Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Prayer Life - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". What does your daily prayer routine look like? Maybe you pray when you wake up or when you go to bed, maybe your family prays before each meal, or perhaps like so many Christians you struggle with making prayer a regular habit at all. Today I want to show you a radical new way to think about prayer based on the teaching of Jesus. My message is titled "Straight Talk About Your Prayer Life" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Where is God's kingdom? What is God's kingdom? Where is it that God's will is being done perfectly? Did you know God's will is being obeyed perfectly? Throughout this entire universe, every square inch of this universe is subjected to the will of God except one small corner of it, a little dirt ball called planet earth. And there's a little rebellion going on right now on planet earth against the creator of the universe, but soon that rebellion is going to be quelled forever. And when we're praying for the kingdom of God, "Your kingdom come," we're praying for that future time when what the king wants done here on earth is actually going to be done. We know in Bible prophecy that that time, first of all, is the millennium when Christ comes and sets up his kingdom, Christ rules from Jerusalem and every one will be subject to the king until the very last moment. But we won't go there. Too complicated today.
But for the most part, everybody will be subject to the king and then God will destroy this present heaven and earth and in the new heaven and the new earth everyone will obey God. That's the kingdom of God. We're praying for that future kingdom to come, but in a sense we're praying for aspects of it to come now. We don't have to wait completely for there to be an end to evil, we need to do what we can right now to push back against evil in the world. I don't like the term social justice because it carries with it a lot of political baggage and connotates things we don't mean; but I do believe there's such a thing as biblical justice, and I think Christians ought to pursue biblical justice.
And by the way, when you pray for God's kingdom, God's rule to extend to earth, that includes your life and my life. To pray for the kingdom to come, to pray for God's will to be done is to pray for it to be done in my life. I want you to think about this for a moment. If throughout all eternity you and I are going to be obeying God, don't you think we ought to get used to doing that now? Why would Christians want to spend eternity with God if we're going to obey God continually if they find it so difficult to obey God now?
I was thinking about that old joke about the tourist in New York City who was lost. He was looking at a map. He couldn't make sense of uptown from downtown, and he asked a stranger on the sidewalk. He said, "Sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall"? And the stranger said, "Sure. Practice, practice, practice".
How do you get to be an effective servant of God, a resident of the kingdom? By practicing obedience now. When God says yes, you say yes. When God says no, you say no. We need to start practicing obeying God now because that's going to be what we spend eternity doing. Ken Hughes talked about that implication when he said, "When we pray, 'Your will be done,' when we pray this prayer, we're asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives and then comes with gracious kind violence to root out all the impediments to our obedience. To pray this prayer may terrify us, but it will also deliver us from ourselves". That's what we're praying. "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth and in my life as it's being done in heaven".
Then thirdly we're to pray for God to take care of our daily needs. We turn it from God's interest to our interest. "Lord, give us this day our daily bread". Now, that seems a little bit quaint. You know, in the Bible the term daily bread is a reference to all of our needs physically: food, water, clothing, shelter. And remember in this culture, people receive their wages every day. You got just enough to meet your daily obligations. Now let's be honest. For us to sit around our kitchen table and pray, oh, you know, "Give us our daily bread," when we have a pantry full of food seems a little bit disingenuous, and we know if we ran out of food we can, you know, get something from Amazon Prime delivered in a few hours on our doorstep. So why do we need to pray for our daily food when it seems we have plenty?
You know, I don't think any of us really realizes how tenuous our finances and our provisions are. I read a statement recently that has really made me stop and think. This financial expert said every person in America is just one bad decision or one bad circumstance away from being homeless. That's an interesting comment. We're just one bad decision or one bad circumstance away from being homeless, but just think about the truth of that. What would a stroke, a termination from your job, a divorce, a lawsuit, a metastasizing cell in your body, or an external event like another pandemic or a world war, yours and my circumstances could change just like that. We're more dependent upon God than we possibly understand. "Give us today what we need". Ultimately, everything we have comes from God.
By the way, we don't just sit around a table and pray for it. We work for it. That's God's prescription in 2 Thessalonians 3:10. He said, "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat". Now, that doesn't mean we don't show kindness to those who can't work, but for everybody else if you don't work you don't eat. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you the power to make wealth". Ultimately, it's God who gives us the health, the strength to get up every morning and go to work and make money to provide for our family. That's God's way of doing it. Nevertheless, our ultimate dependence is upon God. "Give us our daily needs". Number four, pray that God would forgive you and would make you a forgiver. He says in verse 12, "And forgive us of our debts," our sins.
Why should we as Christians pray to be forgiven of our sins? Aren't our sins forgiven the moment we trust in Christ as our Savior? Yes. That's judicial forgiveness. That's when God pronounces us not guilty. Romans 5:1, "We have peace with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ". We already have judicial forgiveness. Our position with God is secure. But we need what many people call parental forgiveness. When we sin as a Christian, it's not that God moves away from us but we move away from God, and we need that daily forgiveness for our sins so that we can be in a right parental relationship with God. There was a famous Bible teacher not that many years ago who taught and was on the radio and wrote books about this, what he believed was a fact, and that is that Christians never need to ask God for forgiveness. That was the whole basis of his ministry.
Christians don't ever need to ask for God's forgiveness. If you as a Christian ask God for forgiveness, that's an insult to God because you're asking him to do what his son has already accomplished for us. He didn't understand the difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". That verse was written to Christians. We need to ask God's forgiveness. Interestingly, this man who'd spent his career teaching this, it was discovered that he was leading a secret double immoral life. He needed God's forgiveness more than he knew he needed God's forgiveness. "Forgive us of our sins as we have forgiven our debtors".
There's an inseparable link in the Bible between receiving God's forgiveness and granting it to others. In fact, Jesus expands on that in verses 14 and 15. "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you of your transgressions". Does that mean we lose our forgiveness if we don't forgive others? No. But what it means is this. "If you find it", as I hear so many so-called Christian say, "if you find it in your heart that you cannot forgive, you will not forgive another person, it's not that you lose your salvation". Instead, it's a good indication that you never received salvation to begin with because the fact is only when you understand the huge debt from which God has forgiven you, only when you acknowledge that are you really in a position to forgive other people.
"Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us". And then finally he says to pray for God to protect you from temptation. "Lead us not into temptation," verse 13, "but deliver us from evil". "Wait a minute. I thought God doesn't tempt people". The word tempt means to entice to do evil. He doesn't tempt us. James 1:13 and 14 says, "Let nobody say when he's tempted, 'I'm being tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone". The word tempt means to entice to do evil, and the Bible says clearly God doesn't tempt anybody. Satan is the one who tempts us to destroy our faith. God doesn't send temptation into your life, but he does send trials into your life.
In James 1, the same chapter, verses 2 and 3 James said, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". Remember this. God tries us to strengthen us. Satan tempts us to destroy us. That's the difference between a temptation and a trial, but here's where it gets interesting. Although they are two English words, trial and temptation, there is only one Greek word that describes both. The word peirasmos. When James says count it all joy when you encounter various trials, that is peirasmos. When James says, "Let nobody say when he's tempted, 'I'm being tempted by God,'" uses the same word peirasmos. So which is it?
The word peirasmos simply means a difficult situation, a difficult situation like the loss of a job, the death of a mate, financial difficulties. Peirasmos, it's a difficult circumstance, and that can be both a temptation and a test at the same time. When you go through a difficult situation, God is going to use that difficult situation to strengthen your faith, but Satan can take the same situation and use it to destroy your faith. It's the same word, a difficult situation. So how do I know if a situation is a trial to strengthen me or a temptation to destroy me? Ultimately it depends on your response to it. If you say no to the difficult situation and hold on to your faith, it will strengthen you. If you give in to it, it will destroy your faith. Now, that's why Jesus said, "Lead us not into temptation". Lead us not into a peirasmos, a difficult situation. It's like many students would be praying right now if they could as they face final exams. "Teacher, if it's all the same to you, I'd like to skip this final exam". Because with every final exam comes the possibility of success or failure.
So a lot of students would say, "Let's just skip it all together, but if I do have to go through this exam help me to pass it". That's what Jesus was saying. "Lead us not into temptation". "Lord, keep us away from difficult circumstances because there is a possibility I could pass or fail the test. But if I do go through a difficulty, if that's part of your plan, deliver me from making the wrong choice. Deliver me from evil". That's what we pray for. You know, this is a very practical chapter. I close today with three brief words to discover the secret for powerful praying. Just three words I want you to remember and then we're through. Number one, the word consistent, consistent. Don't fall into the trap of thinking if you don't have an hour or 20 minutes to pray you can't be effective in prayer.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray without ceasing. Make it a part of your daily habit like breathing. When you get up in the morning, before your feet touch the ground, "God, help me today. Help me to honor you. Keep me from evil, I pray". As you go throughout the day, as you're driving on the freeway, as you're going in to an important meeting, "Lord, help me. Give me the words to say". If you're dealing with a difficulty circumstance, "Lord, help me I pray". Pray throughout the day, and then pray before you go to sleep at night. Let the last words you say or think be a prayer to God, thanking him for the good things of the day, confessing any mistakes you may have made. Consistent.
Secondly, the word specific, specific. That is be specific in what you're saying to God. You know, I used to think people who wrote out their prayers had to be the most unspiritual people in the world. In some of my previous churches, we'd have a deacon. Deacon so and so would be called on to pray, and he would say, "Now let us pray". And when everybody had their heads bowed and eyes shut, he'd pull out subtly a piece of paper and he would read his prayer. Of course, I would have my eyes open. So I'd think, you know, "What an unspiritual guy this is? He's so out of the habit of praying he has to write out his prayers". But I began to appreciate that more. I don't know about you. It's easy for my mind to wander, and many times I'll sit down on my computer and type out my prayer to God so I can be specific about what I'm talking to the king of the universe about. If you don't want to write them out, just try this. At least vocalize your prayer. Instead of thinking your prayer, vocalize your prayer. It will help you be specific when you pray. And then finally the word not only consistent and specific but honest.
Be honest with God. C.S. Lewis said, "When we pray we ought to lay before God what is in our heart, not what ought to be in our heart". Be honest with God. Is there something you really want? Tell him about it and leave it to his wisdom to decide whether to give it to you or not. Be honest. Tell him what you want. Are you angry with somebody? I don't care how angry you are. You're probably not as angry as the psalmist when he said in Psalm 137, verse 9, "Lord, I'm so angry. I want you to take the babies of your enemies and dash them against the rocks". Hardly a pro-life prayer, but it was an honest prayer. If you're angry, tell God about it. Are you disappointed in God? His shoulders are broad enough to take it. Tell him of your disappointment. Pray what is in your heart, not what you think should be in your heart. Prayer in the end is an open, honest, specific communication with the one who loves you.
Few years ago I was in Washington, D.C. and I stopped by to see the president. I walked into the Oval Office and there was a highly-decorated general seated in front of the president's resolute desk. He stood up. We exchanged pleasantries, and this highly-decorated general was looking at the president. The president said, "You know, general, when you think about it, Robert is more powerful than you are". And that general got one of those what-in-the-heck-are-you- talking-about looks on his face. He said, "No, general. Just think about it for a moment. Every day Robert talks to the one who controls everything that happens in this universe". And he was right, but you know what? That privilege isn't reserved for pastors, for popes or priests. It's available to every true child of God. And when we enter into that throne room of God, we are talking to the one who made us, who loves us most in this universe, and the one who is concerned about every aspect of our lives. That's the power of prayer.