In the Year 2030 : When You Pray”
January 19, 2020
When our oldest daughter, LeeBeth, was three years old we were getting ready for church. She walked into our bedroom and asked us,
“Mommy, Daddy, I want to get a brother or a sister. I want to have a bigger family.” Well, obviously she had been watching Sesame Street and they had been talking about how great it is to have a family, brothers and sisters. So, Lisa wisely said,
“LeeBeth, just pray about it.” So, we watched LeeBeth kind of toddle into her playroom, pick up her Fisher Price phone, and she said, into the receiver,
“God, this is LeeBeth. I want a brother or a sister. I’ll see you in a little while. Bye.”
I wish prayer was that easy. You know? Hey God, I’m going to church. I’ll see ya in a little while. Just a direct line to God. would that be crazy or what? Prayer. When I say the word prayer, what do you think about? Everyone prays. We do. Sometimes we pray a microwave prayer, other times a 9-1-1 prayer, sometimes a God bless me prayer, or God take care of me prayer, or God protect me prayer. People pray. We talk to God. I’ve been married for 37 years. I know that’s a shocker because I’m barely over 40, I’m 41. And Lisa and I, as you have heard me say, have written extensively about marriage. We’ve lectured about marriage. Marriage is not always easy. Some guys are afraid to clap. And some of the singles are like, “oh, it will be when I get married.” <laughter> Marriage is not always easy. Marriage can be the greatest thing in the world, it should be, next to our relationship with Jesus, if we’re willing to work at it.
How do you work at marriage? Well, you can’t just text one another. All the young people are like, you can’t? No. You can’t just build a great marriage FaceTime-ing one another. No, no. You have to have those times of connectivity. You’ve got to communicate. You’ve got to have intimacy in marriage for marriage to work. Likewise, in the Christian life, I can’t just casually or flippantly talk to God. I can’t just lob one up to Heaven now and then. I can’t just say, like a friend of mine told me recently, “You know, I pray probably twice a year.” You’re not gonna have a relationship, a connection with God like that. We’re made in the image of God. In other words, we want to relate. We have a relationally driven God. He wants to connect with you and me. He wants a relationship with you and me so much that he sent Jesus, even though we didn’t deserve it, to die on the cross for our sins and to rise again. God did that for this relationship. If you think about it, the God of the universe wants you and me, our Heavenly Father, to talk to him.
I’m a father. How many fathers do we have in the house? You’re a father, all right, all right. I remember when our kids were younger, as I alluded to earlier with LeeBeth. We have four kids and now a couple of grandchildren. But I remember as a dad liking it when my kids would ask me for stuff. Even though I would say no a lot of the times, I knew what was best for them.
I remember one time when our twins, the twin towers, were, I don’t know, 12, 13. They were like, “Dad, please get us a cell phone! Everybody has a cell phone. I mean, 6-year-old kids have cell phones. Dad, please, please, please!” I said,
“No, no, no.”
“Dad, please. I know you’ll do it. Mom says no but you will,” you know? At early ages they learn, don’t they? How to play one against the other. So, Laurie and Landra are smart. They made a poster and presented it to me in my office regarding why they needed a cell phone. Then they did a PowerPoint presentation and on top of that, Laurie taped pictures of various cell phones around the house. So, I could not get away from cell phone, cell phone, I want a cell phone, cell phone, cell phone. I said no for a long time, because I had their best interests in mind. Then I said, wait. And finally, one day, that’s right, that glorious day I said, “You can have a cell phone.”
Our Heavenly Father loves for us to ask him for things. I think sometimes we think, oh, I shouldn’t ask God. Maybe you’ve heard a lecture on prayer, and you’ve heard someone say, yes, talk to God about God. Adore him and glorify him. And we’re to do that. However, God also loves it when we ask him for things. Many times, he’s gonna say uh-uh. Nope. Sometimes he will say wait. Other times he will say yes. This series is called In the Year 2030. We are thinking about 3,650 days. Is my math correct? A decade, 3,650 days. So, we can upgrade our decade by doing three things.
We’ve been in Matthew chapter 6. Jesus talked about these three things. Jesus said when (not if), when you fast. Some of us are on a fast. If you’re on a fast, lift your hand. Miami, I know it’s tough because that Cuban food, I love it. Café con leche, that’s a major temptation, even in Norman, Oklahoma. Let’s give it up for Norman, Oklahoma. They’re fasting there. They’re fasting in North Port, the No-No. Where is the No-No?, right beside the NoPo, right beside Sarasota. You’ve been to Sarasota, FL? Right, they’re fasting there. Even in Downtown Dallas I was there yesterday working out. Did you know we have a group that works out and trains every Saturday morning in DFW? Do you know what’s so funny? I’m 58 years old and is until think I’m 28. I really do. It’s weird. Those of you who are younger than 58, when you get to be 58 you won’t think, “Oh, I’m 58.” You’ll think you’re younger than you are.
So, I show up, Lisa and I did yesterday, because the couple that works out together stays together. And we had this cool training thing at our Downtown campus. I’m looking at all these muscular guys, these guys who are ripped with all the ink and everything, and I’m thinking to myself and I’m like, I might get some tats. But then I look at my arms and I’m like, no, no. So, all these people are ripped and everything and you kinda think, I look like them, you know? And some of us, as we worked out, we were talking about the fast and eating properly, so in Dallas, hey. We have people who are fasting.
In Fort Worth, we have a campus in Fort Worth. I don’t know if you knew that or not, right across the street from Montgomery Plaza. You know where that place is? Is God good or what? I still can’t believe we have these beautiful campuses. Then we have our retreat center at Allaso Ranch. Everyone online, Facebook Live, here and there and yonder. Did I miss any other ones? Frisco? I’ve never heard of that. Frisco! Yeah, next week we’re opening Frisco! Man! I was hoping someone would say that! And then, of course, our prison campus. So, we have a lot of people fasting. If you’re fasting, lift your hand. You can probably barely lift it. I have to confess; I did cheat the other night on my fast. I had a piece of salmon. I’m sorry, I did. I was with some friends and, you know, I just did. It’s OK. Don’t be too legalistic about it, OK? Because we’re having a party tonight at our house. I mean, you’re not all invited but, in our neighborhood, we really are. And Lisa (this is tempting) has made chili. I have not had any of the chili. She’s a great cook and when I walked out this morning Fritos were on the counter, and some nachos and yum-yum. Pray for me, OK? But we’re fasting.
Jesus said when you fast. What does a fast mean? Followers fast, because if you want to follow fast, you fast. Fasting means I’m gonna redirect this appetite that I have with food towards the things of God. And as I fast, I realize God is the source of everything. And as I fast, I say to myself, wow. God, it’s about you. I mean, my life, my everything is from you. And as I fast, I realize, God (and in my prayers), it’s not what I want but it’s what you want for my life.
So, what if (and I even made this recording on my social media feed today), what if prayer was not like saying, oh, I want this? What if prayer is not about just the ask? What if it’s not? What if prayer is about alignment? Let me say that again. What if prayer is not just about asking, and I do a lot. We all do. I am not saying you shouldn’t, I shouldn’t. What if prayer, the real goal of it, was about alignment. If we’re saying, God, it’s not what I want. This is tough for me because I want what I want, right? It’s not what I want, God, it’s what you want. I want your wants to be my wants. That’s why Jesus said, think about it, this is spiritual symmetry, when you fast. When you pray. When you give. When I give. Well, giving is the same. When I give, I’m saying, God, it’s not mine, it’s yours. God, I want this. But it’s not about my blingdom, it’s about your kingdom. As I give, as I release my stuff – and then I realize it’s not my stuff, it’s God’s stuff, it’s a reminder once again that it’s about God. When I give it’s about God. When I pray it’s about God. And when I fast it’s about God. It’s about God. It’s about God. When, when, when. You want a when, when, when situation? You want to upgrade your decade? Spiritual symmetry. Three simple yet profound things.
What if LeBron James walked up here? Park, what if he walked up here? That’s my man, Park. Lift your hand, Park. What if LeBron James walked in right now? What if he was backstage and he would go,
“I want to teach you how to do a jump shot.” Would you listen? I would, too. What if Taylor Swift came off the front row and goes,
“Can I teach you guys a little bit about singing, songwriting?” you’d pay attention. Taylor Swift. What if Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg talked about finances or being an entrepreneur? Would you listen? I sure would. What if Donald Trump talked about orange hair dye? Would you listen? Yes! I don’t know why I said that. The guy is totally orange. I don’t know how he does it. Is that tanning cream or something? Anyway, that was really funny, man!
Well, Jesus tells us something about prayer. This is the only time where we’re taught from him, from anybody in Scripture, about prayer. So, Jesus says,
“Hey, I will teach you how to pray.” Why did he say that? Because the disciples go,
“Lord, teach us to pray.” They didn’t say teach us to heal. Sorry, faith healers. They didn’t say, “Jesus, teach us to preach a sermon!” No, the disciples said teach us to what? Pray. There was something about the way he prayed that was unique, that was different, that rocked them.
If you have your Bibles turn to Matthew chapter 6. This is the greatest sermon every preached. I was there a couple of weeks ago with about 97 Fellowshippers. Right there, right in the spot where Jesus preached this message. He used technology back then because the acoustics are sick! You can talk like this and you can hear like way, way, way far away. So, thousands of people were in this kind of amphitheater type setting. Jesus is sitting down. So often he sat down when he talked. And the disciples simply asked him, teach us to pray. So, here’s what he said. Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6, and I’ll give you the Wikipedia. He said, “When you pray, don’t pray like the hypocrites.” Don’t <bugle sound effect> toot your own horn. That’s what he said. Don’t “Hey, I’m fasting!” “Oh, watch this, I’m giving! Would you name this after me, too?” He said, “Just do it.”
Skip down to verse 6, “But when you pray…” He’s talking about when. We should pray all the time, really. Short prayers, medium-sized prayers, big prayers, public prayers. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. How do you pray? You start praying. “No really, Ed, I want something deep.” Well, that’s it. I’m talking about the Bible, how you pray. You just start talking. You start talking to God. About what?
I will give you a great example: Moses. One time Moses had it. Hey, mom, sometimes do you reach the end of your fuse with your kids? You’re like, I cannot handle this. OK. That’s what Moses was like. He was like, “These kids are wearing me out! Lord, they’re wearing me out! I can’t stand it!” and he throws a spiritual temper tantrum (this is Moses!) to God in prayer.
Elisha hadn’t had hair transplants like I’ve had hair transplants. Did you know I had hair transplants a couple years ago? Even the guy who cuts my hair is like, “Man, you’ve had some great hair transplants.” And I’m gonna do a series called Hair, because hair is mentioned throughout the Bible. But I’ve had hair transplants. Keeping it real, all right? Elisha, somehow, he had male-pattern baldness. Read about it. You think I’m kidding you. And these kids were making fun of Elisha. “Hahaha, baldie! Hahaha, cue-ball! Hahaha! You look really weird!” He got so angry, he said, “God, send some grizzly bears to chase these kids away and maul them!” This is Elisha!
King David, a man after God’s own heart. People were chasing him, trying to kill him. In anger, again, you know what he said to God? “God, nuke them and their entire families.” God can take your anger and mine. Lord, why does this person, who is not half as talented as me, have this opportunity and I don’t? That’s prayer. Lord I don’t understand this sickness, this turmoil. We’re going through Hell right here and I know this family, two of their kids are dope addicts, and they’re like, everything is fine. Everything’s dandy. Everything’s going great for them. What’s the deal? This boss, this manager, this CEO in my life, what they’re saying to me really hurts. They’re spreading rumors about me. God can take our anger and our emotion, and we should pour our hearts out to him.
Moses also prayed some awesome prayers, some prayers of humility to God. Moses did. After the 10 commandments he was fasting, and he made some amazing decisions and prayed some amazing prayers. Elisha one day walked up to a woman who was struggling with infertility and prophesied over her. David talked about forgiveness later on. So, we’ve got to be real and we’ve got to start praying. Jesus said when you pray, talk to God. And he’s gonna give us what is known as the Lord’s Prayer.
How many people in here have heard of the Lord’s prayer? Most of us have. A better name for it would be the disciples’ prayer, but I want you to notice before Jesus rolls into this grid on how to pray, he kind of gives us an outline. We have to establish when we pray, a place. Establish a place of prayer. Now, we can pray anywhere, any time. Jesus is at the right hand of God praying for us right now. Just go ahead and clap there. I don’t even know how to pray all the time, you don’t either. Jesus, our High Priest, Hebrews says, is praying for us right now. I would argue Jesus is praying for even those who aren’t followers of Christ yet to bow the knee to him. Man, that gives me Godfidence. Because the second person of the Trinity is praying right now on our behalf, even when we don’t know how to articulate those words. Do you have a special place where you pray? You should. Establish that place, because Jesus said “when you pray (verse 6) go into your room,” into your closet, literally. I have a chair at my house and I usually pray in that chair.
Years ago, I was in a coffee shop with a friend of mine. It was pretty crowded, and we were talking about prayer. And I said,
“See that? See that table right there with that chair?” He goes,
“Yeah.” I said,
“I wish I could buy that.” He said,
“That thing is ratty!” and I said,
“No, no, no. Not to me. For probably 5 years I would wake up almost every day when it was still dark outside, go to this coffee shop, journal (which I encourage you to do in your prayers), pray, and I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve written from that table. I wish I could buy it.” That place became holy ground.
When Moses had that interaction with God on the back side of the desert, the Lord said, “Take off your shoes, this is holy ground.” Have that place, have that chair, have that sofa. Maybe it’s walking somewhere, or maybe it’s… I don’t know. Have a place where you pray.
Well, Ed, how long should I pray? I really don’t know. As long as it takes you to surrender to the will of God. Sometimes it can be 5 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. There’s no set time. You hear people, “Oh, I pray 45 minutes a day.” It doesn’t mean you’re a better Christian than someone who prays 10 minutes a day, but I’m telling you something. You do that, you have a space and a place and a time you meet with God. Think about this. Jesus is just sitting there waiting for you, waiting for me, to talk to him.
Well, many prayers in the Bible, don’t be worried, are self-centered. Have you ever thought about that? I would say most prayers in the Bible are self-centered. We’re always going to have mixed motives when we come to God. I’ve told people a lot I wish I could tell you that every motive I’ve ever had in the 30 years of Fellowship Church has been pure about the grown of Fellowship. Every motive? I wouldn’t say that. I’ve done things before here for my pride. I’ve made statements like, “Oh yeah, we’re this-sized church, and we’re the biggest…” So, I’ve had mixed motives. I believe most of my motives are God-driven. So, don’t worry. Don’t be like, I’m not gonna pray until I have completely pure… it’s not gonna happen. Because we’re not going to be restored and righteous and pure until we get to the other side. God can take that. Like the cell phone, do you think my twins had pure motives? Completely pure motives when they did the poster and the PowerPoint and all of the pictures? Heck to the no.
Well, here’s what Jesus said. I might have to continue this next week, because we have so much stuff in it. I can’t just fly over it. I might do that. I might just do… because I want to get into the intricacies of the Lord’s Prayer. See, we’re almost out of time. But I do, I can help all of us apply this. Establish a place for prayer. Understand and think about your conversation with God. Obviously, we should start when we have this time and place and space with God. Obviously, we should begin the prayer with praise and adoration when we have that time. Then it can segue into requests, we ask God, but I want you to remember the main thing about prayer is alignment. We’re not always going to understand the answer. But, prayer is the opportunity for us to apply God’s answer. Does that make sense to you? I come to God and say, “God, not my will, not my desire, but yours.” My motivation cannot be for the applause of the crowd. My motivation cannot be to just turn prayer into a spiritual quid pro quo, or God is like Amazon and he delivers everything I want to my doorstep. No, no, no, no. It’s about God. It’s about syncing up with him.
So, my motivation, my location, establish one today. If you don’t have one, establish one. Then, think about your conversation. It can’t be on the fly. You can’t just, OK, God, let’s Facetime a little bit, and that’s it. We’ve got to talk to him.
Maybe you’re praying for healing. I’ve seen God supernaturally heal people. I’ve also seen God say “no” to situations like that, but then again, what is healing? I mean, I’ve seen pass. I’ve seen people die. My own mother died. What’s healing? Here or ultimate healing in Heaven? And, as I talked about last week, have you ever thought about this? All the people that Jesus healed ultimately died. See, we have a new perspective. We zoom in and we zoom out. We’re like, whoa! And that’s what prayer does.
The final thing I would say about prayer, and I’ll hit on this next week, forgiveness. Jesus talks about forgiveness several times. He overly emphasizes forgiveness. It’s almost like I want to say, OK, Jesus. I got it, forgiveness. If you think about it, though, forgiveness is the essence of the gospel. I’m forgiven. You’re forgiven. Thus, we should forgive others.
Oh, wait a minute, Ed! My ex-spouse has got to come crawling back to me on glass! Then, I’ll forgive him, or her. Oh, that person who ripped me off in that business deal! I’m gonna… so many people that have hurt you and me don’t even realize it. So, if you’re waiting for that, if I’m waiting for that, it’s not gonna happen. We release them. And there’s a direct result in releasing and in our fellowship with God. Not our relationship, but our fellowship. This is especially true in marriage, is it not? If you’re in a fight with your spouse, try to pray. Oh, wait. I see you. You can’t. You can’t, you can’t.
Your motivation: God, I want what you want.
Your location: I’m going to establish a place.
Your conversation: Begin to talk to God. Journal your prayers. And I’m telling you something. You’ll have this intimate relationship with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords that I will continue to talk about. I’m sorry I couldn’t do it all. I wanted to but they’re telling me stop right now. Next time.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]