PRAYER (LESSON 2)
All this month we are talking about prayer. Tonight we're going to talk about a couple prayer stoppers, reasons why prayers sometimes don't get answered. And we will also talk about the things that you have to do so that you will have an effective prayer life.
* How many people here think of God as their Heavenly Father? Since God is your Heavenly Father, perhaps your prayers go unanswered because you have not been behaving like an obedient son or daughter. If you had a child who had been disobeying you, would not listen to you, had been bad all week, and then on the weekend he asked you to take him to Magic Mountain, would you do it? Of course not! No sane parent is going to reward their disobedient child with a trip to an amusement park. And if you are someone who is not trying to keep God's commandments and you just live any way you want to, you run the risk that God might not answer your prayers. 1 John 3:22-23 reads, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."
So if God's words, His commands, are important to you, then your words and prayers will be important to him. Are you at least trying to keep God's commandments to the best of your ability? Or have you been out there lying, cheating, stealing from your neighbors, and disrespecting your parents? If you continue to live like that, don't be surprised when your prayers go unanswered. As a matter of fact, Psalm 34:15 explains it further. It reads, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth." And Psalm 66:18 reads, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
Don't you want God's eyes on you? Don't you want Him to hear your cry? You are not guaranteed God's care and protection if you are out in the world doing evil and clinging to those things that you know are sinful. Sometimes we take it for granted that God loves us, and we feel that He will always answer our prayers no matter what we do. But God knows our hearts. If you are not truly sorry for your disobedient actions and instead you feel right at home doing wrong, then when you try to call on God later to bail you out, you may find that your prayers fall flat and go unanswered.
But don't be discouraged, because God wants to answer our prayers. And He is always willing to forgive us and welcome us back if we are willing to turn from our wicked ways and confess our sins and seek His face. The Bible tells us this in 2 Chronicles 7:14. It reads,"If My people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent to prayer made in this place." That verse started with the word "IF." God will forgive you and wants to open His ears to your prayers, but that is IF you turn from your wicked ways.
And John 15:7 takes it a step further. It reads, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." To "abide" means to remain, to continue, to rest or dwell. So if we remain true to God and continue resting our faith in Him, and His words are at home inside of us, then He will answer our prayers that are according to His will.
* So to sum up everything we have read so far, we see that, number one, it is very important that we keep God's commandments in order to have a productive prayer life.
Now, I know that that is sometimes hard to do, because we are faced with a lot of temptations. But that just means we have to pray for strength to fight against being tempted. Matthew 6:41 says to "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Because our flesh is weak, we need Supernatural empowerment, and you get that by praying to be filled with the Holy Spirit to help you to overcome temptations.
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Now on to another prayer stopper. Sometimes we miss out on answered prayers because of our lack of faith. Have you ever been in a situation that seemed so hopeless that you didn't even bother to pray? Maybe you felt, "Why bother. I know there is nothing God can do." A lack of faith will keep you from praying, thusly, keeping you from having answered prayers.
Well, let's read a Bible account of a man who was in what looked like a pretty sad situation. He had received some really bad news. Let's read about how prayer can help in even the most seemingly hopeless situation.
2 Kings 20:1, "In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."
Can you imagine being told that you are going to die! Say good-bye to your family, update your will. Your death is imminent! That's probably the worst news imaginable. Now, someone who didn't have faith in the power of prayer would have just heard this bad news and given up. They probably would have become depressed or even mad. I've heard of people who have killed themself when the doctor told them they had cancer or a brain tumor. But not Hezekiah. Let's see what he did.
2 Kings 20:2-3 "Then he (Hezekiah) turned his face to the wall and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore."
Hezekiah immediately went to the Lord in prayer. He knew that God is in control of all things, and he trusted that God would hear his cry. And Hezekiah felt that he was able to boldly approach God. Where did he get this boldness? Obviously Hezekiah believed that he had lived his life in a manner that was pleasing to God. Sometimes we don't have enough faith to go to God because we are ashamed of our past mistakes. But when you are abiding with the Lord, like Hezekiah, you will approach God without hesitation.
Well, let's see how God answered Hezekiah's prayer. 2 Kings 20:4-7, "And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered."
Hezekiah went from being a man who was soon to die to someone who was blessed with 15 more years because he had faith enough to pray! Prayer can make all the difference in the world.
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And all of us will have to face tough circumstances in our life. Maybe a doctor will tell you that you only have a short time to live, or you will get bad news about your child, or maybe something will happen to your mom or dad. Are you going to go through those times alone, or are you going to rest in the Lord's strength? God can change your circumstances or carry you through the circumstances, but without faith you are all alone. But God can only help you if you have faith and let Him. If you don't have faith, you will miss out on seeing God work in your life. In Mark 6:5-6 the Bible tells us that when Jesus was in Nazareth "He could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief." How many of us have been silent when we should have been praying, and Jesus was marveling at our unbelief?
* So just like some people missed out on Jesus working in their lives when He walked the streets of Nazareth, because of our unbelief and lack of prayer, we might miss out on God working in our lives today. God's word tells us in James 4:2b "Ye have not because ye ask not." God is saying "I wanted to help you, but you wouldn't even give me a chance." Never think that your situation is too big for God!!
Now, this verse "ye have not because ye ask not" doesn't mean that you will get everything that you ask for. Sometimes our prayers don't get answered because we ask for things that are outside of the will of God. Possibly you are praying for something that God knows that you don't need to have. (Read here of my own personal example of this.) But having faith means that you will go to God with all of your cares and concerns and, also, that you will trust that God is working in your life even when things don't turn out the way you wanted them to.
So in closing, faith, trust, and obedience go hand in hand with having a productive prayer life. May we all have the faith and heart of Hezekiah.