2021 and beyond: God cares…so talk to Him
There is incredible power and potential in prayer. Through prayer, we invite the God of the Universe into a situation and into our lives. Prayer changes things, but even more, prayer changes us. Through prayer, we have the opportunity to reach our full potential in Christ. The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” As we grow in our prayer life, we become more alive and more engaged with what God is doing. None of us are perfect at prayer, but as we take steps to grow spiritually in our prayer life, the impact is incredible. God will move mountains and God will transform us through prayer.
Something To Talk About:
- Connect with God relationally: The Lord’s Prayer is often recited in churches or at religious events, but there’s so much more to this prayer. Jesus provided this model as an outline to teach us how to pray in a way that connects us to God and empowers us to accomplish great things through Him. God isn’t interested in us practicing religion; instead, He desires a relationship with us. God has adopted us as His children and loves for us to call Him our Father. Starting our prayer time acknowledging our relationship with God is powerful for us and delights Him as well. “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) Proclaim your intimate relationship with God, addressing Him as your Heavenly Father and thanking Him that you are His child. God isn’t interested in us practicing religion; instead, He desires a relationship with us. God has adopted us as His children and loves for us to call Him our Father. Starting our prayer time acknowledging our relationship with God is powerful.
- Worship His name: If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, then you probably have heard of the ACTS of prayer. a = adoration. Praise the Lord for who He is. c = confession. Confess to the Lord your sins. t = thanksgiving. Thank the Lord for all that He has done. s = supplication. Bring your requests to the lord. Most Christians typically have little problem with CTS. It is the A portion of a prayer that we sometimes forget. The reality is that the Lord deserves all the love and adoration I can muster. But, I get tongue-tied every time that I think about the praise portion of my prayers. If you feel like that I encourage you to take lessons from the king of worship; David. In Psalm 103. David praises the Lord for all things. He reminds us of all of the works of the Lord. And, he reminds us that even though the Lord has every right to be angry with us, He is still slow to anger. The Lord knows that He made us from dust and that we are human and prone to sins. Thankfully, the Lord is compassionate, loving, and forgiving. David makes a list of all of the things that the Lord has done for us. He forgives your sins, and He heals your diseases. He redeems your life and crowns you with love and compassion. And then, David reminds us who the Lord is. He is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and overflowing with love for all of us. Reading David’s instruction manual on praise can help you understand how easy it is to worship His holy name.
- Pray His agenda first: “This is what I told them: ‘Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Do everything as I say, and all will be well!’” – Jeremiah 7:23. Ask yourself this question: Does prayer set the agenda for your life? And whose agenda is it? The Bible tells us that while rebuking Peter, Jesus said, “…You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23). In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that he was not pursuing God’s agenda in that particular situation. He did not seem to grasp the necessity of Jesus’ death. Peter thought that he was doing the right thing, but he wasn’t. In fact, had Jesus permitted what Peter suggested to occur, there would not have been a death, burial, and resurrection. On the cross is where we are redeemed, and it is where our sin debt to God is canceled. There are times when we feel a particular course of action is the right thing to do. However, if God has a different agenda, we should always follow His lead and His agenda. Let me encourage you, in spite of your present circumstances that you first pursue God’s agenda. God knows what is best for each of us, and, will do what is best for us.
- Depend on Him for everything: This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.” This passage makes it clear that God wants us to rely on Him. In Jeremiah 17:1-4, we see that the people of Judah were worshipping and relying on idols. Jeremiah is warning the people that those who trust in any human, including themselves will not succeed. When you trust in others, you will be let down. When you trust in yourself, you will be let down. When we don’t invite God into our lives, not only our hearts but our everyday activities, we will be like a shrub in dry land. Our roots won’t be strong enough to get to the water, and we won’t be able to grow. We may get along for a little while, but we will not thrive.
- Get your heart right with God and people: Sometimes wise people do foolish things, and Godly people do sinful things. There is one thing we all have in common – the ability and the tendency to make mistakes, to mess up, and to do things that make us shake our heads soon after. Not that we should be surprised. The Bible says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The question is when we do something wrong, how do we make it right? How do we get our heart right with God? Getting and staying right with God means we must walk in the Spirit, keeping our mind on God and His kingdom by praying continually. If you are in that position, consider praying Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” God will be faithful to answer this prayer and to keep your heart stayed on Him. There is also the need to get your heart right with others. We feel bad, in most cases, when things aren’t right between us and someone we care about. It gnaws at us, eats away inside us. We know it needs to be resolved but we often don’t know where to begin. We need to take that step. We need to forgive, reconcile, and love that person. It is not easy but is something we must do to truly live as God desires. Loving others is the only way to keep the God-kind of life flowing through you.
- C. S. Lewis once said, “That gnat-like cloud of petty anxieties and decisions about the conduct of the next hour have interfered with my prayers more often than any passion or appetite whatever.” Agree or disagree? If agree, what interferes with your prayers?
- Most people feel awkward or uncomfortable with prayer. On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being “I sweat bullets even thinking about praying” and ten being, “I love praying—privately, publicly, no matter what—it’s a joy to me”) how do you rank yourself as a person of prayer? Explain.
- How much is prayer a part of your interaction with others? How much do you think it should be? How would we make prayer more central to our shared lives?
- Are you ever afraid to ask others for prayer for yourself? Why or why not?
- How do you best connect with God relationally?
- What part of your agenda is driven by God and what percentage is driven by you?
- What does being wholly dependent look like?
- What does getting right with God look like for you?
- What can we do short term to get right with God and with the people around us?
- Reflect with your group on what have you learned from this message. Has anything surprised you? Have you learned something new?
- Share with your group any changes you want to make as a result of hearing this sermon?
Take one thing home with you:
The power of prayer should not be underestimated. James 5:16-18 declares, “…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.” God most definitely listens to prayers, answers prayers, and moves in response to prayers.
Jesus taught, “…I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20). The Bible urges us, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18).