Since October up today, this will be the third sermon I’ve done in prayer. Really we’ve been hitting it from kind of a high, thematic view. So the first one was in October, and what we talked about is what to do with the fact that the Bible teaches constantly that God is sovereign over all, that He knows all and that the future is not something that He is unaware of. And so if God is sovereign, why do we pray? So that was the first sermon. It wasn’t practicalities. It wasn’t, “This is how we should pray, and this is why we should pray.” It was more, “How does this work at this level?” And then the second sermon was in late January, right after I got off of radiation. And what I wanted to address was, how I began to be pummeled with encouragement, some of which was in error, on two opposite ends of the spectrum. The first end of the spectrum was that if I just had enough faith and I just prayed the right way and if I just believed the right way, then healing could be mine because Christ had already purchased my healing in the cross. And then the other side of things said that there was no need to pray, that we should wait out and see what God’s will is for me and there should be great comfort in sitting around and waiting for God’s will to be revealed. Now the problem with both of those views is a reduction in the Scriptures. They’ll land on this spot and ignore a bunch of Scriptures that teach contrary. Or they’ll land on this spot and ignore a bunch of Scriptures that teach to the contrary. So we wanted to get into what’s actually happening in the reality that Jesus has in fact died for and resurrected and ushered into humanity the reality that healing can be had and yet deal also with the reality that not everyone is going to be healed. And so you can see when we have worked with prayer historically, we’ve been at a very high, 30,000ft level.
Now, what I want to do now in Colossians 4 is take those things down to the ground level, into the mud, into the ditch and let’s talk about how this works and why this should work. And in the end, most of us stink at prayer. We, as a people, as evangelicals, know we should pray, but we can’t seem to get there consistently. So what our trend is when somebody preaches a sermon on prayer, we feel guilt and shame. And so a lot of us are going to be great prayers today. I mean, we’re going to nail prayer tomorrow morning. It’s going to be two weeks from now when we find ourselves back into that rhythm of prayerlessness. Which is why up until this point, I have always tried to take prayer to a higher level where we go, “Let’s look at God. Let’s look at who God is.” Because that’s my hope that, in seeing who God is, we might understand prayer better. But today, the text is going to dictate that we press down into a little bit of the day in, day out realities of prayer.
When it comes to prayer, the Bible is very, very serious about it. In fact, you’re going to see over and over again in the New Testament this theme beginning to be developed. And in the New Testament the Scriptures also acknowledge that prayer is difficult. Paul says, “Labor with me in prayer.” Isn’t that an interesting choice of words? “Work with me at prayer.” It’s almost as if the apostle is acknowledging, “Hey, it doesn’t come easy for most of us. So labor with me, work, with me, sweat with me in prayer.” The Bible says to pray without ceasing. So that “amen” that we say is a “so be it,” not an ending of our dialogue with God Almighty. We should pray without ceasing. And then there are six passages in the New Testament that use the Greek word for “devotion” or “being devoted to.” So let me run through some of those. In Acts 1:14 you see “All [the apostles] with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer.” Acts 2:42, in reference to the early church and how they functioned, says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In Acts 6:4, the apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Ephesians 6:18 says we are to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
And then that brings us to our text today in Colossians 4. We’re going to pick it up in verse 2. The Greek word here is “devotion,” but you’ll see they translated it for readability into “continue steadfastly.” “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” So here we go again, right along with that normal rhythm, “Devote yourself to prayer, be watchful in prayer, continue in, be steadfast in prayer.” So although this drum is beaten constantly in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, no one in here with any church background is going, “What? You mean I’m supposed to be talking with God?” That’s not a surprising thing to any of us. We know; we’re just not any good at it. Now here’s how the Westminster Catechism defines prayer. “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ. . .” I’ll make that real simple. Prayer is asking for stuff. Now how we go about asking is how the catechism continues. “. . .by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” So this is the answer to the question, “What is prayer?” in the Westminster Catechism. The catechism is a great tool in regards to teaching your children upper level theology very early on. I can’t recommend that more highly to you. Now here’s something to just think about. It is God’s creative design when it comes to you and me for us to ask Him for things. God has designed creation to work in such a way that you and I are to request and ask of Him our desires. And we could start breaking down the fact that some of our desires are not good and right desires, which is why the Catechism begins to say, “By the power of the Holy Spirit with also the confession of sin and the acknowledgment of the grandeur and glory of God.” God has designed this thing to work in such a way that He wants us to ask Him.
And then the Scriptures take it in a completely different direction where prayer actually brings the God of the universe a great deal of joy for us to ask Him. Let me give you some of these. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” So God delights in the prayers of His people. Isaiah 65:24 says, “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” So what I’ve learned is that my children have done some mental damage to my wife. I’m at work all day, so I don’t know exactly how it happened. But she can literally tune them out to the point where I’ve had to poke her to get her to snap and pay attention to them. Like my son or daughter will have a hand on her going, “Mom. . .mom. . .mom. . .mom. . .mom. . .” And she just cannot hear it. They have done irreparable damage to my wife’s brain. That voice at that level no longer registers. And I think what’s happened to a lot of us is we kind of equate this child/parent relationship to our Father in heaven. Most of us honestly had relationships with our parents where, if we do what they want us to do and we leave them alone, then it goes well for us, but if we pester them, if we bother them, if we make them aware of us, then there is disappointment and there is discipline. The Bible is saying the exact opposite is true about our relationship with God. He delights in our prayers.
Isaiah 62:6-7 says, “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” So God loves being bothered by His children so much that He literally appoints people to bother Him. “Give Me no rest. Don’t stop asking Me, don’t stop petitioning Me, don’t stop begging Me until Jerusalem is established.” So that is a far cry from how we interact with our children and how we interact with our parents. Our parents are more like, “Give me some space before I harm you. You have asked thirty-two times. If you’ll just let think, if you’ll just let me talk to your mother, I’ll give you an answer, but if you ask me again, the answer is no.” So in this, God is saying, “Bother Me! Pester Me, keep knocking on My door, give Me no rest until I answer you.” So not only has He ordained that we should ask Him, but He delights in the asking. Let me give you one more. Revelation 5:8 says that, not only does He delight, but it’s like an incense to Him. Our prayers, our petitions are like a sweet smell. It’s a delight to the Lord to have His children pester Him.
Now the reason this is because prayer does two things. It shows the complete sufficiency of God and the complete helplessness of man. It shows that God is not lacking, that He is in need of no thing, that He is infinitely and gloriously
wealthy, that He can give to, He can bless and He can answer without the need of help from anyone or anything else. And it also shows that we are in desperate need of that kind of sufficiency. Prayer does both of those things. So the Scriptures say be devoted to, God delights in, He able to and you are not able to.
So that’s kind of the system up until this point, but watch where He goes next in this Colossians text. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Now being watchful is also one of those themes in the Bible. When we talked about grace-driven effort, when Geoff Ashley preached his sermon out of Hebrews, there was this idea that no one floats toward godliness. No one stumbles into a life of prayer. No one accidentally becomes godly. It doesn’t work that way. It’s grace-driven effort. There is a discipline element to growing in godliness. It never just occurs. Nobody just wakes up one day and knows the Scriptures and prays constantly. That’s not a reality. It comes across like that to many of us, when in reality what you don’t see is maybe decades behind the person of slowly but steadily studying the Scriptures, submitting theirl ives to God, learning how to pray, praying with others, praying by themselves, figuring out how God wired them, learning to hear from God through His Word, through the Holy Spirit impressing on our heart and then acting upon what Christ has shown us by the power of the Holy Spirit in His Word. So being watchful then means that we address the hindrances and obstacles to prayer.
So let me give you some of the hindrances and obstacles. The first obstacle is that most of us are completely unaware of what we find ourselves caught up in. The Bible tells us that when God creates the heavens an the earth, the angels in heaven rejoice over this. They see His power, His glory and His might, and they shout and worship. The angels are in awe of the magnificence of God’s power in creation, but not all the angels. One angel in particular, the leader of the angels, Lucifer the Bright Morning Star, he sees the glory given to God and it angers him because he wants that glory. So he sets out this plan to get his throne above the throne of God Almighty. So he deceives a third of the angels to rebel against the God of the universe. Now God is omniscient, He’s all-knowing. He knows this is happening. And so although the Bible says that war breaks out in heaven, the war is pretty simple. The “war” is God going, “You’re gone, and one day I’m throwing you into hell where you’ll be tormented forever.” If you’ll remember the idea of hell, even when hell is given to man, man is told, “Depart from Me to that place that I’ve prepared for the devil and his angels.” So Lucifer and the angels that rebelled against God. And who knows how many angels there are, but what we do know is Christ says, “Do you not know that at any time I could call out to my Father and have at my disposal twelve legions of angels,” which is thousands upon thousands upon thousands of angels at His disposal. So if just a third of heavens angels rebel against God, it’s a significant number. And they are kicked out of heaven and now are in the created world that you and I dwell in, and they seek to devour, they seek to destroy, they seek to attack, they seek to latch onto, they seek out to deceive. This is a reality, and most of us are completely unaware of the reality that there are genuine demonic forces at work in your home, in your heart, at your workplace. There are levels, there are powers, there are principalities, there are spirits of this age that are at work. If said since the day I got here that I don’t believe in a demon under every bush. If you had a flat tire, I say look for nails first. I don’t know that you always get to go, “A demon didn’t want me to go to Bible study, so he blew up my engine.” No, you never changed your oil. That’s why your engine blew. There is nothing demonic about you being a moron. In the end, I’m don’t think we should play the demon card every time something goes wrong. Sometimes the sovereignty of God will put a nail in your tire. Sometimes difficulties that befall us are the predetermined plan of God.
Now God might not be the active agent, but He might absolutely be the author. In the end, I’m not saying there is one behind every bush, but I’m saying that we don’t pray because we don’t really believe that there are demonic forces after our children. Because when you believe and understand that, you pray a lot better for your children. We don’t think about the fact that there are demonic forces out to destroy and undermine our marriage. Because if we believed that, we’d pray more about our marriage and for our spouse. We don’t believe that there are demonic forces that whisper lies to us that lead us away from the truth. Isn’t that what happened to Eve? Isn’t that what happens over and over again in the Scriptures? Doesn’t even Jesus tell Peter, “The devil has asked for permission to sift you, but I’ve prayed for you”?
That has always made me wonder why Peter didn’t go, “Couldn’t You have just said no? How about You call him back and just say no?” But Jesus is like, “He’s asked for permission and I’ve given it to him. But don’t worry. I’ve prayed for you.” So Peter is going to deny Christ, and in that denial, Peter is going to become who God wanted him to be come and is going to serve as an example to the early church.
And just as evidence of the Scriptures not being tampered with over the centuries, if Peter is kind of the king of the church early on and he’s the one removing stuff from the Scriptures and adding stuff to the Scriptures, don’t you think that all the stories about him being such a moron would have been pulled out of the Scriptures? Don’t you think we would have lost that little nugget about Jesus calling him the devil? Wouldn’t you think we would have lost that little nugget about him denying Christ three times? Wouldn’t you think that those would be the first things to go? But they’re in there. Their absolute weakness and foolishness is in there repeatedly as a screaming objection to the claim that the book was tampered with by the church fathers to set up some sort of new system that gave them power. Most of them died. They didn’t have a lot of power. Most of them lived very impoverished lives. They don’t get wealthy. I love the Discovery Channel when it’s talking about animals, but once it ventures off into biblical theology, I don’t know who they got to write it. It’s like they let a nine-year-old write it. You could even read secular books and know that some of the arguments against Christianity are silly, easily solvable arguments.
But the reality is most of us don’t believe and don’t realize what’s in our home right now, what might be attached to us right now, what might be whispering into our souls right now, what might be after our husband, what might be after our wives, what might be after our children. So since we don’t live in this reality, since we don’t believe this reality, we don’t pray. To quote John Piper, we think it’s “peace time.” Because when it’s war time, you pray. When your boy is on the front line, you pray. When your girl is on the front line, you pray. The spouses of those men and women who are in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, how well do you think they’re praying right now? Better than you? Those people who have a nineteen-year-old on a mountain top in Afghanistan behind a machine gun taking shots every day, how well do you think they pray? Better than you? Absolutely they do. Why? Because there is an absolute knowledge that they’re at war and there is an imminent danger and imminent threat to their lives. But since most of us don’t view the Christian life through those lenses, we’re not lead to pray, we’re not lead to cry out, we’re not lead to get into our children’s rooms, get on our knees and pray in Jesus’ name for protection, for salvation, for the ability to discern what is lies and what is truth. We’re not driven to pray for our spouses, that they not be deceived, that they not be tricked, that the Holy Spirit would protect and enlighten. We’re not driven to prayer because we don’t understand that there is a lion trying to destroy us. And that’s obstacle number one.
Obstacle number two is simply our pride. Almost all of us buy into the lie that we control our circumstances and we control our environment. And the world around us, the air we breathe does nothing but bolster that confidence. Here would be my example. Get any book on any topic that you want and here’s what it will say. “If you don’t want this, do this. . .If you don’t want this to happen, do these things.” That ranges from marriage to health to anything. There is a belief that 2 + 2 will always equal 4. But in reality, it simply is not true. So when I get diagnosed with malignant cancer, it opens up this whole community to me of people who have malignant cancer, and there is no rhyme or reason. In fact, I was in the best shape of my life when I was diagnosed. I was eating the healthiest I had ever eaten for close to two years. So all the things that all the books say to do to avoid ____, I was actually doing for years before the diagnoses came down. There is an illusion to control. It happens in marriage books. Just buy any marriage book you want outside of something by Paul Tripp and what you’re going to find is, “If you do these things, you can make your spouse do these things.” Nothing will ruin your marriage quicker than that idiocy. “Do these things to get your spouse to do these things,” is a form of manipulation that not birthed out of a genuine love and affection for your spouse, but rather out of a selfish motive that says, “This is what I want and I’m not getting it, so I’ll use any bit of trickery or manipulation that I can to get what I want. So if it requires me to do this to get this, I’ll do it.” It’s not, “How do I encourage, how do I walk with and how
do I speak life into my spouse?” So grace doesn’t drive it; the Law drives it. And once you buy into this mentality, you’re in trouble. And one of the reasons we don’t pray is because we think we can control our environment. Now to some extent, we can make choices that are wise. Making wise choices is not controlling your environment; it’s just making wise choices. The end is still in God’s hands, and the end is still up to the Spirit of God. We make wise choices, but in the end our path has been set out by God Almighty. And He is governing our steps and leading us into directions He would have us go. But most of us believe we’ve got this, so we don’t need Him. And when this illusion is removed, that’s when we pray. Let one of your kids get sick. You will be a praying fool. All that, “Oh, I just don’t know how,” all of that evaporates the second your kid is sick. And I’m not talking flu sick; I’m talking sick, sick. Let you get sick, and all those obstacles and hindrances just evaporate. They vanish. Lose your job and let your savings account dwindle to where you don’t know how you’re going to pay your mortgage, and all of a sudden all those obstacles are gone. Now you can fill it in with anything else you want. Let your spouse get sick, let that illusion of control disappear, and you’ll find the hindrances to prayer also disappear. Here’s the reality. You don’t control those things now. One of the objective evidences that you are a wicked, wicked human being is when everything goes well, God gets no praise, no glory and there is no prayer, “Thank You that today my kids are healthy. . .Thank You that today my spouse is healthy. . .Thank You today that there is money in my account. . .Praise You today that we have time together as a family. . .Praise You today that there is food on our table. .
.” So little of that exists outside of trite, quick prayers before dinner. But just let it go wrong, and all of a sudden God is put is the one that failed us. So no bit of the praise and every bit of the blame is a constant reminder of the wicked state of the human heart. We believe that we’re in control, and so we don’t pray. At the end of the day, this is pride. It is the same lie that Lucifer bought into, the same lie that Eve bought into, the same lie that men men and women throughout history have bought into of, “I have no need of Him. I can do this.” In fact, when Romans 1 describes what’s wrong with the world, it say that mankind believes the lie over the truth of God and it fails to acknowledge its need for God. So at the very root of all sin is this belief that we don’t need Him, that we don’t need to submit to Him and we can do it on our own. So pride is a big one.
Unconfessed sin is a big one. Really when unconfessed sin keeps you from praying, in reality you just have a misunderstanding of the gospel. The pervasive error in American churches is the idea that morality and moral behavior gets you right-standing before God and earns your way into acceptance by God. Now the only problem with that is the New Testament. The entire New Testament would say that that’s a foolish bet and that Christ came to destroy that thinking. How often does He rebuke the Pharisees for this exact belief system? “We’ve done these things, so we should be accepted by You.” Doesn’t the Pharisee say, “Praise You, God, that I’m not like that guy. I praise You that I don’t screw up like he screws up. I praise You that I’m not like this guy.” But Jesus then turns it on them and goes, “There is one who goes home justified. It’s the one who says, ‘Woe is me.’” You see, one understands the gospel and one doesn’t. And it’s not the pretty one who understands the gospel. The gospel says that right-standing before God is purchased by the death of Christ on the cross and by no act of your own. So if an unconfessed sin keeps you from praying and crying out to God, you’ve bought into the lie that God doesn’t know and you have somehow deceived Him. You think you have somehow tricked Him. As if He hadn’t seen what you’ve been doing, what you’ve been thinking, how you’ve been acting, that you have somehow hidden that from Him. Maybe it’s because others around you can’t see it. You buy into that lie, and then you also buy into the lie that, if you can clean that up, then you and God are cool. Instead, you should be trusting and throwing yourself onto the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross that does give you that right- standing before God Almighty.
I’ll give you another one that is in the Scriptures. In 1 Peter 3, it says that men who fail to honor their wives have their prayers hindered. That to me is just an unreal text. It’s like, “Hey, honor your wife or your prayers will be hindered.” So for men who deal cruelly with their wives, prayer becomes an obstacle. Even if you are praying, God is going, “Uh uh. You had better go say you’re sorry to your girl and then come back in here.”
The last one goes along with what we said in the beginning. I really do believe that there is a genuine misunderstanding about God’s affection for you. I don’t think we quite understand what a delight we are to Him. Zephaniah says He shouts over us. He doesn’t shout at us, because that would be different. He shouts over us, He rejoices over us, He sings over us and there is a gladness in the heart of God towards us. But that’s unreal for us to believe. Because we know us. And when we know us, it’s hard to believe that God, knowing fully every crack and cranny of our being, could love us, care for us and delight in us. But when you understand this, you run to Him and not from Him. You see this even early on in the New Testament how the children run to Jesus. Children don’t run to grumpy, shriveled up people. They can sense it. A kid can just sense, “That dude is angry. I’m staying away. That guy’s a little too tight for me.” Who do they run to? Kids will run to that unfettered, open joyful, even at times silly person. They are drawn to that. They love that. They love when they sense delight in them. When someone delights in your kids, when you delight in your kids, there is a marked difference in how they respond and how they react and how they are drawn up into or caught up into that person. It’s an understanding of delight of God that will lead us to pray more and more.
Now, I think there are a couple of things on a practical level that are hindrances to us, not just in prayer, but in just about every area of discipline in our lives. We don’t solve the question of time. We don’t know when we’re going to do it. How many of you get in bed at night, say a quick prayer and know you should be praying more and even tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll pray more? So we would say, “I find myself praying at night when I get in bed sometimes and there’s a constant pressure on my heart that knows I should pray but I’m not praying.” A bulk of us are going to confess that that’s true. Part of the reason is a real practical one. We just never say, “This is when I’m going to do it.” At the end of the day, it’s tools, not rules. So for some of you, that’s going to be a two hour block in the morning. I am jealous of your ability
to do that. Some of you like 5:00 in the morning, so you get up and pull out your Systematic Theology and you pray over that and work it. For me, I have found it’s easier for me to mark out three times a day or so to stop and pray in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening to have what history would call “the offices of prayer” or these blocks of time in my day where I stop and pray. It doesn’t need to be an hour or two. I don’t need to face east or west. I just have three to four markers a day where I stop, breathe, acknowledge that He is, acknowledge that I’m in need and then to begin to pray. So time is an issue for some of us.
Place is an issue for some of us. We don’t know where to pray. I have found that this is especially difficult for mothers of small children. This becomes a difficult task because, if it’s anything like my house, the alarm going off in the morning is your children. No matter how far back you try to take that alarm, they can sense that you’ve set it for 5:30, so they’ve just decided to get up at 5:15. So it’s like a race. And maybe your kids are different and maybe God loves you more than He loves me and my wife. Maybe this is just for our sanctification or maybe it’s demonic. Who knows? But my kids feel the alarm and get up before it goes off. So I get to come to an office that’s quiet, that is protected and I can shut my door and commune with God Almighty without the, “Mom. . .Mom. . .Mom . . Mom. . .Mom. . .” Since I don’t have to deal with any of that, it’s an easier rhythm for me to get into, but for Lauren, for moms, it becomes something that requires some effort. It requires being watchful, it requires guarding, protecting, designing, figuring out how to do it, places to go, times in which to enter in. It’s another reason to give our kids naps or at least quiet time. “You just go read and leave me alone for a little bit.” And you enter in at that level, at that time. So I think place is an issue.
I think, when everything goes quiet, we’re not quite sure what to pray anymore. Like when everything goes quiet, we’re just like, “Where do I even begin?” As a general rule, here’s what works for me. Concentric circles. Now you’ll have to figure out how God has wired you, but I want to deal with my own heart, I want to confess my own short comings, I want to confess what’s going on with me first. If I feel impatience with me, I want to get to the bottom of that impatience, I want to confess that I am being impatient and I want to ask God if I need to apologize to anyone else who may have felt the brunt of that. If I get angry, I want to process that with the Lord, I want to confess that and ask for wisdom in dealing with that and I want to ask God if this is springing from me not trusting in Him in an area. I want to pray for me first, and
then it just rolls out. I want to spend time praying for my family. I want to spend time praying for my wife first. And I tend to pray for Lauren in regards to her own relationship with Jesus Christ, her own growth in the fullness of Christ and using her gifts for the glory and honor of Jesus Christ. I don’t tend to pray for her tasks around the house or her duties in this regard. I tend to pray about her relationship with God, because it’s my understanding that if that’s right, then everything else starts to roll. I pray for my children. I pray for my neighbors, Rich and Martha, Brian and Rhonda. I pray for guys on staff. I pray for the Village Church on a whole. I pray for small group leaders. I pray for other things that the Spirit then starts to load onto my heart, in particular people who are leading groups here, people who have e-mailed me, people I know whose children are sick, friends of mine who are struggling. Those kind of things the Spirit will start dropping into my heart and I begin to pray for those things. But concentric circles have always worked for me, because if I don’t do that, then it feels really overwhelming to me in regards to the needs that are here, the wants that are here, the pain that is here and then even the reality of my own household can get a little overwhelming. And sometimes those concentric circles build throughout those three or four prayer times, and sometimes the circle makes it all the way out in one individual prayer time. But I think that’s the other question that needs answering. What exactly are we praying for? And Colossians gives us even a little insight to it when Paul says, “Pray for us.” So the big sovereignty guy says, “Pray for us so that we might. . .” So although God is sovereign over all things, although He governs all things, Paul says, “Pray so that a way might be opened for us to proclaim the Word boldly. So pray for us that these doors might open. . .” So you pray for your ministers, pray for ministries, pray for God’s work in your home group, pray for God’s work in your church and pray for God’s work globally. That’s another example, maybe another level that you get to. But this is the practicality of prayer.
Now the other reason this is the third time we’ve addressed this in less than a year is, not only does the text dictate that we talk about this, but I honestly think we’re weak at it. The Village Church is strong at mission. We baptize a lot of people. There are a lot of skeptics and a lot of unbelievers who come here and make this their home over a period of time until God saves them. And then we’re real strong at generosity. I mean, our theme for building this right here was, “We need $4 million for a new building.” That was literally our theme. There wasn’t a Bible verse attached to it, nobody got a dry chicken dinner and we didn’t sit down with the rich folk. We just said, “You have cash; we need it. Give it to us.” We were doing six services at the time and turning away from every service. And so you’re a very generous people, but I just think we’re weak in regards to pursuing the Lord in prayer. I think we’re weak when it comes to an expectation that God can do mighty and profound things around us. I think we’re weak when it comes to the reality that God can heal and that if we would pester Him and plead with Him and beg with Him and fast concerning it, then He would do it among us. We could cry out to see salvations beyond what any of us could imagine and He would hear and respond. I don’t think that we have that angst in us that would have us pestering God. I don’t think we have that stalker mentality yet that we need to have, especially since God is not issuing any restraining orders. He’s saying, “Bother Me. Pester Me.” Jesus even gives the story. “There is a persistent widow who pesters and pesters and pesters the judge until he says yes. And if that happens at this level, how am I as God, who has asked you to bother Him, going to respond to your persistence? Labor in prayer.
I said it last week, and I’ll say it again. I have just really high hopes for the Wednesday night prayer meeting on the first Wednesday of every month where we do elder led prayer that we have to turn away from that vs. having to turn away simply from our weekend services. I think at that point when we’re a people marked by prayer, then we’ll really begin to see the power and might of God in profound ways in a place where we’ve already seen the power and might of God in profound ways. But this isn’t it. There is more to be seen, more to be had, more to walk in, more to experience, more to marvel at, more to be overwhelmed by than even what we’ve seen. We’ve grown by a thousand a year over the last eight years. We’ve baptized hundreds with some of the craziest testimonies I have ever been around. We’ve had everything from witches to atheistic Buddhists to alcoholics to drug addicts to former felons to a whole slew of church kids. We baptize more church kids than anything else. ”I grew up in church, I never understood the gospel, I’ve been trying to be good my whole life, I am not good at being good but then I heard the gospel.“ And so despite the fact that we’ve seen all
these things, despite the fact that we’ve seen limited healings, it feel on a whole that our intellect will drive us really into this kind of intellectual linear faith where we memorize these truths and get these things down, and that’s the fullness of God. And I always want to push you in regards to doctrine and theology and knowing the Scriptures. Those are no bad words, those are not cold and they are not dead. They are necessary. Everyone in this room is a theologian; just some
of you are heretics. Everyone in the room has thoughts and ideas about God that dictate how they live their life and how they practice. So I always want us to be heavy on doctrine here, but there is also a living out that faith that would create angst in our hearts to cry out to God that we might see God-sized stuff around us. And you know me well enough to know I’m not talking about numerics. Probably four times a year, I preach sermons that we just call ”space makers,“ which is me going, ”I don’t care that you’re here. I care about the gospel. Here is what the Bible says.“ It’s just kind of that random, ”Let’s do a sermon on hell or let’s do a sermon on limited atonement. Let’s do something like that that just thins the herd a little bit. So we can see who wants to be here and who really wants to be serious about chasing God.“ So might we be marked as a people of prayer just as much as we’re marked by being a people of mission and being a people who want to see the lost saved. And really that’s an act that the Holy Spirit can do.
So my prayer is that we now use these themes and practicalities of identifying the obstacles to prayer. Is it pride? Is it a lack of understanding that there are demons after your children, after your marriage, after you? Is it that you are a idiot husband? What are the hindrances to you really pressing into the Lord? Is it something as simple as not sitting down and being watchful enough to think about what you’re praying, what you’re seeking, how you’re going to go about praying, so when it comes time to pray, you’re not at a loss for words? Do you believe that God delights in your prayers, that He rejoices in you coming to Him with requests and petitions? These are all questions that you have to answer as an individual. I can only answer them for myself, which is one of the most frustrating parts about being a preacher.
So let’s pray. ”Holy Spirit, it is my prayer and it is my confession that I want us to be a much better praying place than we are, a place that is hungry for dynamic, powerful moves of Your Spirit, a place that hungers for You like David does in Psalm 27 and Psalm 42. I pray that there would be this angst in us when it comes to You, this desire in us when it comes to You. I pray that we would pester and bother and cry out, that we would make our request known, that we would want and desire our neighbors to come to know You, that we would want and desire our coworkers to come to know You. I pray that there would be this passion in us to see the sick healed among us in regularity, not in just spot moments. I pray that it be a regular thing in here where You would supernaturally bend the laws of the universe in such a way that no man is praised, but that You and You alone are praised. And so we ask, not just for one individual to have a specific miraculous moment or gift, but rather that Your Spirit would just bless and dwell in this place in such a way that there is no mistake that You are here and that You are at work. So we ask You these things knowing that these things are occurring at some level, but as spoiled children who have read Your revelation to us in the Scriptures, we know there is more and we don’t want to be satisfied with this portion but want more. Help us. We need You. It’s for Your beautiful name I pray. Amen.“