Chris Hodges - Spirit-Filled Prayer
All right, who's glad to be in church today? Anybody else? How about we just put our hands together and give Jesus a great praise? Come on. Isn't that awesome? So good to see you guys. We are in week number one of a four-part series called "By My Spirit". I'll tell you more about that in just a moment. But as always, let me look into the camera and say hello to all of our locations. We are one church that meets in locations all across this region, 23 in all, and we have the incredible, incredible honor of bringing all that we are as a church and these services into more than 20 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities.
And there's always people watching online. A lot of people that are in their last-minute vacations and before school begins; but wherever you are, we're so glad you're with us today. Grants Mill, do me a favor and show some love to everybody, come on, that is watching right now. Come on, give them a good hand. That's great. So, I'm really excited about this brand-new series. And one of our traditions is, is that summer ends; and as we move into this next season as a church, I always like to pull us out of kind of the summer slump. And if you'll look back throughout the years, August has always been a very spiritual type series, a series where we really focus on our closeness with the Lord, and we're launching 21 days of prayer.
In fact, today is day one of 21 days of prayer, and I'll tell you more about that in just a moment. But this is just a season for us just to kind of stir up our spiritual lives, and I always pray way in advance that God would give me a word. And I don't even really feel like I have a message for you today. I feel like I have a word for you today. And if you'll allow God to have some room in your heart, you don't need to let me in your heart. Just let God in your heart today to speak to you. I really believe that God's going to stir something on the inside of every single one of us. And the verse that the Lord gave me to kind of serve as a theme verse for this series is the prophecy that was in the Old Testament, but it would about the New Testament. It would be the way God would move in people's lives.
In the Old Testament, God was very external. Laws were written on tablets. They really didn't feel anything. They saw a lot of things, but they didn't have anything going on, on the inside of them. And then this vision came to Zechariah, where "'the angel talked with me and returned and woke me up,'" Zechariah said, "'like someone awakened from sleep.' And he asked me, 'What do you see?' And I answered, 'I see a solid gold lampstand'" That would be that seven-pronged Jewish lampstand, "'with a bowl at the top of it.'" Now, that would be new.
So, right next to the lampstand "'a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamp. And also, there are two olive trees connected to the bowl, connected to the channels that go to the lamp, one on the right and one on the left.' And I asked the angel who talked with me, 'What are these, my lord?' And he answered, 'Do you not know what these are?' 'No, my lord,' I replied. So, he said, 'This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel,'" who was the governor at the time. And I want you to read the next line, every campus, out loud. Come on, starting with the word, "not," every voice. Here we go. "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty". "Not by might," so it's not gonna be human effort, human ability, "but by my Spirit".
Now, the word "Spirit," is an important word. It's a very difficult word to translate in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the Old Testament, it's the word ruach, and you've gotta do it with that little bit like you've got popcorn in the back of your throat. Ruach, ruach. That's the best I've got, everybody. There's my Hebrew right there. And then in the New Testament, it's the word "pneuma". It's like where we would get the word pneumonia. It's where that word comes from, because the word means breath. It means wind. And if you know anything about wind or breath, you know when it's there, and you know when it's not there. You can't see it, but you can feel it. And then not only is it there, but it propels. Like, if you don't have wind, it doesn't matter if you have a sail or not. You ain't goin' nowhere. But, brother, when the wind shows up, it'll propel you. And a lot of us are living our lives just wore out. We're only getting places by our own efforts, but it's not by might, nor by power, but it's by the... "But by my Spirit," says the Lord.
Now, that freaks a lot of people out, if I'm honest with you, because they're like, "Well, wait a minute now. I don't know about all this". I heard somebody say, "I don't know about that Holy Ghost. I mean, I'm kind of afraid of a ghost". But listen to me. He's not a ghost. He's nothing to be afraid of. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? You need to live a life, you need to understand that God always intended for us to live a life empowered, or the way the New Testament says, Spirit filled. And I'm going to take us on a journey. In fact, this is what that picture would look like. You're the candlestick. You're there trying to burn. You're trying to provide light. We're trying to do what God's called us to do with our life, but you'll only be as effective as you're being fed by the oil or the fuel of the Spirit, which is the wind and the breath of God.
And I want to teach you that. I think, when we first became a church 20 years ago, one of the things that we tried to do is take people on a journey to all that God has for them. And honestly, we've gone very slow and very methodical, nothing goofy or weird, but also not settled where we are, that God never intended you to stay where you started, and that's why actually we named the church, Church of the Highlands. We believe that God has more for us, and we really believe that God wants us to live a Spirit-empowered, Spirit-filled life. So, if you'll allow me to take you on this journey, I'm going to teach you about the Holy Spirit. We're going to go to the book of Acts. I do it every year. I've done it, you can go back all 20 years, and you'll find a series around the Holy Spirit, and that he's not goofy or weird or strange, but he wants to empower you.
Today we're going to talk about Spirit-filled prayer. Next week, we're going to talk about miracles and signs and wonders. People don't understand that, but what does that really mean, and does he even do that today? Well, of course, he still does that today, and we're going to learn what the Bible says about God doing miracles in our life. We're going to talk about holiness and the fear of the Lord. That's something that doesn't get talked about enough, and I'm going to tell you, I believe this generation needs a little dose of it. He's not just a spirit. He's the Holy Spirit, and he'll put a Holy Spirit on the inside of you, if you'll allow him. He'll do a work with your attitude, and your mind, and your thinking, and your hurts, and your pains, and who you are. And if you'll allow him, you'll become a completely different person, by the Spirit of God.
And then we're going to talk about the gifts of the Spirit, that he always intended to empower you to do something that will work in other people's lives, as well. But you need to understand this. Jesus, when he came and lived his life. He had a mission, and that was to pay for sins. He left us some beautiful teachings, of course. They're found in the gospels. But his main mission, he says it in Luke 19, was to seek and to save those who are lost. Well, no one could get saved on their own. Sins have to be paid for. So, Jesus came, gave his life on that cross. But after he gave his life, of course, he was resurrected on that Resurrection Sunday, and then he spent about 40 days, just in his glorified body, just appearing to his disciples on random events, random occasions.
And then, of course, after 50 days, it was called The Great Ascension, he would actually go into heaven, off the Mount of Olives. So, if you've ever seen that little olive grove on the other side of the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, the top of it is the Mount of Olives. His feet lifted from that place in The Great Ascension, and the Bible says he's going to return right back at that same place. And in my opinion, his second coming is imminent. And I say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come". Come on, somebody, right? Okay. But during that 40 days, he had one mission then after his sins were prayed for, and that was to convince his church to have these olive trees connected to him, to have the oil, and the breath, and the Spirit, and the wind of God inside of people's lives, so that you would never have to live your life under your own power. And I'll show it to you. This is the end of the Gospel of Luke. This is during that 40-day period. He's already resurrected, but he's just in his resurrected body appearing. And he says, "And now I will send you", now, "So, I've taken care of sin. I will send you the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised".
But watch what he says. "But you don't do anything yet. Like, I don't need you to go out there and try to live your life without it. Stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you from power on heaven". Now, Luke wrote that, and he also wrote the book of Acts, and this is how Acts starts. "On one occasion," Luke says, "while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: 'Don't do anything yet. You just need to wait just for a second. Don't try to live your life this way. Live your life Spirit-empowered. Wait for the gift my Father promised which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water," that's talking about salvation, that's repentance of sins, "but in a few days, you're also going to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You're going to be Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered".
And watch what they say. I think this is so hilarious. And you've gotta learn how to see humor in Scripture, because it's there. All right? And this is so funny. So, he's saying, "Man, I'm gonna fill you with the power of God". Watch what they say. This is so funny to me. "They gathered around him and said, 'Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?'" I mean, like, they totally changed the subject. And notice with me, it's something they just wanted to know. They had a question. Like, "Okay, great, great. I want all that power stuff and the Holy Spirit. Are we going to be a nation again"? I mean, they're like changing the subject. See, y'all don't think that's funny 'cause you don't have a sense of humor like I do. And then Jesus comes back and says, "Look, it's not for you to know". And I would just time out right here and say there's too many of us that are trying to live our Christian life just knowing things.
Now, God doesn't mind you knowing things. We study the Bible. We learn, we grow. That's what discipleship is all about. But it's not all about the know. If you try to see all of God in your head, you will limit God to the size of your brain. But he's bigger than your brain. At least you'd better hope so. "It's not always for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority". And he comes back to the topic he wants to talk about. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". And so, that's what we're going to talk about. There's a lot to know. But also, I'm telling you, I'm gonna look in your eyes and say you're going to need to be Spirit-filled for your marriage. You're going to need to be Spirit-filled for your job. You were never intended to live your life under your own power. You'll be a lamp that burns out.
But can I tell you today, you can have two olive trees constantly supplying you with power? You don't even know where it comes from. And today, probably the greatest place is prayer, prayer. We're a praying church. I grew up with the most praying pastor I know. My pastor, he's still my pastor since the day I got saved at 15 years old. I mean, he's a praying man. I learned prayer. My home church in Louisiana was called Bethany World Prayer Center. That's how devoted they were just to prayer. Beautiful church that I grew up in. I learned it my whole life, and my whole life, since I've been a Christian, and certainly since I've been in ministry, I've been taught how to spend time with God in prayer every day. And not only that, but to have seasons of prayer and fasting. And a lot of you guys know, if you know the Highlands story, in 2000, I was going through a deep, really a dark depression.
The only time, only really one of now two times that I've actually been through any type of depression, didn't know what it really was, but I thought it was clinical. I thought I was really in trouble. And our church always did 21 days of prayer and fasting to start every year. And so, in 2000, when it came around, I'd always fasted something, you know, like broccoli and cauliflower. Come on, somebody, right? But I actually went on a very strict fast that the Lord led me to. And on day 17, I'm just praying. I'm an associate pastor at this church. Y'all, I have an open vision. I see in my mind, it only happened to me twice in my entire life. I see what I'm seeing right now. I literally saw this room, this way. I mean, with the sloped floor in the back. I didn't know what city it was in, didn't know where it was. But I'm telling you, life came inside of me.
I can't describe to you how this life just jumped into my body. So, when the 21 days was over, I made an appointment with my pastor, 'cause I knew God had spoken to me. I really didn't know what it was. And I thought he was going to be a little afraid of me talking about a vision for something else and not his vision 'cause I thought I was pretty indispensable. I found out I wasn't, everybody. But I said, "Pastor, let me tell you what I saw". And before I could say anything, he said, "God's calling you to lead a church". And I didn't know what to do. I mean, I asked him, I said, "Do you print out resumes? I mean, like, how do you find the church"? And he said, "God will give you supernatural love for a city". And I said, "Explain that to me. What is supernatural love for a city"? And this is what he said. He said, "You'd be willing to buy your burial plot in it. You want to live the rest of your life there".
And so, Tammy and I in May of 2000 took our vacation time, and we had two weeks' vacation. We took all two weeks and went to eight cities that I thought I could buy my burial plot in, and Birmingham was one of them. In fact, it was fourth on the list, if you want to know where it ranked. It was fourth on the list, and we were here. And so, I decided to time it where we could be here during the SEC baseball tournament. And so, you know, praying and a little fun, too, wouldn't hurt anything, right? And so, I was here at the baseball tournament, and some of you know the story. I was getting ready to go to the Hoover Met, it was called at the time, over in Hoover, and I went. I was staying at the Hampton Inn at the Colonnade. And I was a little early 'cause I'm a early riser, and I was a little early for the game.
So, I drove up to the summit to go to the Starbucks there to get a cup of coffee. And I had time. You know, I was about a hour ahead of the day. And I walked out on that little outdoor patio. And this view does not exist anymore, because the pine trees have grown up. It's been 20 years. But at that time, you could look at that patio, and you could see the six lanes of Highway 280. And y'all, as loud as I'm talking to you right now, and I'm not making this up, as loud as I'm talking to you right now, I heard God say, in fact, I looked around. I thought it was audible. He says, "You're going to pastor some of the people in that traffic jam". And I heard it just like that. So, I skipped the first game. I actually drove up and down 280 for two hours on purpose. I mean, like, I did this, you know that was God. I always say I'm the only person in Birmingham who loves 280. And I just, I was looking in people's eyes. I'll never forget that.
I'd get at stop lights and just look at people like, "I'm gonna pastor you one day". Like, I'm sure they thought I was insane or something, you know. And that's the day that God... I always like to say that was the true day that Church of the Highlands was born. It was born in my heart. And y'all know the rest of the story. Tammy and I moved here on December 26th of 2000. By February 4th, we had our first service, which was way too fast. And 400 people came to that very first service 20 years ago. And come on, everybody. Look what the Lord has done over these 20 years. Can we just give God praise for that? Amen? But we've always purposed not to make it about a man. If y'all had any idea how, sometimes, how insecure I feel, how inadequate I feel, way over my head. I mean, God's asked me to do things. I don't even know who to call that's ever done it before to ask their opinion. I feel overwhelmed.
And I'm just telling you, you're looking at a man, I'm not messing with you. I'm telling you the truth right now. I'm desperate. I refuse to try to do this, I refuse to be a lamp that tries to burn without the olive trees connected, without the breath and the wind of God. I have to have it. And that's why, I mean, since the day we began, we've been twice a year, we have 21 days of prayer and fasting. I'm talking about getting up in the morning and seeking God. And to God be the glory, man. This church, you guys run the play. I was with a pastor this past week, said, "I can't get anybody to come at 6:00 in the morning". I'm like, "We have to have police to direct traffic at 6:00 in the morning". And I applaud you. And tomorrow, we start the morning times of prayer. It starts today.
Today is day one of 21 days of prayer. And if you've never been to it, you need to come see what a New Testament praying church really looks like. And we're not perfect. We're just going after God. We're desperate. In fact, we're far from perfect. We're desperate for the presence of God. And so, we're going to push the plate away a little bit, or push some things away, or maybe set aside social media for... do a bunch of y'all really good, set that aside for 21 days, or set aside the news. That'll make you happier, I promise you that. Going to fast something. We're going to seek God, 6:00 Monday through Friday. I'll be here tomorrow morning. I'm going to lead as much as I can. I scheduled myself for about half of them, half of the mornings. I'm just gonna lead. I already got my message tomorrow. I can't hardly wait. Y'all want to hear it right now? Like, I'm ready to preach it right now. I'm ready to go.
We're going to pray, and seek the Lord, and if you can't join us physically, and there's a lot of reasons why people aren't comfortable to join physically, or you're trying to get kids out to school, or whatever. We'll stream it live. You can just watch on your phone, your tablet, or computer. And if that time doesn't work for you, you can just... we'll archive that prayer service for 24 hours, until the next day's replaces it, and you can just join, but pray with us. And if I was to teach you on prayer and Spirit-filled prayer, there would be three things I'd want you to know, and I'm going to give you the first two very fast, and I'm going to lean in on the last one 'cause I think God wants to say something to us today. I would love to teach you what we believe, what I call the priority of prayer, the priority of prayer. For most people, prayer is a 911 call to God. It's when you've tried everything on your own, and it didn't work out, and now you're asking God to bail you out.
Now, if we're honest, for a lot of us, prayer is not what we think first. When we hear somebody is sick, we go, "Oh, no," instead of, "Let's pray". Prayer should have a priority. If you look at the New Testament church, if I'm just teaching you the book of Acts, which I would love to take an hour on every one of these, but I can't. But then he says, chapter 1, "They all joined together constantly", I mean, when they had something going on, they were thinking, "Oh, my goodness, what are we going to do? How are we going to figure this out"? No, no, it was just, "You know what? Let's go pray". When they had an issue arise in their lives, their culture, their country, on Facebook, whatever it is, they weren't like, "Oh, God"! No, no, they joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with all", I just love the fact, by the way, it said it wasn't just a bunch of men there.
The whole church gathered and prayed. You go to chapter 2, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship," which is small groups, "to the breaking of bread," which is Communion, "and to prayer". They committed themselves. What are we learning from this? That prayer should be our first response, not our last resort. And so, we've had a mantra, a rally cry here at Highlands: pray first. Pray first. We have a little "Pray first" black rubber bracelets. A lot of people wear them. In fact, when I'm out in the city, whenever I go somewhere, when people see me, and they don't think I would know who they are, they go... And I see that little black bracelet, I know exactly who they are. But it just says, "Pray first," a constant reminder that before you send that email, you'd better pray first.
In fact, some of y'all, after you pray, you gonna change the email. You're gonna say it a different way. Before you text, pray first. Before you leave the house, before your kids go off to school, parents, how about you huddle in the kitchen. "Well, the kids aren't gonna like it". Who cares what they like. You just go huddle them together. "I just pray over you". Every morning, we gathered in the kitchen for about three minutes. Got everybody, all seven of us. "Lord, in the mighty name of Jesus, I'm praying your protection. God, make them a leader, not a follower. Let them change the world, not let the world change them. All right, y'all go get them, guys". Right, we gonna pray first. That's a whole lot better than praying, like now we're in the counseling room 'cause Lord knows what happened. Like, "Oh, my Lord, I guess we'd better pray now". No, no. We're not a last resort. We're a first response. Can I get a good amen, everybody?
Yeah, I wish I had time to talk to you about that, priority of prayer. But I want to get to that third one quick. The second one I call the plan of prayer. Now, I'm a detailed, organized, outline, list person. I'm a list person. Where are the list people? List people, list, list, list. There you are. I love y'all. Y'all get me. I get you. I don't know about the rest of these creatives. I don't know. I don't know about all them. Feeling their way through life, you know. If I had a list of everything I liked, lists would be at the top of the list. I mean, I love lists, right? And so over these 20 years, I have worked very hard to produce materials that now more than 15,000 churches use. We take no Highlands logo on anything, not my name, no, just resources that you've paid for to help churches understand how to pray through the outline, prayer.
I've studied every prayer in the Bible, and I've broken it down into, what do they pray first, what do they pray second? Why did God respond to that kind of prayer? If you come tomorrow, we'll give you that booklet. It's a beautiful prayer. Jesus did this. In fact, you know the story. "When Jesus was in a certain place praying, as he finished, the disciples said, 'Wait, wait, wait, we don't know how to do that.'" You just, we were watching you, and you were doing it differently than how we were raised. "Lord, teach us to pray," as your disciples, "as John taught his disciples". And then Jesus said, "Okay, this is how you should pray". And he gave them an outline called "The Lord's Prayer," which is not a prayer. I mean, it's a prayer, but it was never intended to be prayed in 17 seconds, and you're done. It's an outline for prayer. It's seven elements, and we teach this.
I'm going to lead you through The Lord's Prayer tomorrow. I'll show you how to pray The Lord's Prayer and make it a prayer outline. Of course, he gave us... you can find it in Matthew. "This is how you should pray: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.'" Starting with worship. "'Your kingdom come, your will be done.'" Always start with his agenda before you start with yours. Then get to your agenda. "'Give me this day my daily bread. And Lord, while I'm here, before I leave this place, help me get my heart right with you and with other people. Forgive me and, Lord, help me to forgive them. And then, Lord, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. I'm gonna make my decisions today of how I'm gonna live my life. I'm gonna say yes to you and no to the devil every step I take. For thine is the glory, and the power, and the honor forever and ever.'" And God's church said a good amen. It's a plan.
And so, we have these resources. In fact, if you want to see these different ways to pray in 2018, I did a series called "Book of Prayers". And I took the different prayers in the Bible, and I broke them down. And you can go rewatch that series. It's on our website, but I've got some exciting news, everybody, that for the past year our digital team, our production team, and our worship team have been working on a project that we are announcing and releasing today, and that is an interactive app called "Pray First". And in this app, you can get all of these outlines, but we have a music attached to every one of the prayers that match our worship team releasing ten brand-new, original prayer worship songs. And they're free on this app. So, when you're praying, you don't have to get off that and go into Apple Music or whatever, or your play list. No, no, it's completely interactive. It has a place for you to put prayer requests. It'll lead you. And what the YouVersion is for reading the Bible, we have a vision for this to be the go-to app for prayer. And I have a one-minute tutorial video that I want you to watch. Take a look.
Pray first is a focused prayer experience in both English and Spanish that allows you to follow along with different models of prayer. It includes prayer guides, special songs written specifically for the prayer experience, and resources to help anyone learn more about prayer and fasting. While there is no RX to prayer, it's simply talking with God. There are some ways we can pray that can help us better connect from the natural to the supernatural. We hope that this app will help you, your family, and your friends to pray with more faith, more intention, and more frequency. And it's our prayer that this app would be a blessing to you. It's available today totally free on your app store or at PrayFirstApp.com.
And you all paid for it. Come on, give God praise, everybody, come on, come on, give God praise for that. It's awesome. It's gonna help people. So, download it, tell your friends. But here's the last one that I really wanted to lean into. Because this is a Spirit-empowered series, and that is the power of prayer. So, we have the priority, we have the plan, but you need to understand there's power in prayer. And I want to just outline one small story out of the book of Acts. It's the first prayer gathering where we actually get the prayer in the gathering. And I'll set it up this way. In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John were going to the place of prayer. And while they were going there, there was a notorious cripple there. Everybody knew this person. And, of course, if you've ever read the story, the guy wanted money. And Peter said, "Silver and gold I don't have. But what I do have, I'll give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk".
And the brother got up and started leaping and dancing and praising God. Well, you would think that would be good news. But the world sometimes doesn't like it when there's a bunch of good news going on. Have y'all noticed that, everybody? I mean, when you're reaching thousands of people, and people are getting saved, like, the world will find something to fuss about. And that's what they did. Now they're bringing these guys, the religious leaders were all mad that this guy got healed. In fact, 2,000 people got saved watching this guy get healed. It was an amazing moment. And so, after they've been threatened and punished, on their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported everything that had just happened when they got interrogated.
And when they heard this, they didn't fuss. They didn't post. They didn't cry. They didn't moan. They, "People are mean". No, no. They raised their voices together in (say it) in prayer. That's what they did. And they said, "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them". And the first thing you see is they gathered, collective, raised their voices together, prayer. And they didn't want one person leading, everybody going, "Mm, mm, mm". You might've been raised in that prayer meeting. No, they all said, they all prayed. And the first point I would want to make to you is powerful prayers are united. And listen to me. You want to get something done in this world, you want to see culture change? You want to see revival in our land? You want to see that? I do. But I'm gonna tell you, it's not gonna happen if we just all have it in our individual hearts. No, no, no. "If my people..." God's looking for a people who will set an alarm at 5:00 a.m. God's looking for a people who say, "I'm not satisfied with the way it is". "And if my people..."
Like, almost like probably won't find anybody, but if they would, "...who are called by my name, will humble themselves..." That's fasting. "...and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways..." Guess what? "...I'll hear, forgive, and heal". We need all three of those right now. "Hear, forgive, heal". Jesus said the same thing. "Truly, I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". How do we do that, Jesus? "If two or three of you will agree..." Notice that he wants you to come together. If you "ask for it, it will be done for them by my Father..." And then he says it again. "For where two or three are there in my name," guess what? Jesus says, "I'll jump into the circle".
And that's what I really believe we need more than ever before. There's never been, in the history of America and the world, never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not being in united prayer. You go back and study it. Every time, there was a group of people who said, "Not on our watch". Here's the second thing. So, the first thing is unified. Let's continue with the Acts 4 story. He said, "You spoke". Now they're praying. "You spoke". They're talking to God. "You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David". And then they quote a verse out of Psalm chapter 2. Notice with me they didn't say, "Well, David said in the Bible..." No, he said, "God, you said it".
David just held the pen. And they acknowledged that God wrote the Bible, which is very important. Those verses aren't just there, a bunch of people sayin stuff, you know, like, well, 'cause today we've got a whole group of people saying, "Well, Paul probably didn't really... and this other person probably really didn't", and they're deconstructing the Bible. Listen to me. God spoke the Bible through the Holy Spirit, through the mouths of people. They just held the pen. God wrote the Bible, everybody. I'm just telling you. And they quote Scripture. They found a perfect verse to fit their situation. Let me say it this way. There's a perfect verse to fit your situation, and powerful prayers are scriptural.
You say, "Well, I'm just praying whatever the Lord wills. Just, Lord, do whatever you will". No, he's already spoken his will. It's called the Bible. I don't pray, "God, well, if you want Birmingham saved, well, you know, it's up to you". No, no, "I want all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved". This is in the Bible. So, when I pray, I don't pray for Birmingham, saying, "Well, Lord, they're probably not going to be saved, anyway. They're really mean. They're probably gonna stay mean". No. "Father, in the mighty name of Jesus, I pray for Birmingham, and Auburn, and Tuscaloosa, and Oxford, and the Shoals, and Gadsden. God, I'm crying out for Montgomery. God, even in Opelika, Troy, and Mobile, everywhere, God, would you move by the power of your Spirit? I'm asking for some..."
This was my prayer time this morning. And for you guys that are getting a little used to the little extra room we have around here, there's only a few more Sundays left 'cause I'm praying, "Lord, fill it up, again, God, in Jesus's name". "I'm kind of liking the extra leg room". Don't get used to it, everybody. It's very important that you find the promises of God. And that we're unified, but we're also scriptural. "For all of God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding, 'Yes!' And through Christ," very key, "we need to say our 'Amen.'" So, God, Jesus did his part. Now God's just looking for somebody that the promises come down for us to go, "Amen"! I'm trying to stir you today. Jesus, come on, I've got one person stirred in all of Grants Mill. Let me see if I can get two. I don't know. Could there be three? Could I have four?
There are 4,000 promises in the Bible, and God's looking for somebody to say our, "Yeah! That's mine, that's mine". Which means yes. And if you'll do it, that amen will ascend right back up to God. He sends the promises down, and you send a amen right back up. And so, I'm taking verses like Joshua 24:15, that says, "My house will serve the Lord". I'm not praying, "Well, Lord, if my kids and my grandkids, Lord, they may or may not". No, no, no, my kids are going to serve the Lord. It's in the Bible. If y'all golf tournament clap one more time, Tammy and I got our house broke into when we were one year married. I say our house. It was a townhouse apartment. I think it wasn't more than 700 square feet. One bedroom upstairs, a little living room downstairs. We came downstairs on a Monday morning, my day off. The whole bottom floor was gone. The front door, the back door, which was only about 20 feet apart, both open, everything gone, everything. We'd been broken into while we were sleeping.
And I was so fearful to go to bed that next night. You know what I did? I found, my pastor said, "Find you a verse". And I found Psalm 144, that there will be no more breaching of our walls, and there'll be no going into captivity. Some of you guys know somebody who is sick and the doctor says he ain't gonna make it. But I've got Psalm 118 says that I will live and not die, and I will declare the works of the Lord. I've got people say, "Well, the church is really in trouble, man". But I have a verse that says that God will build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against that church. People been texting me, "Oh, Pastor Chris, I'm praying for you, I'm praying for you". And I text them right back Psalm 32, that God is my hiding place, and he will protect me from trouble, and he surrounds me with songs of deliverance. Y'all, I've got the victory, 'cause I have a verse and a promise from God.
Come on, somebody. Some of y'all need 1 John 4:4, "Greater is he who's in me than he who's in the world". Some of you... is it all right if I preach a little bit? I know I'm a teacher. "Well, the devil," they say, "the devil, he's been so busy today". I guess he has. But guess what? If you ain't buttin' heads with him once in a while, you might be walking with him. I expect the devil to come at us. I don't expect us to train 3,500 pastors and see 2,000 kids get saved at the BJCC and not see a little opposition. I'm gonna tell you that no weapon formed against us is going to prosper, in Jesus's name. That's what I'm talking about. You've gotta get some promises. "Man, my money is really in trouble, but Philippians 4:19 says my God will supply all of my need, according to his riches". "But Chris, if you knew how much fear..."
Well, then, Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid"? "We've got to have some promises, the promises of God". We had a Scripture, Tammy will tell you, we had a Scripture card right next to our garage door opener, Psalm 121, "The Lord will bless our coming and our going, both now and forevermore". It's a prayer. You know why? Because prayer is prophecy to my future. Not what I want. God is not your genie in a bottle. It ain't no name it and claim it and blab it and grab it. Prayer is the prophecy to my future of what God wants for my life. He's a genie, a genie says, "Your wish is my command". But that's not us. His command is our wish, and he's already spoken it in his Word. Come on, somebody. It's unified. It's scriptural.
And now, Lord... this is back to our story. "Consider people's threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great," say it out loud, "with great... Stretch out your hands, heal, perform miracles through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken". This is a New Testament prayer meeting. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God boldly". Powerful prayers aren't timid. Timid prayers insult God. "Well, let's pray". Everybody goes... Find me that verse in the Bible where the quieter you are, the more he listens. No. Humility's a good thing. Yes, there's a place where I kneel, and I just... But this is warfare. Go read Ephesians 6. James says, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a..."
The word in the Greek is energeo, where we get the word energy. God's looking for somebody who is desperate enough to pray with energy and boldness, because God honors bold prayers, because bold prayers honor God. If you come tomorrow, you're gonna see some bold prayers. In fact, we're going to close the service today with some bold prayer. Bring me my stick, Blake. Thank you, sir. I got me a shepherd's staff today. Y'all better behave. Whoa. No, y'all... So, between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there were 400 silent years, no prophets, no Scriptures, no miracles, nothing. They thought God was dead and gone. And the generation before, just one generation, first century BC, there became such a devastating drought in Israel that they literally thought, Jewish history books record they thought they were going to lose that entire generation to extreme famine.
It was going to be horrible. Well, that was the generation before Jesus. But there was one man named Honi who was a Jewish sage, that after a year of no rain decided to come out among the people. And he got his shepherd's staff, and he extended it, and he just spun and he drew a circle in the sand with his staff, and he knelt down, and he prayed this prayer. "Lord of the universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children". And immediately, little sprinkles came. People opened their mouths. The kids, who had never even seen rain, jumped around. But Honi didn't look up. He didn't rejoice. He knelt down, and he prayed this.
"Not for such a rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns". And all of a sudden, a monsoon came. The Jewish history books say the drops were the size of eggs. People were so afraid. They thought it was going to be a flash flood. Everybody ran to the Temple Mount to avoid flash floods. But not Honi. He kept his face down, and he prayed one more time. "Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of your favor, blessing, and graciousness". He knew Israel needed more than water in the soil, that Israel needed a touch in their hearts, as well. And the rain went from the downpour to a steady, slow, for several days rain, that would enrich all of the land.
And I believe God is looking for some people who are saying, "It's time, and I'm not getting out of this circle until my family is saved, until this person is healed, until my life is changed, until my marriage is back, until my kids are saved. I'm drawing the line. And he would forever be known as the Circle Maker. Go read Pastor Mark Batterson's book, "The Circle Maker". And I just decided, if y'all want to know how your pastor's doing, I've drawn a circle around your marriage, your kids, our church, our cities, our lives, our country, our culture. Yeah, and I'm going into 21 days of prayer. Come on, praying some bold prayers, praying some God-changing prayers. We ain't giving up. Come on, more souls saved, more lives changed, in Jesus's name. Stand on your feet.
Father, I pray for marriages right now. You're going to heal marriages, in the mighty name of Jesus. If you need a miracle in your body, or you know somebody who does, open your hands before God. God, we're drawing a circle around their lives. Lord, we thank you, God, that by the stripes of Jesus, they are healed, in Jesus's name. God, I declare that my grandkids and my kids will serve the Lord. There'll be no divorce. There'll be no going to captivity. There'll be no breaching of our walls. God, I'm speaking blessings on your people. I'm believing, God, for a miracle. Birmingham will be saved. Auburn will be saved. Tuscaloosa will be saved. Montgomery will be saved. Mobile will be saved. Opelika, Troy is gonna be saved. God, I thank you for the Shoals. I thank you for Gadsden. Thank you for Oxford, all across the Birmingham region is gonna be saved.