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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - National Day of Prayer - Part 1

Allen Jackson - National Day of Prayer - Part 1

Allen Jackson - National Day of Prayer - Part 1
TOPICS: Prayer

It's an honor to be with you today. And we just recently did a Wednesday evening service in preparation for the National Day of Prayer. And the goal was to help the people that could participate to have prayers to share with others on the National Day of Prayer. Well, it made no sense to us to just have one day of prayer. We need to be praying for our nation on a regular basis. So we took that Wednesday night service, and we've prepared it to share with you because we wanna give you permission; we wanna release you to take the name of Jesus and the authority of the Spirit of God into this generation. If you've never prayed before, it's time to learn. Jesus said we could learn to pray. So that's the goal today. Take a few minutes, open your heart. God has some prayers that he needs you to pray, and me. Enjoy the lesson.

I think it's a tremendous honor to have a National Day of Prayer. I think it's important to pray for our nation. You can pray for God's blessing on our nation without doing something that's inappropriate. You know, they have this new label; they manipulate language so consistently and so cleverly that they try to use negative labels to keep you from expressing your beliefs. And one of the labels they use is Christian nationalist. And it's typically used in a very derogatory, negative, critical way. And that's not the way I learned it. It's not the way I understand it. I understand how it's used today. But I'm quite content to ask God's blessing upon our nation, to believe that there's a purpose for the nation where we are and for the Body of Christ in our nation.

I understand God's not an American. When we get to heaven and you walk through the pearly gates, there's a flagpole, and the red, white, and blue will not be flapping in the breeze. They will not play the Star Spangled Banner in the elevators in heaven. I understand all of those things. Having said that, I do believe God brought our nation into existence. And I don't believe there's an explanation for the good things that have happened to us that is satisfactory based just on sociology or history or military, economic things. I think, if you don't factor in God's involvement and his engagement, the story makes no sense.

And so I believe we have an assignment to take that heritage of faith and share it with each succeeding generation. If we don't, they will lose it. Every generation has to make a choice for themselves. Now, we can benefit, or we can suffer because of the choices of previous generations. But every generation has to choose our relationship with God and what the fruit of that will be, and those who follow us will either benefit or pay a price because of our choices, amen. So National Day of Prayer is kind of an important thing I think. We participate in a variety of ways. I put some sentences in your notes. You can take them with you if you need an introduction somewhere tomorrow. Because I do believe God is launching kingdom initiatives around us, that he's moving his purposes forward and accomplishing all sorts of things.

I believe what God is doing far outweighs what the devil is doing. I just think negative stories lead the news; the good things and expressions of kindness are not nearly as interesting. That's unfortunate, but it's the truth. You know that, if you'll share negative gossip about the people you work with, you'll get a much more careful attention than if you're being complimentary of the people you work with. Don't try. So the question then becomes, how aware are we of what God is doing? And is there any way that we would be resisting him even if it's unwittingly? I hope not, but it's possible. And I really want to invite you to believe that your role in this is pivotal, that you're not just a bit player. I don't believe that's true. I believe your role in this is mission critical. We're asking the creator of all things to engage with us in impacting our generation. That's a tremendous privilege.

National Day of Prayer takes place on the first Thursday of May. It's an annual observance, invites people of all faiths to pray for our nation, created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Truman. I tell you that because it wasn't something that started way back in anti antiquity. Our heritage of faith wasn't something that just started when the constitution was drafted. There have been a, there's been a consistent expression and affirmation of the Christian faith in our history throughout our nation. The first real attempts to separate us from that in such an intentional, focused, purposeful, all-inclusive way have emerged in the very recent years.

The first call to prayer was in 1775. Because of the faith of many of our founding fathers, public prayer and national days of prayer have a long-standing and significant history in American tradition. The Supreme court affirmed the right of state legislatures to open their sessions with prayer in 1983. Yes, it was challenged, but they affirmed it. The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage since the first call to prayer in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. The call to prayers continued through our history, including President Lincoln's proclamation as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer in 1863.

In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress signed by Truman declared an annual National Day of Prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors, plus the governors of several U.S. territories, signed similar proclamations. That's good news. 1775, the first continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer. 1863, Abraham Lincoln called for such a day. 1952, Congress established the National Day of Prayer as an annual event. '88, it was amended by Reagan, as I mentioned. Just some fun facts. There have been 146 national calls to prayer by the President of the United States. That's pretty amazing. Records indicate that there have been more than 1,500 state and federal calls for national prayer since 1775, and we're still counting, yeah.

People say, "You know, faith has no place in the..." Stop, stop; prayer has been a far more significant part of our nation's formation than football. And I'm not opposed to football. But, I mean, they try to take things away that are significant, and they manipulate language to do it. If you say men and women are different, that God created us male and female and there are differences, somebody will say you're a sexist. If you say you don't believe it's helpful for anybody involved to have an open border and allow the people from the nations of the world to pour across our border without any restraint whatsoever, they'll say you're xenophobic; you're a racist. They start hanging labels on you. When you say, "I think we ought to pray for our nation," they'll call you a Christian nationalist. It's almost like we should get like merit badges or pins'd just be easier to self-identify.

You know, I'm sorry we live in a time when language is manipulated to try to silence you, but we do, so you have to understand a bit more about what you believe in the world and why you believe it. Once upon a time, we didn't have to because the fabric of our culture was built out of a biblical worldview. But they have been working now for a few decades, very intentionally, to try to pull the threads out of that fabric and to cause you to be embarrassed if you believe the scripture is authoritative, that Jesus was uniquely the Son of God, that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him. And we have the privilege of taking those truths and holding them up in the midst of this culture. So National Day of Prayer to me seems like a great opportunity. What I wanna suggest to you is you go tomorrow with the intent of praying somewhere, someplace, and hopefully several places with many people.

The beginning point is this notion that we learn to pray. Prayer is something that you learn. It's not intuitive. People say to me, "You know, Pastor, I just don't pray". Okay, change. That's really not something to boast about. It'll be simpler to say, "I'm just kind of spiritually ignorant. I'm especially rebellious towards God". I can give you some other things to say that would be more accurate than, "I just don't pray" because prayer changes things. It's beyond the scope of this particular session, but there are many, many places in scripture where, because someone prayed, the outcomes are dramatically different.

When Hezekiah was king in Jerusalem, the Assyrian army came, and they had destroyed every place they had been between home and Jerusalem. And the Assyrian army shows up in Jerusalem. They're technically superior. Their numbers are far greater than any force that Judah could have mustered. And Hezekiah knows that it's desperate, and the Assyrians are taunting them. And it's a time there's tremendous fear; there's no hope; there really is no solution. And it says that Hezekiah prayed. And God said to Isaiah, "Go talk to Hezekiah". And, when Isaiah gets to see the king, he said, "God said, 'Because you prayed, I'm gonna send these people home,'" and God fought on behalf of Israel.

But the trigger, the initiation of that, was because Hezekiah prayed. He could have complained; he could have negotiated. He could have done many, many things. But he prayed. I often think of Jesus outside of Lazarus's tomb. Because he prayed, Lazarus got a whole new chapter. And that's one of my favorite prayers. Remember Jesus's prayer at Lazarus tomb? It's one you can memorize. "Lazarus, come forth," if you're old English, "come out". That's it. You know, if we'd have been charged of that resurrection, it would have been different because that feels like a heavy lift, right? He's been dead for a while; he's kind of stinky. I mean, it's not like he's got a paper cut on his finger. He's gone, left the building, and Lazarus has left the arena. The tomb is sealed, and the family is upset, and they've already mourned, and Jesus is late, and Jesus gets there, and he says, "Open the tomb, roll the stone away".

And, if we'd have been in charge, it would have been so different. We'd have had to advertise for three or four weeks. We'd have had prayed all night. We'd have had worship music for three or four hours because, before we ask anybody to come out of the dead, we gotta get into this right mood, right? I'd have written outlines and prayers, and we'd have proclaimed; we'd have warmed up. Jesus said, "Lazarus, come here". I think sometimes we get in our way. Some of the most remarkable outcomes in my life have been when I've said the simplest prayers. Lord, I need your help. I don't know what to do. Give us wisdom. You know, we, 'let's pray' has become a part of who we are as a community of faith and a very exportable idea. People do 'let's pray' now all over, and it, but it's not an attempt to simplify or dumb down prayer.

I just think sometimes we get way much too in our way. Just tell the Lord the truth. God, I need your help. Lord Jesus, you know, the place I work, may you be revealed. God, give me your wisdom. Those honest sincere prayers; we can learn to pray. Now there's a time for more intentional prayer and longer prayer. We can talk about different types of prayer. But Jesus's disciples came and said, "Teach us to pray". I love that because Jesus said, "Okay". It's something you learn; it's something you grow into. It's not intuitive; it's not like athletic ability; it's not like IQ. You can learn to pray. So, when the disciples asked that, Jesus gave them a prayer to pray. You know the prayer. He said, "Pray this way, 'Our Father who art in heaven'", and we can learn something; there's something we can take away from that. Because Jesus gave the disciples a prayer in that way, we should understand, I believe, that reciting a prayer is a legitimate way to pray.

I think it's really a good beginning for helping people learn to pray; give them some prayers they can pray until they find their voice. You know, when you learn a language, you don't typically learn it in the abstract. You learn a few vocabulary words, and then you start to learn some sentences. My name is. I live here. Where do you live? Has anybody ever learned a language? Right, I've done that in a half a dozen different languages. I learned the same six phrases, and then I'm out of words. You know, you don't start out writing a dissertation on quantum mechanics. You learn very simply. Well, we learn to pray that way. You learn to express because, really, fundamentally, prayer is about taking what's in your heart and expressing it to the Lord. He knows anyway; we're the ones that benefit from that exchange.

So I brought you the Lord's prayer because I thought that was a good place for us to start. If Jesus began to teach his disciples to pray that way, I think it's a good place for us. And it's very unoffensive. If you wanted to share a prayer with somebody tomorrow, whether they're Protestant or Catholic, whether they're a veteran Christian or they've never been to a church in their lives, almost everybody has some rudimentary knowledge of the Lord's prayer. And it's a nonthreatening easy way to invite somebody to a prayer. It's the National Day of Prayer. I wouldn't want you to go all day long on the National Day of Prayer and not be able to pray with somebody. So I came to pray with you. Do you know the Lord's prayer? If you don't, you can just say it with me. It's kinda like the Pledge of Allegiance.

If you can get people started, most of them will follow you through. You start in the middle, you're out of luck. And I'm not trying to be disingenuous about it. I think it's important. I think it's significant because now you've introduced them to an idea, and you have crossed over a bridge, and you've kind of put yourself out there in a public way that you're a person who would pray with somebody else. Or, if you work someplace and it's a diverse audience, and there's another Christian there, the two of you could say the Lord's prayer. You know, somebody overhears, say, "Yeah, it's National Day of Prayer. We just thought it was a good thing to invite it into our office".

It's really difficult to complain about the Lord's prayer. Have I got the right group? Y'all are really quiet. Okay, we're gonna say more than one prayer tonight, but I'm gonna start, this is a really easy takeaway, and it's a pretty simple entry threshold if you're gonna pray with somebody else. So why don't we stand, just, respect for the Lord. If you're at home, you're gonna have a hard time getting through that pizza tonight because I'm gonna get you up and down. This is church and a workout. Let's say it together:

Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen.

Hallelujah, you just did it; you said the Lord's prayer with hundreds of people. Bunch of fanatics. Alright, you may be seated. Now let me build on that just a little bit with another idea or two that'll give you a little different lane. 1 Peter 5, in verse 6 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time". One of the things that prayer does is is, it's an expression, easy for me to say, of humility. You recognize there is a God that has an authority and a power that you don't have, and you call on him. You talk to him. 'You mean you believe?' Yeah, I do. Humble yourself a little bit. You'll talk to Siri; you'll take coaching from an AI. You will get in your car and drive all over God's creation because somebody you've never met is telling you where to turn.

And, if you try to do that as a husband and wife team, there will be counseling necessary before you arrive. You better believe I'm gonna talk to the Lord. "Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy", you know you have an enemy? You have a spiritual adversary. If you're a part of the kingdom of God, there is a very formidable adversary to you flourishing in the kingdom of God. Not because you've done anything, not because you have made a misstep. By nature of your affiliation with the kingdom of God, Satan takes a stand against you. I assure you that, as a citizen of the United States, Hamas is opposed to you. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to be anti anything. Just your passport qualifies you as an adversary in that discussion.

And, in a spiritual context, if you're a Christ follower, you have an adversary. And Jesus, this, Peter said that he, "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". Then he gives us an assignment, "Resist him, stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering". Pressure, suffering, strain, stress has a way of making us feel unique. Nobody's suffered like I've suffered. But, to me, the message of that, from the fisherman, is that prayer is not passive. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Prayer is an assertion of spiritual intent. I'm going to invite God into the midst of this circumstance.

I'm going to acknowledge my awareness of the conflict. I'm going to invite Almighty God and whatever resources he chooses to deploy on my behalf into this circumstance, be it a family circumstance, a physical personal matter of health, a place where you work, into our community. I've been inviting God into our community. There's some places we need his help, to get some of the garbage out of the libraries, to have people that are serving in our community in leadership roles that won't sponsor wickedness and ungodliness and immorality. We need God's help. Philippians 4, in verse 5 says, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your request to God".

Peter said to cast all your anxiety on him, on the Lord; he cares for you. Paul said it slightly differently, but it's very similar. He said, "Don't be anxious about anything". Peter said, "Cast your anxiety on the Lord". Paul said, "In everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your request to God". And then he tells us the outcome; he said, "Because then the peace of God, which transcends understanding", it's illogical, it's irrational, it isn't a logical function, "that peace will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". And then he gets in our business a little bit; you know, Paul will do that. He says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true".

You see, he's about to give us a list of things to think about, "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things". Now, individually, that's not a very difficult assignment. But, if you take that list collectively and say, I will not give purposeful time to think about, reflect upon something unless it is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, and true; I will not let it settle in my heart. I won't let it drive my emotions. Something being true is not enough. "Well, it's true. You know it's true". Yeah, but if it isn't praiseworthy, stop bearing the tale. It'll change your life. It'll change your spiritual foundation. It will change the anxiety level because really the invitation here is not to be anxious about anything.

No matter what's happening, we don't have to be anxious. And it's linked to beginning to bring some discipline to our thoughts and to being thankful. He said, "in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving". So here's another on ramp for some prayers tomorrow. Maybe you do it as a family. If you've got little people in your house, this one's pretty simple. A sentence of something you're thankful for. We're gonna go around there, and everybody's gonna say, "I'm thankful for," and you can model it for him. I'm thankful for my beautiful family. If they're not used to this, they'll thank God for you.

And then, the second time around, you can give them another direction to go. But take a minute and be thankful. You could do that at work; that's pretty simple. National Day of Prayer. You know, we don't have time to pray today, but I'm thankful that I have a job. What are you thankful for? I'm thinking for we have computers or I'm thankful we have a copy machine. I remember when we used to have to make copies with a mimeograph, and that'll make the preacher cuss. Most of you are way too young to know what that's about. Some sentence prayers of Thanksgiving; it's a wonderful little thing, discipline to put in your life. Practice saying thank you to the Lord.

Being thankful can break the bondage of discouragement over your life. In fact, it will bring freedom to you in so many ways. I wanna close our program today with just a few simple sentence prayers of gratitude for God's goodness.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you love us, that you've called us out of darkness, that you have set us free from every form of bondage, that you've made provision in our lives. Thank you for all you do, in Jesus's name, amen.

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