This post is part of The Grave Robber series.
Thesis: If you pray effective prayer, you can have peace in the outcome.
“I heard you and your wife arguing last night”, a neighbor remarked to his newlywed neighbor, “Honeymoon over?” “Not really, it’s just that when it comes to some things, I won’t change my opinion, and she won’t change the subject.”
That’s the difficulty with relationships, isn’t it? We have an idea of what is true and false, right and wrong, but other people don’t always share the same line of thought. My wife often jokes “Things would work out a lot smoother if the world just did what I said!” The problem is, we all think that, don’t we? At the end of the day, there is only One who can actually say things would work out a lot smoother, and that is Jesus, the Servant King.
Today we are taking time to unpack our Fall Campaign, The Grave Robber—A series which focused on Jesus as God in the flesh, revealed as The Wine Maker, the Rule Breaker, the Water Walker, and the Grave Robber to name a few. We saw without a doubt that Jesus has supernatural mastery over time and space, matter, and life itself. This being the case, we asked you as a church to consider asking the Grave Robber to do something miraculous in your own life or the lives of others. These boards contain the prayers we asked others to pray on our behalf. And these candles here represent situations where the Living God intervened—from torn relationships mended, to landing the new job. That said, can we applaud God for the work He has done for us the past seven weeks?
Amen. Amen. We do give God praise this morning for what we have seen Him do, but I can’t shake the feeling that some of us are also wondering… what about the other prayer requests? And that’s why I wanted to take this morning’s sermon time to share a little bit about prayer. It is my deepest desire that by the end of the message today, whether your candle is lit on this altar or not, you will have peace in your heart and fervency to pray like never before. I’ve titled the teaching along the same theme as the Grave Robber, this time referring to Jesus as the Servant King. I did this because as you will see, while the King calls the ultimate shots in His Kingdom, He is also a servant who works on behalf of His people.
With that, let’s jump in and see if we can’t answer some questions about prayer.
First, what is prayer? In its simplest definition, Prayer is communication with God. And technically, communication is expressing something to another for a specific purpose. That being the case, what are the different types, or purposes of prayer?
- Adoration: Expressing love for who God is. This includes loving God for who He is in relationship to us (Father, Creator, Provider, etc) and for His essential character (Loving, Holy, Perfect, etc). Much like a parent loves a child not based on performance.
- Praise: Expressing appreciation for what God has done. Praise gets into the details of things God has done that we appreciate. From the sunshine to salvation, and from healing to divine guidance, we are thankful for God’s interaction with His Creation.
- Confession: Expressing sorrow for how our lives are misaligned with God’s will. Since sin entered the world, the human will is misaligned with God’s perfect will. What we want is often not what God wants. Confession is expressing our misalignments to God and becomes the gateway to repentance.
- Yielding: Expressing alignment with God’s will. When I think of yielding, I think of laying on the chiropractor’s table and saying “OK, go ahead” It isn’t enough that I confessed my need for help. When we yield in prayer, we open our hearts and minds to be readjusted and realigned. Also involves listening.
- Supplication: Expressing a request of God’s will. Supplication is what most think of when they think of prayer—asking. God urges His people to pray in supplication many times through Scripture (Php 4:6 See also 1Ch 16:11; Mt 7:7 pp Lk 11:9; Jn 16:24; Eph 6:18-20; 1Th 5:17; Jas 5:13). Jesus likens our asking to a child asking his father for food (Matthew 7:9-11). This isn’t seen as a laborious nuisance by God, but is something He expects.
You’ll notice a great deal of prayer centers around the idea of alignment. This leads us to consider the ultimate goal in prayer:
- Personal Alignment with God (Seen in Confession and Yielding)
- Universal Alignment with God (Seen in Supplication)
Think about it, the reason we bring our supplications to God is because something in the world is misaligned from the way it should be. A marriage is falling apart, a body is ridden with cancer, children go to bed hungry, and people die without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. God has given us this beautiful gift to be able to join His efforts in saving the world.
This week I got fired about joining God’s work through prayer while reading a 30-year old book by a guy named Wesley Duewel who has been involved as a missionary for 68 years. He writes,
God has a wonderful plan by which you can have world-wide influence. This plan is not just for a chosen few. It is for you. Let me tell you about it. Through prayer you can stand beside Billy Graham as he preaches in crusades anywhere in the world. You can strengthen him, bless him, lift him up at any moment he is bringing the good news to thousands. Through prayer you can stand beside Luis Palau in his Latin American crusades. Through prayer you can stand beside George Beverly Shea as he sings the glorious gospel. Through prayer you can accompany any missionary in the most remote areas. Through prayer you can walk through crowded bazaars, minister in steaming jungles, feed millions of starving men, women, and children hungry for bread for their bodies and for the Bread of Life. Through prayer you can contribute to the ministry of any pastor or evangelist in the church or Gospel hall anywhere in the world. Many a time I have felt that Through prayer I was at the side of some man or woman of God. Through prayer you can take a suffering infant in your arms. Through prayer you can touch a fever brow in any hospital, mediating the healing love of Jesus. God has given you a way to make your presence count, a way to be a true partner in his kingdom’s work, if you really want to be.
Say Amen. What a gift God has given us.
And lastly under the subject of What is Prayer? Let’s look at the result of it as individuals. The Result of Effective Prayer is peace. Personal Alignment with God + Co-laboring with God for Universal Alignment = Peace
If it’s true that Effective Prayer of Supplication leads us to peace, then we must ask What Makes Supplication Effective? To this matter I want to share the hindrances and prerequisites the Bible gives for effective prayer. We won’t take long to dwell on them, but I want you to recognize this. Churches shy away from this issue because it seems offensive to tell someone they are “praying wrong” But Scripture is quite clear on this subject—that there are things that hinder our prayers of supplication to God. I listed Scripture references that you can look up on the slides online later.
- Hindrances to Effective Supplication
- Sin: Isa 59:2 See also Ps 66:18; Jer 14:10-12; La 3:42-44; Mic 3:4
- Disobedience: Zec 7:13 See also Dt 1:43-45; Pr 1:28-31
- Selfishness: Jas 4:3
- Injustice: Isa 1:15-17 See also Pr 21:13; Isa 58:1-7
- Lack of Faith: Jas 1:6-7
These are the things which hinder God from acting on our supplications. We will also look at prerequisites to effective supplication.
- Prerequisites to Effective Supplication
- Humility: Lk 18:9-14 See also 2Sa 7:18; 2Ch 7:14; Ps 51:16-17; Isa 57:15; Mt 8:8 pp Lk 7:6
- Obedience: 1Jn 3:21-22 See also 1Sa 15:22; Jer 7:22-23
- Righteousness: Pr 15:29 See also 1Ki 3:11-12; Ps 34:15
- Single-mindedness: Jer 29:13 See also Dt 4:29; 1Ch 28:9
- Faith: Mt 21:21-22 pp Mk 11:22-24 See also Mt 7:7-11 pp Lk 11:9-13; Mt 8:5-13 pp Lk 7:1-10; Mt 15:21-28 pp Mk 7:24-30; Jn 14:12-14
If you want to have peace in your life and join in God’s work, before moving on to supplication, I would suggest you walk through the earlier mentioned types of prayer in order. Here’s a road map. This will help you remove the hindrances and achieve the prerequisites.
Start with adoration, move to praise, then confession, yielding (or repentance), and finally supplication.
So far we’ve answered the questions what prayer is and how to pray effectively, but what can you actually expect to happen? What Should I Expect from my Effective Supplication?
- Expect God to have heard you
- 1 John 5:14 ESV And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
First, expect God to have heard you. One of my favorite verses in Scripture is 1 John 5:14 ESV; And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. The God of the Bible is a God who is not sleeping, a God who is not short-tempered, and not disinterested. He cares and He hears effectual prayer.
- Expect God to answer “yes”, “not yet”, or “no”
- Isaiah 65:24 ESV Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. 1 Samuel 1:27 ESV For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him.
- Genesis 17:17 ESV Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?”
- 2 Corinthians 12:8 ESV Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
Second, expect God to answer “yes”, “not yet”, or “no”. All three of these are legitimate answers to effectual prayer. When God answers yes, as He did for Hannah and others, rejoice! You are aligned with God and helped align His world through prayer. When God answers “not yet” as He did with Abraham, seek how you might be refined in the process. Don’t move ahead of God’s will, but remain humble and thankful. Remember, Jesus allowed Lazarus to die—talk about “not yet”—but in the end it was for the best. When God says “no” as He did with Paul, you’ll have to dig in your faith heels and trust. If you can do this, as I said earlier, you will have peace. The two verses after Paul says God wouldn’t answer his prayer this is what he goes on to say:
But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV
How much peace we would all have if only we threw off the hindrances and engaged in effectual prayer, believing God hears us, and trusting His answers.
Paul knew all to well what he was talking about when he wrote do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
And this is because of the third, and final thing we can expect from effectual prayer.
- Expect God to work for the good of humanity and His glory.
I have a friend who has seen more healings than almost anyone I know. He loves praying for people with physical ailments which God has, at certain times and places on the streets throughout the world chosen to instantly heal. But the thing that is so ironic is that my friend is in and out of the hospital constantly. When I was a missionary with him, we had to pay extra to ship boxes of antibodies so he could inject himself every few days due to his autoimmune disorder. We have prayed for healing for him, but God has said “no” I don’t know exactly what to do with that, but I see no shortage of Kingdom-work being done by this man. God knows what he needs when and is perfectly capable of healing him if that is what is best.
A gal in my small group said recently that if it wasn’t for her dad’s cancer, their family would never have become as close as they have.
You can expect God to work for the good of humanity and His glory.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28ESV
Imagine for a moment, three people kayaking in the river. The first person doesn’t trust where the current is taking them so they decide to paddle back upstream against the current. Unfortunately, the current is so strong they eventually capsize. This goes on for a long time. The second person is hung up on some rocks. They could probably push themselves off, but seem locked up by fear. Then there is you, paddling along with the current, making a few wrong maneuvers here and there, but the current keeps you moving forward.
This river is the will of God. The first person is one who doesn’t acknowledge God or want anything to do with His will or purpose, so their constantly fighting against Him. The second person is a believer who is hung up on unanswered prayer, or some other hurt or habit. And the third person is the one who, though mistakes happen continues to trust God and submit to Him daily.
Where this illustration could get interesting in my opinion is, we can pray for the current to move in a special way on that person who is stuck. God is willing to move due to the effectual prayers of the saints—you and I. We can ask God to increase the current on the person hung up in the rocks. Who knows, maybe their kayak will tip over, masquerading as a calamity, but ultimately getting them unstuck. We can pray for the person resisting God, that they would let go of their pride and trust. What a blessing God has given us to be co-laborers in saving the world!
Pastor Kara, you can come up at this time. Church, as we take a look at these candles and these prayer cards, we are taking a look at real situations that are deeply important to us. Some prayers were heard, some not, some answered “yes”, some “not yet” And I don’t know where you are at today with trusting the river’s current—God’s will—in the midst of that, but we are about to sing the beautiful hymn “It is Well” and this would be the perfect time to let go of your frustrations with the will of God, to shove off from your hang-up and let Him take you on a beautiful trip toward His glory and divine purposes.
If you align yourself with Him, you can have peace no matter the answer.