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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Practicing Powerful Praying

Robert Jeffress - Practicing Powerful Praying

Robert Jeffress - Practicing Powerful Praying
TOPICS: Prayer That Really Work, Prayer, Boldness

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Let me begin today with a question. When you're going through a troubling issue, is prayer your first line of defense or has prayer become a last resort? I think a lot of us tend to treat prayer the second way, turning to God when all other options have been exhausted. But today, I want to help you recognize the power of prayer and to use it. My message is titled, "Practicing Powerful Praying," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

James wrote, "The effective prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much". And Elijah is certainly exhibit a, James said, of that kind of righteous man who prayed very, very effectively. And last time, we began looking at Elijah's secret to unlocking the power of prayer in our life as well. And we find those principles in 1 Kings chapter 18. If you would, take your Bibles and turn there as today we talk about practicing powerful praying. Now last time, just by way of review, remember, we started by looking at the prelude to powerful praying. Secondly, we looked at the prerequisites for powerful praying. And that leads us today to talk about thirdly, the principles of powerful praying.

Here you had the prophets of Baal dancing around the altar for six hours crying out. Baal did nothing for them. Contrast their antics to the way Elijah approached his God. Elijah simply offered a 64-word prayer that resulted in the fire of God falling from heaven. Look at it with me in 1 Kings 18 verses 36 and 37. "Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, 'o Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, o Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, o Lord, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again". And verse 38 says, "And the fire of God fell from heaven".

Why is it God answered Elijah's prayer instantly and dramatically? I think Elijah's simple 62-word prayer reveals three principles for powerful praying, principles that are guaranteed to bring dramatic answers to your prayers as well. First of all, approach God with confidence, approach God with confidence. Notice in verse 36, it says, "Elijah the prophet came near to the altar". He came near to the altar. Approach God with confidence. Secondly, pray according to God's will. That's a second principle of powerful praying, when we pray according to God's will. Have you ever read the story in 1 Kings 18 and just ask yourself, "How in the world did Elijah come up with this idea of this contest on mount Carmel"? The sacrifices, each calling on God, asking the God who answers by fire to be the real God.

How did Elijah come up with that idea? Was he feeling especially macho one day and said, "Hey, I think I'm going to battle 850 prophets"? Did he have a double shot of Espresso in his Cafe Latte and felt all invigorated and say, "Hey, this is a great idea"? Where did he come up with this idea? Well, the answer's very clear if you read it in verse 36. In his prayer, he said, "Let it be known that you are God in Israel, and that I have done all these things at your word". God is the one who commanded Elijah to do this. The contest was God's idea. And one reason Elijah was so confident in his prayer was he was praying according to the will of God. And that gives us great confidence in our praying, when we know we are praying according to God's will.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. You're probably saying, "Well, if God would tell me what to do, give me advance word about what he's going to do, I can be confident in my praying as well". I'll admit there's some things I pray for that frankly, I don't know whether it's God's will or not. There's things I'm praying for my life. I'm praying for my family, I'm praying for our church. There are things I want to see happen, but I'm not sure whether God is going to answer those prayers or not, because I don't know if it's his will or not. In that case, faith and praying means boldly asking God for what's in our heart, but then trusting him to do what's best. But there are other things that I know when I pray, God is going to answer that prayer, because it is a prayer according to the will of God.

For example, one thing I pray for myself regularly is 1 Thessalonians 4:3. It's something we ought to all pray for ourselves regularly. Paul said, "For this is the will of God". "You want to know what God's will is for your life," Paul says, "Here it is. Your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality". That's something you can pray for and know you're praying according to the will of God, that you stay morally pure. I think often about what it would do to our church and the cause of Christ, not to mention my own family, if I fell into immorality. And so that's why I pray every day that God would keep me pure. I know I'm praying according to the will of God.

I remember some time ago, I got up one Sunday morning. I wasn't feeling very confident about the message I was to come here and preach. Not because I didn't believe in the message, but it was a holiday weekend, I knew nobody would probably be there, and the people who were there would be distracted by the festivities of a holiday, so nobody would come forward at the invitation time. And so I just prayed. I said, "Lord, I am praying that your will would be done. Isaiah 55:11 says, 'your word will not return void, but will accomplish the purpose for which you set for it'. And I am praying that you would fulfill that promise". And when I came in that Sunday morning, I was shocked. The place was filled. When the invitation was given, dozens of people came forward that day, because I was praying according to the will of God. We can know that we are praying with power when we pray according to the will of God.

Now hear me on this. There is nothing wrong, and everything right with praying for what is in our heart, what is is our interest. Praying for the things that we are interested in. We ought to pray for those things. But when we pray about the things God is interested in, we can know he's going to answer our prayer dramatically. A third principle for powerful praying is focus on glorifying God, focus on glorifying God. Remember Elijah had dedicated his whole life to proving that Jehovah was the only true God in Israel. In fact, remember what Elijah's name meant. His very name meant Jehovah is my God. So it should be no surprise that when Elijah prayed this prayer to God at the core of his prayer was a desire to glorify God.

Look again at verse 36 and 37 of 1 Kings 18. "O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God. Answer me, o Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, o Lord, are God". That was his singular desire in life, to make people aware that there was only one God worthy of our worship. Now we've talked about the prelude, the prerequisite, the principles for powerful praying. Let's look finally at the practice of powerful praying. Go back to 1 Kings chapter 18. Did you know most people think that the climax of the story in 1 Kings 18 is the fire falling down from heaven and consuming the animal sacrifice?

I want to confess to you, up until very recently, I thought that was the climax of the story as well. But as I began preparing this series of messages, I discovered maybe something you already know, I didn't know. There was not one prayer Elijah offered on mount Carmel, there were two prayers he offered. The first prayer was the prayer for God to bring fire down and consume the sacrifice. But remember, that really wasn't the reason he had gone to Ahab. Remember in 1 Kings 18, after 3 1/2 years of drought, and Elijah being in hiding, God says to Elijah, "Okay, it's time to go back to Ahab and tell Ahab that the rain is coming, it is going to rain". And so, Elijah did go up on top of mount Carmel, had this contest with the prophets of Baal, proving that God is the only God. And that brought down the fire from heaven, but the rain from heaven had not yet come. And Elijah needed to pray for that as well.

So look at verse 42 of 1 Kings 18. "Elijah went up to the top of Carmel and he crouched down on the earth, and he put his face between his knees, and he said to his servant, 'go up now and look toward the sea'. So he went up and looked and said, 'there's nothing'. And so Elijah said, 'go back'. And he said it seven times. So it came about in a little while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower". Elijah's first prayer on mount Carmel brought an instant dramatic answer with the fire falling down. But it was Elijah's second prayer that brought the rain from heaven.

So let's look at four principles here for powerful praying that we find in Elijah's second prayer that brought God's promised rain. First of all, pray privately, pray privately, if you want to experience powerful answers to your prayer. Now there are times that we can pray with other people, maybe our mate, maybe our children, maybe at church. But you know, I have found in my own life, when I am praying out loud, whether it's before a few dozen people, or 10.000 people, I'm so focused on my word choice and how it's coming across, and what other people may be thinking, that I forget, I'm not talking to them, I'm talking to him. And that's why Jesus advised, when you pray, pray in private. Matthew 6:6, "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your father who is in secret. And your father who sees in secret will repay you".

Now again, Jesus wasn't saying it was wrong to pray in public. Jesus prayed in public. He prayed before the feeding of the 5.000, he prayed before he raised Lazarus from the dead. There are many times he prayed publicly. But the majority of time, he spent praying privately. In fact, remember in Mark 1:35, we find Jesus' habit of prayer, after the biggest and busiest day of his ministry, the next day, Mark 1:35 says, "It was in the early morning while it was still dark that Jesus arose and went out and departed to a lonely place and he was praying there". You know, if anybody had an excuse to sleep in that next day, it would've been Jesus. He had had this humongous day of ministry. But to Jesus, prayer wasn't a nicety, it was a necessity. He had to stay in contact with his Heavenly Father. And if prayer was that important to Jesus, the perfect Son of God, how much more important is it for us if we're going to experience God's power in our life.

Well, you notice something about Jesus, first of all, he had a scheduled time that he prayed. For him, it was in the early morning, while it was still dark. Now, it doesn't matter when your time to pray is. There's nothing especially holy about morning versus night. The important thing is Jesus had a scheduled time that he met with God regularly. If it's morning for you, if it's before lunch or after lunch, if it's before you go to bed, that's not important, it's important that we have a scheduled time to meet with God. That doesn't mean we don't talk to God throughout the day. We ought to keep the conversation going throughout the day, but there ought to be a time that we meet with him privately. And then notice Jesus had a place as well. He went out to a lonely place.

Secondly, Elijah's prayer, and by the way, notice how Elijah, his prayer for the fire of God was a very public prayer, before all of the prophets of Baal. But Elijah's prayer for the rain was by himself on top of mount Carmel. Secondly, when we pray, pray honestly, pray honestly. Look at verse 42 of 1 Kings 18. "But Elijah went to the top of Carmel, and he crouched down on the earth, and he put his face between his knees". That verb crouched is the idea of somebody stretching himself out on the earth. It's the same verb used in 2 Kings 4:34, about Elijah stretching out himself over the boy who was dead in order to raise him from the dead. Why is this important? Because this prayer that Elijah prayed was not one of these nice folded hands now I lay me down to sleep prayers, this was a crying out to God. He threw himself on the ground spread out, "Lord, answer me, answer me, send the rain". It was a heartfelt prayer.

You know, I think too often, we censor our prayers. We don't ask God for what is really in our heart, because frankly, we don't want to embarrass God to ask him to do something we don't think he can pull off. Or we don't want to disappoint ourselves by having unanswered prayer in our life. So we pray for safe things. Lord, bless the missionaries. That's always a safe prayer. Lord, take care of the missionaries. Or Lord, bless the starving children in China. That's another safe prayer. But that's not praying what's in our heart many times. When we come before God, we ought to pray honestly about what we really want. You know, Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God".

Do you need a raise at work? Ask God for it, ask him for it. Forget the starving children in China for a few moments and ask God for what you really want. Do you need healing for yourself or for somebody you care about? Ask God for it. Let the missionaries alone for a moment. Tell God what's really in your heart. Are you single and want a mate more than anything in the world? Ask God for it. Ask him to bring that person, that right person in our life. You know, prayer is not praying what we think should be in our heart. Real honest prayer is praying for what is actually in our heart. And that's what Elijah did. He prayed boldly for the rain to come. And that leads to a third principle for powerful praying, and that is pray specifically, pray specifically.

You know, James says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much". He was talking about Elijah. And notice what he says in verse 17 and 18, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn't rain on the earth for 3 1/2 years. And then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit". One thing to notice about Elijah, when he prayed, he prayed with laser-like specificity. He prayed that it wouldn't rain for 3 1/2 years, and it didn't. He prayed for the widow's son at Zarephath to be raised from the dead, and he was raised from the dead. He prayed that the fire would fall down from heaven, and it fell. He prayed now that the rain would come, and it eventually came. He prayed with specificity.

You know, I have a sneaking suspicion the reason that, again, we don't pray with specificity is we don't want to embarrass God or we don't want to disappoint ourselves. But God delights in answering specific requests. I've shared with you before one of the best secrets I know of for having a vibrant prayer life is to keep a prayer journal. I've done that for decades. It's very simple. I just take a spiral notebook and I divide each page into half, a line down the center. On one side I put my requests, and the other side is headlined, God's answers. And as I have a prayer request, I write it down and date it. And once God answers yes or no, I write the answer down in the corresponding side.

You know, I've looked back at that prayer journal at times when I've been discouraged, and it has been so encouraging to look back and see the faithfulness of God in impossible situations. It's a great faith-building exercise to do that. But you know, I can say this honestly, I promise, this is not preacher talk, this is the truth. I can say I'm even more grateful for the no answers many times, than I am the yes answers. I read some of those things I was asking for, 10, 20, 30 years ago, and I say, "What was I thinking"? If God had said yes to that, it would've been a fiasco in my life, not to mention the Kingdom of God. I'm so grateful God had the wisdom to say no. We need to be specific in our prayer requests. James 4:2 says, "You have not, because you ask not".

Now finally, and this is so important, pray persistently, pray persistently. Sometimes God answers our request immediately, like he did for the prayer for the fire to fall down from heaven. Elijah prayed it, God answered it just like that. But sometimes God doesn't answer immediately. Have you discovered that? That doesn't mean we should stop praying. It certainly didn't for Elijah. Look again at verse 42 of 1 Kings 18. "Ahab went up to eat and drink, but Elijah went up on top of mount Carmel". Verse 43, "And he said to his servant, after he had prayed for rain, he said, 'go up now and look toward the sea'. So he went up and looked and he said, 'there is nothing'. And he said, 'go back'". He said it seven times, "Go back, go back, go back," because there was no sign of any rain coming.

Verse 44, "And it came about at the seventh time that the servant said, 'behold a cloud as small as a man's hand is coming up from the sea'". Now just think, what would've happened, or what wouldn't have happened if Elijah had stopped praying after the first time the servant came back and said, "No rain in the forecast today"? What would have happened if Elijah had stopped after the sixth time the servant said, "No rain today"? He would've missed out on God's dramatic answer to his prayer.

Do you remember Luke 18:1? Luke said, "Jesus told them a parable to show how they should pray at all times, and not be discouraged". And Jesus told that parable about the persistent widow who kept asking the unrighteous judge to intervene on her behalf. The point of the parable was keep on praying. Just don't pray when the answer is obvious and easy, pray when the answer seems impossible. And keep on praying, even after God says no or wait, keep on praying until you get a definitive yes or no. Those who prevail in prayer are those who are persistent in their praying, just like Elijah was. You know, whenever we face an impossible situation in our lives, there are many things we can do. But those who have learned how to live an extraordinary life, understand the wisdom of A.J. Gordon who said, "You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed".
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