SINGING: Blessed be the Lord God Almighty, who reigns for evermore.
ROBERT: No doubt, many of you who are listening today have responded to the love of God, have responded to his grace. Trusting Jesus for your salvation, you’ve turned from sin, you’ve confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and you’ve given yourself to him in baptism. You have devoted your life to Jesus Christ. But have you noticed how some Christians seem to have a closer walk with God than others? How that some seem to have a strong, active faith while others seem to have lost that connection with God they once had? What’s the difference? How can we maintain and develop and strengthen our connection with God? Well, that’s why we have the Bible and why we have prayer.
Communication with God involves both talking to God in prayer and listening to God speak through his word, the Bible. Now, today let’s discuss talking to God in prayer, and Lord willing next week we’ll discuss listening to God speak through his word, the Bible.
I think most of us who are Christians know we ought to pray. I remember the words of Jesus in Luke 18:1. He said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”
It’s so easy for us to become discouraged in the work of the Lord. We need to keep that constant communication with God in prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. In other words, don’t ever quit praying. Don’t ever give up on prayer. But let me ask, are we really doing what the Bible says in regards to prayer?
You see, if you really want to connect with God in prayer, there are some things you need to keep in mind. For example, if you want to connect with God in prayer, don’t just say the words. Talk to him.
Do you ever find yourself saying tired, worn out words that you’ve used over and over in prayer without really even thinking about what you’re saying? Has your prayer ever become a ritual, maybe a ritual at meals or at worship, and you just kind of go through the motions without really talking to God from the heart?
God doesn’t want empty words. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions,” those empty words that we just repeat over and over again.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:9, “In this manner therefore pray, our Father in heaven.” And he goes on to give that great model prayer.
God wants us to talk to him as a child to his father. He’s not giving us a prayer in the model prayer to recite, to memorize, but he’s teaching us how to pray as the disciples asked him in Luke 11:1-2, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and it’s then that he gave them this model prayer as a pattern, as an example, not something simply to be memorized and repeated without any thought.
You need to learn and I need to learn as a Christian to tell God what’s on my mind, what’s really in my heart, to share with him our concerns.
I love Philippians 4:6, where the apostle Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Tell him what it is that you want, that you need, that you desire to talk to him about.
1 Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God wants us to let go of our worries and to turn them over to him, to trust him with these kinds of things. And that’s what prayer is about.
What are some of the prayers that you remember from the Bible? You know, the prayers that I remember are those that were really heart felt. I think about Hannah’s prayer in. 1 Samuel 1:10 the Bible says she was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord, and wept in anguish.” And then she made a vow, “and she said, O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant, and remember me and not forget your maidservant, but will give your maid servant a male child, then I’ll give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” You see, this woman was really pouring out her heart to God.
I think about Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20:2. The Bible says, “Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before you in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” Here he was on the verge of death, but he pours out his heart to God in prayer. And God answered him and granted him many more years of life.
Jesus in Matthew 26:39, there in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing the cross, he poured out his heart to God. The Bible says that “he went a little farther, and he fell on his face, and he prayed, saying, ‘O, my Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” You see, Jesus was struggling here. This was a great trial. But he used prayer to give him the strength to go on, to do the will of the Lord.
These were not just saying words. They spoke from their hearts to God. See, God’s not interested in some dynamic lecture, a prepared speech, a poetic recital. He just wants us to talk to him.
Some grandparents were trying to show their grandchildren the importance of thanking God for everything that he had blessed them with, and they encouraged them to speak to God whenever they needed to know what they should do. And Michael, their little four year old grandson, he enjoyed holding their hands, and with head bowed he’d close his eyes, and he’d listen as they led in prayer.
One evening as they were preparing to eat, Michael asked if he could say the prayer. His grandfather asked him, “Michael, do you know how to ask God to bless our meal?”
He nodded yes with enthusiasm. And so he was given permission.
They bowed their heads, and instead of hearing words of a prayer, they herd nothing but a very faint sound coming from the direction of his bowed head. Finally, a very hearty “Amen” was uttered from Michael, and he looked up for an affirmation from his grandparents that he had done a very good job.
His grandmother instructed him that we would say the prayer again, because she said she couldn’t hear a single word of anything he said. After all, we wanted to teach them how to talk to the Father, and they need to know how to do so, they thought.
Well, what happened next kind of drives home the lesson that they’d been attempting to teach. Michael’s facial expression changed from one of joy to one of puzzlement, and he quickly added, “But Granny, I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to God.”
And so when we bow our heads, when we come before God to pray, let’s remember he doesn’t want our empty words. He really wants us to talk to him.
Here’s something else. When you pray to God, don’t pretend. Be honest with him.
Isn’t it funny how we sometimes come to God in prayer, and we act like he doesn’t know everything about us already?
Do we really think we can fool God?
Why is it that we’re afraid to tell him about our sins, to talk to him about our weaknesses or our struggles or the questions and doubts, the feelings, the fears, the disappointments, the distresses, the concerns of our hearts?
God already knows all about us. He just wants us to talk to him about it, to be honest with him and not pretend.
Job 34:21, the Bible says, “For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”
Hebrews 4:13, the Bible says that “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
1 John 3:20, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18? The Pharisee was a hypocrite. He was a pretender. But who did he think that he was fooling? He certainly wasn’t fooling God. And anybody else could see right through him.
He was only fooling himself.
When he stood up to pray, he wasn’t praying with God, but with himself. His prayers didn’t go any higher than the ceiling.
But it was that poor sinner that came clean with God whose prayer was heard. If you want to talk with God, you need to be open and honest. 1 John 1:8-9, the Bible says that, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, God wants us to be open and honest with him in our prayers about who we are and about what we’ve done so that we might find forgiveness, so we might keep that connection with him.
In James 5:16 the Bible tells us to “confess our faults to one another and to pray for one another.” We need to spend more time with our brothers and our sisters in Christ so that we can help each other in prayer just like James teaches us there.
Psalm 139:23-24, I love the prayer of the Psalmist when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my anxieties, and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” You see, he was inviting God to come and to take a look and to help him and to show him and to lead him.
I read of one lady who, out of sincere concern over sin and a desire to be what God wanted her to be, she prayed, “God, show me the sin in my life. Show me what I really am.” And she said that in a couple of weeks, she began to pray, “Lord, I’ve seen enough. Please, Lord, don’t show me anymore. I can’t stand myself.”
As difficult as it may be, this is exactly what we all need to do.
Not only to talk with God honestly and openly and with not just empty words, but really share our hearts with him; but here’s something else. Let’s don’t always be asking. Praise him.
Have you ever known those who never call and never come around until they need something from you? I wonder if we ever treat God that way. Do we come to him with a long list of things we need from him but forget to praise him for all that he’s done and all that he’s doing for us already?
Psalm 103:1-2, the Bible says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” If we would just learn to count our many blessings.
Philippians 4:6 reminds us not to worry, but to let our requests be made known to him. But sometimes we miss this little phrase in there, “with thanksgiving”. Yes, God wants us to come to him with every concern of our heart, but he wants us to come with thanksgiving. Because you see, when we’re thankful, it reminds us of how good God is, what he has done for us, what he’s doing for us in our life. And it gives us confidence that he will hear and answer our prayers for our concerns and our needs today.
Ephesians 5:20, the Bible says, “Giving thanks always for all things to the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Always we need to be thankful to God. No matter what else may be going on in our life, the circumstances of our life, let’s be busy about giving thanks to the Lord.
Hebrews 13:15, the Bible says, “Therefore by Him, that is, by Jesus Christ, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Yes, God deserves our praise and our thanksgiving always.
You know, the original readers of that passage we just quoted, Hebrews 13:15, they were on the verge of shedding their own blood to remain faithful to God. They were suffering.
In Hebrews 13:12, it refers to Jesus’ suffering outside the gate of Jerusalem and how he shed his blood.
In Hebrews 13:13, the writer encourages the readers to share in the reproach of Christ. Sometimes we hurt while we’re praising God, just as those Hebrew Christians were going through suffering and difficulty and trial, but they were commanded here to continually praise the Lord.
Messengers one after another told Job that his livestock, his crops, his riches were gone, that his servants and children were dead. And Job replied, “The Lord gives, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job 1:21. What a wonderful, confident, assuring, positive attitude Job had, praising the Lord in the midst of his suffering and in his trial.
Paul and Silas, they’d been beaten with rods, they’d been thrown into prison, but at midnight they were heard by all the prisoners “praying and singing hymns to God,” Acts 16:25. Can you imagine being in that jail cell in that prison that night and hearing these men of God singing to the Lord, praising him in the midst of their suffering? What a tremendous example. What a powerful act. What an impact it must have on those who look at us as Christians and they see the confidence that we have in the Lord.
I know after one of the terrible battles of the Civil War there was a dying Confederate soldier who asked to see a chaplain. And when the chaplain arrived, he supposed the young man would wish him to ask God for his recovery. But it was different. First the soldier asked him to cut off a lock of his hair for his mother. He asked him to kneel down and to thank God. “What for?” asked the surprised chaplain.
”For giving me such a mother, to thank God that I’m a Christian, to thank God for giving me grace to die with, and thank God for the home He’s promised me over there.”
So the chaplain knelt down by the dying man, and in his prayer he had not a single petition to offer, but only praise and gratitude. Let us learn this about talking to God.
But there’s a final point I want to bring to you today. When you talk to God in prayer, don’t doubt. Believe in him. Don’t doubt God. Trust in him.
”Does God really answer prayer?” we ask. “Do our prayers really make a difference?” “Can we trust God with our prayers?” The answer is yes.
Consider the prayers of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke chapter 1 that God would give them a child. In their old age, Elizabeth was still barren when an angel appeared to him, announcing that God would answer their prayer for a child, and Zacharias, he couldn’t believe it.
I think we’re like that sometimes. We don’t really expect God to answer our prayers, and so when he does, we’re surprised about it.
We need to learn to trust God to answer our prayers in his own time. It may have taken a long time for their child to come; but delay is not denial.
We need to learn to trust God to answer our prayer in his own way. God not only gave them a child, but one who would bring great joy, who would be dedicated to God, who would prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need to learn to trust God to answer our prayer by his own power. There was nothing they or anyone else could do. Only God could answer this prayer.
We need to learn to trust God to answer our prayer according to his own purposes. This child was a fulfillment of prophecy and was used by God to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. He was a part of his great plan. Matthew 21:21-24, the Bible says, “So Jesus answered, and He said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, if you say to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.’”
Yes, the power of God is beyond our imagination; but we need to trust him for the answers to our prayers. As James says in chapter 1 and verse 5, “nothing doubting”.
James 4:2-3 teaches us that we have not because we ask not, and we have not because we ask amiss, that we may spend it in our pleasures. Understand that prayer is not like Aladdin’s lamp where you rub it and you get your every wish.
The idea is that we use prayer to accomplish the purposes of God, his will in our life. James 5:16, the Bible teaches us that, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much in its working.”
Oh, prayer is powerful to accomplish God’s work and will for us. 1 John 5:14-15, he teaches us to have confidence, knowing that the Lord will hear our petitions and answer them according to His will.
Somebody said, If the request is wrong, God says, “No”; if the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow”; if you are wrong, God says, “Grow.” If the request is right, the timing’s right, and you’re right, God says, “Go.”
Let me leave you with this final thought today. Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store. She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner.
She asked if he would let her charge a few groceries, and she softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work. They had seven children. They needed food.
John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store.
Visualizing the family needs, she said, “Please, sir. I’ll bring you the money just as soon as I can.”
And John told her that he could not give her credit, as she did not have a charge account at his store.
Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. And the customer walked forward and told the grocery man that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family.
And the grocery man said in a very reluctant voice, “Do you have a grocery list?”
Louise replied, “Yes, sir.”
”Okay,” he said. “Put your grocery list on the scales, and whatever your grocery list weighs, I’ll give you that amount in groceries.”
Louise reached into her purse after hesitating a moment with a bowed head, and she took out a piece of paper, scribbled something on it, and laid that piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.
And the eyes of the grocery man and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down. And the grocery man, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, “I can’t believe it.”
The customer smiled, and the grocery man started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales, and the scales didn’t balance, so he continued to put more and more groceries on them till the scales would hold no more. The grocery man stood there in utter disgust.
Finally, he grabbed that piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with great amazement. It wasn’t a grocery list. It was a prayer. It said, “Dear Lord, you know my needs, and I’m leaving this in your hands.”
The grocery man gave her the groceries that he had gathered and placed on the scales and stood in stunned silence.
Louise thanked him and left the store.
The customer handed a 50 dollar bill to John as he said, “It was worth every penny of it.”
And it was sometime later that John Longhouse discovered the scales were broken. Therefore, only God knows how much a prayer weighs.
Whatever it is, you talk to God about it because you believe in him.
SINGING: No tears in heaven, no sorrows given, all will be glory in that land. There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness when we shall join that happy band. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there. Sorrow and pain will all have flown. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there, no tears in heaven will be known. Glory is waiting, waiting up yonder where we shall spend an endless day. There with our savior we’ll be forever where no more sorrow can dismay. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there. Sorrow and pain will all have flown. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there. No tears in heaven will be known. Some morning yonder we’ll cease to ponder o’er things this life has brought to view. All will be clearer, loved ones be dearer in heaven where all will be made new. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there. Sorrow and pain will all have flown. No tears in heaven fair, no tears, no tears up there. No tears in heaven will be known.
ROBERT: We want to thank you for watching our program today. We’d love to hear from you, so let me encourage you to contact us with your questions, comments, or requests at The Truth In Love, P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas, 76053.
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SINGING>> The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you, and give you peace, and give you peace, and give you peace, and give you peace; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you, and be gracious; the Lord be gracious, gracious unto you. Amen, amen, amen, amen.