Discipleship and Prayer

Scripture: John 17:20-21, Daniel 9:2-19, Matthew 14:22-23
Date: 01/18/2014 
Lesson: 3
"What powerful changes might occur if constant, fervent prayer was central to our methodology in seeking to make and keep disciples!"
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Welcome to Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist church right here in sunny Sacramento, California. We're so glad that you're tuning in from across the country and around the world. It doesn't matter how you're joining us, we're just glad that you are. Whether you're listening on the radio, watching live on our web site at 'saccentral.org' or on the various television networks, welcome. And I would love for you to join with us as we open up our program with a couple of favorites.

I'm sorry that I did not get the names of those who requested The Songs we're going to sing, but I was gone all week so please forgive me. So if you requested this song, please know we're singing it for you, we just don't have your names that we can read off. Our first one is #286 - 'wonderful words of life' - and we'll sing all three stanzas. Join with us. If you're at home, pull out your hymnals - sing 'wonderful words of life' - all three stanzas.

If you have a favorite song that you would like to sing with us on an upcoming program, it's very simple. All you have to do is go to our web site at 'saccentral.org', click on the 'contact us' link, and any song here in this hymnal we will sing for you on an upcoming program. Next week we will continue working our way through the hymnal singing The Songs that we don't know yet. So if you want to get a head start, #81 is what we'll be singing next week and you can go ahead and learn that so you're all ready for next week. But our next one right now is #294 - 'power in the blood' - and we'll sing all three stanzas of this one.

#294. Would you bow your heads with me? Father in Heaven, we thank you so much for the power that is in the blood of the lamb - the power that we have through you to live a victorious life, the power through you to love those that don't love us, and to show the world what being a Christian is all about. I pray that you will be with us as we open up Your Word and we study together right now. Please be with each person here, our speaker, and those around the world, that we will each be touched by you today as we open up Your Word and we study together. In Jesus' Name, amen.

At this time our lesson study is going to be brought to us by our senior pastor, Pastor Doug Batchelor. Thank you very much to our musicians. It's fun to sing some of those old revival songs like 'power in the blood'. Happy Sabbath central church. Did you eat too much during the holidays? Nobody did, huh? I want to welcome our friends who are watching at home, our online members, as well as some of our extended class that studies with us each week.

If you have not found out yet, we are in the midst of our new quarter study and I just want to remind you we record the lesson here about three weeks in advance so that we can edit and put the subtitles in and we're in the third study in a lesson dealing with discipleship. Today's lesson, in particular, is on prayer. And we're very thankful we can offer you a book that specifically deals with the subject of prayer. It's called, 'teach us to pray' and we'll send it to you simply by - if you call and ask. The number to call is 866-788-3966.

The acronym for that would be 866-study-more that's 866-788-3966. Ask for offer #717 and we'll send it to you. It really - it goes through the Lord's prayer and tells us how that's a template for what prayer should really be. And we have a memory verse in our lesson on prayer and it comes to us - it's in the new king James version - it's from John 17, verses 20 and 21. I always appreciate if you can echo this with me.

We'll say the memory verse together. If you have your lesson, you can just read it right out of there. John 17, verses 20 and 21. Are you ready? Jesus is speaking. It says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

" This is such a profound Scripture in itself. We could take the whole lesson and talk about that but the point, in particular, that we want to deal with is part of discipleship is praying for the people you're trying to reach and prayer in our own lives. So we pray for the needs that we may have and we're praying for the people we're trying to reach - also teaching them to pray. I heard a pastor say one time that during the conversion process in the born again experience, it is so important that right then in the infancy that they learn to pray. How important is it when a baby is born that it learns to breathe? Have you ever seen the doctors and the nurse crew scrambling around a newborn because they're born but they're not breathing yet.

And it is crucial that they learn to breathe right there at the beginning. It's always very troubling when you see a newborn that is on a respirator because they've not learned to breathe on their own. It is crucial, at the time of the new birth, that those who are being discipled understand the priority of prayer. Well, salvation is really about knowing God. Prayer is that communion with God.

I'll say something - there's always people listening for the first time - I'll say something I say all the time, that you cannot be a Christian if you don't love God. You cannot love somebody you do not know. You will not know God if you do not talk to God and he does not talk to you. You know someone through communication. The Bible is the principle way that God speaks to us.

We need to study the word and the principle way that we talk to God is through prayer. And so, I would encourage all of us to spend time in prayer and pray for others. That's how you reach them. So in our lesson we've got a number of studies and one would be 'time-tested compassion' - under Sunday, day #1. And let's look at a few verses that deal with that.

Now, I've given out a few verses also for you to read. Go to Daniel 9, verse 1. It says, "in the first year of darius The Son of ahasuerus, of the lineage of the medes, who was made king over the realm of the chaldeans - in the first year of his reign i, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." So Daniel is studying the Bible and in the process of studying the Bible he says, you know, Daniel - Jeremiah rather, prophesied that there would be seventy years of time that the children of Israel would be captive in Jerusalem - I'm sorry, in Babylon - and during those seventy years they didn't know, you know, all the things that they would experience but Daniel realized Jeremiah prophesied seventy years. He looked at the starting point. He said, 'this is about the time that we should be going back.

' And even though it was prophesied, Daniel then gives himself to pray. Chapter 9 is a great intercessory prayer for God's people. It's a good pattern for us to pray for others we're trying to reach. The one thing I think is really important in the prayer - can any of you ever name a time in the Bible that Daniel sinned? Can you think of any sin of Daniel? But you'll notice that in Daniel 9, he's confessing his sin - it doesn't say specifically what it was - his sin and the sin of his people. And so he puts himself into the great need of his people for revival.

Now one reason this prayer is important, at the end of Daniel's prayer it tells us that an angel comes. If you pray and an angel shows up, you've prayed a pretty good prayer. Is that right? And so this is a good prayer. You know, I'll tell you another little story about this prayer. I wish I could say that this happened to me often but it didn't, but there was one night when I was with a friend studying the Bible and we got so involved in studying the Bible that we just would break out in praise and prayer and we spent just about the whole night studying the Bible.

It was this chapter - Daniel chapter 9 - and I don't know if you've ever studied before where you just felt the presence of God is very close and it's like he's revealing things to you and we would read a verse and look at each other and go 'wow!' And we just felt the presence of God and we were understanding that what Daniel said in chapter 9 was really relevant for God's people today and God's people through time and we understood what spiritual Babylon was and how God's people had been captive in spiritual Babylon. The prayer of Daniel for his people to be delivered from ancient Babylon was like our prayer we should be praying today for God's people to be delivered from spiritual Babylon and all these things - I can't even repeat it now because sometimes when you have like a divine Revelation, you've got to be there. You can't even tell another person because spiritual things are spiritually discerned. So I can't explain to you what happened that night but I actually drove on a motorcycle for several hours to go to this Bible study, stayed up all night - studied with these people - felt like God was so close, and then drove several hours on a motorcycle back home again. And it was that important to have this Bible study.

And we weren't tired when we got up in the morning. We had been invigorated by it. But it was this prayer. Now, maybe I'll take off and just read a little bit of it. Verse 3 - Daniel 9, verse 3, "then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, 'o Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant and mercy with those who love him, and with those who keep his commandments" - he's quoting Moses here - "we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing for your precepts and your judgments. Neither have we heeded your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our Kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to you, but to us shame of face, as it is this day - to the men of judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which you have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against you. O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our Kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him.

We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets." - Now he's quoting what Moses says here. In other words, throughout Daniel's prayer he's referencing other Scripture. You remember when Solomon said, 'if your people are unfaithful and they don't obey and they're carried off to a foreign land if they pray towards this place'? This is exactly what Daniel is referencing. We've been unfaithful, that's why this has happened. Now we're doing what you said: we're humbling ourselves, we're praying toward this place' and he's echoing that whole thing.

Now, one of the points I want to make here: someone go to Daniel :10 - we gave that out to somebody. If you've got that - you got that eddie? Let's get you a microphone. Daniel chapter 6, verse 10. One of the important things I want us to remember about the prayer of Daniel here in Daniel chapter 9 and - prayer of discipling is - it starts out by saying, 'as I was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah' then he goes into this prayer. And so what do we learn about Daniel's discipling prayer and what was the Genesis for that? Alright, I think we're ready.

We're ready. Alright, go ahead read Daniel 6, verse 10. Daniel 6, verse 10, "now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days." Daniel had a regular pattern of prayer, didn't he? Would anything keep Daniel from prayer? Why did Daniel pray with his windows open toward Jerusalem? Did Solomon say 'if they pray towards this place'? He read that in the Bible and he did what it said. Why did Daniel pray three times a day? Anyone remember psalm 55:17? 'Morning, evening and at noon will I pray and lift up my voice' - Daniel read where king David said, 'morning, evening and at noon'.

Daniel did what he said and so is there a connection between Bible study and prayer? All through this intercessory prayer of Daniel's he's referencing Scripture. He's praying that God's people can go home because the time of their captivity is almost complete. And so, what does he use - what is he claiming that God might answer their prayers? He's pointing to the promises of God throughout the Bible. He's quoting from Solomon, he's quoting from Moses, he's quoting from the prophets, he's quoting from Jeremiah and he's saying, 'Lord, we're doing what you said. We've suffered for our sin.

It's been seventy years. We're humbling ourselves.' Daniel's praying in sackcloth and ashes and God hears his prayer. Alright, so in the technique of discipleship prayer we want to be praying for others, claiming the promises of God. Is Jesus interested in others being saved? How important is that to Jesus? Yeah, I'd say it's at the top of the list. Why did he come and die? That others might be saved.

I want to read something to you from 'medical ministry' p. 244, "Let the workers grasp the promises of God saying, 'thou has promised. Ask and you shall receive. I must have this soul converted to Jesus Christ.' Solicit prayers for souls for whom you labor. Present them before the church as the objects for supplication.

Select another and still another soul daily seeking guidance from God, laying everything before him in earnest prayer and working in divine wisdom." Should we pray for others? Should we just - how often should you pray for others? Days? Any of you have family members you're praying for? Any of you have family members you've prayed for for years? Well, God hasn't answered the prayer in years, so should you give up? I know people who have prayed for their children's conversion for 30 years, 40 years and then we've had the privilege of being involved in their baptism. And boy those parents are happy. They had stored a lot of prayers in heaven. Or I know spouses that have prayed for their spouse for years and - some of you remember george mueller who was a great man of prayer and he said he's got friends - three specific close friends he prayed for their conversion and one by one, over the years, he watched them converted and one of them he prayed for for 50 years and he said, when he was interviewed at - he lived to be 93 - he said, 'I still trust God that he's going to convert this friend of mine. Well, it turns out that that man gave his heart to the Lord at mueller's funeral.

And so God still answered his prayers but you have to be persistent in praying. So part of discipleship is prayer. How long was Daniel in Babylon? 70 Years. So that's a long time to pray. Did Daniel live to see the decree where God's people could go back to the promised land? Did he live to see his prayer answered? He did.

And you can be sure he rejoiced over that. Lets look under the section 'time for prayer'. Matthew 14 - I tell you, first I want to get someone to get ready for Mark 1:35. Who has that verse? Over here? Thank you, jolyne. Mark 1:35 will be next but I'm going to read Matthew 14, verse and 23, "immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray." You know, they were getting ready to come and take Jesus by force and make him a king and he thought, 'no, this is not God's plan.' He sent the people away and he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. He was going to go to the disciples - matter of fact, he goes to the disciples walking on water. I wonder how well - pardon me - I wonder how well Jesus could have walked on water if he hadn't prayed first. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus he started to sink. And Christ had his eyes on The Father.

He was able to walk on water after praying. But you notice it says 'he went up into the mountain by himself to pray'? Alright, who's going to read for us Mark 1:35? Go ahead. "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." You know, good time for prayer is not found, it's made. You can't say, 'well, I hope I can find some time to pray', you have to treat time for prayer like you treat time for food. Most of us, we make food a priority and we schedule a time each day when we're going to eat.

Maybe this is not a good analogy but some people are addicted to things. I've noticed that when people are addicted - if someone is addicted to cigarettes they're going to make sure that they go to a place where they're going to have a smoking area. They're going to find a time and a place and a break to go out. Any of you ever go into walmart or one of these stores and see a bunch of the staff outside smoking because they're not allowed to smoke in the store? Isn't is something when you go to a hospital and you see nurses out in front of the hospital smoking? I made a hospital visit last night and I saw that and I thought, 'that's the strangest thing. You'd think they'd know better.

' But they can't so they've got this smoking area out there. It's kind of a con - what do you call that? A conflict of terms to have a smoking area outside of a hospital. My father struggled with alcohol for years and whenever he went to eat lunch, he always - we noticed that he would always go to lunch at places where they also served alcohol because he had to have a drink and that was a priority for him. People manage to schedule their addictions. You need to know that you need a fix of prayer every day - that you're just not going to make it without it and if you don't schedule it, you don't make it happen, you're going to have a spiritual withdrawal and you'll find yourself without Jesus.

It's got to be that important to you. Addiction's not a good word - food is better - it nourishes the soul. It's like breath. If you're a scuba diver you watch your gauge on your tank because if you find yourself a hundred feet down and out of air, you're going to die. You've got to schedule that.

It's just - your life depends on it. As a Christian, if you want to live, you've got to breathe. You've got to schedule prayer. It's got to be a priority for you. Jesus did that.

It says he took time. Something else you'll notice - I'll read one more - when we're talking about a time for prayer, notice sometimes you need a place alone for prayer. We just read a minute ago Jesus went up on the mountain by himself to pray and then it says here in Mark 1:35, it says that he found a solitary place. Now look in Luke 5, verse 15, "however, the report went around concerning him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. So he himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

" It seems like the more the multitudes came, the more necessity he found to get off by himself and pray. And I really - I miss living in the hills. I'll just tell you I do. Karen's very understanding - every now and then I just take off and go to covelo for a day or two by myself. To study, pray, decompress - everybody needs to have some time like that where you just go and you can be - now some people you just - you don't want to ever be alone and so you still need to have at least a closet somewhere you can go to and pray.

That's important. Did Jesus do that? He did. Enoch would do that. You ever read the chapter about Enoch in 'patriarchs and prophets'? He would spend time in the mountain so he could go to the multitude. John the baptist - he was in the wilderness and that's where he was spending time with God and he'd disappear frequently and he'd show up at the Jordan and he be baptizing and then he'd disappear and he'd spend time praying and charging up.

Look at this again - I'll give you another one - Luke 6:12, "now it came to pass in those days that he went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." You know, the goal for a Christian - we're talking about a time for prayer - the goal for a Christian is that you have an experience where you pray without ceasing. Most of us don't have that experience. The Bible says we should walk with God. That's our goal, right? As a starting point we should at least schedule a time for prayer and then build on it from there where you try to maintain an awareness of God's presence and you're sending up prayers to him all the time so that you have like an atmosphere of God's presence. One of the things that I really miss - when I was talking about being alone in the mountains - when you are alone it's sometimes easier to just talk out loud to God and be aware of his presence and you think about him more.

When I was first converted and I was living by myself in the hills, I was just - I found myself talking to God about the littlest things. Every little thing I did I was talking to him about. I realized that if, you know, he Numbers the hairs on my head - I always feel funny quoting that verse - but if he, you know, even sees the sparrow when he falls, if God is interested in the minutiae of our lives - if he cannot be troubled by anything when you commune with him and God is interested in even the very smallest things, you know? Any of you ever pray about a parking place when you go into a busy shopping center? And the Lord has just worked wonderful miracles where I thought, 'oh man, I'm in a hurry and I don't see - the parking lot is absolutely full and there's someone I'm supposed to meet - 'oh Lord, help me' - and I'll drive through and all of a sudden, right there, the prime parking place - other than the handicapped ones because I don't park in those - the prime parking place - all of a sudden the car begins to pull out and I race around and I say, 'thank you Lord'. Does God care about things like that? Have you - sometimes I'm late for an appointment and I say, 'Lord, make the lights green'. You know, I do a lot of praying in my car because I'm often alone.

So you can talk to the Lord, but you start out - schedule time for prayer. What was the schedule that Daniel had? David? Morning, evening, and at noon - three times a day ever since he was young, the Bible says. We should have times where we schedule. You should thank God for food but that's not the kind of prayer we're talking about. You should always thank God for your food.

I'm talking about communion with God. You're not going to love God if you don't have a relationship with him. He's going to seem distant and impersonal to you. Again, someone read for me Luke 11, verse 1. Who'd we give that to? Over here? Let's get you a microphone.

And while we're finding that, I want to read a verse from 'steps to Christ' page 93, "prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it's necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive him. Prayer does not bring God down to us but it brings us up to him." So often we think of prayer as the mechanism by which we open a trap door and things fall from heaven to us, but think of prayer as one of those doors in garage that brings a ladder down that you may go up. And so what prayer is doing is it's not just, you know, so God can empty his santa bag for your particular gifts, prayer is a way to lift you because God knows what you need before you ask. When you confess your sins to God, does he already know what you're up to? So what is prayer doing? What is confession doing? It's not bringing God down, it's lifting you up.

It's bringing you closer to God's will. I think - are we ready for - what did I say? Luke 11, verse 1? Go ahead, ready or not. Luke chapter 11, verse 1, "now it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, that one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.'" Notice a word that appears twice in this verse? 'Teach us as John taught.' You know what that tells about prayer? In the business of discipleship prayer is something that can be taught. Now when they asked Jesus to teach us to pray, what did Jesus say? Who knows what Christ said next? the Lord's prayer. It was Luke's version, which is very much like Matthew's version except I think Matthew's says 'for thine be the Kingdom and power and the glory forever' and Luke's says 'forgive us our trespasses' and Matthew's says 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'.

Otherwise they're identical. But is the Lord's prayer a prayer that we are to echo? There's nothing wrong in repeating the prayer - we sometimes do that - but Jesus really gave the Lord's prayer as a pattern for prayer. By the way, in the free offer that we mentioned at the beginning of the program - 'teach us to pray' - what this book does is it takes the Lord's prayer - and this is free to anyone that asks for it - it takes the Lord's prayer and it goes through it point by point and it shows that it is a pattern - it is a model for our prayers. It starts by directing the prayer to God - his glory, his name, his will. It talks about these first petitions deal with God, the last petitions deal with us.

First it's love the Lord, next it's love your neighbor as yourself. So part of prayer is loving your neighbor - discipleship - praying for the conversion of others. So the Lord's prayer is a beautiful template for prayer. We don't have time to go through all of that now, but prayer can be taught. What's the best way to teach prayer? When you pray with someone who really knows how to pray, you often learn by example.

How do most of us learn to pray? If you grew up in a Christian home, hopefully you learned to pray by listening to your parents. The problem with that is family prayer, public prayer, prayer for worship - because when you pray with your children, if it's too long it becomes tedious - is different than personal prayer. The prayer of Elijah when he asked fire to come down from heaven, was that a private prayer or a public prayer? Very public prayer. How long was it? I timed it with you a few weeks ago. Twenty seconds someone said? I forget.

It was less than half a minute. Very short. Daniel's prayer is one of the longest prayers. It's a private prayer. You can read the prayer of hannah - it's a longer prayer.

You can read the prayers of, like, Nehemiah and some of these personal prayers - the prayer of Jesus in John 17 is the longest prayer of Christ you'll find in the Bible. These are personal prayers. We sing that song 'sweet hour of prayer' - do we really pray for an hour? Sometimes when we sing that - we sing songs that are a little hypocritical - 'o for a thousand tongues to sing' - we don't use the one that we have. We sing one or two verses of the song 'o for a thousand tongues to sing'. 'Sweet hour of prayer' - most of our prayers are ten minutes.

You know the great people of revival, they did spend hours in personal prayer and I remember hearing a story one time where during the revolutionary war a farmer came to his home. He said, 'Martha, we're going to win the war. We're going to win the war!' She said, 'how dost thou know?' He said, 'I was off walking through the woods and I heard a noise and I went to where the noise was coming from and there was a man kneeling down in the woods praying the most wonderful prayer and I got a little closer and I saw it was general Washington.' He said, 'I know we're going to win the war.' She said, 'how do you know that?' He said, 'I heard him pray. God has to answer a prayer like that.' And someone once went to the - they went to congress and they said, 'i'd like to know which one is Washington?' They said, 'Washington is the one who will get on his knees when they offer the congressional prayer.' He was a very devout man that way. And, you know, it bothers me when a lot of these revisionists rewrite American history and try and make it sound like all the founding fathers were deists.

A few of them were. The vast majority of them were very religious Christians. Several of them were pastors. And so, don't let people rewrite the history books for you. You ought to read the things that the founding fathers said.

They read their Bibles. I'll bet you the average signer of the constitution knew Scripture by memory better - jefferson, who was a deist, knew Scripture better than the average seventh day adventist. Even though he didn't believe in many of the miracles, he could quote the Scriptures. Lincoln could quote the Scriptures by memory and he did a lot of it, actually, in his speeches. And so these people, their lives were baptized in the Word of God and they did pray.

And we need to pray. Alright, let me keep going. So there's time for prayer and when you're praying, if we're discipling - have you ever been in a prayer circle? Let me ask this question differently. How many of you are converts to Christianity? You were not always a Christian. You converted to Christianity.

Some of you may have grown up in a semi-Christian home but you really weren't practicing. How many of you remember the first time you were in a group and they were going around a circle praying and you knew eventually they were going to get to you? Or they asked for you to pray in front of others - were you terrified? Some of you maybe even grew up in the church and you just - finally one day you were in a group and they said, 'alright, we're going to all take turns. We're going to go around and each utter a short prayer and just - you begin to hyperventilate and 'what am I going to do when my turn comes?' And you don't know what to say and you're scared. That was me. And I was so scared - we used to be in Bible studies and the pastor would say, 'okay, let's read through this here.

You read this verse. We'll each take a turn. We'll read a verse.' I didn't hear anything anyone else read. All I knew was I'd count around the room and say, 'oh, this is when my verse is going to be - this verse - and I was so afraid to read the Bible out loud because I wasn't very good reading out loud let alone the Bible, you know, that language. Praying terrified me.

But as I spent more time with Christians, and I heard - the pastor who baptized me, I spent a lot of time in his home and I listened to him and his wife pray and they loved the Lord so much and they talked to the Lord as if they were dear friends on first name basis and I thought, 'they're so relaxed about it. It's so natural. They're just talking from their hearts.' It wasn't scripted so I thought, 'okay, well, so when you pray talk from your heart.' And by watching others I learned. Prayer can be taught and so you say, 'well, I didn't have anyone model prayer for me, Pastor Doug, what do I do?' Read the prayers in the Bible. Use them as a model and prayer can be taught.

Look at how Daniel prayed. Look at how Solomon prayed and David prayed. Read through the Psalms. Many of the Psalms are prayers and they're a wonderful example. Okay, 'timeless teaching' - Matthew chapter 6, verse 7 and 8, "and when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.

" - There's another principle for prayer - "for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your father knows the things you have need of before you ask him." You know, sometimes when we pray we'll be in a group praying and it's like people are taking turns and I've heard someone in the group say, when their turn came, they said, 'Lord, everybody that just prayed said exactly what I was going to pray and I can't really improve on that so I just want to say 'amen' to what they said.' I thought, 'well I appreciate that. They don't want to just be praying so that they can, you know, repeat the same thing.' God, you know, he's not interested in vain repetition and - have you ever been in one of those you felt like everyone had to offer their obligatory prayer and so they all say sort of the same thing? But another way people pray in vain repetition is when we're being told, 'well, if you want your sins forgiven, repeat this prayer twelve times.' Where does it say that in the Bible? That's not really prayer. You're not even thinking about what you're saying.

God wants you to open your heart and talk to him from your heart because you are transformed by that kind of prayer. Matthew chapter 7, verses 7 through 11, "ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." - Now all of these - asking, seeking, knocking - are in the context of prayer and so this is the way that we actually pray. It's to be given - ask, seek, knock and it will be opened - "for everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?" Does God know what you need before you ask? Will God do things for you when you ask that he otherwise will not do if you don't ask? How many prayers, when you get to heaven, are you going to discover never got answered - that God wanted to answer - but you didn't ask? Now think about that. There are so many prayers that God would like to answer for us, that were never answered because we didn't ask.

You know when you need to pray the most? When you feel like it the least. When we don't feel like praying is often when we need to pray the most. Have you ever thought - oh, we have family worship and we have family fights. Now I hope you have family worship. If you've got a family I bet you sometimes have family fights.

Disagreements - in church we call them disagreements - and sometimes after a family disagreement, whatever it might be, worship time comes and we're very religious about worship time because I'm a pastor, I have to be. What kind of example would I be for you, right? So sometimes I don't feel like being a pastor and I don't feel like praying. I feel like being mad because I'm mad. Usually I'm being proud. I'm being stubborn but I don't want to admit that at the time, I just want to be right and I'm not being recognized for being right and so I'm mad.

Or whatever, you know, fill in the blanks. You know what I'm talking about? You're upset but you've got to pray now with the people that you're mad at. And I think to myself, 'I don't feel like praying'. And a little voice says, 'you really need to pray now' because when you feel like it the least is when you need it the most. So I've tried to discipline myself to pray whether I feel like it or not and I found that as I pray - your heart starts to melt.

The things that you're angry about stop seeming so important. And in your pray - in your prayer - if you're praying the way you should pray - you start praying for other people and you realize you're saying, 'Lord, please help this person that has a terminal disease'. Your little problem doesn't seem so big anymore. And 'Lord, please bless the mission of your church around the world'. I'm thinking, 'yeah, how's the Lord going to get the mission of the church around the world? I can't get it through the living room.

' You know, and so as you're praying something happens to you in your prayer. The time you feel like praying the least is usually when you need to pray the most. 'Oh, it's - I'm tired Lord, I don't want to pray. I just want to have breakfast.' Yeah the Lord he knows - or the devil, sorry - the devil knows that as your feet hit the ground and you get busy with the getting ready for your day, if you don't take time to pray, pretty soon you'll find that it's rushed or it doesn't happen at all and you'll enter into that day totally unprepared or with a totally secular mind set. It's just all about you and what you've got to accomplish and your selfish needs and you're starting the day without God.

The time you think - or you want to pray the least is usually when you need it the most and so pray whether you feel like it or not because often in the midst of praying you'll start feeling like it. Have you ever heard someone say, 'I'm not hungry' and the doctor will say, 'you need to eat anyway' because you're not going to have strength to fight whatever it is making you sick unless you kind of force feed yourself a little bit. And sometimes you've got to force yourself to do what you know that you need to do even though you don't feel like it. So prayer is very important. Now I want to read Matthew 18, verses 19 and 20, "again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them" - is there power in corporate prayer? Is the Lord more likely to answer the prayer of 20 people than one person? I got one vote - yes.

I think yes. I - now, the fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man or woman avails much. So you get one righteous person and they can change the course of heaven. You got someone who's got a strong relationship with God and they pray, like Daniel in chapter 9, amazing things can happen. But it seems that the Bible tells us that there is more value in additional prayer - when we join together in prayer.

What's stronger, one strand in a rope or three? Three strands, right? 'In the mouth of two or three witnesses let everything be established.' 'If my people will humble themselves and pray' - there's something about corporate prayer that God says, 'look, my people are praying' and so the Lord says, 'get together with others and pray'. And you know another reason I think it's important for us to pray together? There's accountability in your prayer. Some people will say, 'you know, Lord, I want a big root beer.' Or we pray for silly things and he says, 'look, I prayed. How come I didn't get my root beer?' And someone might say to you, 'look brother, let's pray according to God's will.' Pray about the important things. Pray about things where you can claim God's promises.

There's no promise about root beer in the Bible. And so, you know, sometimes we misapply these promises where if any of you two agree upon anything on earth. Well, it says if we are agreeing on things that are according to his will. There's a qualifier to that. He will answer.

So is it God's will that the lost be saved? How much should we be praying for the salvation of others? When Peter was in prison on death row, was the church gathered together praying? How much was the church praying? It says the church did not cease to pray. That night that he was in prison they prayed all night long for Peter. Did God answer their prayer? Even though some of them in the room didn't believe God was going to answer their prayer because when Peter came to the door they didn't believe it was him. But God answered their prayer. I've heard a lot of stories about some amazing answers to prayer because God's people got together and they specifically prayed for something unique.

Did stephen pray when he was being stoned? What did he pray for? He prayed for the forgiveness of those that were involved in his execution. Who was one of the people involved in his execution that was converted? Had his name 'Saul' later changed to 'Paul'. Stephen didn't get to see the answer to that prayer. Will he see it when he gets to heaven? Can you imagine what that's going to be like? Did Jesus pray for his enemies? One of the last things Christ prayed for was 'father forgive them. They don't know what they're doing.

' Jesus - did Jesus ever pray for you? In John 17 the Lord says, 'Lord, I'm not only praying for the disciples but I'm praying for those who will believe because of their word.' Who is that? It's me. I believe because of the word of the Gospels. Jesus said, 'I'm praying for you, doug. I'm praying for you because you're one of those who believe because of the word that they spoke.' And so Jesus prayed for you. And there's probably many other places you could cite for that.

Alright, someone look up Hebrews chapter 2, verse 17 and before we read that I'm going to read - this is talking about 'timeless compassion' - I'm going to read Luke 22, verse 31, "and the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon! Indeed, satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren." Now Jesus knew that satan was really battling over Peter's soul and that there was going to be a great struggle. You think Peter was the only one who's had that struggle? Especially when people are at the point of thorough conversion, the devil tightens his grip. Rarely do you see a bigger battle over a person's soul when they're coming to the point of making a complete surrender. When the children of Israel were about to leave Egypt did the pharaoh chase after them? He did everything he could before they crossed the red sea.

He even went into the red sea after them. There was a tremendous struggle. All these plagues, all that turmoil that happened in Egypt at the time of the Exodus is a symbol for the turmoil that comes to a soul - there's wrestling that happens. When Jacob came into the promised land the great wrestling that happened - when a person is being born again. And Jesus said, 'satan has desired to have you.

He wants to destroy you but I have interceded for you.' Did the intercession of prayer make a difference in a special way? Yeah, and he came around. Peter cooperated with that intercession where Judas did not and he was lost. And so, there needs to be that intercession. Alright, go ahead, read for us Hebrews 2:17, I think. "Therefore, in all things he had to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

" You know, when Jesus prayed, he prayed as we pray. He could relate to us, isn't that right? Look at this - and this is from 'steps to Christ' page 93. These are all on that chapter on prayer. "Jesus himself, while he dwelt among men, was often in prayer. Our Savior identified himself with our needs and our weakness in that he became a suppliant - a petitioner - seeking from his Heavenly Father fresh supplies of strength that he might come forth braced for duty and trial.

He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, in all points tempted like we are. But as the sinless one, his nature recoiled from evil. He endured struggle and torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege.

He found comfort and joy in communion with his heavenly father." - Now here's the part I especially want you to notice - "and if the Savior of men, The Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer?" Jesus has set an example for us of praying frequently. Jesus - he prayed submitting to The Father's will - 'not my will, thy will be done.' Isn't that right? Jesus wrestled in prayer. Why did he have to wrestle in prayer like Jacob? In the garden, when he said, 'not my will, thy will be done' - drops of blood coming down from his head as he prayed. When he prayed in the wilderness during that time of temptation with the devil. Paul says in Romans 8, 'likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness for we don't know what we should pray for as we ought to but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.

' You know, I think right now if the veil could be drawn aside - you ever have a close call with death? I mean, you know, you could pick your own story and put it in and - just this last week I was changing lanes and someone was in my blind spot on the freeway - you know what I mean? You look in your mirror, you don't see anything, but you don't turn your head around. Someone had come into that spot - that window where you just couldn't see them and I was changing lanes and just about ran them off the road into oncoming traffic and they honked their horn and I corrected and swerved and it's kind of scary and I thought, you know, 'I'm really glad that there are angels watching over me.' We've all had experiences like that, you know what I'm talking about? Well when that happens, then you realize that there is a spiritual world right there and the devil wants to destroy you. And I think if we could, right now, have the veil drawn aside and see how the devil is trying to destroy us and Jesus is interceding for us, we'd understand the importance of prayer - that we're so careless, you know, all of us are a heartbeat - one breath - away from eternity. And we're so flippant about realizing the necessity of clinging to God and praying without ceasing that there is a titanic battle - a colossal battle going on all the time around us for our souls and for the souls of others. So it's not just praying, 'Lord, I want to know you.

I want to be saved. I want to be in your presence.' But also interceding for others. You ever had an impression you ought to go see someone, maybe talk about spiritual things and then you didn't go and then they died? That's happened to me. That's a terrible, terrible feeling. You know, you're a pastor, there's hundreds of people and sometimes you're doing an evangelistic meeting there's hundreds of people and I'll get this - you're going through the names and 'oh, I ought to call that person, they haven't been here in a few nights' or something like that and then you fail to call and then a day or two later you hear they have an accident, they have a heart attack - something like that happens you think, 'oh!' And you realize 'the Lord was impressing me'.

That's pretty heavy. Thank the Lord I've had those impressions and I did go and I did call and I did pray with them and - I did a meeting one time where some people came to a meeting and I felt impressed I should make an altar call and I thought, 'no, I did it last night, I don't need to do it every night.' And I thought, 'oh, this is' - and I felt a battle whether or not I should make another altar call and I went ahead and I did it and then some people, specifically I won't tell you because it was actually in the news and I don't want to - some people responded during that altar call and they died the next day in a car crash where a truck, in the fog, stopped and their car ran into it and exploded into flames and they died instantly. And I thought to myself, 'I am so thankful I felt impressed to make that altar call.' These kind of battles are going on in the background all the time and we need to be praying for souls. The devil is fighting to destroy people. God's business is saving people - that's his number one business.

The devil's number one business is to take life - keep people in a lost, worldly state and then sweep them into eternity unprepared. And so we ought to be praying that we're ready. We ought to be praying that others are ready. This is what prayer and discipleship is all about. Let me read, just in closing, one more verse.

And this is from acts chapter 1, verses 13 and 14, before the time of pentecost and the Holy Spirit was poured out. "And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John and andrew; Philip and thomas; bartholomew and Matthew; James The Son of alphaeus and Simon the zealot; and Judas The Son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." They were up there in the upper room continuing in prayer, putting aside their differences, praying for the great work of preaching the Gospel, praying that they could be empowered to reach the lost. What happened in the next chapter? Holy Spirit is poured out in pentecostal proportions. Do we need a double portion of the Holy Spirit in this day and age? Then we - what do you think? Should we be making prayer a priority? Praying for each other? Praying in our families.

Praying whether we feel like it or not? Praying for our own souls and the souls of the lost? I just - I think communion with heaven is a great privilege we don't really appreciate. In closing, some of you maybe didn't hear at the beginning we have a free book on prayer. I hope that you'll send for it. If you do, please promise to read it and then share it with somebody. It's called, 'teach us to pray'.

It's offer #717 - ask for that number when you call - #717. Here's the phone number: -788-3966. We'll send it to you for free and time is up. God willing we'll get together and study His Word next week. God bless.

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