Plant Seeds for Holiness

The fall time of the year is harvest time and, for many farmers, a time to plant seeds for a future harvest.  A farmer prepares his fields, fertilizes, and cultivates.  He spends long hours planning and working as well as pondering on the hazards and benefits of being a farmer.  He works hard knowing full well the result of the harvest is dependent on forces outside himself.  Everyone knows that farmers cannot cause the seeds to germinate, nor can they produce the right combination of rainfall, sunshine, and temperature needed to bring the harvest in. Farmers are dependent on God.  That is a fact that cannot be changed.

However, diligent farmers know that they must do their part if they are going to enjoy a harvest good enough to pay the bills and feed those in this world.  In a sense, farmers are in a partnership with God, receiving the benefits only after fulfilling their responsibility.

Deuteronomy 28 holds blessings for the people in a nation that Biblically fears the Lord as well as curses for those who willfully live as they please.The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to.  The LORD will establish you as His holy people…, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in His ways… The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.  However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees…, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…” (Deuteronomy 28:8-10, 12, 15)

Let the Holy Spirit place this truth within your spiritual heart, “establish you as His Holy people.” There is a Biblical truth that must be grasped, “Holiness is a joint venture with God.” (Jim Bridges)  No one can enjoy the benefits of living a holy life without the enabling of God, or without fulfilling their responsibilities.  Just as diligent farmers prepare for a future harvest, Christians must prepare Biblically for the harvest that is promised in having Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord.

Just as farmers must break the hard ground to plant seeds for the harvest, the Holy Spirit must break the spiritual heart with the written Word of God, “Make every effort… to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

d obedience to the law of nature for farmers to reap a harvest.  Farmers must learn from others who know about farming.  You must learn from those within whom the Lord is establishing a life of holiness if you are going to enjoy the harvest that is promised in pursuing holiness.  There are Christians who are diligent, studying the laws and precepts of God’s Word.  There are Christians whom the Lord is doing a work in and through.

Just as farmers seek to learn new and better ways to plant seed, fertilize and cultivate for a harvest, you must seek to learn from God’s Word, Jesus said, “…the seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11)

Divine Petitions, Part 2

Examining the Prayer Life of Christ

    “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was Heard because of His reverent submission.”  (Hebrews 5:7) Matthew Henry wrote:  “The prayers and supplications that Christ offered up were joined with strong cries and tears, herein setting us an example not only to pray, but to be fervent and [ be urgently persistent] in prayer.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us that prayer is “Communion with God, usually comprising of petition, adoration, praise, confession and thanksgiving.  The ultimate object of prayer in both Old and New Testament is not merely the good of the petitioner, but the honor of God’s Name.” The only prayers that are heard or answered yes to, are those that are offered up for the glory of God.  Salvation’s are given when people pray that God will glorify Himself in the redeeming of a sinful soul. I would propose to you that during the days of Jesus’ life on this earth, He prayed “Divine Petitions” that were for the honor of God, His Father.  Christians are to look to Him and say, “Lord teach me to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

 Just what did Jesus pray for while He walked on this earth?

Prayers Prayed During His Ministry

    The Scriptural accounts of the prayer life of Christ may be divided into four different groups.  We have already considered one group which was “Prayers Prayed at Critical Moments of Christ’s Life.” The other groups are, “Prayers that Christ Prayed During His Ministry,” “Prayers at His Miracles,” and “Prayers that Christ Prayed for Others.”  Let us first start with “Prayers Prayed During His Ministry.”

Luke 5:16 says “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Mark 6:44 says, “After leaving them, He went up on the mountainside to pray.” Both of these passages of Scripture follow the Biblical accounts of miracles performed by Jesus Christ.  In Luke Jesus heals a man from leprosy and in the Book of Mark, Jesus had just fed thousands from five loaves of bread and two fish. In both of these passages of Scripture we read of Jesus’ habitual life of prayer, even during very busy times.  Great crowds would come to hear and to be healed of their illnesses. Never has anyone done as much public good as Christ has done and we read clearly that Jesus made time for heartfelt prayer.  He prayed, though He had so much preaching, teaching, healing and training to do.  He was much in prayer, often in prayer and at times long in prayer. He needed, desired and enjoyed fellowship with God His Father in prayer while on this earth.  Jesus set the example for us.  Thus, Christians need, should desire and enjoy the fellowship that comes with being with our Lord alone in prayer.

When Christians begin to be used of God in some powerful way they must be much more in prayer and at times long in prayer and most certainly alone with God in prayer.  When crowds begin to gather, the Holy Spirit will prompt Christians to seek places where they can get alone with God and pray. This will protect them from distractions and ostentation.  These are two things that have destroyed many a child of God, brought disgrace upon many a ministry and brought Christ to public disgrace. It is only good wisdom for Christians to order their affairs in a way that their public work with the Lord does not destroy quality prayer time.  Christians must do as Christ did, which was to get alone with God in prayer.

Jesus prayed at His miracles

    Scripture records Christ praying after God had used Him greatly in ministry and at His miracles.  This is the third group in which Jesus’ prayers may be placed.  Jesus prayed at His miracles. In Mark 6:41 we read of Jesus,   “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks.”  Before the miracle of feeding the five thousand men, not counting women and children, our Lord prayed. Jesus looking up to heaven and giving thanks shows us clearly that we should recognize that God is sovereign, the supplier of all good things.  God is the one who is able to provide for the needs of people in every realm of life.  Not only does this show the fitness and correctness of grace before meals, it shows forth that God is to be sought for the provision of food for the hungry.

Another time Jesus prayed before a miracle was in healing of a deaf and mute man, thus showing us that divine petition gets deliverance of bodily afflictions as God wills.  Mark 7:32, 34 says;  “…some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk and they begged Him to place His hand on the man.  He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh, said ‘Ephpharha!  which means opened!’” Our text says with a deep sigh (stenaco) meaning here to be a silent prayer offered up with a heartfelt groan.  Dr. Walter Wessell put it this way, “…sighing that accompanied the concealed communion of Jesus with the Father.” Jesus was not sighing here because of the difficulty in working the miracle or obtaining power from God to perform it.  Rather He was touched by human infirmity and was sympathetic with the affliction of the man.

From that communion came forth a single spoken Word meaning to be opened (dianoigo).  As it is used here it means “To open the ears, eyes, understanding, and spiritual heart.” (Zodhiates Word Studies)   In other words, this miracle was performed for the purpose of bringing a physical release accompanied by spiritual understanding of the heart for spiritual things. Christ speaks here as one who has authority and power.  Our Lord had such power in prayer because of His heartfelt compassion and the communion He had with His Father through prayer.  I am personally convinced that it is possible for Christians to obtain such a prayer life with the Lord that they can receive such compassion for the physically afflicted.  When led by the Holy Spirit, they can pray with inward groaning,  which enables them to pray forth words of healing.

Another time when Jesus’ prayers which brought forth a miracle was at the raising of Lazarus.  John 11:1 says, “…Jesus looked up and said ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.’” Often we read of Jesus looking up or making some expression that shows clearly that His heart and mind were focused toward heaven, toward His Father.  The secret to receiving miracles is not lifting of the eyes or hands, but the heartfelt prayer which is ascended upward to God. In raising of Lazarus, Christ was looking beyond the grave, overlooking the difficulties at hand and fixing His eyes upon the Father who loved Him.  Christians must look beyond their circumstances, set all affections upon their God who loves them, and enter into His presence through Christ who purchased them with His blood. Our Lord addresses God with such great assurance and confidence, “…I thank you that you have heard Me.” (John 11:41)  The Greek word for “heard” (akauso) here means, “…To hear so as to grant what is spoken.”  Jesus who was to defeat death just after the Passover, speaks forth His authority over death and raises Lazarus from the dead.

Christ sets forth an example for us.  First,  in prayer we are to call to God our Father and draw close to Him with humble reverence and yet with a holy boldness.  The best way to do this is to understand what it means to abide in Christ. “Abide” (meinette) means “…to remain in or with someone, to be and remain united with him, one with him in heart, mind and will.”  It is then Christians can have full fellowship with God and pray Holy Spirit led prayers. Second, in our prayers we must praise Him. Going to the mercy seat with a thankful heart, acknowledging Him for former mercies received.  Pray for miracles that will cause people to see and believe in Christ and that glorify God.

That is why Jesus said in His prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.  I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,   that they may believe that you sent Me.” (John 11:41-42)  Matthew Henry in his exposition of John 11:41 wrote; “First, Christ speaks of this miracle as answer to prayer.  Secondly, Christ is assured that His prayer was answered, therefore, He professes.”  As Christ honors and has faith in prayer, so should Christians.

Merril C. Tenney gives us this understanding:  “He thanked God for already answering.  So great was Jesus’ faith in the Father that He knew that the miracle was necessary to His mission, therefore it was as good as done when He prayed.” The faith that Christ was standing on was the fact that Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead.  We know that Christ knew His mission regarding Lazarus before He even went to Bethany.  Jesus said to His disciples when He heard that Lazarus was sick, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) He most certainly understood from communion with His Father in prayer what His task was. He clearly told His disciples that “Lazarus is dead.”  (John 11:14) and He said, “I am going to wake him up.”  (John 11:11) H. R. Reynalds writes; “This is the true mystery and meaning of prayer.  [Jesus’] words confess the Divine eternal will [of God].” Christians who remain united with Christ in heart, mind, and will, can be used of God to pray for awesome miracles that would bring glory to Christ and God.

In our church office we have a CD with the testimony of Joshua Youssef on it.  He is the son of Dr. Michael Youssef and while he was living in disobedience, he was chastised by the Lord.  Our Lord’s disciplinary actions toward Joshua ended with him in the emergency room, with his best friend out on a river in a life threatening situation. A Holy Spirit filled nurse who knew what it meant to truly abide in Christ was helping to attend to the wounds of Joshua Youssef. She asked Joshua if she could pray for him and his friend, upon which she was given permission.  The Holy Spirit literally revealed to this nurse the will of God as she prayed. The prayer was answered exactly as the nurse spoke in her prayer.  Joshua’s friend was rescued, saved from a situation in which almost everyone has died.  If it be God’s will and as He leads you, you could pray Holy Spirit led prayers for the glory of Christ.

Jesus prayed for others who are being attacked by Satan

    Another portion of Scripture that recorded the prayers of Christ and can be placed in a fourth group teaches how Jesus prayed for others who are being attacked by Satan. In last week’s message I discussed in more detail of Christ praying on the Cross for those who crucified Him and a little about Him praying for His disciples and those who would come to believe through their message. Today I want to show the necessity of and the power of Christ praying for those under attack by Satan.

In the King James Bible, Luke 22: 31, 32 says, “…the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:  But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” There is a reason why the King James Bible used the word “you” in verse 31 and in verse 32 it uses the word “thee.”  You see the Greek word for you (hymas) in verse 31 is plural.  This refers to the other disciple as well as Peter. The Word “you” or “thee” (sou) in verse 32 is singular referring to Peter directly.  That is very significant to know.  Satan was not only going to bring a great trial upon Peter, but to the other disciples as well.  Let us remember, all the disciples failed the trial in Gethsemane.

Let us not deceive ourselves, it is not only those who boasted as loudly as Peter who will be tempted by Satan to turn from their faith and commitments to the Lord.  But, all good soldiers of Christ are subject to Satan’s deceptions and attacks. Matthew Henry wrote in exposition, “Peter, who used to be the mouth of the rest in speaking to Christ, is here made the ear of the rest and designed for warning to them all.”  The more God wants to use a child of God and the more a Christian becomes useful in the building of the true church, the more Satan wants to destroy him and his works with the Lord. Satan really longed to get Peter.  However, Jesus gave powerful encouragement to Peter and for the Children of God as well,    “But, I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”  (Luke 22:32) Jesus’ prayer was not that the disciples or Peter be spared from this trial, but that Peter’s faith may not fail.  His faith, (pistis) here means that which came from hearing Christ and a faith in God that would see him through in his calling.  He would complete all that God had called him to do through a faith that would cause him trust in the forgiveness and empowerment of God, which would enable him to keep the others steadfast.

Dr.  Walter L. Liefield has a unique teaching about the words “may not fail.” (me eklipe)   He says this means that Peter “may not give out or may not disappear completely as the sun in a total eclipse.”  In other words, even though Peter’s denial was serious and showed a shrinking in faith.  Peter chose to believe and trust in Christ and God, not like Judas Iscariot whose faith did completely fail.  Peter returned, but Judas Iscariot did not. Jesus saying “…and when you have turned back,”  reveals to us that Jesus knew what lay ahead for Peter and He prayed for God’s perfect will for Peter to be done.  Jesus’ prayer empowered Peter to achieve what Judas Iscariot could not do on his own.

Please note:  All true disciples of Christ, who in their hearts truly desire and choose to follow Christ, have Jesus’ “Divine Petitions” given on their behalf before God’s Throne.  These Christians, though they may fall, will not utterly be cast down, even in their greatest temptations and trials.  Christ has prayed for them. Christ’s prayers were not general and they are particular to us personally as it was for Peter when it comes to Satan’s attacks.  In truth, if a child of God was left to himself, he would eventually be completely destroyed.  Because of Christ’s loving intercessions for Christians, they will be empowered to return to trust in Him if they should shrink in their faith. This is a great encouragement to all who know Jesus and who know the power of His Divine Petitions.  It should also encourage Christians to pray for those who have for some reason backslid in their relationship with Christ.  

Should always pray and not give up

    Christ prayed for others and Christians need not fear Satan’s attacks while living for the Lord.  Jesus is our example in prayer and he has some clear instructions to the children of God in Luke 18: 1 – 8.  Luke writes, Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Listen to these words of Jesus on prayer. “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night?  Will He keep putting them off?  I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:2-8) Luke’s statement in verse 1 is a duty to persevere in prayer.  We know this, for the key word “should” or “ought” (pios to dein) means absolutely necessary that men persevere in prayer.

Just as man needs food, water, and sleep, Christians need prayer.  I tell my boys often they cannot ride upon the pleasures of their parents’ prayers forever.  They must let Jesus teach them to pray.  Things are designed not to go well if one does not pray.

When should Christians pray?  “Always” (pantote) meaning at all times.  As surely as time passes by in the clock of life here, Christians must always pray.  Christians are to develop a constant spirit of prayer, to maintain an unbroken consciousness of God’s presence.  To be led of the Holy Spirit in prayer at all times and in all occasions.  He is to walk in a constant state of prayer.  The best way to do this is to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.  The best way to overcome sin is to spend every moment in prayer.  This communion with God will enable them to literally walk in step with the Holy Ghost. Jesus says “and not give up” (me egkakein) means not to lose heart, not to turn coward or give into evil.”….

Let me assure you of this, our Lord is not to be identified with the unjust judge for He is a loving God who has called His children to prayer and have communion with Him.  The children of God who stay persistent in prayer will see God get His good and perfect will accomplished in and through their lives. The Christian who goes to Christ and says “Lord teach me to pray” learns to 1.) Pray through critical moments in his life.  2.) Pray God’s called ministry through, staying steadfast and he completing what His Lord as sent him to do.  3.) He prays, believing in God, asking for miracles that will only glorify God and draw people to Christ and lastly, he intercedes for his brothers and sisters in Christ, that they may overcome any attacks from their adversary. There are children of God who have learned from Jesus to pray, and discovered the joy of praying prayers led of the Holy Spirit.

One child of God who knew the prayer life of Christ and lived a life that said, “Lord Jesus, teach me to pray” was Pastor Charles Spurgeon. He wrote; “Keep the altar of prayer burning.  This is the very life of all godliness.  The sanctuary and family altars borrow their fires here, therefore, let this burn well.  Secret devotion is the very essence, evidence, and barometer of vital Christianity. Burn here the fat of your sacrifices of time, heart and life.  Let your closet-season be if possible, regular, frequent and undisturbed.  Effectual prayer availeth much…” Every Christian must examine himself on this important matter.  Is your prayer life lukewarm?  Or is there a measure of real faith and life in your times with the Lord? Those who are taught of Christ to pray have the same heart of Christ in prayer who prayed, “Father… Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…”   Prayer warriors like Jesus have a rejoicing in Holy Spirit led prayers that glorify Christ in and through them.

Connecting in Prayer

Five Truths to Success in Prayer

Grasping the Foundational Truths of Prayer

 “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15: 7)

Every child of God has gone through a dry period in prayer and some have never really been able to fully enjoy the success in prayer that the Lord Jesus wants them to experience.  Many do not know what the heart attitude should be in coming to the Lord in prayer.

Others have discovered that prayer can change their life and allow them to participate in the most powerful ministry there is.  It has been one of the key ministries that has delivered nations, brought healing into lives and brought souls to Christ.

I would propose to you that when the child of God understands and submits to the Lord in Biblical prayer, he will find himself obeying God’s instructions to “pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Just what are five Biblical truths that enable the child of God to enjoy success in prayer?

If Christians submit and cling to these truths, they can expect to see God, answer their prayers in a way that will glorify Jesus Christ in and through their lives.

The thrust to being successful in prayer is beautifully presented in the key word “remain” or better translated as “abide” in the New American Standard Bible.    Therefore, it is a necessity that we understand what Jesus meant when He said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…”

To “abide” (ménō) as it is used in John 15:7 gives us the idea that the child of God has a heart that studies and learns the Word of God.  This Christian’s thoughts, desires and motivations are birthed forth as he prayerfully reads the Bible.  The application is that he remains united with Jesus Christ in mind, heart and will.  It also has a command to hold on, to continue on, to keep obeying, to live on and rest in the everlasting loving arms of Christ.  The purpose for this type of living is to cleanse the heart so as to do away with selfish prayers.  The connection in “abiding” is maintained by obedience to the written Word of God.

I realize that analogies are imperfect, but let me try to use some human circumstances to bring some application into abiding in Christ.

Suppose there is a Christian who is easily overcome by temptation.  Then suppose that there is another Christian who sees this brother continually falling and he intervenes by moving in with him.  The stronger brother is always right there to make sure he does not fall into slumber, makes sure that he is eating the right foods, sleeping at the proper times and getting back a forth to work at the right time.

Thus, the weaker Christian is unable to be overcome by his temptation, because the stronger Christian is always right there protecting and giving strength to the weaker brother.  As long as the stronger Christian keeps that contact the weaker Christian lives victoriously.  However, as soon as contact is broken in any way that temptation rears its head again and defeat is at hand.

Defeat is sure, because the fact is that Christians cannot defeat the flesh, the world and discern the lies of the devil without the help of the eternal Friend, Jesus Christ, who sticks closer than a brother.  Just as the weaker Christian needed the constant intervention of the stronger Christian, the child of God needs the constant intervention of the Spirit of Christ intervening in his life.

The fact is there are those people who just can’t keep themselves pulled out of the gutter.  I know of a man named, Jim Carr.  He went into the streets of Kansas City, MO. and found a down and outer on the streets.  He took him into his house, cleaned him up, fed him good food, and then he taught this homeless man all he knew about the business that he was in.  The man did well, prospered, got his own home, and after a season of being away from the protecting hand of Jim Carr, he fell right back in to the gutter.  He went back into the streets of Kansas City, MO.

The fact is, unless Christians are abiding in Christ and abiding in His words, they will not have the spiritual strength to keep themselves out of the gutter of the flesh, the world, and lies of the devil.  Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring deliverance and the Word of God is the only food that can make and keep them spiritually healthy.

The Word of God is like that picture of the man, who helped another man get victory over sin.   There was a preacher who was known as, Robertson of Brighten who helped a Mr. Kingsley recognize the dangers of sin and showed him the joys of honest living. The man became successful and was known by many as being honest, upright and dependable.

When asked how he was able to build and keep such a good name, the man said, “Whenever I was tempted to fall into wrong practices, I would just run to the picture of Pastor Robinson and the temptation was defeated.  That picture reminded me that I have a friend.”

The Word of God reveals to all that they have a Friend who gave His very life, for the redemption of mankind and He rose from the dead so Christians can have victory over sin and death.  The connection is sacrificial love and abiding in Christ. It involves having a Biblical picture of what Jesus has and will do for you.  Our Biblical picture of abiding is found in the relationship that Jesus had with His Father.  Jesus was in contact with God; again and again Jesus withdrew into a solitary place to meet with God in prayer.

Christians must follow the example of Christ.  They must deliberately take steps to establish and maintain a constant relationship with the Lord Jesus.  By arranging life so as to be prayerfully reading and studying the Word of God so they can give attention to it.  They must be continuously in prayer, throughout the day, so they can meditate on what Jesus is telling them to get done. They must be in humble prayer asking for the will to obey and the strength to endure.

A final note on this important topic is that there are foundational truths that must be grasped in having success in abiding in Christ.  One, the Christian must enrich his own life by having an ongoing surrendered relationship with Jesus Christ.  Two, his prayers are to be for the glory of Jesus Christ alone.  As he prays with this in his mind and heart, the results of his prayer life turn men’s hearts to God and Christ.

There are three questions that are constantly asked by those who are successful in prayer. 1.) Do I admit and confess the wrong that the Holy Spirit reveals to me is offensive to the Lord?  1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”    2.) Am I presently ignoring God’s Word and avoiding His Biblical principles for living?  1 John 3:21-22 says, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him.”  3.) Do I really want to surrender to God’s will for my life?  1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”  

Forgiving Attitude Toward Others 

The first step to Christians connecting with God in prayer is to be honest with themselves.  Do they live in a way that reflects a life of abiding in Christ?  Jesus Christ gives us another truth to connecting with God in prayer.  He says in Mark 11:24-25, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”     One, you must have a faith that Christ will answer your prayer in accordance to His Father’s will and two, you must have a forgiving attitude toward others.

Number one characteristic to being successful in prayer is to have faith and the second is to have a forgiving heart.  Jesus is very direct on this matter of forgiveness, because resentment will kill your ability to keep your mind and heart steadfast during prayer.

In Matthew 6 Jesus taught that when we pray we should ask, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)   Christians can not hold unforgiveness in their hearts and expect to enjoy success and remain connected to God in prayer.  A heart that can forgive others is a heart that receives forgiveness from God and keeps itself aright in prayer.

The Christian who wants to be successful in prayer must learn what Jesus taught Andrew Lang.  Andrew Lang was a famous Scottish man of letters.  He once wrote a very kind review of a book that was written by a young man who thought of nothing but himself.  The young man repaid Mr. Lang with a bitter and insulting attack.  About three years later Robert Bridges, a poet saw Mr. Lang reading a book.  Robert Bridges said, “Why, that is another book written by that ungrateful young writer who behaved so shamefully to you.”

To the astonishment of Mr. Bridges, Andrew Lang’s mind was a blank on the whole matter.  Andrew Lang had completely forgotten the bitter and insulting attack.  Robert Bridges wrote, “To forgive is the sign of a great man, but to forget is sublime.  Nothing but the cleansing Spirit of Christ can take from these memories of ours the old bitterness that we must forget.”

Do you rely on the Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart and keep the root of bitterness out so you can be successful and connect in prayer to God?

What is our purpose to having God answer the prayers we pray? 

Being connected in prayer means that you must have a compassionate heart to the needs of those who cry out for help. Proverbs 12:13 says, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”

There is a fact of life, if Christians expect God to bless them, they must be willing to bless those who have needs with whatever God has given them.  Jesus wants us to be like Him and His view of the church is found in James 1:27 and it says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows…”  If Christians ignore those who have obvious needs, what right do they have to praying to God about their own needs?

Obedient Christians are God’s channels to meeting the needs of the poor in a way that draws attention to Christ.  The reason you should ask God to bless your business or bless you in the work place is so that you cannot only provide for yourselves.  But so you can bless Him and reach out to the needs of the poor.

I recently read a story about a man who was a multi-multi-multi- millionaire.  Pastor Rick Warren had visited with this man who just a few years ago went bankrupt.  After going through this severe trial this man received the Holy Spirit gift of giving.  He allowed the Holy Spirit to give him the revelation of hilarious giving, which is New Testament teaching.

This man now gives 97% of his income to the Lord’s work, which includes meeting the needs of the poor.  He lives on 3% of his income and still lives a higher standard of life than most of the people in this country.

He found the necessity of obedience to the tithe, then, he was illuminated to the truth that he could not out give God.  He went from the joyful surrender of 10% to 20% to 30% and is now at 97% and he lives a very wealthy life style.  This man had come to the realization that his purpose in this world was to be a blessing to others.

This leads to the obvious question, “What is our purpose to having God answer the prayers we pray?”

If we want to be connected to God in prayer, we must pray that God will make us a blessing to others.  Then we must believe that God will answer prayer and never take our authority in Christ for granted.   James 1:5-7 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord…”   

James is writing in the context of trials and temptations here.  The idea is when these trials and temptations have run their course the child of God will not lack the virtues and strengths that must be found in the man who wants to connect with God in prayer.  It is during these trials and temptations the child of God will get all the wisdom he needs, and God is not going to reject His needy children because of any faults.  It is assumed that while a child of God is going through trials and temptations, he lacks wisdom, and God would freely give it upon the asking.

Although there is nothing more God wants more than to give wisdom and meet the needs of His children, there is a barrier that could arise within them.  When Christians ask, they “must believe” and not have any doubt.  There faith must be more than mere acceptance or a creed.  To believe here means to be confident that God will give what is requested and it is to be expected that He will do so.

It is to believe it when He says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrew 13:5b)  God’s people are secure no matter what comes their way, so there is no need to use the world’s way of doing things.  It is to believe it when he said “…and surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)  Christians are to go forth in the Great Commission in confidence that Jesus is in sovereign control of everything in heaven and on earth.

Matthew’s Gospel does not end with a command, but a promise and there is a truth that must be grasped in the Greek word for “always” (pasa tes hemeras), strictly meaning “the whole of every day.”  This suggest that Christ’s continued presence is with us “day in and day out” no matter what troubles or difficulties may come.

Let me caution you, even though we have Christ’s promise to be with us and the Holy Spirit is in us and He has given us gifts so we can fulfill our callings,   there is a warning I would like to present to you.  We must not become so confident in what the Lord has given us that we exercise our gifts in our power and not continually to beseech the Lord Jesus in prayer at all times.

Let me show you what happens when we take the wrong approach to doing the Lord’s work.  In Mark chapter 9:14-29 we read of a boy that had an evil spirit.  When Jesus approached the crowd they were arguing with Jesus disciples.  After Jesus ask the question of why this argument, a man in the crowd answered, saying, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” (Mark 9:17-19)

As you continue to read of this Biblical account you will come to Mark 9: 28-29 and you see why the disciple could not cast the demon out.  It says in the New American Standard Bible, “And when He [Jesus] had come into the house, His disciples began to question Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out.’”   In verse 29 Jesus gives the answer, “…This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

The reason why the disciples asked this question was because the disciples knew that they had been given authority over evil spirits. (Mark 6:7)  The Bible says,  “…they drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” (Mark 6:13)  Jesus had to remind them of their need to be in prayer here.

If they would have been faithful to come to God in prayer, why did Jesus draw their attention back to prayer?  It is because they had apparently taken for granted the power given them and were relying on past experiences.  They stopped depending on a prayerful approach to God’s work and were no longer following the example Jesus set before them.  They no longer nurtured their authority and gifts in prayer.

This is why spiritual leaders must take time to draw their congregations back to prayer and make time for prayer for the work of God in the church they oversee.

It is all too easy to claim the truths found in Scripture such as “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and not truly be blanketing everything we do in true heartfelt prayer.  There is way too much proclaiming truths found in God’s Word and not near enough discipline in praying for those truths to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “In My Name”

Once you have it deep within your heart that God answers all prayers offered up for the glory of Christ, you must pray in Jesus’ name if you want to connect with God in prayer.

Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.   You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

The power of the disciples originated in prayer, therefore, Jesus could not have made a more powerful declaration in saying, whatever they should ask in His name, He would do.  The phrase “in My Name” is not to be used as a charm for the command of supernatural energy.  He did not wish it to be used as a magical charm like a rabbit’s foot hung around a neck.  It is both a guarantee, like the endorsement on a check, and yet as a limitation on the petition; for He would grant only that petition that is consistent with His character and purpose.  In prayer we are to call on Him to carry out His purposes, not our purposes.

The key to connecting in prayer with God is to honestly ask, “Am I really offering this prayer in Jesus’ name?”   No one can ask for some unworthy thing or object that has no purpose of glorifying Christ in his life and in the lives of all he comes in contact with.  The prayer that connects with God ends with “Thy will be done.” When this last truth is fully placed within a man’s heart and being lived out in his life, he may come before the “Throne of Grace” with boldness.

It is somewhat like the man who took his son and several of his son’s friends to the county fair for celebrating his son’s homecoming after being a long time away from home because of an illness. He bought lots of tickets and he stood in front of every ride and every game and passed tickets out to each child that was involved in the celebration.   As he was passing out the tickets, he all of a sudden noticed that there was a child that he had never seen before, standing with a hand out.  The man asked, “Are you involved in my son’s celebration party?”  “No,” said the young child.  “Then why should I give you a ticket?”  The little boy pointed at the man’s son and said, “Your son as just invited me to be a part of his party and said you would give me one.”  So the man did.

The point is that God’s Son took upon himself the results of sin and after dying upon the Cross of Calvary, He rose on the third day and he is now at the right hand of God His Father.  Jesus says when we come in prayer in His name and for His purposes we as Christians will be given entrance simply because of what Christ did for us and the price has already been paid.

There are five truths to connecting in prayer 1.) Christians must be abiding in Christ.  2.) Have a forgiving heart.  3.) Have a compassionate heart to the needs of others.  4.) Believe that God will answer prayer and 5.) Pray in Jesus’ Name.