Jack Graham - Handle with Prayer
We are praying that God would use this crisis in America and around the world to be the catalyst for personal revival in each of our lives, for national spiritual awakening, a worldwide movement of God. When we pray, God moves. When we pray, "Lord, have Your way in my life", and oh, how we ought to pray for our country and for our leaders. How we ought to pray for one another. And that's what this message today is about. You can begin finding Philippians, chapter 4 in your Bible. But you know, there's a verse of scripture which says, "If my people", and this is 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land".
We need for our land to heal; we need for people to heal. And so, there is a plan in place to slow the virus, to stop the spread and ultimately see it stopped. And that's happening, and I pray it's happening in many ways in our cities across America. There are hot spots still where people are suffering, and, of course, everyone is concerned about job loss. The job loss across America is significant. And people are concerned not only about illness, but the fallout of the illness, the psychological impact that this is already having on people's lives.
So, we are definitely in a crisis. And I believe God is calling us as always to pray. When life gets hard, handle with prayer! And that is so much more than a religious cliché. That's not just preacher talk. When life is hard, when life caves in, when it is difficult, when it is demanding and any other time in our lives, it is time to pray. The Apostle Paul was in prison, and yet his spirit was free because Jesus was in the cell with him, in the dungeon with him and in spite of his circumstances here's what he said, and he writes this, and God gives this to all of us.
Philippians 4, verse 4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say, rejoice". You might just stop, if you have your family or some friends around right now, and repeat that together. He said do it again, so let's do it again. "Rejoice", say it, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say, rejoice". We can celebrate every day of life. And then he says: "Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; What a promise! The Lord is near; He is near to the brokenhearted; He is always present. The Lord is at hand, therefore", verse 6 says: "do not be anxious about anything (don't worry about anything) but in everything by prayer and supplication (which is petition) with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God". And watch what happens, "And the peace of God, which passes understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ".
This is one of the most turned-to passages in all of the Bible. In fact, if you google it, you might even discover that it is the number one go-to passage of scripture. You might think it would be John 3:16 or Psalm 23, but in reality more people turn to this passage than any passage in the Bible and I believe that's because so many people are afraid, so many are anxious and fearful and need to know, must know, want to know the peace of God; the sweet peace that can only come from God. The government has given us these guidelines, our president and the taskforce have given us guidelines in order to slow and stop the virus and heal the land. And I hope you know what they are by now. Of course, it is physical distancing. It is also practicing good health habits like washing our hands repeatedly. It is also not only practicing those good health habits, but also limiting exposer by not getting near people right now.
So, we are in place, we are separated right now. This is the very reason, of course, that we're not having church services in buildings, because of this social distancing and not exposing one another, protecting one another in the midst of all of this. And these are important guidelines that I hope you are keeping them. This is good citizenship; it is good social responsibility; it's really Christianity: loving your neighbor more than you love yourself. But there is another guideline that the government may not give, but God gives, and that is that we are to pray. And never be anxious or fearful but to always pray and to pray about anything and everything. When life is hard, handle with prayer.
Now the Bible says that we are to pray always. Scripture says we are to pray about everything. That everything we care about we should pray. And the Bible says that we should pray, persevere, and not give up. Jesus talked a lot about prayer, and He said, "Ask, and keep on asking, and it will be given unto you. Knock, keep on knocking, and the answer will come. Seek, keep on seeking, and you will discover the answer". So this is what God is guiding us to do in these days, and I'm praying in my own life and in your life that our prayer lives will deepen, because life is to be lived in this attitude of prayer, dependence and devotion. If you are a Christian you will be praying.
Now you might be an unbelieving believer and you're not praying very much, and I know prayer can be hard, but the fact is if you are Christian then you will pray, because this is our relationship with God. We have a Father, we have a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and we can speak with Him. Jesus is not someone we just talk about; He is Someone we really actually know, so we speak to Him with a prayer. And that's what prayer is. Prayer is conversation with God; prayer is communication with God. And isn't it incredible that God answers prayer? When you think about it, that's the most amazing thought: that the God of heaven, the God who made you, the God of creation leans in and listens when we pray. God answers prayer! And so, because He answers prayer, we can rejoice in all things. We can rejoice in the presence of the Lord.
When we read that verse and repeated it earlier, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say, Rejoice". That is a command, it's a command. It is a choice we make, but it is a command that God gives. It's imperative that you listen to God on this one. And that you choose, you make a choice to rejoice in your life every day. Now, of course, the joy of the Lord is something that only He can give. Jesus said, "My joy I give to you, that your joy may be full". Happiness, gladness, joy, merriment, all these words are synonyms in the scripture just to describe this wonderful joy, this happiness that we find in the Lord. In spite of the great Apostle Paul's circumstances, he was chained to a guard, and yet he made a choice: he chose to rejoice in the Lord always. He was in prison, just like some of you may find yourself alone, maybe you find yourself in the bondage of addiction.
Maybe you find yourself afraid right now; you don't know what the future holds; you're wringing your hands. But in the Lord because of Jesus, you can choose joy. You can get up every single day of your life and say, "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it". We are to rejoice in the Lord, to be happy in Him. This is a command; it is to be chosen and it also to be continual. Always rejoicing. Don't be a joyless, miserable negative Christian. Your witness is at stake. Right now, the way we handle these circumstances in our lives, with our family, with our friends. Our little children are watching. Your children right now are watching you and listening to you. Are you expressing faith and joy? I don't mean that you have to put on a smiley face or a fake smile. But I mean is there a real joy that comes from deep within that you have in Jesus? Even through tears we triumph. And because of Jesus and who we are in Him, we can always be happy in the Lord because happiness is the Lord.
Now it is in the Lord! That's the key phrase. We're to rejoice in the Lord. Whatever your circumstances, whatever your status, whatever doctor's report may say, whatever the stock market may be doing, whatever your job situation may be or your family situation, all that put aside, you can rejoice in the Lord. You say, how does that work? Well, here's how it works. This means that I can rejoice and you can rejoice in God's presence. Paul said the Lord is at hand. The Lord is near. Psalm 16:11 says: "In your presence, O Lord, is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore". And that's not just talking about the sweet by and by when we get to heaven, though there will be incredible joy in heaven. It's talking about the nasty, Covid-19 nasty now and now. It's right now that the presence of the Lord is near and at His right hand there are pleasures always.
So, we rejoice in His presence. We also rejoice in God's provision. God has promised to take care of everyone of us. Philippians 4:19, later on in this same passage tells us that "My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ". All of your needs God has promised to meet. So, you can rejoice in that. Celebrate that right now. Just maybe bow your head and say, "Thank you, Lord, for your provision in my life". He's also promised His purposes. We can rejoice in the purposes of God. God has a plan. I keep saying to myself, to my family, to our friends, to our church, to anyone who will listen, God has a plan in this. He always does. God is supreme, He is sovereign, He's got a plan, and Romans 8:28 is right where it's always been in the Bible. "For you know that God is working together for the good of all things. God is working all things together for good to those who love the Lord and are called to His purpose".
So, God's working in this. God's working in my life in this. I'm learning some new things. God's teaching me some good things, and I know, that whether it's this crisis, another crisis, whether it's good days, bad days, the good, the bad, the ugly in life, I know God is weaving, God is working, God is constructing and creating my life something good. And what's true for me is true for you. If you are a Christian, then God is working. God's plan, you can rejoice in that! Just stop and say right now, "God, thank You that You have a plan in this; you have a plan for me. I don't understand it yet. I don't know all the details yet, but I trust you because I know your plan is good and is perfect and it is acceptable". And not only do we rejoice in God's provision and God's plans for our lives, but His pardon. The fact that, I mean, look, all of us can say thank you, Lord, praise you God. I celebrate my forgiveness.
Jesus said, "Rejoice that your names are written down in heaven". Thank God for the forgiveness of sin! And if you find yourself broken and in need of salvation, today's the day of salvation. If you are someone who's walked away from God, maybe you walked with the Lord in your life but now you find yourself far from God, this is the time to come home and the blood of Jesus God's Son cleanses us from every sin. That's God's pardon. You can celebrate the fact. You don't have to live in shame; you don't have to live in sin; you don't have to live in brokenness. The blood covers it all, the blood of Jesus Christ. There's a shortage of blood supply and so we're getting involved at our church and a big blood drive, and that's happening many places across the country, of course, and there's a blood shortage, but there's never a shortage of the supply of the blood of Jesus. "They overcame him (they overcame the devil) by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb".
So, we celebrate the pardon, the forgiveness, the grace of God in our lives. We also can rejoice in His precepts. I'm talking about God's Word. Listen to this verse: Psalm 19 and verse 8: "The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart". When I read my Bible, God brings rejoicing to my heart. God gives me joy and happiness. Every morning when I get up, I open God's Word and I open my heart to Him, and He floods my life with His presence, His promises, His joy. There is rejoicing in the Scripture and in the promises of God, the precepts of God and the truth of God's Word. And, therefore, we're not subject to just every whim that blows in our life because steady, we're sane in the Word of God. But not only His presence, His provision, His purposes, His pardon, His precepts, but we can rejoice in His protection. You are immortal in the will of God. Did you know that? Because the Scripture says in 1 John, "He who does the will of God lives forever".
You're immortal. And you will live exactly as long as God has planned for you to live. Now that doesn't mean we don't take care of ourselves and take preventative action, stay healthy as long we can throughout our day, but it does mean that God has a plan and "to live is Christ, and to die is gain". We have a hope and a future with Christ. And so, we don't have to worry about germs or disease ultimately because we know God has this in the palm of His hand. And remember, the hand that holds us, a nail-scarred hand. Christ has been there; He died, He laid down His life, He rose again, but the scars remain. And in His hand that holds us and protects us, is the scars of the cross and we thank God for Jesus who protects us.
And then one final thing, as we rejoice, we rejoice in His promise, His heaven. Jesus gathered His disciples in the Upper Room. It was an uncertain time, a very scary time for those disciples; a dark night. And He said, "Don't let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me". And then He began to talk about heaven. He said, "In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you". He went on to say, "I am the way, and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by Me". The promise for every Christian, the reason we can rejoice is because we know we are heaven bound. We're not afraid to die. Oh, there may be scary thoughts, and we don't want to be sick, we don't want to die; there's all of that, of course. That's called being human. But ultimately, we are not afraid of death, we're not afraid of cancer, we're not afraid of heart disease, we're not afraid of micro viruses because we know that God has a plan and that plan includes heaven!
And as the Apostle said, noted earlier, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain". And he went on to say, "to die is far better because I will be with the Lord". No wonder we can rejoice in the Lord. No wonder we can say don't worry about anything, but rather pray about everything. You know, worry, really the word means emotional strangulation. It will take your breath away. It can stop your heart. Jesus spoke of those who died of fear. And there are many people who will die, not because of a germ, but because of stress, because of depression, because of anxiety. And God is saying to each one of us, "Don't panic, but rather pray and don't worry". The same effort that it takes to worry, you could turn to prayer. You could put your energy and your efforts in praying. You can pray with your families.
Very, very important in these days that we stop worrying and fretting and truly get on our knees and pray, because the shortest distance between the end of the virus is the distance between the knees and the floor. If we get on our knees or get on our faces, when we just pray. And you know, we can pray all day. That's what this is really about, pray all day. Pray about everything. Pray your way through your day. But pray now! Pray! And join your family in praying. When we close this service, I hope that you will sit down with your family or if you're just alone, you'll get on your knees together, or just gather around together and pray. Because God does not want you to worry. Anything you care about, He cares about. Give it to Him before it gets to you. Give your pain, give your fears, give your anxieties, give your depression, give your heartache, give your problems, give your losses. Give it to Him. Don't let it get to you. Pray about everything.
You say, "Well, I'm not going to bother God with my little problems". Can you imagine anything that's not little to God? Everything's small in the sight of God. I heard about a missionary. He came across a lion and he prayed, "Oh, God, deliver me from the lion". And God delivered him from the lion. And then that night he went to his tent and he was awake all night because a mosquito was buzzing around; he couldn't go to sleep. He was worried about that mosquito. And when he got up the next day, he was so tired and exhausted from the night's loss of sleep, and God seemed to say to his heart and he said, "You trusted me to take care of the lion, but you thought you could take care of the mosquito by yourself". No, we have a God who cares about lions and mosquitoes, anything that comes into our lives.
One final thought. When I was a boy at the end of the day typically right before bedtime, my dad and I would wrestle. I would pounce on him, run into the room, my parent's room and just jump on my dad and we would wrestle. And, of course, it was pretty much fake wrestling. There wasn't that much wrestling. It was mainly kind of a tickle fight. And we would wrestle around and tickle and have a lot of fun. And it was such a great time, to this day obviously I remember with my dad. And typically, at the end of that I would often say to my dad, "Dad, show me your muscles". My dad had some big muscles. And so, he would flex his arm and I would squeeze his arm and was just amazed at how strong my dad was, and I would go to bed secure because my dad was the strongest man alive as I saw him.
Well, if you're wrestling in life, if you're worried through life, your God is mighty and powerful. Our God's muscle is bigger than all of this. Just ask God to give you the strength you need, His strength. Feel the muscles of God right now and prayer it's been said is the muscle that moves the power of God. So pray. Life is hard; handle with prayer. And what when we pray, the peace that passes understanding, we can't describe it; we can't comprehend it. It is incomprehensible. The peace that passes understanding is yet unmistakable. It is the sweet, strong, supernatural peace that comes from God. Would you bow your heads with me in prayer right now? Everyone praying wherever you are.
Some of you do not know the peace of God because you don't have peace with God. And by that I mean you don't have a relationship with God. You, because of your sin are separated from God, you've never made a decision, you've never declared your faith and trust in Christ, you've never prayed and personally received Christ in your life. I'm going to lead you in a simple prayer right now that you can pray wherever you are right now, to pray a prayer and ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins, to come into your life, to be your Lord and to be your Savior. And to give you not only peace with God forever but the peace of God in your heart. You can invite Jesus into your life. He said, "I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in".
There are little boys and girls and teenagers watching and adults and people of all ages, you're afraid. I've been stunned by the fact, not surprised but in some ways stunned by so many people who are afraid to die. And you should be afraid to die if you don't know where you are going. Do you know for certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven? You can know! "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord". So, pray this prayer. Maybe the first prayer you've every prayed, really. You may have prayed many times prayers but now you're going to pray and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. Pray it like this:
Lord Jesus I ask you to come into my life. I believe and trust in you. I turn from my sin, (that's repentance) and I receive you as my Lord and Savior, (that's faith).
The Bible says, "whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved". Saved from your sin, saved to live for Him, saved for a future in heaven forever.
Lord come into my life, forgive me, change me, make me your child. I do receive you. Save me Lord right now.
Some others of you it's a time to come back to God and you may want to pray like this:
Lord I've wandered a long way away but I'm coming back to you. This whole thing has gotten my attention and Lord I know I need you more than anything else in my life.
So right now, may it be a new beginning in your life. The Christian life is a series of new beginnings. Let this be a new beginning.