Greg Laurie — Secrets to Answered Prayer
Hey I want to take you somewhere. Welcome to my secret place. I am at the Honolua Stream not far from Honolua Bay. Do you know what they call this cool little spot? The Hobbit Garden. And you can see why. I mean look at this place. It looks like it came out of a movie somewhere. It is a perfect secret place to talk about keeping secrets.
You know if you were in a restaurant and someone is seated at a table near you and they are having a conversation you may not even be noticing. But if someone says, "I want to tell you a secret and no matter what I don't want you to share this with anyone". Question. Do you listen in? Of course you do. Even if you don't know the people. You want to know a secret. You know a game I often play with my grandkids is when we are going somewhere maybe we are in a restaurant or here or there I will say now we can go the regular way or we can go the secret way. Which way do you want to go? They always say we want to go the secret way. I just take them in a side door or something. I think we all like secrets.
It reminds me of three psychiatrists that were at a convention. They were hanging out together. One of them said the problem is we hear everybody else's problems but we don't have anyone that we can discuss our problems with. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just share what we are struggling with? Hey if we can't trust each other who can we trust. They all agreed. So the first guy said here is my problem. I have a real issue with overspending. So I am always spending too much money. Now I overbill my patients and they pay for it. The second guy said well I have a problem with drugs. In fact I actually have my patients go out and buy me illegal drugs. The third guy said oh well my problem is I can't keep secrets and I can't wait to get out of this place.
Guess what? God has some secrets too. In fact the Bible says, "The secret of the Lord is with those that fear him". Now in a way they are not really secrets because they are plainly in the pages of the Bible. But I think for some they might seem like a secret because they have never heard these things before. So I want to talk to you in this message about secrets to having your prayers answered. Listen. In the affirmative. You know all prayers are answered effectively. Right. Yes, NO, or wait. We don't like NO generally. We usually are happy with yes. We definitely don't like wait. But is there anything we can do to see our prayers answered more often in the affirmative? I believe there is. So I want to talk to you in this message about secrets to having your prayers answered in the affirmative.
Jesus said, "After this manner therefore you should pray. Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be your name your kingdom come your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen". I love that prayer. As I pointed out it is not just a great prayer to pray. It is a template for all prayer. For us as followers of Jesus we need to understand that when we come into God's presence we need to just stop and recognize we are speaking to the all-powerful all-knowing all-loving Creator of the universe. I think if we will do that it will change the way that we pray.
Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Just let it sink in for a moment. Then we pray your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Effectively we are saying to the Lord if what I am about to pray violates your will in any way, shape, or form, I ask you to overrule it. One thing you will discover after you have walked with the Lord for a time is God's plans are better than your plans. His will is better than your will. Remember Jesus there in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, "If it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will be done but yours be done". He was submitting to the will of the Father. You say, "Yeah but Greg then he was beaten and crucified". Yes and all of the sins of the world were paid for. Sometimes the will of God doesn't look good in the moment. But in the big picture you will see that it really was good.
Now we come to the first secret to answered prayer. If you don't get this one right nothing else really matters. Here it is. He teaches us to pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us". If I have unconfessed sin in my life all of the prayers of the world will really accomplish nothing. God says, "It is not that my ear is heavy that I can't hear. It is not that my arm is short that I cannot save. But your sins have separated you from me". The Psalmist said, "If I regard or hang on to iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me". If you don't confess your sins it is like you just hung your phone up on God. There still may be relationship. That doesn't go away because that is given to you as a result of your believing in Jesus. But fellowship and communication can be severed temporarily. But it can be reconnected through the confession of sin.
Some say, "I don't really know if I have any sins to confess". We have to go back to the first part of the Lord's prayer. "Our Father who art in heaven". Listen. If you spend any time in God's presence you will immediately become aware of how in need of God's forgiveness you are. In Isaiah 6 we read of Isaiah saying, "I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne. He was high and lifted up and his glory filled the temple". Guess what Isaiah said? Isaiah said, "Woe is me I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips". The more we see God in his glory the more we will see ourselves in our sinfulness.
Here is the point. We have to come and admit our sin. We have sinned. I have kind of light colored pants on today. I always notice whenever I wear light pants I spill on myself more. But what I realize is I am always spilling on myself. I just work dark jeans normally and I don't see the stains. I think you sin more than you think you sin. There are sins of commission and omission. A sin of commission of course is doing what you should not do. A sin of omission is not doing what you should do. Just trust me when I tell you it is a good thing on a regular basis, on a daily basis, hey maybe even on an hourly basis to say, "Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who have sinned against us". Start there. Admit your sin. Don't make excuses for it. Own it. Repent of it. That establishes communication with your Father in heaven.
Now principle two for having your prayer answered in the affirmative. Another secret of having your prayers answered. This is a big one. You must forgive others. Let's go back to the Lord's prayer again. "Our father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us". I think we are OK with the part of being forgiven by God. Here is the big one. Are we willing to forgive other people? Listen. Forgiven people need to be forgiving people. If you are not forgiven by God then you are wracked with guilt. If you don't forgive others you are consumed by bitterness.
Unforgiving people are bitter people. No one wants to hang around them because they are always upset and ranting. They dine out alone. When the announcement is made. Bitter. Party of one. You need to forgive. Is there someone right now that you need to forgive that has sinned against you? Here is what Jesus says. "If you come and you bring your gift in the temple and you remember that someone has something against you, go to that person and seek reconciliation with them. Then bring your gift to the altar". Isn't that interesting? He is saying if they have something against you. You might say that is their problem. Actually it is kind of your problem too. You need to deal with it. You need to go to that person and you need to forgive them.
It was C. S. Lewis who once said, "Forgiveness is a lovely idea until we have someone to forgive". Another way that verse is translated "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" is "Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us". Actually that is accurate because the word that is used there for sin also implies debts. That is why it is often translated that way. First we have to be forgiven of our debts. Listen. Your debt is so high there is no way you could ever pay it back. The debt of sin. That is why we all have to just basically go chapter 11 spiritually and declare complete bankruptcy and come in total dependence to God who will forgive us.
In Colossians 3 it says that Christ canceled the debts that were against us taking them out of the way nailing them to the cross. The Ten Commandments condemns you. It condemns me. We all fall short. Jesus took that debt that we owed and he paid it for us. He came to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. So forgive us our debts, our sins as we forgive those who are indebted to us or have sinned against us.
One of my favorite stories is called Les Miserables written by Victor Hugo many years ago actually. It was made into a Broadway show and later into a movie. The main character of Les Miserables is Jean Valjean. He is a good man. He has a sister who is starving along with her children. He steals a loaf of bread to feed them. He is arrested and sent to prison. Eventually he is released from prison. He can't find employment anywhere. He stops communicating with them. He violates parole and an arresting officer named Javert is sent after him. In the most recent film Javert was played by Russell Crowe. Jean Valjean played by Hugh Jackman.
Jean Valjean finds shelter in a monastery. They are very generous to him. They give him a warm meal. They give him a bed. The priest has compassion on Jean Valjean. In the night Jean Valjean sees these valuable candlesticks. He decides to steal them. He is arrested immediately and brought back to the monastery. The priest sees his dilemma. If he goes back to prison he may never get out again. He says he gave those to Jean Valjean. Once the police leave the priest gives Jean Valjean the two candlesticks he stole that are made out of silver and says to him, "You have been spared by God now go and make an honest man out of yourself". In hugo's book the priest says, "Jean Valjean my brother you no longer belong to evil but to good. It is your soul I buy from you and I give it to God".
Jean Valjean has violated parole. He is being hunted by Javert played by Russell Crowe. Hugh Jackman is running from him. Basically we have gladiator chasing the wolverine. Right. They come to a point where Jean Valjean could have killed Russell Crowe, I.E., Javert but he chooses not to do it. Jean Valjean establishes a new identity as a mayor of a town. A girl that worked for him named Fantine is fired. She turns to prostitution. She has a child as well. She is trying to support this child. The child's name is Cosette. There on her deathbed Jean Valjean promises to take care of Cosette the child of Fantine the prostitute. He raises her up to be a wonderful young woman.
Here is why I love this story so much. It is a man who is forgiven so he forgave. That is the thing. If we know anything about God's forgiveness, we should be forgiving people. Yet there are people today, Christians even, who are harboring this anger toward other people. Here is the problem. It is eating you up more than it is eating them up. Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and hoping the rat will die. It is killing you. It is eating you up inside. Jesus says to say to the Father, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us". Listen to this. When you forgive someone you set a prisoner free. Yourself.
There is actually a new field of research that has been developed on the subject of forgiveness. Recent studies suggest that those who do not forgive are more likely to experience high blood pressure, bouts of depression, and problems of anger, stress, and anxiety. One expert said there is robust psychological differences between non-forgiving and forgiving people. They said, "Forgiveness isn't giving in to another person. It is getting free of that person".
After the civil war president Abraham Lincoln was asked why he made friends of his enemies. Someone said, "You should not make friends of your enemies. You should destroy them". Lincoln responded, "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make them my friends". This is about being free of it yourself and just letting it go. To quote the great theologian Elsa from the film Frozen: let it go. Just let it go and put it into God's hands. The Bible says, "Avenge not yourself. Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord". Scripture also reminds us to be tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you you say, "But Greg they don't deserve forgiveness". Ok maybe that is actually true. But here is my response. Do you deserve forgiveness? Do I? Answer. No we don't. So because I have been forgiven I want to forgive. Forgiven people are forgiving people. That brings us to the next secret of having your prayer answered in the affirmative.
Point three of having your prayers answered in the affirmative. Don't give up. Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened". So this is really important. We have to be persistent in our prayer. Listen to this. If the request is wrong God says NO. If the timing is wrong God says SLOW. If you are wrong God says GROW. But if the request is right and the timing is right and you are right, God says GO. We don't want give up. It is interesting that phrase Jesus uses ask, seek, and knock. There is an ascending intensity.
Imagine yourself in a restaurant. Why is that when you sit down immediately a server comes they take your order. Do you know what it is you want to order? You say NO. Then they like disappear for a month. What happens? I don't know. Anyway the server comes. They give you some coffee or whatever. Maybe you want some more coffee. You ask. They don't come. You ask again. Excuse me. They don't come. Finally you just get up and walk over and get the coffee and pour it yourself. That speaks of intensity. So the idea is we start by asking. I am asking God. Then I am seeking. I have gone to the next level. I am not going to give up on this. I am seeking. Now I am knocking. The idea of knocking is I am pounding on a door. In other words in a way I am not going to take no for an answer.
Look. We don't always know what the will of God is but I think when you are praying for the salvation of a loved one, when you are praying for our country to have a spiritual awakening, and man do we need that right now, when we are praying for God's will in our lives, we just can't back down. We can't give up. We have to keep seeking. We have to keep asking. We have to keep knocking you know the Bible says he makes everything beautiful in his time. We don't want to rush it. We don't want to be ahead of the Lord. We don't want to be behind the Lord. We want his perfect will in his perfect timing.
Let me just say this in closing. All of the things I have shared in this message are really for believers only. Only the believer has the privilege of praying. Only the believer can know that when he calls out to the Lord he will be heard. Now a nonbeliever can say God help me. God save me. As far as a prayer life, this relationship this communion, this is for Christians only. If you are not sure if you have a relationship with God here is what you are like. You are like a person caught in a riptide. You are out in the ocean. You are in trouble. You see a lifeguard on the shore. You say help. The lifeguard comes to your aid.
I remember years ago I was here in Hawaii with my son Jonathan. I was just helping him to catch some waves. All of a sudden I got caught in a riptide. I am not way out. I am close to the shore. I am sort of embarrassed that I can't get my feet on the ground. I am like 12 or 15 feet out. I am getting pulled out. I am trying to get my feet down. I am holding Jonathan above the water. There is this female lifeguard that sees me. She starts running towards me. I never said help. But she is running toward me. I am like oh no I don't want to be saved. I am so close to the shore. Finally I got my feet on the ground. I said I am ok. God bless her for coming out there. If I am going to be saved by someone and they have to give mouth to mouth I would rather it be a girl than a guy for sure. My wife. I meant I want my wife to be the lifeguard is what I am saying. But anyway there is something in guys where we don't want to say we need help.
Are you afraid to call out to the Lord and say God I need help? The Bible says, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved". What you need to do is call out to him right now. That is the prayer you know that God will hear. He will hear it immediately. Would you like to do that right now? Would you like to be forgiven of all of your sin? Would you like to have this relationship with God as your Father in heaven who will hear your prayer and answer your prayer? Listen. He is just a prayer away. I would like to lead you in a simple prayer and if you want your sin forgiven, if you want to know you will go to heaven when you die, if you want a fresh start in life, if you want to know God in a personal way, wherever you are, just stop what you are doing and pray this prayer with me right now. Just pray this. In fact you could even pray it out loud after me.
Just pray Lord Jesus. I know that I am a sinner. I know that you are the Savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. I turn from my sin now and I choose to follow you from this moment forward as Savior and Lord, as God and friend, as my Father in heaven. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Hey listen. Welcome to the family of God. Now you can start praying and you will know that God will hear your prayer and you can start growing spiritually. It is the greatest adventure of all. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So thanks for watching this message from the beautiful Island of Maui. And until next time aloha.