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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Will God Answer My Prayers?

James Meehan - Will God Answer My Prayers?

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    James Meehan - Will God Answer My Prayers?
TOPICS: Prayer

We are talking about prayer, which is simply having a conversation with God. But the reason why we're talking about this is because how we think about prayer and how God responds to our prayers has the potential to make or break our faith. How God does or does not answer our prayers has the potential to make or break our faith. And there are some of you who would say absolutely yes, because there was a time in your life where you were desperate for God to move, and he moved in a beautiful way.

And now that point in your life has become this anchor you go back to whenever doubts flare up or your faith is tested. Others of you though have the opposite experience where you were desperate for God to move. You prayed, and you prayed, and you prayed, and your parents still got a divorce, or your friends still moved away, or that family member who was sick didn't make it, or your mental health struggles still haven't gotten better. How God does or does not answer our prayers has the potential to make or break our faith. And it was when I was in middle school that I was praying to God night after night, crying out to him to fix my family because the whole situation was a mess. Parents fighting, older sister getting into trouble, me getting into like literal fist fights at school on a regular basis.

I was so angry I didn't know how to deal with my emotions. And so I went to God in prayer and things got worse instead of getting better. And so eventually I stopped praying because I was convinced that God wasn't listening. And after a while, not only did I stop praying, but I just stopped believing because if God wasn't listening, then is he even there? And it didn't take too long before stopping praying and stopping believing led to me unfollowing Jesus altogether. And there are some of you who, right now, you are on the edge of unfollowing Jesus because that thing that you are desperate for God to move in, you are still waiting. Now, I was convinced that God didn't answer my prayer.

Now, what's interesting is that was what I thought then. But now so many years later, I know that God was actually working the entire time. We're gonna come back to the rest of the story later. But what we're gonna do for today's message is take a look at the fifth chapter of Mark's gospel. We've been going through the gospel of Mark, the good news about Jesus, according to a dude named Mark who wrote it all down so that people like us 2,000 years later could know the things that Jesus said and did and believe that he was who he said he was. And in today's chapter, we're gonna see three different people come to Jesus and ask him in faith to move. And we're gonna see the way that Jesus responds to each of them.

Now, if you're taking notes, the main point for tonight's message is this, is that when we reach out in faith, Jesus always responds with love. When we reach out in faith, Jesus always responds with love. Every single time, even when we don't realize it, even when in the moment we have no idea what he is doing. I believe that he always responds with love. Now, the first request that is made of Jesus is really interesting because of who it is that does the asking. So in Mark 5, Jesus and his disciples, they get out of a boat on the other side of a lake and who is there to meet them except for a man who has been possessed by demons? That was Jesus's welcoming party.

In Mark 5:3-5, we read that "This man," the demon possessed man, "lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles, as he often was, he snapped them and smashed them. No one was strong enough to subdue him". This dude was Dwayne Johnson or Mike Tyson in his prime. And "Day and night, he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills howling and cutting himself with sharp stones". This is the dude waiting for Jesus and his disciples when they arrive. And that dude, as he sees Jesus, comes running to him, falls on his knees and starts begging, Jesus, "Please don't mess with me. Don't send me away into a distant place".

Because that dude, who was like the baddest dude on the block, immediately recognized Jesus for who he was, the savior, king, and son of God, the one who had the power to put him in his place. And so he begged for Jesus, just don't send me into a distant place. And if we keep reading in that scripture, we see that "There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby". So the the demons inside the man say, "'Send us into those pigs.'" They're begging. "'Let us enter them.'" And then verse 13, "Jesus gave them permission".

Jesus gave them what they asked for, and then "The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water". Pretty wild sequence of events. But here's what I wanna draw your attention to. This first request we are looking at came from demons asking Jesus to do something for them. "Hey, we know that you're gonna deal with us, but just like you know, let us go into the pigs instead of some far off place". And Jesus said, "Okay, I will send you into the pigs".

Now, here is the lesson for us. If Jesus is kind enough to listen to demons and give them what they ask for, I guarantee you he will listen to your prayers too. Because no matter what anybody has told you, you are not a demon. You might be wild, you might be a middle school boy, but you are better than a demon, no question. And if you come to Jesus in faith, he will respond to you with love because every time we reach out in faith, he always responds with love. So when we come to Jesus, how does he respond? Well, the first response we see here is he responds, "Yes". "Yes, I will give you what you ask for".

Now, if we keep reading just a few verses later, after Jesus has removed the spirits from the dude and Jesus and his disciples are packing up to get back into the boat, to go to the other side of the lake, we read something very interesting, that "As Jesus is getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him". So he is begging just like the demons were. But this time Jesus says something different. He says, "'No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you, and how merciful he has been.'" "So the man started off to visit the 10 towns of that region and he began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them".

So sometimes when we come to Jesus in prayer, he will say "Yes," and sometimes he'll actually say "No," like he did to this man. Now, if you are a little bit uncomfortable that Jesus said "Yes" to the demons, but "No" to the demon possessed man, that is good. You should be very uncomfortable with that because that's uncomfortable. Like why would Jesus not give this guy what he asked for? It's not like he was asking to be rich and famous. It's not like he was asking for something that seems selfish. He was asking, "Hey Jesus, can I go with you"? And Jesus said, "No".

And this is really important for us to wrap our minds around because sometimes we hear no and assume it is because the person saying no doesn't actually want what's best for us. But I wanna remind you that when we reach out in faith, Jesus always responds with love. And the other thing if you're taking notes is this, that with Jesus every "no" is an expression of love. With Jesus every "no" is an expression of love. Like think about it like this. I'm sure there has been a time or two or possibly thousands where you have said something to your parents along the lines of, "Please let me stay home from school today".

Or maybe if you're feeling a little bit more dramatic, "Please let me drop out of school. I don't know why I have to go. I'm not gonna use this stuff anywhere in life". And I am willing to bet that your parents did not say "Yes". I'm willing to bet that they told you "No," not because they don't love you, but because they do love you. And they know that saying "yes" to what you wanted then would not actually be good for you now or in the future because they are aware that actually one of the best things you can set yourself up for a better future is graduating high school. Like statistically speaking, graduating high school is one of the biggest factors that will lead to a greater personal wellbeing, more financial stability and overall happiness when you become an adult. They're saying "No" because they love you and they want what's best for you.

And for this man, what he wanted to do was run away from the place where he saw all of his problems. He wanted to get the heck out of there because of all of the pain he endured. But think about this. When was the last time his family saw him, let alone in his right mind? Like can you imagine what his parents were thinking about their son, who all they had heard were the stories of him breaking chains, cutting himself with stones and crying out and howling in the burial caves? For them to see him freed from the demons would bring so much healing to them, and it would bring healing to him.

Not only that, but this man had a story that only he could tell. And this man had people that only he could reach because of the story that he was meant to tell. And so when Jesus said, "No, I want you to go home to your family, and I want you to tell people about the mercy of God in your life," that's exactly what this man did. And what's really cool is if you read ahead to the end of the next chapter of Mark's gospel, then Jesus and his disciples show back up in the area. And when they do, there are literally hoards of people asking for Jesus to heal them. Because they heard about Jesus healing this man, because this man told his story, because Jesus said, no, hundreds of people heard the good news of God and found healing in their lives.

You see, sometimes when we reach out to God in faith, he says "Yes". Sometimes he says "No". And then the third response, we're gonna read about shows up just a few verses later, where after leaving that side of the lake, Jesus and his disciples show up to the other side where they are met by a leader of the local synagogue whose name was Jairus. Now, when Jairus arrived, he saw Jesus, "He fell at his feet, pleading fervently with him," begging him, Jesus, "'My little daughter is dying. Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.'" And "Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him".

Jesus went with him. But Jesus didn't just snap his fingers and heal her in that moment because there were some lessons that Jesus wanted Jairus to learn that he could only discover along the way. And so sometimes Jesus says "Yes". Sometimes he says "No". And other times he says, "Not yet". "Not yet". but every time he responds with love. And so as Jesus walks with Jairus on the way to heal his daughter, we read about a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.

You see, this woman "Had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She'd heard about Jesus," though, "so she came up behind him through the crowd and she reached out in faith to touch his robe", because "she thought to herself, 'If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.'"

And then for her, "Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition". You see, this woman reached out in faith, Jesus responded with love. And as this is happening, Jairus is there waiting for Jesus to heal his daughter. And what's interesting is this woman would have been perfectly content receiving her healing and staying in hiding, but Jesus needed her and Jairus to learn something about God's love. So he calls her out of hiding. He looks her in the eyes and he says to her "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over". "Daughter, your faith has made you well".

You see, Jairus has a front row seat to this miracle. Jairus has a front row seat to this daughter of God, finding healing as he is waiting for healing to come to his daughter. Tragically though, the next verse, Jairus hears some really crippling and devastating news. What happens then is that while Jesus is speaking to the woman, some messengers arrive from the home of Jairus, and they tell him, Jairus, "'Your daughter is dead.'" There is no use troubling Jesus now, but Jesus hears what they have to say. And he says to Jairus, "'Don't be afraid. Just have faith.'" Don't be afraid. Just have faith.

Now, let us be very clear. Here, Jesus is not spiritually bypassing Jairus's pain. He is not minimizing the grief. Jesus is speaking truth to Jairus's soul. He is saying to him, "Jairus, you can trust me because in the same way that I healed this woman, I will bring healing to your daughter. You've just gotta wait for it. Will you keep moving with me"? This right here is Jairus's make you, break it moment because he could right here and now decide, "You know what? I'm gonna listen to these people. I'm gonna stop troubling Jesus because what I asked for didn't show up".

Or he can listen to the voice of Jesus. He can choose to have faith and follow Jesus where he's going to lead. And thankfully, that's exactly what Jairus does. As Jesus and Jairus walk to his home, enter the girl's room, Jesus lays his hand on her lifeless hand. And we read about this beautiful miracle. Jesus, "Holding her hand says to her, 'Talitha koum,' which means 'Little girl get up.' And the girl who was 12 years old immediately stood up and walked around". And all of the people "were overwhelmed and totally amazed".

You see, Jairus came to Jesus in faith and he thought that Jesus' answer to his request was "No," but really it was just not yet because there was something that Jairus needed to learn along the way. And when I was 12 years old crying out for God to fix my family, I thought his answer was "No". But the answer was just "Not yet". Because there was stuff that my family needed to learn along the way. And what's amazing is that eventually God did answer those prayers. He fixed my family. My parents today are still married. My older sister who was selling drugs is not selling drugs. She's running a pig farm.

Come on somebody. And like not the pigs that demons are gonna go into and go tumbling into the lake, like pigs that we're gonna eat. Hope that doesn't make you uncomfortable. And I'm not getting into fights all the time. I don't do that anymore. I'm preaching the gospel of Jesus. Like, are you kidding me? God is faithful. And you may not see it in the moment, but if you just keep walking with Jesus, you will see over and over and over and over and over again that every time we reach out in faith, he always responds with love. That's why as a church, we have a value that says we are faith-filled.

We are big thinking. We are bet the farm risk takers. We will never insult God with small thinking and safe living because we know that our God is faithful. So we can be faith-filled. We know that our God is for us. So we can take any risk trusting that on the other side of our obedience, we will meet his faithfulness. We will choose to do things that scare us. Because Jesus is looking at us saying, "Don't be afraid. Just have faith. I've done it before and I will do it again". So let's talk about prayer because I believe that one of the best things you can do to build your faith is the practice of prayer, which is simply having a conversation with God.

Now, some of you get this, but if you do not, I wanna make it really simple. Three steps in how to pray. Step one, say, listen, you listen to God, "God speak to me. Jesus, whatever you have to say, I am listening". And then you shut your mouth and listen. Maybe for 10, maybe for 30 seconds, maybe for a minute or two, you simply create space for God to speak and you are listening because a conversation goes both ways. That's step one. Step two, you thank him. Say: "Jesus, thank you for who you are and how you've blessed me". Step three, you ask him for help. "Help me with", fill in the blank. Whatever you need help with, ask him in faith and he will respond with love.

Now, this is actually how I'm teaching my three-year-old son to pray. Every morning when I drop him off at daycare, we get into the building, I grab his hand and I say, "Son, are you ready to pray"? And he says, "Yes, pray". And I'm like, "Alright, dear Jesus..." He says, "Dear Jesus..." I say, "Thank you for mama". He says, "Thank you for mama". I say, "Thank you for school". He says, "Thank you for school". I say, "Thank you for friends, thank you for teachers, thank you for your blessings". And then after we thank Jesus, we say, "All right, dear Jesus..." And he says, "Dear Jesus..." We say, "Help us. Help us be brave, be kind, be strong, be good. be loving, be faithful".

Every day we pray, "Jesus, thank you and Jesus help us". Because I want my son to know now at his age what it took me far longer to learn. And that is every time we reach out in faith, Jesus always responds with love because he is faithful. Now, that response may come in the form of "Yes," "No," or "Not yet," but every one of those responses is an expression of his love, and it is always for our good. So choose to have faith, to trust in Jesus no matter what. Because when you do, you're gonna learn a lot of things along the way. And you're gonna see him move in ways that you could never imagine. This is how we follow Jesus. We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet the farm risk takers because we serve a God who is faithful.

So Lord Jesus, we come to you right now, so thankful for your goodness, so thankful for your grace in our lives. God, I pray that you would help all of us to trust you more, to come to you in prayer, asking in faith for the things that we need, and that we would see you respond, and we would trust that no matter how you do it, it is always for our good. In Jesus' name, amen. Amen.

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