Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 15th - Prayer

Prayer Requests
Superbowl Efforts at Home and in Tampa
Pastor Aaron & Family & Summit on Prayer
Ben, Holly, and Cecilia
Students & Families Traveling
Bethany's friend's health from school
Michelle Sloan Job

Text - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20

Summit is having a “Prayer Sunday” today, so I’ve skipped a few verses much to my chagrin, since now we’ve skipped two sections of this Epistle. Next week we will definitely get to chapter 4, verses 9-12.

The section we’re going to look at is on prayer. Paul started out this Epistle in prayer, and now he’s finishing it up in prayer, plus there was some prayer in the middle. Prayer is important. Do you remember what the five types of prayer are?

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, lets read our passage, everybody turn to

1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

The first thing we see is some of the silly numbering of verses in this passage, look at verse 16, Rejoice always, verse 17, pray without ceasing, then they get to somewhat normal length.
Lets look at some others real quick,

Job 3:2 And Job said:

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

Esther 8:9 The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.

Now everybody flip to Mark 7:16, whose Bible has it? The problem with the chapter numbers and verse numbers is that they were put in place by one man, Robert Stephanus, and everybody followed him. He didn’t have the best manuscripts, although he did have some pretty good ones. By the time they realized he had made some mistakes it was too late, and fortunately every Bible you find will match up, which is why I can tell you to look at a certain chapter and verse and we’re always on the same page, no matter the translation.

Other religious books aren’t this way, for a little while I had the idea to convert Muslims, it was an extremely difficult ministry, with very little fruit, but one of the things I’d find is I’d tell them to look up something in the Koran and they’d say, “That verse has nothing to do with what we’re talking about.” So I’d read or post the verse, and they’d say, “oh, that’s not verse 9, that’s verse 17…” It made it very difficult to communicate from their book.

The chapters and verses are in most places very well placed, in others they are horrendously placed, for example, the break-up between Hebrews chapter 4 and 5, and 5 and 6 are terrible, as well as Genesis 1 and 2. These verse break-ups have wrecked theology too, consider

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

It sounds like it stands alone, but this verse was never meant to stand-alone, lets read it in context

John 3:14-18 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Now it makes sense, just as in Israel when they were beset with poisonous snakes, the only way for them to be saved if they got bit was to look to God’s sign, which was a serpent which Moses had lifted up in the wilderness on a stake. Therefore Christ was saying, if anyone is poisoned with sin, the only way they will be saved is to look to God’s sign, which is the Messiah, lifted up in the wilderness on a cross.

So, that took us a little off topic, but it was important enough that I wanted to share it. The chapters and verses should never be read alone, but in context. A great one that people think deals directly with prayer is

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Sounds like if there are two or three of us gathered in Christ’s name, then he’s with us? So he must be here?

What about the poor Apostle John exiled on the island of Patmos all alone? Was he without God? Or what about Daniel in the lion's den? Was he all alone? Esther by herself in the palace? All alone? Of course not!

Micah 7:8 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.

Matthew 28:20 Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Hmmm…if we're all alone, should we cry out, “God would be with me if there were two or three of us…but woe is me…I’m all alone!” God is with you always, even to the end of the age, you can pray anytime you want, anywhere you want, with anybody you want, alone if you want to or in massive groups.

Lets read Matthew 18 in context real quick, then we’ll get to 1 Thessalonians 5.

Matthew 18:15-20 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

Christ is giving directions on how to judge someone in the church. If someone is sinning, the first thing we do is approach them by ourselves. Say Dave Snyder won’t stop cursing, I go to him and say, “Dave, I’m worried about your soul, because out of the mouth the heart professes, and your cursing is inconsistent with a regenerate soul. So if you’re saved, you’ve gotta stop, if you’re not saved, you need to get saved.” If Dave would turn right there and stop sinning, saying maybe, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was doing that,” or “I didn’t know that was disrespectful to God and misrepresenting Jesus Christ so I'll stop,” then the issue would die. But if he said, “Nope.” Then the next step is I’d grab a pastor and two or three of us would approach Dave. If he still wouldn’t stop, we’d present it to the church. Dave’s choice would be to stop cursing or to be disfellowshipped until he did. We wouldn’t do this to be mean, but to keep blatant sin out of the church, and to let Dave know that we’re serious about his soul, because if we said it was alright, somebody with a major sin problem might think they’re alright, instead of working out their salvation with fear and trembling, repenting towards God and trusting in Jesus Christ that he alone is good and able to save their soul because he died on a cross to pay for all of their sins. We’re looking for fruit keeping with repentance, we’re not going to call out every sin, but look for the big ones or ones that seem to keep recurring.

So the verse that everybody thinks is about prayer is really about bearing witness against a sinning or false brother, that if two or three saints are in agreement with the Bible and confront someone with it, then the Holy Spirit will be there also testifying with them.

So, that was a long ways to say two things;

1. Read everything in context.
2. God is with you in the largest of crowds or the remotest desert island, and he hears your prayers whether you’re with two or three others or all by yourself.
3. Also…call people out when they use this verse wrong, because it really misrepresents God pretty badly to say he will only show up for crowds and not for individuals.

So lets go on with the lesson, now that half the time is up…verses 16 and 18 go together, so I’m going to read them together. Verse 17 will get more focus in a minute.

v. 16,18 Rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

We find it easy to rejoice in good things, but hard sometimes in bad things. You guys remember I was told you I wasn’t dating another person until I was certain that was the person I was going to marry? Well I thought maybe I’d found her, truthfully I haven’t known her very long, maybe four months, but I was excited that we became such good friends so fast, I wasn’t sure and was going to continue being friends with her until October when I graduated, then thought I’d start dating her then. Then we went to lunch, just as friends, and she told me she is moving soon…far away…her mind is pretty made up to move, but we had a nice talk about us dating and stuff and decided it just isn’t right right now. Ouch. It’s good in a way, because there is no way I could devote any sort of attention to someone right now in school, but it still hurts.

Or let me give you a much worse scenario, say someone you love a lot dies.

So how do you rejoice in circumstances like that? Well first you cry a little…because nobody says you can’t be sad, but remember we don’t mourn as those who have no hope. But we remember that God is in control and the he has promised to use all things for good to those that love him. (Romans 8:28)

One of my friends was on a missions trip to Africa, and a little four year old girl got really sick. The family had just been converted to Christianity and they asked him to do a miracle of healing on her. Healings are fickle things because it’s totally up to God and he knows what he’s doing. My friend was terrified to pray over the girl because he didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t get better. Lots of people came, both Christians (very few) and Muslims (very many) to hear and watch him pray. The girl didn’t get better and died a week later. The father of the girl wasn’t angry and didn’t reject God, because he knew his little girl was in Heaven and he would see her again.

Where does the rejoicing come in? At the funeral the whole village came, 90% or more Muslim, and they saw that the family did not mourn as those who have no hope, but trusted in God who raises the dead. Several Christians preached about the hope that is within them because Jesus Christ came and died for their sins and defeated death on the third day, and most of the crowd was converted to Christianity at the funeral of this little girl. God was and is and always will be in control.

A lot of things that will happen to you will strengthen you to minister to others or will force you to rely more on God, and in that I rejoice. For example, now when one of you gets a broken heart, and it’s bound to happen, I’ll know better what you’re going through. A much bigger example is two of our members lost a baby, and in seeking answers went to church and got saved. Not only that, but they are both now exceedingly equipped to minister to both Christians and non-Christians who lose children, which unfortunately is a major problem, it is estimated that 1 in 5 babies won’t survive to be born and that’s not even counting abortions.

Wow, this took longer than I expected, I’m going to go into prayer now since we’re running out of time. The beginning of this Epistle was super easy to go verse by verse, the end is not so easy, a lot packed into these verses.

v. 17 pray without ceasing

Other translations may say, “Pray unceasingly.” Does this mean that right now because we’re not all praying we’re wrong? No, it means to have a constancy of prayer about you, pray frequently, there shouldn’t be big blocks of time where you haven’t prayed.

Sometimes things will happen that make you not want to pray, this is the most important time for you to pray. I really didn’t want to pray after everything happened with that girl and finally I did and I felt a lot better afterwards. Sometimes a prayer should be long, sometimes short. I think the shortest I’ve ever prayed was on the way to YEC when a car behind us did something stupid, coupled with me doing something stupid, and he almost hit us and my prayer was, “Help!” There was nothing else I could do, and that car missed us by inches.

I remember a story I heard at a church I went to with a friend where the pastor said as a little boy he used to need to talk to God so he’d sprint home, fly through the living room, down the hall, and his room had a hard-wood floor so he’d slide in on his knees up to his bed and pretty much say the same thing I’d said, “God, I need help!” He’d been so trained by his parents to pray before bed that he thought that was the only place he could pray from. You don’t have to be on your knees or by your bed or in any sort of configuration to pray, but you do have to be a Christian, because God only hears righteous prayers, (1 Peter 3:12, Psalm 34:15-16) and those prayers, as you remember, are made righteous by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:26)

Finally, as we’re out of time, Israel in the Old Testament really wanted a king, they wanted a king because everybody else had a king. God said it wasn’t time for them to have a king yet, but they wanted one. Samuel, the prophet at the time, yelled at them,

1 Samuel 12:19-24 And all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king." And Samuel said to the people, "Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king."

They were under a different covenant, they had to keep their salvation, we’re under a New Covenant, Christ has purchased our salvation once for all on Calvary’s cross.

But notice that Samuel said, ‘I will not sin by ceasing to pray for you…’ One of the reasons is because that is a duty of a priest, and we are a priesthood of believers. Our prayers will draw us closer to God, make us look more like God, and help us to trust in him more. Finally, one of the greatest prayer verses in the Bible,

James 5:13-18 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.