Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Perfect Intercession

Tuesday Night Bible Study at CDG. Moses intercedes for Israel, and Jesus intercedes for us.

Last week Mikey talked about Moses’ prayer of intercession for Pharaoh and for the Israelite's after they made the golden calf.  I want to talk about the intercession for the Israelite's a little bit more tonight.   

Remember that to intercede is to intervene on behalf of another.  Intercessory prayer has been defined as prayer that pleads with God for your needs and the needs of others. But it is also much more than that. Intercession involves taking hold of God's will and refusing to let go until His will comes to pass.

Exodus 32:9-10 (NLT)9  Then the LORD said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.10  Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.”

Moses interceded before God on behalf of the people in a priestly prayer, asking him to relent from destroying the nation based on three factors.

  1. That He (God) had delivered the people Himself.
  2. Pharaoh  would learn of the destruction of the nation and believe that Egypt had, in fact, been victorious.
  3. He had made a covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

Exodus 32:11 (NLT)11  But Moses tried to pacify the LORD his God. “O LORD!” he said. “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand?  

God had just delivered the nation of Israel from Egypt, and Moses pleaded that he could not abandon them now.

Second, Pharaoh would learn of the destruction of the nation and believe that Egypt had, in fact, been victorious and that God’s plan was to bring them out of Egypt in order to kill them.

Exodus 32:12 (NLT)12  Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!

Third, God had promised to uphold his covenant to his people, and he could not turn back on his promises.

Exodus 32:13-14 (NLT)13  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”14  So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.

In Deuteronomy before entering the Promised Land Moses reminds the children of those who died during the years of wandering, that after Israel sinned against God by making a golden calf that God was going to destroy them and start all over with him.   He also reminded them of why they had to wander around for 40 years.  

He pleaded with God to remember his promises to the patriarchs and overlook the people’s sin. He also argued that by destroying the people of God’s own inheritance, God’s saving power and the authenticity of God’s love for his treasured possession would be called into question.

Deuteronomy 9:22-29 (NLT)22  “You also made the LORD angry at Taberah, Massah, and Kibroth-hattaavah.23  And at Kadesh-barnea the LORD sent you out with this command: ‘Go up and take over the land I have given you.’ But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God and refused to put your trust in him or obey him.24  Yes, you have been rebelling against the LORD as long as I have known you.25  “That is why I threw myself down before the LORD for forty days and nights—for the LORD said he would destroy you.26  I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, do not destroy them. They are your own people. They are your special possession, whom you redeemed from Egypt by your mighty power and your strong hand.27  Please overlook the stubbornness and the awful sin of these people, and remember instead your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.28  If you destroy these people, the Egyptians will say, “The Israelites died because the LORD wasn’t able to bring them to the land he had promised to give them.” Or they might say, “He destroyed them because he hated them; he deliberately took them into the wilderness to slaughter them.”29  But they are your people and your special possession, whom you brought out of Egypt by your great strength and powerful arm.’  

What’s the point of talking about Moses interceding for the Israelites again?  The Israelites were God’s people and Moses prayer for them was a priestly prayer for the people.  We have a Great High Priest too and His name is Jesus.   

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)14  So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.15  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
16  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  

Go to the 17th Chapter of John.  In John 17 Jesus intercedes for his disciples and those who come after them.  That’s us.  The entire 17th Chapter of John is Jesus prayer.

He prays for Himself in the first 5 verses

John 17:1-5 (NLT)1  After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.2  For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.3  And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.4  I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.5  Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
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.  The reason He had come 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 did everything that God asked him to do. His life, death and resurrection all brought glory to God.
John 12:49-50 (NLT)49  I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.50  And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
This glorification of the Father includes in it the elevation of the Son to glory and power, where he is head over all things including the authority to give  eternal life, on the basis of Christ's finished work (on the Cross). The beneficiaries are described as those whom the Father has given to the Son, the disciples. (and by extension us) - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
In His prayer Jesus asked God to give to him again the glory that they had shared in heaven.  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 1:1-2 (NLT)1  In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.2  He existed in the beginning with God.
Now we know that happened.
Acts 7:54-56 (NLT)54  The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.55  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.56  And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
After interceding for Himself, Jesus prays for the disciples

John 17:6-12 (NLT)6  “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7  Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you,8  for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.9  “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.10  All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.11  Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.12  During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.  

Jesus viewed the disciples as those whom God had given to Him out of the world.  Since the Father had given them to Him He is asking God will protect them.  

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.

Jesus wants His disciples to experience full joy once He leaves.  When He refers to His “word”.   He is talking about His gospel which is the Good News about salvation through Him, in addition to the scriptures.

The reception of the word 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.

People rejected Jesus. They refused to believe in him. Many of them especially the leaders  hated him. So they also hated everyone who followed him.  

John 15:18-25 (NLT)18  “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.19  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.20  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.21  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.22  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.23  Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.24  If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.25  This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’

People still reject Jesus many people hate him.   Therefore, they will hate us, just because we follow Jesus.

Yet, it is interesting to note that Jesus doesn’t pray that disciples be exempted from evil. That prayer will not be answered until we receive glorified bodies and are in heaven.

The goal is not isolation, but insulation.

Next Jesus intercedes for us.  

Jesus had said before that He had sheep, others that He wanted to save, who were not Jews.

John 10:16 (NLT)16  I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

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

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. The good news about Jesus spread quickly.
Acts 2:37-41 (NLT)37  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”38  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39  This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40  Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”41  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  

The church has continued to grow during the last more than 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 the disciples that Jesus interceded for.  

When Jesus prayed for us the first thing he asked was that we have the same kind of relationship with each other that He and the Father have, and that we have that same relationship with Him.  

John 17:21 (NLT)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.

John 13:35 (NLT)35  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Just as Moses interceded on behalf of Israel, so also Jesus Christ intercedes on behalf of believers who approach God through him. The salvation Jesus offers through the new covenant is a complete salvation that endures for all time and extends to all of life. Those who place their faith in the finished work of Jesus are saved by virtue of his sinless life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.
Romans 6:23 (NLT)23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 1:7 (NLT)7  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

Romans 5:9 (NLT)9  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.

Romans 4:25 (NLT)25  He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Jesus, I know I could have begged for God’s mercy and it wouldn’t have made any difference without your gift of the cross. Thank you for interceding on my behalf, so that I could receive God’s beautiful mercy.  Jesus, it is so humbling to think that as you faced crucifixion, you made time to pray for me. Thank you for interceding on my behalf. Amen.

Bible Study Audio

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Prayer Does It Make Any Difference? - Introduction

The Sunday morning Adult Bible Study Group after a series titled "Prayer Begins With Relationship now looks at the question Prayer Does It Make A 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.   To purchase a copy of the book click on the picture at the end of the notes.   The audio recording of the study in included with these notes. 

This study is based on a book by the same title as this study Prayer:  Does It Make A Difference? The book was written by  Philip Yancey.    

Here is some information about him that may explain some of his thoughts and observations in the book.  

Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist church in the southern USA, a young Philip Yancey tended to view God as “a scowling Supercop, searching for anyone who might be having a good time—in order to squash them.” Yancey jokes today about being “in recovery” from a toxic church. “Of course, there were good qualities too. If a neighbor’s house burned down, the congregation would rally around and show charity—if, that is, the house belonged to a white person. I grew up confused by the contradictions. We heard about love and grace, but I didn’t experience much. And we were taught that God answers prayers, miraculously, but my father died of polio just after my first birthday, despite many prayers for his healing.”

Ever since, Yancey has explored the most basic questions and deepest mysteries of the Christian faith, taking millions of readers with him. Early on he crafted best-selling books such as Disappointment with God and Where is God When it Hurts?  He has felt the freedom to explore central issues of the Christian faith, penning award-winning titles such as The Jesus I Never Knew, What’s So Amazing About Grace? and Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? His books have garnered 13 Gold Medallion Awards from Christian publishers and booksellers. He currently has more than 15 million books in print, published in 35 languages worldwide.

Yancey worked as a journalist in Chicago for some twenty years, editing the youth magazine Campus Life while also writing for a wide variety of magazines including Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, National Wildlife, and Christianity Today. In the process he interviewed diverse people enriched by their personal faith, such as President Jimmy Carter, Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, and Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement.

“I write books for myself,” he says. “I’m a pilgrim, recovering from a bad church upbringing, searching for a faith that makes its followers larger and not smaller. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I can make a living writing about the questions that most interest me. My books are a process of exploration and investigation of things I wonder about and worry about.” Yancey writes with an eye for detail, irony, and honest skepticism.

In the book he starts with “Keeping Company with God”  Which was the title of  our session last week “Keeping Company with God  or Pray Without Ceasing”.

Philip starts with a view of man as compared to the greatness of God.   He starts by looking at man’s deepest longing which is a relationship with someone or something outside of us that gives some reason for existence.    There is story of a person after receiving their Phd.  asking “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?”  The story goes that Albert Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer.  Somebody must find out about prayer”  

He goes on to describe a time when he was in St. Petersburg Russia to lecture, when he was out jogging early one morning.  There was a lot of construction going on because the city was getting ready to celebrate its 300th birthday.  To cut the story short he fell and hurt himself pretty badly.  He had heard stories about how bad the medical care in Russia was so he decided to go back to his hotel and he and his wife used the vodka in the minibar to pour over his cuts and bruises, took some aspirin and went to sleep.  After resting a while he went to an Internet cafe  and tried figure out how to use the keyboard.  It took him about 10 minutes but finally got to an AOL screen in English ( so you know this was a few years ago)..   The wireless network kept cutting on and off and each time he had to find the AOL screen again and retype the message to friends back in the US.  The massage gave a few background details then he wrote “We need help.  Please pray.”   Then he pressed “Send”.  

He knew that his friends and family would, when they turned on their computers, would read his message and pray on his behalf.  He asks, “is this how prayer works?” We send signals from a visible world to an invisible one, in hope that Someone receives them, and how will we know?  We ate going to search for the answer to that question in this study.  

Christians are not the only ones who pray.  Every faith has some form of prayer.  Remote tribes in Africa and Asia bring offerings and then pray for things like health, food, rain, children, and victory in battles.  The Incas and Aztecs offered human sacrifices to attract the god’s attention.  Five times a day Muslims stop what they are doing to pray.  Even atheists find ways to pray.  Here is something that I didn’t know.  During the early days of Communism in Russia the Communist Party leadership had a “red corner” where they put a portrait of Lenin where Christians used to keep their statues and pictures.  The newspaper, Pravda, give its readers this advice in 1950 “If you meet with difficulties in your work, or suddenly doubt your abilities, think of him -- of Stalin -- and you will find the confidence you need.  If you feel tired in an hour when you should not, think of him -- of Stalin-- and your work will go well.  If you are seeking a correct decision, think of him -- Stalin -- and you will find that decision

People pray because we want to thank someone or something
for the beauties and glories of life.

Psalm 138:1-8 (NLT)1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods.2  I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.3  As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.4  Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD, for all of them will hear your words.5  Yes, they will sing about the LORD’s ways, for the glory of the LORD is very great.6  Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.7  Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me.8  The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

We pray for forgiveness:

Psalm 51:1-19 (NLT)1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.2  Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.3  For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.4  Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.5  For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.6  But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.7  Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.8  Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice.9  Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.10  Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.11  Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.13  Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.14  Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.15  Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.16  You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.17  The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.18  Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.19  Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

People in AA pray daily to a Higher Power asking for help in controlling and delivering them from their addictions.    People pray because we can’t help it.  We may not have a specific time that we pray or even think that we are praying sometimes.  

The word prayer comes from the Latin root precarius meaning that we often pray out of desperation.  Prayer is universal.  Thomas Merton said “Prayer is an expression of who we are… We are a living incompleteness.  We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment”

According to Gallup polls, more Americans will pray this week than will exercise, drive a car, have sex, or go to work.  Nine in ten of us pray regularly, and three out of four claim to pray every day.  

Here is what Philip found when he started to take a look at Christian prayer.  In his research he found people who spent hours every day praying.  Granted these people were folk who founded orphanages, or were great evangelists, or people like Martin Luther.  

Then he interviewed ordinary people like you and me and here’s what he found were the typical answers to the following questions.   

Question - Is prayer important to you?  Oh, yes
Question  -  How often do you pray?  Every Day
Question - Approximately how long? - Five minutes, maybe seven
Question - Do you find prayer satisfying? Not Really
Question - Do you sense the presence of God when you pray? Occasionally, not often.  

Most of the people experienced prayer more as a burden not a pleasure.  They said that it was important, and felt guilty about their feelings of it being more a burden than anythings else.  

When he listened to public prayers in many churches especially those which identify themselves as evangelical, or conservative.  Like the ones you quite often see on Christian TV, he heard people telling God what to do, and hints on how others should act.  In other churches, more liberal ones, he heard calls to action as if the prayer was something to get past so that the people could do the real work of God’ kingdom.  We can get so caught us in doing the Lord’s work that we forget or don’t have the time to pray.

Philip found that there is a gap between the theory of prayer and the practice of prayer.  In his words;  “In theory prayer is the essential human act, a priceless point of contact with the God of the universe.  In practice prayer is often confusing and frustrating”.  His publisher did an unscientific poll on his website and from the 678 people who responded only 23 felt satisfied with the time that they were spending in prayer.  Not necessarily the length of time but the time period.

He thinks, and I agree that science and technology contribute to our confusion about prayer.   It use to be that farmers looked to heaven and prayed for rain.  Today we look at the local weather or the Weather Channel, dig irrigation canals, and seed clouds.  When a child or someone got sick we prayed, now we call for an ambulance or the doctor.  There are other things that cause people to be skeptical about prayer and cause doubt.  Like why does God let all the things go on in the world that cause pain and suffering.  

We often look to the scripture in Peter;

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)9  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)
6  So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

We look at Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)6  So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

But does that really help?   What good will prayer do against terrorism, and natural disasters?   These are all questions that both Christians and non-Christians ask.  We sometimes say that natural disasters are God’s punishment for something, but that doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t believe that God would punish the righteous along with the unrighteous.  Example the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when God did intervene personally but spared Lot and his family.   

Prosperity can dilute prayer.  Philip who travels throughout the world found that Christians in developing countries spend more time actually praying than discussing, like us, the effectiveness of prayer.  The wealthy, even Christians, rely on talent and resources to solve immediate problems, insurance policies and retirement plans can secure the future.  We can hardly pray with sincerity, “Give us this day our daily bread” when we have plenty of food for the next several days or weeks.   We have less and less time for conversation let alone time for contemplation or listening.  

To the skeptic prayer is a delusion, talking to somebody that you can’t see or who can respond.  To the believer prayer represents the most important use of time.  That’s what I believe and I hope that you believe.  So why is it so problematic?  The British pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote this “Of all the activities in which the Christian engages, and which are part of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much perplexity, and raises so many problems, as the activity which we call prayer”.

Gerald C. May, a psychiatrist wrote, “After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God.  Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure”    Prayer is the way for us to fulfill that deepest longing.

Prayer is a privilege, not a duty.  It requires discipline, but as we learned in our last study, it starts with a relationship between two friends.  Prayer includes times of ecstasy and times of dullness, times of mindless distraction and complete concentration, times of joy and times of irritation.  
Prayer is the place where the two themes of Christian life come together.  Those themes are; why God doesn’t act the way we want Him to, and why I don’t act the way that God wants me to.

We Need To Look At Prayer From God's Perspective Not Man's Perspective

As we really begin to get into answering the question does prayer make a difference we have to start from the right perspective.  We must realize how small we are and how big God is. How short our time of existence compared to Hodgson eternity.   

Psalm 90:2 (NLT)2  Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.  

2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)8  But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.

Psalm 39:4 (NLT)4  “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.

Here is an example of how big God is compared to us that Philip uses;  “If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup.  That’s the size of our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy.  Now consider that there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe.  It would take 15 billion years to send a lightspeed message (100,000 miles per hour) to the edge of the universe.  

Psalm 8:1-9 (NLT)1 O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.2  You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.3  When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place—4  what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?5  Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.6  You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority—7  the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals,8  the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.9  O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!  

If I look at prayer in that light I will stop thinking of ways in which God should serve me but I will look for ways to serve Him.  

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