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Getting God's attention

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The prayer in Ephesians 3 is the most important prayer we could possibly pray because it focuses on God’s most highly prized objective. Do you know what that is and why it’s so important to us?

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Getting God’s Attention

The Prayer That Gets God's Attention
By Jeff Strite
Summary: The prayer in is the most important prayer we could possibly pray because it focuses on God’s most highly prized objective. Do you know what that is and why it’s so important to us?
OPEN: A businessman was troubled about an upcoming important deal for his company and so he went to church to pray for God to help him. By chance, he knelt down next to a man who was praying for $100 to pay an urgent debt. When he overheard the poor man’s prayer, the businessman took out his wallet and pressed $100 into the other man’s hand. Overjoyed, the man got up and left the church.
By chance, he knelt down next to a man who was praying for $100 to pay an urgent debt. When he overheard the poor man’s prayer, the businessman took out his wallet and pressed $100 into the other man’s hand. Overjoyed, the man got up and left the church.
The businessman then closed his eyes and prayed,
"And now, Lord, that I have your undivided attention...."
APPLY: When I pray, I want God’s attention.
I want to “feel” that God is there and He’s listening.
But there are people who’ve told me that they weren’t quite sure God was listening to them. They have described their feeling as if their prayers just never quite made it past the ceiling.
How many of you have ever felt that way?
Now, we know that we shouldn’t have to worry about God paying attention to our prayers. He loves us and He listens to our prayers because He cares for us.
All our prayers are important to God. But tonight, I want to introduce you to a way of praying that is guaranteed to get God’s attention more than any other kind of prayer you can pray.
What kind of prayer would accomplish that?
What kind of prayer would absolutely get God’s interest?
Well it’s recorded right here in , In verse 8 and 9 Paul tells us that God gave him grace so that he could
Ephesians 3:8–9 NIV
8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
Ephesians 3:10–12 NIV
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
The church is how people will know and see God, see his wisdom and his saving grace.
eph 3:10-
Ephesians 3:13 NIV
13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
And then in verse 14 he says:
And then in verse 14 he says:
Ephesians 3:14 NIV
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,
“For this reason I kneel before the Father”
What Paul is saying is this: The reason I’m praying this particular prayer is because God has a goal… God has an agenda.
· God wants everyone to know the riches that can be found in Christ
· AND He wants the mystery of His salvation to be so plain and so obvious that others will understand it and want what we Christians have.
That’s what God wants…and Paul is praying a prayer focused on achieving that objective. Everything in Paul’s short prayer concentrates on God’s goal. God’s agenda.
(pause…)
But wait a minute Hans… I thought you were going to talk about my prayers... about the things that I want when I pray.
Well, I am.
When you’re in a conversation with someone and you want their attention, what should you talk to them about? What will get them interested in what you have to say?
You talk about them… about the things that they care about! You talk about their kids, their grandkids, their spouse, their job, their home…the list could go on and on.
That will get someone to pay attention to what you have to say faster than anything else you can do.
Jesus said that our relationship with God works much the same way:
Matthew 6:33 NIV
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
In other words, if our lives… and our prayers... are focused on seeking God’s Kingdom 1st then we’ll get God’s attention. And when we get His attention then He promises He will give us what we need.
In other words, if our lives… and our prayers... are focused on seeking God’s Kingdom 1st then we’ll get God’s attention. And when we get His attention then He promises He will give us what we need.
“seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Even Jesus prayed that way. Do you remember the night that Jesus was betrayed. He prayed 3 times that God would remove the cup of His suffering. Remove the cup of His impending crucifixion. But each time Jesus ended His prayer with one very important phrase.
Do you how Jesus ended His prayer? (let them to answer). That’s right: “Not my will but yours be done.”
So, when Paul prays this prayer in he’s asking for God’s Will to be done. He’s praying for something he knows God wants done.
So, when Paul prays this prayer in he’s asking for God’s Will to be done. He’s praying for something he knows God wants done.
· God wants everyone to know how wonderful Jesus is…
· AND God wants that message to be so plain and so obvious that others will understand it and want what we Christians have.
So what does Paul pray for?
So what does Paul pray for?
What can he pray for that will make God’s message powerful and vocal and appealing to the world?
Well, he prays for the church. Paul prays for the local congregation at Ephesus.
Look with me again to
Ephesians 3:16–18 NIV
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Hmmm.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen YOU with power through his Spirit in YOUR inner being, so that Christ may dwell in YOUR hearts through faith. And I pray that YOU, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”
Hmmm.
As I was studying for this lesson I thought that was intriguing.
Paul prayed for the church. I do that all the time myself.
But, what would the church at Ephesus have to do with Paul’s overall objective? What effect would a single church have on what God had set Paul aside to do for the Kingdom?
I mean, Paul’s a world traveling evangelist, a persuasive preacher, he’s started a number of congregations by this time.
Ephesus is just one local church. What difference could they make in accomplishing what God wanted Paul to do?
Well… they could make all the difference in the world.
You see, the local church is the face of God to the world.
When the world looks to the church, they’re looking to that body believers as God’s representatives.
Let’s say that you are in the market to buy a new car. A rich relative has passed away and has willed you several million dollars. And now that you have all that money, you’ve figured it was time to buy that new vehicle you’ve always wanted.
You go down to the local car dealer. You kick a few tires. You buy and drive away the car of your dreams… but a few days later you start to experience some problems.
The car needs some work. The engine is running rough or there’s a shudder in the chassis as you drive down the road. You figure, it should be under warrantee – so you take it back to the dealership.
But once you get there, you find that the…
· the workers are rude and unhelpful
· the shop is dirty
· the mechanics are rough on your car…
· and it seems they can’t figure out how to fix your car
On top of all that, it appears they have no intention of honoring the warrantee you thought covered the car to begin with. They expect you to pay all the repairs on the vehicle up front.
Now how would you respond to that kind of treatment?
I might call the Better Business Bureau.
Or I might call a lawyer.
But one things for sure… I probably would not go back to them to buy another car!
And there are some people who would not only NOT go back to that dealership, but they would never buy the brand of car the dealership sold them ever again. Kind of a guilt by association thing.
Now what was the problem with that dealership?
The problem WASN’T they couldn’t SELL cars. They could do that. They sold one to you.
Their problem was that the workers forgot why their company existed.
They thought the company existed for their comfort.
They thought that once the car was sold it didn’t matter how they treated the customer.
And because they thought those things, they’re lose clients. People will stay away from their dealership by the droves. The workers have gained a bad reputation for their company… and even for the car they sold.
And the company WILL fail if those workers keep that up.
And the company WILL fail if those workers keep that up.
The same problem can happen to a church. A church that forgets why they exist
A church that gets to thinking that church is all about their comfort level.
A church that forgets that their primary job is to:
Make disciples of their friends, neighbors and relatives
Baptize new people into Christ
o Baptize new people into Christ
And then teach those new believers how to live strong lives for Christ.
o And then teach those new believers how to live strong lives for Christ. (A loose translation of )
(A loose translation of )
· A church that forgets those things is going to fail.
· AND not only will they fail… but they’ll tarnish the God’s reputation.
Because they are the face of God to the world.
If you try to improve one person by being a good example, you’re improving two. If you try to improve someone without being a good example, you won’t improve anybody.
James H. Thom
How we act and how we reflect Jesus matters.
Over 30 years later, the once teenaged son of the family brought his son to Kentucky Christian College to enroll that boy so that he could one day be a preacher.
The world looks to see how we treat our spouses.
Why had he bro’t his son to KCC? Because he had seen Nash open that door for his wife and was convinced that this was a man he could trust, because he had shown he was a "nice man" by his treatment of his wife.
That man sought out KCC because of how he saw one man treat his wife. He trusted the college because he’d learned to trust one of their professors. And he trusted that professor because he watched what that man had done.
The world looks to see how we treat our spouses.
They look to see how we treat our co-workers.
They look to see how we treat our friends.
And they look to see how we treat our enemies.
They watch us because they want to see if Jesus has made any difference in our lives. If they see that we don’t treat others in our lives any different than they would, they reason they don’t need what we’ve got.
We are the messengers of Christ. And we show by our conduct whether or not Jesus has made any difference in our lives.
Now… back to the prayer
I found it interesting that Paul didn’t lecture the church about what they were supposed to do. He doesn’t lecture them…He prays for them.
And Paul prays 3 things for that church:
1. He prays that God will strengthen them by His Spirit
2. He prays that Christ will dwell in their hearts by faith
3. And he prays that they be rooted and established in love.
WHY?
WHY?
Why would Paul pray for this?
Why not just simply tell the church to do it?
Well, two reasons occurred to me, and they kind of overlap.
1st Paul prays for God to do this for the church because he realizes the church isn’t designed to operate as a purely social organization.
The church can exist and it can survive without God’s direct involvement… but it can’t thrive and fulfill its mission. The church was not designed to run merely on it’s own strength, but its own efforts and abilities.
If it could survive on its own, the sign out by the road would read:
The Church of Human Endeavor
The Church of The Wealthy and Strong
The Church of the Highly Successful
In order for a church to be everything God intended it to be, it MUST HAVE God’s Spirit empowering it AND it MUST HAVE Christ’s presence surrounding it and pervading it.
2ndly, if a church tries to go it alone… without praying for God’s presence and power, then that congregation runs the risk of having all kinds of problems.
tells us that when the Spirit is not present in a church then you’re likely to have
Galatians 5:19–21 NIV
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
You might say: “Hans, come on. Get real. You don’t expect me to believe that, do you? You don’t expect us to believe that just because a church is self-sufficient and doesn’t really rely upon God as much as it should that they’d have problems like that, do you?”
Well, yes I do. I expect you to believe it because I know it’s happened before.
ILLUS: I know of a church that (a long time ago) was a very large and powerful christian church. They had at least 600 people in attendance every Sunday and they even had a Radio program with radio technicians and a special mike for broadcasting their services.
It was the “in” church to go to. They had Doctors and Lawyers, politicians and judges. Anybody who was anybody went to this church. They had power and they had wealth and they had influence… and they relied upon those things far more than upon God.
One of the men in that congregation was a very wealthy individual who tithed generously to the church. Whenever there was a financial shortfall, he’d make up the difference. And because he was powerful and because he was wealthy, and because he was so generous to the church, they made him an elder.
But one day, it became known that this Elder was an adulterer. That sort of sin is hard to keep a secret for long, and when the preacher found out about these indiscretions, he forced the man to resign his position.
Now I’m not sure if it was because the preacher’s decision was unpopular in the church or not, but a couple years later, that preacher resigned and moved on. And when the preacher moved on the Elder was reinstated… because he was a wealthy and influential man.
But he wasn’t a repentant man.
He wasn’t sorry for what he’d done.
About 5 years later, this large, powerful, and wealthy congregation began having financial difficulties. They were running in the red and they couldn’t understand why. When they investigated, they found that the deacon who counted the offerings was juggling the books, and skimming off money for himself. There was the ugly smell of scandal in the air. What were they to do? Well, the Elder who’d been disciplined and reinstated, he went out to that deacon’s home… and he burned the books.
Two years later, that congregation split... and the new church that formed as a result, refused to have Elders in their church for the next 20 years.
When the Spirit of God does not rule in a church… when the authority of Jesus isn’t present in a congregation… there is fertile ground for all kinds of “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like….”
And whenever you see those characteristics show up in a church you know the Spirit of God and presence of Jesus just isn’t there. It doesn’t have to be sexual immorality or financial malfeasance that are signs of this kind of trouble. It could simply be a group of people who come to church and sit with their arms folded in anger, sectarian divisions in the church family, or political maneuverings to gain one’s own way in church decisions. Any of those characteristics can be warning signs that God’s Spirit is not control of that body of believers.
That’s why a church needs to pray like Paul prayed. And that’s why I want us to pray for our congregation today. And not just today... but I want you to pray for this throughout the coming week.
I want us to pray for 3 things for our church:
1. That God will strengthen our church by His Spirit
2. That Christ will dwell in here in our hearts by faith
3. And that we will be rooted and established in love.
LET US PRAY
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