Prayer: How God Hears from Us

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“Prayer: How God Hears from Us”

(Selected Passages)

Series: The Spiritual Disciplines [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

June 3, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Illustration: Have you ever been in a moment where you just really wanted to get a word into someone? Perhaps it was in a conversation, or through a text or phone call, whatever it may be. You get frustrated because you keep experiencing interruptions, or you don’t know exactly what to say, or you’re fearful. It’s so frustrating to not get a word in when you want to. 

Well, when it comes to prayer, we can always get a word in. Not only can we get a word in, but we can get a word in with the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty!

Psalm 65 describes God as “the one who hears prayer.”

This morning we are continuing our series through the Spiritual Disciplines. 

Last week we discussed how we hear from God, through Bible Intake. This week, we’ll discuss prayer, which is how God hears from us. 

As I mentioned before, a lot of this material is provided by Dr. Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. 

Dr. Whitney says this in his book, “God not only has spoken clearly and powerfully to us through Christ and the Scriptures, He also has a very large ear continually open to us.”

God can hear all languages, all the time, simultaneously and He is able to sort it all out and listen as a loving father patiently listens to his child. 

I can read statistics as I did last week about how many professing Christians pray, and how often they pray, but let me just ask you this: how’s your prayer life? (repeat)

I think we all have some work to do here; some more than others.

As we journey through this sermon, let us all be open to what God may be telling us. 

Let’s go to Him now in prayer.

(Prayer)

While looking at prayer, we will ponder three factors regarding prayer. 

First, . . .

I. Prayer is expected [on screen]

“Expected you say? Well, why do you say that pastor?”

Well, listen to the Bible:

Jesus says in . . .

. . .  Matthew 6:5, “Whenever you pray . . . ” [on screen]

. . .  Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray . . . ” [on screen]

. . .  Matthew 6:7, “When you pray . . . ” [on screen]

. . .  Matthew 6:9, “Therefore, you should pray . . . ” [on screen]

. . .  Luke 11:9, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” [on screen]

Luke 18:1 tells us, “Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always . . .” [on screen]

Paul says in . . . 

. . .  Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” [on screen]

. . .  1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray constantly.” [on screen]

The overwhelming expectation in the words of the Bible is that people who profess allegiance to Christ would be people of prayer. 

Prayer is expected of us. 

(pause)

Some of us may be tempted to think of the expectation of prayer as a rule, or a requirement. Don’t think of prayer that way. It’s so much more than that. 

Prayer is not a requirement of law, it is an expectation of love. (repeat)

When we are in love with Christ we are connected to Him through prayer. 

Illustration: It’s like when you see teenagers texting each other furiously. They do so because they are connected to each other emotionally, which means they are connected to each other digitally.

In the same way, because we are connected to Christ spiritually, we should be connected supernaturally to Him through prayer!

We read earlier that Paul told us to “Pray constantly,” or “Pray without ceasing.”

Well, what does this mean?

How can we pray all of the time?

I’ve heard “praying without ceasing” described as always being a breath away from prayer.

We are expected to pray, and we are expected to be ready to pray at any moment. 

This is what the Word of God tells us. 

(pause)

If Jesus spoke to you personally in bodily form and said He expected you to pray because He loved you, would you do it?

The thing is, the words of Scripture are just as powerful as if Jesus said them in person before us now. God expects us to pray. He has told us to.

It’s an expectation of love. 

Prayer is expected. 

Second, . . .

II. Prayer is learned  [on screen]

Many of us don’t pray much because we have never learned how to pray. We don’t know what to do!

Luke 11:1 tells us, “He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray . . .” [on screen]

The disciples needed to learn from Jesus how to pray, and we need to learn how to pray as well. 

As we learn we do so with the knowledge that God does not expect a perfect prayer from us. He hears us no matter if we are eloquent or not. 

We don’t learn to pray so we can be heard, but so that we can communicate in a deeper and fuller way with God. 

Well, how do we learn to pray?

There are a variety of different models that you can use. 

Jesus answered the disciples when they asked Him to teach them, so that is one obvious model that you can use: the Lord’s model prayer. Study that!

There’s also the ACTS model: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. 

Adoration – come before God in praise and adore Him for who He is. 

Confession – confess your sins to God. Cleanse your heart before you come to Him with requests. 

Thanksgiving – thank God for His many blessings in your life. 

Supplication – to supplicate means to ask or beg for something. Ask God for requests on behalf of others and yourself. Most of all, ask for His will to be done. 

You can also learn by seeing how others prayed in the Scriptures. 

Spend time studying and meditating on the prayers of Abraham, Moses, David, the psalmists, Paul, Jesus, and others. 

Learn from them. 

We learn not only by meditating upon the prayers of biblical people, but also by meditating on the Bible itself. 

We can read the Bible, stop and meditate on it (as we discussed last week) and then let that meditation lead us into a state of biblically centered prayer.

We also learn to pray by praying with one another. 

Even someone who has a deep prayer life can hear someone else pray in a particular way and learn something from it. 

My wife is one of my prayer heroes. She prays in her own unique way. She often prays about things that I would not think about. I learn from listening to her pray. I don’t copy her prayers, but I learn from her prayers. 

We don’t pray to impress others. We pray to God and with others, and we learn together. 

As we discuss prayer, we must remember that prayer is learned.

Finally, . . . 

III. Prayer is miraculous  [on screen]

Through the very act of prayer we are reminded how utterly dependent we are on God. 

Jesus said, “you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5)

We need God desperately. 

Why? Because we cannot survive on merely natural power. We need something supernatural! We need something miraculous! 

We can be sure that the miraculous, supernatural God of the universe hears our prayers. 

Psalm 65:2 says, “All humanity will come to you, the one who hears prayer.” [on screen]

God hears our prayers. The very Creator of all things!

James reminds us of the miraculous power of prayer. 

James 5:16-18, “16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. 17 Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.” [on screen]

Many of don’t pray more because we don’t expect anything to happen. If we expected something to happen when we prayed we would pray more. 

Know this, God always hears our prayers and He always does what is best for us and for the accomplishment of His will. 

We know elsewhere from Scripture that we don’t always get exactly what we ask for.

Jesus asked the Father to deliver him from the cross, yet He didn’t. 

Paul asked for God to take away his thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, and God didn’t take it away. 

James even says that sometimes we don’t get what we ask for because we ask with the wrong motives. 

Yet, God hears our prayers and He can work in miraculous ways. 

James says that our prayers can be powerful and effective. They can cause it to stop raining and then to start raining again. 

They can restore sight to a blind man. 

Better yet, they can be used by God in the process of bringing salvation to someone by the cleaning of their sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Prayer is miraculous. 

(pause)

We must remember that God does not always, and I would say that He seldom answers prayer in the way that we expect. 

He has no obligation to answer prayers according to our will. He answers according to His will. 

You may find it helpful to think of God’s answer to prayer in these three ways: yes, no, and not right now. That’s for sure an oversimplification of how God answers prayers, but it’s a starting point for thinking of how God may answer our prayers. 

Here’s what we should remember: God works miraculously through prayer in the way He wants to. 

As we learned through our study of James: God can answer any prayer and He will answer in the way that accomplishes His will. 

We just have to be patient and open our eyes to how He may be working through our prayers. 

God is a miracle worker and He wants to hear from you in order to work miracles. 

Prayer is miraculous. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Martin Luther, an early reformer of the Christian church who lived in the 1500s said this, “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”

We are to be people of prayer. We are to pray because it is expected. We are to learn how to pray more and deeper. We are to believe that prayer is miraculous. 

When we pray we are simply speaking to our God. 

Our bottom line this week is . . . 

Bottom Line: Pray to God, because He hears you.  [on screen]

(repeat)

He hears you. Do you believe that? Do you believe that the God of the universe hears you when you pray?

If we do believe that, let’s discipline ourselves to make it our business to pray. 

Do so by challenging yourself in these three ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Evaluate your current prayer life.  [on screen]

(repeat)

This is just between you and God. 

Take some time and ask yourself, “Is my prayer deep? Do I pray constantly? Do I know how to pray?”

Evaluate yourself. 

  1. Commit to deepen your prayer life.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Most of us don’t pray more frequently and in a deeper way not because we don’t think that we should but because we don’t discipline ourselves to do so.

One great way you can deepen your prayer life is to combine last week’s spiritual discipline (Bible intake) with this week’s spiritual discipline.

You can pray before you read God’s Word, that He will illuminate your heart mind to His truth. 

Also, as mentioned earlier, you can allow meditation on the Bible to lead you into a state of prayer. 

Try this and some other methods to deepen your prayer life. 

  1. Develop a prayer journal.  [on screen]

(repeat)

I haven’t spoken much about this, but let me briefly share with you the value of a prayer journal. 

A prayer journal gives you direction when you are praying by recording specific things for which to pray. 

It also allows you to look back to see how God answered certain prayers. 

Further, it allows you to write down what God might be teaching you as you pray. 

I encourage you to give it a try. Get a journal, or just some paper, and write down some things to pray for, write down how you see God working, and write down what God is teaching you through prayer. 

Closing:

Some of us may have never paused to consider how beautiful of a thing it is that we can come before God in prayer. 

(pause)

We can come directly to God in prayer because of the work of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus has made it possible for us to come directly to God!

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Where He Leads Me

Benediction:

We will back here tonight at 5:30 as we continue our study called On Mission Every Day. I hope you’ll join us as we talk about the second practice of the mission: Investing.

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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