Robert Jeffress - The Power of Faith-Kneeling - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". As God's children, we're free to lay any request at the feet of our Heavenly Father, yet oftentimes, we forget to bring our cares and concerns to him, or we only view prayer as the last resort when everything else has failed. Well, today, I want to share with you two truths that will help you unleash the power of prayer in your life. My message is titled "The Power of Faith-Kneeling" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
One writer calls it the prayer fade. Now, you may not be familiar with that term, but I bet you've experienced the reality behind it. You read a book, you hear a sermon, you attend a seminar that talks about the importance of prayer. You're reminded that all of the great men and women of the Bible prayed consistently and experienced the power of God consequently. You're reminded that even Jesus himself, the Son of God, made prayer a priority in his life. He got up in the early morning when it was still dark and he found a lonely place to pray, and you're told that Jesus the Son of God made prayer a priority in his life. How much more should it be a priority in our life?
And so convinced of the lack of prayerfulness in your own life, you make a vow to God. You say, "God, whatever else I do every day, I'm going to spend at least five or 10 minutes talking with you". And that commitment lasts several months, several weeks, several days, until you give up, disgusted by your own lack of discipline and disappointed in God's answers to your prayers. Has that ever happened to you?
One writer describes the prayer fade this way in his own life. He said, "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 mealtimes 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. Even though I'm still active in the church, I just don't pray that much anymore".
We've all been there, haven't we? And yet, as you look at the Bible, you find that prayer is one of those important channels through which the Holy Spirit's power is poured into our life. If you have your Bibles this morning, turn to Romans 15. I like what John piper has written. He said, "Prayer is our splicing the our lamp wire into the lightning bolt of heaven". Another good description. "Prayer is splicing our lamp wire into the lightning bolt of heaven".
Indeed, as you look at both the old and the New Testaments, you'll discover that it was through prayer that the power of God fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifices on mount Carmel when Elijah was battling against the prophets of Baal. You'll discover it was through prayer that Jesus was able to transform five loaves and two fish in order to feed 25.000 people or more. You'll find that it is through prayer that Peter was supernaturally released from prison. Through prayer, over and over again, we see the power of God demonstrated, and I imagine most of us here today could also give a personal testimony of how God's power was unleashed in our life through prayer.
I remember some years ago, when I was at my previous church. We were getting ready to build a new worship center, a new sanctuary. We were faced with a dilemma, though. We wanted to build the new sanctuary on the parking lot across from where our main facility was, but there was a street that bisected our main property from the parking lot, and in order to build that new sanctuary there, we needed the city to give us that street. Well, they made it very clear they had no interest in giving us that street. And so we had the dilemma, were we going to stay in our present location, or move the church to a new location? And we were battling back and forth.
Roy Sparkman back there was the chairman of our committee, and we debated back and forth. You know, should we move? We didn't want to move, but we couldn't stay with that street not being given to us. And so one morning, one Wednesday morning, I was meeting with our pastor's prayer partners just discussing the situation, and I had this novel idea. It was a revolutionary idea. Why don't we pray about this? You know, isn't that sad that the pastor has to think of prayer as the last resort, instead of the first thing that we ought to do when we face a difficulty? I bet I'm not the only one who does that, though. You know, you wait 'til your back is up against the wall and when nothing else works, pray.
Well, I said, "Let's pray about it," so we got 50 of the men who were there that morning and we marched down to the old sanctuary and we spent about 30 minutes on our knees praying before God, asking for him to give us that street. Now that was about 7:30 on that Wednesday morning. 4:30 that afternoon, one of the city officials called me, and he had said over and over again, "We're not giving you that street. You can appeal it if you want to, but we're not going to give it to you". This city official called me at 4:30 that afternoon and said, "Are you still interested in having that street"? And within a month, we had possession of that street. Is that just a coincidence? I like what one person said. "It's amazing how many coincidences occur when we begin to pray". We see that all of the time.
I imagine every one of you here today could give a testimony about how God miraculously answered a prayer in your life. So why don't we pray more? I mean, if we believe intellectually, we know experientially that prayer is the conduit through which God's power is poured into our life, why don't we pray more? Well, some people say, "I don't have time to pray. I'd like to. I just don't have time to do it". The fact is we make time for doing the important things in our life, don't we? I mean, we make time to eat. I can tell by looking a lot of you, you make time to eat. That's a cheap shot from the pulpit. Pardon me. Forgive me for doing that. I mean, we do. We make time for the things that are important to us.
I like what Oswald Chambers writes. He says, "Remember, no one has time to pray. We have to take time from other things that are valuable in order to understand how necessary prayer is". And I realize that talking about the need to pray induces about as much guilt on us as talking about our need to read the Bible. I mean, we all know we ought to pray more, just like we need to read the scriptures more, and yet most of us have difficulty maintaining a consistent prayer life.
Can I share with you, as we begin this morning, two truths that I think will be an encouragement to you about prayer. First of all, remember that praying consistently is difficult. Praying consistently is difficult. Look at Romans 15, verse 30. Paul writes, "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". Paul said, "I beg you to strive in your prayers for me". That word strive is the Greek word agonizomai. Agonizomai. You don't have to have a degree in Greek to what that word means. It's the word we get our English word agonized from. Agonize with me in prayer.
Paul was saying prayer is agonizing work. That word agonizomai is an athletic term. It refers to the effort expended by someone in an athletic contest. It refers to the sweat, the effort, and it's particularly referring to a wrestling match. Just as a wrestler struggles with his opponent, Paul says prayer is a struggle. You say, well, how is prayer a struggle? Well, first of all, it's a struggle with our enemy, with Satan. Paul uses a similar term, not the same term, but a similar term in Ephesians 6:12, where he says, remember, "For our struggle, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the unseen forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places".
We spent months studying the subject of spiritual warfare. And we said we have a very real enemy who wants to destroy everything important in our life. Does Satan want you to pray? Does he want you to receive the power of God's blessing in your life? Of course not, and so he's going to do everything he can to discourage you from praying. That's why Paul says prayer is a struggle. It's a struggle, first of all, with Satan. But secondly, prayer is a struggle with God himself.
Remember Jacob in the Old Testament? He struggled, he wrestled with God. In the New Testament, we see Jesus wrestling with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a wrestling match over whether God's will or Jesus' will was going to be accomplished. With Jacob, it was either God's will or Jacob's will, and that's why it tells us in Luke 22:44, that when Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, that he began to sweat as if great drops of blood were falling to the ground. Prayer is a struggle. It's a struggle with whether we're going to acquiesce to the will of God or not. We're going to say more about that in a moment, but not only is prayer struggle with Satan, it's a struggle with God, most of all, prayer is a struggle with ourselves, isn't it? I mean, let's face it.
It its a struggle to get up in the morning and get some blanket victory in order to take a few moments to pray. It's a struggle of whether or not we're going to say no to that additional television program, and instead make time to pray. It's a struggle to lay aside that great scintillating novel we just started in order to take time to pray. It's a struggle, even when we do begin to pray, to keep our mind focused on what we're saying to God, instead of reviewing our daily to-do list. Prayer is a struggle. The good news is God understands that. God says he knows our frame. He understands that we're nothing but dust. Sometimes God has a better understanding of our limitations than we do.
I love what brother Lawrence wrote one time. He said, "For many years, I was bothered by the thought that I was a failure at prayer. Then one day, I realized I would always be a failure at prayer, and I've gotten along much better at praying ever since". Just mark it down, remember it. Praying consistently will always be a struggle. Nobody ever ends that struggle, but here's the balancing truth. Yes, praying consistently is difficult, but praying effectively is simple. Write it down. Praying effectively is simple.
Turn over to Matthew 6, the passage we just read a few moments ago. You know, there is a plethora of books, seminars, CDs, sermons about prayer, but I think one of the downsides of all of this information we have out there about prayer is we have overly complicated prayer. I mean, we've given people the idea that unless everything is right in your life or unless you have the right vocabulary, unless you have a PhD in intercessory prayer, you're just not qualified to pray. And that's why more people don't pray more consistently. We've overcomplicated prayer.
For example, we give the idea to people that unless you have two or three hours to pray every day, like Martin Luther did, you might as well not bother. To pray a simple short prayer to God is almost disrespectful of God. God will only hear a long prayer, not a short prayer. And yet look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6:7. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their," what? Many words. Jesus said it is a myth to think that God is impressed with how many words you use. Don't confuse the length of your prayer with the strength of your prayer.
Let me illustrate that for you, why length and strength are not always related. Who in here today in this vast audience can identify a man named Edward Everett? How many of you know the name Edward Everett? We had two people in the first service. One. Two. Marshall, I should know you would. Well, you ought to know who Edward Everett is. He spoke for two hours at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, and yet only two of you know who he is, and I bet not one of you can recall anything he said in his two hours at the dedication ceremony of the Gettysburg cemetery, but his speech was followed by a man named Abraham Lincoln, who spoke for two minutes at the Gettysburg cemetery, and we all remember his words. "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal". Isn't that interesting? Two minutes, and yet we remember those words. Don't confuse the length of your words with the strength of your words.
Think about Elijah. 1 Kings 18. Here he is in this battle to prove to everyone is Yahweh or is Baal the true God? Remember, he allowed the prophets of Baal to go first, to demonstrate Baal's power. And the Bible says that the prophets of Baal danced around the altar from noon until the time of the evening sacrifice, pleading, pleading, repeating, "O Baal, hear us. O Baal, answer us"! And Baal did not answer, the Bible says. He could not the answer. And then by contrast, Elijah stands up and he prays this simple, short prayer, a prayer that in the English language is only 64 words long. And yet after those 64 words, the fire from God fell from heaven and consumed those animal sacrifices.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that God is impressed by the length of your words. Other people say, "Well, you know, in order to pray effectively, I've just got an empty myself of anything I really want and pray about the things I think I'm supposed to pray about". Boy, what a myth, to think that we can't tell God what is really on our hearts. Think about the apostle Peter for a moment. Remember the story, Peter and the apostles were out on a boat ride one evening. Actually, God had told them to go from one side to the other side, and he would meet them on the other side, and they looked out and they saw Jesus walking on the water, and Peter was enthused by that, and he jumps out of the boat and into the water to go walk toward the Lord, and he's doing well until he takes his eyes off the Lord and begins to look at the boiling sea underneath him, and he begins to sink.
And what does he do? He begins to pray, and this is what he prays. "O Lord, the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, how we thank you today for your glorious name, and God, while I'm praying, I want to remember the missionaries in Ecuador. O Lord, bless them as they share"... Is that how he prayed? No, he prayed a simple three-word prayer. "Lord, save me". Lord, save me. Now, you don't get much more selfish in your praying than that, but that's what he needed. He shared with the Lord the real need that was in his own heart. And what did the Lord do? He reached out his hand and he lifted up Peter. Don't think that prayer is trying to fool God. Don't think prayer is trying to enter yourself of anything that you want, and just praying about what you think you should pray for.
Some people think in order to pray effectively that they have to have enough faith. You've heard that said before, that unless you're 100% convinced that God is going to do what you ask him to do, you might as well not pray at all. Well, the Bible dispels that myth as well. Turn over to acts 12 for just a minute. Remember the story. The early church had gathered together in a home to pray for their pastor. Peter had been imprisoned because of his faithfulness in preaching the Gospel. So Peter is in jail. The church members are in a home praying for their pastor's release, and acts 12 tells us that because of the early church prayer, that God miraculously released Peter from jail. The chains fall off. Peter is free. So where does he want to go? Naturally, he wants to go to where his church members are gathering to pray for him. He wants to share with them the exciting news of what has happened.
Now, to me, this is just hilarious. Look at verse 13. He goes to the house where they're meeting, and the Bible says, "When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer". And all the churches in the living room gathered together praying, okay? They hear this knock at the door. They said, "Rhoda, go answer that. We're too busy praying. You go answer that". So Rhoda goes and answers the door, and the Bible says, verse 14, "When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy, she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate".
Don't you know, Peter was frustrated. He said, "Here I am"! She runs away, forgets to open the door, leaves him standing there, and she breaks into the prayer meeting and says, "I've got some great news"! They say, "Shh! Rhoda, we're praying. Don't interrupt people of God. We're praying, praying". "But you don't understand"! "Don't interrupt"! Finally, they say, "What is it"? They say, "Peter"! She says, "Peter is here. He's standing at the gate". And how did they respond? Did they say, "Oh, praise God that he has answered our prayers". No, they said to her, verse 15, "You're out of your mind". But she had kept insisting that it really was Peter, and they kept saying, "It must be his angel".
Isn't that interesting to you? Here they were, praying that God would release Peter. When the answer comes, they don't believe it. See, the fact is they weren't 100% sure God could do it. They weren't 50% sure. They may not have even been 10% sure. They had a teeny tiny faith. But what did Jesus say? He said, "If you have the faith of a," what? "a mustard seed, you can move mountains". It's not the quantity of your faith that matters. It's the object of your faith. If your faith is in God, it doesn't matter how small that faith is. God will respond. What I'm saying to you is don't get caught up in these myths about prayer, that you have to pray a long time, or you have to dishonest in your praying and not tell God what's in your heart, or you have to have everything right in your life. Don't think that you have to have enough faith before you can pray. Just pray.
I love what Paul said in Philippians 4:6. He said, "In everything with prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God". Notice what he says? You can pray about everything. I like the way one person says it. "When we pray, we don't need to pray what we wish were in our hearts, but what is in our hearts". Isn't that great advice? When you pray, pray what's in your heart, not what you wish were in your heart, not what you think should be in your heart. That's the kind of honest praying that God answers. Why is that? Look at verse 8. "So do not be like them: for your father knows what you need before you ask him".
You know, one reason you ought to be honest with God when you're praying. He already knows what's in your heart anyway, and he knows what you need. So why not be honest with him? Praying consistently is difficult, but the truth is, praying effectively is quite simple. Nevertheless, many of us struggle with maintaining a consistent prayer life, and I believe we will never unleash God's power through prayer in our life until we have four questions about prayer answered.
The first question that many of us have but few of us have the guts to ask is this question. And that is, why should we pray if God's going to do what he wants to do anyway? Now, have you ever wondered about that? I mean, why should we pray if God is sovereign and he's going to do whatever he wants to do anyway? Does prayer actually change God's will and plan, or does it simply change us? But people go to one of two extremes when they talk about the relationship between prayer and God's sovereignty. There's some people who say that God is actually limited in what he can do by our willingness to pray. Why should I pray if God is going to do what he wants to do anyway? Well, the simple answer is because he's told us to pray, but the real answer is prayer is the channel, the means by which those good things come into my life.