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What Should We Pray For

Importance of Prayer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  57:05
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Introduction

Two young men are talking to each other, and like young me, trying to one-up the other. They were discussing what each of them knew, and which one knew the most. One said, well I know the bible as well as anyone. The other said, I’ll bet you ten dollars you can’t even recite the Lord’s Prayer. Ha! That will be an easy ten dollars, the other proclaimed! “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Ha, about that! The other boy just stared at him for a moment, then started grinning. He reached into his pocket and pulled out ten dollars and said “Well, you fooled me. I really didn’t think you knew it”.
So far we have discussed what prayer is, and how we should pray. We have gone over how we have moved away from God - and how we are to move back to God. Now, this isn’t always an easy way to do as we often seem to have forgotten our way. Many times we have been following our own personal paths chasing butterflies and listening to the birds and have gotten ourselves lost. We have forgotten which path we taken, how we gotten there, and certainly don’t know how to find our way back. So, we call out, hoping someone hears and calls back. Once we hear someone else, we can get an idea of where we should be. Not only do we have to know where we are, not only do we need an idea of where we should be, but we must to create a route to get back. When we get so off track we have turned away from God, we must call out to Him in prayer and for the same reasons. We know we are not where we should be, we call out to find the One that can give us an idea of where we should be, and we must follow that path back to Him.
We looked at the model prayer, and the motives in which we must approach prayer. We understand it is possible to pray for the wrong things, with the wrong motive, and in the wrong way. It is possible to pray and never be heard by God. We are not to focus on “what” we pray as much as “how” we pray – the spirit in which we approach prayer; in a manner of reverence, not out of the desire to be seen and heard.
But what is it we should pray for? Are there appropriate or inappropriate things we can pray for? And, are there things we pray for that God does not promise He will do? We are told in 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. Notice these words “ask anything according to his will”. Many times I think we forget that WHAT we ask for MUST be in His will!
Feeding of 5,000 - Jesus asked his disciples how they were going to feed that many people. Of course this wasn’t a question as much as it was something to get the disciples to thinking how impossible the task was. They found a young boy with 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes, knowing this was nowhere near enough, and then Jesus blessed the food. Asking the Father for His blessing and will be done. Now, we have to notice that there was not just a bite for each person to tide them over, but they ate until they were satisfied - they were FULL. Afterwards, they picked up 12 baskets of leftover food. How did this occur? What kind of miracle was done? One that God the Father had pre-ordained to occur to show the power of His Son. But, if we notice, Jesus still prayed before this occurred. God answered the prayer, but the men distributed and received the blessing. Tony Evans makes this remark on this passage “If Jesus had to pray to get His heavenly Father to do something up there to change something down here, how much do you and I need to pray to get God to do something up there that we need Him to do down here?”
Notice here that Christ did not pray for something that was unattainable, but something that God had already determined to do. It was what was in the Father’s will! So, how do we know what is in God’s will? Part of this can be answered in the model prayer, to pray “thy will be done” - we must put away our wants and desires and seek that God’s will be done. What is the ultimate will that God has for our lives? That we would know His son as our personal Savior. But scripture also points out there may be times that He will not answer our prayer. We find in Luke 22:42 where Christ is praying, He knows what is to come and is in agony over what He is to face here on earth. But notice His prayer “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Even knowing He would soon be facing death, knowing it would be in God’s will, but still praying that if there be ANY way, that it would be taken away - that He would not have to go through the pain and agony. Remove this cup from me. How many of us are scared to ask God will, NOT knowing the outcome, but how many of us could have uttered the prayer KNOWING the outcome?
But there are other things we find in scripture that points us in the direction of God’s will in our prayer life. We find that God commands us to pray for our enemies, our church leaders, the sick, that we be worthy of our calling,

Enemies

Matthew 5:44–45 ESV
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
As unlovable as humans an be sometimes, believers are to love all men, even enemies. They are to respect and honor all men (1 Pe. 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor). Every human being has something that is good about them, even if it is nothing but the fact that he is a fellow human being with a soul to be reached for God.
Loving our enemies:
Goes against human nature. Human nature is to react, strike back, hate, and wish hurt. At best human nature treats an enemy with a cold shoulder and keeps its distance. The root of human reaction against enemies is self and bitterness. When Christ said “Love your enemies,” He could have used any one of four words. The Greek language is very descriptive and detailed in its expressions. Its words are precise and full of meaning. In speaking of love, the Greek language describes exactly what is meant. It separates the various types of love, and uses four different words for love. Thus, it is always important to know which word is used in the New Testament and what that word means.
1. There is eros love. This is love that arises from passion, infatuation, and physical attraction. It is the love (passion) of a man for a woman. The word is never used in the New Testament.
2. There is storge love. This is love that arises from affection, a natural born affection, the affection of family love. It is the love and natural affection between parent and child.
3. There is phileo love. This is love that arises from affection also, but from a different kind. It is a deep, intense, and warm affection. It is an affection that fills a person’s heart with warmth, tenderness, preciousness, and a deep consciousness of really loving and really being loved. It is the love of precious affection and feelings toward those who are very near and very dear to your heart.
4. There is agape love. This is the love that wishes well. It is a love that demonstrates kindness, benevolence, and esteem. It is the love of the mind, reason, and choice. It is a sacrificial love, that is, a love that cares, gives, and works for another person’s good—no matter how the person may respond or treat you.
The word Christ uses in saying “Love your enemies” is agape: the love that must be willed. The Christian must use his mind and reason, deliberately choosing to love his enemy.
The Christian’s love (agape love) is not complacent acceptance of open wickedness and license. It is not sitting back and allowing a person to do as he pleases. It is not allowing selfishness and deception and a wallowing around in license. Agape love is putting a stop to sin and license as much as possible. It is restraint, control, discipline, and even punishment when it protects the offender from himself and protects those whom he hurts. Very simply pictured, it is a parent controlling a child for his own good and for the good of those who love him. Agape love is God’s love. A Christian can have agape love only as he allows God to love through him. “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” (Ro. 12:20).
In his sermon, a preacher used "Forgive Your Enemies" as his subject. After 30 minutes, he asked how many were willing to forgive their enemies. About half held up their hands.
Not satisfied he harangued for another 20 minutes and repeated his question. This time he received a response of 80.
Still unhappy, he lectured for another 15 minutes and repeated his question. With thoughts now on Sunday dinner, all responded except one elderly lady.
"Mrs. Jones, why aren't you willing to forgive your enemies?"
"I don't have any."
"Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?"
"Ninety-three."
"Please come down to the front and tell the congregation how a person be 93, and not have an enemy in the world."
The little sweetheart tottered down the aisle, very slowly turned around and said:
"It's easy, I just outlived them all”

Church Leaders

Matthew 9:36–38 ESV
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Sheep can be interesting animals. They will take off and run at the thought of danger, but will give up if caught. They have no sense of fight, no defensive capacity. It takes the shepherd to keep them together - safe and secure under their protection.
Christ looked out over the crowds and exhibited the same compassion of His father - the kind of compassion that we are to show all others we come in contact with. If it were not for the shepherd, we would be just like these described by Jesus - harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Who had God placed as shepherds within the church? In the Baptist church, it is the pastor. Jesus was moved over the physical needs of men: their hunger, pain, and suffering. He was moved over the spiritual needs of men: their being lost and dead to God; their emptiness and loneliness and bewilderment; their having no purpose, meaning, or significance in life. He saw them all, and He observed and studied them. No one escaped the eye or the heart of Jesus. The same is for your pastor, we see the everyday struggles of our congregation, and we have this same compassion. We see when life weights you down, we understand that life can be difficult. We protect against “religion” weighing you down. Church is a place where we should be able to come together and find peace and be lifted up by each other. Too often we try to “instruct” people on how “religion” can answer their problems - if you only came to church more often, if you were more dedicated, if you read your bible more, if you prayed more… Your pastor protects you from “religion” and points you to God. We see the weight of sin that weighs you down. The best of us here in this church are still only forgiven sinners. When we sin, we must seek reconciliation with God. While there are many sins that may seem unforgivable, remember that the only unforgivable sin is the one of not asking God to forgive us. The pastor makes sure that, if God can forgive, then the church should also. Sometimes we must be reminded that it is only by God’s grace that we are not living a life of sin ourselves.
Jesus also saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. They went astray, just as sheep. They had no leader who had the courage to surrender to the truth and to live by it. There was no one to teach the truth. Practically every teacher seemed to be out to fleece the sheep, to secure his own position and build a following of his own ideas. Few led the people to God; many led the people away from God. The people were as sheep without a shepherd.
Church, without a shepherd, we too tend to wander astray. We will walk away from truth, from teaching, and from protection. Each of these things pained Jesus, just as they weigh heavy on your pastor. Keep him in prayer as he guides, leads, and protects the flock.

Sick

James 5:13–16 ESV
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
While it is biblical to pray when we suffer, to sing praise when things are well. This does not mean that we do not praise God in the midst of trouble nor that we do not pray in times of no trouble. We pray and praise God all the time. But when we are facing trouble, God wants us primarily seeking Him for power and deliverance and for courage to be a great witness for Him as we walk through it all. And when we are free of trouble, God wants us mainly praising and rejoicing in Him.
But what about when we are sick? Do we call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Too often we suffer in silence, and we are too reserved to sing God’s praises. But what about when we are facing uncertainty through sickness? Do we reach out for prayer, anointing, and laying on of hands when we face sickness? To be honest, we tend to keep our potential prognosis and illnesses hidden. We do not want to “burden” others with our problems. We may still be trying to work through an unwelcome and unexpected diagnosis ourselves. But we must understand, we cannot be Lone Ranger Christians. We are called together as a congregation to bear each others burdens. Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
When such circumstances strike us, we are to combat them by prayer. We are to pray and seek God for His presence and guidance, His power and strength to walk right through the trial. And we are to ask God for the courage to be a dynamic witness for Him and His glorious salvation. The sick are to be so concerned over his welfare and so trusting of God that he knows that God can heal him. We must also believes in prayer, that where two of three are gathered together in the name of Christ, Christ will be there in more power. While we are called upon to pray and anoint with oil, by FAITH knowing and expecting God to heal the sick person, all the while giving praise knowing we are not healed by our prayers or the oil, but by the Lord.

Worthy of Calling

2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 ESV
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must never forget what was given as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could have salvation. Because of that, we must live a life worthy of our calling.
How can a person be counted worthy by God? No person has any worthiness of his own; no person is perfect. Therefore, no person has enough goodness to stand before God, for God is perfect. If a person is to be acceptable to God, he has to approach God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God accepts a person as worthy only if he comes in the name of Jesus Christ—believing in and trusting Jesus Christ to save him. The person who comes to God through Jesus Christ honors Christ, and any person who honors Christ is counted worthy by God. Note: we are not worthy; we possess no righteousness of our own. But God counts and credits us with righteousness because we come to Him in the perfect righteousness of His Son. We honor God’s Son and God honors anyone who honors His Son.
God must complete the work of faith in us. We age, deteriorate, die, and decay. We cannot complete anything, not permanently. We can complete something for only a few short years at most, and even then we cannot complete anything perfectly. Nothing that we do is ever perfected. Therefore, if we are to be saved from judgment and given eternal life, God has to take our initial belief in Christ …
• and complete the good pleasure of His goodness in us
• and complete the work of faith in us—complete it with omnipotent power
The name of Christ must be glorified in us and we in Him. This simply means that …
• we must let Him live and move and have His being in us—every day
• we must live and move and have our being in Him—every day
• we must let Him be glorified in us
Most importantly, we must be worthy of being called “Christians’.

Protection From Temptation

Matthew 26:41 ESV
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Christ warned of the flesh and its weakness. They were sleeping because of the emotional strain and distress of the evening. As Luke says, they slept because of sorrow, that is, sadness. The evening had been shocking and taxing. They were weary, fatigued, and preoccupied. Concentration in prayer was difficult. They probably fought to stay awake and to pray for their Lord. But the importance of prayer and spiritual dependency upon God in facing trials had not yet been learned. They were making two mistakes common among believers.
1) The disciples were depending upon their own wisdom and strength instead of God’s Spirit to fight whatever battles lay ahead.
2) The disciples were taking God’s deliverance for granted instead of assuring His deliverance through the testimony of prayer. They believed Christ to be the Messiah; therefore, they believed God was going to deliver them against the Romans no matter what. As carnal, fleshly men are apt to do, the disciples no doubt thought prayer mattered little. They were just presuming upon God, taking His deliverance for granted. What Christ said was, “Watch and pray; for only as you watch and pray can you keep from falling when the trial comes.” Watchfulness and prayer bear testimony to God.
This point needs to be noted: watchfulness and prayer bear testimony to God. When we watch and pray, we demonstrate that dependency and trust in God are well founded. When God answers the prayers, then He demonstrates that He loves and cares and delivers those who truly look up to Him. Without watching and praying, God allows men to fall in order to teach that dependency and trust in Him are absolutely essential.
Finally, we notice the disciples could not seem to keep their eyes open. They were failing to stay awake to pray, to watch and to be watchful in prayer. Their spirits were not alive and alert enough to overcome the flesh. The drowsiness and slumber of the flesh were stronger than the spirit. There will be times where we become like the disciples. We may physically be tired, but we may also choose to not pay attention to God’s words of instruction, or we may simply take God for granted - being spoiled with the lack of trials and tribulations other brothers and sisters go through we may just not realize what God has done for us. We must pray that we be protected from this temptation.

Conclusion

1 Kings 9:3 ESV
And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
When we come to God in the spirit of sincerity, seeking His will for our lives, and looking to Him for our guidance, staying close to Him through prayer, He hears our prayers. We must remain faithful to Him, though, for Him to show favor to us. If we would not reward a child acting badly, what makes us thing God will reward us for going against His will? We must continue to remember though, that the answer to our prayers is tied to God’s conditional will. This first part of His will, is to accept Jesus as our personal Savior. Today, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, there is only one prayer God can hear and answer, and that is the prayer acknowledging we are sinners, and asking God’s forgiveness.
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