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Why do so many of us fail to experience the richness of prayer? Most likely because we pray out of frustration and desperation and not out of a position of prostration, humility and surrender. Until we reach the end of our strategies for coping with our pain and trying to find life in anything other than Christ, we probably won't see much change in our situation.
Click here to view the video "Prayer Struggle."
Learning How to Pray, part 4: The Provision, the Protection and the Power
Learning How to Pray, part 3: Recessions and Daily Bread... And Why We Need Them Both
Learning How to Pray, part 2: Why We Want His Kingdom to Come
The ACTS of Prayer: A Way to Enrich our Communication with God
Learning How to Pray, part 1: The Importance of Listening to Our God
Shut Up, Stand Up, and Stop Eating Cheetos: Our Greatest Hindrance to Effective Prayer
Rehearsing Truth so You Don't Move Counter to God
The Foundation for Prayer: The Real Thee Talking with the Real Thou
You may feel like that sometimes when you trying to talk to this God who seems so distant and quiet. You cry out to him, and you find yourself desperately on your knees. You go, "What do you want?" You start even throwing out random thoughts. "What is your kingdom?" You just get bizarre. You're just frustrated, you'll say crazy stuff. "I want to know. Are you there? Because I'm hurting, and I'd like to know if you're there."
We're talking about talking to God. We're talking about what it means to pray and to have communion and intimacy with God. What's the secret to it? How do we get there? We're in the third week of that, and what I've done is I've centered off this one basic idea. It comes in Psalm 46:10, where God calls us to be still and to know who he is, to know he is God.
In the Latin translation of the Scripture, the word for be still in Latin is vacate. I've taken this idea that what God really wants, and this is the primary attitude and position of prayer. It's that we should take our throne off, take our crown off, and just move us to the side and say, "God, I have to let you be God again."
The primary idea of prayer, and this where I'm going hard these first three weeks… We're going to cover other ideas and concepts of talking to God, but what I've been really getting after is this idea that many of us are speaking much, but not praying. In fact, you may pray for an hour and still not pray. That's been the point that I've been going after. You might pray with absolute intense devotion and still not be praying. What I want to get at is this truth that one guy said a long time ago.
One of the things I've done in preparation for our time is grabbed a number of different men who have thought and talked about prayer over the years. One guy said this. "The value of consistent prayer is not that [God] will hear us, but that we will hear Him." Some of us, though, are just crying out. We are desperate. We're on our knees. We're saying, "What do you want, because you must want something. Clearly, you're against me. This world isn't working out in the way I would want it to work out. If I was a loving Father, I wouldn't want a kid to feel like I'm feeling." So we scream.
But I will say you may pray for an hour, and still not pray. You may pray intensely. You may be like my sister Karen who was here with me a couple of weeks ago who is saying, "God, this has to stop. Would you please deliver me," on your knees, next to a bed where you just gave yourself away to some stranger for some loose change in a desperation cry out to God, only to stand up again, take more drugs to numb yourself from the pain, and go out looking for your next mark on the street, to be right back in that same situation even though your prayers were desperate.
What I want to do in a way that just closes this first point of what prayer really is all about (the need for us to vacate) is show you why most of us are not experiencing richness in prayer. Prayer is more of an attitude that we carry throughout our life than it is an activity in any given moment. I want to go after that idea. I want to make sure that we understand as we talk about the activity of prayer that we have locked down hard what a right biblical understanding is of the attitude of prayer.
In fact, if you know prayer biblically, the least confusing verse in all of Scripture for you should be the one that is often one that people come at when they're crying out, saying, "I don't get what God wants me to do. Pray without ceasing. Did you want me constantly by my bed on my knees, saying, 'God, what's the deal?' How can I ever live a life if all I'm doing is talking to God about how miserable I am and how much I want him to do?"
You need to realize when Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that we are to pray without ceasing, he's not talking about the activity of prayer in the talking-at-God sense. He's mostly meaning there that you are in a position of humility before him, an attitude of surrender where you are vacating, taking your crown off, getting off your throne, and saying, "You be King." Abraham Lincoln is the one who said, "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." Many of us have been there. Talking at God, saying, "What do you want?"
I'm going to show you today what he wants. I'm going to show you what the biggest hindrance to prayer is, the biggest reason we don't have connection and community and intimacy with God, the reason we don't experience a peace that passes understanding, and we're going to start by looking at a place you may not think I would go again to talk about this. Turn to Joshua 7. Let me tell you what's going on in Joshua 7.
The nation of Israel is moving into the land of promise. It's moving into a position of great blessing where they're going to experience the fact that God is their God and they can live in a land now where they're not slaves, but they're free to worship, to love, and to live as God would want his people to live in a land flowing with milk and honey. In many ways, paradise is about to be restored, but he has to drive out those who don't know him, give Israel where they have their own place to live this way, a place that God had promised their father, Abraham, years ago. They were moving there.
They just got through with a very significant victory. They won against Jericho, one of the first cities they had come across when they're moving east to west across the Jordan, into this land of promise. This fortified city was a stronghold. They'd beat them 100-0 (as an example). So they were riding high, and they were pretty proud of themselves. They were full of optimism, and they were confident.
Yet, all of a sudden, they sent some folks up to Ai, which wasn't a fortified city. They thought they were going to have great victory, only to find out that they didn't have great victory. In fact, they lost no lives at Jericho (zero) in that shock-and-awe conquest that God orchestrated, but they lost 36 up at Ai. They didn't even send their full forces. Joshua thought, "Let's just take a few of the boys and go up there and clean out Ai and come on back." All of sudden, Joshua found his troops, not at 1-0 and undefeated, but at .500, at 1-1. They were really concerned.
Look what Joshua does. In verse 6, he says this. "Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads." You've been upset before, right? You've been hurt before, right? You've been devastated before. You've been frustrated before. You've wondered where God is. But from morning to evening? That's pretty close to praying without ceasing in the activity way.
They ripped their clothes and said, "God, look. We're so brokenhearted, it looks like this. We're so miserable, it's like we're buried in dirt and mud." So they put a bunch of dust on their heads, and they cried out, and they wailed all day long. They said, "Oh, God. Why did you bring these people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hands of our enemy? To destroy us? Is this a trick? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan. We should've stayed where we were, God. It was fine over there. What do you mean we have to come over here?
Oh, Lord, what can I say since Israel's turned their back before their enemies. Now all the Canaanites, all the people who live here, all the inhabitants of the land. It's just going to get worse. They're going to hear of it. They're going to know that we're not undefeated. They're going to know that our God doesn't always deliver. They're going to surround us and cut off our name from the earth. What will you do for our great name? What are you going to do then, God? We are really miserable."
They are crying. They are on their knees. They have no other place to go but on their knees, and they are brokenhearted. You ever felt like that? Let me tell you why they were this way, though. And I'm going to show you God's solution in just a minute. They were this way because when they were in Jericho and God said, "I'm going to give you this place to live," the place wasn't nearly as significant as who was going to be with them in that place. It was God.
He said, "I want you to know that life is going to come not in the land and not in the possessions that you can pick up in the land. Life is going to come as you live and dwell with me. I'll give you constantly physical reminders around us of the fact that I am good. But know this. The land is not your source of blessing. I am.
When you go there, and you start to move through Jericho and other places, don't take any of their stuff as a source of life for you. I'll give you that stuff later. Right now, especially early on, I want to make sure that your trust is in me and not in the bounty that you will get. You don't need to take what's on that ship, pirate. You need just me."
What happened is that there were some people in cleaning out Jericho who took some things that God said, "This is under the ban. Don't touch it." They took it, and they hid it, and they brought it back with them into the camp of Israel, the buried it, and they thought they were going to find life there. Not only did they not find life there, they found death there and defeat there.
God is saying, "I'm not going to bless a holy people. I am not going to let folks represent me and experience life with me when they are putting their trust in something other than me, because I can't. There is no life in something other than me, so I cannot offer you life in something other than me."
Let's just be honest. I get why people think there's life in other things. I understand why people go, "This life is so painful as I understand it, as I'm experiencing it, that I need some relief. I need alcohol to numb me from this pain. I am so discouraged by my relationship with my wife. I am unloved by her. I'm not sharing intimacy with her. I need to go someplace where, at least, in a fantasy world, I can exist as a man that women desire. I need to experience some physical release and some physical pleasure."
I get why guys run to pornography. I understand it. I know why people seek to find comfort in food. I understand why women starve themselves and eat food and then throw up and put themselves through all kinds of situations of suffering, and they get this view of themselves that they're never skinny enough because of their desperate need to be loved.
I understand why people give themselves away in elicit relationships, because it looks life-giving. Those are all things that God says are under the ban. Not because he hates us, but because he loves us, and he knows that, eventually, you're going to sober up. Eventually, no matter what you look like in a mirror, if you don't learn how to have healthy relationships and get over your father wound or your mother wound or your cultural oppression, you're never going to be happy.
Yeah, you might find momentary pleasure in some fantasy world, men, but you're going to wake up and be ashamed when you come out of your little dream. Others are going to discover you and go, "How weak are you?" There's no life there. On and on the story goes. God doesn't want to keep us from those things because he hates us and wants to call us away from those things under the ban because he loves us. He loves us.
He's saying, "I don't want you to experience a delusional life (sugar water that you think tastes good but leaves you more thirsty in the end). I want you to find life in me. So leave those things alone." Here's Joshua, though, and he's living like many of us live (giving ourselves to things under the ban) and upset because life isn't working out.
There is no promise, there's no abundance, and he's going, "God, what do you want? This is crazy. I'm supposed to be your Son, your daughter, and I'm defeated. People mock at me. I don't feel hopeful." Watch God's response to this all-day prayer, this corporate repentance. Verse 10:
"So the LORD said to Joshua, 'Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.
Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.'" Get rid of them. "Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, 'Consecrate yourselves…'"
In other words, "Quit trying to find life somewhere apart from me. Vacate your strategy. I don't need more prayers. I don't need more tearing of clothes. I don't need more wailing." This is what God, in effect, says. "Are you miserable? Shut up. Stand up and get with it." Think about that.
Some of you guys haven't been to CR on Monday nights. Can I let you in on a little secret? This is what we're telling people on Monday nights when they show up. We do it with a tad more gentleness than that but, in effect, we're saying, "Quit telling everybody how miserable you are. Shut up. Stand up and get with it."
By the way, can I tell you something? We are people just like you. We keep giving ourselves away to things under the ban. Do you know what I am? I am a guy who needs the truths of CR. Do you know what step one is when you get to Monday nights at CR (Celebrate Recovery)? The reason I'm okay with Monday nights and Friday nights existing here is because it's just what we say on Sunday morning. It's what I do every day all day.
Step one is to know that you're not God. You go, "Okay. I can get my arms around that one." But look. All of us get into moments of pain, don't we? We find ourselves like that, going, "God. Help me. What is it? What do you want?" Do you know what he really says? He says, "Todd, I don't want you miserable. I don't want you telling me how miserable you are. I know you're miserable because you're not with me. Shh. Be still. Vacate. Know that I am God."
Unless you are Shirley MacLaine or somebody else, when I ask you if you're God, you're going to go, "No, I'm not God." Here's the deal. Shirley MacLaine is more honest than most of us. A lot of us go, "I'm not God," then I go (crown on), "What do I want? What do I think will work? What's my strategy? How should I take this land and make it a land of promise?" God says, "Todd, you'll never get promise that way. I don't need your praying. I need your being prayerful."
Prayerful is an attitude of, "I am in a precarious situation. I cannot function here without dread all around me. My flesh will lead me places that will not be life-giving. My world has a current that is pulling me away from you, and there is an Enemy that whispers lies that seem so true. I am in a precious situation unless I resist my flesh, the Devil, and this world. I, Lord, am in big trouble. So I must submit to you."
I love the physical position of knees bent because it reminds me I am not King. The problem is, sometimes I spend so much time telling God I'm miserable and he goes, "Who's surprised? Shh." Let me tell you the way Jesus does it. This is the way we do it on Monday nights. Make no mistake. There's a time for a Father to talk to his son this way. "Shut up. Stand up and be a man."
A man isn't somebody who gets his act together. A man is somebody who will discipline himself for the purpose of godliness, who will follow the King. This is the way Jesus says it. As I say this, turn with me to Isaiah 59. I'm going to show you this idea unfolded. Jesus says this in Matthew 11:28.
"Come to Me…" Which is to say, shh. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke…" In other words, "You have to be guided by this thing. Make no mistake. I'm not just setting you free to go wherever you want. You have to strap yourself to me. Let's plow together." "… and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…"
Where I'm going to take you, the row we are hoeing, we're hoeing. "and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS." Nowhere else will you find that rest. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.""So stand up, strap yourself to me, and follow me, son. Don't strap yourself to an image in a mirror. That's a lie. Don't strap yourself to a fantasy on the computer. That's a lie. Don't strap yourself to that bottle. It's a lie. Don't strap yourself to elicit fleeting relationships. It's a lie. Don't strap yourself to success in the world. It's a lie.
I know you're miserable. No wonder you're miserable. Yoke with me. Shh. Stop with all your praying about how hard it is. I know it's hard, because you're trying to find life where there is no life. You cannot get juice from that rock. Squeeze it all that you want. Come to me." So we all come to him.
Let me just inject this right here. As I said, the Lord understands how we are individuals who hurt. He's not angry that we hurt. God also understands what it's like to be tempted. He knows. He's not mad at you that you're tempted. He's not frustrated at you that pornography, anorexia, anger, and lust look attractive. He's been here. What he is is he's hurting, saying, "It's deceptive. Trust in me."
Here's the thing about prayer. One of my pet peeves is the way we pray around food. It drags into how we think we're supposed to do Communion. People ask me all the time, "Why doesn't this church do Communion here?" Well, we do Communion here. I encourage all of you guys when you leave this room, and you go have lunch with other believers, to go have Communion over meals. It's exactly what God intended.
Whatever you're breaking bread over and drinking together, let that broken bread, that ripped pizza, that sawed steak be reminded of his broken body. That refreshing drink… We don't do a lot of wine in America as a staple at every meal, but they did over there. "That red, rich fruit of the vine, let it be a reminder of the life-giving forgiveness that you had through the bloodshed by me." That's Communion. It's been so sanctified and minimized by the way churches do it every week. God's like, "No. As often as you gather together with other believers, commune that way."
This is what really drives me crazy is when we get together, and we go, "Somebody pray for this food," and we go, "Lord, bless this food." The word bless means two things. Eulogeō is where we get the word bless. Eu means well. Logos means word. Eulogy means well-spoken word. You eulogize people at a funeral. So if you bless the food, you go, "Lord, this is great looking food. That's a wonderful ear of corn. Look at the rump roast. I cannot believe how outstanding it is. Man, those muffins really rose in the oven. I speak well of this food. Let's imbibe."
That's one way to bless food. The other way would be, "Lord, make this food happy even though I'm going to just grind it beneath my molars, and everything else. Somehow make this food happy. Makarios is the word that we get happy from. It's, "Hey Macarena." You're really saying, "Lord, make this food happy even though I'm going to grind it up and fire it down in my stomach and let it run there through the pancreas and make bile from it. It has to be happy, Lord." That's crazy.
I'll tell you what else is crazy. This is what's really crazy: what we have done with prayer. This is the prayer you usually get around food. "Lord, I pray for this food. Bless this food to the nourishment of our body. Father, allow it to strengthen us so that we might serve you." You can go on from there, can you not?
What you really should do when you pray for a meal is you go, "Lord, I'm so grateful. I am here again, and look at the provision before me. My physical hunger is a reminder that there is something that I need outside of me to sustain me and give me life. So here I am again, physically hungry, and about to have this food that is outside of me to come into me as a gift. It is a provision from you, but even more, it's a reminder of a spiritual reality.
My soul hungers apart from you. So thank you for Christ, his broken body, and shed blood. I need him. I need to lean not on my own understanding. He is fuel for my soul. So I just remember my Savior, even as I am nourished and encouraged by this food." That is how you should pray over food. How crazy would this be?
My friend, Tim Hawkins, who I had down here with a number of you guys. He was the comedian we had during our volunteer appreciation and also at our parenting conference. This is really apropos for where I am today. Tim talks about how silly some of our prayers are.
He's like, "Bless this food to the nourishment of our body. Lord, bless this bag of Cheetos and this jumbo Dr Pepper. I don't know how you're going to do it, Lord but, Father, just take this now and somehow use it. I trust in you that you will bless this to my body. Father, change the molecular structure of this Cheeto. Turn it into a carrot as it moves down my esophagus. So now, Father, I ask it as I drink this Mad Dog 20/20, I pray a hedge of protection around my liver, Father."
It's crazy. That is crazy. But that is what we do. If you wondering what this lump is on my back, some sucker was here the first service and brought me some Cheetos. But this is what's so crazy. Isn't that the way most of us do it? We're like Karen next to our bed. We've just prostituted ourselves with stuff that's not going to give us life. We're putting stuff in us to numb us from the pain of where we just prostituted ourselves.
I go, "God, Father, change my life." Then we walk right back into the same dumb strategy that we just came out of. We don't vacate, and we wonder where communion with God is. We wonder where deliverance is. We keep taking a Cheeto, eating it, and going, "God, make it nourish me."
God says, "Guess what? I am God, who hears prayer. Psalm 65, 'That is my name.' But the reason I don't hear is you is because I let people reap what they sow. I will not let you sow wickedness and death and reap life and peace. I cannot give you life apart from me. So if you sow rebellion and self-will, I can't give you from that fruit that is sweet."
Isaiah 59 says this. "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God…" He's saying, "This is the reason it feels like I'm not there. You're choosing to sow into your life that which is going to produce pain. I will not change the molecular structure of sin. I cannot let righteousness come from rebellion.
In my sovereignty, my providential will, I don't care what you do in my permissive will, you will not change my ultimate purposes in this life. My purposes will be accomplished. I don't care who you are what you do. You personally, and those around you, if you eat Cheetos, you're going to get sick.
If that's your diet, you can pray all day long, but you're going to have this junk all over your hands, this orange crusty cheetle that everything you touch is going to get orange all over it and make a mess of everything. But I still am going to accomplish my purposes and my sovereignty. That's why I am God, and you are not. For you personally, I don't change Cheetos into carrots. Don't cry out to me like your miserable when you keep eating where I tell you you're going to get sick. Shut up. I mean, really. Be still. Shh. Stop it. Get up. Follow me."
I get it. I love Cheetos. I love them. But if I ate Cheetos, or I let my kids… I'm a dad. I've turned them on to Cheetos. I've turned them on to Skittles. I've turned them on to Mountain Dew, Peanut M&M's. I've turned them on to them all. "Over here. This stuff is stuff that's under the ban. This Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries is under the ban, but these Lucky Charms? Shh. Enough of Mom's Shredded Wheat. Come here."
We're over there. Every time I come home from the grocery store, she looks at me, and she goes, "What? What are you doing?" I just look at her. I go, "I don't know. It's under the ban. I know, but I love it." Here's the thing. If that's all my kids ate… So we have to do is we have to teach them. God loves you.
God has a program for sex. He loves sex, but it has to be used this way. There is a place for Cheetos and Lucky Charms, but if it is your diet, if it is your primary diet, you are in big trouble. If it's your life, look out. You can cry all day long, "God, I love this." He says, "You have to use it my way. None of that stuff is going to be wrong if you use it my way. I gave you drugs. Use them my way. It helps you during major surgery, but you start to drag them out and have your whole life be inoculated, you're in deep trouble.
I gave you money. It's a wonderful servant. If you make it your master, you're in big trouble. So you have to quit making these things life-giving to you. They are to serve you underneath my authority. Listen to me. I can hear you, but are you God? If you are God, why is your life… Don't yell at me."
This is Proverbs 19:2-3. Verse 2 says, "Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs." In other words, a guy who runs to fast to do things without thinking through the ultimate consequence of them, that's trouble. Verse 3: "The foolishness of man subverts his way, and his heart rages against the LORD." In other words, we all love Cheetos. We eat them all the time, and we go, "Why am I fat? Why do I feel sick? Why does everything I touch get this nasty, creepy stuff all over it? Why?"
He looks at you and goes, "It's the Cheetos. Come. I know they look good and taste good. I know millions of dollars in advertising is pushed at you, but here's a word. I love you. I'm your Dad. I'm not trying to rip you off." All that Isaiah 59 continues to do is just roll through, "This is your problem. You're trying to find life where there is no life. I can hear you, but I cannot change, I will not change, because it's not loving to change the molecular structure of that Cheeto. I'm not going to do it. You need to know me."
Turn with me back to James 1, because that's where we were last week. I want to end today by looking again at James 1 and just reminding you of the truth that is there. We're going to start in verse 13. Let me give you a couple more statements that men have said. There is a mighty difference between saying prayers and praying.
You can say prayers all day long like Joshua and the elders did, and God goes, "Oh, that you would just pray." They go, "Just pray? We've been here for eight hours." He goes, "No. I am talking about having an attitude of surrender. Commune with me. Not railing to me about how miserable you are and your stomach is upset.
I know because you're trying to find life in things under the ban. Stand up, deal with the things under the ban, burn them and follow me. I love you. Are you God? No. Then why do you keep telling yourself where you can find promise? I love you. There's promise over here. Step one, Joshua. Admit that you're not God and tell the people to agree with you."
Prayer is not a discourse. There's a time to ask, and we're going to talk about that going forward. But prayer is not a discourse. It is a form of life. That is why it is not ultimately confined to the moment of verbal statement. Do you get that? When you think prayer, don't you think verbal statement? Most of us do. It is really vacated surrender. That's where life is. God, you're back in control.
Martin Luther said, "Pray, and let God worry." Lord, you're not surprised by the economy. You're not surprised, Lord, by this response of this person. You're not surprised by slander. You're not surprised by… Go down the list. So I'm going to just, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer [attitude rehearsing and focusing again] and supplication with thanksgiving [because I know that you're good] …" I'm going to, "… let[my[ requests be made known to God."
"And Lord, now, your peace, which will pass all understanding, will flood my heart and my soul, right now in this moment. God, I don't know what to do with all this, but I'm going to trust you. Just take me to Christ, not the Cheeto of my flesh." This is the deal. Look at James 1:13-25.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." In other words, God is not out there throwing Cheetos out you in order to see if you'll take them. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust."
By the way, God is not offended that you're attracted to Cheetos. Call me crazy. There weren't Cheetos around when Jesus was here. I think he'd have liked Cheetos. I know he liked women. I'm sure he loved comfort. I know he wasn't fond of crosses. Sounds like me. Sounds just like me. Yet, it says that in every way he was tempted, he did not consult his flesh.
He said, "Not my will, but your will be done." He has been tempted, the Scripture says, in every way that I have been, and yet without sin. There's the difference between Jesus and Todd. He had no cheetle on his fingers, and that's why everything he touched didn't turn into this messy, awkward orange.
There's a lot that I touch that turns messy, awkward orange. Even this week, I had a moment…it was yesterday…when I just couldn't vacate. I wanted to. I even thought about. Then I found myself drifting, and all of a sudden, there was just messy orange. I went, "Awe. Dagnabbit."
So what I did is I went everybody who was around me, and I said, "That was messy. I got orange all over you because I put me in there. I was trying to convince myself it was for you. It was for me. It really was. Will you forgive me? I want to wash, as best I can, my hands. I'm going to make every amend that I can, but that's what happens when Dad doesn't vacate." Then I asked their forgiveness.
I had others spur me on and say, "Come on, Todd. You can do better still." By the grace of God, they're minimal, and I usually catch them right away, but they're still messy. I still feel sick. All day long, I felt like I ate Cheetos for breakfast, because I did. I'm so grateful that the Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, that his mercies never fail and that every morning.
If you screw up, please don't go, "Well, I've screwed this day." No you haven't. That new every morning means every time. You just go, "I have to wash my hands off." They're new every minute. They're new every second. So I didn't keep messing up all yesterday. I just dealt with that one moment and moved on.
God is not the one who is doing that, and he's not angry at you when you do it. He just says, "Please don't be deceived. Don't chase what your flesh thinks is life-giving, because it'll lead to sin, and that leads to death. So don't be deceived by your taste buds, by the recommendation of the world, or by the lies of an Enemy who tell you I'm trying to rip you off."
He's not trying to rip you off, singles. Premarital sex is not better than marital sex. It is fresher, new, and more titillating, just like your honeymoon will be. But there's no guilt on the honeymoon. There's no shame. There's no awkwardness. There's no performance standards or comparisons. It is great. He's not trying to rip you off. He's trying to set you free. Take it from a guy who trusted him.
Look at this. Verse 17: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…" Stick with him. He wants you to be people who are the firstfruits of the folks who live in his blessing. He wants you to know that. That he's good. Follow him, so other people can go, "Who are you? We watch your life. The rest of us, every time we touch something, this grimy orange stuff gets all over everything. When you're around, it's not grimy. You have a smile on your face. Why is that?"
We get to go, "Because, by the grace of God, I found out who my Father is, and he's taught me to eat this way. Every now and then, there's an appropriate way for me to enjoy a Cheeto, but it's always with his encouragement." People start to go, "Wow. Tell me about that Father." Well, first of all, let's deal with the forgiveness that we need because all of us have been ingesting the wrong things. He wants to forgive you. This how we become clean, and then we listen to him. That's what that verse is meaning.
Now, watch. Here's the key. This is why. This is what I want you to get in prayer. This is prayer. This is why Bible intake and Bible reading is prayer. It's not a bunch of words; it's letting the Word implant in your heart and being guided by it. "Stop talking to me. Shut up. Stand up. Follow me." Watch. Here we go. In verse 21, he says,
"Therefore, putting aside all filthiness [all the Cheetos] and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was."
That was Karen. That's me. "Oh, God. Why does everything I touch turn messy? Oh, I don't want to feel sick. I don't want to feel sick, God." I mean it. I might do it all day long. I get up, and I go, "Amen." Right? The Word of God is like a mirror. Look at it. You see that? "You see the orange all over you? Let's clean it up. I'm not mad you. Let's just clean it up." Don't delude yourself. Don't look at what is right and where life is and go, "Okay. Did that," and move on.
The purpose of a mirror is not to see where the orange is. It's to notice, "I shouldn't look like that." Deal with it, God, and lead me in the way everlasting. I hope this is clear. I pray it's clear. I love what John Bunyan says. John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. Do you know why most pilgrims don't progress? This is why. This is his statement on prayer.
"In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart." In other words, stop all your praying with words that are detached from a heart that knows that this is true. I'd rather have a few less words with a heart that knows that he is King and vacate and trust in him. Follow him.
Are you weary? I am. So are people all around me at times when I have messy orange and grumpy because I didn't eat well all over me. God says, "All right, let's deal with that. We're going to deal with that stomach, and we're going to deal with those hands. We're going to fill you with truth. We're going to clean you, and we're going to let you now start to touch people and bless them and heal that heart and get around others."
You are a part of a community of folks who love Cheetos. Any Cheeto-lovers here? I'm not talking about the dumb snack. I'm talking about you knowing your Cheeto. You know where you think there is life. What you're really around is a bunch of ex-Cheeto devotees who have come to know that Jesus Christ is life. We invite you in. You know what? Every now and then, my friends see me diving back in anger, in selfishness, and they go, "Hey, Wags. We get it. I know. Come here. Let's wash our hands of that."
Father, I pray for my friends. Now I'm talking, and I'm praying out loud what is in my heart. I am praying consistent with your Word, that would let go of things under the ban. I'm not asking you to do anything other than incline our hearts to your Word, because there is life there. Lord. We live in a world that is so convincing that there is life in other things. It keeps making us sick. We keep touching things, and they get messy.
We're coming to you now because we want to be men and women of prayer. We want these words to be on our heart. We've cried out through the meditation of the song, "Hunger," through the meditation in Psalm 19:14, and we're doing it again after being reminded from Joshua 7, Isaiah 59, and James 1. Lord, we want you to take our life because there is no unhealthiness in the food which you offer us.
Thank you for the grace Lord, that comes in following you. That you deal with just the sick bile in our soul. That you can make it clean, but you say, "Let's stop. Let's respond to the cleansing. Let's put life there. Accept Christ, believe in his provision, and then follow him." Father, we rise now, and we continue to pray with words, and we ask, especially, that it would penetrate our hearts, that what we sing now is what we would mean. Amen.
Oh, man. May that lyric, may that meditation be on your tongue. Some of you guys have to go, "I don't know, Lord. What do you want?" He's going, "I've shared with you. Come be around my people." We invite you. Some of us are young in our faith. Some of you guys walk in here and go, "I don't know a single word of what my Dad has said in the Word."
Guess what? You have older brothers and sisters here who aren't mad at you. We just say, "We understand, man. Let me tell you why Dad is so good. This is what he said. Let me show you. Let me teach you the words of the Father. Let me give you his word that he's given me, so you can learn to walk.
As you mature, Father even lets us bring more into his family. We are his firstfruits, people whose hands all of a sudden aren't gross and unclean, but they're pure. We get to live in a way that others then will look at you as an older brother and sister. You can lead them that way." Our Father is not mad at us. Our Father does love us, and he wants us to walk with him.
So we invite you to join us. The first place is that you might need to come and say that you've been a committed Cheeto lover. Whatever your little Cheeto is, confess it, acknowledge that it's all over you and in you, and find the cleansing of Jesus Christ, whose blood makes you white as snow.
Then, consecrate yourself. Let us start to eat the way he calls us to eat. Let's live with others who will remind us, because I want to tell you, those old habits are there, and when you say, "Nah, let's not go there," you need that encouragement. Don't go there, and let others live in the kitchen of life with you and spur you on that way.
We want to do that this morning. We want to do that all throughout the week. Let us know. On Monday nights, Friday nights, right now, Wednesday morning, Wednesday nights, Thursday morning, Thursday nights, Tuesday nights, perforated sections, all the time. Walk with the family. Our Father loves you, and he wants you to walk with him. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.
Prayer. What is it, after all? Reciting words from a prayer book? Presenting God with our requests? Or desperately crying out to Him in our time of need?<br /><br />In this series, Todd Wagner shares the one word that most accurately sums up the Bible's teaching on prayer: VACATE. Could it be that prayer is really about abandoning our own agenda and efforts and allowing God to lead. Or taking a break from our plans and trying out His?<br /><br />In this series you'll hear friends and theologians alike all testifying to the same truth: that life is found in being still before God in prayer. And that when we VACATE, we?ll find a right perspective on who God is and why we all are in need of a Savior.