Pray That God Answersby Craig Royske
May 5, 2012
Prayer That God Answers
Series—Prayer That God Answers
When I think about how many Christians view prayer I am always reminded about the story of a small rural town in the South in which there were two churches and one whiskey distillery. For years the two churches had lobbied and protested in an effort to shut down the distillery. They complained bitterly that it gave the town a bad name and encouraged all kinds of evils through alcohol abuse. Nothing seemed to work. The whiskey distillery, owned, as it happened, by an avowed atheist obstinately remained open. Finally it was suggested, “Why don’t we Pray?” So then the two churches met every Saturday night to pray. Like most evangelicals, they had not considered prayer as a first option though much praying had been done in support of their campaign. Now, both churches were dedicated to praying together every Saturday night for the sole purpose to specifically petition God to shut down the whiskey distillery. Saturday after Saturday they prayed, “Please Lord, shut down the distillery. Oh God, is this distillery not a bad witness for you.” Then one rainy night, while they were praying, a bolt of lightning struck the distillery and it burned to the ground. It’s easy to imagine what happened the next day. From the pulpits there was pounding and expounding the power of prayer. For days to come the town could talk of little else besides the dramatic prayer-induced, divine intervention. ...
Ah, a short time later though a problem did come to light. … You see the insurance company refused to pay the distillery owner on the insurance claim. The lightning bolt, the insurance company claimed, was an act of God therefore it was not covered by the owners insurance policy. Of course the distillery owner then promptly sued the two churches claiming that they conspired with God to destroy his business.
How long do you think the two churches continued expounding the power of answered prayer? You could have measured it with a stopwatch. They of course immediately hired a high-powered attorney who vehemently denied his clients had anything at all to do with the fire at the distillery. ...
Now the most interesting part of this whole story is the comment of the trial judge, the judge said, “This is the most perplexing case I have ever presided over. The plaintiff, who is an atheist, professes to believe in the power of prayer. And the defendants, who are church members, emphatically deny the power of prayer.”
The point of the story? Well, obviously Faith would be one. But also take note! When you start praying, satan will take notice and get busy. He will fight! He wants you to back down! satan knows that your power comes from God! This is not the time to lose your nerve and stop praying.
How then do we get a handle on prayer? God in His Word has given us a teaching. Jesus Himself gives us clear directions. This morning we will start examining one of the most familiar statements in the Bible. One of the most familiar… Yet most difficult… And yet, even still, one of the most abused statements in the bible. Before we do though… Let us go before our God in prayer.
Do you sometimes feel that praying is an onerous burden? I can assure you, it is not. When a catastrophic event enters our lives we quickly discover just how simple prayer can be. We no longer drag ourselves to our morning devotions. We no longer secretly crave the distraction of a phone call. We no longer conveniently forget many of the things we meant to include in our prayer. When a catastrophic event enters our life we suddenly want to pray. In fact we want to pray so badly that we can’t stop ourselves from praying. ... And of course we want God to answer!
When a catastrophic event enters your life you very quickly get down to the task of “spiritual lobbying.” You employ the usual methods spending lots of time on your knees; take every extra moment to remind God of your situation. You employ the help of others to pray for you with the thought that the louder the clamor is, the better God will hear you. You feel that your case is pretty watertight; after all, God wouldn’t ignore a satanic attack on you and your family. Besides a positive outcome would be a tremendous testimony. You know that God is in charge, that He has the power to deliver instantaneous results. Your job is to persuade Him to do it, … umm ... or so you think.
Things usually turn out very differently! The outcome is not always the one you prayed for, and things usually get worse before they are over. One of the first things we need to remember is that Daniel was not saved from the lion’s den; he was saved in the lion’s den. Daniel had to trust that God would keep the mouths of the lions closed every moment of the long dark night that he was in their den. At dawn king Darius’ guards released Daniel until then he remained in imminent danger. Daniel had no way of knowing the lions wouldn’t suddenly kill him. Like Daniel we have to endure our own “lions den.”
Praying is the Most Important Thing a Christian Can Do
In the end the catastrophic danger passes and you can quit lobbying God and go back to what you were doing. Right? But this is exactly the wrong conclusion! Praying is the Most Important Thing a Christian Can Do Please note that; when a catastrophic event strikes all we want is for God to help us attain our own goal. We need to learn that far greater goals can be attained if we only take time to be alone with our God in prayer. Prayer is not meant to be a means of getting what we want. If we think of prayer as a kind of hotline to God, to be used in emergencies only, we have not yet grasped the Christian faith. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God, not to persuade God, or manipulate Him. Prayer is about surrendering to God’s purposes. Again, prayer is about surrendering to God’s purposes. Praying is the most important thing you will ever do! … That is why Christian activities that are not rooted in prayer can bear no fruit. I will repeat that. That is why Christian activities that are not rooted in prayer can bear no fruit. Or bear very little! Please note all the times our Pastor Wayne and the Elders in their announcements bring to our attention things for us to keep in our prayers. Praying is the most important thing a Christian can do.
Jesus spoke of His relationship with God in the most radical of terms. The Bible tells us that Jesus rose before daybreak to commune with His Father. For Jesus communion and prayer with God were as essential as the air He breathed. Please turn with me to John 4:34, the disciples have returned with food and are concerned because Jesus is not taking time to eat. John 4:34, “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Here is the innermost secret of Jesus’ power, the daily and disciplined bonding of His own will to the will of God. … (Repeat) The daily and disciplined bonding of His own will to the will of God. Once again, “Praying is the most important thing a Christian can do!”
Satan takes a Christians praying very seriously. When did satan come to tempt Jesus? satan came when Jesus was praying. satan will do the same to us. Many think that when they are in their daily devotions with God that satan will leave them alone. The opposite is true. Why? Because satan knows that prayer is the secret of our strength and victory over him. If he can interrupt our power supply at the source he will do it. You will then be weakened spiritually. There is no time in your day when you are more open to satan’s attack then when you are praying. Or when you are preparing to pray. How often have you been about to enter into a time of devotion and been interrupted? Be prepared! Often I have said to someone while getting a dismayed look in return, “Sometimes you have to pray in order to get a prayer in.” satan is always on the move trying to get under your guard, always plotting, scheming, planning, looking for opportunities to deceive and defeat you. Fall asleep watching TV satan won’t bother you. Get down on your knees to pray and he will be there double quick.
Prayer That God Will Answer
How then do we get a handle on prayer? … God in His Word teaches us. Jesus Himself gives us clear directions. Please turn with me to Luke 11:1. The scene is set in Luke 11:1 when Jesus returns from prayer, the disciples in camp waiting for Him to return no doubt wondering what it is He does all “that time” ask of Him, Luke 11:1, “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” The first thing Jesus does; now this is according to the Mathew version lets turn there please so you may follow along, Mathew 6:1-15, the first thing Jesus does is to teach them not to do what the Pharisee’s do. There are no points to be won by putting on a public display praying for everyone to see. It is far better to find a quiet corner where no one can see you. There is no need to use fifty words when ten are enough. God knows what you need before you ask Him. What matters is to pray, not frame your prayer in eloquent speech.
From there Jesus gives one of the most familiar… yet most difficult… and yet even still, one of the most abused statements in the bible. Mathew 6:9-13, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (13) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” These short few verses provide enough wisdom about prayer to fill a book let alone a few sermons. To learn the lessons that are here though we first have to learn to avoid a few mistakes that can be made. The first mistake is thinking we know the “Lord’s Prayer” because we have it memorized. First of all, this really isn’t the “Lords Prayer,” Jesus never prayed these words. If anything is to be called the “Lord’s Prayer” it is the prayer Jesus prayed at the Last Supper in John 17. Mathew 6:9-13 would be better called “the Disciples Prayer,” anyway, onward. Jesus never meant for these words to be repeated mechanically. Nor are they to be treated as a magic charm as these words have no power. With regard to Jesus’ statement, “After this manner therefore pray ye,” Jesus certainly did not mean for us to recite these words as we would some Shakespearean sonnet.
All this is clear from the context. First, Jesus had just squared away the Pharisee’s use of meaningless and repetitious prayers, so He certainly would not have told His disciples to use this practice. Second, we find the “Lord’s Prayer” nowhere in the New Testament being repeated verbatim by the apostles. Surely His closest followers would have taken heed if it were the case, but no. The early church had no place for this kind of superstitious ritual and neither should we. Then if the Lord’s Prayer is not a rote prayer then what is its purpose?
God’s Curriculum For Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer lays out the curriculum for biblical teaching on prayer. It is an outline or if you will a study course providing the major themes. It tells us what we have to learn in order to master the art of praying. Jesus in drafting this curriculum kept things simple, no need for a degree or to do a lot of background reading. You don’t have to worry about being smart enough to learn, the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity will always be here for personal instruction. … The apostle Paul said in Romans 8:26, you don’t have to turn there I will just read it. Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
As for the content of Jesus’ course for prayer, what I am going to say may surprise you. Most modern teachings deal with the “How” of prayer. We want to know how to pray, just like we want to know how to access the Internet or how to use a cellular phone. Internalizing that information, we think, is the secret of lobbying God successfully and getting our prayers answered.
Jesus’ perspective was quite different. … In the Lord’s Prayer He was not focusing on “How” to pray, but rather on “What” to pray. First, we have to learn to pray for the right thing because that is God’s central purpose in having us pray in the first place.
When you examine the Old Testament, it is evident that in crisis situations God’s saints usually knew what to pray for. Abraham, for example, charged his servant with the duty of finding a wife for his son Isaac. This was no small task. Not given a list of possible candidates the servant took ten camels loaded with gifts and simply turned up in the land of his master’s birth unannounced. Arriving at the well in Nahor the servant boldly prayed. You don’t have to turn there but for those taking notes, I am reading from Genesis 24:14, “And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.” God answered the prayer by bringing Rebekah to the well.
Let’s turn if you would please turn to 1 Samuel 1:11. Hannah centuries later, at the temple in Shiloh poured her heart to God. She too prayed boldly, 1 Samuel 1:11, “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” Here too, God answered the prayer and Hannah gave birth to the prophet Samuel.
Throughout biblical history, God’s people have not only known how to pray but what to pray. These people were inspired to see the outcomes that would give God the greatest glory, (please note this next part), because the “purpose of all purposes” in prayer is for God to be glorified. Prayer may bless us but that is not why God asks us to pray. Prayer is God’s opportunity to reveal His goodness and power, and to be glorified and magnified. Why else did Jesus say to His disciples, in, John 14:13, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”?
We have to understand WHAT to pray to achieve the glory of God for our prayers to be effectual. The prayer that God will answer is one that we pray in a deepening awareness of God’s agenda, not our own. It is a prayer not from the urgency of our need, but in surrender to His will and purpose. (Repeat)
Even though our prayers come from the heart, and they are born of love they must align fully with the will of God. To often we make the assumption that the most dramatic miracle will automatically win God the greatest glory. God knows better!
What are some Basics of Prayer?
We must take prayer very seriously! To that end let’s look at a few basic directions in the area of “How” to pray. … Yes, before we continue on the “What,” there are 4 Points on the “How,” we should cover.
Give prayer adequate time: Imagine a marriage where two people talk only when they need something. A relationship will not grow if you get on the phone, give the person a list of requests and then hang up. If a husband and wife only spoke to each other five minutes a day how long would the marriage last? Yet five minutes is about how long the average Christian spends in prayer each day. You reap what you sow!
Give prayer adequate space: Jesus did not tell us where to pray. We are only told that we are to give prayer our full attention and we are to pray consistently. There are not many mountains around for us to climb, but we can certainly seek solitude of a lesser kind. To pray properly you need to find a place where you can concentrate without being disturbed. I doubt that you can pray while standing at an ironing board while the TV blares in the background and you have a phone glued to your ear. Please turn with me to Mathew 6:6. Jesus advises us in Mathew 6:6, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” We are to enter into, “Thy closet,” we are to enter into that, “Inner room.” Jesus meant for us to find a place where we can focus on God and not be distracted.
Give prayer adequate attention: You can pray standing up, walking, sitting down or in the shower. I personally feel that on your knees is an act of reverence. You must prioritize your prayer time to pray effectively. This may not be welcome news to people with demanding jobs, and small children. Enter your prayer time, your devotion time into your Blackberry or set an alarm in your phone! Like I said earlier, often to the dismay of people I have stated that, “Sometimes you have to say a prayer in order to get a prayer in.” Smile if you want, but I assure you satan will keep you busy he will keep your time in short supply.
Jesus as an example: Jesus rose early in the morning for prayer with God. There is no scriptural command for us to do this. But try it! The bible does teach us about first fruits. You may be surprised to find how well your day unfolds when you offer the first fruits of your day to God. Morning prayer does not mean we can then turn the switch off, we should pray at every situation throughout the day. Prayer is both a discipline and a lifestyle. Onward!
Let’s Talk About Our Commitment to Prayer
When it comes to prayer, we like the idea of prayer we’re just not always so good at putting it into practice. Most Christians pray kind of like sailors using their water pumps - only when the ship is leaking. When that happens they work at prayer furiously. The rest of the time they are lax about prayer. This is the characteristic of “Need-Driven” prayer. An example of “Need-Driven” prayer would be the ten lepers. They all desperately clamored for healing. When Jesus healed the ten, only one turned back to thank him. Only one … and he was a Gentile.
Prayer is a discipline and a way of life. However when things are good we put prayer on the back burner. We limit our commitment.
We love to pray if it’s convenient. We love to pray if it doesn’t interfere with our busy lifestyle… Now there is an Ouch for you to think about. We love to pray if it doesn’t interfere with our busy lifestyle… This is indicative of our obedience as well. Many things are commanded from God’s Word that we do not prefer! “If our activities are not rooted in prayer then they will not bear fruit.” “Or bear precious little.” God does not desire our success or achievements if those good works do not show our dependence on Him in FAITH, charity, and prayer.
Without God we are dead! It is God that gives us our breath that we might go out and achieve and succeed. If we are not connected to God in prayer then our activity for His kingdom will come to nothing. Again, if our activities are not rooted in prayer then they will not bear fruit. When we are in close fellowship with God and at peace with Him, walking daily in the Spirit then we will know how to pray and what to pray. When we understand what Jesus is saying to us through the Lord’s Prayer, we will experience power in prayer as we have never experienced it before. This requires making a commitment. I doubt that there is anyone here that doesn’t feel a little guilty about prayer. Who doesn’t think, “I know my prayer life could be improved.” Make a commitment to improve your prayer lifestyle and prayer habits. The Holy Spirit will help you, but only if you make the initial decision to change.
Now then with regard to “What to pray,” lets begin examining
“The Lord’s Prayer”
First Phrase, “Our Father.” Start where you should! When we examine the type of earthly father we have and then compare that to the earthly fathers of our friends we continuously get different pictures of fathers. Some of us have fathers where we must do everything for them and then in stark contrast others have fathers that do everything for them. We therefore grow up with different views of what a fatherly figure can be. When you have one view of a father that is rigid and demanding and then another who is caring and supportive, these conflicting views can give us a faulty view of God as our Father. Without the proper view we can struggle with the first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father.” A simple beginning, addressing God as our Father, it is a relationship we all can understand. Yet what sort of father is God? Is he the rigid demanding father or the caring supportive father? NEITHER! God is a greater father than any earthly father could ever be. Earthly fathers do not measure up even close, not even fathers that are fair, honest, gentle, generous, and strong. They all fall short and cannot compare with the Father of all.
Research proves that children whose fathers verbalize their love end up showing a high degree of spiritual maturity. Telling our children we love them makes a tremendous difference in their lives.
How much does God verbalize His love to us? Every moment of every day our heavenly Father speaks His love toward us. Through scripture, through blessings, and through brethren being a few of the ways, He is constantly saying “I love you,” “I will always love you,” and “Nothing will stop me from loving you.”
Another aspect of our father-child relationship is what we often call ‘Contact time.” Studies show that the American father averages just forty seconds a day being totally attentive to their children. And a further twenty minutes, being partially attentive. Your heavenly Father is attentive to your needs one hundred percent of the time! Twenty-four hours a day: You are the center of His attention, the subject of His concern, the recipient of His time, the focus of His planning, the object of His love, and His total occupation. When you pray to your heavenly Father you have His undivided attention!
Here is an amazing thing for us to think about. This membership in God’s family, this right to enter into the presence of our heavenly Father, is given to us as a gift. It is the reason we should show our love to our brethren as well! We are all of the same family of God. Our earthly families command our time and love. How much more our heavenly family … represented by those who sit side-by-side with us in worship.
God’s Children and God’s Son
It’s hard for us at this distance to put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ contemporaries to register their amazement at the easy way He called God “Father.” The Bible records Jesus using the term “Father” no less than seventy times (Greek: pater). Even more amazing, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus addressed God with the Aramaic word “Abba. If you would please turn to Mark 14:36. This carries connotations of deep affection, and literally means “Daddy.” With Judas and the mob bearing down on Him, Jesus prayed Mark 14:36, “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” If we can call God “Father,” and even “Daddy,” it is only because Jesus has spiritually taken us into Himself. He alone is the faithful, obedient, perfect, sinless Son of God. He alone can truly call God “Father.” But turn with me please to Galatians 3:26, Listen to what the apostle Paul has to say to the Galatians. Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Now on to Galatians 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” What the apostle Paul is telling us is that by faith in Christ Jesus we are made sons and daughters of God. Our faith in Christ Jesus gives us the privilege of calling God “Our Father.” But lets be clear on what faith entails.
You Must Name the Name Of Jesus
There is no adoption into God’s family, no forgiveness of past sin, without the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Saying you’re sorry is not enough no matter how many people see you do it. Repentance on its own is only the first stage, just as admitting you’re hungry is the first step to eating a good meal. Without the shed blood of Jesus, there can be no true restoration. Without faith in the shed blood of Jesus, we can neither call God “Our Father’ nor receive His forgiveness.
I believe the refusal to talk publicly about Jesus is at the very core of America’s problem. Our founding fathers arrived here under the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and were not ashamed to name Him. Please turn to Galatians 3:28. Our founding fathers rooted this republic in the belief of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Convinced of this equality in Christ they flung open wide the doors of this country, for people to come and share in this country’s blessing. Our Immigration heritage began with the call to the nations to come to worship here in America. They unfortunately never expected that those same people and/or the next generations would weaken the republic by disowning its foundations. Our founding fathers knew that without Jesus their faith was worthless. The founding fathers believed on Christ Jesus and called His name. So should we! For there is but one mediator between us and the Father (1 Timothy 2:5). It is Christ Jesus!
The Father’s Portrait
The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, I believe, is more a story about the love of a father than about the sins of a son. Turn to today’s Scripture reading Luke 15:11-32, if you would like to follow along as we examine the portrait that Jesus paints us of His Father.
Luke 15:11-32, “And he said, A certain man had two sons: (12) And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. (13) And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (14) And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. (15) And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. (16) And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. (17) And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (18) I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, (19) And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (20) And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (21) And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. (22) But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: (23) And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: (24) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (25) Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. (26) And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. (27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. (28) And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. (29) And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: (30) But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. (31) And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. (32) It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
This portrait immediately reveals certain things about the Father. The character of God unmistakably shines through. The father of the prodigal son is loving. He is caring. He is compassionate. He is patient. He is longsuffering. He is slow to anger. And, He is quick to forgive. But notice also what the prodigal sons father did not do. What would your reaction be if your teenage son came to you and demanded that you liquidize his share of the family inheritance? I think you would give him pretty short shrift. Yet when the prodigal son decided to leave home in rebellion, the father placed no obstacles in his way. In modern language, “He respected the boy’s decision.”
Imagine the hurt and heartache the father would have felt. Yet he quietly stood aside. When the boy left, the father resisted the temptation to mount a rescue mission. He sent no private detectives after him, made no attempt to influence his thinking, did nothing to save him from the pigs. Was this negligence? Not at all! The father longed for his son to come back. But he did not bend the rules of forgiveness to make it happen. Had he pursued the boy, had he gone out and assured him of forgiveness in order to bring him home; there would have been no repentance. Forgiveness would have had no meaning. The son could not be restored to his father until he had first realized his own desperate need of help. Only when he turned around and deliberately trudged back to the farm could he experience his father’s love, forgiveness, and blessing. The sinner MUST go to seek the forgiveness. That is a mandate of Scripture.
If the prodigal son had changed his mind again at the last minute, then he might as well have stayed with the pigs, If, he had sent someone else to plead on his behalf, then he might as well have stayed with the pigs. He had to come back the father’s way, and come the whole distance.
What Does It Mean Then To Be The Prodigal Son?
Lets for a minute examine that portrait. Like the prodigal son we have to return to God. We have to acknowledge our need and accept His terms. No great shows of repentance and remorse will bring about our salvation. We can wallow in the pigpen all we want, nothing will change until we get up and walk back home to put things right with God. Every one of us has broken our relationship with the Father. We all have demanded our share of His wealth and run off to squander it. And we all must take the same route back.
What can we expect when we come back to the Father? Again lets look at the prodigal son. What happens is not what we would expect. When the boy finally comes home, he knows he is in disgrace. NO excuses; No accusing others. No self-justifying. We have here REAL Brokenness that wants things right. … Everyone would expect the father to remain aloof while the boy makes his way through the village. The son would then be obliged to sit outside the gate for sometime while the doorman asks the father if he will let him in. After a considerable time had passed, the son would be summoned. Punishment of some kind would be inevitable. The village would be led to understand that the father had indeed preserved the family honor through discipline. The father would be very angry, and the boy would have to publicly apologize for dishonoring his father’s name. … Maybe in Islam
But none of this happens. The father of the prodigal son reacts in a most un-village-like manner: He goes running down the road to meet his son. The word used in scripture here does not mean a slow shuffle; it means he raced down the road. He could not get to his son fast enough.
I am going to go down a side path here for just a moment. “He goes running down the road to meet his son.” Being of Western culture we must strive to understand what a very unusual occurrence this was. In Mid-Eastern culture, men over thirty never run. It is not dignified for a man to run. Servants run, children run, a man in that culture always walks slowly and with dignity. Yet the prodigal sons father ran. It was the compassion of his heart that led him to do what is not normally done for a rebellious boy. The father ran so that he would take upon himself the shame and the humiliation that the boy would normally face in society.
Can you … capture here the mystery and wonder of God in Christ? … In the father’s willingness to humiliate himself, we see the image of the cross. God was willing to humble Himself to come to earth, not as a king, but as a lowly servant to mankind. …
What Does It Mean Then To Be The Older Brother?
At this point you may be thinking, “Well, I’ve repented already; I’m in God’s family. What has all this to do with me?” If so, then watch out! For, there are two children in Jesus’ portrait of the Father. We need to be careful not to turn into the self-satisfied older brother.
The prodigal son never expected to be restored to the family. Verse 19, “And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” This is the heart of repentance. For his older brother, though, family life had become so routine, that he no longer saw its opportunities and potentials. Please note this! Christians who resemble the older brother do all the right things. The sing in the choir, read all the latest Christian books, listen to all the popular teaching tapes. And somehow in the midst of all this they get walled–off from their Heavenly Father. All their energy and attention goes into their work for God. And in their hearts, just like the older brother, they “refuse to go in” to the place where God really is.
What happens if we become like the older brother? Hidden behind this attitude is a spiritual pride that prevents us from enjoying all the benefits of life with God’s family. It stops our knowing God as Father. It gives us such a regard for our own opinion that we never seek God’s help as Guide and Mentor.
If you have this kind of pride or think you might please take it up in prayer with your heavenly Father. Pray that you would give it up. Because the pathology of pride is this: It makes you grab that which exalts you…no matter the price it costs others. It glorifies self and demands loyalty to you first and not God or your brethren. Unable to accept the gifts that the heavenly Father loves to bestow on His children, pride tries to make you independent, to make you stand aloof, or to make you believe that the blessings you receive are less than you deserve.
It is important for us to understand this: The father in Jesus’ portrait loved both his sons. God our Father loves those who have “stayed” as much as those who have “strayed.” His heart is moved alike by willful rebellion and by stubborn ingratitude. And He reaches out to both sorts of individuals. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. He loves you, and nothing is going to make Him stop.
In the end, that little phrase “Our Father,” reduces all of life’s complications to something very simple. … Ask yourself this question. Can you honestly begin to pray with those words? Can you turn to God and say, “Our Father”? If you can’t then it is time to turn things around.
Four Things God’s Fatherhood Means
We have a problem with fatherhood in America. We have made fathers and mothers the same, and have destroyed the identities of both. But when Jesus told us to pray “Our Father” He was not thinking of “Mr. Mom.”
Jesus’ contemporaries understood some basics about fatherhood that our culture is trying to forget. They knew that a father was a provider, protector, and director for his family.
The Father provides four things for His children, and as human fathers we should provide the same things, on a smaller scale, for ours.
1. Freedom from fear: Having God for my Father spells an end to all my fears. In many religions, gods and ancestral spirits create terror. They are capricious, bad-tempered, and uncontrollable. But I am not afraid of my God. In fact, I am not afraid at all, period. For my heavenly Father loves me, and I know that with Him all things, whether I understand them or not, will turn out for good.
2. Confidence: My heavenly Father gives me all the hope and the confidence I need, and banishes my uncertainty. Because He loves me, I know who I am. I know what my life’s mission is. I know what He expects of me, and what my reward will be when this earthly life is over. My Father in heaven gives me protection, safety, security, serenity, salvation, and peace. And in this confidence I have joy, even when life causes me pain.
3. Companionship: There are no latchkey kids in the household of God. My heavenly Father is never too busy to spend time with me. His support and friendship are with me in hardships and temptations. Human families and friends may let me down, but my heavenly “Daddy” has promised never to leave me or forsake me. Jesus said in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
4. Provision: Human fathers work to feed and clothe their families. Our heavenly Father does much more. All the resources of heaven are available to God’s children. The problem is that we do not trust Him to be our heavenly supplier. Yet didn’t Jesus tell us that God gives good things to those who ask Him? When you pray for bread, God does not give you a stone.
Yet if we are not careful, we can hinder our heavenly Father’s provision for our needs.
Letting Go of Those Blessings
In God’s family the relationship runs two ways. God has an unlimited supply of blessings for His children. But we have to learn to give as well as take.
Even the worst parents know you do not help children by continually showering them with gifts. The objective of parenthood is to raise strong, good, dependable kids. And that means you have to give them discipline. So it is with God. When things go wrong we should ask ourselves, “Have I used my blessings as God would wish?” Something you learn pretty fast in the Christian faith is that you can only hold so many blessings in your hands. If you want more blessings tomorrow, you will have to give away the ones God gave you yesterday. We give, and then we receive. If we don’t give, we block the opportunity for God to pour out His resources. …
There is of course no way in one sermon, to go through all the material we need to cover. We will continue this in another sermon. As I look to close here I remind you again that: PRAYING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU WILL EVER DO! …
I would remind us all that as covenanters bound in trust to keep one another, it is our duty to keep one another in constant prayer. This is the part of “Loving our brethren and showing our care.” For, we are, to be a blessing to one another. This goes back to our priestly duties, “The Duties of All.” 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:” The word “courteous” in the Greek—meaning friendly of mind, and draws reference to deep thoughtfulness. There is a thinking process, which searches out with diligence the well being of brethren. Keeping our brethren in prayer is part of this diligence in “Keeping the well being of our brethren.” Prayer that God answers, then, should also be our prayer for our brethren…
It is through God’s answered prayers that our Lord and God reveals His goodness and power and is glorified and magnified. The purpose of all purposes of prayer is for God to be glorified. … The prayer that God will answer is one that we pray in a deepening awareness of God’s agenda, not our own. It is a prayer not from the urgency of our need, but in surrender to His will and purpose. Even though our prayers come from the heart, and they are born of love they must align fully with the will of God. When we are in close fellowship with God and at peace with Him, walking daily in the Spirit then we will know how to pray and what to pray.
The first lesson about prayer then is to start where you should: As a child of God who has the right and the privilege to say the words, “Our Father.” From there, you must name the name of Jesus. For there is but one mediator between God the Father and man, (1 Timothy 2:5) it is Christ Jesus!
This is where we should start then … towards having …
Prayer That God Answers …