Robert Jeffress - Effective Pray-ers
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It's safe to say that every Christian has experienced the disappointment of having their prayers go unanswered, but some people become so discouraged, they give up on praying altogether. Well, even though God doesn't always grant our requests, he always hears us. And today I want to show you how to pray for your needs and how to respond when God says, no. My message is titled effective prayers on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Ben Patterson says, "One of the greatest evidences that we human beings act contrary to our self-interests is the fact that we spend so little time talking to the person who made us and loves us the most". Prayer is a missing ingredient in many of our lives. And it's that lack of prayer that robs us not only of intimacy with God, a lack of prayer robs us of experiencing God's power in our life. Matthew 6 as you know is what many times we call the Lord's Prayer. But this prayer was not given as a mantra to be repeated but as a model to be followed, nowhere is this prayer ever repeated any place else. The early church never repeated it because you don't repeat a model. It is an outline and it's not an outline of everything you should pray for but it gives us some ideas of at least five things that should be components of our prayer.
First of all, Jesus taught us when we pray, we ought to begin by praising God's name, the praise of God's name. Our Father who is in heaven, holy is Your name. God, thank you for being wholly different, separate, a cut above those of us here on earth. And then secondly, we pray a prayer a priority of God's purpose. One of the greatest struggles we have when we kneel down before God is, God do I want my will done or do I want your will to be done? And Jesus said, always put God's will first. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth in my life as it's being done in heaven.
Now let's look thirdly at a third component of our prayers. Jesus said, we ought to pray for the provision for our needs. Yes, we want to remember to praise God for who he is, we want to remember to make God's will a priority, but you know what? It's also okay to pray for things that we need and want. And at the top of the list ought to be the very practical needs we have. He says in verse 11, we can pray. "Give us this day our daily bread".
Now, when Jesus talks about praying for our daily bread he doesn't have in mind here a loaf of Mrs. Baird's. What he's talking about here is bread is a reference to all your physical needs. It's food, it's water, it's clothing, it's shelter, all of these things are related to our physical needs. And somebody has pointed out Jesus did not teach us to pray or give us our daily steak and lobster. God never promised to meet your greeds but he did promise to satisfy your needs. Paul said, my God shall supply all of your, what? All of your needs, not all of your greeds, according to his riches in Christ Jesus.
And then fourth, he said we ought to pray for a pardon for our sins. He says in verse 12, "And forgive us our debts". That's a reference to sins. "As we have forget that forgiven our debtors". You might wonder what, wait a minute, if I'm a Christian already why should I ask God to forgive me of my sins? Hasn't he already done that? Well, yes he has. God has forgiven you of all of your sins. You are judicially forgiven, but even though we have God's judicial forgiveness we still need his parental forgiveness on a day to day basis. Those of you who are parents understand what parental forgiveness is.
Have you ever had a child who disobeyed you or disrespected you in some way or just was disinterested in a relationship with you? You don't kick them out of your family for those kinds of sins, but there is a barrier that occurs in your relationship with your child, a barrier that can only be removed when they recognize their disobedience and turn away from it. And so it is in our relationship with God. The fact is we sin daily and that's why we need to restore that parental relationship with God. And the Bible says, we need to pray for God's forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we will confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
Did you know, 1 John was not written to non-Christians, it was written to Christians. That's John's word to Christians, Christians if you will confess your sins, God will forgive you. Now hear me on this. That word confess means to acknowledge your sin but it does not refer to a cool emotionally detached acknowledgement. Inherent in true confession is a sorrow, a brokenness for your sin. Psalm 51:17 said, "The sacrifices to God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contract heart, the Lord will not despise". The Bible says that only when we are broken of our sin is that true confession. And with that brokenness also comes a willingness to turn away from that sin. We shouldn't expect God to take any confession of sin seriously, that does not include a heartfelt decision to turn away from that sin.
True confession means sorry enough to stop doing it. And that's what Paul said that Jesus said is necessary in our prayer. We pray, forgive us Lord of our sin as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And notice that inseparable link between our receiving God's forgiveness and our willingness to forgive other people. Jesus said before you can receive God's forgiveness you have to be willing to forgive those who've sinned against you. After all isn't that the prayer? "Lord forgive us of our sins just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us". Make no mistake about it, the Bible is very clear. If you will not forgive other people God will not forgive you. Jesus said it very clearly in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others then your father will not forgive your transgressions".
I know a lot of people who take the Bible literally, the only problem is they don't take it seriously. And so they tried to explain a way this verse, what Jesus really didn't mean what he said about you have to forgive other people before God will forgive you. Oh no, then how do you interpret this verse? Seems pretty clear to me, isn't it? If you will not forgive others, God will not forgive you. And then he said, finally we ought to pray for a protection from evil. He says in verse 13, "And do not lead into temptation, but deliver us from evil". Now, this is important to understand, this word translated "Temptation" is a morally neutral word. It simply means a difficult situation. It's neither good nor bad, it's just a difficult situation. He said we should pray, "Lord keep us out of difficult situations". Why? Because difficult situations are tests, tests that we can either pass or tests that we might fail as well.
Now, sometimes this word, difficult situation, sometimes it is translated, temptation. Now temptation is always bad. Satan tempts us in order to destroy our faith but God test us to strengthen our faith. Now what confuses some people who read the English Bible is the same Greek word is used to describe both a temptation and a trial. Temptations come from Satan, trials come from God. Temptation has an evil desire behind it to destroy our faith, a test has a good end result in mind, and that is to strengthen our faith. Remember in James 1, James says, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, be happy of your trials because the testing of your faith produces endurance". But then later on, he says in James 1, "Let nobody say when he is tempted, I'm being tempted by God: for God can tempt no one with evil".
Now that word trial and temptation are both the same Greek word. A difficult situation in your life can be both a trial and it can be a temptation at the same time. God can use a difficult situation in your life to strengthen your faith and Satan at the very same time can hope that difficult situation will destroy your faith. If you allow the loss of a job to cause you to question God, to turn away from God, that Satan using that difficult situation to drive you away from God, that's a temptation. But at the same time, God is using that loss of a job. He can use it to try your faith, to strengthen your faith, to draw you closer to yourself.
You see whether a difficulty in life is a temptation or a trial depends on your response to it. If you will to drive you away from God, then Satan wins. If you allow it to draw yourself closer to God, then God wins. So what is he saying when he says do not lead us into difficult situations? He's telling us to pray what every school student prays, Lord, please keep us from tests. Keep tests far away from us. Why? Because tests can either be failed or they can be passed. So he's saying it's okay to say, God please keep me out of difficult situations. But then we go on to say but if you choose to allow a difficult situation come into my life, deliver me from sin, deliver me from evil, keep me from allowing this difficult situation to drive me away from you.
What sort of things should we pray about? He said we should pray about anything and everything that we're concerned about. And that leads to a third question. Why doesn't God always answer my prayers? How many of you this morning have ever asked God to do something that he didn't do? Would you raise your hand? That's all of us. I mean, we all wrestle with this problem of unanswered prayer. Why is it that God sometimes says no to our request? Well, the Bible gives three answers. Three possible answers for unanswered prayer. One reason is wrong actions, that is disobedience, sin in our life. And Isaiah 59:2, God said to the Israelites, "But your iniquities, your sin have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden his face from you so that God does not hear".
Remember when God wrote these words, he was speaking not to the heathen, he was speaking to his own people. Those who had already received his judicial forgiveness but he said, Israelites because of your continuing disobedience God has not heard your prayer. And at 1 Peter is very clear. God turns his ear away from the wicked, from the unrighteous. God will not hear answer the prayer of those who are living in sin. Don't be asking your Heavenly Father for something while at the same time, disobeying him. The Bible says wrong actions can be one reason for unanswered prayer. He gives her a second reason and that is wrong motives.
Turn over to James 4 for a moment. He says, "You ask and you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives so that you may spend it on your pleasures". Now, what does it mean to ask God for something with wrong motives? Pastor you just told us that we ought to pray for what our needs are, we ought to pray what's in our hearts not what should be in our hearts. Is it a selfish prayer to pray for a job? Is it selfish to pray for God to meet a financial need? Is it selfish to pray for God to heal a broken relationship? What does he mean to pray with wrong motives? Let's get something straight here. All of us have mixed motives when we come to God.
I like what Richard Foster says, he said, "We all approach God with this tangled mass of motives that only God sort out but he's big enough to do so". Instead of waiting until everything is perfect in our life we should remember this when we come to God, we're saved by grace, we live by grace, and we pray by grace. I think when he says, be sure that you're motives are right when you pray, he's talking about the general direction of your life. He saying before you come to God, ask yourself this question, is my life self centered or is it God centered? Is my life about building my kingdom or is it about building God's kingdom?
When he's talking about praying with wrong motives he's talking about not a single request, he's talking about the general direction of your life, a life that is self-focused rather than God focused. Why does God not answer all of our prayers? It can be wrong actions. It can be wrong motives, or third, the Bible says it can be because of wrong request. Turn over to 1 John 5:14-15, John says, "This is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask any thing, and underline this, according to his will, he will hear us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him".
God's promise is within the boundary of his will. Listen to this. God's will is a hedge of protection that is built around your life. And that hedge of protection, God's will, exists around your life not to keep good things out of your life but to keep evil things from entering into your life.
Now, I look back in my prayer journal at some of the things that I have asked God persistently to do for me and I shutter at some of those prayer requests. I am so grateful that God said no to those requests. I didn't even realize what I was asking for but God knew what was best for me and he said, no. That's the way God's will is, it's not to keep good things out of your life but to keep evil things from entering into your life. Second, let's always realize when we talk about praying with faith, to pray with faith doesn't mean building up this kind of positive attitude that says, oh I know God's going to do this. I know God's going to do this. That's not what faith praying is. That's just positive thinking mumbo-jumbo.
The fact is, most of the time when we pray we don't know whether this request is in God's will or not. We don't know if it's God's will to heal me or a loved one. We don't know if it's God's will for me to get this job. We don't know if it's God's will for this particular relationship to be restored. We don't always know. Paul said in Romans 8:26, "For we don't know how to pray or to pray as we should". Well then what does it mean to pray with faith? I want you to write this down. To pray with faith means to boldly ask God for our requests and to quietly trust him to do what's best. Praying with faith means boldly asking God for our requests and quietly trusting him to do what's best. You see that in the Bible illustrated with the two greatest characters in the New Testament.
Do you realize that the two greatest characters in the New Testament both experienced unanswered prayer? Think about Jesus Christ. How did he pray in the garden? Luke 11, he said, father here is my request and it is a bold request. Keep me from going to the cross. Let this cup pass from me. That was a pretty bold request especially when he knew that was God's will. He said, "Father, let this cup pass from me". That's the bold request. But then he said, "Not my will but your will be done". Quietly trusting in God to do what's best. Or think about the apostle Paul. He made a pretty bold request.
In 2 Corinthians 12, he was suffering from a physical handicap, a thorn in the flesh. He said, father remove this thorn from me. He didn't pray at once, he prayed it three times. That was the bold request. And then he quietly rested in God to do what's best. When God said no three times in a row, he said God's grace is sufficient for me. I'm going to trust him. I'm going to see the best in this because through my weakness the power of God is made manifest. That's what it means to pray with faith. Boldly ask God for what's in your heart, your request, but then trust him to do what's best. The Bible says that's what it means to pray in faith. You may be saying today.
Well, Robert you've convinced me that prayers are channels through which God pours his blessings into my life but how can I be more effective in my prayer life? My prayer life right now is virtually nonexistent. How can I be an effective prayer? Let me give you finally, three simple ways to make prayer a regular part of your life. Write them down. First of all, pray briefly. Pray briefly. Remember we saw last week God is not interested in the length of your prayers. He's not impressed by your ministry words, Jesus said in Matthew 6. It's not the length of your prayer, it is the strength of your prayers that count. And I personally found it is much more effective to pray brief prayers frequently throughout the day than to find one long period of time to devote to prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says, "Pray without ceasing". Make it a habit. Frequency is much better than lengthy prayer. Secondly, pray persistently. Pray persistently. That is keep on praying even when the answer doesn't come immediately. I like what somebody calls the push principle of prayer. And they've said, when everything seems to go wrong just push! Pray until something happens. Jesus said, pray persistently. The third principle for activating an effective prayer life: pray honestly. Pray honestly. Remember don't pray what you think should be in your heart, pray what is in your heart. God already knows about it anyway. Is there something you desperately want God to do for you? Go ahead and tell him, go ahead and ask him for it and trust him to do what's right.
Is there somebody you're really ticked off with. You're angry with? I don't care how angry you are with that person. You're probably not as angry as the Psalmist who prayed Lord dash the babies of my enemies against the rocks. You're probably not that angry. So you can go ahead and tell God about that person as well. Are you frustrated with God himself? Are you disappointed with his actions or his inaction on your behalf? Go ahead and tell him about it. This shoulders are broad enough, his love is wide enough to accept your frustration. Remember, in the end, prayer is not a theological formula, it's not a religious ritual, prayer in its very essence is simply talking with, conversing with the one who loves you, the one who made you, the one who cares most about you.