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Cultivating a Life of Faith, Part 1

From the series Sacred Rhythms

Have you ever bowed your head to pray and felt like God must be a million miles away? In this program, we'll talk about a simple, powerful way to connect your heart to God's.

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Message Transcript

My wife has this incredible ability to literally talk to anyone. She makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room. You just feel so special and connected. And part of the magic that she has is she is an incredible question asker that moves a new conversation to this deep connection. It can happen rapidly. I love watching this, because I, on the other hand, I’m not a great conversationalist. I’m not fantastic in this area. I can hold a conversation for five minutes and then I’m like, “Cool. Let’s just sit in silence.”

The other day, the other day I was on the phone with a buddy and we were talking and I hang up the phone and my wife asked me, “So, how are they doing?” And I go, “Good! I think?” And so, she, being the great question asker dives a little bit deeper and says, “Well, how is their marriage?” “I don’t know. Didn’t talk about that.” She was like, “I was talking to his wife the other day and she was telling me how he was super stressed out at work and stuff going on. How’s that all going?” “Well, work really didn’t come up.”

And she looks at me and is going, “So, what did you talk about for the last hour?” And I was like, “Um, March Madness?” There’s something about it where I can have this long conversation and at the end of it not really know too much about you or how things are really going on.

And isn’t it amazing how just a little bit of intentionality can take a relationship and move it into the deep waters of intimacy and then that the inverse is true, that the lack of intentionality, know that no matter what amount of time attached to it just keeps us on the surface, doesn’t it?

Relational intimacy requires intentionality. We are in a season and in a series talking about sacred rhythms. How to grow in our relationship with God. And we call sacred rhythms this, that sacred rhythms are simply spiritual practices. You can put in there intentionalities that help cultivate the life of Christ in a follower of Jesus. They help produce this personal, intimate, life-giving relationship. It transforms you as well.

And last week, we looked at this whole idea of prayer and we said this about prayer, that prayer is simply the pathway for experiencing intimacy with God. It’s just the pathway upon which if you want to have this intimate, life-giving relationship with your heavenly Father, prayer is that pathway. Prayer is just engaging in this ongoing conversation with your heavenly Father.

It’s just that. It’s a conversation. It’s not anything crazy or mystical. It’s like, man, I’m just keeping company with God.

Now, the question is, and the problem is for many of us, we have prayed but don’t experience intimacy with God, right? You’re like, Ingram, I’ve prayed and what it felt like is I was praying and it just felt like I was, the prayers hit the ceiling. How do you pray in a way where you experience intimacy with God?

Or maybe a little bit better yet is: what do you talk about when you talk to God? You ever thought about that? What should you talk about? What are the things that come up? And how, how do you pray in a way that develops this intimate, personal relationship with your heavenly Father where it’s life-giving, soul-shaping, something that you will get and go, Man, this is, yeah, it really is the pathway to intimacy. Rather than this duty that we often feel when it comes to prayer. Like, Oh, I know I should do it.

Jesus shifts His attention on the Sermon on the Mount. And He is going to teach us how to pray. We talk about it as the Lord’s Prayer. And the Lord’s prayer is actually, in unpacking, it’s a model for us of how to develop this intentional, intimate relationship with Jesus. Because I’ve just got to say, probably, many of us in the room would identify with the way I have conversations, when they have a conversation with God.

There may be talking going on but there is no connection happening. So, how do we have that connection? And we are going to look at just five areas, five conversational pieces, five subject matters that develop intimacy with God. If you’ve got your Bibles, would you open them up to Matthew chapter 6. We will dive in together and we will look at five areas that develop intimacy and cultivate this life-giving, personal relationship with your heavenly Father.

Jesus begins it this way. He says this, “This, then, is how you should pray.” If you’re taking notes or writing in, just circle that word how. In Luke’s gospel, Luke chapter 11, we see the Lord’s Prayer is there as well. And He says, “This, then, is – pray this. Say this.”

And down through the centuries, this has been a prayer that Christians recite. It’s great. It’s fantastic for that. There are other prayers that we recite like the psalms. There are written prayers that have been incredibly meaningful that you would read and pray back like the Book of Common prayers is a great place for that.

In fact, as we worship, did you know that worship is just simply prayers in song form? It changes the way you worship instead of just singing words, you’re going, “I am praying to God in this moment.” And those are powerful.

But here’s what I want you to notice here. Jesus says, “This is how you should pray,” not, “what you should pray.” What He is about to unpack now is these areas or these themes, these conversational pieces that will lead you to the very heart of God, that will transform your life, that help you know what to say and what to talk about.

I am a student of my wife’s questions. Because I am not a very good question asker. I have become much better over the years, but I have lost and I just copy the questions she asks. I’m like, You know what? I’m about to hang out with this friend and I know that when after I come back, she is going to ask me these questions. I better ask these questions. And all of a sudden, isn’t it amazing, just an ounce of intentionality brings you down below the surface and you’re like, Wow, I had no idea.

For example: yesterday, I was at the baseball park watching my son play. There was a lady sitting next to me out there with her kids and I’ve just learned this from my wife, just watching. And so, we had this conversation and it was like, “Oh, your kids are playing? Cool.” And found out she is on the opposite team. I’m like, “Oh, enemy!”

And she says, “Oh, yeah, we weren’t a part of Willow Glen Little League last year. We were part of this other one.” And I could have just left it at that. I said, “Oh really? What was it that made you switch over here? Did you move? Did something happen?” One little next question just below the surface, not very far. And all of a sudden you know what she said? “Well, my husband died recently.”
Did you know that God placed me there, a pastor, to be a moment of ministry to a woman who is really in a lot of pain and eighteen months ago lost her husband and has two kids, twelve and nine years old? And all it took was that little step of intentionality that we so often miss in relationships and conversations. And it opened up this pathway to connect and to talk and to hear and to minister.

And Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount is going to teach us how to pray. A few things that are going to help us connect and talk and just go below the surface. These are five areas that develop intimacy with God. The first area is this.

He says the first area, the first theme that develops intimacy with God is the area of worship. Worship just means to ascribe worth. Listen to what Jesus says. He says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” When you start talking to God, don’t start with yourself. Start with God.

This is a personal, intimate, loving, good, caring Father. I don’t know what your earthly father was like, but God is nothing like your earthly father. No matter how good your earthly father was, or bad. He is your perfect heavenly Father who loves you.

And so, Jesus has this, holds in tension God’s intimacy and His Fatherhood with His sovereignty and His immensity. Our Father in heaven. Both loving and all-powerful. That’s who you pray to.

When you pray, that you would just begin to go and you would just stop and go, “Okay, I am stepping into a conversation with a heavenly Father who loves me, who is all-sovereign, all-powerful, all-good, all-wise, all-knowing.” And He says, “Hallowed be Your name.”

You know what that means? It means: Let Your name be sacred to me. Don’t let me pull You down to my level. I want to move up to Your level. I don’t want to just drag You down to me. I always want to look up and You are high and You are holy, You are set apart, and You are Father. And I am invited in this moment. How cool is that, to have a conversation with You?

And the first theme that Jesus invites us into is this worship, this awe, this reverence, this respect. Well, what is worship? Worship is recognizing and responding appropriately to the greatness of God. That you would look up and see God for who He is.

Man, that changes your circumstances that you’re going through, like your perspective on it. When you have a huge God, your problems begin to pale in comparison to the size of your God.

And worship is just recognizing the greatness, the goodness of who God is. And you just begin to look up and be in awe. Be in wonder! Ascribe worth. God, You are so worthy.

Well, how do we do that? Let me give you a few simple practices. First, talk to God about God. The psalms do this incredibly well. If you want to go through and read the psalms, they ascribe to God glory and worth and power and they talk to God about God. You’ve been in relationships and when you really adore someone, when you really admire them, you tell them, right?

Remember your dating years, for some of you? And you’d just be like, you would write these letters, “You are so beautiful and wonderful and kind and awesome and, wow! The way you walk. You walk with such grace.” I don’t even know what that means!

But when you really are in love with someone or you admire someone, you’re like, man, you just begin to tell them about them, that you really love about them. See, worship begins when we just begin to talk to God about Him. Like, God, You are so great and You are so big. You’re so holy. I want to remind myself of who You are before I move forward.

Now, another way that we can do this is just spending time thanking Him. Gratitude is a powerful, for not only just reorient in our heart back onto who God is, but also changes our perspective on our entire circumstances around us.

Like, if you would just simply say, “Thank you, God, for…” Often, when I pray, I begin in my journals, because I can naturally see the negative things in life. I just start writing thank-yous right at the beginning. Depending on the day, they are very simple. Depending on the circumstances. I’m like, “Thank You, God, for this home.” “Thank You, God, that we have food in the fridge.” “Thank You, God, for…” and you just begin to thank God for how He has provided. It is an act of worship. And it begins to change and shape your heart.

Think about worshipping, maybe enjoying His creation. It says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” I’m a surfer kid from Santa Cruz. The ocean. I can’t help but when I go to the ocean and see the beach and the immensity, I can’t help but begin to worship and be in awe of God. Maybe you’re a mountain person. Maybe you’re a city person and you just look up and you just begin to enjoy His creation and remind yourself, God, You spoke and all this came into being.

Or maybe just put on some worship music in your car – your commute. How many hours a week do you spend in your car?

We – a lot! Yeah! You could actually use that so intentionally to begin to recalibrate your heart to who God is, to begin to look up and see Him for who He is and just to worship Him and just put on worship music and

Then He moves from worship to surrender. And what we’ll see is there’s this very intentional progression that is going to shape our hearts, that is going to align our hearts with God’s heart.

Notice what He says. He says, “Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Your kingdom. Dallas Willard says this about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will.

It’s wherever His royal rule is taking place. Saying, “Your kingdom come.” Like, God, we want heaven to invade earth. We want Your rule and Your way to be the way in our world. And Your will be done, on earth, in my home, in my family, in my life as it is in heaven. Just as in heaven Your perfect will is accomplished a hundred percent of the time.

And on this planet we experience the brokenness of our own rebellion of our human hearts. And He says, “God, would you restore and would You bring Your life and Your will and Your way?”

It’s a prayer of surrender. What is surrender? Surrender is giving God full and complete control of every area of your life. It is going, God, You can have Your way in me.

Romans 12:1 says this, “Therefore, in view of God’s mercy, in light of all that He has done,” chapters 1 through 11 in Romans will tell you all of His mercy and what He has done and how He has saved you. And he says, “In view of all that, present,” or, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

You know the problem with a living sacrifice? A living sacrifice can crawl off the altar. A dead sacrifice just lays there, right? But a living sacrifice can take back what they had given. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is your holy and pleasing worship.”

See, surrender is going, “God, not my will but Your will be done.” Surrender is saying, “I am going to bring my life into alignment with Your Word.” We think of it and sometimes use it like I’m just going to let go. God, You have Your way. And this circumstance is really overwhelming and so, God, I just trust You.

And certainly there is that part of it. But fundamentally, when we are talking about surrendering, we are talking about: Your kingdom, God. Which means You’re the King. You are the King of the universe. You’re my heavenly, perfect heavenly Father, but I don’t want to forget that You are also the King. And so, what I am going to do is I am going to ask You to be the King in me.

Who is sitting on the throne of your life? Who gets to call the shots? Surrender says, “I no longer sit on the throne of my life, but God, You can take the seat there and You get to call the shots in my life.” What surrender looks like is conforming my will to God’s will when it comes to sexuality. Conforming my will to God’s Word when it comes to our finances and our future and our friendships and what we put in our minds.

The way that we talk about people and the activities of our day. It’s actually not that complicated. But it is hard. Where you begin to go, Okay, God, Your will be done in me.

See, surrender is an awareness that things aren’t as they should be. It’s a longing for heaven to crash into earth. And, by the way, God does this one person at a time.

And when you begin to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done in me as it is in heaven.” Well, how do we do this? Would you invite the King to take His rightful place in your life?

One of the ways that I do this, I have a practice, I learned this from some mentors of mine. And I have a surrender prayer. And you just need to know as I share these things, sometimes you think, This is what Ryan does every day, all day long. No. In fact, this I do probably once or twice a week. I used to have it more of a habit. But I take that Romans 12:1 passage seriously. And I actually get on my knees, because I think our posture is really important and it helps me understand and humble my heart before God.

And then I actually pray through every area of my body. So, I start with my mind. I say, God, this morning, is there anything in me that isn’t of You? I give You my thoughts. May I have the mind of Christ? May my mind be set on things above, not on earthly things. Then I go to my eyes and I go, God, would You give me Your vision? May I see others the way You see them?

I go to my mouth, God, may I speak Your Words today, filled with grace and truth. May I bring life and not death. I go to my ears. God, I want to hear Your voice louder than any other voice. Would You guard me from the lies of the enemy that seep in to try to conform my identity to something that is not true. I want to know You.

Then I go to my heart, God, would You make me a man after Your own heart? Would You allow my heart to beat for the things of Your heart? Would You break my heart for what breaks Yours? I go to my hands, God, would You strengthen my hands? Like the psalmist says, “Establish the work of our hands.” God, would You establish it? Would You give me exactly what I need? And then I move to my feet. It’s just a prayer of surrender, of going, God, okay, today I need You and my whole body is Yours.

You may want to physically kneel or raise your hand. Have you ever wondered why people raise their hand in church? Why do so many people have questions during worship? That is so odd. This person is really excited and got big questions. They are holding two hands up.

We raise our hands in worship the same way a small child reaches for their dad or mom. It’s this cry, “Daddy, help! I want You, I need You and I’m just reaching out and it’s just the posture to remind ourselves of our need before God.

First area of aligning our hearts, developing intimacy is the area of worship. The second area is the area of surrender. And, by the way, I do believe this area is – this issue of surrender is a major reason why many followers of Jesus don’t experience His presence and power in their life, because you have never really surrendered and said, Your will be done.

The third area is this area of request. He goes on to say, “Give us today our daily bread.” Now, think about this! This is amazing. Amazing that the God of the universe says, “Come to Me with what you need. I want to hear it.” In fact, Jesus talks about this a number of times and He says, “Ask, seek, knock.”

I think it’s unbelievable that God doesn’t just want us to talk about Him and just all these sort of things. He says, “You know what? After you begin to look up and see Me and you surrender, by the way, your requests will look differently after that. But would You bring to Me the concerns of your day? Would you bring to Me the stuff that you are going through that’s hard?” Give us today. What are you going through today? Not next week.

Our daily bread. What you need. The things and the issues of your heart.

Well, what is a request? Request is asking God to give you what you need to make it through today. When you wake up and you just go, God, it has been a hard day. It has only been thirty minutes. Yeah, but I am scared to death of the day. I don’t know what to do with our kids, I don’t know how this relationship is going to work out. I don’t – this business, my job is falling apart. And you just bring to Him the concerns and the needs of your day.

The act of asking is a declaration of dependence on God. We often don’t ask because we are more independent or self-dependent than God-dependent. And when you ask God, you go, God, I need You. He says, “I am going to show up in that moment,” and it’s a declaration of my dependency.

Now, I want you to remember this. How did we start this prayer? “Our Father.” You don’t approach the throne groveling, hoping, or wishing. We don’t ask requests like, Oh, God, maybe somehow. You show up to the throne room with bold confidence to say, Hey Daddy.

In fact, a little bit later in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus would say it this way, “If you, being earthly dads,” or sinful dads, “know how to give good gifts to your kids,” then He says this line, this is so good, “how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who are called by His name?”

You don’t approach the God who is holding out. You approach the God of the how-much-more. And so, when you come bringing your requests, that’s why. We’ve got to begin with worship because we realign our heart to who we are talking to, your perfect heavenly Father and you’re going, Man, I have the God of how-much-more. So, you pray differently. You pray with confidence. You pray with expectation. You look forward and go, God, You, as a good Father, want to give me good gifts and You want to orchestrate my day for the best for Your glory and my good. And so, I am coming with boldness.

So, how do you do that? Bring to God the needs and concerns of today. Is it spiritual? Maybe you have been in a dry season, maybe it has been a dark night of the soul. Maybe it’s emotionally. Like, there are just wounds and pains and things that you have been carrying on. Maybe it’s physically – there are some physical ailments that you haven struggling through, or sicknesses, relationally, vocationally, financially. And where you just would begin to bring the needs of the day.

So, it’s these five areas that align our heart with God’s heart that develop intimacy: worship, surrender, requests. And then He moves on to confession. Confession. Jesus says this, “Forgive us our debs, as we also forgive our debtors.”

Far too many people are walking around with guilt and shame that Jesus has already paid for on the cross. There is no room or should be no place for a defeated follower of Jesus, because He said, “It is finished,” on the cross.

But because we do not practice confession, really relationally, very well, we don’t know how to do it with our heavenly Father either. This is why I believe Jesus unpacks it a little bit further. And you’ll see in verse 15 He says this. It’s the only one that He dives in a little bit deeper. He says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sin, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.”
And you’re like, Wow, that’s intense. That’s heavy. And actually, there are two different parables. I wish we had time to dive into it to unpack this. Here’s what Jesus is saying: your inability to forgive others is directly connected to your understanding of God’s forgiveness of you.

See, when I understand that I step in, worship high, holy God, and that I am a broken, sinful human. The reality is, man, I deserve death, not life. Definitely not grace. And you have the object, the focus, the tension of the Father. And He says, “I forgive you, I love you, I adopt you. You are fully forgiven, completely redeemed, bought back.”

Everything you have ever done, both past, present, and future – forgiven. Done on the cross. And He says, “If you don’t understand that way, you won’t forgive others,” because you have never really experienced His forgiveness.

And He is saying when you recognize how much you have been forgiven, forgiving people who have wounded you, that’s the little stuff. And you’re like, Man, I have been forgiven much so I can forgive much.

Confession. What is it? It means to agree with God about your sins. It is to say to God, You’re right. Or even better, That’s right. I agree with you. The way You said it and what you call right and wrong, I agree.

And here’s what we do: we, instead of agreeing with God, argue with God. We tell God this, we say, Well, it’s not that big of a deal. We say, It’s not hurting anyone. Now, that’s kind of old fashioned. Everyone else does it. And confession is to go to God and say, No, no. Your way and Your will and my life wasn’t in alignment with it and so, God, I confess it to You.

Now, notice. I want you to think about this and remember this. When you put your faith in Christ, you step in from an old life to a new life. You step from a slave to a son or a daughter. You are adopted into the family of God. And you will not be kicked out of the family of God. And so, we are not talking about confession and forgiveness like somehow your eternity is hanging in the balance. We are talking about intimacy.

See, the minute you’re a part and you’re my kid, you’re always my kid. But there are things you can do that can break our relationship, can’t it? It does not change your standing in the family. It does change our relational connection.

And when we say, “And we confess,” we are wanting to restore intimacy with our Father. Well, how do you do that? Ask the Spirit of God to show any area of unconfessed sin. Holy Spirit, would You show me any area in my life that is unconfessed? Then respond by specifically owning what He reveals and asking for forgiveness.

I want to spend a little bit of time and help us understand that. But first, let’s talk about this. The Spirit of God, when you ask, will bring conviction into your life, not condemnation. Conviction is specific and it is to lead you to God. Condemnation is vague and to push you away from God.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. And what he is saying is the Spirit of God will bring up an issue in your life. The way you spoke to your wife, that was harsh and mean and you need to ask for forgiveness. The way you responded to your kids. That habit of what you keep putting into your mind on your phone or late at night and it will be specific and it is to bring about repentance to move you to God.

Condemnation is vague. “You’re a screw up. You’re a failure. You’re a bad person. You suck.” And condemnation is like, “I couldn’t come to God with that. I wouldn’t show up to God.” And it pulls us away from Him. The Spirit of God will be so gentle, but specific and convict. And how do we confess?

When the Spirit of God brings that up, you say, Okay, I am going to be specific. Heavenly Father, would You forgive me for the way that I talked to my wife? Now, often, when we confess to God, we have to confess to others as well.

And so, we are specific and then you own your junk. By the way, when you’re owning your junk, you’re not telling people, telling God how they made you do it. If they didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have reacted in anger. That is not owning your junk. I reacted in anger. I am responsible for my emotional response and my words. I’m sorry, God. Would You please forgive me?

And then close the loop. We miss this. Thank You, heavenly Father for forgiving me. 1 John 1:9 says this, “If we confess our sins,” if we agree with God, “He is faithful.” The forgiveness of your sins does not depend on the faithfulness of you but upon the faithfulness of God.

He is faithful and just, it’s based on His character and will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness. Meaning in this moment, today, you can walk out of here lighter, freer. And when the condemnation begins to come up, you begin to go, No, no, no. I have been forgiven. That’s not from God. I am free. I am forgiven.

Five areas that develop intimacy with God.

Worship, surrender, request, confession, and then He ends with protection. Have you ever noticed that as you try to get closer to God, everything around you seems to fall apart? It is not a coincidence. This is the reason Jesus ends with protection. He says this: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Jesus is saying, “Pray a prayer saying, God, would You protect me from me? I have a natural bent away from You. I have areas of my sin that are these habitual things, these grooves that I naturally go into. Would You protect me from me? And then I recognize there is a spiritual foe, an enemy that was seeking to destroy me. Would You protect me from him?

So, how do we do this? Pray for spiritual protection and discernment to identify the attacks of the enemy. Protection is all about preserving intimacy with God.

The last part, and I didn’t tell you, when I pray for my feet, I pray this prayer often. I say, Father, would You help me to walk in step with You? Galatians talks about keeping in step with the Spirit of God. As I step through the day, just think about this very literally. As I step, those are – I’m stepping in the steps that You’re going. I want to be in rhythm. I want to be in step with You. But then, God, would You lead me? Would You keep my feet from temptation? Would You protect our home from the evil one?

1 Peter 5:8 talks about: “Be alert. Be sober minded. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” You know when lions attack, right? When their prey is at their weakest or unaware.

I have even rhythms in my own life. I know that after Sundays of giving out spiritually, I know that I am going to have some opposition coming. I know Saturday. Monday can be a Monday blue. Pay attention to those. Going, okay, the enemy, man. He wants to discourage you. Did you have a wave of discouragement come in? Did you pay attention? Did you just think, Man, that’s just me, or it could it be that as you’re taking steps closer to God, your spiritual foe is wanting to discourage you?

You just wonder, Oh, we were doing great in our marriage and all of a sudden we are fighting all the time. What’s that about?

Pray for spiritual protection and the discernment to identify the attacks of the enemy.

Prayer is the pathway to intimacy with God. Relational intimacy takes intentionality. These are the themes that help begin to develop this in our lives. Worship, surrender, request, confession, protection.

When my daughter was young, we used to do these daddy dates together. We don’t do them as much anymore, but we would do these daddy dates and they were just so precious. But, again, I’m not a great conversationalist. And so, we would go down to Peete’s or to the donut shop and hang out. And we had this little book.

And it just, the little book was Just Dad and Me. And it was just a little guide for us that guided our time. And in it it would have questions and little activities for us to do and it was something for us to help just go a little bit deeper together.

The Lord’s Prayer is just your Dad and Me guide. Your heavenly Father wants to spend time with you. He wants to meet with you. He wants to have these moments. And this is just a guide to help you go a little bit deeper together.