Charles Stanley - A Life of Prayer
I can still remember exactly where I was in an apartment in Fort Worth, Texas, and I'd been in seminary about a year and a half and I had a place to pray in the apartment, just a couple of rooms. And one night I was kneeling down in my spot to pray and been thinking about what I was going to do and how little I knew about so much that I knew that I would face in life. And so in the midst of that prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart so crystal clear, in fact, I've never forgotten it, I could never forget it. Here's what He said: Whatever you accomplish in life, you will have to accomplish on your knees. Not by your education, not by your gifts and talents, but on your knees. I could never forget that. And what He was simply saying is this: If you want Me to work in your life the way that I want to work and accomplish My purpose, you have to make prayer the central focus of your life. It must be the priority of your life. Not preaching, not teaching, not witnessing, but praying. Trust Me and watch what I do.
Now, when I think about that, the truth is, that should be true in every one of our lives, that prayer should be the priority in our life, and I want to show you why in a few moments. Because that's the source of every single thing that you and I need on the face of this earth. It comes through that awesome channel that you and I have the privilege of enjoying. So what I want to talk about in this message is simply this. I want to answer this question. And that is, Why should prayer be the priority in your life and mine? Why should it be? Now this is the seventh message in our series on "The Extraordinary Life". We've talked about the fact that the extraordinary life is a masterpiece of God's creation, that's what we are. That it is a life of faith, of discipline, of intimacy, of service. It is a life also of prayer.
And I want you to turn if you will to Mark chapter one and I just want to read a few verses here. Jesus had been very, very busy all during the day preaching and teaching and talking to people about different things, I'm sure. And if you'll notice beginning in verse thirty-two: "when evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him, couldn't find Him anywhere. They found Him, and said to Him, 'Everyone is looking for You.' He said to them, 'Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for.'"
And so, what I want us to see in this message is simply this. Why should you and I make prayer the priority of our life? And the first reason is simply this. And that is, if you'll notice on the screen, they'll all be there. Because of the place of prayer in the life of Jesus. Here's the Son of God, and it's interesting how much we learn about Him and who He is and what was on His mind, and what was important to Him. We learn so much about Him in watching the way He prayed and when He prayed and how He prayed. And so let's just look what the scripture says in the Gospels. And it's very interesting that when you look at His prayer life, you discover some things about Him. And first of all, simply this, and that is He prayed early in the morning. The scripture says, "Before light". That is, while it was still dark, Jesus is up praying.
Now He already had a busy day. And a day that I'm sure must have exhausted Him. Dealing with all kinds of problems and all kinds of attitudes, and at the same time, He always had His enemies out there. So here He is, dealing with all that one day. The next morning, up before daylight and He's out there praying. The scripture says in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew as well as this chapter here in Mark, that He prayed in a solitary place. That is, He was, He went to a place that was quiet; a place that He could get alone with just He and the Father. Also, that He prayed on his knees; and you'll recall when He was in the Garden, with His disciples and asking the Father to give Him direction about His will, what is He doing? The Bible says He fell upon His knees and prayed.
What was he praying? He, likewise, we do the same, seeking the Father's will. He's the Son of God, and yet prayer was so very, very vital to Him because that's the way, that's the means of communication that He and the Father had together, that He was praying, seeking the Father's will. Likewise, He agonized in prayer, just like we do sometime when we are praying and maybe you don't feel like you're getting through or you don't know the will of God and you want to ask for the right thing. You want to do what God wants you to do and so there is sometimes an agonizing and searching and seeking for the will and the mind of God. Likewise, one thing that I notice about it, how often He's praying alone. You'd think, Well Jesus, with all the difficulties He had to face that He'd have this group of people, His disciples around Him praying. But here is a lesson for us. God desires to have you and me alone with Himself.
Now listen carefully. Jesus Christ, who was not only the Son of God, but He said, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father; I and the Father are one". Here is God in the human flesh. In His humanity, in His humanity while He was deity and human at the same time, He lived having laid aside the cloak of His deity but still being God, He felt this awesome need to begin the day in prayer, in a solitary place, oftentimes alone, crying out to the Father, seeking the Father's wisdom, guidance and direction for His life. When I look at so many, many verses in the scripture about His prayer life, then I have to ask myself the question, Who am I to think that God would let me live a day successfully and victoriously over sin and temptation and trial? Who do I think I am that I could possibly carry out the work of the Lord Jesus Christ without making prayer the priority?
Whatever you accomplish, you'll have to accomplish on your knees. God wants us alone with Him, time with Him. And you can find a place. He says, for example, the Bible says He went up in the mountain to pray. That He was in a solitary place, went over in Gethsemane to pray. He always found a place to pray. You can find a place if you're motivated to do so. And there's something about having a place that you and God deal with your life. A second reason, for example, for making it a priority is this. And that's because Jesus commanded it and then teaches us how to pray. Here's what He said in the eighteenth chapter of Luke. He says, Men and women ought always to pray and faint not. For example, He saw prayer as a lifestyle, as a way of life. And Paul spoke about praying in all things and praying at all times.
And so the scripture is not just a matter of praying about this and praying about that, but it should be a lifestyle. And so when you think about all the things that the Apostle Paul said about prayer: pray, praying always in all things, giving thanks to Him, for example. And with all prayer and supplication. He says, Don't, don't let yourself get worried and fretted and fumed over things. But He says, What do you do? You bring them to the Father, you ask Him what to do. It's a lifestyle for us. And of course when you think about it, think about the fact of how He has taught us and does teach us to pray. God has not left out any lesson, any truth about prayer that you and I need to know in order to do what? In order to connect with Him, and in order, listen, to be able to pray fruitfully, productively. That is, changes take place as a result of our prayers.
And so there are two reasons. First of all, the fact that the prayer life of Jesus, it was a priority in His life. It should be priority in our life because He commands us to pray, and then He also gives us some lessons on how to pray. When somebody says, I don't know how. Well start with what we call the pattern prayer or the Lord's Prayer. If you don't know anything, start with that one. That'll keep you busy for a while, but knowing, listen, that you have the privilege of asking, seeking, finding, knocking, all of these things, we have this awesome access to Him. Now a third reason, and a very important reason is this. And that is, because, listen, I want to say this so you'll get this right. Prayer to God through His Son, not just prayer, prayer to God through His Son is the most powerful force in creation. It's the most powerful force in creation.
I love what Paul said to Timothy in this first epistle, and that sixth chapter as he was writing to him. Listen to what he said concerning Him. He said, Jesus Christ, the "only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion forever". Think about this. Our Heavenly Father is the eternal God, the sovereign of the universe. He says He's established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. That is, when you think about who He is and what He can and cannot do.
Listen, our Heavenly Father can do anything we ever need Him to do. Because you see His power is infinite, His knowledge is infinite, His love is infinite, which simply means He always knows every single thing we need, past, present, and future. He has the power to do anything and all things about anything and all things. And, He has this awesome love toward us that makes it possible for us to believe and to accept and to expect and to anticipate that He's going to hear and answer our prayers. What I want you to see is this, because of this awesome connection you have with the sovereign ruler of the universe and all of His power, let me ask you a question. When He said that He would supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, God isn't hovering over his riches. He isn't guarding them, He isn't trying to keep them to Himself.
You know what He's trying to do? He's trying to get into your life and mine in such a way that He can abundantly bless us. That's the, listen, that brings Him glory and praise and honor. There should not be a single solitary need that you and I not go to Him first. Go to Him first. And sometimes when you go to Him first, here's what God does. He'll use somebody that you never even thought about to meet your need. You'll think, Well where in the world did that come from? Think twice. It came straight from the Father. You were talking to the Father, the Father decided to speak to this person to give you something. Likewise, think about it, because of the clear promises God gives us that He'll answer our prayer.
Now let's look at this. Let's go to Matthew chapter seven first and I want you to look at that for a moment, and let's look at these verses, we quoted them while ago. But I want you to see what's happening here. Here's, here's one of the promises, a very important promise, but I want us to understand the promise. Because people say, Well I pray and nothing happens. Well, I can tell you this. You listening? Say amen. It isn't God's fault. If you're praying and the answer's not there, it's not His fault. So let's think about this. Look in these verses. Want to read the passage and I want to show you something. He says in verse seven, "Ask".
Now let me explain something. When He says "ask, seek and knock," these are present, present active tense verbs and here's what they mean: When He says ask, it means ask and keep on asking. He says seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking. So it is a progressive thing. So here's what He says: Ask, and keep on asking seek, and keep on seeking knock, and it and He says, and it will be opened to you. Keep on knocking and it will be opened to you. Now look at that, while you're praying, get busy. Get your feet in it. Get your eyes in it. Get your heart in it. It isn't just asking and thinking that as long as I ask and that should be sufficient. No it's not. The second principle I want you to notice here and a second, lesson that I think He wants to teach us and one that is very, very important to understand. Because He desires to answer our prayer and these are the promises, the promise says ask, seek, and find.
Now watch this other one. For example, He says in John fourteen, John fourteen, fourteen; John fifteen, sixteen; John sixteen, twenty-three, here's what He says. If we ask anything in His name. He says, What we ask in His name. Now what does He mean by "in His name"? All of us do this, I'm sure I do at times. We're so used to saying "In Jesus's name, amen". We just sort of tack that on as if, you know, if we don't put that on there, the sentence doesn't get closed. Here's what that means. To ask anything in Jesus's name means that I come asking by the authority that has been granted to me by Him to ask.
Now, by that authority, here's what it means. For example, let's say that the President sends an ambassador to some other country to speak to their leader. That ambassador goes under the authority, by the authority of the President. Well you and I know for that to be true that the one who is the ambassador agrees with the President, in agreement with the President, and is representing the President so that he's not sending two messages. When you and I say "In Jesus's name", what we're saying is this. We agree, we agree that what we're asking is befitting the character of Jesus. It is in keeping with the will of Jesus, and it is by the grace of Jesus.
So, think about it. When we say "in His will", listen, this is why He can say, If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it. Wait a minute, anything? Anything. Then "in My will" has to be very clear. That is it's in keeping with the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is under His and by His authority that we come. We have the right and the privilege. There are some things you and I do not have the privilege to ask. We don't have the privilege to ask Him to do something that is destructive in someone else's life. We don't even have the right and the privilege to ask Him for something that is destructive to our life. That is some indulgence that He knows will destroy our life.
So, we said, He says, for example, we're to ask according to His will. And you recall, you might want to jot this verse down, that in First John, for example, the best verses, the clearest verses in the scripture about all this in First John chapter five, listen to what He says in the fourteenth, fifteenth verse. He says, "This is the confidence that we have in Him," this one gives us assurance that, "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him". When we come to Him asking something that is, listen, that is in keeping with His, His will, His choice, His plan for us, we don't have to fret and fume and wonder and doubt and say, Oh, God, I hope You're going to.
So if you think about why prayer should have its place in your life as a priority, simply because the promises He's made to us. And, when you think about what He's willing to teach us, how He's willing to instruct us, what He's willing to all the promises He's made. We, listen, prayer should be as He says, It's a lifestyle for us. He's willing to change, He's willing to move this, He's willing to move, whatever is necessary. Well, let's go to number five. Simply because, listen, prayer should be in the prayer should be a priority in our life because listen, it is essential to living a godly life. You cannot live a godly life without spending time with the Father. It's just not going to happen. You wake up every morning, you've got three enemies looking at you, the world, the flesh, and the devil. You're going to walk out into your business, into your school, at your home, or whatever it might be, you've got enemies.
How are you going to live a godly life when Satan's got all kind of tricks and snares? How are you going to live a godly life when your own propensities, that is your oh, your own naturalness is, is there? How are you going, how are you going to do that when Satan will do anything He can to trip you up? And you live in a world, the system is so much against who we are. It is only through prayer that you and I can live a godly life. So, as you think about that, you look at the prayer life of Jesus. Somehow He thought it was very important for Him to get up every morning. It's essential to a godly life.
Now think about this. How did you get saved? You got saved praying. You asked the Lord to do something in your life. How did you start building that wonderful relationship you have with God? Through prayer, and that's the only way it's going to happen. How are you strengthened in times of temptation? That's the Lord answering your prayer. God, strengthen me in this. Give me the ability to say "no" to this particular situation. How do you get forgiveness of sin? In prayer, you ask Him to do it. How, for example, do you receive divine guidance in your life? You ask Him, you're praying, you're seeking. This is how you live a godly life. You keep going to Him over and over and over again.
How do you discover God's call on your life? Through prayer. And how do you understand the Word of God? Through prayer. And how do you have a relationship to the Holy Spirit for Him to release His power in your life to do a certain work He's called you to do. It's all through prayer. And so when you think about it, one of the reasons we should pray, a very basic reason we should pray is because He is so willing to do. He says in this passage, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you". And He wants us to live a godly life.
So He's there at every turn to help us in every way possible. You want to live a godly life, here's what you have to do. If you don't make prayer a priority in your life, It's not going to happen. Do you know why so many people don't live a godly life? Because, watch this. Prayerlessness leads to burden-bearing. Burden-bearing leads to weariness of all kinds. And weariness leads to discouragement. And discouragement leads to doubt. Doubt leaves leads to indulgence of some sort, because you're still trying to manage without God, ultimately can lead to your destruction. You just live out your life without Him, put Him aside, don't pray, you're in trouble.
Now, the last thing I'd mention: what are the rich rewards that prayer brings to us? And there of course multitudes of them and I'll just mention a few. What are the rich rewards? Well, first of all, He meets our material needs, that's what He says. And so when you and I are talking to Him, one of the rewards of talking to Him is that He meets whatever needs we have. Now here's one of the most awesome ways that He rewards us, and that is, listen, with a sympathizing listener. That's who God says He is. This is what He meant over here in Hebrews chapter four, when He said, look at this, "we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God," we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He's been tempted in all things, just like we without sin. Therefore, because He's a sympathizer, we can "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, and we'll receive receive mercy and help in time of need".
We have this awesome sympathizing God who knows where we are and is willing to help us. Likewise, there is the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. When you and I cry out to Him, the Spirit of God anoints us with His power, unctionizes you do whatever God has called you to do at that particular time. And here's an equation I don't want you to forget. Here's the equation. If you want power in your life, look at it this way. Prayer plus purity equals power. You cannot change that equation. Prayer plus purity equals power.
When you say, Well, prayer plus, get with it. Prayer plus my energy. Prayer plus my education. Prayer plus any of that. Prayer plus purity releases the power of God in our life, because purity, listen, not only involves some moral purity, but it involves a purity of my motive. Purity of my desires, and all the rest. And so the Spirit of God is so willing to anoint us with the power that He, that we desire. Then, listen, we have the wonderful privilege of experiencing His comfort in times of sickness and times of sorrow when a loved one's passed away.
One of the rich rewards that God has given us is the awesome sense of comfort that He's provided for us. And then, I would just say one last thing. Here is to me the greatest reward of coming to Him in prayer. It is not things, not things. It is not experiences. It is not places. What is the richest reward? When you get alone with the Heavenly Father and it's just the two of you, you're not asking Him for anything. It's just being alone with Him, and you sense His presence. You are aware that He is so present with you that nothing else in the world matters. It's like being absolutely and totally consumed in this loving relationship that satisfies every single desire of your life.
And once you get a taste of that kind of relationship with Him, you know what? Things won't matter. You won't fret and fume over things. You won't spend your life trying to get more of this and more of the other, because listen to me carefully, and I promise you this is the truth, if you will major on spending time with Him and ask Him to do whatever is necessary in your life, to let you feel His presence, and to sense His love (mark this down) God will provide for you more than you ever ask, more than you ever expect, more than you ever deserved, and you'll know where it came from. If you don't learn to love Him and just be satisfied with Him, you're going to miss out on the most awesome experience of life.
Let me ask you a question. How many cars does it take to take the place of love? How many houses do you have to own to take the place of love? How many trips do you have to take? How much notoriety do you have to have? How many honors have to be heaped upon you? How many positions do you have to climb to? None of that will take the place of this awesome, genuine, loving relationship that you have with someone who loves you the same, and especially that you have with Almighty God. That's why prayer needs to be a priority.