PRAYING FOR KEEPS
Blown Away – How to Respond to Answered Prayer
April 9, 1995
If you had one prayer request to make and you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would grant that request the moment you prayed it, what prayer would you pray at this very moment? Some would pray, “Rebuild my marriage.” Others would pray, “Give me direction.” Still others would say to God, “Bring back my wayward son or my wayward daughter.”
I think it is safe to say that all of us would be astounded at the pressing needs represented right here in our midst. Think about it. What if the spotlight hit you and you had a chance to voice your request.
Do you know what God is saying to you right now? Based on the authority of the word of God, God is saying to you, “Tell me about it. Talk to Me about what it is that is on your heart because I want to lead you. I want to guide you. I want to do something, and I want you to be blown away by the way I answer your prayer.” As we have learned in this series, God is not always going to answer prayer the way we want Him to, but He will answer your prayer.
Basically, we have folks in three stages of prayer development. In the first stage of prayer development are those folks who pray regularly. Those are the prayer warriors. And maybe you say, “Ed, that’s me. I talk to God. We have conversation; we have communing together. God and I, we are tight.” And that is wonderful that you pray regularly.
A second stage of prayer development that some people find themselves in would be the now and then prayers. “Yeah, I pray now and then. I’ll throw a prayer up here, a prayer up there. To be honest with you, Pastor, I am kind of embarrassed about prayer. I am new to the whole deal. I want to learn more. Sometimes I think it works. Other times, well, I don’t know. But I’ll throw one up now and then, you know, one of those microwave prayers.”
The third stage of prayer development that some people here find themselves in is made up of those who never pray. You are brazen about it and you say, “I don’t pray. I don’t think it works. I gave it up a long, long time ago and I just don’t do it. I do my own thing and I rely on myself.”
In today’s message, I want to do something a little bit different. I want to share with you a couple of stories from the Bible—one from the New Testament, the other from the Old Testament. And when I share these stories with you, a strange thing will happen in your life. I have seen it happen before because it has happened in my life. People will become motivated to pray.
That’s right. Just by my sharing with you two stories from God’s word, you will be motivated to pray. Those of you in stage one development who pray regularly will go even deeper in your prayer life. The “now and then” prayers, you’ll say, “I’m going to start praying regularly. I’m going to be like the song that Tim Shepherd just sang, I am going to be determined in my prayer life because I understand how much God loves me.” And even those stage three people that never pray, I’ll bet, although this is church so I should phrase that, I think, you will dive into the depths of prayer and become someone who talks to God.
I know we are in Texas and a lot of us growing up have seen cattle, maybe you have been to a ranch or two. The Bible refers to Christ’s followers as sheep. Did you know that? We are called the sheep. And Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd. Have you ever heard of the cattle prod before? These two stories will kind of be like prayer prods. The word “prod” means “to urge,” it means “to stir up.” That’s what the Good Shepherd wants to do in your life and my life today.
The first prayer prod is found in the book of Luke, Chapter 18. And let me set the stage for this story because, I’ll warn you, this story is one of the most misinterpreted stories in the entire Bible. Well-meaning Christians take this and they run wild with it. Sadly, though, they miss the interpretation.
Jesus was talking to His followers one day and He said, “Guys, girls, I’m going to tell you something that will motivate you to pray.” Hold on, listen, because this story, this account, will really do it for you. Two main characters. The first character is the widow. Now this widow is not the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, “I’ll jet around the country in my Gulf Stream” widow. This is not the widow who owns hotel chains and who has an incredible stock portfolio. This is a Middle Eastern widow—no connections, impoverished, someone who is alienated, someone who had nowhere to turn. And this widow was being taken advantage of by a villain, by a masked character. We are not sure how this villain was taking advantage of this woman. He could have been intimidating her physically. Maybe he was trying to evict her from her apartment. This woman, though, had no one to turn to. Suddenly she remembers a judge. That’s right, the local judge.
And this judge is the second main character. This fellow is not the Lance Ito, “Let’s reason together” judge. This is a judge that Christ described in two crisp statements as first of all, “not fearing God,” and second of all, “no respecter of humans.” This guy would see people in his courtroom and say, “You are an afterthought. You are a no account. Get out of here. I don’t have time for you; I’ve got more important things to do.” And when the widow pled her case in this man’s courtroom, you guessed it, she was out on the street.
This was not the ordinary widow, though. This widow had some courage. This widow was tough. She had some backbone. And she picks herself up in the street, dusts herself off, and she reasons to herself, “I am going to bother this judge. I am going to pester him. I am going to be all over him. I am not going to let him breathe. I am going to follow him to the camel track. I am going to go home with him. I am going to be his worst nightmare. I am going to pester him to such a degree that he will help me.”
And sure enough, she did. The judge couldn’t get away from her. Finally the judge walks into his office and sees about 300 pink message slips left by the widow, and he loses it and he screams to all of his staff, “Take care of her. Do something. Help her. I’m sick and tired of dealing with her.” And the judge helped the widow. That’s the end of the story. Do you feel motivated to pray? What is the motto of that story? We should bother people? Is that it? It pays to pester?
Christians, again, well-meaning believers, take that text and say to themselves, “You know what, that story is probably an allegory. I’ve got it.” Did you ever watch Batman and Robin growing up. Remember Robin: “I’ve got it.” Well they say, “I’ve got it. We are like the widow. We have no power. We have no one to turn to. Everyone has rejected us and we only have this person way up there, this judge-type character. And if we bother him enough, then he will answer our requests. God is like the judge. He is mean. He is cruel. We are a bother to Him, and if we pester Him long enough, He will answer us. And if we give Him enough pink slips, then God will say, ‘Okay, Gabriel, Michael, do something. Take care of Ed. Take care of Lisa, all right?’”
Surely you don’t believe that do you? Surely we don’t have anyone thinking that that is the moral of the story; that is the point. You see, Jesus was a genius teacher. Seventy percent of His words were words of relevancy, words of application. He used allegory. He used parables. He used illustrations. And this text is a parable. It is a study in contrasts.
After Jesus gave this message, He wanted His listeners to walk away and scratch their heads and go, “Hmm.” He explains Himself in Luke 18 beginning with Verse 6, “And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones…?’” If we know Christ personally, we are chosen. We are adopted into the family of God. We are sons and daughters, co-heirs with the Lord, to rule and reign in glory forever and ever.
[Luke 18:7-8] “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly….” Folks, again I say it. We are not like the widow; we are just the opposite. We have big-time connections. We are not a bother to the Father. He wants to hear your voice. He wants to hear my voice.
As I have said in this series, time and time again, the sweetest voice that God will ever hear is your voice and my voice. It is. When my children walk up to me, they don’t say, “Daddy, please listen. Oh, father, please listen, please, please, please.” When my kids talk to me I stop. So do you, parents, and you listen. We do the E.F. Hutton thing.
God is the same way. He is right there listening. And God wants to tell us—through this story—“You are not like the widow.” “And I am not like the judge,” God says. “I love you. You matter to me. You are my child. You are my boy. You are my girl, if you know Me. Talk to Me about those things, even those small things, those insignificant things. Share them with me because I want to answer your prayer.”
I had one of the most theologically enlightening things happen in my life that has happened in a long time this past Friday evening. Friday night we had a deal here at the church called the Daddy-Daughter Date Night. And our children’s pastor and his staff and some volunteers fixed up the building like a restaurant and we had a wonderful time there.
Prior to the event, I went to Tom Thumb and bought a corsage for my eight-year-old daughter, LeeBeth. It cost me $10.98. When I pulled the corsage from the refrigerator… (And guys, my wife called ahead of me and had it match LeeBeth’s outfit). When I pulled the corsage out, you should have seen LeeBeth’s eyes. It kind of made me a little bit teary. And I thought, “Hey, if she reacts like that over a little corsage, I want to buy her about 72 dozen roses.”
I love to buy things for my kids. I love to give them things. And I know you do, too. If you say you don’t, your are lying.
God wants to give you things. He wants to bless you. He wants to give you His resources. And oftentimes, we feel guilty for some reason because God blesses us. When God gives us something materially, when God helps us in a relationship, we think, “Surely God got His wires crossed. Surely God is messing up. Surely God is not talking about poor, pitiful me, is He?”Hey, you are wrong. You are the favorite son. You are the favorite daughter. That is how much you matter to God. God is saying, “Here it is.”
This theme is throughout the Old Testament—God blessing His children; God answering prayer. And this theme is also true in the New Testament and it is crystallized in the book of Romans, Chapter 8. Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs….”
And folks, I will stop right here. You are not born a child of God. Someone might say, “I was born a Christian.” No, that is not true. “Well, I have been to church,” as I heard someone say one time. Just because you walk into What-a-burger does not make you a hamburger. You have got to be born again into the family of God.
We have a physical birthday, and once we know Jesus Christ personally, we have a spiritual birthday. And once we are adopted, we are God’s children. [Romans 8,] Verse 17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, (you’re talking about inheritance) if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” We are the chosen ones.
I want to stop here and tell you two reasons why the text—Luke, Chapter 18—motivates me to pray and it should motivate you to pray. Here is the first one. It reminds me that God is interested in my prayers because God is supremely and infinitely interested in me. This text reminds me that God is interested in my prayers and He is also interested in me and that motivates me to pray. Anything, everything, whatever I do, God wants me to talk to Him about it. Are you doing that? Are you determined like Tim Shepherd talked about? Or do you say, “Well I don’t know about that.” You have a loving Father waiting to bless you.
Secondly, this story motivates me to pray because it reminds me that God is able. God is able. You see, we have this view of God that “Surely God is not concerned about what I want to talk to Him about. Surely He is tuning harps and spinning planets and dealing with the poor and impoverished. God doesn’t want to talk to me, does He?”
Planets weren’t a problem, the resurrection we celebrate next weekend was not a problem for God. Stilling storms was not a problem with God. And your problem is not a problem with God. Do you know and do you own those facts?
Let’s now jump to the second prayer prod. Are you ready to be prodded again? This is one of my favorite stories. And forgive me if I get too wild as I tell you this story. Exodus, Chapter 17—the Israelites were camped in the middle of nowhere, which is typical of the Israelites. And their enemy, one of those “ites,” the Amalekites, were camped right by the Israelites. They were breathing their bad breath down their necks.
Moses, the leader, could tell there was a rumble getting ready to happen. So Moses, being a great leader, called the biblical General Norman Schwarzkopf into his tent, which was our man Joshua. Exodus is the first time Joshua is ever mentioned. Joshua, you want to do a character study of a man’s man, a man of courage, discipline, vision—that is Joshua. He brings Joshua in and he goes, “Joshua we have got to take care of this enemy. We have got to do battle with them.” And Joshua says, “Moses, you are right.” And here is Moses’ strategy. “Joshua, you take every capable fighting man. You meet the Amalekites on the battlefield tomorrow morning and you fight with courage. All Right?” And Joshua says, “Yes sir, Moses.”
And then Moses says, “Hey, Joshua, I am going to climb a mountain tomorrow.” And you see, you thought mountain climbing and rappeling was a Generation X thing. No, Moses did it a long time ago. Moses climbs the mountain with two of his friends, Aaron and Hur. And Moses says, “I am going to be on this mountain top and you are going to be down there fighting and I am going to pray while you are fighting.” And Joshua was cool with that. You know why? Because Joshua would rather have Moses praying above the battlefield, seeking God’s guidance, His anointing, than he would have Moses fighting on the battlefield.
The next day the fight begins, Moses climbs the mountain and Moses symbolically lifts his hands heavenward and begins to ask God for His blessing, for His supernatural courage on the fight. And as Moses watches, as Moses prays, take a wild guess what happened. The tide of the battle turns for the Israelites. They begin to have the Amalekites on the run. Whoa!
But after doing this for three or four hours, what happened? The old deltoids start wearing out, don’t they? And Moses started getting tired. And he goes, “It’s working, look.” So he kind of puts his arms by his side, maybe in the pockets of his robe, he might kind of fold his arms. And he walks around the top of the mountain and he is watching and he says, “Aaron, Hur, look at this. Now the Amalekites are beating up on our boys. What is the problem? I don’t understand it. They are getting whacked, they are getting killed. Oh no. Prayer. Prayer.”
And he begins to hold his hands up and pray again and as he begins to pray he looks down and the tide of the battle switches back to the Israelites. Our man Moses discovered one thing that day that rattled his spiritual cage. And I want this to rattle your spiritual cage. God’s prevailing power is released into the lives of those people who pray. God’s prevailing power is released into the lives and through the lives of people who really pray, who pray regularly, who pray systematically, who pray fervently.
And God wants to act. And if you pray, if you symbolically lift your hands to heaven and say, “God, I give this situation to You,” you watch the tide of the battle turn at work. “God, I give this relationship to You,” you watch the tide of the battle turn in that relationship. If you want God’s blessings, if you want answered prayer. If you don’t, don’t do it.
This past week I looked through a prayer journal of mine and this prayer journal was a year old. I listed 94 specific answers to prayer. Ninety-four ways I was blown away as I prayed fervently, systematically, about people, about events in my life. And I praise God for it. But then I thought, Ed, what if you had been more specific? Because as I look back at the prayers I prayed a couple of years ago, I was a little bit too general. What if you had prayed more? What if you had had other lists. What could God have done? Are you really praying about certain things? Are you determined?
The other side of the equation is pretty scary and I will conclude on this one. If you don’t pray, if you don’t ask God’s prevailing power to be released in your life, don’t be surprised when the tide of the battle turns against you. Don’t be surprised if you feel overwhelmed, defeated, discouraged, despised. Don’t be surprised. Because if you are not calling on God, He is not going to act. He is not going to deal with you. He is not going to lead. He is not going to work through you the way He wants to work in your life.
The story, though, does not end in Exodus 17. Let me kind of give one little, final note. Moses figured this out because Moses was an intelligent guy. As he began to pray, again his arms got tired. He asked his friends, Aaron and Hur, to come up underneath his arms and to hold his arms heavenward as he prayed, and the Israelites won the battle.
What a picture. This great man of God who learned the art of delegation, the art of talking to God, asked Aaron and Hur, “Aaron and Hur, hold my arms up for me and you help me pray. You stand beside me.” It is my prayer, ladies and gentlemen, that this series has done just that for you. I pray that this series has been like an Aaron and a Hur, maybe to lift your weary arms heavenward, to support you, to stand by you, to motivate you, to stimulate you, to challenge you to pray like you have never prayed before.
Isn’t it about time you begin to pray? Isn’t it about time you did the Luke 18 thing and the Exodus 17 thing, because God wants all of us to be blown totally away through answered prayer.