People who pray great prayers actually think that when God says something he means it. People who pray great prayers think when God makes a promise since he’s God and he can’t lie and he’s all knowing and he’s good and has all power and he’s really sovereign when he makes a promise people who pray great prayers, they think God will actually keep his promises.
They think God will so much keep his promises that they will make what looks to be ridiculous steps with their time and their energy and their money and their future based on just what God has said because they take him seriously.
People who pray great prayers take God so seriously they take his person seriously and who he is in his holiness. They take his program seriously and what he’s going to do through his church until the fulfillment of time. They also take his promises seriously. People who pray great prayers they have promise centered prayers; not problem centered prayers.
I don’t know about you, but it is easy to fall into the problem centered prayer approach, isn’t it? Boy, you got a wayward kid and you find yourself – boy, you pray about that. You pray that. You got financial pressure. You pray about that. You got some struggles in your marriage, you pray about that, you pray about that. After while I’m not sure we’re praying. I think it might be just sort of worrying sessions before the Father.
Dear God, I’m really upset about this and this is really upsetting. When are you going to fix this and you’re not fixing it on time and what about this. If this happens this could happen. So I want you to kind of fix this in case this happens and will you take care of this. Do you understand how discouraging this is and what about that.
Think of all the time I’ve given you and I’ve been faithful to the church and I’ve been giving financially and I’m reading my Bible on a regular basis. We had this deal. It says in the Bible if I do everything that I’m supposed to do that my life’s going to work out, it’s going to be wonderful. It’ll be on my terms and you’ll fulfill my agenda and you’ll make me happy and I’ll be desperately fulfilled. It’s what all the books say in the bookstores. [Laughter]
See, the difference is you start focusing on your problems. You look at God through your problems. You look at life through your problems or you can pull back and you can look at life through God’s promises. Is it hard? Sure. ‘I am with you always.’ I didn’t say that life would be without suffering. In fact, why don’t you read a little more carefully. What I promise was in the world you’ll have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I’ve overcome the world.
In fact, what I really promised was all those who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Do you feel like you’re at the edge and you can’t break out and you don’t know what to do? I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That’s a promise.
Do you feel like you don’t have the emotional resources, the financial resources to fulfill my agenda? But my God will supply all your needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus. Is that real? Is it a promise? Do you take it seriously or not? Would you bank your life on it?
Well God, it’s overwhelming and this happened and this happened and this happened and this happened and I’m overwhelmed. I can’t live one more day. My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness therefore I will rejoice and be most glad in my weakness and difficulty and hurt and adversity for when I am weak you’re strong. See, people who pray great prayers are promise centered. They take God seriously, they take his word seriously and they take his promises seriously.
Well, I forgot the teaching here because this is a great one. I think this is one that we lose sight of is Jesus teaching. Talk about a promise. He says, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Boy, that’s a promise isn’t it? With a condition.
Lord, thank you that you – you know what the word forgive means literally? Loo-tra-oh, to loose or to release. He says forgive, release, don’t give account of, don’t make it charged to my account of those things that I’ve done wrong. A trespass is just crossing a line. It’s knowing what’s right to do, but not doing it. It’s then knowing something you ought to do and choosing not to. It’s breaking a barrier that you know this is what God wanted you to do and you do it anyway.
God, will you please release me from that and Jesus says there’s a promise. Of course. The prayer is as we release others. You know one of the fundamental things that is a roadblock for answers to prayer is an unforgiving spirit in your relational world. You got anybody that if you heard something, is there a face or a name that would come to mind if something a little negative – let’s not be too drastic – just a little negative you heard about this person would bring a secret little level of joy and delight to you? Anybody like that?
Someone that if they kind of just lost a lot of money. You wouldn’t want them in a real bad car wreck, but maybe a little car wreck. Like an ex-mate that walked out on you. Maybe like a kid that you gave just time and energy to and man, they have done things and said things. Maybe a boss that ruined your entire career. A business partner that robbed you. Anybody have someone in your background that down deep you have a few anger fantasies over? Don’t look so pious. [Laughter]
See, those people who have great prayers, they take God seriously and they take his word seriously and they take his promises seriously. That means if there’s bitterness in my heart, if there is an issue with a person I’ve got to deal with the horizontal issues or the vertical issues are never right. If I say I love God and hate my brother what’s John 1 say? I’m a liar and the truth isn’t in me.
Great prayers demand – let me give you a couple – I got lost in my notes. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. Let me give you some examples of people who have done this. Great prayers take God seriously and they are promise centered; not problem centered. Let me give you just three or four examples.
Number one: Moses. Do you see the pattern in these people? Over and over and over and over as you read through Moses’ life, he keeps going back to what? Lord, you promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob this. You’ve got to fulfill your promises.
Nehemiah – what’s he do? Exactly the same thing. You made these promises. He reaches back into Deuteronomy, reaches back into Exodus and said you said if we did bad you would do this. You said if we repent you would do that. Promise centered.
David in Psalm 103, classic passage. He takes that passage that when the Lord passed by Moses it goes it over and over and over. The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness. He will not hold your sins against you. David in Psalm 103 repeats those words and says, ‘As far as the East is from the West then so God will take our sin from us.’ He banks on it.
Do you know that David’s life, when he ends his life the commentary isn’t bad guy, murderer, adulterer. What’s the commentary in Acts 13 about David’s life? He was a man after God’s own heart. Being a person after God’s own heart is not a historical issue. It’s an issue of the direction of your heart and how you deal with life and how you deal with your failure.
Those who take God seriously are people who say you know something? I’m not going to buy the line I just can’t forgive myself. If the God of the universe has accounted my sin as blotted out and it makes it as far as the East is from the West because the price of his son Jesus paid for it, I believe that and I accept it. I am not a second class Christian. There is not a cloud over my head. I am clean. I am pure. I am forgiven. I’m a new creature and God has a great plan and purpose for my life. I don’t know about you, but man, that is encouraging.
People who pray great prayers, they’re not living with the baggage of the past. They believe that what God has said is true. They know with confidence that when we say forgive us our sins even as we forgive those who trespass against us, it’s true.
You think about Paul, whether it’s Philippians 1 or Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, those are Paul’s prayers. What’s he do? He’s got this reality and he says what? I’m praying that you might what? Know God’s will. Colossians 1. In order that you might walk in a way that is blameless. I’m confident of this in you Paul prays in Philippians 1. That I know that if you begin a good work and he was going to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus and you’ve been having filled with all this fruit of righteousness.
He takes this truth and these promises and these realities of what God has done and he prays it into their life. He just prays prayers because he takes God and his word very, very seriously.
The final or second to final great prayers is that great prayers demand great courage. Great prayers demand great courage. Why? Because they’re dangerous. Great prayers take us to places with God and with ourselves that are frightening. Praying goes far beyond words and talking. They’re prayers that God delights in are ones that call us to exercise every fiber of moral courage that we can muster before a holy God.
You say what do you mean? How do you say great prayers demand courage? Great prayers demand courage because they boldly demand of God that he live up to his character. This is a level of praying that I think is rare and one that brings great delight and that you don’t go into unless you’re in the right place in your relationship with God, but there are prayers that are dangerous and they take great courage because they boldly demand in reverence that God live up to his character.
Genesis 18 – remember the picture? Abraham. The angel of Lord, the trinity shows up and I don’t know how all that works. Should we reveal to Abraham what we’re about to do. You know the story. They decide okay, the second person of the trinity, manifestation speakers to Abraham and tells him what he’s about to do. There’s perversion and there’s sin and we’re going to destroy it. Abraham says very interestingly, ‘Would the judge of all the earth slay the righteous with the wicked?’ In other words that’s out of character.
Time out; wait, time out. That can’t happen. You’re just, you’re righteous. You would never give anyone a raw deal. You’re the God of the universe. You’re always fair. What if there were 50 righteous. Would you still, would you still destroy it? Can you imagine really talking with the God of the universe like this?
What’s it based on? It’s based on his character. What’s Abraham saying? Live up to your character, God. I’m an intercessor. God’s looking for men and women that have the chest and the boldness to call God and say live up to your character. Would the judge of all the earth slay the righteous with the wicked? What if there’s 50 righteous? No. 45? No. Forgive me, Lord, but you know the story; 40, 35, 25.
Had any prayers like that lately? See, that’s dangerous ‘cause you can even hear as Abraham, about the third, fourth, fifth time, forgive me, Lord. Please don’t be impatient with me. May I just ask this one more time? He realizes that he is right up to the edge of where you would never want to go with a holy God, but he is going on the basis of God’s character say a righteous judge will be righteous.
I’m standing in the gap before you for those who art righteous and demanding reverently based on your character that you do what you said you would do, that you would act consistent with who you are. It’s a powerful place of praying and it’s a dangerous place of praying because not only do they boldly demand God live up to his character, but they dare to stand in the gap and become the very answer to the prayer.
See, what if you start praying and I don’t mean the little prayers and the God fix this and take care of that, but what if you start praying? And by the way the test of real praying is when you don’t see any results you stick with it. You know that God is in it and he wants you to pray so you persevere and you persevere and you persevere, but what if you persevere, if God says you know something? The answer to this prayer is you.
You’ve been praying for this new ministry at the church, you’ve been praying about the conflict in this relationship, you’ve been praying about this financial need that these people have. You know what the answer is? You go talk to the people. You go empty so much out of your bank account and you take care of that financial need. You start the ministry. Keeps coming to your mind, doesn’t it? Yeah. You’re concerned about it, aren’t you? Yeah. Well you start. Well I can’t. No; you start it.
See, when you pray it takes great courage ‘cause it’s dangerous. Esther, we got a situation. The whole Jewish nation is going to be wiped out. Mordecai, her uncle, comes to her and says, this is loose translation of the actual Hebrew of course, honey, you may think you’re safe, but all of us Jewish people are going to die.
Could it be that God placed you as the queen for such a time as this? And she asked all the people to fast and they fast and drink or eat nothing for three days. She risked her life. She goes before the king. Remember what her words are? If I perish, I perish.
Great prayers demand courage because there’s times where you don’t just go and say, God, you need to live up to your character. You go and you pray and you pray and God says, ‘Guess what? You’re the answer to the prayer. You’re the missionary that I want to go. You’re the one who starts the ministry. You’re the one who’s supposed to fund it.’ So Esther says, ‘Okay, I’ll be the answer to the prayer.’
Nehemiah, what’s he ask? He prays, ‘Lord, please grant me success.’ You study Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Nehemiah, what do you realize? He’s prayed for about four months, started alone. He ends up we find he’s praying with a small group. He realizes God says, ‘Nehemiah, you’re the man.’ Four months of prayer and guess what the answer is? It’s you. I want you to go talk to the king. I want you to ask for a sabbatical. I want you to go rebuild Jerusalem and he does it at the risk of his life.
Final example there and the greatest example is Jesus. He’s in the garden. He prayed an actual prayer. He’s fully God, but he’s fully man without confusion. In the garden he says, ‘Lord, may this cup pass for me.’ Translation: you know, I know from the foundations of the earth we decided this is it, but maybe there’s a plan B we could reconsider. That’s really what he’s praying.
If there’s any other way as a human, as a man, and the dependence of the Holy Spirit and saying knowing it was going to mean separation from the Father, knowing what was going to occur he said, ‘If there is any way for this to bypass me, may it be. Never the less, not my will, but yours be done.’
He’s the answer to the prayer and we’re glad he is. That is exactly what Jesus taught his disciples to pray. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen. This is one of my favorite topics of these on dream great dreams and think great thoughts and pray great prayers, but is this not exponentially up a level from everything we’ve talked about? This is heavy, heavy, heavy.
That’s why Ian Bounds I think is right. We can talk. We can do Bible studies. We can send out videos. We can be active, but what the church and the world needs are people who pray. Not people who talk about prayer. Not people who can explain prayer, but people who really pray.
People who pray out of a heart that is deeply personal. People who pray out of sense of deeply brokenness and not self-sufficiency. People who pray and would take God seriously and his promises seriously and his word seriously. People who would understand God, we desperately need you. People who would stand in the gap.
People who would be courageous and say I’m going to pray and I’m going to seek you and if I’m the answer to the prayer, although it frightens me to death I’m going to remember that you’re Abba and that you’re a good Father and that your will is great and that the safest place in all the world is the center of your will.
That’s why the sixth characteristic is really a summary is that great prayers ask the improbable, expect the impossible and receive the unthinkable because of Jesus. See, great prayers always go back to Jesus. It was in Hebrews 4. We have a great high priest we know about, but literally it talks about he blazes a trail so that we can come boldly before the throne of God. He says, ‘He commands us go boldly before the throne of God’ before the throne of what? To find mercy in our time of need.
My standing, my basis, my power, my effectiveness for the answers of moving God’s heart for him to do dynamic super natural over the top things for his glory is solely based on Jesus and what he’s done. So we can ask the improbable. By improbable, it’s like is it improbable to say that we could be in 150 countries in three to five years?
It’s improbable to say that God could do a great work in a relationship in your family that you think its been broken for 35 years. It’s improbable to say that God could do something in your church and use you to begin to see something happen like never before.
We can ask the improbable, but we can expect the impossible because nothing is impossible for God. Then we will see. This book is filled with God doing the unthinkable, the exceedingly abundantly beyond what you could ask or think. It’s because of Jesus. Jesus commands we boldly ask the improbable. Seek, right, and you’ll find. Knock and it’ll be opened. Ask and you’ll receive. That’s what he’s saying. Ask, seek, knock. He commands us.
It’s because of Jesus’ promise we can expect the impossible. The promise is ask my Father for anything. Until now you haven’t asked. Ask that you can receive. Why? So your joy can be made full. As you become a part of what the Father wants to accomplish in the world and finally because Jesus’ power. We are people of great, great power. Exceedingly, abundantly beyond what you could ask or think.
But I think what we got in this passage is a picture of what great prayers look like. I think what I’d invite you to do with me is to say to God, Lord, I would like to learn to pray great prayers.