Jimmy Evans - Experiencing a Dynamic Prayer Life
One day I was trying to pray. I don't know how long I had been saved, maybe a year or so, and I just knew I should wake up in the mornings and I should read my Bible and pray. Constantly battled being sleepy, constantly battled my mind wandering. And one day I was trying to pray and wasn't being very successful at it. And this thought came through my mind that just said, "If God loves me and if God knows everything about me, why do I have to pray"? I mean, why do I have to go through this if God really loves me? And he already knows what I'm going to pray. That's what the Bible says. Then why do I have to do this?
And I struggled with that for a while, because it was like, "You know, God, before I ever ask for anything, you know what I need. So why do I have to go through the motions? Do you really love me? I mean, do you really care about me"? Well, let me answer two questions in this message. The first is why we pray. And the second is how we pray. And I want to begin by talking about why we pray. And this is very important. And there are 3 main reasons for prayer that we need to understand.
The first reason for prayer is acknowledging God and allowing him into our lives both generally and specifically. Let me say this. You do realize there are people that don't want God's help. There are atheists in this world. They don't believe in God. And they're not inviting God in any way into their lives. Well, but let's just say we're talking about Christians here, a person who's given their life to Christ. You do understand, now, that there are Christians who believe they can handle life without God. That's what prayer, prayerlessness is a boast against God. A day without prayer is a boast against God. And what we're saying is, I can do this without you. I can do my relationships without you, I can do my finances without you, I can do my job without you, I can live life successfully without you.
God is not going to force his way into any person's life, because a relationship has no value if it's forced. Every single day, what prayer says to God is, "I need you in my life". Both generally in the sense that, "God, I need you in my life", but specifically, "I need you in my finances. I need you in my marriage. I need you in my body. I need you in my decision-making". God absolutely loves that, and he responds every time when we acknowledge him. But listen, prayerlessness is not acknowledging God. It is saying to God, "I can do this without you". So prayer is inviting God into our circumstances, and he just simply won't come without that. It doesn't mean he's not in our hearts and we're not on our way to heaven. It's just saying he's not going to join our lives and partner in our lives without us asking him to do that, because that's what relationship is about.
Number two reason that we pray is to build a prioritized, personal relationship with God. You know, if you would have come to me, you know, 38 years ago, after I got saved, and you'd have said, who's the most important person in your life, I would say Jesus. And then if you asked who's the second most important, I would say Karen. But those were the two people I didn't want to talk to. You know, I didn't understand why I had to talk to Karen, you know. She always wanted to talk, and I thought, she's nosey. And you don't feed the monster.
You know, when you give information to a nosey person, if you want to kill a monster, starve it, don't feed it. And so she always wants to talk, and she wants to know, hey, where'd you go today? Who'd you talk to? What'd they say? How'd you feel about that? And I'm just thinking, I've got to starve that monster. And I've got to be strong. I can't crack. I've got to be strong. So, I would come home at night, and here she'd go. She would want to talk. And so, she wanted to talk, you know. And then the Lord wanted to talk to me. But I just thought, why do I have to pray? I mean, does God get some enjoyment out of me being miserable and just sitting there trying to pray?
Now, let me say, it is impossible to know a person that you don't talk to. It's not possible. And you say, "I want to know Jesus". Great. Here's how you know Jesus: you talk to him and he talks back. Prayer is not a monologue, it's a dialogue. We talk to God, and God talks to us. And so, I didn't understand that back then. Honestly, to me, prayer was a religious thing that I was doing to satisfy God. My concept of God was so distorted because, you know, honestly, I thought, you know, maybe God gets some kind of enjoyment out of watching us sleepy and distracted and just fighting to be religious, that we're down here praying and our minds are wandering and the devil is attacking us and all these things are going on, and God is saying, "Suffer. Suffer in the name of Jesus. And the longer you sit here miserable, the more I like it. And you're winning brownie points and"... That was kind of my concept, and I just thought, "How long can I sit here and bear all this"?
Can I tell you this? Our God is a loving, wonderful God. He just loves being with us. He just loves, he loves hanging out with us. He misses you when you don't show up for prayer. God wants a personal relationship with us. Let me say this about Karen. When I started talking to Karen, because when God changed my heart (because we almost divorced) when God changed my heart and I began to talk to Karen, it healed something in me that was broken. And I like talking as much as she does. Karen doesn't have to make me talk. I love, she's my very best friend. I love talking to Karen. I love talking to God.
When I began to pray in a relational manner, not in a religious manner and I learned how to pray, it healed everything in me that was broken, because he just wanted Jimmy time. That's what prayer is to God. It's just time with his children: it's time with us. It's a relationship, not religious. But to build, if you're saying that Jesus is the most important person in your life, you're saying, "I talk to him a lot". Because you can't say a person is important when you don't talk to them. And you can't build a relationship with a person that you don't know.
Here's the third reason that we pray, is to exercise our spiritual authority. Jesus says to the disciples, "I've given you the authority to put Satan under your feet. You trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and if you'll do that, nothing shall, by any means, harm you. I've given you authority over all the power of the enemy". When you're praying, part of praying is exercising the authority that we have over the things that are coming against us in this life. And so, God will not do for us what he's given us the ability to do for ourselves, and God has given us incredible authority in this life.
One other scripture, Matthew 18:18, "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say that if two of you agree on earth as concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my father who is in heaven". When Jesus says, "Whatever you bind on earth", that word means to disallow. It means not permit. "Whatever you don't permit here on this earth, I won't permit in heaven, spiritually. Whatever you loose on this earth", the word loose means allow, "Whatever you allow spiritually on this earth, I'll do it. And if two of you come together", this is a man and a wife, this is friends, Christian friends, "If two of you come together in agreement over something that you would ask", he says, "My father will do it".
He has given us incredible authority in this life, and all we have to do is take it. All we have to do is use it. And so, why do we pray? We pray to invite God into the affairs of our lives both generally and specifically. I pray to build a personal relationship with God, and I pray to use the authority that God has given me, that he won't use for me. But he has given me the ability to use it, and he will honor it if I use it. So, when you're asking yourself that question, why should I wake up and pray in the morning, or pray in the evening, or whenever your best prayer time is, is why should I do that? For those reasons right there. And probably more, but those are just the main ones.
The number one element of prayer every day is thanksgiving praise and worship. Jesus said, "Pray this way: father in heaven", by the way, "Father in heaven" is his name and address. I am not lobbing up a prayer to Krishna, to Allah, to Buddha, or anyone that just happens to be up there that's listening to me. You know, to some far away galaxy that's tuned in to my frequency. I am specifically addressing this to my father in heaven because he's the only living God. He's the only true God. Ok. So Jesus said, "Father in heaven, hallowed be your name". Well, the word hallowed means two things: it means purify and glorify. It means purify and honor.
So here's what Jesus is saying. When I'm praying and I say this every day, "Father, hallow your name in my life", the number one thing I'm saying is, "Your name is sacred on my lips. I will not use your name to curse. I will not get frustrated and say 'Jesus Christ'. I will not take the Lord's name in vain". He is not the big guy upstairs. He is the Lord God Almighty, and I will not use my mouth in any way to take his name in vain or to disrespect him.
That's the number one thing I'm saying. The word hallow means to purify. I'm saying if there's any bugs on the windshield of my heart that keep me from seeing you the way you really are, wash those off. Purify who you are in my life. I want to see you for who you really are. Purify this. Show me who you are and show others who you are through me. Because I'm not gonna show God any better than I see God, ok? So hallow your name to me. If I have hurts from my past, if I have disappointments, if I have concepts of you that are not biblical, hallow those.
And the third thing "To hallow" means is "I glorify you, God". I thank you. Before I ask you for anything else, I'm thanking you for being such a good God. You have been so faithful. I praise you, I glorify you. And I just worship God. Again, this can take two minutes or two hours. But God inhabits the praises of his people. And so God is inhabiting my praise as I'm just sitting there and I'm... Here's one of the things that I say to God, and I mean this, I tell the Lord all the time: I told God this week, "I am so proud of you". You know, if you'll study all other religions, you'll just get prouder of your God. Because there's no one like our God. I'm proud of everything about him. He's just a good God. We begin our prayer time by saying, "Father in heaven. I'm coming to you as my daddy. And I hallow your name" and all the things that that means. And it's a very special thing.
The second element of prayer is surrendering to God's authority and inviting his guidance into every area of our lives. The second thing Jesus told us to pray is, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". And so we're coming to God, and we're saying, "Your kingdom come". And this is kind of a forceful, it's more forceful than what this says. It literally means "Kingdom, come", "Kingdom, come in my life. I want you to come". The word "Kingdom" in the Greek language is the word "Vasileio". And it means the direct rule of God. "God, I'm submitting myself to you today, and I want your will to be done in my life just like it will be done in heaven".
Now, I want you to listen to me. Your concept of God means everything when you're praying. And I want to say something to you, and you need to believe what I'm about to say. If you surrender to God's authority and to his will in every area of your life, God loves you more than you love yourself and he'll bless you more than you'll ever bless yourself. Now, if you don't believe that, you're deceived. What kept me, you know, when I would read that part of the prayer, I would think to myself, you know, "If I really come and surrender to God and, you know, his will is being done in my life just as it's done in heaven, I'll be a holy Joe somewhere on the other side of the earth, you know, eating beans out of a tin can and by myself", because God certainly wouldn't want for me what I want for myself.
Here's what I've learned. In doing God's perfect will, it'll fulfill every desire that you have, every righteous desire that you have, and you'll wake up and pinch yourself. Because God will do more for you than you'll ever do for yourself, but it begins by saying, "I surrender to your authority, and in every area of my life, I want to do your will". Now, when I'm praying this part of the prayer, this is where I'm discovering the will of God. If there's a decision that I'm making, if there's anything that I'm doing, first of all, I'm just saying, I'm reminding myself, "I'm under your authority. Everything I'm doing is under you, but, God, I want to follow your perfect will", and I just start praying. "I'm making this decision... We're thinking about this... We're doing this... We're making this decision. Lord, in all of these areas, I want you to speak to me and lead me and lead us so that we're doing exactly here according to your plan there".
And so God speaks. Did you know that you can make every decision in your life 100% correct? When you're praying and asking God to lead you and you're hearing God and following him, you will never make a navigational error for the rest of your life, because Jesus is our shepherd. He will lead us into success if we will come and surrender to him daily.
Number 3 element of prayer is seeking God's provision. As Jesus said, "Give us this day our daily bread". Now, this is not just a prayer, provision for money. This is a lot broader than that. But I want to go back and say, notice the succession of events. I'm beginning by thanking God. "Hallowed be your name. Lord, thank you. Before I ask you for anything else, thank you". The second thing I'm saying is I surrender to your will. I want to do everything according to your will. The third thing is, Lord, provide for me. Now, listen, in Hebrews 6:1, the writer of Hebrews is talking about the elementary principles of the faith, the basics of Christianity. And here's the first one he lists: "Repentance from dead works".
Well, here's what a dead work is: it's anything that God didn't tell you to do. Provision, the word provision means "For the vision". When God is leading you and giving you vision in your life for whatever decisions that you're making, the provision naturally will follow, but when you're making your own decisions and then coming back and asking God to pay for them, he won't. Repentance from dead works is the first elementary principle of our faith.
And according to Hebrews 6, faith toward God is the second elementary principle. I am repenting for the things: the cars I've bought, the houses that I've bought, the decisions I've made, the relationships that I've entered into, the jobs that I've taken, the things that I've done with my kids that I never even prayed about. They're dead works. I didn't go to God and ask God to lead me in those things. Those are dead works. "Lord, forgive me of those things. Now I come to you and I'm saying, lead me and provide". Wherever God gives you vision, he'll give you the provision. God always energizes what he initiates. So the most important thing in our lives is, slow down. Listen to me. You don't have time not to pray. Prayer takes time, prayer breaks time, and prayer makes time.
Now, let me give you an example. Let's just say that you skip prayer one day and you don't surrender something to God and you don't hear him say something to you, and you go out and do something on your own. It's a dead work that God won't bless. And you spend months or years trying to repair the damage that that decision made: the financial damage, the relational damage, the stress that it causes in your life. Or you could've stopped to pray, and you could've put your faith in God and ask him for direction, and he would've spoken to you, and you would've done that, and it would've brought years of blessing in your life. You don't have time not to pray. And when we're praying, we're surrendering to God, and we're saying, "God, I'm believing you to lead me, and I'm believing you to provide for me".
Now, let me say something. Listen to what I'm saying. You will pray or you will worry. I've had people say to me, "Jimmy, you know, I pray". And I know what this is like, now, so I'm not talking down to you. I've experienced this. They say, "I just don't know what to pray for". Listen, what are you worried about? That's your prayer list. Are you worried about your friends? Are you worried about relationships? Are you worried about money? Are you worried about a job? Jesus says in Matthew 6 concerning prayer, "Why do you worry, o ye of little faith? Your father knows every sparrow that falls to the ground. Aren't you more valuable than them? Aren't you more valuable than them"? He's talking to his disciples. He says, "My father knows everything that you need. Don't worry about your life, what you put on or wear or things like that". He says, "All we have to do is develop a relationship, a dependent relationship with God".
Listen to me. This is Philippians 4: "Be anxious for not one thing. But in every single thing with prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God, and the peace that passes all comprehension will guard your mind and your heart". Don't be anxious for one thing, but in every single thing with prayer and more prayer, let God know and the peace that passes comprehension will guard. The word guard there is the Greek word phroureo, and it means a military presence to keep the enemy out.
Did you know that fear is of the devil? Anxiety and stress, all of those things, the devil. The devil will constantly run at you all day long to wear you out with stress and anxiety and all of those things, but do you know when you pray that the peace of God will set a military presence around your thinking and your emotions to protect you from everything the devil would bring? And when you wake up in the morning and you say, "I don't know what to pray about", what are you worried about, right? Your prayer list is your worry list. "I'm worried about my kids. I'm worried about my grandkids. I'm worried about my job. I'm worried about money. I'm worried about my health. I'm worried about my friend. I'm worried about this, I'm worried about this, I'm worried about this". Don't worry. Pray.
Listen to me, if you don't pray, you will worry, and it'll affect your health and it'll affect your marriage and all your relationships because it'll wear you out emotionally. Karen and I know when we need to pray because we're worried and we begin to, you know, get on each other's nerves. I don't get on her nerves, but she gets on mine... And, uh... You cannot get closer to God than your concept of him will allow. If you believe he doesn't love you, if you believe he's against you, if you believe he's trying to punish you, if you believe he's selfish and stingy and austere, then you're not going to run and jump in that daddy's lap. But God is a loving father.
Now, I want you to listen to me now, ok? Are you listening? Listen to me now. I'm a father, and I'm a grandfather. And I love being a father and a grandfather. We take our kids out to eat, and I pay the bill. They always fight me for it, but it's kind of a, you know, really a weak fight. You know, it... You know, they want me to pay, but God love them for even kind of pretending that they're trying, but... Do you know what a joy it is to be a father? I love everything I get to do for my children and grandchildren. Every single thing. I want them to want me. I want them to depend on me to a healthy degree. And if they don't, it robs me of the joy of being their father and their grandfather. And they don't have to be perfect. I love them just because they're mine. Can I just tell you, when we don't pray, we rob him of the joy of being our father. He's not some big, mean God up in heaven. He is a big loving daddy. And that's what Jesus said.