Charles Stanley - Prayer That Moves God
Do you often wonder why your prayers are unanswered? You know some Scriptures, and you talk to God, but somehow so many of your prayers go unanswered. There must be some reason. Have you thought about why? Have you looked at your life to ask the question, Is there anything in my life that would cause God not to answer my prayers? Wonder if you've thought about this. Have you thought about the God to whom you are making your prayers? You say, Well, everybody believes in God. Well, everybody doesn't believe in the one true God. And many people pray to a god and they expect God to answer their prayers. And somehow, they don't get answered. And so, you give up on praying and you think, Well, the Bible's not really true. The Bible's very true from very beginning to the very end.
So, I want you to listen carefully to this message, because it just may be that you'll discover one of those reasons your prayers are unanswered. Listen carefully. So, turn if you will to Acts chapter twelve. This is a familiar passage and I want us to read a few verses, but we'll take probably most of this chapter. Beginning in verse one, the Scripture says, "Now, about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James, the brother of John, put to death with a sword. And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now, it was during the days of the Unleavened Bread". After the Passover, and, "When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers".
Now, four squads would be sixteen. They were there "to guard him, and to bring him out before the people. So, Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God". Now, remember that. It was "made fervently by the church to God". Would you say that you pray fervently, or do you just say, Well, I don't know whether it's fervently or not, but I just pray. Well, let's look at what's going on right here and maybe discover something about your own prayer life. So, this Herod, he had James killed. And that seemed to satisfy the Jews who hated the Christians. And so, then he thought that worked, so he had Peter arrested and put in prison.
So, Peter is now in prison, and his death is imminent. It's very evident that he intends to kill him, that he intends to bring him out before the people. And kill him with a sword as he did James. And he figured that that would satisfy the Jews by killing Christians. And so, the result is that the Christians gathered together. The Scripture says in Mary's house. And there they gathered together to pray for Peter. Now, remember, probably James was killed without any warning. And so, here's Peter, their leader, who is going to be killed, they know he's going to be killed. And so, they're praying, but they have to be struggling to some degree with that because James had already died. And they know how a prisoner is imprisoned by the Romans. And so, they're praying and praying for God to release him.
And so, I want us to just read a few verses here if you will, and look if you will verse six: "On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold an angel of the Lord, appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side, woke him up, saying, 'Get up quickly.' And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, 'Gird yourself, put on your sandals.' And he did so. And he said to him, 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.' And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know what was being done but the angel was real, but he thought he was seeing something, having a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him".
So, what happens? "When Peter came to himself, he said, 'Now, I know for sure that the Lord has sent His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.'" Now, I want you to think about something. There are two words here that really got my attention when I read this and I read it many times. If you'll go back to the fifth verse, notice what it says. "So, Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently". Listen, "fervently by the church to God". And those two words just jumped off the page to me: "to God".
If I should ask you, Who is the God you are praying to? More than likely, most of you seated here and most of you who are believers could say, Well, I'm praying to the one true God. That when I pray, He's the one I think about. But I want you to think about the people who pray who don't necessarily pray to the one true God. And what I've discovered is this. When I talk to somebody who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they talk about praying, I'll say, Well, who do you pray to? Well, I just pray to god. Well, like, like who, who is this god? Well, he's the god I pray to. And the more you talk to them, the more you... listen, here's what you discover. Many people have mentally created their own god. And I can tell you what he's like. He's not necessarily holy and eternal and all the things we say. But he's a god that they've created in their minds who suits their lifestyle, fits the way they want to live so that there's not a bunch of conviction going on. And so, not only that, they have defended themselves against all Christians.
Do you believe in God? Yes, indeed. What kind of God is He? Well, it's none of your business. A religion, religion is a private affair and I have my own god. And they don't realize that they're giving themselves away when they say that. I have my own god and it's nobody else's business; and I think religion is a very, very private matter. Well, okay, so who is this god? They can't tell you who he is, because they have built their own god. And this god agrees with them about what they want to do, where they want to go, how they want to dress, what they want to drink, or what kind of sexual relationships they'll have. In other words, this god just fits them perfectly. And so, they say, Do I believe in God? Yes, I do. You pray to Him? Yes, I do. What do you say to him? Well, now you're getting personal. I'm not going to tell you what I pray to Him. They can't, because he's not God. He is a god that they've created in their minds but listen. They will never tell you He's holy, He's righteous, He's a God of Judgment, He hates sin. They're not going to say that. They're going to talk about the god who has patterned his desires after their desire, the way they live.
And so, many people when they're praying, they're not praying to God. So, somebody says, Well, what kind of God does a Christian pray to? I'll tell you. He is the God who created this world. He's the God who destroyed this world by flood. He's the God who gave us the Ten Commandments. He's the God who broke down the walls of Jericho. He's a God who gave to David the Psalms. He's a God who's given to us the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. He is the God who has given to us the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our Savior. Now, if that's not the god you're praying to, you got a homemade god and it doesn't work. He's a holy God. He's a righteous God. He's a perfect God. He's a God who hears and answers prayers. He's a God who loves us unconditionally. He's a God who forgives us of our sin, but He's a God who does not tolerate sin because He knows that sin is a destroyer of the very people He loves.
If you don't have that God, you don't have God. You have a homemade god. You have one that suits you, listen to this, who has no power to promise you anything, nothing. He has no power whatsoever because it is a god of your imagination. The God who is the one true eternal God is the God we just described a few moments ago. He's the God who gave us the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and all the awesome Scriptures we have in the Bible. Now, the reason I ask you what god you're praying to is because if you're not praying to the one true God, it's not making any difference in your life. Now, these Christians hearing about Peter's imprisonment, they got together. And they began to pray and to intercede for him. And it's interesting when you look at this passage and think about what was getting ready to happen, that even in their prayers they had to be struggling a little bit. I think I would have been if I'd been one of them.
So, we saw a few moments ago what happened. So, Peter's in prison. God sends His angel, takes him out and then he goes to Mary's house. He knew that's where they were all praying, knocks on the door. And this young lady comes to the door, the Scripture says, "When he knocked at the door at the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter's voice..." You'd think she would have opened the door and went, run back and say, Here's Peter. No, what she did, she heard him and she didn't even open the door. She just ran back and said, It's Peter. And what did they say? It can't be Peter. It may be an angel but it can't be, He's still standing out there knocking, trying to get in; and they're in there deciding it can't be him. I mean, they'd been praying fervently for God to set him free, and He sets him free, and they're still back there saying, No, it can't happen. So, that'll give you some wandering faith.
And so, "They said to her, 'You are out of your mind!'" Now, look at this. They've been in there praying and crying out to God. She says, He's at the door. They say, "'You are out of your mind!' And so, she kept insisting". But Peter continued knocking. Now, I wonder what he was thinking, "And when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed". So, God answered their prayer. What I want us to look at here and I want us to say this again and again because I don't want you to miss this. The Bible says they were praying to God.
Now, let me ask you, how many of you pray to God? Now, listen carefully. What happens is in our mind we fix our mind upon God to pray to Him. And we quote Him a verse. God, You said if I ask anything in Your name, that You'd do it. I'm as, listen, Jesus's name, praying to You. And so, we start praying and next thing you know we're off to something else, and God gets lost in the whole issue. And finally, the way we put a period to it, we say "In Jesus's name, amen". We don't even know what that means. In Jesus' name, amen. So much of our praying is not profitable because we don't pray to God. I'm praying to God about my finances. I'm praying to God about my husband or wife. I'm praying to God about my children. I'm praying, in other words, He must be uppermost in our praying and our thinking.
Otherwise, we drift off into all kind of things, as we said before, and sometimes can't even remember what it was. But God is uppermost, foremost. I'm praying to the heavenly Father about this. And I'm not going to go praying along and get off on something else, and forget to whom I am praying and what He is like. God is honored when we come to Him. He's honored when we talk to Him. And He's willing to hear and answer our prayer. He says, Call unto Me. I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know. If He can part the Red Sea, knock down the walls of Jericho; and if He can give us the Ten Commandments, He can answer any prayer we pray that fits His will and His plan for our life.
And so, I want you to notice something else here about them. It says, the Scripture says, so, "For him, prayer was being made fervently by the church". Fervently. You know what that means? There's some enthusiasm; there's some feeling; there's some belief, fervently. Let me ask you a question. Do you love your children fervently? Fervently means my heart is in it. When I'm talking to God fervently, that means I want to quote Him a Scripture. And we quote Scripture in our prayer, not to remind God of anything, but to do what? To remind us of what He's promised us when we come to Him praying to Him. And so, the prayer fervently, for example, when Jesus was facing the cross, the Scripture says He was praying in Luke the twenty-second chapter, He was praying fervently. That is, He was agonizing. And I wonder when is the last time you could honestly say, I prayed fervently for him. That means you put your whole heart into it. It means you, probably, maybe were weeping in their behalf. That you were saying, God, I'll do whatever You say do, whatever it takes to help them through this situation they're going through. God, in Jesus' name.
And so, fervently means it's whole-heartedly. And oftentimes we say to somebody, I'll pray for you. We shouldn't say that if we don't mean it. Now, if I tell somebody I'm going to pray for them, I'm going to pray for them. I want to do something to remind me that I told them I'd pray for them. And so, sometimes I say make a list. Now, watch this. If you want God to do something, many things, coming to Him one time's not going to cut it. It's not. Because some issues and situations God has to have time to arrange the situations in order to answer your prayers. So, if you just pray once and say, Well, God didn't answer my prayer. You didn't give Him an opportunity to answer your prayer the way He wants to answer it; in the way that He gets the most credit; and that you're blessed.
And you're reminded next time you have a request, that's the way you come to Him. He says, Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know about. You don't even understand. And so, if I say to you, Do you have a list? Let's put it this way. If you are dead serious about your prayer life and about the people you're praying for, you're going to do something that reminds you to keep praying until God changes the circumstance. And that's why I have a list. You say, Well, what kind of list? You just put at the top of it "Prayer List" and write it down there. You can put the name down, and the good thing that I found out long time ago was to put a date down by it. This is the day I started. It may be three days when I can put another date down, answered prayer. It may be three months, six months, and I've prayed for people longer than that.
And some people I've prayed for and prayed for and prayed for, I still can't put a date down by it. But watch this. But at least I'm reminded, and least I can still pray for that person for God to change them in some way or provide something in their life. The issue is am I praying with fervency? Because I love this person; because I care. Not going to pray for everybody the same. You're not going to. The closer people are to you, the more you're going to probably pray for them. The more sincere your prayers are going to be. Or the more intensely you're going to pray for somebody that you genuinely love, or somebody that you see heading in the wrong direction. I want to see God work in their life. And so, He says we're to pray fervently.
And then the third thing I wanted you to notice here is simply this. And that is prayer that moves God may be made by those in agreement with each other, in agreement with each other, and in the will of God. For example, if I have a big burden on my heart about something, I'm going to talk to somebody sitting right here, for example, and I'm going to say to that person, Here's the thing I'm really concerned about and let's you and I pray about this together. There's something, watch this, there's something about agreeing. If any two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything of the Father's will, He gets involved. And so, there's something about praying together. And let's put it this way. The deeper your hurt, the more your pain, the more likely you're going to ask somebody to pray with you. Not just pray for you, but to pray with you.
And if I should ask you today, How many of you have a prayer partner? What say, I don't need anybody praying for me. Yes, you do. We all need somebody to pray for us. God is so willing to grant us the needs, the desires of our heart, when we come to Him with a clean heart; an open mind willing to listen to Him; willing to be obedient to Him. So, the most powerful thing you and I do is to pray. We're to pray to God. We're to pray with fervency, with heart. We're to pray in His will; what He wants and what He desires for our life. And one of the best things we can do, watch this, it helps us, and it helps somebody else, is to have someone we pray with. Watch this. Because we all need to be held accountable. A person who wants no accountability is into something they shouldn't be into. That's why they don't want to have to give an account. Accountability is a safety zone for us. For what I say, where I go, who I go with, what I spend. In other words, I want to be accountable. That's safe.
Somebody says, I want freedom. You want freedom to destroy your life? Freedom to get in debt. Freedom to have relationships with people you have no business having relationships with. Accountability is a safety net for every single one of us. And God knows we all need to be safe, safe, walking in His will and in His way. So, the church in these days, they were smart. They all got together and prayed for Peter's release. And much to their surprise, he was released. And what happens? Peter lives a long time after that. Now, I'd simply ask you this. If you had to describe your prayer life, what would it be like? Well, I say my prayers at night. Well, let's get this, what do you mean say your prayers at night? I understand what you're saying, but if you just pray at night before you go to sleep, I can tell you right now, you're going to get in trouble. Because, first of all, you may be about two-thirds asleep before you start praying, so you don't even know what you're saying.
If you, in other words, you might as well say the prayer that I remember my mother taught me very early in life before I knew what was going on. Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. I think that's better than nothing but. It isn't the best kind of praying. Now, we laugh about it, but prayer is serious business. Pray to Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and shed His blood for your sin. Praying to be saved to Almighty God through His Son, Jesus, serious business. Praying for our needs, serious business. Praying for one another, serious business. Praying for the nation, serious business. Prayer is serious business. Listen. Not only serious, it's powerful business. Praying with fervency makes change in people's lives and it can make change in a nation. And God's people need to be praying. Amen?
And Father, we thank You that You're pleased when we pray. Willing to hear us, willing to answer us, willing to strengthen us, willing to build our faith up, willing to teach us how to love You. And we pray today in Jesus's name right now. Any person seated here, any person listening, wherever they might be, if their prayers are to count, help them to understand. First of all, they must make a personal commitment of their life to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, which opens the door to prayer and makes it possible. And before that happens, that's null and void, that is only talk. And so, we pray that somebody today would be saved, maybe many people would be saved. But Lord God, that You'd have your way in their lives; and in each one of us, who calls ourselves Christians; who names the name of Jesus; that You would guide us. That all of us would be praying people, is my prayer in Jesus' name, amen.