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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Effective Prayer

Allen Jackson - Effective Prayer

Allen Jackson - Effective Prayer
TOPICS: Prayer

I wanna begin with an idea that it seems to me is very much in question in the hearts of people who occupy churches. And it is this very simply, that prayer is an expression of the power and the authority of God, that there is a power and an authority in prayer. When you refuse to pray, you separate yourself in so many ways from the power and the authority of God. When we say we don't pray, we don't have a prayer life, it's not a part of my practice, it isn't incorporated in the routine of my life, in effect, what we're saying is God's power and his authority really aren't that relevant to me.

We often will pray in times of desperation or panic or great need or significant trauma, not evil, it's a normal human reaction. But it's not the effective development of a spiritual life. The most powerful forces in our world are spiritual forces; forces of good and forces of evil. They're not the only expressions of power in our world. I'm not naïve or simple. I believe in many forms of power in our world. There's military power, economic power. I mean, you can make an almost limitless list, but the greatest power available to a human being is spiritual. Now, I wanna start in the Gospel of Luke. I've given you two or three passages there. They all come from Luke, a common author with a common vocabulary, telling a narrative story.

So we don't have to cobble together multiple context or multiple definitions. Luke is telling us something. In Luke chapter 4, it says, "Jesus," verse 14, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and the news about him spread throughout the whole countryside and he taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him". Now, some of you'll remember the verses that precede that. They're the verses about Jesus's baptism. Jesus left the Galilee, the region in Israel where he'd grown up. He went south to the Jordan River area. He was baptized by John where Luke says the Spirit of God descended upon him. And immediately he went into the desert, in the Judean desert, where for forty days he fasted and prayed.

And then Luke says he returned from that season to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. The incubator again in Jesus's life for the expression of the power of God was a season of prayer. The same is true in our life. In that same chapter in verse 31, it says, "Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he began to teach the people". Where would you go to teach on the Sabbath? To the synagogue, which is precisely where Jesus has said in verse 15 that Jesus had gone. So now he's in the synagogue in Capernaum, and "they were amazed at his teaching because his message had authority".

What was it distinctive about Jesus? He spoke with an authority. There was a power in his message. The rabbis in the synagogues were brilliant scholars. Their education was meticulous. It began in childhood. They were experts on the Mosaic Law and the words of scripture. But Jesus didn't simply speak from an intellectual perspective. He spoke with an authority, and then Luke gives us an example. Says, "In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. And he cried out at the top of his voice, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God!'"

Now, I think it's worth noting that in the synagogue amongst the godly people who have gathered for worship, roughly similar to a group of people who would gather in a church. They weren't in a nightclub or some pagan place. They were in a synagogue where the scripture is being read. There's a man who's demonized. And at least in passing, it's worth observing that the demon had more insight into truthfully who Jesus was, than anybody else that was in the synagogue. The demon said, "I know who you are. You're the Son of God". This is the beginning of Jesus's ministry. This is the beginning of his miracle cycle. The disciples haven't yet said that we know you're the Christ or the Messiah. He's just an itinerate rabbi that came from Nazareth. The demon said, "You're Jesus from Nazareth. But I know who you are. You're the Son of God".

Do you have room in your imagination that unclean spirits, unholy spirits, demonic forces have insight and understanding that exceeds your own? I said a moment ago that the greatest expressions of power in our world are spiritual forces, both godly and ungodly. See, this leads us to a conclusion. We will not out-think evil. We will not out-organize evil. We won't out-work evil. We need a power greater than ourselves to overcome evil. Evil exists in the world, but human beings left to their own resources and their own abilities apart from the power of God will never overcome evil. We need the help of the Spirit of God and the power and the authority of Almighty God.

Now let's watch what Jesus does. Luke's helping us learn. "Jesus said sternly, 'Be quiet and come out of him,' and the demon threw the man down before them all and came out of him without injuring him. And the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!'" Multiple times in this 4th chapter in Luke's gospel, the beginning of the Jesus story, Luke refers to Jesus in terms of authority and power, and he gives us one specific example of the deliverance of this demonized man. There's confrontation between good and evil. Folks, we need to know how to pray effectively if we're to overcome evil in our world. Not evil people. This man wasn't evil. He was suffering under the authority of something evil. For the church to be the church for us to accomplish what God has called us to, in your home, in your life, in every other expression of our journey through this world, we need the power of God.

Prayer is important, but there's one more key to this power and authority. There's a necessary component. Before God can entrust you with his authority and his power, there's a component in us that we have to address. And it's simply this, that we have to accept authority. We have to yield to authority. God cannot entrust his power and authority to you and me if we are rebels. It would destroy us. We have to be yielded. In Luke's gospel again, chapter 7, Jesus is in Capernaum again. This is the same place where we just read the narrative about. There's a centurion in that city, a Roman centurion who has a servant that he cares a great deal about, who's very ill. And there's nothing to be done for the man.

And by now Jesus's reputation has begin to grow, so the centurion sends messengers to the Jewish religious leaders and asks them to recruit Jesus to intercede on behalf of his servant. And in a very surprising turn of events, Jesus agrees to go to the centurion's home. And that's where we step into your notes with verse 6. It says, "Jesus went with them. He wasn't far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: 'Lord, don't trouble yourself, I don't deserve to have you come under my roof. That's why I didn't even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.'"

It's a pretty remarkable expression. The humility in this man is stunning. Be certain of this, he could have had Jesus delivered to his home bound in chains at the point of a spear, at the tip of a sword. He was the authority in that village, the legal authority. But in a remarkable expression of humility, he sent someone to ask the Jewish leaders to intercede on his behalf. And when they did and Jesus agreed to come, then he sent another servant to the entourage that's moving towards his home, he said "I'm not worthy of you coming to my home". It's a phenomenal expression of humility. But listen to what the man says. Listen to the message he sent to Jesus.

"'I myself am a man under authority. I have soldiers under me. And I tell this one, "Go," and he goes; and that one to "Come," and he comes. I say to my servant, "Do this," and you better know he does it.' When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and he turned to the crowd following and he said, 'I tell you, I haven't found such great faith even in Israel.'"

What was the key to that man being able to receive from Jesus? He said, "I recognize authority. I have some". Bu he said, "The authority I have won't help my servant. I can command soldiers. I can mobilize a military expedition. I could execute people. But I don't have an authority in this realm". Do you have an imagination that there are differing realms of authority? We're the church of Jesus Christ. You understand how vulnerable we make our world if in the church we don't believe in the realms of spiritual authority? Again, I'm not ignoring political authority or economic, lots of expressions of authority. But the authority God has invested in us through our relationship with him... folks, prayer is important. It's a powerful tool in our lives. The effective prayers of a righteous person accomplish much.

Do you know how much energy and effort we spend, how much time we spend thinking, planning, manipulating, plotting, scheming to get what we want because we think it'll make us happy? How much anxiety we have, how much frustration we feel when we think we're not gonna get what we want and we're not pleased about it? And Jesus said, "I didn't come to please myself". If that was just one verse, we'd white it out and go, "It's an aberration". But look in John 6, very next chapter, verse 38. Jesus said, "I've come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me". There's a meddlesome theme emerging here, isn't there? He said, "I didn't come to do my will". But I thought that's what prayer was about, God, I want you to do my will. Here's my list. Get with it, big guy! Jesus said, "I didn't come to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me". Look in John 8, "Jesus said, 'When you lift the Son of Man up, then you'll know that I am he and I do nothing of my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught me".

I do nothing of my own initiative. Nothing from my own agenda. Because I didn't come to do my will. You know, you and I by definition are Christ followers, at least in theory the idea of that is that our objective is to let the character of Christ be formed in us. So we talk about the power of God and the authority of God. It's not some scheme to figure out how we can get a higher power than ourselves to help us get what we want to please ourselves. We're talking about the yielding of our will to the will of almighty God so that we can be entrusted with his authority. It would be destructive to us and our world if God put his authority in a vessel that only wanted to fulfill its selfish ambition.

So a part of the transition here... you see, I think the hurdle we've gotta negotiate, the challenge in our thinking is the imagination we hold that the will of God is somehow burdensome, loathsome, distasteful, I mean, who would wanna do that after all? I would rather do what I want to do. You see, we are born with a very real vital, thriving sense of self that wants its way. The Bible calls it our carnal self, our earthly self, our Adamic self. It comes from the character, the fallen character of Adam. And it says I want and I think and I feel, and it orients us towards our life objective of satisfying what I think and I want and I feel. And this journey of being a Christ follower is saying, "God, is there a possibility that you have a will for my life, and could I cooperate with that"?

And again, the words aren't hard. The concepts are not complex, but the implementation of that takes every ounce of strength I have. That's not the recitation of a prayer at some point in your life and then everything just goes "poof". It's not like pixie dust that we sprinkle over ourself. That's a daily realignment of saying, "God, what would it look like on Monday morning if I got up and in my home said, 'What could I do today that would please you? Before I started out to please myself, how could I please you"? That'd make me incredibly vulnerable. That's why you need the power and authority of God. Because if you're doing the will of God, people intrude upon that, mistreat you, remember what it says of Jesus in Hebrews. It says he entrusted him... (and Peter) he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

How'd that work out for Jesus? Our Bible says he's got the name above every name. The name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When you choose to do the will of God the Father Almighty, God Almighty himself takes up your case. What would it look like, go to work on Monday morning and say, "God, my agenda today in that marketplace is to honor you". It's a simple little prayer. "God, today I'd like to honor you. This isn't about getting my way today, God. What can I do to let your will come forward"? Jesus said when you pray, pray this way, "Our Father who's in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

Who did you think was gonna do that will of God? The angels? Jesus said pray this way, "God, let me do your will today". Look at John 12. Jesus said, "I don't speak of my own initiative, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say". I'm not talking about my agenda, he said. I'm here on God's business. Now I wanna give you one more component. I know we just got a moment, but I think there's some real confusion about when we think that doing the will of God is somehow distasteful. It isn't. It'll be the most satisfying pursuit of your life. Most of us have tried our way. How's that worked? Sleepless nights, frustration, dissatisfaction, you choose an objective, you spend yourself to get it, and when you get it, you're not content.

You think some person'll make you happy, so you do whatever it takes to secure that relationship, and you get that relationship in place and you're still not happy. God's will is not burdensome and distasteful. It's liberating and freeing. But I think we've had another mistaken notion that if we ever pick up that mantle and we walk that way, of what the outcomes will be. And I think a lot of times professional Christian people like me are misleading. We somehow suggest that the power of God unveiled in your life, released in your life, will make all the problems melt and all the obstacles dissipate and you'll just leap from one triumphant moment to the next. And then if there's a struggle in your life or a battle in your heart or a barrier in front of you, it's because of some dark something in you.

Well, I wanna go to the scripture. That's a great place. In the book of Acts is the story of Jesus's followers after Jesus leaves, after he goes back to heaven. Acts 2 is the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit's poured out, thousands of people in the streets of Jerusalem acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah... same city where a few days earlier, they screamed crucify him. They're publicly baptized. In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John are going to the temple and they pass a lame man. He's begging in the streets and this day they don't give him money. They say a short prayer, "In Jesus's name, rise and walk".

It's a one-sentence prayer. That Let's Pray idea for one sentence, I didn't, like, make that stuff up. Isn't that good to know? And you know, God answered. The man was healed. It says he went up under the temple mount in the midst of all the people, leaping and praising God. He'd spent a life with despair and hopelessness, and he's been restored in a moment. The whole city is stirred. They recognize there's a power and authority amongst them that they don't control. The Romans don't control it. The Sanhedrin doesn't control it. And Peter and John have been the delivery system. How many call that a victory in your spiritual life? Me too! I'm thinkin' let's have a parade. Let's, you know, let's do something. Let's post a tweet, let's get a picture. Come on, selfie time. Get over here, dude!

But in Acts chapter 4, it's in your notes, Peter and John are before the Sanhedrin. Now this is the same group that orchestrated Jesus's death. And Peter's speaking. He said, "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well," do you get it? We're on trial today because a sick man's been made well? Trial? The same court that ordered Jesus to be executed has us up because a sick man was made well? Listen to Peter, "Then let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucified, and God raised from the dead, this man stands here before you in good health".

That is a politically incorrect speech. But it isn't what I would expect. The authority and the power of God restore a man. The city is stirred and the next moment they're on trial. Acts 16, the same thing is repeated. I won't read it to you. This time it's Paul and Silas. They're in a city and there's a slave girl that's demonized, and the spirit in her can predict the future. Now Luke is the same author of Acts as the author of the gospel that bears his name. We were in Capernaum a few moments ago in a synagogue, and now we're in a city in the Roman Empire in the marketplace and there's a slave girl that's demonized and this time the spirit can predict the future. It has insight that nobody else in the community has. And they're getting rich.

And this girl follows Paul and Silas through the marketplace, says, behold the servants of the most high God. They've come to show you the way of salvation. It's the truth. It's why they're there. That'd be an awkward way to shop, wouldn't it? Can you imagine goin' to Publix... somebody followed you about ten feet "Behold the servant," that'd be awkward. I'd be shoppin' online, wouldn't you? And it says after several days, Paul said, "Enough," and he turned around and said, "In the name of Jesus, come out of her," and she was delivered. The evil spirit left her.

It was a demonstration of power. He didn't have an argument with her, he didn't have a debate with her. "In Jesus's name, you don't belong there. You go, set her free". And it says the man who owned the slave woman, now he's angry because he's lost his income stream. And so he goes to the magistrates, to the leaders in the city, and he begins to tell a lie. The demon was tellin' the truth, but this man from his own carnal nature is lying. He says, "These men have come here to disrupt our way of life. They're teaching things that are contrary to Roman law". Those were not true statements.

See, the obstacles in our life, sometimes we imagine them to be demonic. Oftentimes, they're just the carnal selfish natures of human beings that are ungodly. Be careful with your own heart. In your carnal selfish self, you can put yourself in opposition to God. I don't wanna do that. Now, the outcome of this story, they had Paul and Silas arrested. Luke says they're severely beaten, locked up in jail. It's another miracle story. It's about the power of God. The deliverance of a young woman. Freedom came to her life, and Paul and Silas's backs are laid open and they're locked in Roman stocks. It's a theme, it's a pattern. City after city after city where the gospel is preached and the power of God is unleashed, there's a riot or a beating or they're driven out of town.

Do you have room in your imagination for following God like that? Or if you thought following God meant when the power of God was displayed, everybody would back up and go, "Wooo". Remember what Jesus said, "I didn't come to do my will. I didn't come for my own agenda". And yet it brought him to a much, much, much better place. Is it possible that we have filled churches and imagined God was a means of fulfilling our selfish ambition? Of satisfying our old carnal selves? And so we've said, oh, I don't really pray much. I don't read my Bible much, and I certainly don't intend to yield much. But how can I make this work to my advantage?

Folks, I believe before Jesus comes back to the earth, we'll see the most vital, vibrant, living expression of the church that the world has ever known. I believe the power of God will be expressed in the earth in unprecedented ways, and the reason for that is because evil will have been unleashed in such unprecedented ways. And if you and I are to take our rightful place in that, we'll have to begin to say to the Lord, "Lord, I'm interested in your will. I'm interested in your will". It is not a burdensome thing. It's not a loathsome thing. It'll bring contentment and joy and peace and happiness to your life. Let's pray, huh?

You and I weren't present with Paul and his team for the riots in Ephesus, but we are in the midst of a culture war, and I don't believe that's a melodramatic overstatement. There's a battle for the heart and soul of our nation, and it's not gonna be determined by politicians, at least not first and foremost. The initial conflict is spiritual, and the church is at the center of that. We can't afford to say we don't pray. We can't afford to any longer say I don't know how to pray. We have to begin to cry out to God for mercy, to look upon us with mercy, that we would turn our hearts back to God and honor his truth. Let's say that prayer together.

Father, I thank you for our nation. You have given us abundance and liberty and freedom, and we have turned our backs on you and imagined we made ourselves strong. Forgive us. Look upon us once again in mercy and grace, and may God bless America again. Amen.

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