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The ACTS of Prayer: A Way to Enrich our Communication with God

So if reciting the Lord's Prayer isn't exactly what Jesus expected of us, how do we communicate with God? How should we address Him and how do we listen? Equipping Pastor Blake Holmes explains that although there are several ways to go about it, he uses a pattern of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication when he communicates with God.

Blake HolmesFeb 8, 2009

Messages In This Series (8)
Learning How to Pray, part 4: The Provision, the Protection and the Power
Todd WagnerMar 1, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 3: Recessions and Daily Bread... And Why We Need Them Both
Todd WagnerFeb 22, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 2: Why We Want His Kingdom to Come
Todd WagnerFeb 15, 2009
The ACTS of Prayer: A Way to Enrich our Communication with God
Blake HolmesFeb 8, 2009
Learning How to Pray, part 1: The Importance of Listening to Our God
Todd WagnerFeb 1, 2009
Shut Up, Stand Up, and Stop Eating Cheetos: Our Greatest Hindrance to Effective Prayer
Todd WagnerJan 25, 2009
Rehearsing Truth so You Don't Move Counter to God
Todd WagnerJan 18, 2009
The Foundation for Prayer: The Real Thee Talking with the Real Thou
Todd WagnerJan 11, 2009

Several summers ago, probably more summers than I would care to admit, I had the privilege of being a counselor at Kanakuk, which is a Christian sports camp in Missouri. My task, which was so difficult, was to spend my whole day down on the dock jet skiing and skiing, and a big part of my summer was spent teaching kids how to sail.

At the beginning of the term, there were several kids there with the life jackets on, sitting there on the shore. I was there in front of a boat explaining to them some basics of sailing and the parts of the boat, and then all of a sudden, totally out of the blue, from behind me I hear this booming voice, this resounding, "No, Holmes! No! That's not how you do it!" I kind of jump like this.

All of a sudden, it's Joe White, who maybe some of you know (he's the president of Kanakuk camps), running down the hill. "No, Holmes! No, no, no! This is how you teach sailing!" He goes, "You and you, come here! Come here!" He grabs these two people, puts them on a boat, and launches them. "You come here!" He gets them on a boat and launches them.

I remember. We have 13 boats. They're gone. Twenty-six kids. Woo! Right out into the lake. He is waist deep in the water, just calling signals. Boats are truly going into the only area of the lake for speed boats and jet skis. I'm thinking lawsuit, loss of kids. Boats are over here, going totally ashore. Other people are capsizing. They don't have a clue how to sail. Not a clue.

Like I said, he's waist deep, and I'm standing there right beside him. He's going, "This is how you teach people how to sail. Isn't it great? Isn't it great? You've got to get the boats out in the water. Hey, you over there! Stand on your daggerboard. That'll right the boat." He's just calling signals.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Todd came to me and said, "Hey, Blake, look. I'm going to do a series on prayer, and I'm going to spend the first few weeks talking about our attitude in prayer and what our posture should be in prayer, kind of the why behind prayer…what it is, what it's not."

He goes, "But what I'd like to ask you to do, if you would, is I want you to be really practical. I want to give you this Sunday where you can spend time with our body and just give them confidence that when they wake up tomorrow morning they have a plan to know how to pray." He said, "Just spend that hour. If you will, get that boat and launch it in the water." So this morning, that's really what I want to do. I want to give you an opportunity to learn how to pray.

Johnny: Perhaps we could be of some help. How are y'all doing? My name is Johnny. This is my buddy Chachi. We're Get In Here Ministries. Thank you. I would have come out two minutes ago, but I fell asleep during the snooze-fest sailing story. No, I'm playing with you.

Chachi: But what we are here for, Pastor Wagner, is…

Blake: Blake Holmes.

Chachi: Nice to meet you. Now, what I want to tell you is we've got a video that's probably going to say about everything you're going to say in the "blah, blah, blah" of your message coming up. It's going to cover all of the tips on prayer and then some, and we'll get these people to lunch a little earlier today.

Johnny: I think that would be good. So why don't you guys feast your eyes on the screens. Okay? We have two screens.

Chachi: Take a look.

[Video]

Johnny: Hi, I'm Johnny.

Chachi: And I am Chachi.

Johnny: We're Get In Here Ministries.

Chachi: You know, a lot of people come up to us and ask us hard questions about God and the Bible and spiritual living.

Johnny: And you know what? A lot of those questions are softball questions for us. There are actually some pretty good ones, one of them being, "How do I have a better prayer life?" Well, good news. We have some killer tips to a better prayer life.

Chachi: Before we do that, though, let's start off with a title and some dance moves.

Johnny: No. We're not doing a title and a dance. Let's just kind of get into this.

Chachi: When you're saying a prayer in public, you want to use the phrase "Father God" as much as humanly possible.

Johnny: Just last week, I said a 30-second prayer and got 17 "Father Gods" in it. Now look. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying with a little bit of effort it can be done. If you have a prayer request but don't actually want to request it, simply say, "Unspoken." I actually currently have six unspokens that I'm praying for this guy about.

Chachi: And, actually, Johnny, I need one more.

Johnny: What is it?

Chachi: It's unspoken.

Johnny: Well, that's seven. And while I have no clue what I'm praying about, someone does have a clue.

Chachi: Just no one human.

Johnny: The Bible says, "Pray without ceasing," and, well, we believe in the Bible. Chachi has been praying without ceasing for over 32 hours now. Chachi, how do you feel?

Chachi: What? Who said what? Where am I?

Johnny: Chachi, you have been praying for over 32 hours straight. Do you feel pretty good?

Chachi: Can I get a restroom break?

Johnny: Not if you want to fully obey Scripture.

Let's say you become privy to some juicy information about someone but don't want to be seen as a gossip.

Chachi: We've got good news. You're good to go if you put it in the form of a prayer request.

Johnny: I still cannot believe what Jill said to Keith.

Chachi: I can't believe it either, but did you know that John got canned?

Johnny: What? Let's talk about it in prayer group.

Many people feel that your prayer position is irrelevant, but we have found that many positions not only boost your prayer life but stretch you physically. Chachi, why don't you go ahead and show us some?

Chachi: Well, I wasn't really planning on praying, but I guess I could.

Johnny: Okay. Yeah, that's a classic one. Nice. That's great.

Chachi: The last thing you do when you pray is fairly obvious. You say, "Amen."

Johnny: And if you happen to be in a group of people holding hands, it's imperative that you accompany that "Amen" with a physical action known as the hand squeeze. The squeeze lets the people on either side of you know, "Hey, the prayer is over. I care about you, but I'm letting go now."

Chachi: And when you are holding hands, never interlock, because that can make your prayer partners a little uncomfortable.

Johnny: We want to thank you for watching or, shall I say, growing in your prayer life.

Chachi: Yeah. Now can we do the title and the dance moves?

Johnny: No. Just kind of say, "Thanks for watching," and then… I thought you were lying when you said you could do that.

Chachi: Well, it hurts a little bit, but it's effective.

[End of video]

Chachi: So, was that what you were looking for? Do we need to just wrap this thing up?

Blake: Not exactly what I had in mind, fellows.

Johnny: Well, we probably need to get an escort for one of the lepers, and then we'll be good to go. So get him out of here.

Chachi: Well, listen. We're available. We want you to know that, statistically, 92 percent of our prayers get answered, so we're feeling pretty good about that.

Blake: Really?

Johnny: Even if that same statistic says 80 percent are "No," the answer therein, that's okay. We still feel like it's getting answered.

Blake: Well, we appreciate your help. We'll call you.

Chachi: Anytime you need anything.

Blake: Oh man! It's fun to laugh. We laugh because we watch the silly stuff… You know, the whole hand gripping thing. I mean, you laugh because you've been there before. Right? It's a laugh of familiarity. We've wondered before, "How are we supposed to sit when we pray, and exactly how are we supposed to go about this?" Perhaps we've heard, "Father God, Father God, Father God, Father God" said 17 times in a 30-second prayer, as Johnny alluded to.

If you're anything like me, when you hear people bring up the topic of prayer, you feel one of two ways…either guilty or apprehensive. Let's just be honest. We feel guilty because we know what Scripture says and the value Scripture places on prayer. For instance, Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…"

"Devote yourselves to prayer." Well, there are a lot of things I'm devoted to. I'm devoted to certain TV shows. I'm devoted to certain foods, certain teams I cheer for, but if I was going to think what I'm devoted to… Prayer? So I feel a little guilty when I read Ephesians, chapter 6, which says, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…"

I see the value Scripture puts on prayer, but if I'm honest, sometimes I feel guilty because I know I fall short and I don't have the prayer life I want to have. I feel guilty because there are times where I've told people, "Hey, I'm going to pray for you," and then I walk away with the best of intentions and I forget. Or I feel apprehensive about prayer because I've heard messages on prayer, and I've heard people pray aloud, and I'm like, "Is that really how I'm supposed to pray?" or "That makes me feel a little uncomfortable." You know, those people you pray with.

Then there are those audible people who "Amen" during the middle of the prayer and "mm" and "ah" and all of those kinds of -ics, -asms, and spasms you hear during prayer requests. So it makes us feel a little uncomfortable. We're apprehensive because we're unsure exactly how to get our arms around this. I'm convinced that God's will for us is not to feel guilty. It's not for us to feel apprehensive about prayer.

I want to do what I can this morning to relieve those feelings of guilt and apprehension by doing three things. Really simple. What I want to do is start our time by talking about what prayer is and what it's not, and then I want to give you a very practical tool. It is a way. It's not the way.

Again, it's a way just to guide you in a time of prayer, so that tomorrow morning when you wake up you could feel confident of having a plan in place.

It's as simple as if we want to get in shape, then we need to have a plan for how to get in shape. Otherwise, we're just going to sit in front of the TV eating Ding Dongs. We need somebody to go, "Hey, try running this far. Try doing these things. It will help you get in shape. This will help you know what you should eat, what you shouldn't eat." Sometimes I think we go to God in prayer and we think, "Okay, I want to pray," but we're unsure what to do. So I want to offer you a practical plan.

When you walked in this morning, you received a Watermark News, and you should have also received this little guide, and we're going to refer to this. I want to walk you through this morning a very practical way to pray. Then, finally, what we're going to do today is we're going to actually get in the water, so to speak. We're going to get wet, and I'm going to give you a chance to silently, by yourselves… No one is going to interrupt you. No one is going to ask you to pray out loud. Don't be afraid.

I'm going to give you a chance simply to pray. I'm going to give you a few minutes. There's going to be some time in the middle of our service today where you're going to have time for personal reflection in prayer, and we're going to pray for about three minutes. It's going to be quiet in here, and it may feel a little awkward, and that's okay. Maybe for some of us it has been a long time since we've taken the time simply to be still, to vacate, as Todd has said, and to be still before the Lord.

I recognize that there are some folks in here, perhaps, for whom the very idea of prayer is terrifying and some of us who don't believe in prayer. Some of us have a lot of questions about who God is and what the Bible has to say. So what I'd love for you to do and encourage you to do… There's a spot in the Watermark News for you to, if you feel comfortable, write your name down and let us know what your questions are that you're processing.

I love nothing more than to engage with folks who have an intellectual curiosity and just go, "I'm not sure I believe there is a God" or "I'm not sure I believe this God is worth following or this book is his Word, so I just have to be honest. Help me get over these questions." We welcome those as well. So we're going to have some time today for you to reflect and be still and be before the Lord.

Let's talk about what prayer is and what it's not. Clearly, what prayer is not, as Todd has done a great job of sharing already, is prayer is not a way to manipulate God, and it's not a way to earn his favor. You can take whatever posture you want physically, you can pray as many times as you want all day long, sporadically throughout the day, you can throw in as many "Father Gods" as you want, but you're not going to make God love you any more. God loves you.

Prayer is not a way to go to him and get what you want by having a laundry list of things and going, "Lord, help me here, help me here, help me here," and just checking it off. Prayer is simply a chance to converse with God. That's all it is. It's simply a chance to converse with God. Notice I didn't say it's a chance to talk to God, because that would be one-sided. Prayer is both an opportunity for us to talk to God, but it's also a chance for us to listen to God.

What I think so many of us fail to do is to listen. The privilege I have being the Equipping pastor here at Watermark… I get asked great questions all the time about what Scripture has to say on certain topics, and one of the questions I'm asked, certainly, a number of times is, "Hey, do you ever hear God's voice?" or "How do we hear from God?" or "How do we discern his will?" I tell people really confidently, "I hear God's voice every day."

Before that freaks some of you out, what I mean by that is I don't hear an audible voice, I don't receive letters in the mail or a phone call, but do you know how I hear God's voice every day? I open up his Word. I open up his Book. I spend time with him. I firmly believe that what his Word says, God says. So, before you pray, I want to encourage you to simply sit at his feet and go, "Lord, what is it that you want to tell me?"

We've given you a tool. Every day, you have a plan you can follow in the Journey. Again, the Journey is a way. The importance is to have a plan that allows you to spend time at the Lord's feet reading his Word. We believe that his Word, this book right here, is inspired by him and is his means to communicate with you. God wants to talk to you, but sometimes we go so quickly into our prayer requests we fail to stop and go, "Lord, what is it that you're already trying to tell me?"

One of the great motivations behind the Journey's reading plan this year is because we wanted to emphasize prayer. We spend a lot of time as a body emphasizing the importance of reading Scripture, and we want to elevate the value of prayer. We have services, like we did last night, with Raise the Mark. We have a ministry called Click & Pray where people can share their requests, and that goes out to the body, and we can pray for each other. We as a staff pray for you often.

What we want to do is allow the body of believers at Watermark to have a tool and have a passion for prayer. So we said, "Hey, for the Journey this year, let's look at the Wisdom Literature," which Psalms is included in, and psalms are simply prayers. They're prayers. If you were to divide the psalms into parts, you'd see each psalm, for the most part, has a time of adoration, a time of confession, a time of thanksgiving, a time of supplication or request.

The psalmist comes to the Lord and just talks about God's attributes, confesses to the Lord his shortcomings, gives the Lord thanks for what he has done, makes requests of the Lord of what he wants him to do, just lays them right before the Lord. Just this week, I spent time looking at Psalm 27 and was reminded of this great truth. The psalm concludes and says in verse 14, "Wait for the Lord ; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the **** Lord ****."

I just sat there personally and thought, "Man! That is sometimes so hard to do." I thought about the implications of what it means to wait on the Lord, to be strong and courageous and to wait. I thought about the implications in my own life as I wait for a 6-year-old boy to be told he's cured of leukemia. Every day, that cancer reminds me I am waiting and I am trusting.

I wrote down that truth on that little blank you see there on that guide that says, "From your Word today, Lord, I'm reminded of this truth." I simply wrote down, "The Lord will ultimately reward those who wait on him." Ultimately, the Lord is going to reward each of you who are waiting on him.

Isaiah 40:31 says it like this: "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Those who wait for the Lord will ultimately be rewarded. I allow that truth, God speaking to me through his Word, to inform my prayers, because the greatest guide for prayer is Scripture.

I take that truth and this little acronym, ACTS, which is familiar to many of you (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), and I allow that little truth to permeate each four aspects of my prayer. I think about the faithfulness of God and the goodness of God to those who wait on him. I think about how I fall short often and become impatient and don't wait on him like I should, and I confess that to him.

I thank him for the incredible ways in which he continues to be faithful, and then I sit there and I go before him with requests, not only about my son, but I think about many of you, friends and family who I pray for, who are waiting on the Lord right now for their house to sell, to find a job, to be told they're cured, to be told a loved one has finally trusted in Jesus Christ; those of you who are waiting to hear from the Lord, who feel as if your heart has grown cold. You just want to feel again. I get that.

So I allow God's Word to inform my prayers and my way of thinking. The incredible thing, which we can't lose sight of, is that there is a God in heaven who wants to hear from you. He desires relationship with you. He wants to converse with you. He doesn't want it to be this formal coming in with your list. He wants you to talk to him.

As I was thinking about this message and that incredible truth, it made me think about the fact that when my kids call me, there's nothing I love more in the world than that little interruption. The phone rings, and I look at that caller ID and see it says "Home." I pick it up, and I hear on the other end, "Hey, Daddy! What are you doing?" and I hear all the screaming and pandemonium in the background with four kids, and I just hear, "Hey, Dad! You wouldn't believe it. I lost a tooth. Daddy, you wouldn't believe it!" and all of these crazy things going on at home.

I love to hear from my kids. It's not an interruption; it's what I long to hear. I'm glad they want to call me and they still think that's cool. I hope it's always that way. I want them to know I want to hear from them. The same thing is true of our heavenly Father. I realize that some of us, unfortunately, have a very warped view of what it means to relate with our Father because of the strange relationship with our earthly father.

Our heavenly Father, the one who is good and loving and kind and merciful, longs for a relationship with each of us. He wants us to converse with him. Before we enter into prayer, we need to stop and recognize who God is. We need to take into account who we are approaching. So as I read through the Psalms, as I read through Scripture, as I reflect upon God's Word, I think about who he is. It's a time of adoration just to declare to God, "These are your attributes. These are your characteristics."

I'm reminding myself, "Lord, you are good. Despite my circumstances sometimes, Lord, where I feel as if you're far away, I'm reminded that you are ever-present. Lord, I am reminded that you never change. I'm reminded that you are eternal. I'm reminded that you're honest. I'm reminded, Lord, that you're just. I'm reminded, Lord, that you're forgiving." I think about those things, and I declare those things to him, and I give him thanks for who he is and just recognize his characteristics.

The Lord is good. He's all-powerful. He's holy; meaning, he's without sin. The Lord is beautiful. What we want to do right now, just for three minutes, is allow you to be still and take time and consider the attributes and characteristics of God. There are going to be some passages of Scripture that are going to be up on the screen during this time, just to allow you to read and reflect. Just take a few minutes now by yourself to be still in your seat and declare who God is. Let's do that now.

[Pause]

Well, after spending some time thinking about the characteristics of God and who he is, that he is always faithful, that he's good, that he's just, that he's eternal, that he's without sin, that he's never-changing, I can only think about what I'm not and just how far short I fall. I think about the fact that he is always honest and wise and how I shade the truth to make myself look good or how he's pure and how my mind can wander from what is pure, how he's selfless and how I can be selfish and demanding of my own way.

It only makes sense, then, as I think about the glory of God, to go before him and confess. Confession is a natural next step in prayer, just to go to the Lord and go, "Lord, I have nothing in and of myself to offer you. I fall way short." Scripture teaches that we all do. "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…"

I know sin is a word that sounds really churchy and kind of makes us sit back a little bit, but sin is just simply doing something that's contrary to the will of God, and we've all done it. No one is excluded. We're all in need of a Savior. We're all in need of grace. We're all in need of forgiveness. All of us. So we go before the Lord and say, "Lord, I'm not the man or the woman I want to be, and I confess it to you."

Matthew 5 teaches us the importance during a time of confession that we should consider how we've wronged other people. Matthew 5 says, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."

So during a time of confession, I sit there and go, "Lord, search my heart. Is there something I've done to wrong somebody that I need to make amends for?" Psalm 51, where David speaks, is a great confession, a model of confession, where David speaks to the Lord and says, "This is how I've wronged you, Lord, how I have offended you, a holy and righteous God, and I have fallen short."

A time of confession is a time to reflect on how I've hurt others and how I've offended God. Jesus tells a great story in the book of Luke. He tells this story to remind us of the importance of confession. He says in Luke 18, "And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.'"

The picture is these two men are going to church, if you will. One a religious man, a religious leader, the Pharisee, and the other man over here is a tax collector, a man who was despised and looked down upon in society, one who was thought of as being unrighteous and unholy. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like [this guy over here] this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'"

What is he saying? "Lord, I come to you based upon my own merit, based upon the good things I've done." The contrast is striking. You have over here this tax collector, who, it says, "…standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went to his house justified…" This man went to his house forgiven, in other words. "…rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

When we go before the Lord, we don't go before the Lord based upon the great things we've done and think we're not in need of grace and forgiveness. We're all in need of grace and forgiveness, and there is no shame in coming to him and saying simply, "Lord, I'm not the man or woman I've wanted to be. I'm not worthy. Forgive me for what I've done. Forgive me for where I was last night. Forgive me." Let's take a second now to consider how those words can be put to music, and let's consider this song.

[Song]

Let's declare this truth together of 1 John 1:9. Let's say this out loud. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." What a promise. Just the thought to know that you're not the exception to God's grace, no matter where you've been or what you've done. There's no line you could possibly cross where he'd go, "Whoa! You know what? Sorry, man. Now you're out of bounds."

No matter how many years you've strayed away or for how long you have chosen to live in rebellion against the Lord or no matter how many times you've made the same mistake over and over and over again, that truth remains the same. So it only makes sense, as we spend time in confession, that we give thanks, we thank the Lord for what he has done for us. We all, those of us who know and love Jesus Christ, have so much to be thankful for.

The Scripture says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Do you hear that? That's the great exchange right there: your sins for his righteousness. That's what Christ accomplished on the cross, and that's what the resurrection validated: your forgiveness, that you've been bought with a price. There's much we have to be thankful for.

How rare it is for us to really be a thankful people. If you're like me, oftentimes I'm still thinking about not what I have, not what I've received, but all that I still want, so I'm not thankful like I need to be, like I want to be, oftentimes. Jesus, again, emphasizing the point of the priority of giving thanks, tells another story in the book of Luke. Let's look at this together.

"While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him…" They kept their distance, because if you had leprosy in that time, you were ostracized. You were to live outside the city and not get close to anyone for fear that you could give that same disease to somebody else.

"…and they raised their voices, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' When He saw them, He said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.'" Which is another way of saying, "You're healed," because in that time, only the priests could declare somebody who had leprosy clean so then they could become part of society again. "And as they were going, they were cleansed."

Look at verse 15. "Now one of them…" One. Ten have leprosy. Ten cry out for help. Ten are healed. One. "Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan." Which is another way of saying, "And he was the most unlikely of people to do it."

"Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner [this Samaritan] ?' And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'" Literally, "Your faith has saved you. You are saved. You're not just cleansed; you are saved."

Scripture speaks of the priority of giving thanks, yet so often thanks is not incorporated into our prayers. It needs to permeate all of our prayers because of what Christ has done for us. So, what I want us to do now is to stand together, and we're going to sing a song and declare our thanks for what Christ has done for us. Let's do that now.

[Song]

Based upon what we just declared in song, that God's grace is enough, we get to go to our Father who is in heaven and submit our requests to him. We get to go and speak to our Daddy and say, "Lord, this is what's burdening me right now." He says to us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Jesus says in Matthew 7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." He's just inviting you, "Talk to me. Let me in. Come to me."

It says, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Do you know what he's saying right there? "I'm going to answer your prayers." Then he qualifies that by saying in verse 9, "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?" There's no one. Those of you who are privileged to be a parent, if your son asks for a loaf, are you going to give him a stone? Of course not! Or if he asks for a fish, are you going to give him a snake? Of course not!

Jesus says, "Well, then, if you, being a parent who is sinful in nature, knows how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him?" There are times, as a parent, your kids will ask you for things, and because you have a different perspective than they have, you're not going to give them exactly what they want, but you always have their best interests in mind.

I know this truth is sometimes hard to wrap our arms around. Personally, for me, you guys know my story over this past year and a half. I've struggled, I've wrestled with faith and doubt as I've watched my son battle cancer. I know what it's like to sit there and pray and pray and pray and ask for God to change things and it just seems like your prayers are hitting a wall. I know what it's like to feel a hardness of your heart and kind of even be unwilling to pray or not know what to pray. I get that.

What God is telling me here, even in the midst of cancer, is, "Hey, Blake, I have a perspective you can't see and you don't have." So by faith, I trust that even in the midst of the chaos my family is going through, in the midst of the chaos my friends and each of you are going through, there is a God who's sovereign, who's on his throne, and he has a perspective that we just can't possibly see. He's not going to give me a stone, and he's not going to give me a snake, regardless of my circumstance. So by faith, I continue to believe.

He invites us to come to him with our requests. So as a way to guide you… This, again, is just a way, but it's the way I've found most helpful, because quite frankly, I got tired of being the guy telling somebody, "I'm going to pray for you," and then, with good intentions, forgetting. This allows me to write it down so I can see it and be reminded.

It's fun to be able to tell somebody, "Hey, you know what? I've been praying for you. I want to know how I should continue to pray for you. I want more than just 'Lord, bless Mark.' I want more than that. I want specifics. How can I pray for you?" This is just a guide, that you can write down shorthand either names or thoughts.

On Monday, you pray for these family members. On Tuesday, you pray for other family members or somebody you pray for every day; friends and those things that are happening within our church, things personally going on in your life, outreach; there are perhaps neighbors or things we're doing as a church locally or things that are going on as a church that we're doing internationally. Then there's simply an "other" category there. I pray for those who are sick and those who are suffering right there. I pray for our military prayer calendar that we have.

This guides my time of prayer and allows me to categorize my thinking. Again, I allow the truth of Scripture, which we started with at the very beginning, that time of reflection, to permeate my thoughts in adoration and confession and thanksgiving and now supplication, my requests. I think about what it means to wait on the Lord and that those who wait on the Lord ultimately will be rewarded.

I pray for my friends who are waiting, who are financially in debt, who are dealing with guilt and just are waiting, and I pray that the same truth God richly encouraged me with would resonate within their hearts that day. So I pray. With that in mind, I want to invite you to be still and spend a couple of minutes considering how you could pray within each of these categories. Let's do that now.

[Pause]

We declare, Lord, who you are in your greatness. We declare, Father, your goodness and your faithfulness. We confess that's not what we always are. We thank you for your Son Christ, and, Lord, we come to you now and bring our requests because you invite us to. Father, our greatest request, above all else, is that you would help us to be single-minded, wholehearted, focused on you, amen.

Todd Wagner: We started today by looking at Psalm 27, and in verse 4 of that psalm, it says, "One thing I have asked from the Lord , that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the **** Lord **** all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the **** Lord **** and to meditate in His temple." So when we sing these words… We've talked about that the words of the songs we sing are part of the message. It's our prayer. Just like Callie sang, that little section of confession. "Lord, we don't want to be people who put on a talent show, and we are so prone to that. Lord, you don't want our talent; you want our brokenness."

You can see why I asked Blake to walk us through today. We hope you put the form we've given you in your Bible and go back to it. You start to enter into his gates with praise and thanksgiving. That's adoration (Psalm 118), and you just work your way through and talk to your Father and listen. When you seek one thing, that you might know him and to make him known, just say, "God, show me who you are. One thing I want to ask from you (Psalm 27), one thing I will seek, and that's to dwell where you are all of my days."

There's a reason we drive you to these things. There's a reason we encourage you to sign up for Join the Journey: so you can listen to God speak. If you haven't signed up for that, you're missing an opportunity. There's a reason we encourage you to come with us to Raise the Mark. There's an opportunity there to have prayer modeled in a scriptural way. There's a reason that yesterday we had classes all day on how to equip you. It's because we want to connect with you deeply and help you know this Lord we sing about.

There's a reason we've encouraged you to fill out the 5C form, because as you talk to God and listen to him and evaluate how you're doing, that's how you pursue the answer to the prayer of the song you just sang. If you're here today, we want to help you connect with Jesus in every way we can. We are not about Watermark; we're about Jesus Christ…loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then loving our neighbor as ourselves. We do that in this little community here, and we invite you to be a part. As you go and worship him throughout the week, let us know how we can serve you.


About 'Vacate'

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 &nbsp;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.