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God's Plan and Our Prayers

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Prayer is God's means to unfold His plans

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“The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. Our enemy fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. Prayer brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer.” Samuel Chadwick, /The Path of Prayer/
“The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. Our enemy fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. Prayer brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer.” Samuel Chadwick, /The Path of Prayer/
“If we look at mighty movements of God from biblical to contemporary history, from Nehemiah to the New Testament church, from 17th century Puritans to 19th century laymen and students, we will see a steady stream of men and women who were known for their passionate panting after God. They were known for their desperate desire to love Him and belong to Him; to experience power with Him from the confines of the prayer closet to the corners of planet Earth. I fear this is not what we are known for in our day.
Today, we are known for our preaching, teaching, writing, blogging, organizing, strategizing, planning and planting but we are not known for our praying and fasting. In this, we are in profound danger of missing the whole point.
God wills for us to be a praying people. God wills to work in the world in ways that echo the cries of His children.”
— David Platt
I wonder, perhaps if one reason we rely so much today on our own doing is because we wonder:
The question is:
Does prayer really DO anything? Does it make a difference? Or is God going to do what God has always planned to do regardless of my prayers?
Ephesians 1:11 ESV
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
James 4:2 ESV
2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
Luke 11:9–10 ESV
9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Acts 4:29–31 ESV
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Does prayer change God’s mind?
If YES - then what does this do to the sovereignty of God? Does it simply become a matter of the one who prays the most / best / longest gets God’s favor? (ex. two sports teams praying opposite)
If NO - then why pray at all? If prayer does not change God’s mind / plan then what’s the point?
I know most of us have heard the popular saying , “Prayer doesn’t change God; prayer changes me.”
Nice saying — prayer does change us, but does it also change things?
Introduction
(Lead up to )
God leads Israelites out of Egypt
Brings them to Mt Sinai
Moses goes up mountain to receive Ten Commandments
Takes too long
Israelites give gold to Aaron who makes a golden calf
Israelites worship golden calf
(As a side note — This is a common response for many of us when God seems distant, confusing, gone — when prayers do not seem to be answered in the time or the way we expected. We tend to revert back to what we know, we tend to make “gods” that we can control)
(ESV)
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
(NASB95)
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
14 So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
(NLT)
14 So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
Here is where we begin to squirm.
Because Moses, who wrote Exodus also wrote in:
(ESV)
19 God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
The question is:
Does prayer change God’s mind?
If YES - then what does this do to the sovereignty of God? Does it simply become a matter of the one who prays the most / best / longest gets God’s favor? (ex. two sports teams praying opposite)
If NO - then why pray at all? If prayer does not change God’s mind / plan then what’s the point?
I know most of us have heard the popular saying , “Prayer doesn’t change God; prayer changes me.”
Nice saying — prayer does change us, but does it also change things?
“Thy will be done.”
“The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. Our enemy fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. Prayer brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer.” Samuel Chadwick, /The Path of Prayer/
“If we look at mighty movements of God from biblical to contemporary history, from Nehemiah to the New Testament church, from 17th century Puritans to 19th century laymen and students, we will see a steady stream of men and women who were known for their passionate panting after God. They were known for their desperate desire to love Him and belong to Him; to experience power with Him from the confines of the prayer closet to the corners of planet Earth. I fear this is not what we are known for in our day.
Today, we are known for our preaching, teaching, writing, blogging, organizing, strategizing, planning and planting but we are not known for our praying and fasting. In this, we are in profound danger of missing the whole point.
God wills for us to be a praying people. God wills to work in the world in ways that echo the cries of His children.”
— David Platt
We’re going to explore Three Truths and a Tension.
Tensions are not bad
The mathematicians and engineers are nervous
There are paradox and tensions throughout Christian theology.
Jesus is 100% God and 100% man
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one God, yet uniquely exist as three distinct Persons
Just because they are hard to fathom does not make them illogical or untrue
In fact, I would prefer to worship a God I cannot fathom than one who is easy to figure out.
(Aspects of the outline are not unique to me)

God’s purposes are unchanging.

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Ephesians 1:11 ESV
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Psalm 33:10–11 ESV
10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Isaiah 46:9–11 ESV
9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
God’s purposes are unchanging because they are rooted in a God who is unchanging.
But Moses implored the Lord (Yahweh) his God and said, “O Lord,
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self,
Hebrews 1:10–12 ESV
10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
Heb 1:10-12
Malachi 3:6 ESV
6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
James 1:17 ESV
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Hebrews 1:10 ESV
10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
Psalm 102:25–27 ESV
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
We struggle with God’s sovereignty when we distrust his goodness, and we struggle with God’s goodness when we misunderstand his sovereignty.

God’s promises are unfailing.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
Remember??? Did God forget? No, Moses wasn’t calling God back to his promise; rather, he was calling ON God to perform his promise.
(ESV)
19 God is not man, that he should lie,
Numbers 23:19 ESV
19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, (promised) and will he not fulfill it?
(ESV)
34 I will not violate my covenant
Psalm 89:34 ESV
34 I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.

God’s plans are unfolding.

According to the story, Moses intercedes and changes the course of the story.
They are God’s plans.
If we were to continue our reading today:
(ESV)
15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written.
Moses descended the mountain and the Israelites were still alive.
Was this God’s plan? Yes. God loved the Israelites. God saved the Israelites. God knew, planned, and purposed for the Israelites to move past Sinai and eventually enter the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.
Here’s the rub. If we rewind back to verse 10, we might suspect a different outcome of the story:
10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
At this point we need to assume that unless there is a mediator, unless someone steps in, God is determined to destroy the Israelites.
In other words, it is safe to say that at verse 10 God truly intended to destroy the Israelites, while at the same time knowing what would be the eventual outcome.
How can we say that?
Otherwise, if we were to say that God was not really going to destroy them (because he intended v15 to happen) then God would simply be manipulative and a liar. This goes against God’s unchanging character. The threat was real. God’s plan at that point was to destroy the Israelites.
But here comes the fold.
We know that Moses steps in and mediates between God and the people.
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Here’s the thing — Moses was on top of the mountain with God. He did not know what was going on at the bottom of the mountain.
But
God did not NEED to involve Moses at all. God didn’t NEED Moses’ approval to destroy the Israelites and start again with Moses.
So why did God tell Moses?
He wanted to involve Moses in his unfolding plan.
ILLUST - Sometimes, as a dad, when I wash the car I involve one of my children. The purpose is that my car will be clean, but I involve child in the process for their sake and my joy.
God in his holiness and justice had every right to judge the Israelites in his wrath, BUT God in his love and his mercy had the compassion to spare the people he so dearly loved. And God, in his sovereign plan, chose to use a human mediator in the unfolding of his plan.
This is the grand narrative of the Bible. People are in rebellion against a holy God and are under a real threat of God’s judgment, but God in his mercy loves them dearly and chooses to use and so sends a human mediator to intercede for them as his plan unfolds.
We see this in our story with Moses
We see this in the story of Jonah as God sends him to the wicked Ninevites to warn them of judgment, and in so doing he becomes a mediator for God’s mercy as they repent and turn from their wickedness.
Ultimately, though, all of these are but hints, types, and shadows of what God is doing through Jesus.
As a sign that Jesus was a mediator from God Jesus points to Jonah saying just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days / nights, so Jesus will be in the earth for three days / nights
says Jesus is similar to but greater than Moses
Like Moses, Jesus stood in the gap between the anger of righteous God and the sin of his people.
Like Moses, Jesus offered for God to take his life rather than destroy us (). But whereas Moses only offered it, Jesus actually did it.
While the Israelites were worshipping an idol and revelling in their sin, Moses was interceding on their behalf
Paul writes in Romans that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God said to Moses, I’ll destroy the children of Israel and take you.
Jesus replied, Destroy me and take them.
Jesus was the mediator who would die rather than let us perish.
Don’t miss this - in the glory of the sovereignty of God, this story paints a picture of what Jesus would one day do for you.
says Jesus is the greater Moses
Like Moses, Jesus offered for God to take his life rather than destroy us (). But whereas Moses only offered it, Jesus actually did it.
While the Israelites were worshipping an idol and revelling in their sin, Moses was interceding on their behalf
Paul writes in Romans that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God said to Moses, I’ll destroy the children of Israel and take you.
Jesus replied, Destroy me and take them.
Jesus was the mediator who would die rather than let us perish.
This story calls you who are looking at the mountain to trust in Jesus, your mediator, to save you.
The real problem is that the mysteries of God can only be described with the accommodations of men.
What we see from this story of Moses and many other stories throughout Scripture is that. . .

Prayer is God’s means to unfold His plans.

Prayer changes things.
The means by which God chooses to accomplish his will on earth is through our prayers.
God intended to destroy the Israelites
God told Moses this
Moses intercedes for the people by calling on God’s own promises
“When you put all this together, what you see is that God had put Moses into a situation so that he would see the problem, remember God’s promises, and petition God to change his course of action. God wants Moses to ask this, so he sovereignly puts him in a situation where he will.”
• God wants Moses to ask this, so he sovereignly puts him in a situation where he will.
— J. D. Greear
God sovereignly placed Moses in a situation that he might be the one to unfold God’s plan - to cause a situation to happen that would not have otherwise happened.
“Prayer causes thing to happen that would otherwise not happen if you did not pray.”
“If you do not avail yourself of the privilege of bringing to pass events in the universe that would not take place if you did not pray, you are acting like a colossal fool.” — John Piper
**How exactly does the unchanging purpose of God work with the unfolding plan of God? Only God knows.
If Moses had not interceded - what would have happened?
We must live in the tension and we do so by praying the unfailing promises of God. **
19th century Princeton theologian A.A. Hodge said it this way:
• •
Your situation—the problems you are observing and the divinely appointed opportunities in them—are divinely appointed invitations to call God’s promises into effect. Like Moses, he has “sent you down” into a family; a group of friends; a neighborhood. Some of you have looked around at your family and thought, “Why did God make me part of this family?” He put you there for you to pray.
The system is rigged. You are placed where he wants you to be so you can obey and pray for the things he wants to do; to perceive the problem and believe the promise and release his power into the situation.
“Does God know the day you’ll die? Yes. Has he appointed that day? Yes. Can you do anything to change that day? No. Then why do you eat? To live. What happens if you don’t eat? You die. Then if you don’t eat, and die, then would that be the day that God had appointed for you to die?
...Quit asking stupid questions and just eat. Eating is the pre-ordained way God has appointed for living.”
appointed that day? Yes. Can you do anything to change that day?
No. Then why do you eat? To live. What happens if you don’t eat?
the pre-ordained way God has appointed for living.”
You die. Then if you don’t eat, and die, then would that be the day
that God had appointed for you to die?
— Adapted from Charles Ryrie, who stole it from A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (1890), 92– 93.
Adapted from Charles Ryrie, who stole it from A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology (1890), 92– 93.
(New slide) stupid questions and just PRAY.
.
2 Quit asking
Sometimes people talk about the sovereignty of God as if it keeps them from action: “Well, if God is sovereign, then it doesn’t matter what I do!” Scripture actually points you to exactly the opposite place: Realizing God sovereignly puts you in places as the instrument of his power is what gives you the motivation to pray:
• Once,Isatnexttoaladyonaplaneandwassettlinginforan8hr plane ride to Taipei to go visit a couple of our missionaries. I noticed this lady was reading a book by David Jeremiah, a popular radio preacher. I asked her why she was going to Taipei. She said, “I’m retired, and I’m on a search to find myself... to find God, really.” I said, ‘Does he live in Taipei?’ She laughed and said, “No. I don’t think so. But I’m really attracted to the way of life over there. But, to be honest, I’ve been there for about a half a year and now I’m more confused than ever. I returned home because my sister is really sick and I’m thinking about her death and mine and I just don’t know where to turn.”
I said, “Well, what’s with the David Jeremiah book?” She said, “I don’t know. I haven’t started reading it yet. I heard him on the radio a couple of weeks ago and he sounded like he knew God. So, I’ve been praying that whatever God is out there will reveal himself to me.” I said, “Ma’am, I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I think God is answering your prayer.” I talked to her for the
the pre-ordained way God has appointed for living.”
*Moses didn’t dwell on the tension between God’s unchanging purpose and his unfolding plan. Instead, he took opportunity of the situation God had placed him in to pray the promises of God in order to release the power of God.
much he does the unchanging promises of God and how they apply to the situation
much he does the unchanging promises of God and how they
apply to the situation
**TRUTH - You are placed in a place to pray.
**Where has God divinely placed you that you might pray and release the power of God to cause something to happen that would not otherwise happen ?
Do you KNOW God? Moses knew God and could approach him with confidence.
Do you know God’s promises? Moses didn’t appeal to his own desires but to GOD’s promises.
Because prayer is God’s means to unfold his plans, we pray the promises of God.
Conclusion

Apply the truth:

Pray God’s Promises:
James 1:5 ESV
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV
8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deut 31:8\
1 John 1:9 ESV
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God’s Promise
James 1:5 ESV
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” ( NLT).
Sample Prayer
“Father, before I ask in prayer for other things perhaps I should ask for wisdom. I recognize that ‘your thoughts are not my thoughts and your ways are higher than my ways.’ Because of this, I ask your for wisdom. Grant me the wisdom I need to see things the way you see them — to approach my job in the wisdom you give, to lead my family in the wisdom you give, to pastor this church in the wisdom you give. God, I need it for I lack it. I humbly, yet boldly ask for the wisdom you promise.”
om daily so I can navigate life according to your will and for your glory. I ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.”
You’re not on a mountaintop experience with God
You feel like your prayers have gone unanswered for way too long - God must have abandoned you.
You look up and all you see is cloud and nothing is happening.
says Jesus is the greater Moses
Like Moses, Jesus stood in the gap between the anger of righteous God and the sin of his people.
Like Moses, Jesus offered for God to take his life rather than destroy us (). But whereas Moses only offered it, Jesus actually did it.
While the Israelites were worshipping an idol and revelling in their sin, Moses was interceding on their behalf
Paul writes in Romans that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God said to Moses, I’ll destroy the children of Israel and take you.
Like Moses, Jesus stood in the gap between the anger of righteous
God and the sin of his people. • Like Moses, Jesus offered for God to take his life rather than
destroy us (). But whereas Moses only offered it, Jesus actually did it.
Jesus replied, Destroy me and take them.
o God said to Moses, I’ll destroy the children of Israel and take you.
Jesus was the mediator who would die rather than let us perish.
o Jesus replied, Destroy me and take them. • Jesus was the mediator who would die rather than let us perish.
This story calls you who are looking at the mountain to trust in Jesus, your mediator, to save you.
You are placed where he wants you to be so you can obey and pray for the things he wants to do; to perceive the problem and believe the promise and release his power into the situation.
It is also reminding
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