Today, we are continuing our look at the “The Power and Protocol of Prayer” where we are searching for how to see more of that power and potential that we all believe lies in prayer manifested in our lives. And what we have been learning is that the power of prayer is found in the protocol of prayer—that is, an official procedure or principles for how prayer works. So, our aim in this series is to find out how prayer works so that we can get the kind of results that Jesus taught us are possible when we pray.
So, we have learned what prayer is, what prayer is not, and how to pray. We have also learned the importance of praying the will of God, which is one of the most critical parts of praying more effectively. And last week, we looked at some specific ways in which we can pray the will of God found in First Thessalonians 5:16-18. In short, we learned how to make the God-kind of thanksgiving turkey sandwich 😊—by using the sandwich technique of rejoicing and thanksgiving in our unceasing prayer lives. Yes, we made the point that there is a spirit / attitude that our prayers can be sandwiched in that makes our constant & continual prayers that we offer up to God more appealing to Him.
Paul started off by saying, “Rejoice always.” Not when we feel like it, when we’ve got something to rejoice about, or as long as things around us make us happy.” No, Paul said that we are to rejoice, according to Webster’s dictionary, “at all times, at any rate, and at any event; forever.” That would include the times where we’ve gotten terrible news, the times our body is telling us we’re depressed, the times everything in the world around us is painted in doom & gloom. And the good news about this command is that it proves that we all are capable of doing just that! Amen!
But that was just one half of the sandwich: We saw that the other half is found in verse 18 where Paul goes on to say, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now we saw that the phrase “give thanks” is significant because to give something indicates that we don’t just have it in our heart, but that we are deliberately offering something. For example, say I have it on my heart to give one of you some money, but I don’t actually follow through with it. Did I give it just because it was in my heart? No, of course not. So, when it comes to giving thanks to God, it is important that we are actually giving it to Him.
So, we learned from this that if we do not give this thanks to others, then we are essentially being “unthankful.” Therefore, to be unthankful is not just to actively murmur, gripe and complain; it is simply not giving thanks. As we learned, this is why we want to be specific when we give thanks—not just saying thank you, but expressing that gratitude from a true heart of thanksgiving.
And we also learned that this giving of thanks that God wills from all of us is to be done “in everything.” That means that in the midst of every situation and every circumstance, we are giving God thanks. We saw that this doesn’t mean that we are thanking God for any and all circumstances in our life. This simply means that we are thanking God while going through them.
Yes, we are giving God thanks for every good and perfect gift that He has given, gives, and will give no matter what we are going through in life. So, every situation and circumstance of life is to be weathered “with thanksgiving.”
Church, this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving is arguably the most important ingredient to prayers that avail much. We all know that in order for us to make bread that rises, we must add yeast in with the flour. Likewise, in order for our prayers to rise, we need to add the ingredients of joy & gratitude in with the prayers. Amen!
So, we learned that this rejoicing & thanksgiving is not just something we should do at the end of the year (i.e. Thanksgiving & Christmas); it is what we must do in the beginning of the year as well. It is how we come before Him and draw near to Him based on Psalm 95 & Psalm 100. This is the gateway into the holy of holies where the manifested glory and presence of God is housed. Amen.
So, let’s incorporate this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving into our prayer lives—for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us all. Amen.
A WEAPON OF OUR WARFARE
Now, this week, I want us to continue our study on prayer by beginning to look at a verse in Ephesians chapter 6 that generally does not get the respect & attention that it deserves--Ephesians 6:18.
You see, this verse is a continuation of the apostle Paul’s brilliant exposition of spiritual warfare and the whole armor of God. So, after referring to the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit in verse 17, he goes right into saying, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Now by the wording he used in verse 18, it is clear that Paul was not changing the subject matter. In fact, verse 18 seems to be a continuation of the statements that were being said in the verses before. It is for this reason that some even believe that the prayer that is being spoken of here is also a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The reason for this is because when one considers the whole set of armor that Paul was likely drawing his analogy from—the Roman soldier—these soldiers also carried a lance that enabled them to do damage to their enemy from a distance.
How many of you know that this exactly what prayer does? It is a powerful weapon that is at our disposal that enables us to do damage from a distance. Amen!
Now with that said, let me take the opportunity here to make an important point—While prayer is a spiritual weapon, far too many Christians depend on carnal methods to see the changes they believe need to be made. For example, I have seen many believers who have a zeal and desire to see some kind of ministry to take place try to make it happen through “hard selling” it to the decision makers. But while it is certainly okay to make some suggestions, voice our opinion, etc. what we need to avoid is trying to make something happen through our own self-effort. That is carnal, and not trusting the Lord. Another example is with our lost loved ones: I have seen many Christians in their zeal, go over the top in trying to convert their family members. And oftentimes, these aggressive forms of evangelism come across as obnoxious and are a turn off to the very one we are trying to persuade.
Second Corinthians 10:4 teaches us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. That means that we are not waging our warfare through natural, fleshly means. The way to see the change that we believe God wills is through the whole armor of God, which includes prayer. Yes, praying to the Lord to move in that person or thing and let Him do the work and give the increase. Amen?
So, what I believe is the godly way of approaching things that we believe need to change is to trust God to move the hearts of those who can make it happen or those that need it to happen in them. It is much more gratifying to see the Lord open up the doors and direct hearts while we are just at peace and trusting Him. Not to mention, it’s a good spiritual exercise for us to boot.
So, prayer is one of the weapons of our warfare and it is where we will win most of our battles. More often than not, it is not going to be with our hands; it will be on our knees.
WATCH AND PERSEVERE
Now let’s begin looking at this verse that is chock-full of some awesome prayer principles:
Here are some other translations that give us some more insight into everything Paul was saying in this verse: The (older) Amplified Bible says, “Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).” The J.B. Phillips translation says it more simply— “Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women.”
After the apostle Paul exhorted us to incorporate the many different kinds of prayers and supplications into our prayer life and to constantly strive to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit (points we will get into over the next couple of weeks), he goes on to exhort us to pray like this while being both watchful and persistent. Like we studied last week, this shows more of the attitude that should accompany our prayer lives—things which I want us to camp on this week.
The first thing Paul mentions is praying with a watchful attitude by adding the phrase “being watchful to this end.”
Now in the Scriptures, the word “watch” is used many times in connection to prayer (See Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & Mark 14:38). So, what does it mean to be watchful? It means to be spiritually awake, alert, and vigilant. It means to be aware of what is spiritually significant and eternal.
You see, so many believers just float through this earth life without any awareness of the spiritual implications of their daily routines. They do not truly understand that there is a war going on in the spirit and this short time we have in our body will come to an end before we know it. And since our prayer life is what is in view here, let’s look at what it would mean to be watchful in our prayer life.
Being watchful in prayer would be having our spiritual eyes and ears wide open. It would be living in the awareness of what is going on in the spiritual realm around us and praying accordingly. It would also involve praying continuously with more passion and zeal. So, being watchful is extremely important to our prayer life because it is what will cause us to pray the way that God intends for us to pray. Why? Because we will see what is truly going on and will then know how to pray effectively. Amen.
But I want you to notice is that Paul was sure to include that our watchful prayers are to be “with all perseverance.” The word Paul used for “perseverance” here was only used this one time in the New Testament. It comes from the root word proskartereo which was a word commonly defined as “continuing.” So, to “persevere” describes being persistent and continual in our prayer life. You could say that it is being patient and not becoming discouraged or disheartened when we are praying. Church, this is extremely critical to our prayer life.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND PATIENCE
You see, when one studies the New Testament, they will see that it teaches us that virtues like “patience, endurance, and perseverance” are what we should all pursue in our lives. Actually, the word used for biblical “patience” was deemed by the early church as the queen of all virtues. The reason they thought so highly of hupomeno was because they knew that if they had this virtue in their life that they could always outlast the enemy and win every time. And, saints, this certainly applies to prayer too:
I am convinced that if we can have the virtue of patience working in our prayer life then we will see the answers to our prayers every single time. The reason why we sometimes fail to see the manifestation of those answered prayers is because we either grow weary or we simply let the emotions wear off. When this happens, we tend to let go of our faith and stop seeking the answers like we did in the beginning.
Like many see “patience” as one of their greatest weaknesses, I see patience as one of the biggest weaknesses in our prayer lives too because many believers can start off strong in their prayers, but after a period of time—when they do not see the answers—they become disheartened and let go of the faith. They feel that because they do not see it yet that it must not be working.
Church, we live in a microwave society where we want everything, and we want it now! But God is not in the business of “drive-thru breakthroughs!” He is called the “God of Patience.” Therefore, He is obviously not in a hurry! So likewise, we need to develop the fruit of patience and not be in such a hurry to see the answers to our prayers!
So, a point that needs to be understood is that faith is not the only virtue necessary for success in our prayer lives. Why? Because faith has siblings—two sisters, in fact, named hope & patience. So, just as we certainly need faith; we have need of patience too!
Hebrews 10:36 says it this way— “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Might we say that we have need of this endurance so that after we have prayed the will of God, we may receive the answers? So, this verse makes it clear that receiving all of the promises of God—including the answers to our prayers—is not just accomplished by faith; it comes both by faith and this patience, endurance, and perseverance.
Hebrews 6:12 says that we should not become sluggish, but that we should imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Did you know that in the Greek language words have genders? Well, in Hebrews 6:12, the word for faith (Greek pistis) is masculine and the word for patience (Greek hupomeno) is feminine. So, let’s run with this analogy: If faith is the male and patience is the female, what are they capable of when they have a relationship with one another? Giving birth to the promises of God! Let me say it this way— When our faith sows into patience, we will give birth to the promises of God!
You see, most of the time when a seed is planted, it takes a considerable length of time to produce the harvest. And that is the way that God has planned it. More often than not, we are going to have to patiently wait through seasons for the manifestation of the prayers we have sown. And it is during that time that we need patience to endure and hold onto our faith, so we don’t dig those seeds up and cast away our confidence.
You see, as I have previously said, many believers start out of the gates with a blaze but after a few laps they become sluggish. They start off in faith—being fully persuaded that God has heard their prayer—but they do not keep the fire lit and oftentimes will even forget all about it. This is not effective prayer! We need to make a conscious decision that we will pray and believe God for as long as it takes. When we pray this way then we will start inheriting the promises! In other words, we will see the answers to those prayers start manifesting!
James 1:2-4 also carries on this illustration of how the promises of God are given birth to by describing the work of patience in our life:
First, James says, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Verse 2). Isn’t this what a husband and wife usually do when they discover that they are pregnant? We even throw gender reveal parties because of the excitement of the news of a baby being on the way. Yes, there is generally joy because we are “expecting.”
But going back to the “gender” thing—the problem that comes in is that the excitement is in faith, but because the patience isn’t present, there might not be any promises given birth to.
You see, what if we gave birth to our babies immediately? Well, pretty much no one will be ready for the responsibility. Why? Because preparations need to be made in the natural, the woman’s body needs time to adapt to the life within her, etc. This is what I see James going on to describe:
Verses 3-4 go on to say, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
What these verses are saying is that it is when we have these trying circumstances arise that we have the opportunity to develop in the virtue of patience. Again, most Christians will say that patience is not their strongest virtue, but what we need to understand is that the way we are going to develop patience in our lives is by exercising it. We will have to make a conscious effort to stand once we lift the request up to the Lord. And the more we put patience into practice the more we will see it develop and grow stronger.
And what an awesome promise verse 4 gives us: James says that if we completely walk in patience in any area of our life that we will not lack anything. And, again, this includes our prayers!
But what I want you to notice is that when this verse says, “have its perfect work,” it is a picture of a women coming to full term in her pregnancy. So, when a woman finds out she is pregnant she has to wait 9 months before she gets to see her baby manifested. Likewise, when we pray, sometimes we have to wait months and even years for the manifestation of the answer. But the Word tells us that if we let that baby come to full term then we will never lack our answer.
You see, so many believers abort their babies before they come to full term and miss out on their answer. Yes, after we start out in faith and the seed has been conceived, things can get tough and many believers can cast away their confidence, not holding fast to their confession. But if we can gain that same mentality of a pregnant women, being willing to tough it out, then we will see tremendous results. I know so many of us want to see our babies right away but there is character that needs to be developed and preparations that need to be made and that might be the reason we don’t see our answers right away.
So, this is why these virtues like patience & perseverance are so needful in our prayer lives: It is because, more often that not, there will be a process of time from the time we pray to the time we receive the answers.
THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE
Now Jesus had much to say about the power of persevering prayer. One of His lessons came in Luke 11:1-13. Let’s take a look at it …
As we’ve studied already in this series, Jesus’ disciples came to Him as He was praying and asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus proceeded to give them the “Lord’s Prayer” (which of course is the “model prayer” as I’ve made the point of already). Then in verse 5, Jesus begins to give His disciples a parable concerning one of the most important principles of our prayer life—persistent and persevering prayer.
In verses 5-8, Jesus began by saying, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you.’ I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
Now let me first say that, in this parable, the exact opposite has been taught than what the Lord intended to get across. The point that is commonly made by Christians today concerning this parable is that God is like this friend. So, when we go to Him with a need He might just say no and if we just stay on Him about it long enough, He’ll give into us. I believe this is exactly the opposite of the point that Jesus was trying to make!
You see, this parable is not a comparison to God but rather a contrast to God. How many of us have friends that would turn us away if we came to them with a serious need like this? The answer is—none of us really do because, in my opinion, a real friend would not turn away another friend in a time of need. So, Jesus’ point was why would we think God would turn us away if we don’t even think that a friend would do this? God loves us infinitely more than any other human does!
Then notice what Jesus goes on to say: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Verses 9&10) This is where Jesus makes the contrast between this so-called friend and God. He tells us that when we ask, it will be given to us; when we seek something from Him, we will find it; and when we knock on His door at midnight, it will be opened for us.
Church, this is where our faith needs to be in order to receive from God. We must believe that He will answer our prayers! And He does not just answer for certain special people. Verse 10 says that “everyone who asks receives …” God is gracious to all who ask of Him! This shows God’s willingness not only to answer for His friends but also to answer for whosoever will ask. This should be our basis of faith for our prayers being answered.
I know before I even walked with the Lord that He heard me and answered my prayers. When I was just a kid I would have crises that would arise in my personal life, school, etc. and when those crises would come I would cry out to the Lord to help me and, God is my witness, every time I asked Him to help He did! So, you cannot convince me that now that I am at least trying to be pleasing to Him that He will not answer my prayers. God is more loving and gracious than we give Him credit for. I believe the reason many Christians have such a hard time receiving the answers to their prayers is because they are “performance-minded.” That is, they don’t feel confident that God will answer their prayers because they do not feel like they deserve it. Listen, you will never deserve the answers to your prayers! Every prayer that we have answered is by the grace of God, so we need to receive them simply by His mercy. It is also important that we greatly desire the answer. We must be desperate and passionate in order to see great results. I believe the reason I saw perfect results before I even knew the Lord was because I was at the end of my rope and was desperate for His intervention. When you get like that—where you show a complete insufficiency in yourself and a total reliance upon Him to bring the breakthrough—you will see great results. The humble receive more grace!
Then in verses 11-13 Jesus continues His contrast of our natural relationships with our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He says, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Jesus was making the point that there is not a human (i.e. evil) parent that would give their child something useless, much less deadly, if they asked for something they needed so how can we believe God would do that to us? Jesus used the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him—not just something natural or temporal! He is freely willing to give us the best gift we could ever ask for! I believe the reason that Jesus uses the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit will provide all these other things for us so God giving us Him is the assurance of these lesser gifts as well.
But if we go back to verse 8, we can find another very important point that Jesus was trying to make in explaining to His disciples “how to pray.” He said, “…though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” This is the power in persistent prayer!
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gives a similar parable to describe the importance of persistent prayer …
Luke starts in verse 1 by saying, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” In this verse, Luke reveals that the purpose of this upcoming parable was that “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus had just finished explaining His Second Coming so that is what Luke was referring to when exhorting us “not to lose heart.”
Jesus then begins His parable in verse 2 by saying— “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” Like in the previous parable we covered, many Christians believe that this parable is also meant to be a comparison to God but that is not true! Again, the unjust judge in this parable is meant to be a contrast to God just like the friend was in Luke chapter 11. The reason we know this is because, first of all, this judge did not fear God. How would that exemplify God Himself? And second, this judge did not regard man. The word “regard” literally means “respect.” God so loves the world, much less respects it! So, from verse two alone we should be able to conclude that this is a contrast rather than a comparison to God.
Let’s go on and look at verse 3: It says, “Now there was a certain widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary’.” God always has showed us to take special care of widows so how much more will He provide justice for them. And this request— “Get justice for me…”—is a petition that is directly in line with God’s will and nature. He is a God of righteousness and justice! The Word tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. That means that every judgment and decision that He makes is founded upon bringing justice to those in need. To top it off, the one that this widow needed justice from was called an “adversary.” This is a term given to Satan in the Bible. You see, what we need to understand is that Satan is the enemy of God and that we are His children, so how could we believe that God will not give us justice from His unjust enemy.
Verses 4-5 go on to explain the response: “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” In other words, since this unjust judge did not care about people and he had no fear of God, when this widow came to Him with her petition, he did not give her justice. But after her “continual coming” he finally gave in to her because he was getting weary of her persistence. And in verse 6 Jesus told us to pay special attention to what the unjust judge said.
He then proceeded to tell us the principle of this parable in verse 7— “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? The principle was that if this unjust judge will grant the request of this widow because she pesters him, then how much more will God “avenge his own elect who cry out day and night.” The word “elect” means “chosen ones.” So, if we are specifically chosen by God and are recipients of His favor then how could we believe He would not avenge us—especially when we cry out day and night (i.e. pray perseveringly)? If He did not spare His own Son how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)! Then Jesus said— “though He bears long with them.” The word “though” literally is the conjunction “and,” and the words “bears long” comes from the Greek word makrothumia which is better translated “longsuffering.” So, this phrase should be translated “and He even is longsuffering with them.”
This point could be interpreted two ways: First, not only should we believe that God will grant us our petitions because we are His chosen and favored ones but also because God puts up with our mistakes, and second, God will answer our prayers even though He could put up with our continual coming forever. You see, so many people believe that God has selected them to be in His body, but most do not believe that He is longsuffering towards them. And this belief causes them to not present their requests to God because they feel unworthy and even like a bother to Him. But Jesus is telling us that God does not operate like that.
Verse 8 goes on to tell us how He operates— “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Since we are God’s own elect—He will avenge us speedily! We do not have to beg and plead forever! He will move quickly to bring us justice! We just need to believe that God has answered our prayer even though we may not see the results yet.
But notice that Jesus calls this persevering prayer that makes requests of God day and night—faith! Faith in what? Faith in the nature and character of God to answer our prayers that we lift up to Him day and night! You see, faith is not only just praying once and believing you receive. Faith is also persistent!
You see, we need to understand that the reason we are persistent is not because God is unwilling to give us what we are asking for and that we have to annoy Him into doing it. The reason we need to be persistent is because it is a form of faith in God. It is a confidence and reliance upon God’s ability and willingness. And when we operate in faith, we will see results! There is also something that happens in us when we wait on the answer. We develop character. We develop patience. We develop faith. These are all things that need to take place in us, and God wants to make sure we trust Him.
Church, we are in training now. We are being prepared to be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven and to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus. That is why God does not always supernaturally manifest the answer to our prayers the moment we pray them. We need that space in between which makes us stronger and develops character. We just need to trust God and understand that He knows what He is doing. Our job is to rest and know that the Battle belongs to the Lord.
It is obvious that our prayers are not always answered when we want them to be. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, even years to see the manifestation of the answers. But what we are called to do is persevere in prayer. We are to pray continuously and not to give up. Delay is not denial! We need to just trust the fact that we are praying to an “on-time God!” Amen.
So, we began a new series of teachings on prayer several weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And what we are searching for in these teachings is how to see more of that power and potential that we all believe lies in prayer manifested in our lives.
You see, we all believe that there is indeed power in prayer, but not everyone experiences that power. And the point we have been making is that one of the reasons for this is because the Lord has a protocol for our prayers—that is, an official procedure or system of rules for how prayer works.
In my opinion, far too many Christians just pray the way they know how—asking, begging, and pleading, all the while hoping that God will wake up on the right side of the bed and decide to grant them their request. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way. The truth is that the Lord has given us some prayer principles in His Word that teach us how to pray and how to get results when we pray.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are learning in this series …
We started out this series by answering the question— What is prayer? Then, in part two, we essentially explained what prayer is not through a message entitled “When we pray.” These first two messages gave us a lot of the nuts and bolts of prayer that will help our prayer lives be as efficient and effective as possible. If you missed either of these messages, I would encourage you to go back and listen to them.
Then, in part three, we looked at Jesus’ model prayer—known by most as the Lord’s Prayer—which answers the disciple’s question, how do we pray? And we learned some important things from this prayer that showed us how to organize and compartmentalize our prayers.
But last week, we talked specifically about praying the will of God. I made the point that this is probably the most important thing I have ever learned about prayer because I see it as something that can either guarantee good results or cause our prayers to be disqualified.
You see, a lot of people have no clue what God’s will is when they pray. They are basically praying what they desire, but give no consideration to what God desires when they pray. Many times, this is because they do not believe they can even know God’s will. But we learned last week, God absolutely wills for us to know His will.
And we learned what the will of God is—it is His Word. In other words, we can find in the Bible everything we need to know about what God desires, what pleases Him, and what His wishes are.
I remember one time when I was working at a Christian bookstore early in my Christian walk and a lady came in that asked, “Do you have any books on the will of God?” And immediately I responded, “Yeah, we have a whole wall of them over there!” as I pointed at the Bible section. I was not trying to be a smart aleck, it just kind of came out without me even thinking. But I believe what I said was the truth! You see, so many Christians would rather read a book on the will of God than The Book of the will of God! They would rather have someone else tell them what God’s will is than spending time in the Word of God which is the will of God.
I made the point though that this doesn’t mean that every Scripture is God’s perfect will. If that were the case, then we might read one verse that says, “And Judas went and hung himself” and then combine it together with another verse that says, “Go and do likewise,” and conclude that it is God’s will that we go hang ourselves. No, obviously not everything we read in the Bible shows us God’s perfect will, but when we rightly divide the truth, we can see what God’s perfect will is for all people for all time. Therefore, God’s Word is the road map to understanding the will of God!
So, we learned then how to take the truths from God’s Word and pray according to His will. We do this when our prayers are laced with “It is written, It is written, It is written.” The point was that we need to let the Word of God reveal to us how we pray to God’s will and then pray those Scriptures. And I gave a couple of different examples of how we can do this.
But the last thing we learned is that when we pray according to His will, we can have such confidence that we know, that we know, that we know, that we have at that moment the petitions. In other words, when we pray according to the will of God, we know we can receive His will when we pray. Amen!
THE THANKSGIVING TURKEY SANDWICH
Now when it comes to praying the will of God and with this week being Thanksgiving, I think it is appropriate for us to talk about one thing that the Holy Spirit made sure to let us know what is the will of God for each and every one of our prayer lives. I’ll give you one guess what it is … You got it! It’s the giving of thanks! Let’s look at a verse that makes it clear that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.
We spoke we couple of weeks ago about the sandwich technique for our prayer lives found in the model prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus, and how that was beginning our prayer time with praise and ending it with praise. Well, the Holy Spirit gives us a similar exhortation in First Thessalonians 5:16-18 that I want us to look at first today. Today, let’s look at the Thanksgiving turkey sandwich 😉
You see, if the bread we make the sandwich on is either stale or bland, it can kind of ruin the whole sandwich, right? I mean, you can have the best quality meat, cheese, and other fixings, but if your bread is not good and fresh, you probably will not say it was the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten.
Well, I believe there is a spirit / attitude that our prayers can be sandwiched in that makes our constant & continual prayers to be offered up to God more appealing to Him, and it is found in these verses …
In these verses, the apostle Paul said to the church of Thessalonica: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now in the middle verse here, we see the meat—and that is that we are to pray without ceasing. That doesn’t mean that we are to lock ourselves away in our prayer closet 24/7. We have responsibilities living in this world. We have to go to work, take care of the kids, and do many other natural things in these flesh & blood bodies. What Paul was describing here is essentially the way most of us are in our electronic devices without ceasing. I mean, we have our phones, tablets, etc. on us, and if we don’t, we feel naked. We are constantly scrolling, posting, tweeting, taking videos and pictures, etc. I think that’s a fair comparison to what the apostle Paul meant here by telling us to pray without ceasing. Just don’t leave your prayer phone at home. Don’t turn off your prayer tablet. Read your texts as the Spirit sends them to you. Just don’t hang the phone up or turn it off. That’s all.
However, to my point, we can pray without ceasing like a champ, but if we don’t have the best bread to sandwich those continual prayers in, it might not be as palatable to the Lord. I see verses 16 & 18 as the sandwich technique for an unceasing prayer life.
Notice Paul starts off by saying, “Rejoice when you feel like it, when you’ve got something to rejoice about, or as long as things around you make you happy.” No, that’s not what Paul said. He said, “Rejoice always.” That would include the times where you’ve gotten terrible news, the times your body is telling you you’re depressed, the times everything in the world around you is painted in doom & gloom. Even in these times, we are told to rejoice always!
Now I was not satisfied with the Greek definition of this word, so I looked it up in the dictionary and I found that the word “always” means “at all times, at any rate, and at any event; forever.” Now that certainly does not exclude any situation we are in. And the good news about this command is that it proves that we all are capable of doing just that! Hallelujah!
But what this teaches me is that this is the attitude & spirit by which our unceasing prayers are to be offered up in—always in the spirit of rejoicing. Amen! We can do this no matter what is going on in the world around us. The prophet Habakkuk said it this way— “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Praise God!
But that’s just one half of the sandwich. Notice the other half in verse 18 where Paul goes on to say, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
So, now we learn that not only are we to always rejoice in our unceasing prayer life, but in everything, we are to give thanks to the Lord as well. And Paul goes on to reveal to us that this three-part instruction in verses 16-18 is “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In other words, we see here that the will of God in Christ Jesus for us is this kind of prayer life—one that is always enveloped in unceasing joy and thanksgiving.
Now the phrase “give thanks” is significant because to give something indicates that we don’t just have it in our heart, but that we are deliberately offering something. For example, say I have it on my heart to give one of you some money, but I don’t actually follow through with it. Did I give it just because it was in my heart? No, of course not. So, when it comes to giving thanks to God, it is important that we are actually giving it to Him. Sure, I can be thankful in my heart, but to give thanks is to express that thankfulness somehow.
While we are on this, let me also say that to be unthankful is not just to actively murmur, gripe and complain. To be unthankful is to simply not be thankful as the word indicates. Likewise, to be thankful means to actually be thankful. In other words, to be thankful is not just a state of mind to where we are grateful in our hearts. What good does that do to the one you are thankful for? No, what blesses me is that if someone is thankful for the things I do or simply for who I am, they actually express their gratitude to me. For example, if I give something to someone and they never show any gratitude for it, that doesn’t exactly make me want to go out and get them something else. So, if we don’t thank God for ALL of the things He’s given us, how would that inspire Him to do more for us?
And let me add this little piece of practicality about being thankful: when you are sharing your gratitude with someone like God or another human being, be specific. Don’t just simply give a general thank you, but specifically tell them what you are thankful for. Say, for instance, you give a Christmas gift to someone this year. While it’s certainly better than nothing to simply hear a thank you when you give it to them, what would bless us all the more was that when they thanked us, they told us specifically what they appreciated about it. Here are some examples of what I mean— “it blessed me that you had actually listened to what I like, made a note of that, and then were gracious enough to go get it for me” or “I love the color you chose.” Basically, it is the things we would say when we truly are grateful.
I believe the Lord loves hearing specifically what we are thankful for as well just like we do.
Notice now that Paul says in this verse that the giving of thanks is to be done “in everything.” That means that in the midst of every situation and every circumstance, we are giving God thanks. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are thanking God for any and all circumstances in our life. This simply means that we are thanking God while going through them.
The reason this is important to understand is because not all situations and circumstances of life are of God. The devil can directly be inspiring certain things that we are going through, so we wouldn’t thank God for something the devil is doing. But we can thank Him for things while we are going through it like, for instance, how He will deliver us out of it and for all the other things He’s done for us that aren’t even associated with our situation.
Now I do understand that there is another verse in Ephesians 5:20 that says that we are “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But what needs to be understood about this verse is that Paul was not saying that we are directly thanking God for any and everything that comes in our lives; only the things that God the Father has given and done for us. That is why this giving of thanks is directed “to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You see, I don’t thank Betty Jean for putting the Scriptures up on the screen on Sunday morning; I thank Debbie for that. Why? Because Debbie is the one doing it this morning. Nor did I thank Minton for making sure the church was clean for us this morning; that is what I thank Betty Jean for. Why? Because she is the one who did it. Likewise, I don’t thank God for things He didn’t do. But, on the other hand, I can thank Him for things that He does give and do in the midst of the other things that are not a part of His will for my life. Amen?
Let me give you an example—Say, my left knee started hurting really bad to where it was apparent that there was a problem with it. I don’t thank God for the knee problem because He was not the one who gave it to me. But what I can and should do is thank God for other things like that it is His will to heal my knee. Yes, I can give Him thanks that He, through the stripes of Jesus, has both provided the means for me to be healed for whatever the issue is. But I can also thank Him that I have another knee that is not hurting and is working just fine. Yeah, I can rejoice in that! I can also thank Him for everything else that is healed and whole in my body and choose to magnify all that is functioning properly instead of magnifying the one thing that’s not.
So, do you see how we can truly give thanks always for all things and in everything? It is simple—give God thanks for every good and perfect gift that He has given, gives, and will give no matter what we are going through. So, every situation and circumstance of life is to be weathered “with thanksgiving.”
Now when it comes to us praying without ceasing but doing so with a spirit of thanksgiving, let’s look at another truth given to us by the apostle Paul: In Colossians 4:2, he says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”
The words “continue earnestly in prayer” describe being devoted and constant towards prayer, continuing and persevering in it. The phrase “being vigilant in it” literally describes “staying alert & watchful” in our prayer lives. To me, this echoes the example we see in the Old Testament of being the watchman on the wall. You see, the watchman’s responsibility was to see the enemy coming and to warn the rest of the city. Figuratively speaking, it describes us as being those vigilant prayer warriors who stay alert and “see” what God is saying and “see” what the enemy is doing.
Now I thank God for everyone who has this kind of devotion to prayer. But let me give a good warning to anyone who gives themselves over to “continuing earnestly in prayer & being vigilant in it” … Make sure you apply the last two words of this verse to your prayer mandate— “with thanksgiving.”
What this teaches us is that all of our continued, earnest prayer and vigilant, watchfulness in prayer is to be enveloped in thankfulness. In other words, an attitude of gratitude is to be the spirit in which all watching & prayer is to be done. The reason this is important to understand is because oftentimes prayer can be too conscious of the negatives—meaning, since those prayers are based on seeking change in things, the person praying can tend to only see what needs to change. This can lead to griping, whining, complaining and simply being focused on the wrong things. So, prayer needs to be done in the spirit of thanksgiving so that we stay focused on what God has already done and what He will do. Then, our prayer life is a joyful experience and not something that causes our countenance to fall.
Church, thanksgiving is arguably the most important ingredient to prayers that avail much. We see this echoed by Paul in Philippians 4:6 when he said that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we let our requests be made known unto God.” If the giving of thanks is left out, we do not have the complete recipe for having the peace that surpasses all understanding come through our prayer life (See Philippians 4:7).
For example, we all know that in order for us to make bread that rises, we must add yeast in with the flour. Likewise, in order for our prayers to rise, we need to add the ingredient of thanksgiving in with the prayers. Amen!
THANKSGIVING COMES BEFORE
However, even though we’ve seen thanksgiving mentioned last in verses like Philippians 4:6 & First Thessalonians 5:16-18, that does not mean that it is to be done last. We have several verses that teach us that it is actually to be done first. Let’s look at a few verses that teach us this …
In the Psalms, we have this principle clearly laid out: In Psalm 95:2, we are told— “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” So, we see here that we come before His presence with this giving of thanks. That means that this is how we initially approach Him—with thanksgiving. Psalm 100:4 says it this way— “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Here, the Psalmist is obviously painting the picture of entering the Tabernacle / Temple, but what is being done is describing how one truly enters the Holiest of holies, where God’s presence is. And the first step through the gate is “with thanksgiving.”
You see, church we come before God’s presence with thanksgiving. It is both the appropriate and acceptable way to approach God. In other words, it is the spirit by which we draw near to God. So, when we look at wonderful promises like James 4:8 that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to you, we understand the first steps to drawing near to Him—and it is “with thanksgiving.” Therefore, when you and I draw near to God with thanksgiving, He will draw near to us—meaning, His presence will be manifested in our lives and we will experience more of His joy, peace, and power. Amen!
Now one point worth noting is how much the apostle Paul gave thanks for the churches he oversaw. When you study his epistles, you see him time and time again talking about how he always gave thanks for them, remembering them in his prayers. (See Romans 1:8, First Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3, First Thessalonians 1:2, 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2:13, Philemon 1:4)
I want you to notice here that this is the majority of the churches he wrote to. But I want you to notice something else here: of the ones in this list, the majority of these references are found in the first chapter of each epistle. Why is this important to realize? It is because what Paul made a point to do first in his letters was thank God for them. Thus proving that biblical principle that we’ve seen already that we are to enter His gates and come before Him with thanksgiving.
Church, thanksgiving is not just something we should do at the end of the year; it is what we must do in the beginning of the year and all throughout it. It is how we come before Him and draw near to Him. It is the gateway into the holy of holies where the manifested glory and presence of God is housed.
So, let’s incorporate this spirit of thanksgiving into our prayer lives—for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us all. Amen.
Now we began a new series on the subject of prayer a few weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And the reason I titled this series this is because while there is indeed power in prayer, the power that is contained in it is found in God’s protocol for prayer. In other words, it is not just any, old kind of prayer that gets results; it’s the kind of prayer that God lays out to us in His Word that holds great power.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are learning in this series. In short, we are learning how prayer works and we are learning how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
We started out this series by answering the question— What is prayer? Then, in part two, we essentially explained what prayer is not through a message entitled “When we pray.” These first two messages explained a lot of the nuts and bolts of prayer that, if you missed it, I would encourage you to go back and listen to those messages.
But last time, we looked at Jesus’ model prayer—known by most as the Lord’s Prayer—which answers the disciple’s question, how do we pray?
So, we learned that there is something to be said for how we organize and compartmentalize the things we pray to God. And that’s what we camped on last time.
So, let me quickly recap Jesus’ model of prayer …
Church, this is the protocol of prayer. It is the way of approaching the Father and the way of sealing the deal. In short, it is the way to pray. Amen.
ACCORDING TO HIS WILL
But again, as we learned through this model prayer, when we pray, our request needs to be for His kingdom, not our own. Our petitions need to be for His will to be done, not our own.
So, I want us to talk further today about praying the will of God because I believe praying God’s will is such an important part of our prayer lives that can either guarantee good results or disqualify our prayers. Therefore, we do not need to allow our prayers to revolve around our will, but to be according to His will. This is probably the most important thing I have ever learned about prayer—the importance of praying the will of God when I pray.
You see, a lot of people have no clue what God’s will is when they pray. They are basically praying what they desire, but give no consideration to what God desires when they pray. Many times, this is because they do not believe they can even know God’s will (we will cover this in minute). But other times, it’s simply because people only ask for things that their flesh wants and that might not exactly be what the Lord wants us seeking first. We know what He wants us seeking first—and it’s the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Let’s go over to First John 5:14-15 and see what the apostle John taught us about praying the will of God. He said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions, that we have asked of Him.”
Notice that the first thing we see him say is that this is the confidence that we have in Him: Did you know that this is the spirit of how our prayers are to be prayed—in confidence?
This word “confidence” denotes assurance, certainty, and boldness. This is a far cry from us never knowing what God is going to do or wallowing around in condemnation when we approach God.
So, as we enter into knowing God’s will when we pray, know this— God’s will is that we approach Him boldly and confidently, not sheepishly or unworthily.
Now the reason we can have this boldness and confidence is because we are “in Christ.” That’s why the apostle John said that this is the confidence we have “in Him.” We are not confident in ourselves; we are confident in who He is in us! Amen! When we are in Christ, we are standing in all that He is—His righteousness, His holiness, and His complete perfection! If we gained a revelation of this, then we would not sheepishly approach God with our petitions. We would enter into His throne room boldly and with absolute confidence.
I know there are times where everything within us feels completely unworthy to approach God boldly and confidently because of the bad things we’ve done or because of the good things we should have done, but this is when we must depend on Scriptures like this that say it is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God that I come boldly before His throne of grace to obtain the mercy and grace that I have need of. My heart might be condemning the mess out of me, but I am walking by faith and not by how I feel. This is God’s will for all of us when we pray. Amen?
Then notice how John said that “if we ask anything.” This is obviously something he picked up from His Rabbi, the Lord Jesus. Time and time again, we see Jesus saying that we have permission to ask whatever we desire, anything, etc. and He put no qualifications on those things we are asking for. This is just amazing to me that we can ask anything and still have this kind of confidence when we pray.
However, many believers have taken these verses to mean that whatever carnal, selfish desire we ask for we will receive when we ask. But the qualification is given to us in this phrase— “according to His will.” So, no, this is not just asking for whatever we want. As James said, we can ask and not receive if we ask amiss that we may spend it on our own pleasures (See James 4:3). How many of you know that is not asking “according to His will”? Sure, the Lord doesn’t mind us having things and enjoying them. But when we are more concerned about our own wants and desires than the needs of others, we are out of the will of God. It doesn’t mean we will never receive from Him if this is the case, but it does mean we cannot have the same confidence we had if we were praying according to the will of God.
So, John goes on to say that if we ask anything according to the will of God “He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions, that we have asked of Him.” This statement indicates that if we can make sure God hears us when we pray, we know that have the answers of our petitions that we’ve asked of Him. That’s awesome!
But how can we make sure our petitions are heard by God? When we ask according to His will. So, in other words, if we ask according to His desires, what He wishes, and what pleases Him, then we can be assured of the fact that He heard us, and once we know He heard us, we know we have the things we petitioned Him for. In other words, it’s a done “deal” when we pray according to His “weal”!
Now some take this praying according to His will as what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Nevertheless, not what I will but your will be done.”
And while in some cases, it is important for us to include this in our prayers, God doesn’t want us to use that as an excuse for ignorance. No, the Word of God is clear that God’s will is that we know His will.
In Colossians 1:9, when the apostle Paul began praying for this body of believers, he asked God that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” That is why the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:17— “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” So, it is clear that God’s will is for us to not just know His will, but to be filled with the knowledge and understanding of it. Amen?
I know there is a large group of Christians out there who believe otherwise, citing things like, “who can know the mind of God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” But what the New Testament teaches us is that all of those things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has even entered into the heart of man, have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (See First Corinthians 2:9-10). Jesus said to His disciples that it was for them to know the mysteries of God. He went on to say that those who keep His commandments are His friends and He will make known to us what He is doing (John 15:14-15). I am reminded now of how the Lord did this with Abraham: After He came to visit Abraham and was about to go to Sodom, He said amongst Himself— “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing …” (Genesis 18:17).
You see, saints, we have a similar covenant with God that Abraham had! We are His disciples and friends today! Therefore, ought we not know the will of God? I believe God wants us to know His will and also pray His will.
So again, this does not mean that we need to tack on this phrase to all of our prayers. There are many things that we can absolutely know what God’s will is when we pray such as, we know it is God’s will to save everyone. He makes this crystal clear in His Word—that He desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Yes, He is not willing that anyone should perish but that all come to repentance.
So, we definitely are not to pray for the Lord to save someone and then say, “But not my will, Lord. Your will be done.” His Word makes it clear that it is His will to save that person.
But let me take this opportunity to make the point that it is also not best to pray that God save a person. For example, when we bring someone before the Lord in prayer, we don’t need to say to the Father— “God, please save them. I’m asking you to save them.” To pray that way implies God isn’t willing to save them and we are trying to get God to do what we will for Him to do.
No, a better way to pray for them is like so— “Father, I know it is your will to save them. You said in Your Word that you are not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance and come to the knowledge of the truth. But I know that they have a will too, and You in your graciousness, have given all men a free will to either choose or reject You. So, what I’m asking is that You open their eyes to see the truth. Lord, grant them light that they be not deceived any longer. Remove that veil from them that they can see the light of the glorious gospel and send those laborers across their path that will share that gospel to them …”
So, let’s now move into some questions: What is the will of God, and how can we know it? Because it seems that we need to discover what God’s will is so that we can get these kinds of results when we pray. Amen?
WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?
Now when we talk about God’s will, what this is specifically referring to is His desires, wishes, and what pleases Him.
So, what are God’s desires? What does He wish? And what is pleasing to Him? Well, there are obviously the things that the Holy Spirit leads us to do and the specific guidance that we get from Him. Those are obviously important things that are “according to His will.” But if we want to be more general about it, God’s Word is His will. Amen. That means we can find in the Bible everything we need to know about what God desires, what pleases Him, and what His wishes are. Yes, His Word reveals to us His general will for all people. And we need not forget that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead us do things contrary to the Word of God either.
Now we could spend weeks and even months talking about everything that His Word reveals to us is His will, but I believe John 15:7 puts it in a nutshell perfectly:
In this verse, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Notice that the first qualification for having the things we desire being done for us is that we abide in Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not referring to being in Christ or in Him like the apostle Paul refers to. This is remaining, staying, living and dwelling in Christ that the disciples were being exhorted to do. I see it as Jesus exhorting His disciples that even though He would be leaving them, for them not to leave Him. In other words, learn to keep their awareness of His presence in their lives even though He would not be physically present any longer. So, this shows that first having an abiding personal relationship with Jesus is important to having the rest of this verse working for us.
So, first of all, we can see that His will is that you and I enter into a vibrant, intimate, and personal relationship with the Godhead. That we love Him in this respect, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This has been His will from the beginning, and Jesus came to restore this fellowship between us and God. And along these lines, the Scriptures also teach us that His will is also that you and I love one another as He has loved us. That we esteem others better than ourselves. That we love mercy, show compassion, and lay down our lives that we might bless others. So, as Paul said to Timothy in First Timothy 1:5—the entire purpose of the commandment is love. On it, hangs all the law and the prophets. Amen?
To me, this parallels the truth we see in Psalm 37:4 when we are told that if we delight ourselves in the Lord that He will give us the desires of our heart. This verse is saying essentially the same thing at John 15:7—that if we make the Lord the object of our desires, we will “abide” in Him. And as Psalm 37:4 is teaching us, when we delight ourselves in Him, then our desires will be in line with His desires. This is when the desires of our heart will be according to His will.
But as John 15:7 also says, there is another way to pray according to God’s will, and that is when His word abides in us. You see, spending time in the Word of God is a major key to praying according to His will and, as a result, is a major key to receiving the answers to our prayers. And why? Again, it is because the Word of God is the will of God!
I remember one time when I was working at a Christian bookstore early in my Christian walk and a lady came in that asked, “Do you have any books on the will of God?” And immediately I responded, “Yeah, we have a whole wall of them over there!” as I pointed at the Bible section. I was not trying to be a smart aleck, it just kind of came out without me even thinking. But I believe what I said was the truth! You see, so many Christians would rather read a book on the will of God than The Book of the will of God! They would rather have someone else tell them what God’s will is than spending time in the Word of God which is the will of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every scripture is God’s perfect will. If that were the case, then we might read one verse that says, “And Judas went and hung himself” and then combine it together with another verse that says, “Go and do likewise,” and conclude that it is God’s will that we go hang ourselves. No, obviously not everything we read in the Bible shows us God’s perfect will, but when we rightly divide the truth, we can see what God’s perfect will is for all people for all time. Therefore, God’s Word is the road map to understanding the will of God!
HOW TO PRAY GOD’S WILL
So, we take the truths from God’s Word as being His will, and we pray according to His will. But what does this look like? Practically, how do we do this? I’ll tell you how I do it—I pray God’s Word! Yes, my prayers are laced with “It is written, It is written, It is written.”
So say, I have a friend who has a financial need in their life. If this person is a believer, then I might pray like so— “Father, I bring so and so’s financial need before you. You are Jehovah Jireh—the Lord our Provider, and You have promised to meet our financial needs and, therefore, have instructed us to not worry or give any thought. So, as the apostle Paul declared, I say today, that my God will supply all of so and so’s need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. It is written, and God is able to make all grace abound toward them, that they, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed they have sown and increase the fruits of their righteousness. Amen.”
Now, of course, when we pray this for our friend, we need to also be very open to being the vessel that the Lord would use to help meet that need. We have a lot of Scriptural precedence for this—that it’s not just us saying “I’ll pray for you” without considering that we might be the one to help them.
This is a good example when it comes to praying for someone with a physical need in their body: While there certainly are times where we are to pray to God for someone to be healed from a distance, there are also a lot more Scriptural examples of us being the person to heal them and not just asking God to do it. Jesus said that the works He did, we will do and even greater works than this because He has gone to the Father. He goes on to say that those that believe will lay hands on the sick and see them recover. There are actually not too many examples of us praying for God to heal someone. We are told to heal them in His name.
So, I just say this to say that sometimes we are praying for things that God didn’t tell us to pray about. Rather, He told us to do something about it ourselves. Like I said, there are times where we certainly can and should pray about these things, but my point is that we need to let the Word of God reveal to us how we pray according to God’s will. Amen?
But when it comes to simply praying the will of God, I like to pray what the Word says because I believe that the Lord loves to hear His Word quoted back to Him. He said, “Put Me in remembrance …” (Isaiah 43:26). He also said that He hastens over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). This means that He stays ready to perform His Word. Not only that, but Psalm 103:20 says that His angels do His word, heeding the voice of His Word. So, when you and I pray and declare God’s Word, God is ready to perform it and so are His angels.
Man, how important it is that we give them something to work with through our prayer life!?! I just envision many of the Lord’s angels lounging around believers, just wishing that they would start praying God’s will so that they could get busy on their behalf. But these believers are praying their own will, many times griping, murmuring, and complaining while doing it.
RECEIVING THE WILL OF GOD
And again, the glorious promise is that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Notice that John didn’t say that God answers our prayers when we pray according to His will; he just says that God hears us. Why is this so significant? It is because it shows us that the real determining factor to us getting answers to our prayers is if God is hearing those prayers or not. In other words, it is not a matter of if God says yes or no to our petitions. No, according to this verse, He does not reject one request and then answer the other. God is so good that He answers all the prayers that He hears! The key is if He is hearing our prayers or not! If He hears them, He will answer them!
In fact, the apostle John did not say He will answer them; he said that “we have the petitions.” This means that we ought to know that we have (presently, right now!) the petitions we made to Him. This does not necessarily mean that we will see, hear, or feel them. It just means that those petitions are presently ours in the mind of God, and we are to receive them by faith in order to possess them in this physical realm.
This is where the truths that Jesus taught us in Mark 11:24 come into play: In this verse, Jesus told us— “Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
In this verse, we can assume that Jesus was referring to us praying according to the will of God when we compare Scriptures with Scriptures. So, according to Jesus, when we pray God’s will and believe we receive when we pray, we will have the things we’ve asked.
Now there are some parts to this that I have seen so many believers fail to understand: Again, Jesus said that whatever things you ask (or, desire) when you pray “believe you receive them.” So, when are we to believe we receive them? When we see the answers to our prayers? When we get the manifestation of the thing we’ve asked Him for? No, according to Jesus, we believe we receive when we pray. That means that we believe we’ve got it during the time we’ve asked for it. How few people actually do this!?! And Jesus promises us that when we believe we receive the things we’ve prayed for we “will have them.” That doesn’t mean that it will happen right away every time, but it does mean that we can be confident that we will have it at some point. This is the prayer of faith! Amen!
Church, this is where we have confidence when we pray—when we know we are praying according to His will. And this confidence can roll over into receiving our petitions because we know we’ve prayed according to God’s wishes.
This is how to pray, saints—the way God desires for us too! Amen!
So, we began a new series on the subject of prayer a few weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And the reason I titled this series this is because while there is indeed power in prayer, the power that is contained in it is found in God’s protocol for prayer. In other words, it is not just any, old kind of prayer that gets results; it’s the kind of prayer that God lays out to us in His Word that holds great power.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are going to learn in this series. We are going to learn how prayer works and how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
Now we began in part one this series by asking the question—What is prayer? And I made the point that prayer is not a position or posture. It is not us getting on our knees, folding our hands, bowing our heads, and closing our eyes. Nor is it rehearsed or memorized statements that can be said with the person praying’s heart and mind being completely detached.
We defined prayer from the New Testament and found that it is “intimately approaching God (coming face to face with Him) for the purpose of communicating with Him.” In short, we could define prayer as our communion with God. This means that prayer is a part of the relationship that we have with God. And, of course, a big part of this relationship is that verbal communication that we have with each other.
Then, last time, we learned a lot of things that prayer is not. In short, we looked at things we need to be aware of “when we pray.”
We went over to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and looked at a section of Scriptures where, as Jesus was teaching on the motives of the heart and us not just outwardly observing religious deeds, He begins teaching on our prayer lives. And I made the point that we need to know why we are praying too, looking at our motives behind the things we are doing in prayer so that there is no room for hypocrisy in our prayer lives.
So, we looked at both the things Jesus told us to avoid and the things He told us to embrace from Matthew 6:5-8:
The first thing we took note of is that Jesus said three times in these verses “when you pray.” This shows us that Jesus assumes that a believer has a prayer life. No, it is not a matter of if we pray; it is when we pray.
But there were some warnings Jesus gives us when we pray: He said don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, but rather go to your “room” when you pray.
We saw that this, of course, does not mean that we are never to pray while standing on our feet, in a public place, with other people around. It was just simply a warning to not let our heart’s motivation be to be seen of men. No, our prayer closet is wherever we take it. It is that personal place of privacy and intimacy where it is just us and the Father. But we learned that it is also that place where we shut the door to outside distractions.
The next thing we saw was how the Lord then told us not to use vain repetitions when we pray. We saw that these are those meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases that we tend to use when we pray. And why? Because, as Jesus goes on to say, our Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him.
You see, it is easy to pray just a little longer and say more things because we believe if we word it just right or fill up more time, that God will answer our prayers. We can’t work our way to get God’s blessing. We just need to keep our prayers short and sweet and not believe we will be heard because we say more.
So, this is in essence what we learned last week:
These are just a few of the things we need to know “when we pray.”
So, what I want us to move into this week is what Jesus went on to say next in Matthew chapter 6. It is the answer to that very common question concerning prayer—How do you pray?
Now again, I want to remind you that it is not about the tempo of our prayers or the words we say as much as it is the heart behind our communication with the Lord. However, there is something to be said for how we organize and compartmentalize the things we say to God. And that’s what we will delve into this week …
OUR MODEL FOR PRAYER
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus began to teach His disciples how to do just this in their prayer lives. And if you look at Luke’s account of this (Luke 11:1-4), you can see that His disciples asked Him this very same question which prompted His response. They said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Now no doubt, Jesus led by example. I am sure His disciples watched Him separate Himself from them for hours at a time to spend time with His Heavenly Father. I am sure there were times that they would wake up early in the morning and not find their Rabbi with them because He arose early in the morning to petition His Father. We know from the Scriptures that He would go up on a mountain and would spend the whole night in prayer. Jesus was a praying machine! And so, from His example, I’m sure His disciples implored Him to teach them how to pray. So, He did …
In Matthew’s account, Jesus began by saying, “In this manner, therefore pray,” Notice that Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore pray” and did not say “pray this prayer.”
You see, this prayer is what is commonly known as “the Lord’s Prayer” and so many groups of Christians have done with this prayer exactly what Jesus admonished us not to do in the verses right before, which is use vain repetitions (vs. 7). They have turned this prayer into a “vain repetition” by reciting it as a religious ritual, but that is the exact opposite of what Jesus was intending to accomplish by giving it to us.
When He said, “In this manner, therefore pray” He was giving us a pattern for prayer so that we can avoid using vain repetitions and get right to the point with God. So, in other words, what Jesus was really saying when He said “in this manner, therefore pray” was “pray according to this pattern,” or you could say that Jesus was giving His disciples the proper protocol for prayer.
THE FATHER SIDE OF GOD
Then Jesus begins to give us this pattern for prayer, and the first thing He does is address God as— “Our Father in heaven.”
You know, this seems on the surface as a relatively insignificant portion of this model prayer, but the exact opposite is true. What Jesus was saying was profound—especially to the Jewish people of His day! Jesus totally revolutionized the way they viewed “Yahweh” by constantly referring to Him as “My Father.” But this was not only an important revelation for them; it is to us as well.
You see, by seeing Him as “our Father” and not just as “our God” we will approach Him in a different manner. We will go beyond just seeing Him as “Able” and begin to see Him as “Willing.” We will go beyond just seeing Him as “Almighty” and begin to see Him as “All-Loving.” Yes, having a revelation that God Almighty is our Father will produce more confidence and boldness in our prayer lives.
This reminds me of the story I heard one time about a president’s daughter. As the president was sitting in the oval office conducting national business, his daughter ran through all the yellow tape that was put up to keep people from approaching Him and jumped right in his lap. The reason she did this was because she knew he was her daddy and, therefore, she could relate to Him different than any else. Likewise, when we see The Almighty God as our loving Father, then we will be more confident to approach Him even when we feel unworthy and unqualified.
So what is implied by Jesus in these two simple words “Our Father” is “Father—the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who I know will provide my every need, the One who hears me when I call, etc. etc. etc.” Jesus knew that the boldness and confidence this would produce and that it is the foundation of knowing how to pray effectively.
There is, however, a flip side to this: While we do want to get the revelation that God is our Father, we do not need to forget that He is still our God too. It seems like the enemy has been somewhat successful at getting much of the church in one of these two ditches …
Most see Him as their God and fail to see Him as their Father while others have gotten the revelation that He is their Father and become less revering of Him in the process. We need to see Him as He is in truth—Our Father God! Perhaps this is why Jesus added the two words “in heaven” to “our Father”—teaching us that while He is our Father, He is still in the highest most influential place as our God.
HALLOWING HIS NAME
Then Jesus continues by saying, “hallowed be Your name.”
This phrase shows us that our pattern for effective prayer starts off with thanksgiving, praise, and worship. Not only is it just the appropriate protocol to approach our God with worship and reverence, but it is also does us good as well. Let me explain …
The word “hallowed” comes from the Greek word hagaidzo and means “to set apart, dedicate, consecrate, or to make holy.” So, what does it mean to “set apart, consecrate, and make holy” His name? Well, the key to finding out the answer to this question is to, first of all, find out what the “name” of someone describes. The “name” of someone describes all that that person is: It describes their character and nature. It describes their authority and power. It also describes their reputation. So, when we “hallow His name” what we are doing is we are setting apart in our hearts all that He has a reputation for being and doing. And when we do this, those characteristics begin to become magnified in our own eyes because we are intentionally focusing on who He is.
But do you what most people do when they approach Father God in prayer? They hallow their own name. No, they don’t do this intentionally, rather, many Christians enter into their prayer times saying things like— “Oh God, I know I have not talked to you all day or that I missed it in this area and in that area and that I am an unworthy little worm, but…” This is praying in our own name, which is the wrong way to enter into God’s presence! Instead of us approaching Him talking about all that we are, why not approach Him declaring all that He is!?!
You see, we need to enter into His presence through “hallowing His name”, not “hallowing our name.” And we do this through giving Him thanks, praise, and worship! Yes, even if we feel like we are “good for nothing” then we should praise Him that He loves us despite our inadequacies. The bottom line is we need to stop magnifying our weaknesses and start magnifying His goodness! That is why Psalm 100:4 tells us to enter into His gates with thanksgiving because we magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). And the result of us magnifying Him is our faith will soar!
SEEKING FIRST HIS KINGDOM
Then Jesus moves on to some specific requests that I believe continue to show us the correct protocol for our prayer lives: He says, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Notice that the first request Jesus mentions for us to make is for the kingdom of God. This goes right in line with what Jesus went on to say in verse 33 of this same chapter— “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). What I believe Jesus was making a point of is that we must make sure our prayers are begun with the correct priorities, namely the kingdom of God.
You see, as we’ve seen, God already knows what we have need of before we ask Him, so it is really a waste of our breath to spend our whole time of prayer talking about our needs as if God is not aware of them. If we get our priorities right and put His kingdom business first then we will see our needs met faster and more abundantly because, as He went on to say in Matthew 6:33— “… and all these things shall be added to you.” This is a spiritual law that is repeated time and time again in God’s Word— If we seek His kingdom first then He’ll take care of our kingdom.
Do you remember the story of King Solomon (Second Chronicles 1:7-12)? God appeared to Him in the night and said to him— “Ask! What shall I give to you?” Of course, we know that Solomon’s sole request was for the wisdom and knowledge to rule over God’s people. Now I want you to see this: Solomon could have had anything he wanted, but what did he ask for? Yes, he asked for wisdom, but I want you to see why he asked for it. He asked for wisdom because it would benefit God’s kingdom—which at that time was the nation of Israel. So, in essence, he was fulfilling Matthew 6:33 by “Seeking first the Kingdom of God.” This was a type and shadow of this eternal principle that God wants us to follow as well—putting His Kingdom first! And look at what the result of Solomon’s decision was: God responded, “since you did not ask for riches, wealth, honor, or the life of your enemies, I will give you wisdom and knowledge plus wealth like you never imagined.” (vs. 11) You see, when Solomon put God’s kingdom first all those other natural things were added unto him as well!
Interestingly enough, when studying the New Testament prayers, you find that the emphasis is almost exclusively on His kingdom being accomplished in individuals and the church collectively. Like Solomon, it generally was for things like wisdom, revelation and understanding rather than prosperity, healing, and living a good life now in this life.
Now the Lord definitely wants us to have a healthy & wealthy life, but what He wants more than that is for our souls to prosper. Yes, He desires us to be fruitful so that His kingdom is coming in our own lives and in the lives that we encounter. This is God’s best.
NEVERTHELESS, NOT MY WILL
You know, sometimes our prayers are completely laced with our will—what we want and desire for ourselves. But according to Jesus, that is not the best way to pray. This is why Jesus went on to say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Church, we should always strive to pray according to God’s will above all else. This is one of the main ways that we seek first God’s kingdom because a kingdom is a place where the will of a king is done.
I am reminded now of what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Luke 22:42): Jesus was just hours away from the most horrible situation He would ever face and everything in Jesus’ flesh did not want to go through with it. So, He prayed vehemently for hours that, if there was any other way, God would take this cup away from Him. But the key was that He always ended these requests with “Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.” Now, in essence, what Jesus was saying was— “Father, I really do not want to go through with this, but I am willing to do it your way above what I want.”
You see, our prayers should be no different. We should be seeking God’s will above our own will in our prayer lives as well!
What makes this so difficult to do is that it requires faith: We have to believe that God’s plan—which usually does not appeal to our flesh—is the best thing for us. We have to trust that God’s way is going to ultimately benefit us more than our way would have.
I had a situation happen to me when we moved to Macon where I had the opportunity to put this principle into practice: When I went job hunting out here in Macon I had one interview with a bank that seemed like the right fit. It was the only interview I had and I was feeling the pressure of getting some income coming in to support my family. Everything in my flesh cried out to God— “I really want this job, Lord! Please give me this job!” But, thank God, I had enough sense to pray— “But not my will but your will be done.” Oh, I am so glad that I prayed that because I truly believe that if I would have asked Him for that other job He would have given it to me, and the job that He gave me instead is the perfect fit for me.
You see, I could not see His plan, but He had one. It did not make sense to me, but it did to Him. I just had to trust Him and submit to His plan, and as is the case every time, His will was the best thing for me.
GOD’S WILL REVEALED
Now there absolutely are certain times that we know what God’s will is and we need to pray specifically for those things to come to come to pass. So how do we know what His will is? Well, number one, God’s will is found in His Word, but Jesus went on to tell us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Wow! This one statement gives us tremendous insight into what is God’s will and what is not God’s will! It shows us that God’s will is exactly the way things are in heaven!
So, what are some of the realities of heaven that we should pray for?
Number one, there is a constant awareness and knowledge of Him. There are not people in heaven who vacillate between whether God exists or not. No, I can assure you that they fully know that God is almighty and totally glorious. I can assure you that they know His nature and are fully persuaded of His character.
And this is why praying the Pauline prayers is so powerful. It is because in all of his prayers, he mainly prayed for the church to be filled with the knowledge of His will. He prayed for them to possess a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. It was for understanding, wisdom, knowledge, etc. That’s evidently what the apostle Paul thought was important to pray for others.
So, likewise, when we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we need to pray for people to know God more fully and intimately. We should pray for their hearts to be more persuaded of His nature and ability. We should pray for our brothers and sisters—just as Jesus did for Peter—that their faith would not fail in the times of adversity. This is God’s will being done on earth as things are in heaven right now.
In like manner, there is continual praise and worship of God going on in heaven. Therefore, we need to pray that the high praises of God would resound here on the earth just as they do in heaven.
Another characteristic of heaven is that those there operate in love, holiness, servanthood, and all the evidences of true spirituality. So, we should pray for people’s spiritual lives as well. We should pray for people to abound in the fruit of the Spirit. We should pray for people to learn to live separate from this carnal, natural world. We should pray for people to learn to serve one another and not be so self-centered. These are just some of the things that are God’s will for the human race.
Last, but not least, there is no lack of any kind in heaven either. There is no sickness, disease, or poverty there. There is nothing missing, and nothing broken. Therefore, we should pray against any of these curses when they rear their ugly head. As Jesus said— “God’s will on earth is the way it is in heaven!”
Then after we have first prayed for the kingdom of God and for God’s will to be done, Jesus said that we lift up our petitions to Him. Again, this is a very important part of prayer’s protocol because we are approaching the God of the universe and His things need to be put first. You see, He already understands what our needs are, and He has promised to take care of what concerns us as we put His things first.
OUR DAILY MANNA
Now let’s take a look at what Jesus told us to specifically ask for in this protocol of prayer—this day’s daily bread: Jesus said that the manner in which we pray is with this request--“Give us this day our daily bread.”
First of all, one point that needs to be made from this is that when Jesus uses the phrase “this day” and refers to our “daily” bread, that this implies that we are praying every day. Amen? I mean, unless we are fasting prayer on a particular day, we will be praying daily.
This is an obvious reference to the manna that God gave to the children of Israel in the wilderness. The reason I firmly believe this is because of the wording Jesus used— “Give us this day our daily bread.” You see, God commanded Israel to only collect the portion that they needed for each day. He was adamant about it. And the reason He specifically told them this was to test them to see if they would be obedient and trust Him. So I believe it is very significant that Jesus implied the same thing as God commanded the children of Israel with the manna—for His people to only focus on their daily need and not try and horde up some for the future.
Of course, Jesus was not referring to us praying for the literal manna that they had. So, what is He referring to? I believe it has a two-fold application:
On the surface, this appears to be a request for physical bread, but I believe Jesus had more in mind here rather than just natural food. I believe that He was also referring to our spiritual bread as well. You see, the “manna” given by God under the Old Testament was a type and shadow of Jesus (See John 6:35), which would also make it a reference to the Word of God (Compare Matthew 4:4). So, when Jesus told us to pray— “Give us this day our daily bread”—what He was alluding to was “Pray for God to give you the spiritual nourishment from Me and from His Word daily.”
You see, every day we need to partake of Christ and experience the strengthening and empowerment that comes through abiding in Him. Every day we need to be nourished with the life-giving Word of God, hearing what the Spirit would say to us daily. Every day we need to fill our tanks up through His manifest presence and His revealed Word. This is not just something that we need on Sundays. We need our spiritual nourishment everyday just as we need our physical nourishment every day.
Now this can also be a reference to natural provision such as food, finances, etc., but the bottom line is that it is an obvious reference to our present daily need.
Why was this obviously so important to Jesus? It is because God wants us to daily depend on Him, just as he wanted the Israelites to daily depend on Him with the manna. He doesn’t want us to worry about tomorrow or get fretful about a month down the road. He wants us to trust Him daily for our needs to be met—both spiritual and natural.
In Philippians 4:19, there is something that is often overlooked in this verse. Paul says, “And my God shall supply all your need …” Notice he did not say “needs.” He said “need” (singular). I believe the significance of this is that God will provide every need that will ever arise in our lives— individually and daily.
PRAYING IN LOVE
Then notice what Jesus mentions next— “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
If you look back a chapter in Matthew 5:44, the first thing Jesus ever taught us concerning prayer was that we are to pray in love. He taught us in this verse to “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
You see, when we are walking with the Lord then people will come out of the woodwork to hate us, curse us, persecute us, and spitefully use us. So, when this happens, we must have this foundational aspect of prayer at work in our lives. We must love our enemies by giving to them when they try and hurt us. We must speak good things about those who speak negatively of us. We must do good things for those who hate us. And, last but not least, we must pray for those who mistreat us! By operating in these spiritual principles, we unlock the grace that it takes to love and forgive! This is extremely important to fulfilling this command to forgive when we stand praying.
Here is, in my estimation, one of the greatest prayers we can pray—"Lord, help me to see both myself and others through Your eyes.” You see, if we can see other people the way the Lord sees them, there is a good chance we might have a totally different perspective of those we see as our “debtors.” Especially when we see ourselves through God’s eyes first. Then we might realize— “Hey, I’ve done the same thing to the Lord that they are doing to me. Thank you for forgiving me, Lord. Now I forgive them as your have forgiven me.”
I have had the Lord do this with me on a number of occassions: When someone I knew came across as proud, haughty, and arrogant, the Lord showed me that they were really just insecure and used those other things to cover up the fact that they did not have any self-confidence.
In this case, if we have someone who is being mean, hateful and hurtful towards us, the Lord might show us that they are simply acting out of their ignorance. The ultimate example of this was when Jesus hung on the Cross and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Did you that was the truth? Jesus was not trying to be spiritual, but knew that the only reason they were having Him crucified was because they were ignorant. As the apostle Paul said, if they had known what they were doing, they would not have crucified the Lord of the glory.
You see, I have come to discover that the primary reason that people do hateful things is because they hate themselves. The reason they hurt others is because they are hurting themselves. The reason they try and take things away from others is because they are empty themselves. The list can go on and on. But the bottom line is, if everyone walked in their created value, there would not be much room for becoming one of these hurtful people.
So, it’s not just the prayers that say, “they need to change God,” that we ought to be praying. Maybe we are the ones who need to change the way we are seeing them. Let’s get the plank out of our own eye instead of always trying to clean the specks out of others. Amen?
Then Jesus moved on to say, “And do not lead us into temptation,” (Matthew 6:13a) …
This statement used to trouble me because on the surface it seemed as if Jesus was telling us to pray that God would not lead us into the temptation that He was planning to lead us into. Of course, that would not make any sense. To think that God will lead us into temptation violates other Scriptures that say that God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He Himself tempt anyone (See James 1:13). So what does this statement mean? Jesus was giving us the pattern of praying for God’s direction and leading so that we do not even enter temptation.
You see, Jesus did not teach us to pray that God would help us to overcome temptation. He taught us to pray for God’s leading so that we would not even enter into temptation. There is a big difference. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation…” Again, He told us what we need to do so that we would not even enter into temptation, much less overcome it!
And did you know that our prayer lives can keep us out of a lot of unnecessary temptations? That’s what Jesus was teaching His disciples in the Garden. I believe that simply having this kind of prayer life and requesting the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can receive supernatural guidance from Him and greatly lessen the difficulties we seem to stumble into regularly.
You see, I believe there are many circumstances and situations that we find ourselves in that were never God’s will for us to go through. The reason we enter into many of them is because we never sought God for direction. We just blared through that “check” of the Holy Spirit and never inquired of the Lord to whether or not we should go that direction or make that decision. This is why it is so important to pray that God would lead us out of tempting circumstances and situations that would hinder His perfect will for our lives.
This is what is available to us under our new and better covenant—the ability to be led by God’s Spirit! We don’t have to have those rare, spectacular visitations to give us direction. We have God’s Spirit on the inside of us leading us and guiding us into all truth and into God’s perfect plan for our lives. The key is learning to recognize that still small voice and recognizing that inward witness that He gives us. And a way that Jesus told us to do this is to pray that we would be led (by God’s Spirit) out of all temptation.
Then Jesus, staying along the same lines, said, “but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13b). In this one statement Jesus was showing us how important it is for us to look to God for protection and deliverance from the enemy.
How many of you know that He wouldn’t tell you and I to pray this way if He didn’t want to deliver us? But this is why Jesus told us to incorporate this in our prayer life. It’s because we need to invite Him to do it.
Sure, the Lord wants to give you and I the kingdom of God. Jesus told us that it was the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32), yet Jesus told us to pray that His kingdom would come. Of course, we know that the Lord desires to give us our daily bread, but we told us to request that He give it to us. Likewise, God’s desire is for us to escape the temptations of the devil and be delivered from the evil one, but again, we are told to pray for these things. This is all because the Lord needs us to invite His will in our lives. Then it can be performed. Amen.
You see, we live in a fallen world where our enemy exercises his authority. We are not of this world, but since we live in this world we are constantly on his hit-list. It is for this reason that we need to constantly pray for God’s deliverance and protection from the enemy, not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but for those on the front lines.
You see, we need to focus on praying this for other people too. This is what Jesus did for Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32. He perceived that Satan desired to sift Peter like wheat, but He prayed for him that his faith would not fail.
You see, we all need to pray for each other because Satan is constantly trying to sift us as wheat. Our prayers are what give us the strength to withstand the devices of the devil. None of us stand a chance against His wiles in ourselves. He is much too smart, but when we pray for God’s help Satan doesn’t stand a chance!
THE SANDWICH TECHNIQUE
I do, however, want to comment on one more part of this prayer that I feel is tremendously important to understand. And it is the statement Jesus concluded His model prayer with-- “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:14). Jesus culminates this pattern of prayer with this resounding statement and I believe this is good habit for us to have in our prayer lives as well.
You see, just as Jesus taught us to begin our prayers with thanksgiving, praise, and worship with the phrase— “Hallowed be your name”, He finishes up by teaching us the same. This is what many people would call “the sandwich technique.”
Let me give you an example: Paul gave us an example of this “sandwich technique” in Philippians 4:6 when he said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Notice that he was saying that when we feel ourselves starting to worry about something that we need to start out with “prayer,” then present our “supplication,” and end with “thanksgiving.” As we’ve seen already, the word “prayer” does not describe our requests because why would there be an obvious distinction between “prayer” and “supplications” (which literally means “requests”)?
So, if you look at this “sandwich technique” given to us by the Apostle Paul you will see him telling us to start off with our communion with God—just telling Him we love Him and acknowledging who He is while also listening to Him. Then we go into the request for the situation that we are feeling some anxiety about. And then after that, we throw the other piece of bread on there, which is thanking Him for providing the answer and for all that He is.
You see, the point both Paul and Jesus were making was that we are to begin and end our prayers focusing on Him! Now we are not talking about some way of manipulating God through flattery because He sees right through that. What we are saying is to give Him the proper recognition that He is due. And as we have already made the point of, not only is it the proper protocol. but it also gets our eyes on the solution instead of the problem.
So, this prayer model Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 6 shows us the will of God for our prayer lives. And if we would follow this pattern of prayer, I guarantee you that we will find less needs present in our lives and can then focus all the more on His kingdom coming and His will being done in others lives.
Church, this is the protocol of prayer. It is the way of approaching the Father and the way of sealing the deal. In short, it is the way to pray. Amen.