Robert Jeffress - Bow The Knee
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. As Christians, prayer is essential. It doesn't cost any money. It doesn't even have to take up that much time. But it is one of the hardest things for a Christian to do consistently. I'll be the first one to raise my hand and admit that prayer, at times, can be difficult for me. Well on today's program, we're going to look at three roadblocks that keep us from turning to God in prayer. And we'll also discover four powerful principles from Paul's personal prayer requests in Romans 15 in my study today titled, bow the knee that's on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Well I have a confession to make to you. They say confession is good for the soul, so I'm going to try that today. Today's message was not that difficult to prepare. It's relatively easy to preach, but I find it personally almost impossible to apply in my own life. The subject I'm talking about today is prayer. Now I know what you're thinking: we've got a pastor who finds it hard to pray, what have we ended up with here? But you know, I imagine if I were to hook each one of you up to a polygraph, you would admit you have some difficulty with prayer as well. I mean we have difficulty, all of us do, making prayer a regular part of our life.
I think one Christian expressed it well when he talked about what he referred to as the prayer fade he experienced throughout his Christian life. He writes, "When I first became a Christian, the idea of speaking to the God of the universe excited me. I couldn't pray enough. I prayed in the morning before the day began. I took time off at lunch to pray. We prayed at meal times as a family. I prayed at night before I went to bed. I was seeing answers to my prayers all the time. Prayer was changing me and others. But then I don't know what happened. I lost interest. And even though I'm still active in the church, I just don't pray that much anymore".
Is that true in your life, honestly? You know when you think about it, our relationship with God begins with a prayer. God be merciful to me the sinner, I trust in Christ as my Savior. We begin our Christian life excited about prayer, but then something happens - the prayer fade. Why is that? Why is it that we don't pray more?
Years ago Bill Hybels wrote a little book called, "Too Busy Not to Pray". And in that book he mentioned three barriers to prayer. First of all, you might want to write them down, complacency. Complacency. You know many people use prayer like they use a fire escape. A fire escape is to be used only in case of emergency, and it's to be used very, very quickly. A lot of people treat prayer that way. They pray when the crisis comes. They pray, for example, when that call comes at 3 o'clock in the morning. Or they pray when their boss calls them in and tells them their services are no longer needed. Or they pray when the doctor tells them that the report doesn't look good. Or they pray when their mate tells them somebody else is starting to look good. We pray in those crisis times in our life, and then when the crisis passes we forget about it. You know God said to the Israelites over and over again in the Old Testament: you're always asking me to help you when you get into a jam, but then when I deliver you, you forget all about me. We do the same things as well. Complacency.
I think a second barrier to prayer is unconfessed sin in our life. Now we know that sin is a barrier that keeps God from hearing us even after we become a Christian. If we're engaged in disobedience, the Bible is very clear, God will not hear our prayer if we are actively disobeying God. First Peter says God only hears the prayers of the righteous. Unconfessed sin keeps God from hearing us, but here's the flip side - unconfessed sin in our life keeps us from wanting to talk to God as well. Remember Adam and Eve after their sin in the garden, what did they do? Their first impulse was to run and hide from God. I think many times it is that unconfessed sin in our life that causes us to hide from God. It's a barrier to speaking with God.
A third barrier to a prayer life is something that doesn't get talked about that much, and that's our disappointment with God. You know, I imagine every one of us can cite a time in our life we prayed for something that God said no to. Maybe we prayed for a job or promotion that never came through: or we prayed for the healing in a relationship, a friendship, or even a marriage that never happened. We prayed for miraculous healing, physical healing for somebody we loved, and they ended up dying instead. Deep down we build up this resentment toward God, and we say: you know God, if you're going to do what you want to anyway, forget it, I'll just leave it up to you. Quit praying.
I think that disappointment with God is a real factor that causes us sometimes not to pray. You know one thing I love about God is he understands us not just intellectually but emotionally. Every struggle we face, every disappointment, including disappointment with God, Jesus - God in the flesh - experienced as well. Jesus experienced that feeling of disappointment with God. Remember on the cross he cried out: my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why did you turn your back on me? Why don't you hear my prayer? And yet Jesus said in Luke 18:1 when it came to prayer: he said, "I want you to pray at all times and not lose heart". That is we're to pray not just when the answer seems obvious and easy - we're to pray even when the answer seems impossible.
Well, how do you do that? How do you continue to pray? Well Paul answers that question in the passage we're going to look at today. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter 15. Read along silently while I read aloud verses 30-32. "Now I urge you brethren by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me that I might be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints so that I might come to you in joy by the will of God, and find refreshing rest in your company".
Paul is saying: I'm coming to Rome to see you, but until I get there I want you to pray for me. You know Paul believed in four truths about prayer. I call them Paul's theology of prayer that everyone of us has to believe and embrace in our life if we're really going to experience the power of prayer in our life. What did Paul believe about prayer? Number one, he believed that prayer is necessary. He said: I urge you, I beg you to pray for me. Now you know there are people who go to one of two extremes when it comes to subject of prayer. I've read theologians who have said: God will not do anything apart from the prayers of his people. God is limited by how much his people pray. Do we really believe that? Do we believe that God is limited by anything that we do or don't do?
Remember what Paul wrote. He said, "Now to him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond that which we even ask or think". Nothing limits God. But the other extreme people go to is say: well God is sovereign, he has this plan, and he's going to accomplish the plan regardless of whether I pray or not so why bother to pray? That's a fair question, does God have a will, a plan that's going to be accomplished? Yes, but he's also ordained the means, and that is through our prayers. In James 4:2 James said, "You lust, and you do not have so you commit murder, and you're envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask".
Paul believed the same thing. He said: I urge you to pray for me. Prayer is necessary. Not only that, prayer is difficult, Paul says. Look again at verse 30. He says, "Now I urge you brethren by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers". That word "Strive together" is the Greek word synagonizomai (συναγωνίζομαι). Synagonizomai. Syn: is a prefix that means together. Together. Agonizomai: the main word, I don't even have to tell you what that means. Agonizonmai: agonize. Agonize with me in prayer. Prayer if done correctly is hard work. And the reason prayer is difficult is because it's a struggle. It is a battle. We are in a struggle, Paul says.
That word struggle, pale in Greek, referred to a wrestling match. In Paul's day in a wrestling match the loser of that match would have his eyes gouged out, and then he would be put to death. Paul said in this life you are in that kind of death struggle. It's not with your boss. It's not with your mate. It's not with that work associate. Your struggle is against satan himself. It's against the unseen but very real forces of darkness. Don't ever forget this folks, satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life. And when you attempt to pray, you ask God for victory over that temptation you're facing, when you ask to submit to God's will, when you ask God to give you power in witnessing to that unsaved neighbor or friend who needs to hear the Gospel, when you're praying that God's kingdom would prevail, you are praying against satan himself and his plan to take you out.
And that's why prayer is a spiritual struggle. It's a struggle against our own flesh. It's a struggle against our enemy. And ultimately prayer can be a struggle with God himself. Involved in our prayer is that ultimate struggle of: God, is it going to be your will or my will? Jacob experienced that struggle. Remember the story of Jacob? He spent all night wrestling with God till finally he gave in. He submitted to God. Jesus in some inexplicable way experienced that wrestling with God the Father. Remember he prayed in the garden: God if there is any way, deliver this experience from me.
Jesus didn't want to go to the cross. That shocks some people. He didn't. Nobody could blame him for not wanting to. After all, he was flesh just like you and I are. He bled, he hurt, he felt pain. He didn't want to go through the physical horrific suffering of the cross - no one would. But even beyond that he did not want the experience that you and I could never understand of burying the sins of the entire world and for the first time in eternity facing separation from his Heavenly Father. And that's why he prayed: Lord, if there is any way out, please make it known to me. But then in that final breath he submitted, and said, "Not my will, but your will be done".
I submit to you that is the greatest battle any of us ever faces in prayer. Is it going to be our will or God's will? Paul believed that, he believed that prayer is difficult. Thirdly, Paul believed that prayer should be specific. It ought to be specific. You know, many times we pray these very general prayers: Lord, bless me, bless my family, bless the pastor, bless the church, bless, bless, bless, bless, bless. We pray these general prayers that really have no measurement to them to know if they've been answered or not. Why do we that? You know, Tony Evans hit the nail on the head. He said, "We pray these general prayers because we want to let God off the hook". We don't want to ask him for specific things in case he can't pull them off so we ask for these general things.
I understand that, and yet the Bible says we ought to be specific in our prayers. In 1 John 5:14-15. John says, "And this is the confidence which we have before him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request that we have asked from him". John says you can ask God for anything not just generalities. Pray for that specific concern you have knowing that if that answer is within the will of God, he will answer it.
Now listen, adding that qualifier "If it is within your will" is not a copout. It's not meant to let God off the hook. Think of the will of God as a wonderful wall, a fence around your life that doesn't keep good things from coming into your life - it keeps evil things from coming into your life. Ask God boldly, but trust him with the result. Knowing his desire isn't to keep good things out of your life, but it's to keep evil things out of your life. We need to pray specifically. Paul did that. He illustrates in this passage three specific things he prayed for. You see, if something is important to us, it's important to God. Doesn't matter how trivial it seems to other people, God loves us. And what is a concern on our heart is a concern in the heart of God. And that's why the Bible says we ought to pray specifically. Not for these grandiose things, we ought to pray for the things that concern us. That's what Paul did.
Finally, Paul believed prayer is effective. He believes prayer actually changes things, not some spiritual exercise to engage in. It was something that actually God used to change things. Think about how God answered Paul's request in Acts 21. Yes, he made it to Jerusalem. Yes, they tried to kill him, but the Romans intervened. They arrested Paul and sent him to Caesarea where he was safe. So he answered the prayer for safety. Secondly, he used that gift to bring healing in the Jerusalem church. And thirdly, Paul did make it to Rome. He came to Rome not as he expected. He came two years later. He came in chains as a prisoner. Nevertheless, his dream came true to preach the Gospel in Rome. The Bible says the effective prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much. If prayer's going to be a part of your life, you've got to be convinced that prayer is necessary, it's difficult, it needs to be specific, but it really is effective. You know a message like this calls for some practical application.
So I close the message today with two practical applications. First, a pastoral plea. You know Paul said: I beg you, I urge you to pray on my behalf. And I would issue the same plea today as your pastor. You know you would have to be spiritually blind and deaf not to be aware that God is working at First Baptist Church Dallas. You can look around and see the changed lives, and the way that God is using this church not only as a witness in this city, but throughout the nation and the world. God is at work. But ladies and gentlemen, wherever God is working satan is working overtime. And that is why it is so important for us to pray.
I ask you, I beg you to continue to pray for me. Pray for my spiritual protection. Pray for my preparation of these messages. Pray for divine Holy Spirit power when I deliver them. Pray that I don't do anything or say anything that would bring shame upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for my family that's so important to me and my ministry. Pray for this church that God would continue to use us as a lighthouse for this entire world: that God would bring the resources we need to do his will. Pray for us.
You know, I heard a pastor one time who was asking his people to pray for him, and he said: I want you to pray daily for me, and so that you remember I want you to attach your prayer for me for something you do once a day. He said, you know: how many of you bathe or take a shower once a day? The congregation raised their hand. He said: well, when you're taking your shower, or you're bathing, just pray for the pastor in the church. Now frankly I prefer you not think about me when you're taking a shower or bathing, so... And you probably don't want to think about me either, so let me attach it to something else. How about brushing your teeth? Does everybody brush their teeth once a day? I'm being silly, but I'm really serious as well. If you don't pray for me, my family, and the church any other time, would you think about doing that when you brush your teeth every morning? God, bless the pastor. Pray for the church, protect him. Help our church to be what you want it to be. That's my pastoral plea to you.
Second application real briefly and that is a personal plan. You know, if prayer's going to be a real part of our life, we need a plan. And let me suggest any plan for prayer in your life ought to have three components. Number one: a period. By that I mean a designated time when you meet with God. Now, prayer ought to be a part of our life throughout the day. It's a conversation when we get up, when we're driving, when we're entering into a meeting at work, when we're about to drift off to sleep. We continually talk to God but I also believe there ought to be a designated time when we meet with God. It may be in the morning, it may be over lunch, maybe at night, but a specific appointment that we have with our Creator. A period.
Secondly, a place. Now again, you can pray anywhere, and should pray everywhere. But I found in my own life it's good to have a regular place to meet with God - a holy place. It may be in your bedroom, might be in your car, might be in your office, it might be in a closet somewhere, but the place where you meet with God.
And then thirdly, a pad. And by that I mean a place where you can write down the specific things you're asking God for and the answers that he provides. You know I have found that having a list, a prayer list, it helps me in my praying to be more focused. My mind wanders so easily, if I have my eyes closed, and start thinking my prayers, and I drift here and there: but when I have my eyes open and I'm going down this list, I'm praying for this, and this, and this really helps me remain focused, and it's also a great way to look back and remember God's faithfulness in your life. A period, a place, and a pad. I think the great pastor, writer R.A. Torrey was right on target when he said, "Whatever else we learn about prayer, we must learn this: I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and all my heart into prayer. Whatever else I do, I must pray".