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How to Pray within Depression (Part 10 of a Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of September 17, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

 

Job 7:1-21

Isnt each person consigned to forced labor on earth?

Are not his days like those of a hired worker?

Like a slave he longs for shade;

like a hired worker he waits for his pay.

So I have been made to inherit months of futility,

and troubled nights have been assigned to me.

When I lie down I think,

When will I get up?

But the evening drags on endlessly,

and I toss and turn until dawn.

My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt.

My skin forms scabs and then oozes.

My days pass more swiftly than a weavers shuttle;

they come to an end without hope.

Remember that my life is but a breath.

My eye will never again see anything good.

The eye of anyone who looks on me

will no longer see me.

Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.

As a cloud fades away and vanishes,

so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.

He will never return to his house;

his hometown will no longer remember him.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Am I the sea or a sea monster,

that you keep me under guard?

When I say, My bed will comfort me,

and my couch will ease my complaint,

then you frighten me with dreams,

and terrify me with visions,

so that I prefer strangling

death rather than life in this body.

I give up! I will not live forever.

Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.

What is a mere human, that you think so highly of him

and pay so much attention to him?

You inspect him every morning,

and put him to the test every moment.

Will you ever look away from me,

or leave me alone long enough to swallow?

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,

Watcher of humanity?

Why have you made me your target,

so that I have become a burden to you?

Why not forgive my sin

and pardon my iniquity?

For soon I will lie down in the grave.

You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

The book of Job is an autobiography of Job’s life.  It is a personal account of his life when he faced hardship and adversity.  He faced such adversity that none of us would be prepared to face.  He lost his seven sons and three daughters and suffered a severe financial crisis.  His wife, after these losses, was bitter and angry, as well.

As much as some would like to believe that life here today is prosperous, it is not the best life you can experience.  What we experience here today is rooted in a fallen world.

Some day, we may face hardship and difficulty.  Finances, marriage, and even the death of a child.  That is what Job experienced all at once.

Tragedy can hit someone, and it can strike to the core.  It is important to understand that it is OK to feel embittered.  Those emotions, however, are not to dictate how we respond or act.  Job is the example of this:

Job never cursed God.  He was bitter and in great anguish.  He had suffered great loss.  He felt that he was an innocent man that was suffering for no reason.  He was indeed angry with Him, and wanted answers from Him as to what was going on.

Depression and Despair (Job 7:1-16)

When we review these verses, I want to you see and hear Job’s heart.

Job’s suffering had continued throughout those days because of life in a fallen, sin-cursed world.  After the fall of man, that is when suffering started.  Having to work is the result of being in a fallen world.

Job also notes that he has chronic pain (v. 5).  Pain, in itself, is suffering.  In addition to his stress, his physical pain attributed to his depression.  In Job 2:8, he was scraping the scabs off of himself with a piece of broken pottery.  He may have contemplated suicide.  He had cursed the day that he was born because he was in such distress.

The emotions here are a lesson for us.  How you come through the suffering is important.  You are not to respond with bitterness or anger, but look to Jesus Christ for comfort in the midst of your depression.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to understand that He is the one who guides you through your depression.  He does not want you to consider suicide as an option.  It is by God’s grace that you can pull through

The Heart of God (Job 1:17-19)

God’s heart is set upon you in spite of how you are feeling.  God does not look away from us even though you may want him to do so (as Job did).  God allowed Job to face the crises as He knew how he would respond.

It is difficult for us to understand how God allows this type of suffering to take place in our lives.  We don’t see the total picture–we only see what is right in front of us.  The best way to address this is to look at the person of Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 2:16-18

For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abrahams offspring.  Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Christ is the perfect illustration of the One who suffered for no reason.  Do not think, for one moment, that Christ did not experience depression.

Luke 22:39-46

He went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  When he reached the place, he told them, Pray that you may not fall into temptation.  Then he withdrew from them about a stones throw, knelt down, and began to pray, Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from menevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him.  Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.  When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief.  Why are you sleeping? he asked them. Get up and pray, so that you wont fall into temptation.

This was the most depressing moment in that Christ was asking God not to have to suffer.  He was going through a great deal of anxiety as He was facing God’s wrath for our sins, yet He remained obedient to the Father.  The act of Christ’s knowledge that He would suffer on the cross was depressing, and yet he prayed over this to the Father.

In addition to prayer, a person who is suffering with depression should share with others.  If someone is struggling, be sure to get involved with their life out of concern and care.  This is how the church should respond.

Praying Through Depression (Job 7:17-21)

Job wanted God to leave him alone, and God said no.  Job also acknowledged that he was depressed, and was prayerful for a glimmer of hope.

When in a state of depression, it takes fervent prayer and meditation to get through the experience.  God promises His presence in the midst of your struggles.

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Prayers for Wisdom (Part 9 of the Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of August 20, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss what it is to pray for wisdom.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

James was speaking to Jewish Christians who were spread throughout the Roman Empire.  These Christians were experiencing various trials.  It was written sometime between 40-50 A.D.  At that time there was a restriction of travel by Christians to Alexandria by the emperor Claudius in 40 A.D.  Another James, who led the church, was murdered around 44 A.D by King Herod.  There was a famine in Jerusalem around 46 A.D., which caused a severe shortage of food.  These Christians faced political trials, persecution and anxiety.

James was writing to these Christians who faced trials, and there are trials that many believers experience today.  He reminded the believers that they were to look to God in the midst of these and other trials in order to obtain God’s wisdom.

We will look at these four aspects of wisdom:

  • The Invitation of Wisdom
  • The Explanation of Wisdom
  • The Application of Wisdom
  • The Gift of Wisdom

Before James 1:5, the verses that precede it set the tone for the seeking of God’s wisdom:

James 1:2-4

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

James is speaking to new believers who desire to use self-control in the midst of difficulty.  It challenges believers to ask God for wisdom in those areas where one is struggling. We are invited to seek after His wisdom.

The Invitation of Wisdom

Proverbs 2:1-10

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and discover the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He stores up success for the upright;

He is a shield for those who live with integrity

so that he may guard the paths of justice

and protect the way of his faithful followers.

Then you will understand righteousness, justice,

and integrityevery good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will delight you.

 

The Explanation of Wisdom

Wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge.  There are many intellectuals in this world that still lack wisdom.  They may have high IQs and great knowledge, but when it comes down to wisdom, it means that there has to be a rational thought.

We should not be surprised when we hear things that are foolish that come from these intellectuals.  One of the most foolish things that a person can do is to fail to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Wisdom is the by-product of God’s attributes and His laws.  Wisdom reveals the very nature of God, and by seeking after Him, He will reveal it to you.  The personification of wisdom is Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 8:1-21

Doesnt wisdom call out?

Doesnt understanding make her voice heard?

At the heights overlooking the road,

at the crossroads, she takes her stand.

Beside the gates leading into the city,

at the main entrance, she cries out:

People, I call out to you;

my cry is to the children of Adam.

Learn to be shrewd, you who are inexperienced;

develop common sense, you who are foolish.

Listen, for I speak of noble things,

and what my lips say is right.

For my mouth tells the truth,

and wickedness is detestable to my lips.

All the words from my mouth are righteous;

none of them are deceptive or perverse.

All of them are clear to the perceptive,

and right to those who discover knowledge.

Accept my instruction instead of silver,

and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is better than jewels,

and nothing desirable can equal it.

I, wisdom, share a home with shrewdness

and have knowledge and discretion.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil.

I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct,

and perverse speech.

I possess good advice and sound wisdom;

I have understanding and strength.

It is by me that kings reign

and rulers enact just law;

by me, princes lead,

as do nobles and all righteous judges.

I love those who love me,

and those who search for me find me.

With me are riches and honor,

lasting wealth and righteousness.

My fruit is better than solid gold,

and my harvest than pure silver.

I walk in the ways of righteousness,

along the paths of justice,

giving wealth as an inheritance to those who love me,

and filling their treasuries.

 

Note what verse 17 in Proverbs 8 about wisdom:

Proverbs 8:17

I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me.

John 14:21

The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.

 

The Application of Wisdom

How do we apply this wisdom?  It starts with asking God.  It is wise to seek wisdom from those who are following Christ, and not from those who are not following Him.  Applying wisdom is acknowledging the authority that God has in your life.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Dont be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Whenever you choose not to ask for wisdom from God, it shows a lack of fear or reverence for Him.

We apply wisdom about asking God within a situation we are going through, and we seek after His presence.  We are to seek His Word and listen for His voice.

 

The Gift of Wisdom

God will give it to you and not hold anything back.

God grants wisdom without any regret.  He desires to give it to you and to help you understand what is going on.

Wisdom is a gift that helps you and also challenges you to remain faithful through the process.  His wisdom will help you in faith.

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

God desires to give us wisdom.  He desires to give us wisdom in prayer.  Meditate on His Word.  Recite it to yourself within your prayer.  He will answer and give you what you need.


Unanswered Prayer (Part 8 of a Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of July 16, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Prayer is very, very important.  As we continue this series, we will ponder how God answers some prayers and does not answer others.

The reason that many Christians are seeking the Lord is because they are experiencing some sort of affliction.  Some are experiencing cancer, and the diagnosis for recovery is slim.

Seeing those who experience this situation remind us that life is short, and also the reality that God may not answer their prayers for complete healing.  We wrestle with a level of uncertainty in our Christian life, and we can find that many of these prayers may never be answered in our lifetime.

Zechariah 7:13

Just as he had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen, says the Lord of Armies.

Why does God allow prayers to go unanswered while others are indeed answered?

  1. Because of sinfulness
  2. Because of faithlessness
  3. Love of worldly pleasure
  4. The sovereignty of God

Unanswered prayers may be the result of sinfulness. He will not listen to those whose hearts are not truly looking to Him; however, God does hear the prayers of sinners who sincerely turn to Him.  He will hear and acknowledge anyone who desires to have a relationship with Him.

Micah 3:1-4

Then I said, Now listen, leaders of Jacob,

you rulers of the house of Israel.

Arent you supposed to know what is just?

You hate good and love evil.

You tear off peoples skin

and strip their flesh from their bones.

You eat the flesh of my people

after you strip their skin from them

and break their bones.

You chop them up

like flesh for the cooking pot,

like meat in a cauldron.

Then they will cry out to the Lord,

but he will not answer them.

He will hide his face from them at that time

because of the crimes they have committed.

 

Romans 1:24

Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

 

A person who sins is disrupting the communication between himself and God.  Sin hinders prayers.

Saul is an example of this.  His disobedience was sinful and he forfeited his kingship over the people (1 Samuel 15:12-29).

 

1 Samuel 28:3-19

By this time Samuel had died, all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his city, and Saul had removed the mediums and spiritists from the land. The Philistines gathered and camped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel, and they camped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine camp, he was afraid and his heart pounded. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets. Saul then said to his servants, Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.

 His servants replied, There is a woman at En-dor who is a medium.

Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes and set out with two of his men. They came to the woman at night, and Saul said, Consult a spirit for me. Bring up for me the one I tell you.

But the woman said to him, You surely know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you setting a trap for me to get me killed?

Then Saul swore to her by the Lord: As surely as the Lord lives, no punishment will come to you from this.

Who is it that you want me to bring up for you? the woman asked. 

Bring up Samuel for me, he answered.

When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, and then she asked Saul, Why did you deceive me? You are Saul!

But the king said to her, Dont be afraid. What do you see?

I see a spirit form coming up out of the earth, the woman answered.

Then Saul asked her, What does he look like?

An old man is coming up, she replied. Hes wearing a robe. Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he knelt low with his face to the ground and paid homage.

Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up? Samuel asked Saul.

Im in serious trouble, replied Saul. The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me. He doesnt answer me anymore, either through the prophets or in dreams. So Ive called on you to tell me what I should do.

Samuel answered, Since the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy, why are you asking me? The Lord has done exactly what he said through me: The Lord has torn the kingship out of your hand and given it to your neighbor David. You did not obey the Lord and did not carry out his burning anger against Amalek; therefore the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will also hand Israel over to the Philistines along with you. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the Lord will hand Israels army over to the Philistines.

Saul’s disobedience continued by consulting a medium—the very people that he had removed—because he knew the Lord had turned from him.

Leviticus 20:6-8

Whoever turns to mediums or spiritists and prostitutes himself with them, I will turn against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sets you apart.

Will God answer our prayers if we habitually sin against Him?

He will respond to the ones who confess sin and seek Him in prayer.  We seek after Him in order to prevent our prayers from being hindered.

Jonah 3:5-10

Then the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackclothfrom the greatest of them to the least.

When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he issued a decree in Nineveh:

By order of the king and his nobles: No person or animal, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. Furthermore, both people and animals must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from his wrongdoing. Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.

God saw their actionsthat they had turned from their evil waysso God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it.

James 5:15-16

The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.

1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Prayers are unanswered at times due to a lack of faith (faithlessness).

Hebrews 11:6

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

Your prayer life should consist of faith in Jesus Christ with the remembrance that anything that you ask for in His name and in accordance to His will, He will do it.

Prayers are not answered when they come from a worldly perspective.  God is not a genie that answers prayers just to give you possessions.  Are you praying out of selfishness?  Those that desire earthly things are more in love with the world than they are with Him.

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in ones possessionsis not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

James 4:3

You ask and dont receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Prayer should never be used in a wrongful manner.

Another reason that God will not answer prayers is because of His sovereignty.

Paul prayed for a healing for his affliction, but God responded by not healing him and reminding him that God’s grace was sufficient for him within his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).

God reminds us as to what is really important, and that He ultimately, no matter how He responds to our prayers is worthy of our praise and honor through our worship.  God ultimately desires for us to have a close relationship with Him.  How he answers prayer ultimately has everything to do with this.

Isaiah 38:1-6

In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, This is what the Lord says: Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’”

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: Go and tell Hezekiah, This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add fifteen years to your life. And I will rescue you and this city from the grasp of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city.

Throughout Jesus’ prayer life, God responded to all of His prayers except for one.  Jesus, speaking from his humanity, asked for the father to remove the burden of going to the cross.  God did not answer the prayer.

Mark 14:34-42

He said to them, I am deeply grieved[a] to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.  He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, Simon, are you sleeping? Couldnt you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you wont enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. And again he came and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. Then he came a third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come. See, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; lets go. See, my betrayer is near.

Was it possible for God to remove the cup?  Certainly it was; however, even Jesus recognized that there was a greater purpose in what was taking place.  It was according to God’s sovereign will for Jesus Christ to be sacrificed on the cross.  It was necessary for each one of us that Christ would take on the sins of the world for us.  He was destined to die in the manner that He did for us.

When you pray, please consider the intent of your prayers.  Pray with the desire to remove sin from your life and seek forgiveness.  Are you praying from a worldly perspective, or with the desire to seek a godly perspective?  When you pray, are you praying with faith?  Remain faithful to Him in your prayers, and trust that His sovereignty is for your overall good in your life and in the lives of those who you pray for.


Prayer: What Difference Does it Make? (Part 6 of a Series)

Today’s message summary of March 19, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh, where Elis two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the Lords priests.

Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he always gave portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to each of her sons and daughters. But he gave a double portion to Hannah, for he loved her even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving. Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving. Whenever she went up to the Lords house, her rival taunted her in this way every year. Hannah wept and would not eat. Hannah, why are you crying? her husband Elkanah asked. Why wont you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?

In verse 10, it is noted that Hannah was depressed about her inability to conceive.  She was very upset and was praying to God that she would be remembered in her difficulty.

1 Samuel 1:9-11

Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lords tabernacle. Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servants affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.

She was weeping in such a way as a woman who had lost her only child.  Her condition was one of deep despair.

The reality of infertility makes a woman feel inadequate or incomplete.  A woman’s desire is to bear children.  In Hannah’s time, women who remained barren felt worthless, and they typically would not receive an inheritance that would allow for care for themselves and family members.  A woman’s prestige was based upon her ability to produce offspring.

It should be noted that Hannah’s inability to bear children was allowed by God, and perhaps for the sole purpose that He wanted Hannah to draw closer to Him and to not dwell on her circumstances.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10

For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger[a] of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hannah found her self-worth in God.  This is also a lesson for each of us.  We believe that the things that we do defines who we are.  All joy that we experience comes from Him, and it should remind us that we are to seek Him in everything.

When we pray to God, we are to pray with the understanding that our desires are to be rooted within a relationship with Him.  He wants us to grow more and more with Him.

In her prayer to God, we will focus on these three things:

  • Hannah’s vow to the Lord
  • Hannah asked for recognition
  • Hannah’s offering

Hannah made a vow with God not only with herself but also with her future child.  When she made this promise, it affected the course of her child’s life.  The vow was a Nazarite vow, where the person would separate and consecrate himself for service to God in the temple.  We find that Samuel would be serving the Lord diligently for his entire life.

Making a vow is not to be taken lightly, and is not recommended (Judges 11:29-40).

So, (Akron Alliance Fellowship) Church, when you are praying:

Matthew 5:37

But let your word yes be yes, and your no be no.[a] Anything more than this is from the evil one.

When Samuel was born, we know that Hannah followed her vow by keeping her commitment.  Her only child was committed to service.  Her desire to be a mother was fulfilled, but she released Samuel to serve the Lord.  This is the type of prayer that we are to focus on when it comes to our own service to Jesus Christ.

Hannah prayed to the Lord to be remembered by God as her servant (1 Samuel 1:11).  In Hannah, whose name means “grace,” you can understand her sincerity of prayer before the Lord.  Note that God heard her affliction, and we see that Hannah bore Samuel and many more children afterward (three sons and two daughters).

The lesson here is remaining prayerful.  God, in His sovereignty, does recognize your prayers, and it make take some time before He answers them.

Hannah’s offering was giving her son back to the Lord.  She offered her son as a way of serving the Lord in her desire to please God. Samuel was faithful in service and became a judge over Israel.

There is a parallel to her actions to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

John 17:9-11

I pray for them.

I am not praying for the world

but for those You have given Me,

because they are Yours.

Everything I have is Yours,

and everything You have is Mine,

and I have been glorified in them.

I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to You.

Holy Father,

protect them by Your name

that You have given Me,

so that they may be one as We are one.

 

Jesus asked God to keep and protect His servants.  The persons that Jesus would die on the cross for belonged to the Father.


Prayer: What Difference Does it Make? (Part 5 of a Series)

Today’s message summary of February 19, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

1 John 5:14-15

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

We have previously discussed a number of different postures of prayer, and each of these have helped us to identify how we approach God in prayer.  Today we will look at an analysis of written prayers in the Bible.

There is a prayer in the Bible that we often recite. It is found in Matthew, Chapter 6:

Matthew 6:5-15

Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver is from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you a well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

 

This passage was part of the Sermon on the Mount.  It was an extensive message that covers four chapters in Matthew (5-8), and this section in Scripture is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.”  That reference is not really correct in that the Lord Himself would not have prayed such a prayer.  A closer reference to this passage for our purposes would be “How to Pray,” as it a means for how we should be praying to Him.

We know that Jesus Christ prayed often, and He prayed throughout His ministry…even as He was on the cross.  He provides the example for each of us as to the importance of frequent prayer, and He went away and prayed in secret.

When it comes to prayer, you should ask yourself how long you pray, especially when you occupy your time to other things.  How long we pray may be an indicator as to how deep your relationship is with God.

Jesus warns not to behave like the Pharisees, who were hypocritical in their practice of faith.  We must also guard ourselves in this practice, as well.  Our church practice is to go beyond religiosity.  We are to fellowship with one another and live out or faith everywhere we go.

Jesus said that you should pray publicly if your intent is just to be noticed, then that is hypocrisy. There is nothing wrong with praying publicly, for it is perfectly good to pray over your meal in a restaurant or to speak to a person as the Spirit leads you, but the answer to this open prayer should be a humble approach of prayer in a private setting.  We are to move away from people and pray in secrecy.

The result of your prayers in secret is the reward that you receive from God in your humility and sincerity.

Do you pray for someone’s healing, or a job for yourself, or even wisdom?  Whatever the prayers are, they are to be specific and not so general as to lose their meaning.  Repeating words over and over does not magnify the significance of your prayer.  Jesus tells the people at the sermon to not be like the worshipers of Baal or the Gentiles who were looking to things other than God.  Jesus wants us to pray in specificity.  Know who you are praying to!

It is imperative that we continue our study of theology, because the more that we learn about theology, the more that it impacts our words and actions about God.  This has an important effect on how we approach prayer.

God indeed knows our needs before we ask of Him.  He is involved with every single detail of your life.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  Since He already knows what we need, will he give it to us? It is important to distinguish needs from wants.

Psalm 38:9

Lord, my every desire is known to You; my sighing is not hidden from you.

 

Psalm 139:7

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?

 

God provides what we need in accordance to His will.  He answers the prayers of a humble heart and provides blessing as we learn more about Jesus Christ.

Our prayers to Him are to acknowledge that He is ever-present and that He is holy.  Your prayers are to reflect that you recognize His holiness.  Seeking God and uplifting His name is a contrast to uplifting ourselves or even the name of Satan.

His kingdom is a present reality, and He notes that you have dual citizenship on earth and in heaven (Ephesians 2:19).  Our prayers should reflect the reverence of Christ as our coming King.

God’s sovereignty means that He is in control of everything in this world.  God’s providence is that he will accomplish everything according to His will.

Everything that Jesus accomplished was done according to God’s will and His obedience to God.

We should be confident, in our prayers, that His will be done for all to see.

Your prayers reflect that God is the One who provides for you, and not so much that you rely upon yourself (Proverbs 30:8).

Prayers of forgiveness are to be common in that we are to ask Christ for forgiveness of sin, and that this same approach is to be given to others who sin against us.  This is the essence of Christlike behavior (Romans 13:7-8).

When we ask God to not lead us into temptation, He responds.  He will keep us from those things that are more than what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

God wants to see each one of us be filled with the Spirit in prayer, and to live according to His instruction as to how we are to pray.  We are to pray to seek a greater understanding of Him and that we will live according to His will.  Amen.


Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (Part 2)

Today’s message summary of December 11, 2016 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss three different postures of praying.  My goal in this series to discuss biblical characters and see that they reveal their experiences with God, and relate to their emotions.

  1. Prayer of Tears
  2. Prayer of Relinquishment
  3. Corporate Prayer

This is a timely discussion based upon what is going on within our own congregation.

Have you ever been cut to the heart?  Have you ever had the opportunity to release your emotions?  This leads us to our first posture of praying to God–the prayer of tears.  It is an emotional pain.  Many have experienced this, and may even experience it when receiving repentance from sin.

Psalm 6:6

I am weary from my groaning;

with my tears I dampen my pillow

and drench my bed every night.

 

Psalm 56:8

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.

Put my tears in Your bottle.

Are they not in Your records?

 

Psalm 119:136

My eyes pour out streams of tears

because people do not follow Your instruction.

 

Jeremiah is often known as the “weeping prophet” because of how he cared about Israel as they remained disobedient to God.  He cared for them so much that he wept for them.

Jesus also cried for the people and prayed for even his own enemies:

Hebrews 5:7

During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.

 

John 11:35

Jesus wept.

 

Jesus did not just share a couple of tears for Lazarus, he expressed his agony and felt the pain of Lazarus’ passing.  This should show that Jesus indeed relates to us and understands what we go through.

Note that expressions of prayer and crying out is actually a renewal of yourself.  It relieves stress and eases the pain of your life.  Praying with tears is a measure of God’s grace.  It is a gift from God. It is how He wires us to be able to cope under difficult circumstances.

The second posture is the prayer of relinquishment.  It involves resting in the will of God.  Whatever has happened in your life, whether you agree with it or not, is to be turned over to Him.

Philippians 3:12-13

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

 

When you think of this particular posture, ask yourself what it is that is holding you back and keeping you from giving the matter to God?

The third posture is corporate prayer.

Acts 2:42

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

 

This is the essence of the first church, and it is to be the same for today’s church.  When a church gathers corporately (as a group), it is to pray in this way on a consistent basis.

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.

 

Corporate prayer is very important for the church. It is necessary to pray.  I encourage everyone to pray for whatever is on your heart.


Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (First of a Series)

A summary of Asst. Pastor Travis Jackson’s message of October 16, 2016:

Just as much the Lord invites us to partake in the sacred sacraments—the Lord’s supper.  He says, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  The blood and the bread is a foretaste of what we will experience in the next life.  And I hope we understand that the Lord’s supper is invitational.  Also keep in mind, Jesus did not allow his body to be broken and his blood to be shed for his own sake, but for ours.  Likewise, prayer is invitational and it is not for God’s sake, it is for ours.  God does not benefit from our prayers, he already knows what we will pray for and he commands us to pray.

So today I invite you to give careful thought about the reason why you pray. As humans, innately, have a need to pray to someone higher than ourselves.  Some people pray to false god’s. Some people pray to Buddha. Some Catholics pray to the virgin Mary.  Muslims pray to Allah. People who do not know the one true God of the Bible will continue pray to idols because praying is spiritual and psychological.

“One cannot be a Christian and not pray[1]  1 Thess. 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.”  Eph. 6:18 says “Pray at all times in the Spirit.”  Paul said he prayed day and night to the Lord so that he can visit the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 3:10).  In Matthew 5:44, Our Lord Jesus said, “Pray for those who persecute you.”

One pastor said, “Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet no duty of the Christian is so neglected.”[2]  As Christians, we know that we ought to pray but don’t really understand the purpose of prayer.  What do you think the purpose of prayer is?  Some Christians pray to God, believing that God will grant every request of theirs. This type of belief can be found in the health and wealth prosperity gospel. There are several reasons why we pray to God.  One of the main reasons is to communicate our deepest thoughts and emotions to him.  As we communicate our prayers to God, our prayers can manifest into different forms, like, crying out to him, making a complaint to him, and rejoicing in thanksgiving with him.

Again, praying is for our own sake, and the main thrust of praying is to have a relationship with him by communicating to him.  Please raise your hand if you are married or dating someone.  If your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend stop talking to you for two months, how would you feel?  Would you question your relationship with that person?  Would you feel that your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, do not want to have a verbal intimate relationship with you?

This principle applies to our relationship with God.  How often do you communicate to Him?  How much time do you spend with God?  Are you listening to God’s voice when you pray?  If you are not praying to God, do you not think that he is questioning your relationship with him?

For some of us, our prayer life is like baby language because it is difficult to express our thoughts and emotions toward God.  Babies cannot intellectually communicate to adults, although, they can still express their thoughts and feelings in baby speech. We know when babies are happy, sad, upset.  Some people are more experience in praying than others; some people just don’t know how to pray.  For this reason, Jude, the Lord’s brother, commands us to “pray in the Holy Spirit,” according to Jude verse 20.  According to Romans 8:26, Scripture says, it is “the [Holy] Spirit who helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”  In other words, it is okay if you do not have the right words to say to the Father, because the Holy Spirit understands what you are trying to express and, the Holy Spirit communicates inexpressible words to God on your behalf.  What matter is that you pray.

As an encouragement, please do not feel as if you have to have everything “spiritually right” before you pray.  That is to say, in order to pray, everything in our lives do not have to be just right before we can approach God in prayer.  All of us come to prayer with mix motives, selfishness, faithlessness, pride, and impurity (Foster. p. 23).  We can approach God just as we are, as long as we approach God with humility.  And he is able and willing to listen and answer our prayers, if it is according to his will.

Now, there are no instructions on how to pray, but there are postures of prayer. today, we will also discover three postures of prayer.  1. Simple prayer. 2. Prayer of Forsaken. And, 3. Prayer of Examine. As a disclaimer, these postures of prayer is coined by an author, Richard Foster.

What is simple prayer?  Simple prayer is approaching God just as we are, and God “accepts our prayers just as they are” (Foster. p.24).  It is being transparent to God by expressing your present feelings.  It is okay to pray to God when you feel disappointed, overwhelmed, discouraged, bitter, anxious, scared, excited, or angry. That is a good example of what simple prayer is.  Simple prayer focus on “our needs, our wants, our concerns” (Foster. p.24).   Simple prayer focuses on us.

Have you ever been upset at God?  For example, have you ever prayed in anger towards God like Jonah?  When Jonah prayed he questioned God’s motives.  Remember Jonah’s story.  Jonah fled from God when he was called to preached to the people of Nineveh. Eventually, God used a large fish to bring Jonah to the city of Nineveh.  After Jonah preached for forty days to the people of Nineveh, they repented. But the Ninevites responds greatly displeased and angered Johan, so Jonah prayed to the Lord.  Please turn to Jonah 4:1-4.  In Jonah 4:1-4 says,

And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore, now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

The Bible depicts us as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father.  Like all children, they approach their parents with mixed feelings we too can approach God with mix feelings.  There is no need for us to try to hide our feelings from God because he already knows our hearts.  One author said, “We should feel perfectly free to complain to God, or argue with God, or yell at God.  As you continue to pray like this your desire to converse and pray to God will increase. The point is this, when you pray to God it is okay to be frustrated, angry, happy, impatient.  It is okay complain to God.  It is okay to tell God that you feel abandon by him. Amen?

But I warn all of us, it is never okay to be disrespectful to God, nor is it okay to curse God.  There is nowhere in the Bible God responded well to those who cursed him.  After Satan struck Job with painful sores all over his body. Job’s wife said to Job, “Curse God and die.”  Now I am sympathetic to Job’s wife because she watched her husband deal with painful health problems and her seven sons and three daughters were murdered.  This help us to understand that she went through a traumatic events causing her to not be in a right state of mind.  She felt abandon from God.

This leads us to our next point: Prayer of Forsaken.  Prayer of forsaken is feeling deserted.  It is feeling abandoned; it is feeling as if you are in need of God because you were left in a hot dry desert to die.  Prayer of forsaken is seeking God’s face, and acknowledging that God will not answer you when you need him to.  God will remain silent, which gives the impression that he is absent from our lives. I remember two occasions I prayed to God and fasted seeking God’s guidance.  Out of those two occasions he only answered me once.  He was silent.

Have you ever felt forsaken?  Have you ever felt deserted, abandon and ditched?  All of us felt this way before.  I felt this way and sometimes I still do. Some of us is still feeling we were abandoned by our ex-husband, ex-wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, sisters, brothers, cousins, mother or father and God. For example, I did not grow with a good male role model this cause me to abandoned.

And, prayer of forsaken is not only feeling that you were deserted by others and God, but it also knowing that God allowed a devastating event to happen in your life.  It could have been a loss of a love one like, a child, a husband, a father or mother, a sister or brother.  It could have been loss of a job, a house; it could have been an emotional and physical abuse.

We know that we serve a good and gracious God.  But sometimes we have to ask, where is God?  Why God is allowing this to happen?  Why innocent people suffer?  Many people in the Bible have asked these questions and this is why they have prayed the prayer of forsaken?  I am sure Joseph questioned God in this manner when he was sold into slavery because his brothers betrayed by him.  Moses, David, Job, Isaiah and many more people questioned and complained to God.

Prayer of forsaken is crying out to God in any moment of disparity.  Jesus exemplified this before he went to the cross and when he was on the cross.  Before he went to the cross he said, “Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).  When he was on the cross he cried to God saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:42).  Jesus did not say those words because he did know that he was going to beaten, humiliated, and to be hung on a cross.  He knew those things would take place.  He said those words because, he is holy, and he knew he had to endure the sins of the world.  The Father and Son is inseparable; however, Jesus felt abandoned by the Father at the moment when endured my sins, your sins and the sins of the world.

Prayer of forsaken is found in many passages, like, Psalms 119:145 which says, “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes.  I call to you; save me.”  Or like Psalms 88:1-3 O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to [the grave].”  A better example would be Job.  I believe that Job yell at God when he was distressed, under pressure and felt forsaken by God.  Job believe that God was cause of his of his troubles and that God was nowhere to be found. In Job 30:20-23 he said,

“I cry out to you for help, but you do not answer me; I stand up, and you turn your attention against me.  You have become cruel to me; With the might of your hand you persecute me.  You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride; and you dissolve me in a storm.  For I know that you will bring me to death.”

When you are feeling this way tell God.  I encourage you to let him know how you feel, Job did.  However, even if you are feeling that you “do not understand what God is doing or even where God,” I also admonish you to believe that God is for always for your good.

Last point: prayer of examine.  Prayer of examine turns our prayer from being outward to inward.  This prayer our consciousness. It also helps us to think introspectively. It is an invitation to God to help us examine our hearts and to see the ugliness of our own sins. Psalms 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” Keep in mind, when we are examining ourselves in prayer, is it for God’s benefit?  No.  It is for ours.

Prayer of examine causes to remember our surroundings in another way.  All of us deal with rudely neighbors, unsanctified coworkers, challenging children.  Instead of complaining about our relationships with other people, we should examine their pain and suffering and their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In other words, when your coworker or son or daughter is upset, being sarcastic towards you don’t look at them as an enemy, look at them how God looks at them.

Prayer of examine was done by David.  After David’s infidelity with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who was adversely murdered by David.  David conducted a prayer of self-examination.  We find this prayer in Psalms 51.  Turn to Psalms 51, we will read verses 1-12.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Let us put in practice what we just learn by responding corporately.  I invite all of us pray these three postures of prayer.  I will afford us one minute of praying time to pray.  You can remain where you are.  I want us to tell God how we presently feel.  If you are feeling angry, sad, disappointed, happy, content, thankful, tell him.

Let us pray. Dear Jesus, how desperately I need to learn to pray. And yet when I am honest, I know that I often do not even want to pray. But I am so grateful for your invitation to enter your heart of love. As best I can I come in. Thank you for receiving me. —Amen.

[1] Sproul, R. C. (2009). Does Prayer Change Things? (Vol. 3, p. 2). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (2009). Does Prayer Change Things? (Vol. 3, p. 2). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.