Once we've grasped the importance of using "the Lord's prayer" in Matthew 6 as a pattern and not as some sort of incantation; and then understood how praying to a "hallowed" God should shape the way we pray, what next? Todd explores Matthew 6:10 in depth, explaining why Jesus encourages His followers to pray that God's kingdom would come on this earth and how that should change our lives.
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
Lord, I thank you again for the gift of music that helps us meditate together on truths that we really want to celebrate together. We thank you that your love is strong. When all around us is weak and when all is not working as it should, we can be reminded of your goodness and kindness to us. So just do that now. Help me to be faithful to your Word and to remind your friends, Father, truths you want to use to encourage their hearts, amen.
I want to start this way. We're in a little series focusing on what prayer is about and how we connect with God and how we communicate with God and what we say to him. The reason we chose to do this little series at the beginning of the year… First of all, we are passionate about prayer. We're passionate about what God wants us to be as prayerful people.
We pray at all times without ceasing. That doesn't mean, obviously, we are on our knees in a closet. It doesn't mean we're at prayer meetings at church. It means we are people with an attitude of brokenness and dependence upon God and that we know at our very core that apart from him we can do nothing.
In fact, the very first sign of sedition, the very first sign of scandal and rebellion on earth is prayerlessness, because it starts to say, "Hey, we don't really need you, God. This is about us, and it's about us figuring out what's right and wrong. It's about us moving through this world in a way that makes sense to us, and if that's not good enough for you, so be it. If it's not good for everybody else, so be it, because it's really about me and my will and my kingdom."
Whenever we lose this dependence upon God, this ongoing surrender before him, we move into deep, deep trouble. One of the reasons we chose to do this, in addition to being absolutely passionate about that and not wanting to be seditious or rebellious, is because of what we're doing this year as a body in terms of our reading corporately.
You guys, if you're here at all, are going to hear the words "Join the Journey." That's a great phrase, because it's not so much about getting somewhere; it's about moving toward him. We're on a journey toward Christlikeness. We're on a journey toward faithfulness and surrender, and the way we ultimately get there is by spending time in his Word, being around others who spur us on into surrender to his Word, and certainly meditating on the truths of who God is.
I want to start looking at two little… Well, one you missed if you're not journeying with us, and one you're going to miss if you don't sign up today, because tomorrow you're going to hear from sweet little Madison. I want to read you, first, tomorrow's Journey entry. We're going to get you ahead. By the way, these are just people's reflections on what we ultimately want you to read, which is Psalm 32, Psalm 33, and on Tuesday, Psalm 34.
Here we go. I want to just let you hear from Madison. Madison grew up here, and as she meditated on Psalm 33, as a young woman who's up there at the University of Oklahoma… The truth she pulls out of this is that sometimes the Lord can seem to ruin our plans, but he gives something much greater in exchange. Just listen to the wisdom of this young gal.
She says, "The summer before my senior year of high school, I had my future planned out. I knew where I would go to college, what I would do for my career, and who I was going to marry. Things looked completely different, however, the summer after my senior year. I was on my way to college in a state I only had visited once, clueless about what I wanted to do in life, and without a boyfriend for the first time in four years. I listened to what the Lord wanted me to do instead of what I wanted, and it drastically changed my life.
As humans, our pride leads us to believe that we are in control. We think we know exactly how things will turn out, but in reality, God is the only one who knows our future. It says in Proverbs 16:9, 'A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.' Almost daily, I am guilty of making my own plans before going to the Lord. I get frustrated when my plans fail, but then I realize that those plans were mine, not from the Lord.
When am I going to trust that God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future? In this passage [meaning, Psalm 33], the psalmist reminds us that we can trust the Lord, because (verse 4) he is just and fair; (verse 5) he is faithful; (verses 7-9) he speaks and he creates the heavens and the earth, his word is powerful; (verse 13) he watches over us from heaven; (verses 19-20) he sustains and protects."
Do you see what she's doing here? She's reminding herself in the midst of things that don't always work out the way she wants them to work out who it is who is constructing her life, who is sovereign over all things. He either causes or permits everything. Let me say that again. You can't get around it. You can't have a God who is a sovereign God of convenience. God either causes or he permits everything.
If you want to really see a deconstruction of this, go back and look at What in the World Are You Thinking? when we talk about the problem of evil and the solution to evil. We dove into it here, and we talked about how a sovereign God is a God we don't have to hide from because he brings the horrors, at least in allowance, of cancer and betrayal and disease and death and discouragement, and even recession, I'm going to show you today.
What I want to show you is that you have to go back and remind yourself of who God is. The reason I'm doing this is because it's exactly what Jesus says you should do when you begin to pray. What she did with Psalm 33 is she said, "I'm just going to pull out truths about who my God is so I won't pull away and seek my will again, because my will is not always the best, and it never is the best when it's contrary to God's will."
Now, I'll tell you a great real-life application story from that. If you were journeying with us on Friday, you got this little email, this gem dropped into your inbox. It comes from sweet Melody Phillips. I've known Melody. Melody was here on our staff team for a while in our business area. I had no idea about this about Melody. In her little devotional on Psalm 32, which talks about how David had to experience deep brokenness before he could move back into a refreshing state, this is what Melody wrote.
She says, "I was highly intelligent." That's the way she starts. "I also had a near photographic memory. My powers of observation were acute, and oh my! I took great pride in these gifts. Then one day, I was walking across a parking lot. Two coworkers walked with me, one on either side. An afternoon shower had just left the pavement wet.
We were walking and talking on our way into a restaurant for dinner. Suddenly, I stepped onto a patch of cement amid the asphalt. The smooth surface was like ice. My feet flew out from under me. I remember the back of my head hit the hard surface, bounced like a basketball, hit a second time with a thud, and in a split second, my life changed." Are you interested? I was.
She says, "After one year of disequilibrium, faulty short-term memory, and ongoing language processing issues, I saw clearly that I had taken for granted what was a gift from God. I had taken for granted the God who had provided those gifts. I had been living a self-important, pride-filled existence. Finally, I was brought to my knees and was ready to confess my sin of pride. I rose and put myself wholly in the Savior's hands.
God's forgiveness was a wave washing away my sins. My life has now changed. I took Equipped Disciple classes and developed a personal relationship with God. The classes led me to develop the habit of daily meditation on God's Word, having conversations with God through prayer rather than a one-sided list of desires, and committing God's Word to memory. My husband saw the change in me, followed me in the three-part study. His life has changed. Our marriage has changed. Our family has changed." Then she goes on.
How great! Then she ties it back into Psalm 32, where David didn't slip on some asphalt; David jumped off a bridge, and his heart wilted within him, yet he had to learn what Melody had to learn. When I thank God for what my life is and when I trust God for what my life should be, things work out.
You have a loving Father who is begging you to participate in life with him, because he loves you and wants you to experience the fullness of the glory he destined you for, even in the midst of a broken world that is not as he intended it to be, but he is still recovering it for his glory, even allowing head thuds to turn into great times of celebration, even allowing four-year relationships to end to turn into a source of glory for him. That's your God.
That's really where we are as we listen to Jesus specifically teach us about how to pray. These two little Journeys… The reason I pull ones that are right here where we are today is I'm trying to show you guys how incredibly relevant God's Word is. I have to tell you, I think if we were in Leviticus 14 and 15, if we're thoughtful, it can apply to where I am in this series today. God's Word is not just some irrelevant devotional book you have to plow through, like paying your taxes. It is life-giving, and he wants you in it.
What Jesus is doing in Matthew, chapter 6… If you have a Bible, turn there with me. We're going to bounce around to see some illustrations of why Jesus tells us to pray this way, but if you have a Bible, open it up to Matthew 6 with me, and we'll start there. He talks here, in verses 1-8, about that the purpose of prayer is not to impress men or to impress God; the purpose of prayer is to remind you of who God is and to re-cement in your heart that you need him.
Jesus himself says here, "Your Father knows what you need before you even ask." You're kind of like, "Okay. So why ask?" Why call the waiter over to ask for more tea if he has a security camera on your table and is already on the way? God says, "I want you to do this not because I need to be awakened, not because I need to be reminded because I've lost focus on you because I'm serving too many tables.
I want you to know that everything you have comes from me, and I want to remind you when it comes it came from me, so you will love me and depend further on me, because I am where life is." So prayer is an exercise for us to absolutely reestablish in our hearts and minds the glory of God. It is not to accomplish in our lives petty desires.
One man said it this way: prayer is a wartime walkie-talkie, not a domestic intercom to summon the butler to change the thermostat. That is genius. What God is saying is in the midst of your life, you're at war, and the war is for your heart and for your soul. Will you establish another way as life-giving? Will you establish yourself as king or will you let God be God? Will you vacate? Will you be still and trust in him, the God who doesn't want to rip you off but wants to set you free?
So Jesus says, "When you pray, pray this way," and he doesn't give us a series of specific words we are to recite as if there's certain magic in them; he gives us a pattern of prayer. What he basically says is, "You pray for God's interests, God's glory, God's kingdom, God's will, and your willingness to stay in it." That's what Jesus is saying. "When you pray, pray this way: 'It's about you, God, and you are good. Don't let me move away from you.'" Whatever else you want to pray is great with him as long as it fits right into that context.
So, he starts, and we covered two weeks ago when I was beginning this… He says, "Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father…'" We talked about the intimacy of that relationship. "…who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name." That "hallowed be your name" is both a declaration to remind you of who he is, and it really is the very first request.
"God, I don't want anything that comes forward from here on out in this time of communion and interaction and intimacy with you. All I really want is your name to be more revered, more distinguished among the earth. So, Lord, whatever I ask for, what I'm really asking is that I would let my life be a right response to my challenges and circumstances so that others will see my good works, my right response to all that's in me, and glorify my Father who is in heaven."
When you hear Jesus say, "Hallowed be your name," that is both a declaration that he is altogether different than me, so the fact that he doesn't fit into my nice little categories shouldn't bother me, but also, "Lord, I want to live in a way that makes your name more renowned." In other words, there are times when my children do some things, and they take this Wagner name, and because of the way they live, the Wagner name becomes more famous.
They, like me, at times, put a dent in the name, but really, what I try to tell my kids is, "A good name, Proverbs 22 says, is to be more desired than great riches; favor is better than silver and gold. That name ought to mean something. And, boy, if the Wagner name ought to mean something, how much more should the name of God mean?" What he's saying here is to make sure I remember who the name of God is. Who he is. He's magnificent.
"But, Father, my first request is whatever happens as a result of our going through this world together, may your name be more established, as if you need my help." But all of us know one of the number-one reasons people don't love God is because people who take his name are hypocrites. The Hatfields have always destroyed us McCoys, and we don't like Hatfields. Christians have always made me feel this way, so I don't like Christians or the Daddy of Christians.
So when Jesus says you pray, start by saying, "Lord, what I really want is to participate with you in making your name more famous on the earth." Now why does God want his name to be more famous? He is not looking to establish his glory; he is looking to reveal his glory. Friends, one of the ways God has chosen to reveal his glory is through you and me, his church. How are we doing?
I've shared this before. I ask myself this question a lot in terms of this community. If we left, if Watermark Community Church dissolved, if this group of people no longer lived in Dallas, who would care? If the answer isn't "A lot of people," then something is terribly wrong. If we are not making God more loved, if we're not making the people of God more renowned, if we're not making God's name more celebrated, if we're not making people more thankful, then something is wrong.
There is a reason that, initially, Christians were the ones who cared for the sick, the poor, and the oppressed. If people in prison are not grateful there are churches, something is wrong. If the sick aren't grateful that Methodists did something over there in Grand Prairie, that Baptists did something in South Dallas, that Presbyterians did something on Walnut Hill, and on and on and on, something is wrong.
Do you see what's happening? God says we need to be about participating with him. So Jesus says, "Start this way: reminding of the intimate relationship that has been accomplished. He's your Father. He's not like you. He is in heaven. He is the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent one. Remind yourself he is holy, and make sure your first request in all things is that his name is made more hallowed."
There is a reason what Jesus says is "When you start praying, start by reminding yourself who he is." I have more psalms to insert into the message than I have time to read, but I want to show you again and again… I'll pick the shortest one of the ones I pulled for you. It's Psalm 100. This is how God tells us to start every thought of him.
Let's just be honest. A lot of times, our first thought is, "God, what is wrong with you? How screwed up can you be? Have you not noticed how lonely I am tonight? Have you not noticed how fractured my relationship is? Have you not noticed how empty my bank account is? Have you not noticed how rebellious my child is? Have you not noticed how defeated my heart is? Have you not noticed how uncomfortable I am looking in the mirror? What is wrong with you?"
Usually, when you start conversations like that, it goes pretty much downhill after that. What Jesus is telling us to do here is when we start our thoughts of God… Not our time on our knees, which we need those extended times of prayerful interaction with God, but when we're thinking of God, every thought we're supposed to bring captive to who God is and who we are in response to him.
What Jesus is saying right here is "When you start your thought of God, start this way." Look at Psalm 100. There's a familiar phrase in here. You've never memorized Psalm 100, but if you've ever been around any kind of vacation Bible school as a kid or church for very long, you've heard one of the phrases here in Psalm 100, verse 4.
"Shout joyfully to the Lord , all the earth." In other words, when you think of God, think of how good he is."Serve the **** Lord **** with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing." He is a good God not looking to rip you off."Know that the **** Lord **** Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture." Verse 4:"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name."
That word bless is the idea of "Speak well of his name. Remind yourself that his name is holy, and do everything you can to maintain that separate understanding of God because of how you live." "For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations." What we're trying to get across in Psalm 100 is what Jesus is trying to get across in Matthew 6:9.
When you start your thoughts of God, start by reminding yourself of who he is. If you start with, "Hey, jerk! Hey, incompetent one! Hey, clueless sovereign!" Let's just be honest. Raise your hand if you've ever wanted to start a conversation with God that way. Yes! When your head thuds, when your relationship breaks, you go, "You're King? I'm your son? That's my diagnosis? Are you kidding me?"
God is not frustrated that you are tempted to default to that, but he is passionate that you would not be seduced into acting on that initial temptation to run there. He says, "You pray for my kingdom to come." What I did is I just spent some time, and I went back through, and I thought, "Okay. The kingdom of God is a big idea in Scripture." In fact, there is more Scripture spent on describing the kingdom of God than any other central theme in all of Scripture.
So when it says, "Your kingdom come," there's a lot of material there to chew through. There's the kingdom of God. There's the kingdom of heaven. Are they the same thing? There has been a lot of discussion about that for a long time. There is, in one sense, some difference, because in the kingdom of heaven there's going to be a new heavens and a new earth.
Primarily, what Jesus is saying here is when you say, "Your kingdom come," what you're really saying is, "God, I don't want my kingdom. My kingdom brings isolation. My kingdom brings insecurity. My kingdom brings fear. My kingdom brings, basically, others to a place of this world being all about me. Your kingdom isn't that. Your kingdom is a benevolent dictatorship where you rule in kindness."
Here's a collection of things that will happen when God's kingdom comes. He goes on to say, "That your will would be done on earth like it is in heaven." There is no rebellion in heaven. There was, and God dealt with that rather clearly. What he's saying is, "You want what I have all the time, that everyone around me knows I am good, and everyone around me benefits from my goodness."
The reason this world is not one we enjoy all the time is because not everybody in it (including us during glorious moments) concerns themselves with what God wants. So we bring about fear and war, because your appetites don't meet my appetites, your way doesn't equal my way, and instead of submitting to God's way, we each go our own way, and sometimes our ways cross and we have a fight.
What the Lord is saying is, "You pray that everyone would understand who I am and everybody would live the way I ask folks to live, with love and others-centeredness and peace, and it will be good." Watch this. Here's a collection. It's called in Scripture the kingdom of God, of heaven, our Father's kingdom, the kingdom of his dear Son, the kingdom of Christ and of God, the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus himself calls it my kingdom, a kingdom nothing can destroy one day.
It is where Jesus sits on the throne of his ancestor David and is ruling. It's where the government is placed. How about this? You want a Messiah? He's not going to run for office one day; he's going to say, "I'm your King. You don't vote for kings. It's just time for me to show you I'm your King." It's where Jesus will assume his throne. He will reign in righteousness…not according to polls, not according to what we think is right, but in terms of true righteousness, and he will rule with a rod of iron. In other words, "At this point, it's time just to manifest my goodness."
It's where Satan and his dominions are imprisoned, where the saints are there, and saints aren't people who have lived excellent lives; saints are people who know their lives are not excellent enough; therefore, they have thrown themselves at the mercy of this benevolent King, who we find out has sacrificed himself in order to restore us.
Satan is bound. The saints are there. The disciples are ruling as leaders and judges in Israel. The glory of the Lord fills the earth. The Holy Spirit is poured out on everyone. Wars are ended. The earth becomes a place of singing. The curse is lifted. Thorns and briers are gone. Animal nature is changed. It says a baby will stick its hand in an adder's den and will come out unharmed. It says the lion will lie with the lamb.
All of nature will be restored. The curse is lifted. Sunlight will be plentiful. Crops will be produced in abundance. The wilderness will blossom with flowers, and the deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon and the pastures of Mount Carmel. Springs will burst forth in the wilderness and streams in the deserts.
Do you ever wonder how we're going to feed everyone? Think of the Sahara being as fertile as Iowa soil. God says, "That's no problem for me. I'll take care of it when I'm King." He says there will be unprecedented prosperity. Longevity will be increased, and sickness and handicaps will end. What God is going to say is there's going to be a day when this world will be as it should be, and it will be good.
Here's what he wants us to do. We ought to say, "Lord, we want you there." And guess what we're to do right now. In the midst of a world that is no evidence sometimes that God is there, he says, "You be there. You be citizens of my kingdom. You are aliens. You are strangers in a foreign land, but you know who your King is. Bring hope to this wicked kingdom.
Remind them of what it can be like to love when no one loves, to give when no one gives. You follow my example, and you give them hope, and you tell them how to restore relationship with me, because one day I'm going to come, and I'm going to deal with all sedition, I'm going to deal with all rebellion, and they're going to miss out on my kingdom."
I'll just take another little detour with this. What he's also saying in the midst of this is, "Look. You will never experience the peace today that I want to give you, the rest I want to offer you, until you know that I am the good King." So right now, God tells us how to operate. We are ambassadors in a foreign land. It's like being from the United States, and you might be an ambassador to Amsterdam where everybody smokes dope and walks down the red-light district and it's no problem.
But there is no peace in Amsterdam, there is no peace in Dallas, Texas, if you don't live in Amsterdam and Dallas, Texas, the way God wants you to live in Dallas, Texas. Dallas, Texas, says you'll find success in beauty and in power and in riches, and there is no peace in Dallas, Texas, ambassadors of Christ, unless you live God's way.
The kingdom of God is where there is peace. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. I want you to get your arms around this. This has both an "already" and a "not yet" characteristic to it. In other words, it's a present fulfillment and a yet-to-be-fulfilled comment. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" I'm going to explain that to you.
That is true in ultimate fulfillment, that you will not be among the saints if this is who you are in your person. I'm about to read a list of things that there's not a person in this room who does not struggle with them. We are everything in this next list at some level, and what he says is, "When you are these things, you don't experience what I want you to experience as a loving Father." Watch this. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?"
What is the kingdom of God? Go back to that little theology of the kingdom of God that I put together from about 40 different verses in the Scripture and read to you earlier. It says, "Don't be deceived. You're never going to get what you want…that peace, that prosperity of life and soul…if you do these things. Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers…they're not going to experience my kingdom."
Gang, here's what I want you to get. You're not going to get it… You never will get sustained peace by doing any of those things, and Lord knows, not only have I railed my hands at him and talked about his incompetence; I have tried. Let's just have another time of testimony here. Have you ever tried to find life in any of that list of things? Have you ever been idolatrous; in other words, put something up as a god and pursued it with all your heart?
Have you ever reviled people in order to make yourself better, swindled folks, struggled with your sexual identity and preferences, tried to find fulfillment in sex? Has anybody here ever tried to find peace, prosperity, success, and satisfaction in any of those things? Go ahead. Come on. Several times. Does anybody (probably not, although some may) want to say, "I have, and I am, and I don't see what the problem is"? I just say, "Let's keep hanging out together. Let's see how that works out for you."
There are moments in every kingdom where there are riotous good times, but a kingdom that will endure forever is the one Jesus is about. Let's see how that keeps working out for you. I'm betting heavy against you. My favorite analogy is I tell folks, "Look, man. The guy who jumped off a 100-story building…" And I've jumped out of airplanes. It is great, but I'm also glad I have a backup plan once I'm done with that experience.
Jesus is saying, "You shouldn't have jumped off that building. You are jacking with gravity, a law that is fixed. You'll never find life that way." But I know folks who have jumped off tall buildings, and they're going, "This is awesome! Free-falling is great!" And when they pass me on the ninetieth floor and the eightieth floor, they mock me, tying myself to cement and structure and steel. They go, "You're missing it! The elevator? Wimps. Life is out here."
I will tell you they're having a better time than me on floors 90 through 10, but sooner or later, the reality of their choice is going to catch up with them. That's what 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is saying. I don't know what floor you're on, but I do know where you're headed. So if you think you have it going on right now in your prosperity, in your riches, in your beauty, just hang in there, babe. Wait till you're 60. See how your beauty, all your enhancements, work out for you then.
Guys who are my age… There's a movie 10. Do you remember the movie 10? There's an old joke I go back to. I remind myself all the time, "Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain." Somebody said to me one time, "What is this? Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three…" I go, "I don't know." They go, "That's Bo Derek as she gets older." It is. Let's be honest. Some of you guys didn't start at 10, so I don't know why you ever went there to be happy.
God is saying, "I don't care where you started in terms of your sexual identity, your sexual joy. I don't know where you started in terms of your power, your position, but don't go there for life. Enjoy them in the context of how my kingdom will have them celebrated, but don't make them your god." What he's saying here is "You're never going to experience what you want. You want my kingdom to come? Then stop making you king, because it won't bring peace." That's the idea.
"Thy kingdom come." Then that next thing: "Lord, your will be done, not my will. That's what I want. I want your will to be done." What we're going to find here is that we have to be individuals who go, "All right, Lord. I am so used to making myself king and pursuing my will." What Jesus is teaching us to do in this prayer is to enter his gates, reminding ourselves of who he is, reminding ourselves of what the kingdom of God is like, and not going other ways, other places to establish our kingdom.
We have to say, "God, if your kingdom is going to come, if this world is going to operate the way we want it to operate, underneath a benevolent dictator, then we have to live your way. Your will be done, not mine, on this earth, just like it is in heaven." There is no stress in heaven. The Scripture says there are no tears in heaven. There is no rebellion, no insecurity, no lack of peace. "God, I want that." God goes, "I'm so glad you want that."
Now, here's how you get it. Jesus says, "Sometimes the reason I don't give you things you ask for is because (James 4:3) 'You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your [own] pleasures.' So I'm going to love you enough to not give you what you're asking for, because if I give you what you're asking for, it's not going to lead to the kingdom you really want."
It's okay to be an impetuous little child, saying, "I want this now." "But do you know what I really want, Lord? I want your will to be done. That's what I want, because you're a good God, and you're not looking to rip me off. So, while I just talked about how that relationship, that diagnosis, this turnaround would ultimately bring me peace, what I really know will bring me peace is staying with you."
Let me take you to Psalm 95, and we'll resume diving in here next week with some of these other really interesting comments Jesus leads us to. Look at Psalm 95. Psalm 95 is an effort to tell us how we, again, should think. "O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord , let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation."What's he saying there? "Enter his gates with praise and thanksgiving."
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods…" Do you guys see a pattern starting to show up here? It's so amazing. If you've been reading the Psalms with us… When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane and he was hanging on a cross, do you know what Jesus did? He did not write original prayers. Did you all know that? Do you know what Jesus did in Gethsemane? Do you know what he did on the cross? He quoted Psalms.
He just said, "My God, when David was in the wilderness, when David was surrounded by insurrectionists, when David had spears thrown at him and sons rebelling against him, when David had made stupid choices himself, he felt like you had abandoned him. I feel just like David did." Jesus, when he taught the disciples to pray, said, "Here's what you want to do: Don't buy the lie of the moment. Remember who is anchored in eternity. Trust in him." That's what Psalm 95 is saying.
Remember that in God's hands are the depths of the earth; the peaks of the mountains are his also. In other words (Psalm 139), there is nowhere you can go to hide from him. He's everywhere. He hasn't forgotten you or you've not gone out of range of communication. Last night I was watching Space Buddies, because I am a loving father and it was Valentine's Day. High drama in that film. A few times, the puppies went out of contact with their little NASA, and the nation was just on edge.
God says, "There's nowhere you go out of contact with me. You don't have to freak out. You're not on the dark side of the moon, ever. I know it feels that way, but I'm there." So he says, "Come, let us worship and bow down…" Vacate. "…let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand." It sounds a lot like what somebody wrote in Psalm 100:4-5.
He says, "Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah…" Reference back to when people did. "…as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 'When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation…'" Why? "Because I wanted to love them, and they wouldn't let me. I hated the fact that I couldn't bless them, but they weren't letting me be their God."
"…and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest." In other words, "I can't give them what they are not seeking. I can't give them the blessedness of the kingdom when they're trying to establish their own. I can't let them benefit from me being their King when they're their king. Don't be like those guys who never entered my rest. I took them out of slavery."
This is not just to nonbelievers. Believer, are you here today? If you're not experiencing rest and abiding peace, it's because some of your idolatry has fallen. You keep looking at these statements that come, and 40 percent of it is gone. That's a good thing, so you can be reminded of who it is you should trust. God loves you enough to have your feet economically to go out from underneath you and bang your head on the ground so you can start to think rightly again, so you can enjoy…really enjoy…peace, which does not come in your bounty; it comes in your God.
This is a blessed time we are moving into, because all of our singing of God is going to move to an experience of God, because as much as we say we want to seek him, we're forced to in ways that sometimes we just do not. I'm going to unpack more of that next week, but remember it now. You want his rest? Seek him.
Father, I thank you for a chance to come and look at these Scriptures, just how rich they are. What we know we need to do, what really has to happen is you have to change us, as we've already sung, from the inside out. Lord, our problem is not what we do with our hands; our problem is what we seek with our hands because our hearts are far from you. The problem is we have not looked to the Everlasting One for peace.
We have tried temporary measures to bring us peace…through relationships, through savings accounts, through retirement plans. You alone are God. You haven't forgotten us, but you're letting our feet go out from under us so we could relearn truth. I thank you for this recession. I thank you for these hard times, because in the hard times, Lord, we are at the end of ourselves in a way that we cannot be when we prosper. So may we take full advantage of it. May we become equipped disciples and learn your ways, that others may see your goodness and glory as we are changed and sing praises to your name, amen.
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.