Tag Archives: Prayer

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.


Jesus is in Our Midst

Today’s message summary of June 11, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

It is important to note that God is the one who empowers and strengthens us.  He is in our midst with even only two of us let alone a small group (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus is in our midst, and with that realization, all fear disappears.  We want to see Him and hear from Him as we recognize His presence.

Believers gather together in the name of Jesus.  He promises that He never leaves us or forsakes us, and it is a promise for us now and in the future.

There has to be a reason for His presence.  He promises that He will be with those who desire to seek Him.  We may not physically see Him, but we believe He is present because of faith.

Jesus informed His disciples that He would not be with them much longer, but told them that He would always be with them to the end of the age.

He wants us to know that the prayer and actions of two people is more powerful than that of a thousand people, and He tells us that He is with us.

Matthew 18:20

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

Genesis 4:26

A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh.  At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

The heart of the believer has to come to a place to acknowledge His presence, and determine if he or she is in accord with God’s will.  If God is in the midst of what you are doing, He is going to speak to you, affirm you, guide you, and even correct you.

Among two people, you can have cooperation, but you can also have conflict and even destruction.  Even a small group can have trouble in accomplishing God’s will if there are differences within the group.

Malachi 3:16-18

At the time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Those who fear the Lord talk with each other. If the conversation look who is in the midst making corrections.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask Godwho gives to all generously and ungrudginglyand it will be given to him.

With God in our midst, He will speak to us, and we need to train ourselves to listen to Him.

Wisdom is needed.  God is in the conversation.

Guidance is needed.  Jesus is there.

Understanding is needed.  Jesus is there.

1 Corinthians 14:33

…since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

God is in the midst to bring about order and not to create disorder.  He provides guidance for order and proper function.

Proverbs 16:9

A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.

Planning is necessary, but God is the one who must affirm the plans.  We are to be sensitive to His wisdom and guidance through the process, including making changes when and where they should be made.  As we listen to Him and remain focused upon Him, He will make us shine in the process.

Psalm 37:33

The Lord will not leave him in the power of the wicked one or allow him to be condemned when he is judged.

Think of what Jesus means to you in your life.

The name of Jesus is a name of power and authority.  He is the one who will clean up your life and order your steps.

The name of Jesus represents the Godhead.  In that name, the fullness of the Godhead (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is present.  They are all present and all of them are there when we call upon His name.  He is there to protect you…His investment.

Colossians 1:9

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Micah 5:4-5

He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord his God. They will live securely, for them his greatness will extend to the ends of the earth. He will be their peace. When Assyria invades our land, when it marches against our fortresses, we will raise against it seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.

1 Peter 5:4

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

A group of servants within a church or organization may call a meeting, but it should be the desire of the group to have access to God.

We are to desire God’s presence, to hear His voice, and to receive His guidance. We want His favor and His peace.

No one gets to God’s presence without Jesus; therefore, we gather together in the name of Jesus.

Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

John 14:6-7

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

When we come together, Jesus is with us, whether it is two people or a hundred people.

We can do whatever God has purposed for us to do (no matter the number of people).

Nehemiah learned this very lesson.  He succeeded in spite of a small group and opposition.

Faith says Jesus is with us, even though we don’t physically see Him.

He has promised to be with us.

He reveals that He is with us.

John 20:19-23

When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus is in the midst of us.  He is there, and we have to trust in it.  The promise to believers in Jesus Christ is that when you meet, He is there.

  • All authority and power is in His name (Matthew 28:18).
  • Every knee shall bow to His name (Philippians 2:10).
  • He has a claim to ownership of everything within the meeting (His Lordship).

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Dont you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.

Philippians 2:13

For it is God who is working in you both according to his good purpose.


Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (1 John 5:14) [Part 7 of a Series]

Today’s message summary of May 21, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss prayer but we also want to be able to learn how to listen to God in the midst of prayer.

Elijah went into hiding because he learned that his life was in danger because of his efforts to remove the idols of the day from the presence of Ahab and Jezebel.  There, the Lord spoke to him…

1 Kings 19:9-18

He entered a cave there and spent the night.

Elijahs Encounter with the Lord

Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah?

He replied, I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.

Then He said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lords presence.

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?

I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, he replied, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and theyre looking for me to take my life.

Then the Lord said to him, Go and return by the way you came to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.  Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu.  But I will leave 7,000 in Israelevery knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.

There are many points here, but we will cover the following point relevant to listening to God when we pray:

Identifying God’s voice.  Many of us can recognize specific voices, such as a mother, brothers or sisters, or even children and parents, and that is because of your personal knowledge and exposure.  In contrast, we often can struggle hearing God’s voice.  Please note that God has never stopped speaking to his church.  Our struggle is the amount of time we spend trying to hear Him.  We face many distractions that keep us from hearing Him.  Consider that Elijah, a very devout man, was in a place where he had become frightful even though he was a man full of faith and had spoken to God on a regular basis.  You would not necessarily expect that he would struggle here as he did.

God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”  We can ask ourselves the same question.  Even when we are speaking to God, sometimes we cannot hear him because of how our fears can drown out the voice of God.

Can you identify the voice of God?  Are you able to decipher His voice over the voices of others?

John 10:2-5

The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they dont recognize the voice of strangers.

The sheep know His voice.  If you know Jesus Christ, you can identify His voice.  It is often, however, that we, as His sheep, will willingly listen to strangers that lead us to sin.  Other voices that are contrary to God will try to drown out God’s voice.  We can often be easily distracted.  We need to be intentional in pursuing the very things that God directs us to in order to succeed.

We can hear the voice of God actually answering previously unanswered prayers.

Colossians 3:15-16

And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 5:18-21

And dont get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another

in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

singing and making music

from your heart to the Lord,

giving thanks always for everything

to God the Father

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

submitting to one another

in the fear of Christ.

What is really in your heart?  Is it the Word of God or is it something else?  What permeates from you?  Is the Word of God something that comes naturally for you?

When you hear a voice of condemnation or one that promotes depression, it is not the voice of God.  We are to decipher those voices of the world versus those that come from God.

How do we know when God is communicating to us?  In biblical times, God did so in many different ways.  He can use these means even today.  He communicates to us through our friends or even our worldly co-workers.  In order to hear what He is saying, we must be attentive to this communication and live intentionally for Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:6-9

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 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.

Notice how God communicated to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19:11-12

Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.

These are three supernatural and spontaneous events that occurred.  Notice that Elijah is trying to hear God’s voice through all of the noise but it was only when things were quiet and still was when he heard it.

It is important for each one of you, in our busyness, that we have to be still and focus on His voice.  It is in our quiet moments when we can hear Him best.

When we are praying to Him, what would it look like if we were silent?  What you will hopefully hear is your quiet conversation with Him and His response as you learn to read and meditate on His Word on a daily basis.


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.


Your IMAGE, A PACT and Finding Your PASSION

Today’s message of January 29, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:

We have been spending time over the past few months in Sunday school studying the act of discipleship.  Discipleship involves the ability to communicate the gospel effectively to those who desire to learn more about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and also to be able to come alongside those who are believers in Jesus with encouragement, instruction and accountability.  Both of these actions are Spirit-driven through both your desire to serve Jesus and through the enabling and guiding power of the Holy Spirit.

Your ability to serve requires preparation, including preparatory study, and this involves the practice of living daily in God’s IMAGE.

Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man in His own image;

He created him in the image of God;

He created them male and female.

Being created in the likeness of God is a big deal! We are the highest honor of His creation, and we were created to be in the family of Jesus Christ, who is also in the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4):

Hebrews 1:1-3 HCSB

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

With this in mind, living in His IMAGE is a great responsibility! To live in His IMAGE is to live in a Christlike manner according to His will, His purpose and His glory!

Romans 12:2 HCSB

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

1 Peter 2:15 ESV

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Romans 8:28-29 HCSB

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Galatians 3:26 ESV

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The word “IMAGE” is an acronym of the characteristics of a believer of Jesus Christ living a Christlike existence:

  • The letter “I” is to investigate Scripture, which is more than just reading the bible. It’s digging deep into the Word.
  • The letter “M” is to meditate on His Word in prayer.
  • The letter “A” is to act on His word in consistency and with obedience.
  • The letter “G” is to grow in your faith and mature as the Holy Spirit continues to impart wisdom and knowledge along with your life experiences.
  • The letter “E” is to endure life’s moments and shine before others to glorify God.

Another aspect of growing as an effective disciple for Jesus Christ incorporates this past year’s introduction of effective decision-making as a believer.  It involves making a PACT with Jesus Christ.  It is a commitment to make the best life choices in obedience to honor God and cherish His Word.

The word “PACT” is an acronym for how to be an effective decision-maker as you live for Jesus Christ:

  • The letter “P” is for prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • The letter “A” is to ask God for wisdom within your decision-making (Matthew 7:7-8).
  • The letter “C” is to consult others who can offer their own good advice or wisdom to you before you make decisions. God puts people in your life for this very purpose.
  • The letter “T” is to trust in Jesus to provide you with the best advice as you make your decisions.

Making the right decisions in life will help you to remain consistently obedient to Jesus Christ, and in this process, the Spirit will help you to conform to living as Jesus desires for you to live.  It helps you to go beyond what only the world, or even the flesh, offers.

Matthew 5:43-48 HCSB

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These principles are all reinforced with Scripture, and the effort of preparation makes for better practitioners as servants of Jesus Christ.  He provides us with the Holy Spirit to give us the energy and effort that we need to be successful.

Your preparation is very, very important in the process of growth and development in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  In the same way that an athlete has to undergo training in order to participate at a high level in a sport, and just as we need to have a healthy diet and exercise to take care of our own bodies, we must prepare to serve Christ in order to be at our best.  But there is also another important reason why we prepare to be effective practitioners of discipleship…the ongoing preparation should also provide you with a greater insight into the character of God and an even greater desire, as you learn more about Him, to serve Him in everything that you do.

Philippians 4:13 NKJV

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Serving Jesus Christ is not a hobby.  It is a full-time endeavor.

Serving Jesus Christ is a fulfillment of your participation in His Great Commission.

Serving Jesus Christ is an expression of your love for Him and your desire to bring everything you learn about Him into everything that you do.

Your preparation of participation in ministry for Christ should be an ongoing process that reveals to you how you are capable of serving Him.  There is much to learn about Him, and you will find that there is much to learn about yourself, too.  As you get to know more about Jesus Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit molds and shapes you into a better “you” in Christ.  It is as this occurs that you get to know more of who you really are in Christ.  This is much better than who you are in the flesh, or who you thought you were before and ever after you accepted Christ as your personal Savior.  It is the Spirit’s sanctifying power that reveals His wisdom and knowledge about yourself and who you are in Christ.

Until you learn who you are in Jesus Christ, you will always be searching for something.  But once you learn who you are, you will find your purpose in Jesus Christ.  You will be compelled to live openly and actively for Christ.  You will find your passion in Jesus Christ.

For those listening that are still uncertain about all of this devotion over Jesus Christ, it is important for you to know and understand that Jesus Christ lived on this earth and gave His life for you.  He paid the ultimate price to sacrifice Himself because He loved you.  He demonstrated, through His death on the cross, that He loves you.  He showed that He is passionate about you.

John 3:16-17 ESV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So what this is all about is how you, in learning more about Jesus Christ, recognize the passion of living for Jesus Christ that He has for you.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, which is your spiritual worship.

What are you passionate about?  What do you really, really care about?

If you are seeking Jesus Christ, you will eventually learn what you are passionate about. You will find that there are things that you like to do, and things that you like to do more than other things, but following Christ will reveal your passion for Christ.

Your passion is rooted by your gifts.  Your gifts consist of your God-given gifted talents and your spiritual gifts if you have declared Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s be clear about something here…you can have all kinds of God-given talent and even spiritual gifts and still not realize your passion.  You have to use these talents and gifts with the understanding that God has given them to you, and that you want to serve Him with all of your heart and soul.  Only then will you get this passion thing down pat.

Without this passion, you’re not really living your life in the way that God would like to see you live it.  Sure, you’re doing more than existing, but not much more than that.  There are people that you love and care for, help and give of yourself, and you can even go your entire life in church serving others; however, you can still be unsatisfied with the direction of your life.  Ask yourself this question:  How can I live the abundant life that God promises for me?

John 10:10 HCSB

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

You can live the abundant life with passion by “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You can live the abundant life with passion by “presenting yourself as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

You can live the abundant life of passion by humbling yourself before God and allowing yourself to be teachable.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

If you make the effort to seek God, He will affirm your efforts.  Sometimes the blessings come when you take the steps to live for Him.

Living in His IMAGE, making a PACT with Jesus, and discovering passion as you live out your life purpose.  There can be nothing more fulfilling than when you learn your passion as you live for Jesus Christ.

In this new year, make it a personal commitment to discover your passion.  Jesus Christ wants to see you live the abundant life!

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


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

Today’s message summary of January 15, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Last Sunday, we discussed the relationship of fasting and prayer, and the sin of gluttony.  We will continue this week with discussion of:

  1. Intercessory Prayer
  2. Prayer of Suffering
  3. Prayer of Healing

There have been many recent news events that have occurred where we, as believers, should respond with intercessory prayer.  It is one way for us to take action on behalf of others as we are interceding and petitioning God for a response.

Intercessory prayer is a priestly ministry.

1 Peter 2:5, 9

you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for His possession,

so that you may proclaim the praises

of the One who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light.

 

Intercessory prayer is a prayer of mediation on behalf of others.  This principle is a way of “standing in the gap” for others who are hurting or in need of relief.

Ezekiel 22:30-31

I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one. So I have poured out My indignation on them and consumed them with the fire of My fury. I have brought their actions down on their own heads. This is the declaration of the Lord God.

 

God calls for His people to stand in the gap in the hope of averting any disaster upon those who need prayer.  In the event of a calamity, intercessory prayer also has an impact upon those who remain after a tragedy.

Exodus 17:8-13

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, When Pharaoh tells you, Perform a miracle, tell Aaron, Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh. It will become a serpent.’” So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord had commanded. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent. But then Pharaoh called the wise men and sorcerersthe magicians of Egypt, and they also did the same thing by their occult practices. Each one threw down his staff, and it became a serpent. But Aarons staff swallowed their staffs. However, Pharaohs heart hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

 

1 Timothy 2:8 (ESV)

I desire then that in every place the men should pray lifting up holy hands.

 

In this effort, even though it is tiring, we are not to stop praying.

Romans 8:26-27, 34

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

 

Hebrews 8:4-6

Now if He were on earth, He wouldnt be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law. These serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.

 

Intercessory prayer is something that we should be doing.

The Prayer of Suffering

The prayer of suffering is a prayer of relief, in the midst of a trial, for relief within the trial.

In your suffering, would you stop praying if you thought it wasn’t working, or would you continue in the hope that God would provide relief?  The challenge of this prayer within these circumstances is that while you are unaware of the timing, you are aware that God does hear your prayer.  God provides the perfect example of Jesus Christ as to how to respond within this prayer.

1 Peter 3:13-16

And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.

 

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.

 

If you are praying in the midst of your suffering, God will answer you.

Each of these postures of prayer lead to:

The Gift of Healing

Isaiah 53:4-5

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,

and He carried our pains;

but we in turn regarded Him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced because of our transgressions,

crushed because of our iniquities;

punishment for our peace was on Him,

and we are healed by His wounds.

 

Are you praying for someone’s healing?  Are you standing by watching others in need?

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; 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 urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.