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19 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 19 December

Week Six! The end of the study. We’ve taken time to learn about the elements of the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve been challenged. We’ve been convicted. We’re learning that we have a long way to go before we can pray like Jesus. But we know that with God, all things are possible!

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Cor 1:20 (ESV)

Is that a wonderful verse? All of God’s promises find their YES in him. He will always do what He promised. Do you think that knowing He will keep His word will change your prayer attitude?

But do we, a sinful people, really believe in God’s promises? We’d like to say we do, of course, but the Bible is filled with example after example of people who have lost confidence in God’s promises.

Take Israel, for example. They had been enslaved for 400+ years. God promised that He would set them free. He sent plagues to Egypt. He softened the Egyptian people’s heart so that they would give plunder to the Israelites before they fled their captivity. He parted the Red Sea and did it so completely that thousands of people walked across on dry ground. He thoroughly cut off all pursuit by the Egyptians. He provided them with a cloud/fire for guidance. He gave them free food – they complained because it wasn’t varied. He promised to make them a great nation. But what did they do in return? They waited until Moses went up the mountain, and immediately fashioned a golden calf idol. Yeah, right. Like that would give them more than the God who performed so many miracles for them.
And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. 15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16  The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ ” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.” 30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Ex 32:9-32 (ESV)

God was not amused. He wanted to destroy the people. He’d had enough of their whining, their miserable behavior, their lack of trust. He offered to make Moses the leader of a great nation!

I wonder how I would have responded to that offer. Would I have selfishly said “get ‘em, God. They don’t deserve You, but I sure do. I’m the one who speaks to you on the mountain. I’m the one who obeys!” But that’s not Moses’ M.O. He reminds God that these are the people of promise. These people needed to remain alive so tales of God’s power would be passed on for generations. Moses reminds God of all the promises He gave to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. He reminded God that His promises are true.


… the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people!

This is intercessory prayer at its best. Moses prayed for all the people of Israel, claiming God’s promises to them, and God listened!

And then there’s one of my favorite stories of intercession: Abraham arguing with God about his plan to destroy Sodom. Would you have the courage and the confidence to talk to God like this?
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. Gen 18:22-33 (ESV)

Abraham bargains with God for the lives of the righteous. Unfortunately, there weren’t even ten in the city!

As I read the story of Abraham, I realize that he didn’t just bargain with God – he claimed God’s promises, and he prayed persistently. Remember the story a few weeks ago about the man who bothered his neighbor at midnight? The neighbor didn’t answer his request because they were friends: he answered the request because of persistence.

The more we know about God’s Word, the better our prayer life will be. The better we are at claiming God’s promises, the more effective we will be. Such a simple statement, but full of deepness and hard work!

I hope you will join us in 2012 as we read the Bible through. We’ll use “Reading God’s Story”, which is a chronological walk through the Scriptures. I will post reminders on the blog, and will talk about what I’m learning – in addition to our regular Bible study. I hope you’ll be there for all the things God will show us!

See you Wednesday!

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