Prayer Brings joy2
Sunday, January 4th, Macomb Baptist Church, P.M.
John 16:24 ”Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
“The chef end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Is it our joy or God’s glory we should pursue? I would answer that with a resounding YES! One of the clearest demonstrations that the pursuit of our joy and the pursuit of God's glory are meant to be one and the same pursuit is the teaching of Jesus about prayer in the gospel of John. The two key verses are John 14:13 and 16:24. The one shows that prayer is the pursuit of God's glory. The other shows that prayer is the pursuit of our joy. In John 14:13 Jesus says, "Whatsoever ye ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." God's Glory! There it is! In John 16:24 he says, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full." Our Joy! There it is! The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. And the chief act of man by which these two goals are preserved is prayer. Therefore, those who pursue their own joy within God's glory will above all others, be people of prayer. Just like the thirsty deer bends down to drink at the brook, so the one glorifying God with joy will be found on bended knee before his Lord.
Tonight I'd like to take several minutes and look more closely at what John records for us concerning prayer as the pursuit of God's glory and prayer and the pursuit of our joy, in that order. In John 14:13 Jesus says, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
ILL: Camden needing his parents.
Camden glorifies me by needing me, asking me for help and counting on me to provide for him.
In John 15:5 Jesus says, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." We, in our strength, apart from Christ can accomplish NOTHING. So, you see, we really are paralyzed spiritually. Apart from Christ we are incapable of any good thing at all. Romans 7:18 tells us . . . But it is God's will that we bear fruit as John 15 has told us. So he promises to do for us (as a strong and reliable friend like Hollie was to Meagan) what we could never do for ourselves.
And how do we glorify him? Jesus gives the answer in John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you." Did you see it there? We ask, we pray. We ask God to do for us through Christ what we could never be capable of doing for and through ourselves – that is to make us bear fruit. Then verse 8 gives the result we're after: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." So, how is God glorified by prayer? Prayer is our admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help that we so desperately need. S L O W ! Therefor us praying accomplishes two things. First, it humbles us as needy and second, it exalts God as wealthy
Another passaget in John that shows how prayer glorifies God is John 4:9-10. Jesus had asked a woman for a drink of water:
Then saith the women of Samaria unto him, 'How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?' for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, 'If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, give me a drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water!'
If you were a sailor severely afflicted with scurvy, and a very generous man came aboard your ship with his pockets bulging at the seams with vitamin C, which you need because of your condition, and asked you for an orange slice, you might give it to him. But if you knew that he was generous, and that he carried all you needed to be well, you would turn the tables and ask him for help.
Jesus says to the woman, "If you just knew the gift of God and who I am, you would pray to me." There is a direct correlation between not knowing Jesus well and not asking much from him. S L O W ! A failure in our prayer life is generally a failure to know Jesus. Let me say that once more, a failure in our prayer life is generally a failure to know Jesus.
ILL: Coach Price and I at the baseball field in Concord.
A prayerless Christian is like a bus driver trying to push his bus out of a rut by himself because he doesn't know Clark Kent is on the bus. If he knew, he would ask for his help. A prayerless Christian is like having your room wallpapered with Macy's gift certificates but always shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift Store because you can't read and don’t know what is on your wall. "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that speaks to you, you would ask -- YOU WOULD ASK! How is your asking tonight?
This then implies that those who do ask -- Christians who spend time in prayer -- do it because they see that God is a great giver and that Christ is wise and merciful and powerful beyond our finite comprehension. And therefore their prayer glorifies Christ and honors his Father. The chief end of man is to glorify God. S L O W ! Therefore when we become what God created us to be we become people of prayer. But the chief end of man is also to enjoy God forever. And that brings us back to John 16:24, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." Christ says here, "Pursue the fullness of your joy through PRAYER! You can live a life full of joy if it is a life full of prayer.”
From this verse I believe we can observe a simple rule: Among Christians prayerlessness always produces joylessness. Why? Why is it that a deep life of prayer leads to a life full of joy and a shallow life of prayerlessness produces a life void of joy? Jesus gives at least two reasons.
Let’s go back and look at what John has to say. One reason is given in John 16:20-21. Jesus alerts the disciples that they will grieve at his death but then rejoice again at his resurrection: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefor have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you." What was the source of the disciples' joy? The answer is simple: it was the presence of Jesus. The passage we just read said, "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice." No Christian can have fullness of joy without fellowship with Jesus Christ. Knowledge about him will not do and work for him will not do. Those both are important, but they will not produce true, lasting joy. In order for that to occur we must have personal, vibrant, growing fellowship with him. Without that Christianity becomes a joyless burden. In his first letter John wrote, "Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:3-4). Fellowship with Jesus shared with others is essential to our fullness of joy.
The first reason then why prayer leads to fullness of joy is that prayer is the nerve center of our fellowship with Jesus. He is not here physically to see. But in prayer we speak to him just as though he were here. And in the stillness of those sacred times we listen to his thoughts and we pour out to him our longings. Maybe John 15:7 is the best summary of this two-sided fellowship: "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." When the words of Jesus abide in our mind we hear the very thoughts of the living Christ, for he is the same yesterday, today and forever. And out of the listening heart comes a life full of prayer which is a sweet incense before God. Just as the spinal cord, brain stem and brain are the nerve center of our bodies – they are what keep us functioning and going -- a life of prayer leads to a life of joy because prayer is the nerve center of our fellowship with Jesus.
The second reason prayer produces fullness of joy is that prayer provides the power to do what we long to do, but can't do without God's help. The verse says, "Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." Fellowship with Jesus is essential to joy but there is something about it that compels us outward to share his life with others. A Christian can't be happy and stingy, because it is more blessed to give than to receive. Therefore, the second reason a life of prayer leads to a life full of joy is that it gives us the power to love, the type of love that reaches out to the lost and dying world around us. If our pump of love runs dry it is because our well of prayer isn't deep enough.
The Bible plainly teaches that the goal of all we do should be to glorify God. But it also teaches that in all we do we should pursue the fullness of our joy. Some theologians have tried to force these two apart by asking questions like, "Is our joy something we should strive for? Isn't that a selfish action?" But the Bible does not force us to choose between God's glory and our joy. S L O W ! In fact, it forbids us to choose. And what we have seen from John's gospel is that prayer displays the unity of these two thoughts – God’s glory and our joy. Prayer pursues joy in fellowship with Jesus and in the power to share his life with others. And prayer pursues God's glory by treating him as the reservoir of hope, the reservoir of all we need and must have. In prayer we admit our poverty and God's prosperity, our misery and his mercy and might. Therefore, prayer highly exalts and glorifies God precisely by pursuing everything we long for in Him and not in ourselves. "Ask and you will receive, that the Father may be glorified in the Son and that your joy may be full."
ILL: Justin Weberg – “Do I Greet You Praying?”
I close with this challenge to each of us tonight. Unless I'm mistaken, one of the main reasons so many Christians don't have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don't want to, but that we don't plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don't just get up one summer morning and say, "Hey, let's go today!" You won't have anything ready. You won't know where to go. Nothing has been planned. But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing's ever ready. We don't know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don't plan a vacation you will probably stay home and watch T.V. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest spiritual plain possible. If you don’t plan, you won’t pray, at least not like you should. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.
Tonight, my simple challenge is this: I urge you to take ten minutes this evening to rethink your priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of scripture to guide you. Make this a great day of turning to prayer. Why -- for the glory of God and for a full life of joy.
I have two questions tonight I would like to ask each of you.
First, what truths have you seen from the Word of God tonight? Secondly, I ask you, having seen truth from the Word tonight, what are you going to do about it? What plan will you enact because of that truth. Don't just be a hearer of the word. Get a plan and be a doer of the Word as well.
John 16:24 "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."