Faithlife Sermons

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Introduction
            My mom has a computer.
When we were there last week for a family gathering, my brother and I and some of her grandchildren went on her computer and used it for a number of different things.
We had no problem doing these things because we are comfortable with computers and know quite a bit about them.
My mother, on the other hand, has learned to play one game on the computer and that is all she uses it for.
She doesn’t understand it, doesn’t like it and so does not use it.
Could it be that the same thing is true with prayer?
The better we understand what happens when we pray and the more we know about prayer, the more we will pray and the more effectively we will pray.
This morning, I want to think with you about what actually happens when we pray.
My hope is to encourage all of us to pray more and more effectively because we understand what happens when we pray.
There are, of course, many different kinds of prayer.
Some we understand better than others.
We understand what happens when we pray a prayer of confession.
When we have done something wrong, we know what it means to tell God we have sinned and to receive His forgiveness.
We know what it means to pray prayers of thanksgiving when we recognize what God has done and thank Him for it.
We know what it means to worship.
When we think about God, who He is, the world He has created and acknowledge His grace in our life, it is natural to respond with praise.
Perhaps a little less understood, is the prayer of conversation.
Have you ever begun your day by saying, "Good morning, Lord?"
That is an example of a prayer of conversation, where we simply talk to God and take time to listen to Him.
The prayers that I find the most difficult to understand are prayers of intercession and asking.
I have often wondered, "what happens when we pray asking - whether for others or ourselves?"
Does God change His mind?
If He knows what I need, why does He still want us to pray?
If we understand what happens when we pray, it will help us to be more bold and more accurate in our prayers.
It isn’t just one thing that happens.
I.
We Bend Our Will To God's Will
A. Story
            Abraham was busy with his sheep, minding his own business and enjoying his family.
God came to Him and told him to leave his home and family.
He also promised, "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."(Gen.
12:2,3)
            Abraham obeyed God and left for another land.
Many years went by and still Abraham had no children.
He remembered God's promise that "I will make you into a great nation."
and he wondered how that was going to happen.
God appeared to Him again and Abraham prayed and asked God to clarify how this was going to happen.
We read in Genesis 15:2, "But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?""
God answered and told him that one of his own children would be his heir.
Again years went by and Abraham still had no children.
Sarah suggested that he take her maid Hagar and have a child with her and that would probably be the promised offspring.
Abraham did this and Ishmael was born.
When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him again and this time told him that his chosen descendent would not be Ishmael, but a child born to Sarah.
At this point, such a promise seemed too much to believe, but Abraham believed God and when he was 100 years old, the promise made to him 25 years before in the land of Haran was finally fulfilled.
B.
Principle of Prayer
            This story reveals to us one of the things that happens when we pray and that is that we gradually come to understand and accept God's will.
In the story of Abraham, it took 25 years for Abraham to pray and reflect and live and pray again until he understood what God had known all along.
Sometimes, it is not a matter of understanding, but of accepting God's will.
We see such a prayer when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
He knew what God's will for Him was, but it was not easy for Him to follow that will and it took him a time of intense prayer to come to the place of acceptance.
Both of these cases, illustrate one thing that happens when we pray and that is that something takes place in us.
Our understanding grows and our will is changed.
God does not necessarily act, but we move.
What we asked for originally may not happen, but we grow to understand that what does happen is God's best for us.
In this struggle in prayer, we may pray, get an impression, act on the understanding we have, pray some more, talk to someone, act on our changed understanding, pray some more, and finally, understand and accept what God is doing.
This kind of prayer can also happen in a decision.
We pray, God reveals a course of action, we don't like it and perhaps question if it is from God.
We pray some more, we think and talk, we pray some more and finally accept what God's will is for us.
C.
Modern Story
            I originally went to seminary because I wanted to become equipped to do God's work.
I didn't know what kind of work, but of course, we prayed about it and sought the Lord's will.
After the first year, Carla and I went on a mission assignment.
That experience taught us that missions was probably not going to be our area of ministry.
After the second year, we worked in a church for the summer.
That seemed more down our alley, but when I graduated, I thought that pastoral work might be OK, but I really wanted to teach.
It took about 10 years before I realized that God had called me to be a pastor.
During those years, I prayed many times for God to reveal his will in my life and through prayer, struggle, conversation and God's leading, I have come to understand and accept God's will in my life.
D.
How Should We Pray?
So understanding that in prayer something changes in us, what does that teach us about how we should pray?
1.Pray Diligently
            It teaches us that we should pray diligently.
We should not give up praying after we have offered up one quick prayer.
Hebrews 5:7 tells us something about Jesus' prayer habits.
There we read, "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."
Even Jesus needed to keep on praying and be diligent in prayer.
As we persevere in prayer and pray diligently, we need to realize that the first impression we receive may not be the complete one.
We may need to keep on praying repeatedly until peace comes and God's way is clear.
2.Listen
            Because prayer changes us, we also need to learn to listen to God.
We need to learn to see all the ways in which God speaks to us.
Some do not accept anything as God's will unless it comes in an audible voice from God, but God hasn't very often spoken like that and when he did, those who were there found it hard to listen.
God may speak that way, but much more often, God's direction comes from His Word, from the direction given by others around us and from the doors He opens and closes.
If we want to grow in our ability to understand the will of God, we need to learn to listen to the different ways God is speaking.
3.Grow In A Love Relationship
            One of the things we learn from those who are known for following God - like David, Paul and others - is that they were people who had a growing love relationship with God.
One writer said, "It is the strongly personal relation with God in which those mediators stood that underlies these intercessory prayers."
As we develop a growing love relationship with God this process becomes easier.
So while we wrestle and struggle, we need to also confess and worship and approach God regularly and then in the context of a relationship with God, we will learn to pray in such a way that we will come to understand and accept the will of God in our lives.
II.
We Involve Ourselves In Spiritual Warfare
A. Biblical Story
            Daniel was a spiritually sensitive man.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, he took time for mourning, fasting and prayer.
The concerns of his prayer were the place of God’s people in the work and plans of God.
He was concerned about the kingdom of God on earth and spent a period of three weeks in prayer to present these concerns before God.
In Daniel 10:12, 13, the angel said to Daniel, "Do not be afraid, Daniel.
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