MESSAGE DELIVERED: AUGUST 28, 2016
If you wanted to learn how to play golf, and believe me, I can’t think of a single reason on God’s green earth why you would want to do that, but let’s just say that you did. Then the best way to learn would be by going to an expert for lessons, and learn from him…or her. Golf is a game that corrupts both sexes, fairly equally.
But the point is, you wouldn’t go to another beginner, or an amateur, if you wanted to learn the intricacies of the game. You’d go to a pro.
In exactly the same way; if you wanted to learn how to pray…if you wanted to enjoy a richer and deeper, fuller and more effective prayer life, then you should go to those who are experts in that field; go to those who have exhibited strong prayer live…to those who have seen great and mighty things accomplished through the power of prayer.
Fortunately, we have many such experts recorded for us in the book you have in your lap. At least, I hope you have the Bible in your lap, because I’m going to reference a few parts of it this morning.
For instance, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11, verse 1; the disciples of Jesus had made just such a request. They came to the single most qualified individual in the entire universe, with their request. They asked “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Well, Jesus responded by giving them, and us, what is often called “The Lord’s Prayer”. Although some folks will try to get technical and refer to it as “The Model Prayer”. And In truth it is both of those things. Because in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us at least four things we should seek to know, or to know better, in our prayer life.
Those things are: 1) God’s personality…who He is. 2) God’s purpose…what He wants, or what He intends to happen. 3) God’s provision…what He has supplied, or made available to those who are washed in the Blood of His Son. And 4) God’s power!
In the passage we read together from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul, who was a true professional and master at the art of prayer, addressed all four of those issues.
And since it should be the desire of every child of God to experience that closer communion with our Heavenly Father, and since we do that through prayer…I thought we’d take a look at that passage and see if maybe we can learn something from this expert at the art of prayer.
And fortunately for us, many of Paul’s prayers have been recorded, so we can look at them and study them. And here, in this passage, the first thing he tells us concerns the ‘Who’ of God. Who He is, and even what His personality is like.
Any conversation is enriched by having a knowledge of the person you are talking to. You can have a conversation with someone you DON’T know, but generally that conversation will be deeper and more meaningful when you know the other person well.
Let me give you an example: Dawn and I flew back to Michigan some years back, and we had to change planes in Denver. There, we were seated in a block of three seats, and there was another woman, traveling alone, in that third seat.
She and Dawn began talking even before the plane was fully loaded, and they continued their conversation, all the way across the country and until we finally touched down in Detroit (and let me digress for a moment and say if you ever get the chance to fly to Detroit, turn it down. You’d probably enjoy yourself more if you landed someplace in Afghanistan).
But anyway, she and Dawn talked together all the way across the nation, and then as we were getting off the plane. And after something like a three hour conversation, she said “Oh, by the way, my name is Dawn.” That is NOT the way those things usually go. When you know the other person you’re talking with…something about their personality…their temperament…that conversation becomes more stimulating and more intimate.
The same thing is true about God. To pray effectively, you need to know something about Him. And the more you learn about the Lord, the more effective your prayers will become. And you BEGIN to know Him, by learning His Name.
All through the Bible, many different Names for God are employed, all of them relating to some aspect of His Nature. To mention just a few, there are:
ELOHIM, the very first Name used for God in the Bible. In Genesis 1:1, He is called ELOHIM. And it means “the strongest of the strong”. That Name is used 2,571 times in the Bible.
Then there is EL-OLAM, “the everlasting God”. There is JEHOVAH, or YAHWEH, “the Self-Existing One”. That Name is used 6,823 times. And then there are Names added to JEHOVAH; like JEHOVAH-JIREH, “the Lord provides”. And JEHOVAH-NISSI, “the Lord, my banner”. And JEHOVAH-SHALOM, “the Lord of peace.” And JEHOVAH-RA-AH, “the Lord my Shepherd”. Or JEHOVAH-RAPHA, “The Lord Who heals.”
There are many more such Names given for God, each of which will help us to know Him better. In Ephesians 1:17, Paul refers to Him as “the Father of Glory, and the God of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“Father of Glory” tells us that the God we pray to is the One who possesses ALL Glory…the One to Whom ALL Glory is DUE…and the One who is the source of ALL Glory. What does that tell us about God?
If you were to look up the word, GLORY, in a dictionary, you’d find that it is defined as “splendor, magnificence, praise and honor.” “Father of Glory” tells us that God is awesome, beyond human understanding.
And this unspeakingly awesome God is the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is the one to Whom Jesus gives obedience and submission.
While God the Father is so far above us that we can’t see Him, Jesus came down to us, so we could know Him, and see him, and understand how much He loves us, and how greatly He was willing to Sacrifice, so we could be Saved. Though we can’t see God, we can look at Jesus, and know that the One He is obedient to, is also the One we should be obedient to.
All of these different Names for God help us to understand the nature of God. When YOU pray, you are speaking to the CREATOR of the universe, the RULER of the universe, and the SUSTAINER of the universe.
In prayer, you approach, and converse with the most UNIQUE Being that has ever existed. And knowing His Name is the first step in conversing with Him. And then, knowing the Names of God helps us to understand His ‘humanity’ as well. Obviously God is NOT a ‘man’. But for a time, He became a man…a human being…at a little town called Bethlehem. So when you pray to God, you are talking to someone Who understands our human nature.
Hebrews 4:15 says “We have not an High Priest Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. But One Who, in every respect, has been tempted as we are, and yet was without sin.”
So that’s just a little bit about God’s Name and His Personality…as Jesus taught us to pray “Hallowed be Thy Name”. Next, in order to be more effective in your prayers it’s necessary to know God’s PURPOSE. Your intimate conversations are enhanced when you know the other person’s goals and purposes. When you understand God’s purpose, your prayer life will be equally enhanced.
In Ephesians 1:18, Paul wrote “that you may know what is the hope of His calling”…or as the New Living Bible puts it, “that your hearts will be flooded with light so you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called.”
You could say that God’s PURPOSE is to re-unite the whole of His Creation. In the Beginning…and that means before He ever made this world we are on…in the VERY beginning, everything was perfect…until Lucifer deceived himself into thinking he could take for himself the place of the God Who had created him. So he started a rebellion in Heaven that led to him and 1/3 of all the angels being cast out of Heaven. That not only brought sin into existence, it also left a big HOLE in Heaven.
So ultimately, God’s purpose is to re-unite the whole of His Creation. That is stated in the 1st chapter of Ephesians, verses 9-10. Let me read that to you from this New Living Bible, because this makes it really easy to understand. “God’s secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ and designed a long time ago according to His good pleasure. And this is the plan: at the right time He will bring every-thing under the Authority of Christ, everything in Heaven and on earth.”
When you talk to God, you need to keep His purpose uppermost in your mind. And also remember: to accomplish His purpose, God intends to use believers, His Own people, to bring about that re-union.
The church is the physical body of Christ on Earth. Through her, God intends to bring about His purpose. Whenever you talk with God, you should keep an awareness that, while God is interested in every single aspect of your life, and all your wants and needs…He still has a primary objective. A main purpose. And He intends to use YOU to bring it about.
For that reason, Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” That’s His purpose.
Then thirdly, to be more effective when you pray, you should know about God’s provision. In Ephesians 1:18 Paul prayed that the believer might “know the riches of the Glory of His inheritence, in the saints.”
That is a two-sided statement. Not only are the saints enriched by God, but God is enriched by the saints. And that means YOU. Where-as God’s purpose is to re-unite all of His creation under Christ, He is using believers in a two-fold way. WE are the MEANS by which that ‘hole in Heaven’ left by Satan’s rebellion, will be filled! We are also the MATERIAL by which it will be filled!
I want you to understand this: it is NOT saying that God will take SAINTS and make ANGELS out of them,…us. But He DOES intend to FILL that hole in Heaven…the PLACES vacated by those who LEFT their ‘Heavenly habitation’…with WE, who have been given the privilege of CHOOSING to accept Him. That’s a really big deal; the biggest of ALL deals, and I want YOU to understand it. Satan’s rebellion left God’s perfect Heaven, no longer perfect. So instead of just creating a bunch of new angles, He chose to create YOU…and give you the right and ability to CHOOSE, to accept HIM. Those who make the right choice, will take the places of those fallen angels. NOT, BE angels, just, to be SAINTS, and take their places.
So the church is God’s special possession, called into being by the power of His Holy Spirit. And Paul prayed that we the believers would appreciate the church, as such.
But we have a tendency to think of the church as the BUILDING that the church meets in. And we tend to think of THAT, as belonging to US. Stop to remember, when you pray, that the church doesn’t belong to us, but WE belong to the church! And the church belongs to Christ!!!
What we are supposed to do, as a church, is to ‘show forth God’s Glory’. That was the original purpose for calling the Hebrews. They were God’s ‘chosen race’, and they were to be a ‘nation of priests’, showing God’s Glory to the lost world.
But they failed, and they tried to keep God to themselves, as a personal possession, hidden away.
So they were rejected, for a time, temporarily set aside. And now we, the church, have been ‘grafted in’, to serve that same purpose, for a time. But when the time of the church, the ‘Age of Grace’, is finished, then Israel will be brought back, to finally finish what they were called to do, in the first place.
So for right now, the saints, the Blood-Washed believers, are called to show the world the Glory of God, the FATHER of Glory. And even though YOU live HERE, on this world, YOU BELONG to the NEW Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
So your actions, and your behaviors, and your attitudes, and your very LIVES…should match those New Kingdom principles. A believer shouldn’t live…or speak…or act…as if they were still part of the world. And your prayer life (remember that’s what this is about; gaining a more effective prayer life)…your prayers should be in keeping with GOD’S ULTIMATE PURPOSE…and YOUR New Kingdom principles.
And having done all that, FIRST; THEN you can ask God to meet your needs, out of His Riches. And for that reason Jesus taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” And you know that term “daily bread” covers all your needs. Your prayer life will be far more effective when you know about God’s provision for you.
And finally, when you understand God’s POWER, your prayers are improved. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might understand “what is the exceeding greatness of His power, towards us who believe.”
Like “love”, the ‘power’ of God is expressed by four different words, at different places in the Scriptures. It is called “dunamis”, which is the same word we get ‘dynamite’ and ‘dynamo’ from. That is GREAT power, even MIRACULOUS power. Then there is “energeia”, or ‘working’ power. And “kratos”, which means ‘strength’, and “ischus”, which means ‘might’.
When you pray, remember what God has ALREADY accomplished. It was only by the power of God, that Jesus was raised from the dead. Verses 20-21 say “God has raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the Heavenly places…far above all principality and power…and might and dominion…and every name that is named…not only in this age, but in that which is to come.”
Remember, God’s ULTIMATE PURPOSE is to re-unite His creation. Those terms; “principalities and powers and mights and dominions” all refer to different rankings of angels, some fallen, and some faithful.
Christ is now restored to His rightful place as Supreme above ALL Creation…and all Creation will soon be re-united, under Him.
And it has been accomplished by the Power of God. Not only did the Power of God Resurrect Jesus, it was that power that took Him, from the Spiritual Realm, to the physical realm in the first place.
And that was an event that Man will never be able to understand. Jesus Himself told Nicodemus, “That which is flesh, is flesh. And that which is Spirit, is Spirit.” But then, He himself was BOTH. That is beyond paradoxical. By the admission of Jesus, it is IMPOSSIBLE! But then, “with God all things are possible.”
When we talk with God, and remember: that’s what prayer is, just talking with God…we need to remember how POWERFUL He is. I have seen so many people, in their prayers, verbally ‘shaking their fist’ at the Lord, and demanding to know why THIS happened, or why THAT DIDN’T happen.
And it makes me think of a nasty little blood-sucking mosquito, just buzzing around a person. That tiny mosquito can’t even begin to understand how much more KNOWLEDGABLE and POWERFUL that person is, than IT is. All it sees in that person, is a source of obtaining the things it wants. And it has no idea how easily that person can DESTROY it. So it keeps buzzing and biting and at the very best, all it does is annoy that person.
But that is the same way a lot of Christians, or at least people who have claimed the NAME of Christ, whether they have “claimed” HIM or not…but that is the way a lot of people approach God. They see Him as nothing more than a source, to provide those things they want. They don’t see His GLORY, or His PURPOSE, or His POWER: just His PROVISION. So, frequently, they end up getting ‘swatted’.
Believers need to be aware of God’s Power. And we need to remember that His Power CAN, and WILL, work THROUGH US, to accomplish HIS Purpose. Daily, as we pray, we need to depend on this inexhaustible source of strength, as if it were our own, because it is CONSTANTLY available to us.
Paul was a professional, when it came to praying. Jesus is the ultimate MASTER of prayer. So when WE want to know HOW it is done, look to them, and then DO as they DID. LEARN from them, and watch as your prayer life becomes so much more effective.
So…has your prayer life been revolving around the PERSONALITY, the PURPOSE, the PROVISION, and the POWER of God?….Or, WILL it, from here on?