Greg Laurie — What Jesus Taught about Prayer
I heard about a pilot that had a plane full of passengers. They were headed to their destination when suddenly the rudder malfunctioned. The pilot radioed the control tower in panic and shouted, "The rudder has malfunctioned. What should I do"? The air traffic controller was very calm. He radioed back. Keep calm captain. Just repeat after me. Wings flap. Check. Velocity. Check. Altitude. Check. Make those adjustments. The pilot did. The plane evened itself out. Five minutes go by and the starboard engine goes out. The pilot calls back to the tower. "The starboard engine went out. What do I do now"? The air controller said, "Keep calm. Say this out loud after me. Wings flap. Check. Velocity. Check. Altitude. Check". So the pilot made the adjustments and the plane was OK. Then the pilot calls back shouting, "Mayday. Both of the engines have gone out on the plane. What should I do"? The air traffic controller said, "Now captain calm down. Repeat these words after me: Our Father who art in haven. Hallowed be your name". The Lord's prayer. The most well-known prayer anywhere. And justly so.
I think we sometimes think of the Lord's prayer as the one we use in case of emergency. Sort of like the ax behind the glass. In case of emergency. This is bad. Let's pray the Lord's prayer. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact that is exactly the prayer that was prayed by Todd Beamer. You remember back on 9/11 as our country was under attack. The twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed in a heap of rubble. The Pentagon was hit. There was flight 93. One of the passengers was Todd Beamer. He knew something was up. He wasn't quite sure what. He called the operator on one of those air phones. The operator confirmed the plane had been hijacked by terrorists. Todd who was a Christian was talking to her. The operator said, "Could we pray together"? He said, "Yes". They prayed this prayer. "Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven".
After they were done praying, Todd turned to other men who were going to help him storm the cockpit and he said these words. "Let's roll". They went in. They overcame the terrorists in the cockpit. Tragically the plane crashed. But the fact is they probably saved thousands of lives. Who knows who that target was for those terrorists? It could have been the White House. It could have been the Capitol. The Lord's Prayer. It is not just a prayer to pray, though it is fine to pray and a good one to pray. It is also a template for all prayer. It was given in response to the request of the disciples when they said, "Lord teach us to pray". He said, "After this manner therefore you should pray. Our Father who art in heaven". It is not just a prayer to pray. It is a template for prayer. Sort of here is how you go about prayer.
What is prayer? Prayer is listening to and communicating with God. There are different kinds of prayer mentioned in the Bible. That brings us to our first text. Ephesians 6:18 where Paul says, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints". In that one verse Paul says a lot about prayer. First of all he mentions all prayer. We use the word prayer a lot. There are a lot of ways to pray. You can pray publicly. You can pray privately. You can pray verbally. You can pray silently. You can pray kneeling, standing, sitting, or lying down. You can even pray driving. Just keep your eyes open. Speaking of that you can pray with your eyes closed and with your eyes open. Sometimes we think we always have to close our eyes in prayer. Not necessarily. We have instances in scripture even of Jesus lifting up his eyes to heaven and praying a prayer. It depends.
We have grandchildren. Four girls and one boy. We have been teaching them to pray. We will sit down and have a meal. We will say, "Let's pray". They will fold their hands and close their eyes. We were praying for our food the other day. I opened my eyes and Stella was eating a French fry with her eyes closed. Like it is OK if my eyes are closed. It was pretty cute. The main thing is just pray. You can pray in any position at any time anywhere. Sometimes we may think God won't hear my prayer unless I am in a church. As though God really listens when we are in church. He will listen in church. You can pray anywhere. Daniel prayed in a lion's den. David prayed in a field. Peter prayed on and under the water. Jonah's prayer was heard in heaven as he called on God from the belly of a whale or a fish. God will hear your prayer wherever you are.
It is interesting because this phrase praying always the word always speaks of the frequency of prayer. It means pray a lot. Just pray. You might have a time of prayer where you get down on your knees and pray and close your eyes. You might be driving and you pray about something. You might be headed into a meeting. "Lord I have to pray about this". Praying always. That is the idea. Pray in the morning. Pray in the afternoon. Pray in the evening. In fact the story is told in scripture about a man that prayed when it was illegal. What would you do if prayer was suddenly made illegal?
What would you do if prayer was suddenly made illegal? Don't think it couldn't happen even in America. Anything is possible. It happened to Daniel in Babylon. He was one of the king's advisors. The other advisors resented Daniel because of his influence. They decided they wanted to bring him down. The problem was for them Daniel had no skeletons in his closet. So they reasoned they were not going to find anything wrong with him unless they found it with him and his God. They knew that Daniel had a great habit. He prayed every day morning, afternoon, and evening with his windows open. They said, "Let's get the king to sign a decree that no one can call on any God but him". The decree was signed.
Payer is illegal unless it is offered to the king. What did Daniel do? What would you do? I will tell you what Daniel did. He went to his house. He opened up all of his windows. He got down on his knees and he prayed. We read in Daniel 6:10. "When Daniel learned the law had been signed, he went home, knelt down as usual in his upstairs room with his windows open towards Jerusalem and he prayed three times a day just as he had always done". Listen to this. "Giving thanks to the Lord". I think it is great when Christians pray publicly. Just do it the right way.
I was in a restaurant not too long ago. A very fine looking family sat down. A bunch of sons and daughters. They had a big table. Their meal came. They all bowed their heads and prayed. I thought, "I love that". In fact I went up to them afterwards and said, "Man I love the fact that you guys all prayed together". That was a fantastic testimony. Sometimes Christians get weird about this in public places. They will pray really long prayers. Or really loud prayers. Lord we call upon your name now. People are looking. What is going on? Here is a little rule of thumb to keep in mind. Your prayers in public should be short. You prayers in private should be long. That is how it is in the Bible. In private pray long. But in public pray short. Here is your objective when the food comes. Give thanks for the food. Ask God to bless the food. Eat the food while it is still warm. Otherwise we have Stella with her eyes closed eating the French fry.
Notice also one other thing about Daniel's prayer. He didn't say, "God help me. I am in trouble. Get me out of this mess". No. We read that he gave thanks to God. It is important to remember that when you pray God is on the throne and God is in control. We call this the sovereignty of God. Scripture says, "Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and his mercies endure forever". We remind ourselves that our sovereign powerful good God is in control. No matter what we give thanks when we are to pray. We need to pray. Why?
1. We should pray because Jesus told us to. He told us in Luke 18:1, "Men ought always to pray and not to give up". Honestly you don't need any more reasons. "Why should I pray"? Jesus told you to pray. Go do that. Yet at the same time he gave us an example. Here was Jesus who was fully God yet he was fully man. He took time to pray often. Often spending the evening in prayer while the others were sleeping. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see our Lord praying to the Father. "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will but yours be done".
When he hung on the cross Jesus gave his first words which were, "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing". Then we hear him later say from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? When he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead we read in John 11:41, "Father I thank you for hearing me. You always hear me. I say it out loud for the sake of those who are standing here that they will believe you sent me". Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus come forth". When Jesus fed the 5,000. The only miracle that is in all four Gospels we read that he looked up toward heaven and asked God's blessing on the food. Mothers brought their children to Jesus. Why? Because they wanted him according to Matthew 19:13 to lay his hands on them and pray for them. If this is what Jesus did certainly we ought to do the same. We should pray because Jesus told us to.
2. We should pray because prayer is God's appointed way of obtaining things. That is not the only reason we pray. It is one of the reasons. There is nothing wrong with bringing your needs and requests before God. Here is something to think about. There may be things in your life that you don't have because you have simply not asked your Father. You might say, "Why am I sick? I want to get over this illness. I have been to doctors". The Bible says, "You have not because you ask not". Could it be that God wants to heal you and you have simply not asked? "Why is it that I never know the will of God for my life"? Have you prayed about it? You have not because you ask not. "Why do I never lead people to Christ? I never have those opportunities". Have you prayed about that? You have not because you ask not.
I got into a cab recently. He was driving me to the airport. I got in and sat down. I looked at this guy and I said, "Lord if you want me to share the Gospel with him, just open a door". I didn't force a door. I just prayed that prayer. We are driving along. This guy's name was Tom. We were on a road where a bicyclist had been killed. They set up what the call ghost bikes. They are painted white sometimes. It is to represent someone was killed here. It is very sad. I said, "Why do people get hit on this particular road so often". We talked about that. Then he said, "I had a friend who was riding on this road and he was hit. The person who hit him just drove off". I said, "That is horrible". He says, "Yeah".
I said, "Tom what do you think happens after we die". He kind of laughed nervously. "Well I believe you come back in another life form. I believe depending on how you have lived you will come back again". I said, "Huh". He said, "Well what do you think"? That is that open door I was praying for. I said, "Well Tom I believe when you die you live on. I believe if you put your faith in God that you will go to heaven. One day heaven will come to earth. I believe God will give us a new body because these old bodies are wearing out". He said, "You know what? I like your version of the afterlifebetter than mine". I said, "Well tom it is not my version. It is Jesus' version. This is what he says".
Then I recited John 14 to him. "Jesus said, 'in My Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. If I go, I will come again and receive you unto Myself. In my Father's house are many mansions.'" Then I said, "Then a guy named Thomas said, 'Lord we don't know where you are going and we don't know the way.'" Then Tom the cab driver said, "That is my name". I said, "It is isn't it"? He said, "My wife always says I am a Doubting Thomas". I said, "You know Tom I like to think of Thomas in the Bible not as a doubter but more as a skeptic. Maybe you are just a skeptic". "Yeah maybe I am". The ride was over. I got out. I shared a few things. I got as far as I could go. Planted some seeds. You pray for things like this. You look for these opportunities. Pray about it. It is God's appointed way of obtaining things.
Let me say this. I don't believe if you pray about it you will always be healed because sometimes you won't. I don't believe that if you pray about it you will always have all of the money you may want in a given situation. There might be reasons that God may say NO. But at least cover that base and bring it to the Father.
3. You don't want to miss this one because it is a good one. Prayer is the way by which we overcome our anxiety and worry. Life is full of troubles isn't it? Our country is facing a lot of trouble right now. This war on terrorism is far from over. It never was over to the point. Now we have this Islamic terrorist army taking ground called ISIS. They are a formidable threat. That is on the radar screen. We still have Iran wanting to get that nuclear weapon and they just may get it unless something happens. Then we have North Korea still trying to develop their nuclear weapon. Now we have Ebola. We were told Ebola would never happen in the United States and it has happened more than once. We are saying, "What is going on"? Life is full of trouble. A lot of things to worry about.
Then you have your own troubles. You have your family troubles. You have your health issues. You have your financial problems. You have issues with your kids. Whatever it is. What do you do? Prayer is the way by which God helps us overcome our anxiety and worry. It has been said, "If your knees are shaking, kneel on them". Paul gives us these very familiar words. Philippians 4. "Don't worry about anything: pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank for what he has done. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus". Don't worry about anything. Pray about everything. Turn your worries into prayers. Here is how it works.
The next time you are hit with worry. "What if this happens? What if that happens"? That just became a prayer. "Lord I am kind of scared about this right now. I offer that to you. Help me. Lord I need wisdom on this. Direct me. Lord I need your protection on this. Protect me". Turn your worries into prayers.
4. Prayer is one of the ways we make ourselves ready for the return of Christ. Luke 21:34 Jesus says, "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day comes upon you unexpectedly. Watch therefore and pray always". We need to be in prayer. Speaking of his imminent coming Jesus said in Mark 13, "Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the Angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray: for you don't know when the time is". What about those times when I pray for something and God doesn't answer? "I don't think God answers my prayers". Wait. You prayed for something and God didn't answer. "Yes I prayed about it and I didn't get it so God didn't answer". No. He answered. You just didn't like the answer. The answer was NO. That is an answer.
Listen to this. Sometimes God says no. Sometimes God says slow. Sometimes God says grow. Sometimes God says go. If the timing is right and the request is right and you are right, God will say to you go. When he says no, it is for your own good. Think about this for a moment. Can you look back on your life and think of things you have asked God to give you that he said no to now in retrospect you say, "Thank you Lord for saying no". Can you?
I probably shouldn't use this illustration but I will. I met this girl once. I was a Christian. Very young still. Probably 18. I said, "This is the one. This is the girl for me. This is the one I should marry. I am sure of it. Show her that Lord". Apparently she didn't get the message. She wanted nothing to do with me. A little bit later I met Cathe. My wife that I have been married to for 40 years. Who I love with all of my heart. Fast forward 40 years. I am with my wife, who is beautiful. I ran into this girl. I looked at her. "Nice to see you again". I looked at my wife. I looked at her. I said, "God thank you". We wonder is there something we can do to cause our prayers to be answered more often in the affirmative. Is there a secret to answered prayer?