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09 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 09 December

On Wednesday we talked about becoming a living sacrifice and living in a state of spiritual worship. We are, by nature, selfish beings, and I for one would like to know “what’s in it for me?” when I live in a holy manner.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6  Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:1-16 (ESV)

Who does God call blessed?
1.       People who walk in the way of the Lord;
2.       Who keep his testimonies (read the Word);
3.       Who seek him with their whole heart (prayer);
4.       Who walk in his ways.

But how do we get to this exalted position in life? Is it possible to every walk blamelessly? Of course not. Not on this earth, with our sin natures. So what do we do?

1.       Fix our eyes on his commandments;
2.       Keep his statutes;
3.       Remain pure by following his commandments;
4.       Store up his rules in our heart;
5.       Meditate on his precepts, and
6.       Remember his word.

Wow! Some of us say that it’s hard to find the time to read the Bible every day, yet the psalmist seems to find great joy and delight in doing just that. Was that possible just because there was no technology back then? Things were simpler and they had more time on their hands? I don’t think so. Although they didn’t have nightly news and American Idol, they did have fields and flocks to tend to – every single day and night. Travel was pretty much nonexistent. “Horsepower” was literal. No air conditioning. No heaters. Kill what you eat. Preserve what isn’t eaten right away – all without electricity. Plus the sacrifices that God demanded, lack of clean water…and the common man couldn’t read and had to memorize God’s commandments! We think it’s tough to find time for God????

What do you think would happen to your prayer life, and your relationship with God, if you were able to do what the psalmist did? If you took time to memorize scripture every week? Pray every day? Read the Bible every day? Come to church every week? How would your life be enriched – blessed?

But what if you do everything we’ve talked about – you ask, you seek, you worship, you pray, you bless, you delight in His Word – and your prayers are not answered. (whiny voice) “But God, you promised you would give me what I asked for if I asked in Your will. You promised if I lived as a living sacrifice. You promised…” Have we considered that God isn’t the problem – that it’s me?

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Cor 12:7-9 (ESV)

Paul, the super-Christian, admitted to a thorn in his flesh. He prayed three times. And God refused to take away his misery. Why?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God gave Paul a trial to keep him from filling up with pride. Paul – proud of himself? I can’t conceive it. But God could, and made sure that Paul had something for which he had to rely on God.

Has God ever pulled the rug out from under you? Things were going well… and suddenly, not so well? Could it have been that God was giving you a thorn in your flesh to save you from pride? I know it’s happened to me at least once.

We know now that we can ask anything of God. We know that He answers prayers – or not – to give us what we need, including correction.

What are other reasons God would have for not answering our prayers?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:1-10 (ESV)

James was correcting a group of believers. They were murdering, coveting, quarreling and wanting to be like the world. They wanted to use God for their personal gain.

How is your “friendship with the world” hurting your prayer life? Are your relationships tense? Are you quarrelsome? Does your judgment stay outside your car when you drive, giving you “license” to offer a one-finger salute to those who don’t drive the way you think they should? Are you jealous? An “adulterer” towards God, loving the world more than Him?

God wants us to turn away from our sins – and from the world’s version of “fun”. I think I would prefer my life be more like the psalmist’s than those to whom James spoke. How about you?

Spend some time in prayer this weekend. Think of the ways that you’ve saddened God and make amends. Look toward the psalmist’s joy as the “gold standard” of living in Christ. Where can you turn from the world and turn toward God? I know there are many areas in my life. If you desire prayer for any issue, feel free to email me!

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