INTRO: I remember as a little boy my mother would come into my room before I was asleep, and she would have me pray. The prayer is one which so many little children have learned: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." I learned to pray very early in my life ... even if it was a simple little "rote" prayer from which I learned. Not all of my years have been as prayerful as I would like for them to have been. Maybe during middle years I thought I could handle everything pretty much on my own ... why bother God with it. But I am learning that I really cannot handle everything "on my own" and that there are those times I really need to turn things over to God in prayer. And it does really matter what we believe about prayer.
I. SOME PRAYER PROBLEMS:
A. "Everything works according to laws of nature. God does not interfere."
B. "God knows everything. Why should I pray?"
C. "God didn't answer my prayer!"
D. "If God is so loving, why did He not answer as I had asked?"
II. GOD DOES HEAR OUR PRAYERS
A. Yes, there are some "qualifiers" here
1. 1 Pet 3:12 - "the face of the Lord is against them that do evil"
2. Isa 59:1,2 - "...that he will not hear"
3. Mi 3:4 - "as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings"
4. people choosing to live in sin He will not hear
B. Jesus certainly believed God would hear our prayers
1. Mt 6:9-13 - why teach us to pray if God is not going to be listening?
2 Mt 7:11 - why teach us to ask Him if He does not hear our prayers?
3. Lk 18:1 - why teach us to put such confidence in prayer if God is not listening?
4. how could Jesus be credible if He teaches us to do a pointless thing?
C. New Testament writers believed God would hear our prayers
1. Phil 4:6 - if God does not hear, why make requests known to Him?
2. 1 Pet 3:12 - if His ears are open to our prayers, how can He not hear?
3. 1 Jno 5:14,15 - if this is our confidence, God must, indeed, hear us?
4. if, in fact, God does not hear our prayers, how can we place our confidence in the New Testament in other matters revealed therein?
III. GOD DOES ANSWER OUR PRAYERS
A. There are some things we need to know - for example
1. 1 Jno 5:14 - "...according to his will..."
2. He will not answer contrary to His will
3. 1 Jno 3:22 - "...we receive...because we keep his commandments..."
4. He will answer the prayers of those who are keeping his commandments
B. We must acknowledge...
1. every answer may not be affirmative - we tend to want "yes" answers
2. every answer may not be immediate - we tend to want "now" answers
3. every answer may not be "as requested" - we tend to want to lock God into our details (prayer to send someone to mission field - He may send you)
4. every answer may not be easily identifiable - we tend to want neat little packages
C. But God does hear and God does answer the prayers of righteous people
1. Jas 5:16b-18 - this Bible example is given for a very good reason
2. if Elijah could pray so powerfully, so can you and I!
3. Isa 38:1-5 - prayer can change things ... how all of this "works" is not something of which I can speak knowledgeably
4. just because I "did not get my way" does not mean God does not answer
IV. PRAYER DOES ENHANCE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER
A. It places us in the position of trusting Him
1. Ps 112:7 - "...his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord"
2. relationship grows stronger in the presence of trust - weaker in the absence of it!
B. It is communication with the Father
1. Mt 6:9 - "Our Father which art in heaven..."
2. this must never become a rote exercise ... this is deeply personal communication of the great concerns of ones heart ... only then is it really communication which becomes communion
C. It provides us with peace
1. Phil 4:7 - "And the peace of God...shall keep your hearts..."
2. only, however, if we really believe that God hears and answers can this peace come!
CLOSE: If I did not believe that God hears and answers my prayers, I am not sure I could continue preaching. Why? I would have very little of comfort to share with others ... and I would be questioning the credibility of the scriptures. But I do believe confidently in the power of prayer and in God's willingness to hear and answer.
Cecil A. Hutson
08 January 2006
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)