Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21st - Prayer

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron and Denise
Riverfest in Canton
Fireproof the movie and those that will get saved
Adam's Soccer Tournament
Matthew's team to win some games
More students in class

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer is the most important thing a Christian can do. I get carried away when talking about prayer because it is such an interesting and vital thing in the church. You have been granted the most incredible privilege ever conceived: an audience with Almighty God. And yet most Christians completely forsake this privilege, praying only on Sundays at church.

Leonard Ravenhill said something we should all remember, “If weak in prayer, we are weak everywhere.” Paul started the letter to Thessalonica with the most important weapon they have, prayer, and reminds them to pray and that they are prayed for.

Jesus prayed ALL THE TIME, if we’re seeking his example, then we should pray ALL THE TIME. Jesus Christ prayed all the way to his death on the cross, but not for himself, but for those doing the crucifying. He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.

James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The Bible a lot of times speaks of individuals in the masculine, like in this verse, “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This doesn’t mean that the prayers of Hannah don’t avail much, the prayers of Jessica don’t avail much, the prayers of Da’Kayla don’t avail much; what the Bible means a lot of the time (not all of the time) when it says he or man is that it is the duty of each individual to do something, in this case it is to pray. The ESV Bible tried to capture this without going too far, in this case it says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power…

People through history have believed that the priest or the shaman or the sooth-sayer have more efficacious prayers and so have neglected their own duty to pray in order that they pay someone to pray for them. This is called, in part, sacerdotalism, which is the belief that certain religious people have a higher standing in the eyes of God. In the dark ages, there were priests specifically paid to pray a certain number of times a day for their town, people, and livestock. I read one story of a priest who was supposed to wake up at 4am every day in order to pray for the day to come before everyone else was awake. One day he slept in, and trying to be a “good man”, he confessed his failure, and he got thumped for his failure to wake and pray for the town.

The Catholic Church is notorious for their superstitious prayers, believing they are bribing God by being faithful to say ritualistic prayers so many times a day. Hail Mary’s and Our Father prayers are pagan practices adopted by the Roman Catholics and specifically prohibited by Christ. There is another problem; you have to be perfect in order for God to hear your prayers.

1 Peter 3:12 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

God hears the prayers of the perfect, but turns a deaf ear to the unrighteous.

Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one;

Uh-oh…does that mean that we’re praying in vain when we pray? If you’ve got to be perfect when you pray if you want God to hear you, what is standing in our way for God to hear us?

Sin, sin is always getting in the way, it ruins everything and I really want to instill a hatred of sin in you so that you will see your perfect sinless Saviour as someone exceedingly wonderful and special.

What is sin? 1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.

Give me some examples.

Can we develop our own righteousness?

Isaiah 64:6 “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Paul Washer puts it this way, “The greatest, most commendable deeds of men are nothing but a few filthy rags before God.” A leper is a person whose nerves and skin is dying, they have open wounds, and the worst of them have an odor you wouldn’t believe. “One might clothe a leper in the finest, white silk to cover his sores, but immediately, the corruption of his flesh would bleed through the garment, leaving it as vile as the man it seeks to hide. So are the “good works” of men before God. They bear the corruption of the man who does them.

How do we get righteousness?

Romans 3:20-22 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Jesus Christ lived a righteous life and faced a sinners’ judgment so that we can live a sinner’s life and face a righteous judgment. On the cross Jesus Christ cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The reason is clear, he was made sin for us and God turns his face from the unrighteous. Our sin tore the Father from the Son, and through this incredible showing of love we can receive Christ’s righteousness through faith, and this faith, if from God, will immediately produce repentance; a hatred for sin and a love of God.

So now you have God’s righteousness, how do we pray?

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Remember from 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a royal priesthood. We have been given the privilege of prayer bought at an incredible price on the cross by Jesus Christ so that we can become the righteousness of God in him, and are allowed to approach the holiest of places, the throne of God. An unrighteous person who approached God would be incinerated, because God cannot tolerate sin in the same way the sun cannot tolerate an ice-cube. God’s holiness consumes all unrighteousness.

Prayer is for YOU, God already knows what you’re going to ask and if it aligns with his will, it is going to happen whether you ask or not.

Leonard Ravenhill said it beautifully, “We've said that prayer changes things. No! Prayer doesn't change things. Prayer changes people and people change things. We all want Gabriel to do the job. God says do it yourself - with My sufficiency and My strength.

Types of prayer,

Petitioning – Asking for something for yourself
Intercession – Praying for God to do something for someone
Supplication – Asking God to do something through someone
Thanksgiving/Praise – Thanking God for doing
Imprecation – Asking God to squish someone

So now, what are Paul, Silas, and Timothy praying for?

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving for all of them, for their works that show their faith, their labors of love, and their steadfastness in the face of persecution. While intercession and supplication are not named, they are here, asking God to continue their steadfastness, and to continue using those at Thessalonica for his glory.

1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The word for constantly really means constantly, all the time; remember Paul, and especially Timothy, haven’t been out of Thessalonica for very long and they are praying, interceding and supplicating, for the continued ministry of this infant church. Whether they were praying daily or hourly or more often is unclear, but it is clear that their prayer was often.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

We give thanks for our food, but this is also a great time to pray for other things. I don’t get asked to bless a lot of meals, because I tend to go into full fledged prayer during the blessing. When you’re praying for your food is a great time to remember other people who you are praying for or said you’d pray for.

Also, sometimes it is beneficial just to mention someone’s name in prayer, maybe not even something specific, just say, “Lord, I bring the name of Sydney, Matthew, Hannah, and Jessica before your throne today that your will would be evident in their lives and that you use them for your purposes."

The key here is communication with God, he already knows what you’re going to ask for, and he knows better than you what you need. Besides us wording our prayers, they are intercepted by the Holy Spirit and sent on to the Father.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Finally is the way that we end our prayers,

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

We end prayers, “In Jesus Name”, but what we should be meaning and maybe saying is, “We ask these things hopefully in the will of God.” Jesus didn’t end a single prayer, “In the name of me, amen.” Or anything like it, so you shouldn’t feel confined to that sort of ending. However you end your prayer though should have a note of finality if you’re praying out-loud so people will know the prayer is over. Amen means truth, or sincerity, and is sort of like signing a letter, “Sincerely,”

In conclusion, praying with your non-Christian friends is a great way to preach at them; when you’re praying for an unbeliever, always bring their name before the Throne of Grace with the authority granted to you by Jesus Christ.

Whatever you pray for, remember the price that was paid so you can communicate with God, and be thankful for his willingness to listen, intercede, and act on your prayers, provided they align with his will.