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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - The Precautions of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Precautions of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Precautions of Prayer
Tony Evans - The Precautions of Prayer
TOPICS: Prayer

We have a place that we're trying to go. We're trying to get heaven to meet us here on earth, but to get to that foreign location you need a passport. You just can't waltz up into heaven without a passport, but thank God that Hebrews 10:19 says that we can now enter the holy place through the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ has given believers a passport to enter into a realm that is closed to the general public. General public can't go there 'cause they don't have a passport. The mechanism that God has given us, the dominant mechanism for the use of the passport that has been granted to every believer by Jesus Christ to enter into what Hebrews 10:19 calls the holy place, heavenly places, the very presence of God is prayer. Prayer is how you show your passport.

The disciples never asked Jesus to teach them to preach, to teach them to do miracles, to teach them to heal the sick, to teach them to have the blind see, to teach them how to make the lame walk; but the one thing they did ask him is, "Will you teach us to pray"? In Luke chapter 11, verse 1, "You teach us to pray". Because they saw every time that Jesus prayed, something happened. Something supernatural took place every time he prayed, and so they were saying, "Show us how to do that. How do you make that contact with God that makes things happen on earth"? He starts off in verse 5 and says, "And when you pray," not, "And if you pray".

There is an assumption, as Jesus talks to his disciples, that if you are a follower of Christ, you are a praying follower of Christ. It's when you pray. So let's start with an assumption. The assumption of Jesus is that if you are a Christian and you are a following of Christ, prayer is part of your lifestyle. It is not something you're considering whether you do or not. It's when you pray. And then we're introduced to this dominant word called prayer. It's a word we all use, it's a word we all reference, but let's get to a basic understanding of the term. Biblical prayer is simply defined as relational communication with God. A lot of people pray to God without a family connection, and when you go to God and there is not a relational connection, you are not connecting with the person you think you're talking to.

When people go to God for what they want without a concern about the cultivation of the father-child relationship, then they want to use God, not relate to God, and nobody likes being used. So prayer is relational communication with God. Why do I have relational communication with God? Because I need up there to do something down here. I need eternity to enter time. I need heaven to enter history. I need God to come into the context of man, but God does not want to do that outside of a relationship. Prayer is relational communication with God. So when you pray, you are talking to God. He says, "I don't want you to be like the hypocrites because the hypocrites pray in public". He says don't be like the hypocrites who believe in "Showtime at the Apollo," who prays a part in public, he says, in the synagogues. That's the church. But then on the street corner, at the work, on the job, whatever. He says don't be like them because you're wearing a mask. He says no, prayer is communication with God relationally-driven.

The reason why this is critical, as you'll see in a moment, is if there is no communication many things that you want to happen won't happen; or if there is communication but relationship is not a concern, only getting your prayers answered is a concern, you still may not get what you're asking to happen because God is after a relationship, not a temporary hookup. The first thing is I don't want you to pray as a religious performance, as fulfilling a duty, as getting something done that you know you're supposed to do because it's the thing to do. Now, we do that all the time. In fact, for many people the only reason they pray is because it is the appropriate thing to do. Like grace, we say grace because it's the prelude to a meal. He says when you pray don't be like the actors who play a role.

Verse 6, "But you," talking about his followers, Christians, disciples, "when you pray, 'cause I'm assuming you do, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you". Your private prayer life should greatly outshine your public prayer life. He just condemned the public, said, "Don't be like them". He says, "I want to talk to you about how we connect in your prayer closet". He says, "Go into your inner room". That's like a closet. "Not only do I want you to go inside your inner room, I also want you to shut the door". Prayer in the Bible is a partnership. "I want to hear from you". But watch this. "I also want you to hear from me".

Point, prayer was never meant to be a monologue but a dialogue. Most people think of prayer as me talking to God. But if that is your only definition of prayer, relationship isn't being cultivated 'cause any kind, time you have a relationship you get a two-way communication. God wants to talk to us, but when does he want to talk to us? In secret. He says, "I want to talk to you in the closet with the door closed 'cause I don't want anybody else listening, nor do I want any noise interrupting our conversation". He wants a secret meeting because he's cultivating relationship in a joint venture with mankind, and he says, "The Father who sees in secret".

Now, this has to do with, you know, the omniscience and the omnipresence of God. "You mean he doesn't see in public"? He sees everything, but he's talking about communication 'cause he's talking about prayer. He says, "When it comes to talking to me, first of all, if you go in your inner closet and you shut the door so nobody else can hear, now you can be honest. 'Cause see, when you're out in public praying, you ain't, you lying. You ain't going to be you. You ain't honest. You saying stuff that's acceptable to everybody else who you know is listening. But if you go in the closet, you're being real with this thing. You're free to now tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly. You're able to come clean because nobody else is listening 'cause you're in the closet and you shut the door. In other words, I see in secret". "And the Father who sees in secret".

But let me tell you the other reason. He wants a private conversation to dominate your prayer, development of your prayer relationship to me because he wants to talk too. Wait a minute. You say, "Wait a minute. I'm in this quiet room. I don't hear any voices. I don't see anybody. God's invisible. How in the world is he talking to me in this quiet atmosphere"? Because he speaks to your spirit. Let me say that again. You and I speak to our ears. We speak audibly to our external ears and we hear it in our minds, in our brain. That's not where God starts speaking. In the inner room, he speaks to the inner man in a person. You are composed of three parts: spirit, soul, and body.

The way God meant it to work like with Adam and Eve in the garden, who the Bible says, "And they walked with God during the cool of the day". They communicated with God as they walked with God in the Garden of Eden. He says, "It is in that walking in privacy with me that I will bring into the spirit man my thoughts for you to pick up on". When the spirit man gets God's thoughts permeating inside of the inner man, it then flows to the soul. When it flows to the soul, it hits your brain, it hits your mind. That's why 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verses 9 and following say what, it says what eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, and you have not thought about has not entered into the heart of man. God has revealed them to us by his Spirit.

So God wants to talk to you about the thing you're dealing with, the struggle you're having, the fears that you're addressing, the crisis that you're in. He wants to bring thoughts and ideas and perspective, but he wants quiet. He wants no competition because he wants to speak in terms of your spirit. So he says, "Shut out the distractions. You come in and you be honest with me, and give me some space". That's why when you read the Book of Psalms you will regularly read the author, most of the time David, talk about how he is meditating in prayer, meditating in prayer. See, God wants to talk to you. He speaks objectively through his Bible. He speaks subjectively through his Spirit. And when the Bible and the Spirit come together, as you think through what you are talking to God about, it says, David says spoke to him in the night hours. He says, "When you pray", verse 7, "stop using meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do".

That's like saying the same thing over and over again 'cause that's what you say. "I want a serious meeting; and I want you to close the door, put everybody else out so you can be 100 with me". And he says, "And the Father who sees in secret". In other words, he's waiting in the room for you to show up 'cause he's looking for a secret conversation, because that's what you do when you're building a relationship. When a guy is trying to win a girl, you know, he ain't trying to have a whole lot of people around long. He trying to peel off to the side because he's pursuing a relationship, see? And he wants to know that you want a connection with the Father. Not just with God, but with dad. It's a different deal.

"Our Father who art in heaven". And when you do that, he says, "I will meet you there. I will see you in private". Ah, verse 8, so, "Okay, what are you trying to say, Jesus"? "Do not be like them," the non-Christians, the Gentiles; "for your Father", He's still talking about relationship, "Your daddy now. Not the big God up there, your Father knows what you need before you ask". Okay, watch this now. You don't pray to inform God. Most people pray to inform God. God say, "I knew what you were going to say before you opened your mouth". He says, "When you come to me, don't just come to give me information I am already completely aware of. Okay? I already know what you need".

"But wait a minute. So if you know what I need, why do I got to pray anyway? You already know what I'm getting ready to ask. You know what I'm thinking. You know where I'm struggling. Why do I have to pray"? Because in a relationship you do things because of the connection. "And I want to know you want me, not what you can get from me. I already know what you want, I already know what you need, but I want to know do you want me". Like folk who just come to be blessed. That is an insult to God, to only come to the blessing and not want the blesser. How do we know we don't want the blesser? 'Cause we only show up for the blessing. He says, "No, this conversation is not just about what you need 'cause I already know that".

Okay, watch this now. Watch this. We're going to go into some theology now. "So what I'm going to do," God is saying, "is I'm going to let you have needs. I'm going to let you have health needs, financial needs, career needs, relational needs, emotional needs. I'm going to let you have needs because it's only when you have a need that I can get a little time with you. It's only when things are bad enough that you at least will think about talking to me. It's only when everything is shut down that I get extra time in spite of just a rush. You just say a quick thing 'cause you're supposed to. So sometimes I let the needs be light. Maybe I'll get some time with you. Oh no, that wasn't bad enough. Let me take it down a little lower. Maybe you'll give me some time now. Or let me make it so there's hopeless. Now I get all of your time because I want a relationship with you and sometime your needs are the only way I can get it".

Now, let me explain how this works. He says, "I know your needs ahead of time, and I know it before you ask". God has an unconditional will and a conditional will. Two wills. The unconditional will is what he has determined to do regardless of what anybody else does or does not do. That's called his sovereign will. In other words, he's just going to do it 'cause he want to, okay? You don't have to do anything or not do something. It doesn't matter. He's just going to do it 'cause he decided to do it. But he has also a conditional will. The conditional will is what he chooses to do but only when the conditions are met. So if the conditions aren't met, whatever is on the conditional will side is not dispensed because it was in his conditional will.

Now, the Bible will give you a list of his conditional will, but sometimes things are in his conditional will that the Bible doesn't directly speak about and you don't know whether it's unconditional or conditional. That's why the Bible says pray about all things 'cause sometimes you don't know if God's going to do it anyway or whether he's waiting on you to pray first, whether he's waiting for you to obey first before he does it. So if it's his conditional will, that means he's waiting on you to meet the condition. That's why James 4:2 says, "You have not 'cause you ask not". "You didn't meet the condition I'm asking, so I didn't give it". Why? Because you weren't pursuing a relationship.

Let me tell you how powerful this thing is. God says, "I already know what you're coming to talk to me about. I just want you to come talk to me. And I've already decided, in fact, I decided before you came to dispense it, so when you come I can then allow it to be delivered". Okay? "But I'm going to hold on to it until I get a little time, till I get a little attention. Show your love. Show your love. Show your love. I'm going to hold on to it until it's not just about this that I already know about. It's about me".

Now let me tell you how powerful this thing is. God has given so much clout to prayer that's relationally-driven to draw heaven into history, that he will even allow prayer to change his mind. I don't know that there's anything more potent than. Prayer, God has allowed to be so powerful when it's relationally-driven that you can switch him from what he was going to do to what you want him to do that's different than what he was going to do. The Bible says God changes not. He's the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is a changeless God, yet the Bible says God changes his mind. In Exodus 32, verse 14, it says God changed his mind about judging his people.

In Jeremiah 26:19, it says God changed his mind with regard to the circumstances. In Amos chapter 7, verses 2 and 3, God was going to bring judgment, it says, but the people cried out to God and God changed his mind. Anybody in here need God to change his mind about something, about a health situation, a financial situation, a personal situation? You need him to switch it back. God says if relationally-driven prayer will give God at least an option, he's sovereign he can choose whether he wants to change his mind. But how can a changeless God change his mind? It works like this. God can never change regarding his character, but he can change regarding his actions. His being, his person, his attributes are changeless. But here's how it works.

Let's say God decides to judge you for a sin. "And I'm going to judge you because my character of justice and wrath means that I must respond to unrighteousness". And so God decides to do that. But like in Amos chapter 7, you go to God in repentance, you go to God for pardon, you go to God for restoration. God then has the option. It's his option, but God then has an option to shift your sin to his mercy. He's not going to give up his judgment, but he may decide to use another part of his character. His mercy means not giving you what your sin called for.

If God decides in your case to shift his judgment into his mercy, he stayed the same. He just related it to a different part of his changeless nature, which allows him to change his action towards your situation. So don't let things that God is willing to change go unchanged because we refuse to meet him in a private place, to meet him in a place of supernatural intervention.

I'll close with the passage in chapter 7 of Matthew. Verse 7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf will give him a stone, or if he ask for a fish will give him a snake? Will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him"? He will do good things, he says, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose of wanting a relationship, wanting to be conformed to Jesus Christ. If you pursue a relationship and bring your needs along with that in your secret place, you will hear from God 'cause God will hear from you.

Prayer is not a performance. It is relational communication with God. God wants to warn us that if there is no pursuit of relationship, then we're using prayer as a program. He doesn't want us to be hypocritical, and he doesn't want us just to use words that are empty and without meaning. He wants to be communicated with in a two-way communication, us talking to him in heaven and he talking from heaven to us in order that we might draw down eternity into time. So prayer is to be taken seriously, not casually. Because we don't have a casual God and a casual Father in heaven, we have one who cares about us, loves us, and wants to be intimately and intricately involved with us. So let's be careful not to take prayer casually but to give it the serious attention it deserves because it is our way to bring heaven's help into history's need.
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