Jesus gives us the authority to approach God like His child. He is our Father who loves us. JP teaches us how we should pray — for God's agenda, our desires, His forgiveness, and our freedom. Prayer is expressing your desires while seeking God's agenda and aligning your heart with His. There is nothing wrong with asking God; in fact, God wants us to ask and seek Him, for His glory. It reflects a relationship and dependence on Him. Ultimately, our answered prayer is that we get more of God.
Death to Self: the Truest Fruit of All the Disciplines
Baptism: Why You Should Why You Shouldn't and What it's For
The Discipline of the Lord's Supper
True Test of Being a Servant
The Secret Place as the Secret to Christlikeness
The Activity and Attitude of Prayer
The Spiritual Disciplines: Spending Time in God's Word
The Key to Knowing and Serving the God Who Loves You
Male: Bert keeps talking about this whole praying without ceasing concept, but I'm not sure how you can pray continually while playing Candy Crush all day.
Female: Oh, I pray all the time.
Female: Lord, you give and you take away. I pray that you would give me this fabulous ensemble complete with accessories.
Female: O Father God, please do not let him pull me over. Please, please, please.
Female: If some people would talk less maybe they could pray more. Right, my little Katniss?
Male: Every day Bert walks by my office at 8:30 and 12:30. That's when I'm on my knees praying…or taking a nap. That's when they think I'm really into it.
[End of video]
I love my friend Jim Wimberley. He is praying or sleeping all the time. Todd texted me early this morning from the Wailing Wall in Israel and said to let you know he was praying for us from there and that you don't have to be there for the Lord to hear your prayers. I'm excited to be with you guys and continue this series, inTIMEacy, spending time with God.
I really need to give a big disclaimer on this first illustration, this first story. I've been a Christian for about 12 years. I trusted Christ here at Watermark. College for me was much, much rebellion and much, much regret of the things I did there. One particular evening I found myself in the back of a police car on my way to the jail out there on Highway 6. So you're not wondering, it was Minor in Possession of Alcohol. I got to spend the night in jail.
Now I kind of prided myself on being this bad boy, kind of this bad-boy image, but I can tell you that once I'm in this kind of gray, gloomy, cold cell with a stranger… There were three of us. They took us, divided us up, and put me in this cell with a stranger who didn't speak English and was very intoxicated, so I didn't know if he was in there for a traffic ticket or murder. I was just kind of keeping one eye on him all night.
I'm in there, and I can tell you, that tough-guy image faded quickly. Totally transparent: I was scared because I didn't have a lot of information. I was thinking, "How long am I going to be here?" and "Where does this go?" All night passes. I don't sleep. The officer comes up to the jail cell the next morning and says, "It's time for your phone call." I'm like, "Oh, that really happens, huh?"
"Yeah, yeah. You get a phone call."
"Well, who do I call?"
"Well, son. Why don't you call your parents? You need to call your dad."
"Officer, you don't know my dad. I think I'll just stay in here. How long can I stay here? Is there a limit? Man, I'll call anybody."
"Son, you need to call your dad."
"I don't want to call my dad."
I want you to get in my head with me for a minute. What is going through my mind? Why didn't I want to call my dad? It could be a number of things: He's going to angry. He's going to be mad at me. I'm going to be bothering him. What if that's my one phone call and he doesn't answer? What if he can't do anything about it? What if he hears this and he's like, "What do you want me to do about it? Why are you calling me with your problem?" What if he asks me to change? This is going to be his opportunity to remind me I need to change. I don't want to call my dad.
I tell you that because I think these are the same reasons we don't pray. These are the same reasons we don't want to go to a loving Father who loves us and can help us, not only in our time of need, but we're always in a time of need. These are the same reasons we don't go to him. As I think back on that moment, what I remember most is not the gloomy, gray cell; not the stranger I was in there with; not the way I got there; and not even the experience itself.
What I remember most was when my father answered the phone. I expected him to be so mad, and my dad is not a pushover. I said, "Dad, I'm in jail." He said, "Well, how do we get you out?" I just remember in that moment thinking, "Man, my dad is there to help me. He's for me. Yeah, there's going to be discipline, there are things I did wrong, and there are things I have to face with him, but he wants to help." That's what I remember most about that situation.
Some of us came in this room this morning with a prayer problem, and I prayed, "God, help me address the prayer problem of our body." I just believe as I open the Scripture this morning and turn to a place where Jesus is going to teach us how to pray that we don't have a prayer problem; we have a view of God problem. If we had the right view of God, we would pray. If we had a right view of God, we would go to him in prayer.
This morning we're talking about the discipline of prayer in this series called inTIMEacy. You're spending time with God. The discipline of spending time with God. I wrestled with this because I know I can get you to pray. I know I can give you a message and compel you with guilt…guilt is such a powerful motivator…that you would leave today and you would pray tonight and maybe tomorrow but then go back to normal. Right?
I don't want you just to pray today. I want you to understand why we can pray, how we can pray, how we can go to a loving Father, why we should, how he loves us, who he is, and who is answering those prayers. Specifically, that's where we'll be. Before you leave here this morning you'll know three things: how we can approach God; by what authority we can approach God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and how we pray; and who is answering our prayers.
I'm going to be in Luke, chapter 11, if you want to turn there. The Bible has a lot to say with prayer, so in wrestling with this I was like, "Where do I go? I can go to Ephesians 6, James 1, James 5, Matthew 6, Matthew 7, 1 Thessalonians 5, Philippians 4, Isaiah, and Jeremiah." There are a lot of places in the Scripture that we can go to to teach us about prayer and what prayer should look like, but I went to this specific place because this is Luke's account.
Luke was not one of the Twelve but may have been one of the 72. He was someone who had a vested interest in Jesus. He was very smart. He documented the gospel account in one of the Synoptic Gospels, Luke. He tells us, "This is where the disciples came to Jesus, God in the flesh, and said, 'Will you teach us how to pray?'" I thought that would be a good place to start, where Jesus is teaching us how to pray. Luke, chapter 11, verse 1:
"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place." We see that a lot: Jesus praying in a certain place. This is important because Jesus had been with God in eternity past. Since the beginning of the beginning Jesus was always with God. In the future Jesus is always going to be with God. He is God. He is the Son of God, a person of the Trinity. Yet much of his short time on this earth, his 33 years, he spent with the Father. Even though he had always been with him and he would always be with him he spent so much of his time here with him, getting away to pray.
"When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'" Which is a strange ask. You don't today hear somebody pray and be like, "Oh, man. You're good at that. Will you show me how to do what you just did? The way you just said that, the way you articulated Father was just so… Will you teach me?"
The disciples had seen people pray. The religious people were always in the synagogues praying. They had seen a lot of people pray, but there was something about Jesus and the way he did it that they said, "Will you teach us?" "Rabbi, will you teach us how you do that?" Jesus doesn't say, "Why are you asking me?" He just says, "Okay. Watch this. This is how you pray." It's like Prayer 101 by Jesus.
"He said to them, 'When you pray, say: "Father…"'" We can just stop right there. Profound theological truth in that one word. "Father, hallowed be your name…" There are two ideas we have to reconcile. "Daddy, your name is holy and set apart," and, "Father, you are sinless, divine, and holy, and I call you 'Father.'" These are two incredible theological truths we have to reconcile right there at the beginning when Jesus says, "This is how you pray." The first thing I want to talk about this morning is how we are…
1._ Authorized to approach the father. How is it that we are authorized to approach the Creator of the heavens and the earth, God, and call him _Father? How did this happen? See, authorized is a word that means having official permission or approval. We have official permission or approval to go to God the Creator.
In a moment, Jesus says, "Guys, come here. Disciples, come here. Watermark, come here. Listen. You get to call my dad, Dad." If I heard Jesus say, "Father," I'd be like, "Oh, because he's your father, but what do I call him?" Because he says to say this: "Father…"
"Okay, Jesus. You call him Father, but what do I call your dad?"
"No, no, no. You call him Dad too. You get to call him Father."
"Why do I call him Father?"
Did you know that in the Old Testament, God was only called Father nationally, as the father of the nation of Israel, 16 times? He is never prayed to as Father anywhere in the Old Testament. Nowhere. But 60 times Jesus, in the New Testament, calls him Father. Not only does he call him Father in Matthew 6 and here in Luke 11; he says "You should call him, Father." He says, "You can call him, Father." "Jesus, how is it that we get to call your father, Our Father?" This is the crazy reality: we come to the Father through the Son.
You're going to see the Trinity in this passage. We come to the Father through the Son. Jesus is our mediator, and he gives us the authority to go to a holy God. This is mind-blowing. Up until this point there would be a high priest who would slaughter goats and bulls once a year for the sins of a nation. He'd go into a place where he would face God, into the Holy of Holies, once a year. Only he could do it. Hegot to go to God on the people's behalf.
The high priest was the mediator. Now we have a high priest in Jesus, who slaughtered himself on our behalf so we can go to the Father. Do you remember what happened? The veil was torn top to bottom when Jesus was crucified, saying "Now you get to go to God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth." It's personal. You get to go to him.
Hebrews 4, verse 14: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." He's a perfect sacrifice.
"Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Jesus, the Son of God, is our mediator who allows us, gives us, the authority to go to God the Father.
This is what this looks like: You're in that jail cell, and you have one phone call. You call God. Jesus answers, "Hello." "Jesus, it's me. I need to talk to the Father." "Okay." Then Jesus says to God, "It's your son. He's not guilty. No, no. Remember, all that stuff he did…that went on me. Remember, God the Father, that you already punished him through me, so he's declared righteous."
You can talk to him and listen to him. Jesus is our mediator. Praise God Jesus is our mediator. This is great news for us, incredible news for you and me, and this is what it means to pray in Jesus' name. It's not just something we tag onto a prayer. Don't just do it superstitiously.
If you say "In Jesus' name," great, but know why you're saying it. We are saying "In Jesus' name" since it is because of the Son, because of the finished work of the Son… That is how we come to the Father. So if you have trusted in Christ…his death, burial, and resurrection…for the forgiveness of your sins then you get to come to the Father as his child.
There was a conversation recorded between two men, and one just said, "It's arrogant to go to God with my problems. That just seems arrogant. I'm not going to go to the president of the United States with my problems. He's busy. He has things he's working on, the affairs of a nation. I can't just kick in the door of the Oval Office and say, 'Hey, I need to talk to you about my HOA or my little issues I'm dealing with over here. Can I address you?' You can't bother the president with those things."
The guy responded, "You can if you're his child. You'd better believe the president of the United States of America is concerned with the affairs of his children. If his children are sick, he's concerned about that. That's weighing on his mind. You're right. You can't just walk on the White House lawn and past the guards. If you keep walking you're going to get shot. Unless you're his child. That's where his children play. That's where they lie out. That's where they swim. That's where they play tennis. That's where his children belong."
Because of Christ, we have the authority to go to God the Father. Because of the Son we approach the Father authorized as his child. Jesus says to pray like this: "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation."
Jesus is showing us a model. This is the way to pray, not the words to pray. Even this is a variation from Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount, a prayer that we call the Lord's Prayer, or the Our Father. This is a variation of that Jesus is recorded praying often, not necessarily in these words. He's not giving us the words to pray but a model to follow, a way to pray. Jesus is showing us how we can pray in both activity and attitude. That's what I want to talk about next.
2._ Our activity and attitude of prayer._ This is an idea. There's the activity of prayer, which is time set aside spent with God, and there is the attitude of prayer, which is an all-the-time dependence on God. Let me illustrate this by talking about my relationship with my wife.
I like date nights. That may make me a weird dude, but I'm a big fan of the date night. But the problem is I think I can ignore her until the date night. In my flesh…Not all the time; I have community helping me with this…I think I can get busy with work and kind of do my thing, and then when date night comes it's like, "Hey, we'll blow this out. I'll go big. I'll get flowers and everything. I'll have a plan. We can eat at a nice place, and I'll sit there and ask you questions. We can see a movie. We'll catch up."
She's like, "Well, can you just be home on time? Can you just call me throughout the day? Because, I'll tell you, the date night is a lot less fun if we haven't talked between date nights. If you're just checking in and you're just setting a time…" The date night is the activity of prayer. The time set aside to be with God. The attitude of prayer is an all-the-time dependence on God. Everywhere we go we're thinking about God.
You can think about this in terms of quotes you've heard. Let me give you one. This is a quote on the activity of prayer from Martin Luther. "I have so much to do today that I cannot get through it with less than three hours' prayer." ("I will spend the first three hours in the activity of prayer.") Here's one that talks about the attitude. "I rarely pray for 20 minutes, but I rarely go 20 minutes without praying." (Praying without ceasing. A 1 Thessalonians 5 prayer, a Colossians 4 prayer. An all-the-time prayer.)
We schedule the activity and we maintain the attitude. Jesus did both. Short prayers ("Lazarus… God, help me heal Lazarus") and long prayers, all-night-long prayers (prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, prayers where he would get away and spend time with God). Jesus modeled both. So Jesus is going to teach us prayer. This is Prayer 101, taught by Jesus.
He says, "After you acknowledge who God is, that he's your Father who's holy, your Daddy who is set apart and sinless, pray like this: "…your kingdom come.""This is aligning my heart with what you're doing. Lord, your kingdom above my kingdom. I've got some things I want, but I am concerned with your agenda."
So this first section is God's agenda. "God, you're doing some things. Help me to realize what it is that you're doing." Todd prays often, "Lord, I know you're doing some incredible things today. I pray that you would see me faithful and use us." I love that. "Lord, I know you're doing things. I know you're up to stuff."
This is where we start. We acknowledge that God has an agenda. Then he says, "Give us each day our daily bread." That he would give us today what we need today. That he would meet our needs. This is our desire. God's agenda, our desires. "Lord, these are the desires of my heart. Here are some things I want. Father, would you hear them?"
Then he says, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." Remember, Jesus said this before he died on the cross. Now we even comprehend forgiveness in a greater vision of what it even means that God sent his Son to die for us, to pay the price for our sins, that we would live in forgiveness…forgiveness as a way of life.
The forgiveness we receive is the same forgiveness we pass on to others or model in the way we forgive others, a forgiveness that was purchased through Christ. This is actually the key to the whole prayer in Matthew 6. This is the idea that Jesus expounds on in saying the Lord's Prayer. "I want to talk to you about forgiveness."
This is an important part. He says, "And lead us not into temptation." That we would be victorious in temptation, experiencing the freedom from sin that Christ offers us, that when we are tempted we could remember the price that has been paid so we could be victorious in that temptation. When we understand who God is, that he's our Father who is holy, we can pray his agenda, our desires, his forgiveness, our freedom.
Let me give it to you again. When we know who God is, we can pray his agenda, our desires, his forgiveness, our freedom. This is the model Jesus gave us. When you go the Father who is holy, pray for his agenda, your desires, his forgiveness, your freedom. This is just a simple model. You may have one you follow called ACTS or something else, but that's just what I think about. His agenda, my desires, his forgiveness, my freedom.
Jesus modeled this in prayer. I think he followed this in prayer often. We see in Luke 5, verse 16, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." He often took the activity of prayer. Let me tell you something. If you're too busy to make time to pray, you're too busy. That's just the reality of it.
If you look at prayer and you're like, "I'm too busy to pray," then you do not understand how dependent on God you really, really are. If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy. When God was here in the flesh in the form Jesus Christ, he spent much of his time praying, so if we're not praying we're taking God for granted. Why? Because prayer in the will of God is a powerful thing. It's such a powerful thing.
You may wonder, "How did you go from a jail cell in Waco to reading the Scriptures to us? I mean, can you even read the Scriptures to us today?" I lost credibility with you up front. Let me tell you a part of my story. God began to do an incredible work in my heart, calling me to know him through community and discipleship.
I was working in corporate America for a large company. I was sitting at my desk one day, and I heard the voice of the Lord say, "You're going to come and work for me now." I don't want to debate with you what that was (you know, "heard the voice of the Lord"), but I can just tell you it was clear enough that it startled my soul that I left. I packed up my laptop into my bag, and I walked out of the office at 1:00 in the afternoon.
I had heard and knew enough to know that if you hear the voice of the Lord, you need to confirm it through Scripture and community, so I got in my car and I immediately called a guy I'm in community with, Beau, and just said, "Hey, I need to talk to you. Can you meet me at my house?"
"Yeah, man. I'm at work right now. Can I come…?"
"I know you are. Is there any way you can leave work and meet me at my house?"
"Yeah, sure. Okay."
So he does. We meet at my house at 1:30 in the afternoon. I said, "Beau, sit down. This is going to sound crazy."
"Bro, I think I've called into vocational ministry. I think the Lord called me into vocational ministry. It just seemed so clear."
He goes, "That's not crazy. You've been being discipled, you've been discipling, and you've been studying the Scriptures. I've seen God change you. I've seen you grow in who he is. That's not crazy."
"I'm a salesman though. What am I supposed to do? I've always been a salesman. What am I supposed to do in vocational ministry?" I'm just looking at him and talking to him. I'm like, "I know what I'll do. I'll just start a nonprofit company. That's all I can do. I don't have a seminary degree. What am I going to do? I'll start a nonprofit."
As he is sitting there… I'm all Activator. I'm just like, "Okay. Idea…let's go." I get on the computer. I get an attorney, and I start a 501(c)(3) in the moment, within a minute, and Beau is just like, "Whoa, whoa. JP, listen. If the Lord called you into vocational ministry, why don't you ask him what he has in mind?"
"What do you mean? What does that look like?"
"Why don't you pray? Take this week and let's pray together what the Lord would want you to do. Let's just take a week and pray."
I prayed over and over. "Lord, put me where you want me and help me find contentment there. Lord, put me where you want me and help me find contentment there. God, show me the path you want me to walk on. Lord, I think that was you. Father, if you're calling me to vocational ministry, show me where you want me to go and what you want me to do, and I'll do it."
On the fifth day, Rick Wisner from Watermark called and said, "Hey, I have a job I want you to consider." I was clueless. "You want me to volunteer somewhere? Sure. I'll be there."
"No, no, no. I want you to interview for a position."
"A position where?"
"Your company? I thought you worked at the church."
"I do work at the church. That's what I'm talking about. I want you to interview for a position at the church."
"I can't work at the church. Rick, this is JP."
"Ohhhh, you talked to Beau."
I said, "Did you know five days ago I walked out of my office and said I've been called into vocational ministry, and now the church is calling and asking me to interview? Like, what?" He goes, "I had no idea. I was just looking at the job description and was like, 'JP would be great. This is a great job for JP.'"
In that moment God was so big. I just remember being so emotionally volatile. I was like, "God, I'll go to Africa. Make me prove it. Whatever you want me to do… I'll live in a hut the rest of my life. Whatever you want me to do. If that's how this prayer thing works… Five days. Put me where you want me, help me find… The church calls? What?"
I have seen God heal marriages. I have seen God save the lost who, in my naivety, I'm like, "God, they are just way too lost, way too gone." I have seen God heal sick people in a way there's just no explanation. I have seen God do incredible things as people go to him in the activity of prayer.
Prayer in the will of God is a very, very powerful thing; and when it appears he's not answering, he's often giving us something better. I know that may frustrate you, but after spending time in this text I'm convinced. The attitude of prayer is complete dependence, and dependence can be a real humbling thing. It says in Luke 11, verse 5,
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him."
And suppose the one inside answers, "Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything." I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your…'" Look at this. "…shameless audacity…" That's in the NIV, which is a great translation. The Greek word is anaideia. Shameless audacity, which I believe is the point of the story.
"…he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
Do not read that parable and think, "God is like an angry neighbor." That is not what Jesus is saying. In fact, Jesus is going to great lengths to say, "If an angry neighbor will meet your needs, how much more will a loving Father?" That's the point. If you would ask him, how much more will a loving Father assess your needs and meet your needs if even an angry neighbor whom you woke up at midnight will meet your needs.
Then the ask-seek-knock part is a phrase of persistence, saying if our attitude is truly dependence then we should come to God persistently. As Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer." As 1 Thessalonians 5 says, "Pray always. Pray without ceasing. Pray continually."
Dependence is modeling persistence that God can, and it is coming to God with desires. They're just a part of prayer that's motivated by your desires. We can't deny that. It's not a bad thing you have desires and you go to God. What it means is that you trust God can meet those desires, so you're going to him. As we continue to go before the Lord, there's an aligning that happens in prayer.
Let me explain what I mean. As you go to God and say, "This is what I want," sometimes he changes what you want. The day before yesterday I was driving around with Monica and our kids, and out of nowhere, Presley goes, "Daddy, when I can drive I want a car just like Mommy's, but I want to spray paint it bright pink and I want those big eyelashes over the lights."
I went, "Okay. Let me make sure I understand. When you turn 16, you want to drive a fluorescent pink bus with eyelashes? A 17-year-old Suburban. That's what you want when you're 16? Fluorescent pink with eyelashes?" My guess is she's going to continue to bring that to us, and that desire is going to change. That's my guess. My hunch is that her desire is going to change.
When we come to God we are like children with a very limited perspective, and as we continue to bring that desire to him, often he aligns our heart with what he's doing, but it is not wrong for you to go to him and say, "God, this is what I want. Your kingdom come, your kingdom above my kingdom, your agenda above my agenda, and this is my desire. Lord, this is what I'd love for you to do. I'm coming to you in faith only because I believe you can."
If I get up there and ask God, "What is prayer?" if he says something like, "It's you expressing to me your desires while seeking mine. I'm surprised you didn't ask more," I won't be surprised. "Expressing your desires while seeking mine. Asking while seeking." Right? "I'm surprised you didn't knock more." James 4:2 says, "You do not have because you do not ask God."
This is really complicated in the Greek, so I'm going to try to put it in my own language to explain to you what it says. It would be, "You [we] do not have because you [we] do not ask God." I think that's what it means. This is crazy. It's saying there are things that are withheld because we don't ask. There are things God would do, but we haven't asked him for it. If we would go to him and ask him for it, like a loving Father he would eagerly give it to us…keeping in mind a loving Father who knows best.
I think there are two results of prayer. The first result is that there's an aligning of our desires with God's desires. That's a key result of prayer, an aligning of desires. A second result of prayer is sometimes God giving us the desires we express to him. Now I want to be really careful, because I believe there is a true wickedness in prosperity theology, so I want to clarify these two. Prosperity theology is off, but it's not far off; it's wickedly off.
Prosperity theology says you can superstitiously put God in a bind so that he has to grant your wishes, that God is a genie who gives you what you want. God is not a genie who gives you what you want; God is a loving Father who knows best what you need. Okay? God is not a genie who gives you what you want; he is a loving Father who knows best what you need. He has a perspective that is bigger than you. Frankly, if he gave you what you want, it would be very unloving, because he has a perspective that's bigger than you.
Our attitude of prayer is dependence while our activity of prayer is intentional. It matters so much who is on the other side of that door, who is answering when we're knocking. The power is not in the one who knocks but in the one who answers. The power is not in the one who knocks but in the one who answers, so it really matters who's on the other side of the door. We're going to spend the last few minutes together talking about who that person is.
In verse 11. Jesus asks, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?" He's speaking in hyperbole, like if Presley said, "Dad, I'd like eggs for breakfast." "Well, how about a scorpion? Ha-ha!" Who would do that? Right? Jesus is saying, "Who would do that?" Like, "Can I have a piece of toast?" "You can have a snake. I hope it doesn't bite you!" Jesus is saying, "Who would do that?" Listen to this part. You've got to love this.
"If you then, though you are evil…" Thanks, Jesus. "…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" How much more will your Father in heaven who loves you give you more of himself to help you even know what to ask for? The last thing I want to talk about is…
3._ The one who answers our prayers._ Some of us have a really high view of God, that God is big and he's powerful; he's just not personal. You miss it. If you're like, "Hey, God. Just run your offense. Just do your deal, man. I know you're powerful. I'm not going to ask you. What if I mess up your plan? Just do your thing."
That's not what he wants. That's not what he wants! He wants a relationship. It may look like faith, but it's missing the personal element of the relationship. God is a loving Father eager to give what you need if you ask, and he knows best. Let me show you that Father.
Zephaniah 3:17, a beautiful verse. "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." God is not a reflection of your earthly father but the perfection of him. Some of us, our view of God is so skewed because of the dad we had. God is not a reflection of your earthly father but the perfection of him.
I can just tell you I hate watching my kids try to do something when I'm right there and I can help them. My son is 17 months old. He will try to climb up on the couch. He got up there once, which just kind of gave him a false hope, so he will try for 20 minutes. He'll just kind of hike one leg up on that cushion and just try. He'll try and then fall. I'm like, "Weston, I'm right here. Would you like me to put you on the couch? Just ask me." He can't talk yet though. Like, "Sign something. Tell me. Baby Signing Time, or something. Let's get you on that couch, buddy."
So what about when God doesn't give us good? We trust he's like a father who knows best. If he gave me a snake, I'd assume I need a snake. If he gave me a scorpion, I'd just assume that day there's going to be something I'd need a scorpion for. "Okay, God. I'll take the scorpion. Make it a pet or something."
Last Sunday we left here after the second service and ate at Mattito's. I'm sitting there with my son. I take some of the chips and hot sauce. I tell Monica, "Man, it's hot today." He sees me and he's whining and grabbing for it. I'm like, "You want hot sauce? You want some of this?" Now he's dipped his finger in there before and then cried for two hours, so I know that's a really, really bad idea.
But imagine his perspective. He's like, "Dad, don't you love me? I want that. How cruel are you to enjoy your wonderful hot sauce right in front of me? Don't you see I want some hot sauce?" I'm like, "Son, you don't want this. This is not going to be good for you." But his perspective is so limited. He's just looking at me like, "You're so cruel." "No, I'm not. I'm a loving father. I have a bigger perspective than you."
God's perspective is infinitely larger than ours. God answers your prayers better than you could ask. My hunch is if you knew everything he knows, you'd answer them the same way. If you knew everything God knows, you'd answer the prayers in the same way. This is the loving Father who answers your prayers. I believe we don't pray because we have a wrong view of who God is.
Some of you are like, "Why ask if God knows anyway? Why would we ask him if he's already going to do what he's going to do?" Here's why. God is about his glory, and he's glorified in answering your prayers. Who doesn't love to hear answered prayers? God's like, "If you don't ask me, you rob me of glory. You are robbing me of glory if you do not ask me so that I can answer them. Yeah, maybe I'm going to do it anyway, but it's a lot more fun when we get to partner in that together through our relationship." When we don't ask God, we're robbing him of glory.
So why do we pray? What do we benefit from prayer? I already told you my son can't talk. We were driving this week, and he was sitting in the back in his car seat. He's whining. Monica is driving, and she says, "Oh, he wants his water." I'm like, "How do you know? Come on." I get the water and give it to him, and sure enough…happy as can be. That was what he wanted.
He starts whining again. She says, "Oh, he wants his blanket." I'm like, "Come on, Monica. What are you…?" I get his blanket, and sure enough. That's what he wanted. I'm like, "When did you learn to speak Weston?" She said, "Well, we spend a lot of time together and can communicate." When you start spending time with God you grow in your understanding of what he's doing. You deepen that relationship and begin to speak the same language. His voice is familiar to you.
These are huge benefits of prayer, right? That God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, knows you and you know him intimately. Y'all have intimacy. How great is that? These are how we benefit from prayer. Weston doesn't even know how to ask. God gives us his Spirit to help in our asking. The one who answers our prayers is a loving Father who knows best what we need. The answer to our prayers is more of him. Some of us pray to get what we want, and what we want is anything but more of him.
There are three things I want you to do. First, I want all of us this week to think about who we believe God is. I'm not talking Sunday school answer. I'm not looking for verses. I'm asking you to search your heart and ask what lies you've believed about God. Who is he? Who do you really believe God is?
Then some of you, before you go to lunch I want you to put something on your calendar. I want you to schedule out an hour, maybe two, just to be with God. The rest of you, this is just something that helps me, so take it or leave it, but maybe it'll help you. I just drive with my radio off. That's not my only time in prayer, but it is sometimes really great time in prayer.
I just drive with my radio off. I pray out loud so I'm not distracted and talk to God. That's been really key. I've seen him answer those prayers. I'm praying on the way to a meeting, a really hard meeting, and I just see him show up. So some of you I'd just ask you to cut your radio off and make that time a time with God. Not the only time, but that time.
In summary, Jesus gives us the authority to approach God like his child; with an attitude of dependence, we pray for God's agenda, our desires, his forgiveness, our freedom; and we are praying to a Father who loves us, who knows what is best and has the power to bring it about.
This week I was cleaning out my car and I found this thing. I don't know if you guys remember this. I've used this as an illustration before. It's just a little ball. It's magnets that stick together, kind of like Legos or something. I find this in my car and bring it out. My son, Weston, sees it. He's saying "Ball" and grabbing for it. I'm like, "You want the ball?" "Ball! Ball!"
So I give it to him, and he's just grinning. He's walking around. He's got the drunk-sailor thing going on. He's walking around with the ball. Every ball he's had bounces. This one isn't going to bounce, but he thinks balls bounce, so he takes it and throws it on the ground. It explodes. That's what it does. He sees that, and he just freaks out. He's trying to hide his face.
I call him over, and I start picking it up and show him that it goes back together. I start putting it back together in front of him and making the ball again. It's made of magnets, so it just snaps in place. I make the ball again and give it back to him, and he's all grins. The next time he drops it on accident, he picks up the pieces and brings them back to me because he knows I have the power to fix it.
Let me tell you something. My relationship with my father deepened tremendously when I realized that he was for me. He was for me. He wanted to help me even though I had messed up, even though I did something really stupid. He said, "I want to help you." That's the God you pray to.
But here's the deal. He loves you like a father. He has the knowledge of a God who knows everything, and all power is his. He has the power to bring resolve. Listen closely. Do not wait until you are in a time of need to reach out to him. You are in a time of need right now. Whether you know it or not, you need him right now.
Let me pray. This will be the most important thing we do today.
Father, we love you. Oh, how we need you, God. Oh, how we need you God. If people are not compelled to pray, Lord, I pray right now, I ask you, that they would understand their deep and incredible need for you. I ask, Father, that you would give them right now an awareness of their incredible need for you.
Lord, you are our Father, our Daddy, who loves us. God, your name is holy. Your name is holy. Lord, align our hearts with what you're doing as you bring your kingdom here. It's your kingdom above our kingdom, and in this day, Lord, meet our needs. Father, help us to depend on you today for our needs.
Lord, thank you for the forgiveness that we have received in Christ. Help us to pass that forgiveness on, and in the midst of temptation, God, strengthen us. By the power of your Spirit at work in us, help us not to do evil deeds but to honor you in righteousness because we have been declared righteous through your Son, Jesus Christ, whom we approach you in now, amen.
If you forget the message, there's a great summary of it in 1 John 5, verses 14 and 15. It says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 that we have what we asked of him." Asking in the will of God is a powerful thing. Our problem with prayer isn't that we're too busy; it's that we have the wrong view of who God is, what he can do, and how he loves us. I pray that this week you would consider how you view God.
Have a great week of worship.