Prayer: What a blessing to be able to speak to God! Do we understand it? Do we take advantage of it in our lives? Watch and listen as Robert explains how prayer fits the model of worship that God desires.

ROBERT >> When’s the last time that you talked to God in prayer? Does God really hear your prayers and answer your prayers? What does the Bible say about prayer? And how can I know if I’m really praying to God?

SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.

ROBERT >> Last week we began talking about true worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth. Today we want to continue to look at what the Bible says about the worship of that church you read about in your Bible.

We notice that true worshipers prayed. From the beginning, they continued steadfastly in prayers. Go with me, if you will, to Acts 2:42, where we read about the very beginning of that church. Three thousand souls were baptized into Christ according to verse 41. “God added them to his church.”And notice what it says in verse 42. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Let’s follow this down as we look on through the book of Acts. Look in Acts 4:24, where the Bible says, “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said, Lord.”

You see, the church began to pray. This was when Peter and John had been arrested and threatened not to preach the gospel anymore in Jesus’ name there in Jerusalem.

Look at it in Acts 6:4. Here we see there was a problem in the church. Some of the widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of the food. And so the apostles wanted to turn this service over to some who could help with that so they could devote themselves to prayer. Here’s what the Bible says. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Look in Acts 7:59-60, as Stephen was being stoned to death for his preaching there on the streets in Jerusalem. The Bible says, “They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he knelt down, and he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not charge them with this sin. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Look at Acts 9:40. Here in this passage the Bible says, “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body, he said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”

Tabitha, or Dorcas, as she’s also known, was raised by Peter’s prayer. And then we look in chapter 12 and verse 5, when Peter had been arrested and put in prison. The church was praying because of the great persecution that was coming upon them. Here it says in this verse that,Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. Then I look further in verse 12 of this chapter. When the angel came and released Peter from the prisons, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, and look what they were doing. When he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

Yes, this church was a praying church. And as you go on through the book of Acts, you see it even continued as the church began to spread out of Jerusalem into other parts of the world.

For example, in Acts 16:25, when Paul and Silas had been arrested in Philippi for their preaching and were cast into the deep inner prison, they were that night talking to God in prayer. Chapter 16, verse 25, the Bible says, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”

Look in Acts 20:36, when the apostle Paul met with the elders of Ephesus at the place called Miletus. And having talked with them and was about to leave them, perhaps never to see them again, he wanted to leave with prayer. And here in this verse the Bible says, “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.”

In chapter 21, verse 4 and verse 5, the Bible says,“And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. And when we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.”Once again, as Paul would leave these brethren, he would do so with prayer.

And then finally in Acts chapter 27, look in verse 35. You might remember when Paul was on that ship to Rome and the great storm came up threatening their lives.

The Bible says here in chapter 27, verse 35,” And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.”

Even there on that ship in the midst of all of these things going on, Paul broke his bread; but he did not do it without thanksgiving to God. No, we must not forget to pray. Just as that church prayed, we as God’s church today must be a praying church. I want to notice some of the things that were mentioned in the letters to the churches that reminded them to pray.

For example, in Romans 12:12 we have these words: “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.”

And then in Romans 15:30, at the end of this great letter, the apostle Paul said, “I beg you, therefore, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul emphasized the importance of prayer for the husband and for the wife. The Bible says here, “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

In Ephesians 6:18-20, where the apostle Paul was talking about the great struggle that we are in with Satan, that spiritual battle that we fight each day with temptation and sin, he told us to “put on the armor of God so we might be able to stand against the devil.”

But then he also tells us to pray. Here in verse 18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

In Philippians 4:6, Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

And in the Colossian letter, chapter 4 and verse 2,“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it, with thanksgiving.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, listen to what he has to say to the church there in Thessalonica. He says simply, “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ for you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.”

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications,prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence.”

Hebrews 4:16, we’re encouraged to come to God in prayer. Here the scripture says,” Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

James realizes that there are times in our life when we especially need the wisdom of God.And so he says in chapter 1, verse 5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him.”

And finally in James 5:13-16, the Bible says, “Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing songs.”And he goes on to tell us to call for the elders when we’re sick to pray. And he concludes this section by saying,” And the prayer of faith will save the sick. Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Yes, that church was a praying church. And we as God’s people today must be a praying church. When I take a look at all these verses, there are a few things that seem to jump out at me that really characterize their prayers, and that’s what I want you to notice today. I want you to notice first of all that they were talking to God from their hearts. Yes, in prayer, God is the focus of our hearts. Don’t worry so much about what everybody is thinking about your prayer. You talk to God. You’re not putting on a show, you’re not trying to impress anyone. You’re talking to God. Don’t use prayer to preach a sermon. You’re talking to God. Lift him up, praise him, give him thanks, and quit using the same old vain repetitions. Let him know what’s on your heart, what you need from him. You be open and honest, you talk with him about your sins and your temptations and your struggles and your trials, your doubts and your questions.

People tell me they don’t know how to pray. Just share your heart with God. And the more you do, the better you’ll learn to pray. Both the Old and New Testament picture prayer as incense before God.

In Psalm 141:2 the Bible says, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense.”

In Revelation 5:8 it speaks of the golden bowls full of incense which, he says, are the prayers of the saints.

And in Revelation 8:3-4 it speaks of the smoke of the incense, when the prayers of the saints ascended before God. Incense has a powerful, penetrating, and lingering presence. And prayer should have those same qualities in our minds, in our hearts. But it has such power only when
we pray honestly, sincerely, and with our spirits truly attuned to God.

In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul says, “My heart’s desire and supplication to God is for them, that they might be saved.”

He was praying for his Jewish brethren. Prayer was simply an expression of his heart’s desire. Our prayers must come out of our heart. Talk to God from your heart. We read just a moment ago in Romans 15:30 how the apostle Paul wanted the church to strive together with him in prayer. To strive is to contend, like in an athletic game or a fight. We must put our whole heart into it.

In James 5:16 we read how that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much in its working. What he’s saying is, when we really pray, it will really work.

You remember when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that night before going to the cross?

Luke 22:44 describes it this way: “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And then His sweat became like great drops of blood, falling down to the ground”.

In Hebrews 5:7 the Hebrew writer describes it this way: “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death and was heard because of His godly fear.”

Yes, that whole-hearted prayer, when we talk to God from our hearts, it’ll change our tone, and it’ll keep us from rushing into God’s presence and then quickly running out. It will give much more meaning and power to our prayers when we truly talk to God from our heart.

There’s a second thing that we need to consider today. As I consider these passages on prayer, these many that we read from the scriptures, is it not obvious that those folks that were praying were seeking his will?

Yes, they were seeking God’s will for their lives. God gave us prayer to help us to accomplish his purposes in our lives. Prayer is not about fulfilling our own fleshly pleasures. I think this is where so many have missed it when it comes to prayer. You know, for many, prayer’s like an Aladdin’s lamp. You rub that lamp, and you get your three wishes. No. We must not come to God in prayer with a gimme mentality, but with the will of God on our minds.

In Isaiah 59:1-2, I want you to listen to what the Lord said to his people then. Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, he says, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

You see, it’s not that God cannot answer our prayers, that his arm’s too short or that his ear’s too heavy, no; but he will not listen to those who refuse to listen to him.

In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”

In other words, if my heart is set on evil, God’s not going to listen to my prayer. Prayer is for those who are truly trying to do his will.

Remember Matthew chapter 6, when Jesus gave us that model prayer and taught us how to pray?

You remember these words?

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s not getting our will done in heaven, but it’s getting God’s will done on earth. That’s what prayer is about. When Jesus was praying that night in the garden, and praying so earnestly that his sweat turned to drops of blood, Matthew 26:39 tells us that, “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

He was praying to God earnestly that he might be able to avoid the suffering of the cross. But his prayer was one of submission. He said, Not My will, but Your will. When you pray, let God know what you want; but like Jesus, you must desire God’s will more than your own will.

In James 4:2-3, James says, “You lust, and do not have, you murder and covet, and cannot obtain, you fight and war; yet you do not have because you do not ask, and you ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Prayer’s not about getting what I want for me, but what God wants for me. Husbands, did you know that a lot of times your prayers do not reach the ceiling because of what’s going on in your marriage?VIn 1 Peter 3:7, I want you to listen to these words written especially for those of us who are husbands. Here he says, “Husbands likewise, dwell with them, that is, your wives, with understanding, giving honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

If we’re not treating our wives right, our prayers will go no higher than the ceiling.

1 John 3:22 I think sums it up so well when John writes, “Whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things which are pleasing in His sight.”

God will always give us what we need to accomplish his will in our lives. When we pray seeking his will, it’ll change how we view prayer and what we pray for; and most importantly, it will change us.

But now I want you to notice this final point today. When I look at all of those prayers in the Bible and I read those passages, it’s very clear that they were trusting him. They were trusting God. And that’s what prayer is. Prayer is an act of faith. It’s not mere wishful thinking. It’s not just a psychological exercise. Prayer is believing that God can and will answer our requests. In fact, that’s what releases the power of prayer into our hearts and our lives, that faith, that trust that we have in him. And you know, this may be the hardest part of prayer, because God is not only asking us to trust him to answer, but also to trust the answer he gives us. When God says no, we want to argue with him. When God says to our prayer, wait a while, we become impatient, and we think he ought to answer on our time. When God says I think you need something different than what you’re asking for, we don’t understand why. When God says I’m going to give you even a greater blessing than you were looking for, we seem surprised that he’s so good to us.

Look at the faith of David in Psalm 62 for just a moment. And look how David had come to understand this idea of truly trusting in God, not only that he would answer, but trusting God’s answer.

In Psalm 62, in the first couple of verses here, “Truly my soul silently waits for God. From Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock
and my salvation. He’s my defense. I shall not be greatly moved.”

David said, I can wait on the Lord, and I can wait in calmness silently because I’m trusting him. He’s my rock. He’s my salvation. In verse 5 he says, “My soul waits silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.”And in verse 10, “Do not trust in oppression; nor vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them. God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: The power belongs to God.”

David says, I’m going to trust God. And ask yourself why you would ever not trust God.

In Matthew 7:7-11 we’re told to ask and to seek and to knock; and when we do, God will hear us, and he’ll answer us. He says, If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him? When we pray, we can trust God to always do what is good for us.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul learned to trust in God. He prayed that God would remove this thorn in the flesh, this affliction that was constantly with him. “But God said, My grace is sufficient for you. And Paul said the power of Christ then comes to rest upon me; and when I’m weak, I’m strong.”Trusting God, Paul found strength from Christ that he never had before.

In Philippians 4:6-7, instead of worrying, Paul says, “Let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

Our problem is we don’t trust God enough to really leave our cares with him. Instead of trusting him with our cares, we keep holding onto them, we won’t let go of them. But trusting God, we find a peace, we find a peace that is greater than our understanding. So let’s learn to trust in God.

“Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7.

1 John 5:14-15, the Bible says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us; and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we have the petitions we’ve asked of him.”

We need to lead prayer as though God has already answered, because we know that he will. When we pray trusting him that our prayers are as good as answered and the answer’s always good, then we’ll find his strength, his peace, and his power to do all things. That church prayed, that church you read about in the Bible.

If we’re true worshipers of God, we’ll be a praying people. Let me encourage you, talk to God from your hearts. Seek his will in your life. Trust him in everything.

SINGING>> All to Jesus I surrender,
all to him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust him,
in his presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to thee, my blessed savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender.
Lord, I give myself to thee.
Fill me with thy love and power,
letthy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all.
I surrender all.
All to thee, my blessed savior,
I surrender all.

SINGING>> I know that my redeemer lives and ever prays for me.
I know eternal life he gives
from sin and sorrow free.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know that over yonder stands
a place prepared for me;
a home, a house not made with hands,
most wonderful to see.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.
I know, I know eternal life he gives.
I know, I know that my redeemer lives.

ROBERT >> I want to thank you all for watching our program today. And if you have any questions, comments, or requests, if you would like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you would like more information about the lesson today, or if you’d like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas 76053.

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All our materials, our services are absolutely free of charge. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven, so let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.

SINGING>> Sing to me of heaven,
sing that song of peace.
From the toils that bind me it will bring release.
Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so,
showers of great blessing o’er my heart will flow.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven,
sing the sweetest song of all.
Sing to me of heaven tenderly
and low till the shadows o’er me rise and swiftly go. When my heart is weary, when the day is long,
sing to me of heaven,
sing that old, sweet song.
Sing to me of heaven,
let me fondly dream of its golden glory,
of its pearly gleam.
Sing to me when shadows of the evening fall,
sing to me of heaven, sing the sweetest song of all.

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