Craig Groeschel - What a Friend We Have in Jesus
You know, every now and then I think that we should pause to give glory and honor to our God and just to recognize what we get to be a part of. If you can imagine, on last weekend, over 3400 people publicly confessing their need for a savior. That's what happened at Pentecost, you realize that? Every now and then we need to just recognize we are not praying for a move of God, we are right in the middle of a move of God. Omaha, Nebraska launching last weekend, Catoosa, Oklahoma the weekend before. We have, in the prayerful plans, three more Life.Churches scheduled to launch in three different states this year. I just wanna say to our God, we give you glory. To all of you, thank you for your prayers, inviting people like crazy, serving, your generosity.
Every now and then, we need to pause and take a step back and recognize we get to be a part of something so incredibly special. What I want to do as we start this message today is just acknowledge, unfortunately, this is very, very true that there are so many of you right now, at this very moment, you're going through a very significant trial. You're carrying a burden. You're facing something that you wish you were not facing. If it's not you, right now, for almost all of us, certainly, it's somebody close to us. Somebody in our LifeGroup, a family member, somebody that we go to school with, somebody that we work with. We almost all know someone that's going through something very difficult right now. And what's interesting to note is, you may be sitting in front of someone or there may be someone just two seats behind you, that they're smiling on the outside but on the inside, they're really, really hurting.
I want to speak directly to that today. We're in a message series called How Sweet the Sound and we're looking at some of the classic hymns from our Christian faith. Today, I want to look at the lyrics of a song called, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". And the first words of the song start with that very title, "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. And "what a privilege to carry," let's all say that phrase aloud, "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer"! I want to launch this message today with scripture from Philippians 4:6, we'll come back and spend more time in this verse. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Paul said this, he said, "Don't worry about anything". He said, "Instead pray about everything". What a privilege we have to carry everything to God in prayer.
Let me tell you my hope for this message. My hope is that you will develop a true and sincere love for the presence of God through prayer. I hope that you will develop a true and sincere love for the presence of God through prayer. The reason I hope this, is because I'm afraid that far too many Christians don't really understand prayer. So many people will think, "Well, prayer doesn't really work". Or, prayer is a chore at best, ineffective at worst. And that's why today I want to talk very specifically about prayer because so many people, I believe, have very real misconceptions about what prayer accomplishes and what it is. Let's talk about three misconceptions of prayer. First of all, so many people I think, believe prayer is complicated, it's very, very complicated. I think, growing up, I really believed prayer was complicated.
I honestly thought that to pray to God you kinda had to talk in King James language, English. It's kinda like you had to pray, "Oh Godeth in Heaven, we beseecheth thou to grant us-th with your presenceth now," and then you had to make, Jesus had several syllables to the name, like in Je-he-sus name, or whatever. It was very complicated to me. And then when I became a Christian, I received some great teaching but I became kind of legalistic and thought prayer was like a formula. Someone said, "You have to pray early in the morning," which is kinda true but incomplete. You see God in the morning so I thought you had to pray early in the morning. This one said, "You need to pray for a full hour". I was like, "Oh, that's gonna be difficult, early in the morning for an hour". Okay, so you gotta do that. Then somebody said, "You need to pray in your prayer closet," so I'm goin', "Okay, early in the mornin' for an hour in my prayer closet". Then someone said, "You need to bind up the devil". I wasn't sure what that was or what that meant, but I would do it early in the morning for an hour in my prayer closet, I'd bind up the devil. And before long, they said, "You need to pray to the Holy Spirit for some things and Jesus for some things, and God the Father for other things".
And I was really confused, maybe I'm not doin' it right? Maybe I should hold my hands like this? Maybe I'm pointing the wrong way? Maybe I should have bound the devil first before I prayed for longer? I didn't know, it was very, very complicated. Then, you go to your LifeGroup and there's always a professional prayer. They're so good they get paid to pray. It's Jesus' little brother. In your LifeGroup, you know. When he prays, it's like you know God's goin', "That's a good prayer". He's quoting the names of God like, "God, I just call on you, you are Jehovah, we see the Lord is my banner". And they always start praying scripture and they know exactly where the verses are. They're like, "God, if you saying your word in Isiah 54:17. Which is highlighted in green in top right-hand of my Bible, 'That no weapon formed against me will prosper in the name of Jesus.'" And you're like, "Oh, my prayers suck".
That was so good, I don't know how do that? And so, I'm kind of a competitive guy, I'd never want to be out-prayed. So, I'd try to get into the game. I'm like, "I'm gonna do the best I can and God, you are Jehovah, Nissan. And God your word is so good, it melts in your mouth, and not in your hands, God. You are good, oh God, you are good to the last drop, oh, God, you're like a good neighbor, God. You're always there". Prayers complicated, I don't feel like I always get it right. And so many people have misconceptions about prayer. They'll think prayer is complicated. A lot of people say, "Well, prayer is boring". Prayer is boring. It's kind of funny, one time Jesus said he's goin' off to pray, he told his disciples to sit there and pray. Whenever Jesus came back, do you know what his disciples were doing? They were sleeping. I understand that. If I can't sleep, I just pray and then I fall asleep.
What's even better, is if I can't sleep I ask Amy to pray and then I fall sleep because her prayers last forever. I'll fall asleep in her warm-ups. Like, she really has warm-up to pray, like breathing and yoga stretching and like, just start. But, I get bored and then I have these kind of ADD moments, anybody know what I'm talking about? Anybody here? I'm praying, "Oh God, I call on you, shiny thing. Shiny thing. God, I pray for my friend, God make my friend come to Jesus my friend needs Jesus, and I need cereal. Alexa, order Cheerios and toilet paper". And then I'm all off. Many people think prayer is complicated. Many people think that prayer is boring. And then so many people have the misperception that prayer doesn't work. Prayer doesn't work. "If it worked, why didn't God heal my grandma"? "If it worked, why is my marriage still struggling"? "If it worked, and I have a college degree, why am I at a job that's underneath me and I still don't have a job with benefits"? "God, where are you"? "Did I do something wrong, do you not care, are you not listening? Or are you just gonna do whatever you want and prayer is just a waste of my time"?
So many of us have misunderstandings about what prayer is and what it does. We need to understand and embrace the truth that we're not praying to a distant, uninvolved, hard to please God. But we're actually praying to a loving, caring and personal God that calls us, "Friend". Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus. And what a privilege we have to carry everything to Him in prayer. In fact, this is what Jesus said about his relationship with his disciples in John 15:15. He said, "I've never called you servants because a master doesn't confide in his servants". But Jesus said this, Jesus said, "But I call you my most intimate friends". Imagine this, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Great I Am, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, also calls us, "Friend". Jesus was even accused by his haters who said, "He's a friend to sinners".
What a friend we have in a relational God who loves us and gives us access to come before his very throne of grace to find help in our time of need. I want to tell you the story behind the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". It was written by a man named Joseph Scriven. Joseph lived in the 1800s in Ireland and he fell madly in love, head over heels in love, with his childhood sweetheart. I mean, you're talkin' every love card made sense he's dedication' songs on the radio, doin' whatever, he's massively in love. And on the day before they were gonna get married, the day before, they rode on horseback to meet one another. And tragically, her horse bucked, threw her off, she hit her head on a rock beside a riverbed, rolled unconscious into the water moments before Joseph arrived. She died and he found his fiance dead in the middle of the river.
You can only imagine, life falls apart for this guy. He has to leave Ireland, doesn't just want to face everything he knew there. Moves to Canada and encounters the powerful grace of Jesus. This guy falls massively in love with living for Jesus and he decides to devote his life to living out the teaching of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. So he takes a vow of poverty, and he's very handy and he works for people. But the story goes, he actually wouldn't work for anyone that could afford him. If they could afford to pay him, he wouldn't do the work, it was only for people that didn't have the means that he would do the work. Last week, we talked about the author to the song "Amazing Grace," who remembers his nickname? His nickname was the Great Blasphemer. Joseph Scriven's nickname was the Good Samaritan, always helping people who were in need.
Well, a young lady saw this very Godly man and took interest in him, he took interest in her and he fell in love again with a woman named Eliza Roche. They were engaged to be married and weeks before they were married, at the age of 23, Eliza came down with pneumonia and died just weeks before they were married. Two times, not once, but two times the love of his life is taken from him. He never fell in love again. Years went by and when his mother was dying back in Ireland, he obviously didn't have the money to go and see her because he had taken a vow of poverty. And so, he wrote a poem to her and he sent the poem to her. The poem actually started to become very well known, although he never took credit for it. And years later, by accident, a friend was in his house and saw the original notes of this, now hymn, and found the words to it. And he said to Joseph, "Did you write the words to this"? And Joseph said, "Well, to be honest, the Lord and I wrote this together". And the poem that he wrote to his dying mom is now the hymn that we've sang for a couple hundred years, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".
Feel the power of the lyrics that this man wrote, knowing the story behind what he endured in life. He asked the question, "Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer". That's what we're going to do today. We're gonna take some things to God in prayer and we're gonna do exactly what the real brother of Jesus, the half-brother of Jesus, James, said in James 5:16. James told us, "To pray for each other so that you would be healed". He said, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective".
What does prayer do? Your prayers can defeat the devil. Your prayers can calm a storm. Your prayers can heal the sick. Your prayers can save a marriage. Your prayers can comfort the hurting. Your prayers can restore the broken. Your prayers push back darkness. Your proudest prayers invoke the power of God. Scripture says to pray for each other that there may be healing because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. We're not praying to a distant, uninvolved, uncaring God, we're praying to a close, intimate, all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful God who cares for his children and calls us, "Friends". That's why, today, we're gonna pray for one another and believe that God is going to do a work. What a privilege we have to carry everything to God in prayer. You may say, "Okay, how do I pray, I'm not sure I totally understand it"?
So I'm want to make it as simple as we can and talk about four very practical thoughts about how we actually pray to God. The first thing is this, very simply, sometimes you talk to God. You simply talk to God like you would talk to a friend. In fact, the apostle Paul in Philippians 4, he talks about prayer in this beautiful, simple and intimate way. In fact, it's important to understand the context in which he's writing. He had always dreamed of going to Rome as a preacher. "If I can just get to Rome and preach". But, instead of being there as a preacher, in this context, he's writing from Rome as a prisoner, chained up 24-hours a day to a Roman guard. "I wanna go there and preach," instead he's in prison, awaiting his possible execution. And this is what the apostle Paul says from a Roman prison, he says, "Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything".
If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about. He says, "Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he's done". How do you pray to God? You just talk to him, you don't worry, you pray. You tell God what you need and you thank him for all that he's already done. Just literally, talk to God. Does it have to be early in the morning for an hour in the prayer closet when you're binding up the devil? It can be, but it doesn't have to be. Paul said elsewhere, he said, "To pray without ceasing". Now that's intimidating, pray all the time. I can't even pray for 20 minutes straight without losing my focus, how do we do that? I've come to recognize for years I've felt guilty because I couldn't pray long, I couldn't stay focused. But I didn't understand that prayer isn't non-stop, petitioning God in a formal way, but prayer is a non-stop awareness of the presence of God that's always with you. It's an ongoing relationship recognizing that God never leaves you and that he never forsakes you. Just kind of like I might be spending the day with Amy, we learn to spend the day with God.
And a big breakthrough for me is talking to God like I would just talk to my wife on text. I might say, "Hey, just thinkin' about ya. Hey, what are we doin' tonight"? And literally, short bursts of very consistent communication with God. You may start your day with God, "God, thank you for this day. Direct my steps today. Give me wisdom to make a difference. God, I just devote my life to you". You see someone at work that is hurting, "God, give me something to say that's encouraging. God, would you do something that only you can do? God, give me direction, give me wisdom today. God, help me in this presentation. God, help me on this test. God, I know I'm gonna see a lot of people that don't know you today, God, give me sensitivity to your voice, to reach out when you want. God, help me love this person today. God, help me forgive this person".
And it's an ongoing awareness of the presence of God. Short, consistent bursts of communication as if you were talking to a friend. This has revolutionized my prayer life. And so, this may shock you but I'll tell you right now, I never, ever pray for a long period of time. But I also never ever go a long period of time without praying. It's an ongoing awareness of the presence of God. Sometimes you just talk to God like you're talking to a very close and intimate friend. Then sometimes, you don't just talk to God, but sometimes you vent to God. Sometimes you just unload on Him. I like the way Peter phrased it, 1 Peter 5:7, Peter said, "Cast your anxiety on him, throw you cares on him because he cares for you". Do you realize it's within fair play to say, "God, this makes me mad. God, I don't understand, where are you, God"? And vent to God, because he cares for you.
David did this sometimes in the Old Testament, "God, where are you, why aren't you stopping my enemies? God, why are you letting this happen, this doesn't seem fair? Why are the wicked prospering? God, where are you"? And God cares about you just like when a child comes up and expresses hurt or disappointment, or anger, you don't push the child away, you draw the child close because you care for your child. And you can vent to God. Sometimes, you just talk to him. Sometimes, you vent to him. Sometimes, you listen to him. You stop talking and you start listening. Jesus said this, Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice and I know them". Who is the good shepherd? Jesus is the good shepherd, we are the sheep. It is his job to guide us, our job to follow. He directs and we listen. Prayer was never meant to be us just asking God, telling God what we want him to do.
Billy Graham said this about prayer, he said, "That prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God". It's not just me speaking, but it's listening to God. I like in the Old Testament what Samuel said, Samuel said this, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening". If you'll take that posture every now and then and not just, "God, here's what I want. And God, do this, and God, do that". But you stop and say, "Speak Lord, I'm listening. "Guide me, direct me". I promise you God will speak to you. Oh, so he's gonna like call me by name? "John, this is what thou should doest". No, not necessarily. Maybe he can do that? He could show you what to do with writing on the wall. But God speaks in so many ways, his methods of communication would be unlimited. If you certainly, want a guaranteed way to hear from God, let me tell you how to guarantee you'll hear from God.
Open up your YouVersion Bible app every single day and spend a little bit of time in God's living word. And I promise you, God will speak to you, God will direct you, God will comfort you. God will convince you because his word is living, it is active, it is powerful and it will speak into our lives if you wanna hear from him. Look for his voice through his word, God will speak to you through his word. God will speak to you through circumstances. Sometimes you're like, "Well, that door was open and that door was closed and I don't know how it closed, that must be God saying I don't have this for you, I'm directing you somewhere else. And I just happen to believe, because you're a good God that somewhere else if going to bring you more glory and be better for me". God will speak to you through his word and through circumstances. God will speak to you through people. Someone may give you a word of wisdom, something that really empowers you. God can speak to you through a song. God can speak to you through his still, quiet, voice of his spirit that's not necessarily audible but sometimes it's even louder than audible.
When God speaks to you and moves you. How do we talk? To God? How do we pray to one who calls us friend? Sometimes we just talk, we're just together. We're just doin' life together. "God, I love you. Wow, man, you're showin' off, that sunset's amazing. God, thank you for your goodness. God, thank you for this time with my daughter. God, thank you that you provided. God, thank you that you let me be a blessing". Sometimes you just talk to God. Sometimes you vent. "God, I'm hurting. God, I'm confused? God, I don't understand"? Sometimes you listen. "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening". But all the time, all the time, you give thanks to God. No matter what, you thank him for who he is, for his faithfulness, for his character, for his goodness. At all times you give thanks to God.
And this is exactly what the apostle Paul did from a Roman prison awaiting his possible execution. In other words, he could be beheaded very soon. And under that threat, he penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He said, Hey Church, "Don't worry about anything, instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need," just talk to him, cast your cares on him, "and thank him for all he's done". And when you do that, "Then, you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything that we can understand". Don't worry about anything, pray about everything. Give thanks in all circumstances and then you will experience the supernatural peace of God. Peace from Heaven, which goes beyond our human understanding we can't comprehend it, or we cannot explain it. It's God's peace in the middle of the storm. It's his peace in the middle of the trials.
And my family, we've been consistently experiencing this peace. If you've been with our church for a while, I've told you about the trial we've been through with my second daughter, Mandy. We have four daughters, Mandy is my second daughter. Two years ago, almost two years ago, right before she was married to James, she got very, very sick with Mono and never, ever recovered. Had to quit her job, her body is in constant pain, has no energy, struggles immensely. And so, of course, we've prayed, and prayed and prayed. We've taken her to every doctor and specialist, and the good news is, thanks be to God, she's made some progress. And the good news is, we believe and we have faith that she's gonna make even more progress. And we believe that she's gonna be whole, we believe that she'll work and serve Jesus full time again. And we have faith for this, and it's not there yet, but you can imagine, there hasn't been a single day, not one, where, before I've left the house, because that's Amy's prayer time, I get up a little earlier and get ready.
That she's there, kneeling down by the bed, every single day, never missing one. Petition it, seeking God, taking that and dozens of other things before God in prayer, every day. I've never missed a day, praying and believing. I was talking to Mandy after Easter, just the two of us sittin' down, and she was smilin' so big on a tough day, hurting, in pain. She said, "Daddy, I'm just so thankful". I said, "Why are you thankful"? She said, "Daddy, I'm now speaking to thousands of people on my YouTube channel. People with chronic illness, people who have no hope who've never heard about Jesus. God has opened this amazing door for me to share with thousands of people who may not have heard about Jesus otherwise". And she said, "Daddy, James and I, we are so close, we pray all the time. And here I am, two years, I never realized marriage could be so good. And Dad, I've grown up knowing and loving Jesus but I've never been more intimate in my relationship with him". She said, "I would never choose to go through this, but I'm so thankful for the way God used it".
And we're just overwhelmed, in the middle of the trial, with a peace that goes beyond our human ability to understand. Because, one of the things I've realized about prayer is that prayer doesn't always change your circumstances, it may, it may not. Prayer may or may not change your circumstances, but it always changes you. It always changes you. I want you to feel the weight of these words. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear! All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer"!
Don't worry about anything, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all that he's already done. Then you will experience God's supernatural peace, a peace that goes beyond your ability to understand. And you will recognize true peace is not found in the absence of problems. But true peace is found in the presence of God. True peace is not found in the absence of problems, but true peace is found in the presence of God. What a friend we have in Jesus. And what a privilege we have to take everything to him in prayer. Let's do that now, all of our churches praying.
Father, we thank you that you see us even though we're unworthy, because of the grace of Jesus, you call us, friend. God, today, we take some burdens to you in prayer.
At all of our churches, I would imagine this would be everybody. There are those of you who recognize in your own life right now, there's a very first-hand burden, a trial, something you're going through that's very difficult. For some of you, it may not be you directly, but it's somebody you know, somebody you work with, somebody in your small group, a sorority sister, somebody you play softball with, an extended family member that's going through a real trial. At all of our churches, those who say, "It's either me or somebody that I love that going through something and I want to take this before God in prayer". Would you lift your hand right now? Just lift them high, lift them high. All of the churches, lift them high. Go ahead and put them down for a moment.
What I'd love, if you'd just look up here at me, all of our churches, I want to ask you to do something. I want everybody to do this, I want everybody to do this. Would you take a piece of paper, there's a little 3x5 card or such nearby. Grab a pen, if you want to take the Life.Church pen later we won't call that stealing. If you were here last week you know what I'm talking about. Take that, what I want you to do, and let me just tell you up front, I'm gonna invite you to give that to someone you don't know, this prayer card. So, put your request down accordingly. In other words, you may not want to go into a lot of details there may be things that you don't want to put down, but down your burden.
I'd love for you to write your name, first name only. And then I might write down, "Healing for Mandy," or you might put, "Peace for my husband," or, "Salvation for my wife," or "Reconciliation with my children", or "A job for my 18 year old son," or "Healing from seizure for my daughter". Whatever it might be, just in a few words, I want you to write that down. I want everybody to do this and then we're going to exchange it. And then, we're gonna pray here, and don't freak out, you're not gonna pray out loud. You know, don't freak. But then we're gonna pray for the next seven days. And we're gonna believe that God's gonna hear our prayers and work in a very powerful way.
So, Father, we bring these requests before you and we thank you that we can pray for each other, your church, your children. And God, we're gonna cast these carers upon you because we know you care so much for us.
Before we do this, I'd love just to invite you to stay praying, nobody looking around right now because there are some that are here today that they are one prayer away, one prayer away, from a totally different life. One prayer to a good God. At all of our churches, there are many of you, you're gonna recognize that your are not doing life with an ongoing awareness of the presence of God. You're not in a relationship with him, you might believe in him, I did. You might have grown up in church, I did. You may have never been in church, that's okay. But you're being drawn to God right now, what is that? That is his loving kindness, that's his goodness, that's his grace, that's his spirit. He's drawing you, why? Because we are separated naturally by our sinfulness, but God, in his love and mercy, he loves us so much that he became one of us in the person of his son, Jesus, who was perfect in every way, never ever sinned. Died, as the perfect sacrifice on the cross and was raised from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you.
Doesn't matter who you are, what you've done, anyone who prays out to the name of Jesus would be saved, would be forgiven, would be made completely new. At all of our churches, there are those of you, you need this, you can sense it. You're not here by accident, you're here because of the love of God. He brought you here, he's reaching out to you. You're one prayer away from being completely transformed. To all of our churches, those who say, "Yes, I need his grace, I need his forgiveness. I've turned from my sin, I've turned toward him". When you call on him, he hears your prayer. He forgives your sin, he will make you spiritually brand new. At all of our churches, those who would say, "Yes, that's me, that's the cry of my heart, that's the prayer I pray. Today, I give my life to him".
Lift you hands high now, all over the place, lift them up. Lift them up, right back over here. God bless you guys. My goodness, both of you over here. Right back over here, as well. Way back over here. Church online, you click right below me. Way back over here. Right back there, both of you together. Sir, praise God for you. Right back over here, sir. Oh, my goodness, way back over there. Somebody oughta cheer a little bit louder than that. Others today who say, "Yes. I need his grace, I need Jesus". Man, as we've got this happening, at this moment, at 29 locations we recognize we're not praying for a move of God, you see it? We're living in the middle of one. I want everybody at all the location to just pray together, nobody prays alone.
Heavenly Father, I trust you to save me, to forgive me. Jesus, be my Lord, first in my life. Forgive all my sins. Fill me with your spirit so I can know you, do life with you, walk with you and show your love in all that I do. My life is not my own and today I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. Would you stand up to your feet as I say it, and cheer like crazy, in Jesus name, all God's people said, Amen! And Amen!
Would you worship God, would you praise him, all of our churches? Recognize the goodness of God. And here's what I would love for you to do at this moment is to just take that prayer request, turn around, meet somebody, maybe someone you don't know. Esther, I just love you, I'd just you to pray for me, could I trade with you? Would that be, all right? I'll take yours, I wanna pray for you this week. Thank you, sweetheart. Take those and pass those around. Esther, I got you covered all week and I know you've got me covered. And what I want to do is just give you a chance, prepare your hearts. You can sing, you can pray, but all week long, we're praying for one another that we may be healed. Because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Remember this church, get ready to worship and get ready to pray. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins griefs to bear! And what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Lift your hearts, lift your voices as we worship and as we pray.