Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prayer Does It Make A Difference? - Session 14 - Prayer And Me



2017 is the year of Prayer at CDG.  The Sunday morning Adult Bible Study Group after a series titled "Prayer Begins With Relationship now looks at the question Prayer Does It Make Any Difference?  We are using a book by the same title written by Philip Yancey.   In his book Philip explores the intimate place where God and humans meet in Prayer. Polls reveal that 90 percent of people pray. Yet prayer, which should be the most nourishing and uplifting time of the believer’s day, can also be frustrating, confusing, and fraught with mystery. Writing as a fellow pilgrim, Yancey probes such questions as: •Is God listening? •Why should God care about me? •If God knows everything, what’s the point of prayer? •Why do answers to prayer seem so inconsistent? •Why does God sometimes seem close and sometimes seem far away? •How can I make prayer more satisfying? Yancey tackles the tough questions and in the process comes up with a fresh new approach to this timeless topic. “I have learned to pray as a privilege, not a duty,” he says, and he invites you to join him on this all-important journey.   These are my notes for the study.   The audio of the study is at the end of the notes.

Always Pray In Faith    For a copy of the book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference click or touch this LINK or the picture at the end of the notes.

Last week we talked about the The Practice of Prayer.  Not practice like a rehearsal, but the act of praying.  There is no specific place for prayer.  When Jesus said

Matthew 6:5-6 (NLT)5  “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.6  But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

I don’t think that Jesus was talking about a literal closet but a place where it was just you and God.  It could be a literal closet, or a place in your home where it is quiet with no major distractions from outside you, But it doesn’t have to be a literal place if you are able to “create space in which God can act.”  Philip calls it a God-space to prevent our lives from filling up with other things.  Paul talks about being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:15-20 (NLT)15  So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.17  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.18  Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19  singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.20  And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  
The Greek word for filled used here means "Keep on being filled with the Spirit."
If we can create that God-space we can hear God better.  We’ve talked about Him sometimes, in fact quite often speaking in that still, small voice.  When we are able to create that God-space, memories, scripture, urges to pray for specific, or specific situations will often happen.  Sometimes when we are praying and we can’t think of anything to say then as the scripture says the Spirit speaks for us

Then we talked about prayer being a type of therapy

It helps us to get away from all the stuff that’s going on in our lives and in the world.  All the crime, hate, constant pressure to buy this, go here, do that.  When in our time with God especially  when we read and study the scriptures we learn what God’s like, and if we keep being filled with the Spirit we start becoming more like Him.  We start letting the fruit of the Spirit develop in us.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

We talked about therapeutic value to prayer coming as an outgrowth, not the goal of prayer.  When you spend time with God it’s like the example that Jesus gave the disciples of the vine and the branches.  
John 15:5-8 (NLT)5  “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.6  Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.7  But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8  When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
If you stay attached to the vine the fruit will grow, so it’s our job to stay attached and abide.
When we create that God-space and we are able to sit, or kneel, or stand, or lay down, however we create that God-space we may have a very real supernatural experience.  I’ve told you about the time that I heard an audible voice and that it has only happened once.  There’s the account it our book on page 288 of a person’s supernatural experience of speaking in tongues and it was the first and last times that he was able to do it although he had prayed to speak in tongues.  The point is that we shouldn’t look for a supernatural revelation of God everytime that we create our God-space, but to thank Him when it does happen if it only happens once.  Also let me say that if it has never happened to you it has nothing to do with your salvation.  The Holy Spirit dwells in you and is always guiding and urging you and that in itself in supernatural.  I’m talking about an outward manifestation that you can see or feel.  

Fear

We often pray out of fear,  because we are afraid of the unknown.  We are afraid because we have no control.

Fear is:
  • an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
  • be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.

Fear is not always bad when it causes us to be careful in dangerous situations,but yhe antidote for fear is trust.

We should certainly not be afraid of God that He is going to smack us down when we sin.  God is, as Philip says not “a stern, judgmental cosmic Enforcer”.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  

1 John 4:18 (NKJV)  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

I wrote a blog on fear which says that the “fear not” is a command.  
Doubt and fear usually go hand in hand.  When we recognize doubt and fear, it’s a signal to ask ourselves if we are failing to trust God.  Are we failing to truly love Him, are we failing to allow His love to be made perfect in our lives?

With perfect love we don’t have to doubt or fear the past, present, or future. Perfect love causes us to have boldness. It is the love which God, who is love, has produced in us through the Holy Spirit.  That boldness comes about because we know that we can approach God’s presence boldly, without any shame.
Hebrews 4:14-16 (HCSB)14  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession.15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.16  Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.
When we approach the throne of God in prayer, there is mercy and strength to help us because He through Christ, our high priest, meets all our needs. This help is instantly available to every believer who can come, at any time, and  "call upon the name of the Lord."
Because we’re bold, then we aren’t fearful because we trust and love God perfectly so we can say with confidence;
Romans 8:28 (HCSB)28  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
We serve an incredible, amazing, and powerful God...a God who cares so much that He walks with us every second of the day. He does not sleep and He never takes a break.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (HCSB)6  Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Faith and fear cannot exist together
When we find ourselves giving in to doubt and fear, and our trust and love of God starts to get shaky we need to check our faith.  I’m not talking about saving faith, but our daily living faith. Our saving faith is constant, but our daily living faith has it’s ups and downs according to our to the strength of our relationship with God. When we are not spending time with Him in prayer and His Word, when the first sign of trouble comes the first reaction is panic, doubt and fear.  Fear and doubt are simply unbelief or weak belief and the longer it lingers the more fear and doubt take over our emotions.
 How Do We Defeat Doubt with Our Faith?
You may think “I don’t want to be afraid or doubt but there are times I just can’t help it”.
Mark 9:23-24 (HCSB)23  Then Jesus said to him, “‘If You can’? Everything is possible to the one who believes.”24  Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”
How do we believe God and live by faith?
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)17  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The answer is the Word of God.   We need to study it and meditate on it like our lives depend on it, and they do.
Psalm 32:8 (HCSB)8  I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel.
Believe God’s promises and  don't look at the circumstance. Let your faith build cancelling out all doubt. Praise God and be fully convinced that God will do what He said that He would do.
Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

In the end we should transfer our fears to God.  

Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Prayer can help us overcome fear.  Prayer causes us to see everything from God’s view and not ours.  Our faith in a good loving God overcomes all circumstances and can eliminate fear.  

Anxiety

On page 293 Philip introduces a term that I had never heard or seen before, Spiritua vertiginis which is something like vertigo, a sinking feeling, caused by anxiety.  Here’s Paul’s solution to it

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)6  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,7  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Jesus’ solution was to create a God-space and pray.  

Matthew 14:22-23 (NKJV)22  Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.23  And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

Luke 6:12-16 (NKJV)12  Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.13  And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:14  Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew;15  Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot;16  Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.

Mark 1:35 (NKJV)  Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

Matthew 26:36-46 (NKJV)36  Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there."37  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38  Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."39  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."40  Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?41  Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."42  Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."43  And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.44  So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.45  Then He came to His disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.46  Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand."

Prayer is the way to transfer your anxiety to God.

When we are anxious or worried we feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders.  It happens a lot when we refuse to say no to everything that we see needs to be done or others ask us to help them.  Sometimes we take on too much.  When it comes to the church, or things of God.   I’m guilty of this sometimes, but I’m praying to get better.  We feel like we have to do it or it won’t get done.  Well I have news for you if you don’t do it and it's God’s will it will get done.  So when you have a full plate and you get tempted to add more pray about it.  The revelation of Carlo Caretto that starts on page 294 was that the world wasn’t on his shoulders but the “weight of the world was all on Christ Crucified”.  

Philip goes on to say that “Prayer offers a time to set aside that list of concerns - or rather to present them to God - to relax, to let the mind roam freely, to drink deeply, to insert a pause in the day, to trust”.  
In another section of this chapter, Stopping Time”, starting on page 297 Philip talks about a surgeon, Anthony Bloom, who after his conversion to Christianity, and many years as a surgeon, became a priest.  He describes in his book “Beginning to Pray” , about a technique that he used for creating his God-space.  He calls “stopping time”.  Here is what he says on page 299. “The practice of stopping time gradually transformed Bloom’s life with God.  He concentrated on living in the present, recognizing that the past is irremediably gone and the future is irrelevant, because who knows whether it will happen or not.  

He started by just stopping everything that he was doing for short periods of time during the day.  One minute, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes.  He just shut out everything. Just a short time of quietness.   It could be in prayer or just being quiet.  The first thing that he noticed, and we should take note of this ourselves, the world didn’t stop.  His medical practice didn’t fall apart.  For us whatever it is that is waiting to be done will wait.  After these quiet times he was more efficient when he went back to the tasks at hand.

He began to realize that each moment, each second, was a gift from God, something that had never existed before.  If you start the day creating a God-space, it’s a chance for a new start.  This is my second favorite scripture

Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)  This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
When we hear to pray without ceasing we think of lots of things.  I’ve talked about it a lot and have even written about it but the comment on page 299 sums is up “Prayer is a state as much as an act…”.

Impatience

We live in a microwave society.  We want everything right now.  Products and services are marketed in a way that say if you don’t get or buy right now you are going to miss out and you won’t get that job, that man or woman, you will be looked at as a loser so you must get it now.  
We are impatient and so are our prayers.  We want God to act now.  Yes David said that same thing in many Psalms but what we forget is that when we read the entire Psalm David praises God because he knows that God is good.  

Psalm 13:1-6 (NKJV)1  How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?2  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?3  Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;4  Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed against him"; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.5  But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.6  I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 70:1-5 (NKJV)1  Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O LORD!
2  Let them be ashamed and confounded Who seek my life; Let them be turned back and confused Who desire my hurt.3  Let them be turned back because of their shame, Who say, "Aha, aha!"4  Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, "Let God be magnified!"5  But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.

Impatience is a sign of selfishness.  We want God to do it our way not His.  Philip says on page 296 that we want to get God to help us accomplish your ends and we are not concerned that we are not the only person in the world.  We are not an only child.  His solution for impatience in prayer is to keep praying.  Be persistent.  We’ve talked about that.  He mentions a Jean Nicolas Grou, who he describes as a mystic, so I did some research and found that he was really a Jesuit priest.  Grou said that healthy prayer should be humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering - in other words, the exact opposite of impatient.  

Sometimes we just have to wait.  We don’t want to but we have to.   On page 297 Philip gives us some biblical examples of people we consider super saints, who had to wait. “Abraham and Sarah waiting for just one child, Jacob waiting seven years for a wife and then seven more years after being tricked by his uncle.   The Israelites waiting four centuries for deliverance, and Moses waiting four decades for the call to lead them, then four more decades for a Promised Land he would not enter.  David waiting in caves for his promised coronation.  Prophets waiting for the fulfillment of their own strange predictions.  Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna, Simeon waiting like most Jews for a Messiah.  The disciples waiting impatiently for Jesus to act like the power-Messiah they longed for.”  

 Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40 (NKJV)13  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.14  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.15  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.16  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. 39  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,40  God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

If we need to we should also pray for patience

Psalm 130:5-6 (NKJV)5  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.
6  My soul waits for the Lord More than those who watch for the morning-- Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

Psalm 119:82-84 (NKJV)82  My eyes fail from searching Your word, Saying, "When will You comfort me?"83  For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, Yet I do not forget Your statutes.
84  How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?

We need patience to endure, to keep looking for God’s answer.  We need to keep hope alive and to keep believing.  We need to pray for the patience to be patient.  

This week it was prayer and me next week it will be prayer and others.

Let’s end with this comment from page 300.  “When I sense that my activity means something and has worth, and so move faster and faster trying to accomplish more and more, at that moment I give in to pride and a feeling that all depends on me.  What a foolish thought.  My heart could stop beating within the hour, my brain could fail from an aneurysm.  The present moment itself is a gift from God - I would live more realistically, and at the same time accomplish far more, if I allowed that fundamental truth to pervade my day.  


Bible Study Audio





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