Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Be Specific And Persistent In Prayer

My Notes for Tuesday night Bible Study at CDG.  Jesus was both specific and persistent in prayer.  The audio of the Study is included.

In our last Tuesday night Bible Study Pastor taught us to be specific when we pray.

The specific type of prayer that pastor talked about was a prayer of supplication, which a prayer in which we make a request of God. I want to follow up on that topic tonight.

There are several types of prayer and I suspect that sometime during the year we’ll be talking about all of these types.

  • The prayer of faith
  • The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer)
  • The prayer of thanksgiving
  • The prayer of worship The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. 
  • The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. 
  • The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them.
  • The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing.

But I’m going to talk about specific prayers of supplication.

When Jesus taught his followers to pray, he could have said to pray, “bless us” or “help us.” But he didn’t. He said,

Matthew 6:11-13 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread.

To his first followers, bread was central to life. It was a staple. A necessity. So Jesus said, “Pray for bread.” Praying for specific things has several advantages:

Luke 18:35-43 (NLT)35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road.36 When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening.37 They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by.38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him,41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!”42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.

In the scripture we just read the blind man Bartimaeus (this same incident is in Mark 10:46-52 that’s how we know the blind man’s name) was asking for mercy. That’s great and important, but general. Jesus could have had somebody give him some money, or food or any number of things which would have been acts of mercy. However Jesus asked him what he wanted specifically. He asked him “what do you want me to do for you”. Then Bartimaeus got specific. “I want to see”

When we get specific we get all the other clutter out so that we can spell out and spill out what it is we really want to ask.

On the prayerline Minister Brenda always wants us to be very specific in our prayer requests. That way we can be looking for specific answers and our praise reports will mean a lot more.

Now I want to talk about a specific prayer request that Jesus made to God the Father, but first I want us to go to the Old Testament.

Numbers 6:22-27 (NKJV)22 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:24 "The LORD bless you and keep you;25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." '27 "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

This is the blessing that God told Moses to tell Aaron and His sons to say over the nation of Israel. He told them this after they had completed construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. We hear this blessing today in many of churches as the Benediction at the end of services.

This blessing made it clear that the people would receive God’s blessings not because of anything that they did but only because of His grace. It provided a picture of God’s goodness. He promised to bless and keep his people. He would make his face shine on them, which would give them an intimate sense of the presence of his glory.

Though He called it and we call it a blessing it is really a priestly prayer for the people, that God would smile upon the people in love, in other words bless them with peace with himself and with one another.

The reason that I wanted us to read that priestly prayer, is that it’s similar to a prayer that Jesus, our great high priest, prayed before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We are going to be going yo the book of John. Is chapters 13 through 16 he talked to the disciples about what was going to happen to Him and assured them that He would not leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit. Then He prayed. The entire 17th chapter of John is Jesus’ prayer and it is very specific.

He first prayed for himself

John 17:1-5 (NKJV)1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.5 And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Jesus makes only one request for himself—that the Father would glorify him, so that he might glorify the Father.

The time had finally come for Him to complete His assignment, which was to bring salvation to mankind. Christ did not seek some honor here for his own sake. His glorification through death, resurrection, and exaltation, would be to glorify the Father.

He had finished what He was sent to do which was to reveal the Father, to expose sin, choose and train those who would follow after Him and most of all the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world. Now that He was finishing the work Jesus asked the Father to return the glory that He had in heaven as it had been from the very beginning.

John 1:1-5 (NKJV)1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NKJV)5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

A specific request to glorify Him so that the Father would be glorified.

Then he asked the Father to protect his disciples.

John 17:6-12 (NKJV)6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.7 Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.8 For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

A large part of the work of the Son on the earth had been to make the Father known to the disciples. The success of this process is implied in the fact that these men were God's gift to the Son. Their understanding was not perfect, but it was sure and growing. That understanding would continue to grow when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them. When He said “They have kept thy word is not so much a reference to their obedience to individual commands or teachings, but to their eagerness to receive the Son, his message and mission. This was also going to get better after the Holy Spirit came.

Jesus had shown to them what God is really like. And they believed in Jesus. So they belonged to God.

Jesus prays that His disciples will be kept in God’s name. In ancient times a “name” represented one’s character or reputation. This has some carry-over into modern culture. Perhaps your father or mother used to admonish you to do nothing that would bring dishonor to the family name. Your parent’s concern was that your activities not detract from the family reputation. Likewise, God has entrusted His reputation to Christ, who revealed it to the disciples. Now Jesus prays that the disciples may be kept true to that revelation. The purpose of this prayer is that the disciples might share a unity of spirit modeled after the unity shared by the Father and the Son.

John 17:13-19 (NLT)13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do.17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

Christ identified these men with him and set them apart from the world, which rejected and hated him and therefore had the same attitude toward them.

It is interesting to note that Jesus doesn’t pray that disciples be exempted from evil. The goal is not isolation, but insulation.

Jesus prays for all believers

John 17:20-26 (NLT)20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me.26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples told many people about him. They spoke in public about salvation.

Acts 2:1-6 (NLT)1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

They used Jesus’ name to do miracles. 

Acts 3:2-8 (NLT)2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple.3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!”5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money.6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened.8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.

Later, the authors of the Gospels recorded Jesus’ words and acts. The church has continued to grow during the last 2000 years. Christians have continued to teach each other about Jesus. People have translated the Bible into many different languages. We know about Jesus because of all this.

The prayer reaches out to include those who will believe because of the testimony of the disciples.

He prayed that believers experience the peace found in the perfect unity of the Godhead and to reflect this peace in oneness with those whom God came to save, that’s us.

Again very specific. This prayer would come to pass in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as the great high priest and perfect Lamb of God.

We are not only to be specific but also persistent.

We know that God is Omniscient, and that He knows what we need before we ask, but we are still told to ask and to be persistent in our asking.

Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Jesus, Himself, gives us an example of persistence in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-44 (NLT)
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.

Jesus also talks about persistence in prayer when He told the parable of the widow and the evil judge.

Luke 18:1-8 (NLT)1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

There are other places in scripture where we are told to be persistent:

Romans 12:12 (NLT) Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Philippians 4:6 (NLT) 
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

While we are to pray specifically and persistently be careful that your specific persistent prayer becomes a demand because we can’t make demands on God. While we can make requests of God in prayer, we can’t make demands. God is the Creator of the universe and does not take orders from us.

I often talk about prayer being communication between friends, and it is, but it’s not communication between equals.

Heavenly Father, thank you for smiling on me. Thank you for putting a peace in my heart, a peace I can’t even understand. Help me to reflect your peace to the world around me. Amen.

Bible Study Audio