge of first aid., so he felt he could not refuse the request. He dressed the wounds of two of the men, but the third had a badly broken thigh bone.
The missionary had no idea what to do for such an injury. Kneeling beside the man, he asked the Lord for help. He didn't know how God would answer his prayers, but he was confident that his need would be supplied. He couldn't find any books of physiology in the primitive hospital and no doctor arrived. To complicate matters, a crowd of beggars came to him asking for money. He was deeply concerned about his patient, yet his heart went out to those ragged paupers. Hurriedly he gave them a small gift, plus a few king words of spiritual admonition.
A moment later he stared in amazement at one weary beggar who had remained behind. The half-starved fellow was little more than a living skeleton. He asked the man if He might examine him. After carefully tracing the femur bone with his fingers, he learn how to treat the soldier's broken leg. He returned to the soldier and was able to set the fracture.
Years afterward, Gilmour often related how God had provided him with a strange yet sufficient response to his earnest prayer. When we raise our petitions, we too can be certain the Lord will help us, even though the answer comes by way of those who "have no power."
Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21 To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
Notice, He is able to do ABOVE all that we ASK. He is able to do ABOVE all that we THINK (IMAGINE). And, note, He is not only able, He is IMMEASURABLY (ABUNDANTLY) able.
16. Prayer opens the door for the entrance of the gospel
In Colossians 4:2, Paul requested the people to pray "that God would open to us a door of utterance."
Traveling on My Knees
Last night I took a journey
To a land across the seas;
I did not go by boat or plane,
I traveled on my knees.
I saw so many people there
In deepest depths of sin,
But Jesus told me I should go,
That there are souls to win.
But I said, "Jesus I cannot go
And work with such as these."
He answered quickly, "Yes you can
By traveling on your knees.
He said, "You pray; I'll meet the need,
You call and I will hear;
Be concerned about lost souls,
Of those both far and near."
And so I tried it, knelt in prayer,
Gave up some hours of ease;
I felt the Lord right by my side,
While traveling on my knees.
As I prayed on and saw souls saved,
And twisted bodies healed,
And saw God's worker' strength renewed
While laboring on the field.
I said, "Yes, Lord, I have a job,
My desire Thy will to please;
I can go and heed Thy call
By traveling on my knees."
17. Prayer brings into reality all the promises of God
2 Corinthians 1:20 (KJV)
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Yes, God keeps all His promises. He is trustworthy.
18. Prayer is God's appointed way to obtaining things.
...fills man's emptiness with God's fullness
...fills man's poverty with God's riches
...fills man's weakness with God's strength