Relevant: The Rewards of Praying (part2)

Sermon Summary

This message is part two of a multi-part set of messages on prayer within the Relevant Series, which is a study of the Lord's Sermon on the Mount. In today's message we hear Jesus begin His explanation of the Model Prayer. In the first line of The Model Prayer, or what has become known as The Lord's Prayer, we begin our study of the content of prayer. We will cover two aspects of prayer which deal with faith and praise. When a person prays they always begin with faith that there is someone listening to that prayer. As they begin to understand just who they are praying to and get a glimpse of His glory and greatness, praise will naturally follow. One of the key features of this message is a story about a medical doctor who was raised in a strong Christian home and later decided he was an atheist. However, through a series of events, he rediscovered his faith and became a praying man. 

Community Group Discussion Guide will be published by Tuesday Morning.

1. It takes at least some faith for a person to pray. When Jesus says we are to pray to our Father in heaven, we must understand this implies faith. If a person does not believe God exist then it stands to reason they would not pray. Do you remember when you prayed to receive Christ into your life? That may have been a leap of faith for you or you may have had a strong belief from an early age? Share your story.

2. Prayer cannot exist without faith and faith dies without prayer. It is a symbiotic relationship. The writer of Hebrews said this in Hebrews 11:6  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." It may be easier to understand why prayer cannot exist without faith, but why is prayer so important to faith? The following verses from Paul may help:

Phil 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Phil 4:7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. P
astor Larry talked about a surgeon who struggled with believing in God early in his career, but later relied on prayer deeply. He went on a search for the truth. God doesn't get angry with a person who questions and ponders the existence of God. He does, however, desire for that person to come to a place of belief. God desires truth and honesty so it's okay to be honest about our doubts. However, God wants us to know that He chose to loves us from the day He created us. He predestined, predetermined, pre chose, to love us. However, He has given us a choice when it comes to responding to that love. The way we make that choice is to step out in faith and pray. Read the following passage and discuss the extent God went to to show us His love.

Rom 8:29  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Rom 8:30  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Rom 8:31  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Rom 8:32  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Rom 8:33  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Rom 8:34  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Rom 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Rom 8:36  As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
Rom 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Rom 8:38  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
Rom 8:39  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

4. When we realize how much God loves us and we reach out for that love in prayer, at least two things will happen. We will see God in a whole knew light and we will receive some amazing things from God. We will begin to see God's glory, majesty, holiness and goodness. We will receive His forgiveness, mercy and love. When this happens, praise and worship should naturally follow. Has this been your experience? Explain. 

Psa 63:1  A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah. O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psa 63:2  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Psa 63:3  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
Psa 63:4  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.

Relevant:The Rewards of Praying (part 2)

Full Sermon Notes

"All that I am cries out for more of You!" Is that your heart's desire? Do you long to experience the reality, the beauty, and the power of Almighty God in prayer? I can tell you without a doubt that God wants to connect with you in prayer. Prayer is a conversation, a conversation between you and the God who created you. Let's pray and ask God to help us understand and comprehend more deeply what prayer is all about!

"Father God I come before You this morning to ask You to please teach through me in a way that will help folks learn the beauty and power of having a conversation with You. Thanks for allowing us to talk to You! What a privilege! What an honor! What a comfort! What a help! As we examine Your teaching on prayer let us be inspired by Your Holy Spirit to engage more often in speaking Your Name and calling on Your Name, and then listening to Your voice as You speak by Your Spirit and through Your Word to our needy hearts! I love You and thank You for hearing this prayer! In Jesus Name, amen!

Last week we talked about the motives of prayer, the place of prayer, and the length of prayer. We discovered that the greatest and most noble motive for prayer is the desire to have a relationship with our Creator God! We discovered that the place of prayer is anywhere we are, but the ability to pray anywhere is developed in those secret places and times of being alone with God. We also discovered that the length of our prayers and the exact verbiage is not as important as much as our awareness of God's attentiveness to our prayers and our acknowledging that He knows what we need before we even ask Him. Jesus was not saying that we don't cry out to God or that we don't repeat a request to God, but that God doesn't require that we beg.

And it's not that we don't plead our case before God, but we must know and remember that God is not like an unjust judge who simply grants a hearing because he is tired of being bothered, rather God loves for us to come to Him, to bend His ear, to share our burdens, our needs, our heart's desires, yes and even our wants. But we must remember that God has our best interest at heart! And we must never forget that we don't always know what we really need and sometimes what we think we need or what we  think we want is not at all what is best for us. Therefore, the content of our prayer is important. So let's look at what Jesus had to say about the content of prayer.

The Content of Prayer

Matthew 6:9a “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven...

Faith

This is a model prayer, not the only prayer. It gives us a framework for prayer. It doesn't include every aspect of prayer that we find in the Bible, but it has most of the components. And the first is faith. When Jesus says we are to pray to our Father in heaven, we must understand this implies faith. "Our Father in heaven." If you don't believe God exist then it's obvious you won't pray to Him. Prayer cannot exist without faith and faith dies without prayer. It is a symbiotic relationship. E.M. Bounds, who wrote volumes on the subject of prayer, had this to say...

"In any study of the principle and procedure of prayer, of its activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith. It is the initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the unseen. He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where he cannot prove. When faith cease to pray, it ceases to live."

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

So if you were looking at the table of contents in a book on prayer, the first chapter might be on faith. The reason? Believing that God exist and wants to talk with you is the first step in having an effective prayer life. Back in the early part of the 20th Century there was a Scots-Canadian who was raised on a farm by very devote Christian parents, Rab Lindsey. He became a well respected surgeon in a San Francisco Veteran's hospital. He prayed before he did surgery. One of his patients asked him to tell him why. He shared that He was the oldest of nine children. The family saved every penny they could so he could go to college and study to be a doctor and come back to their backwoods community and be a doctor. They had saved 100.44. He got 100. He ended up being a star student. But here's what happened. He said:

"In college, finding I could stay near the top in all of my classes, I soon became self-assured--even cocky. I had visions of a medical practice among the wealthy in some large city--preferably, New York. I even began calling my father's farm, 'Our country place.' By the end of the fourth year, my ego'd become so inflated that I no longer felt the need of God's help. Later in medical school, after one of my professors told me I was destined to be a great surgeon, I began thinking of myself as an atheist. During discussions with student friends, I'd hold forth at great length on superstitious religious beliefs.' Belief in God was fine thing for the timid, the ignorant and the inept, I maintained, but the strong man-the deep man-the thinking man--that man was his own God. And so it was throughout my internship. And so it was during my first years of practice." (He didn't go back home.)

He continued his story…
"Success came quickly, for I was a good surgeon. Two years followed in which almost everything I undertook turned out right. Operations that had seemed hopeless, resulted in cures…I felt self-assured--even smug. Then shortly after the beginning of my third year of practice came a series of shocks.
In one week, I lost two patients because of unforeseen complications. The following week, I looked up from my desk one afternoon and saw what I thought for a moment must be a ghost--a man named Chapman. Nine months earlier, I'd told Chapman that he had no chance to live. I'd said to him kindly:

'Your malignancy has gone too far. Chapman. Surgery can't help you--nothing can help you.'
'How long do I have, Doctor?" he'd asked.
'Three months, Chapman--four at the most,' I'd answered. And there was Chapman standing in front of me nine months later--obviously a well man. My hands trembled.

Chapman grinned. 'Fooled you, Doctor! Thought you should know that there was help for me.'

Mr. Chapman then shared with this atheist doctor his testimony of how God had healed him. (Now I think we all know in this room that God sometimes works through the surgeon's hands to heal, and sometimes He does things that defy scientific and medical understanding. And sometimes God chooses not to heal, but He promises to never leave or forsake those who trust in Him, and He will give the health and the strength needed to live long enough to accomplish their purpose in life, and then in God's perfect timing He will give them a beautiful grace to make the transition to their eternal home in glory! Thank You Lord.

But here's what happened in our story. The atheist doctor was baffled by the guys testimony. He took some time off and went on a search for some answers. He said: "Back in America, I questioned religious leaders of all denominations, ministers, rabbis, priests. I also discussed prayer with several highly competent physicians and surgeons, and learned with something of a shock that most combined prayer with their medical and their surgical techniques. I became more and more troubled. One day while discussing my problem with Dr. Clyde Randolph, a minister versed in philosophy and literature, I burst out,

'After all, is it so strange that I should have denied the existence of God when so many great scientists and philosophers have been atheists?' "Dr. Randolph looked a bit surprised, and said: 'To which ones are you referring?'

"I thought for a moment, then said, 'I'm not certain, but it seems to me that Einstein. . .' I paused questioningly.
"'go on,' Dr. Randolph said.
"'Well, Einstein, Voltaire, Spinoza, the early Greeks, the psychologists…I can't remember all of them, but I've heard, and I've read…'
"Do you read a lot?'
"'I've never had time to read very much besides medicine, but it seems to me that if great thinkers couldn't believe...'
Dr. Randolph interrupted him...
"You should begin to do some serious reading, Dr. Lindsey,' he said, 'because you don't really know what you're talking about. Einstein, Spinoza, Voltaire, and many of the Greeks, and many psychologists, believed in God, and said so. Einstein--the scientist who reached farther into the stretches of the universe than any other man who ever lived--summed up his life's work by saying that his researches had led him to the belief that all was created and controlled by a Supreme Being. He called that Supreme Being "God," for in discussing the orderliness of universal laws, Einstein wrote that he did not believe that God played at dice with men.
"Voltaire, in La Henriada,' Dr. Randolph went on, 'said: "God has made thee to love Him…"

But read for yourself, Lindsey. And stop thinking of yourself as a great man. Instead, think of yourself as God's man.'
And after hearing several other examples of those who were once agnostic, this young doctor said this...

"And so, on my knees, I abandoned immature thinking--l realized and acknowledged that whatever talents and capacities I had, came from God. I undertook to live thereafter not as my own man, but as God's man. "I was now eager to resume practice, and would have done so the following day except for a telegram which arrived from by brother, Donald:

"Doctor says Mother has only a few days to live. Come quickly."

What had happened, was his mother had been gored in the chest by a crooked horn cow. He hired an aircraft and flew back home. When he got there, he found his mom in very serious condition. After realizing he was going to have to operate immediately on his mother in their home if she were to survive,  
he said,

"I silently cried to God for steadiness and quick perception. With the trembling, gone, and a deep feeling of confidence, I went into the kitchen, drank a cup of hot soup, scrubbed-up at the sink." He then stepped into where his Mother was and told another doctor there to begin anesthesia. He went on to say ...

"It was a long, difficult operation--one that presented several intricate problems--surgery that would have resulted fatally had I made a single mistake. Yet it went smoothly--perfectly. Never before had I worked with such skill and assurance…I operated on her, and God healed her! And that's the way it's been ever since--I operate on them, and God heals them."

So now we know why this successful surgeon prayed before all of his operations. But he had to come to a place of belief! Without faith prayer has no rationale. Now, if you don't have much faith, don't worry about that. It only takes a mustard seed to move a mountain, and God wants us to be honest about our doubts. He won't get mad at you, He will help you. In fact, I'm going to help you out a little bit on this question of does God really love you even if you are struggling with having faith in God. Jesus said this in the Gospel of John...

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

So Jesus didn't come to condemn you, but to save you. He has chosen to love you and to save you, but you have to respond by believing. So let me encourage you to take a small step of faith even if you don't know for sure if this God thing is real or not. Let Him know that you're open and willing to explore a relationship and ask Him to help you with your unbelief. I want to show you a passage that really spells out God's love for you in a powerful way. It's Romans 8:29-39...

Romans 8:29-39 For those God foreknew(how many people have ever been created that God didn't know about?) he also predestined(to pre-choose/to pre-determine - God has pre-determined to love you) to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined(to pre-choose/to pre-determine), he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When you realize that the God of the Universe has chosen to love you and desires to have a personal relationship with you, that should motivate you and move you to pray! And when you do you will begin to glimpse God in all of His glory and majesty, His holiness, and you will experience His boundless love and amazing grace! Talk about the rewards of praying! When you receive those kinds of rewards, the content of your prayer will naturally move to praise and worship! Jesus said...

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Hallowed be Your Name!!! The next thing in the table of contents as Jesus talks about how we are to pray is praise!

Praise

Hallowed be Your Name! The word Hallow means...

Hallow: To make holy, to set apart for holy use: to revere!

This is why one of the Ten Commandments tells us that we never take the name of the Lord in vain. We are to revere His name, respect His name, cherish His name, and honor His name. We do this when we refuse to use the Name of the Lord in vain but choose to praise the Name of the Lord! In fact the meaning of the word praise is a Latin word that means value or price!

Praise: From a Latin word meaning "Value" or "Price"

When we praise God we are proclaiming His worth, His merit, His glory, His greatness, His love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His provision, and His great power which He chooses to use on our behalf! The Psalmist certainly understood what it meant to Hallow and to Praise the Name of our God! Let me give you a few examples...

Psalm 7:17 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 113:1-8 Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.

Can you see why He is to be praised and honored? He cares about the poor and the needy. And here's the thing, whether you are poor or rich, when it comes to our wretched sin condition we are all needy! Paul put it this way in Romans...

Romans 3:21-25a But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood...

Wait a minute, I'm justified freely by His grace? I'm redeemed by Christ Jesus? God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement for my guilt and shame? And all of this is through faith in His Blood that was shed on the Old Rugged Cross? Yes, yes, and yes! And when I realize these truths how can I not hollow His name? How can I not praise His Name and ascribe the highest value to His Name?

There was an old gospel song that I used to sing. I'm in no condition to sing it, but I will read the lyrics to you and I hope you will understand why our praying should always contain praise for our God! Listen to these words...

I was guilty with nothing to say
And they were coming to take me away
When a voice from Heaven was heard that said
"Let him go and take Me instead"

Oh I should have been crucified
And I should have suffered and died
I should have hung on the cross in disgrace
But Jesus, God's Son, took my place

That crowns of thorns, the spear in His side
And the pain, it should have been mine
Those rusty nails were meant for me
Yet Christ took them and let me go free

Oh I should have been crucified
And I should have suffered and died
I should have hung on the cross in disgrace
But Jesus, God's Son, took my place

And listen to the words of this song which will some day be sung in heaven. It's about the One who was crucified for you and me...Revelation 5:9

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Let's pray!