Answers to Prayer

Posted on 11/25/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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Top of the morning to you! Thank you for coming to worship and seek after God. If you're a first-time visitor, we all extend a special welcome to you. Be sure to click the welcome sign in the foyer before you leave.

If any of you attempted to apply for church membership last Sunday, you probably already know that it wasn't working. This has been fixed, and you should have no problem submitting your application now. Just go to almcyberchurch.org and click the "Become a CyberChurch Member" link.

Let's all stand to our feet and open with prayer.

Lord, we welcome you into this place today. Have your way with us today. Open our hearts to fully worship you. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our eyes so we can see you in our spirits. And we open our hands, letting go of anything that would keep us from fully surrendering to and taking hold of you.

We worship you today, Lord. You are the reason we're here today. You are our reason for living, our only hope, our only Salvation. All of the glory and honor belong to you.

Lord, we bring before you the requests for which our brothers and sisters have asked us to pray.

We pray for Darryl who is under attack from the enemy. We ask that you strengthen his heart, that you renew his mind as he stays his mind upon you and your Word, and that you give him power and boldness to resist and tear down the enemy and to set his face like flint in the direction you have called him to go.

We pray for Tamara, that her relationships and interactions would reflect her relationship with you, and that regardless of what else is going on around her, she would be drawn closer and closer to you. Give her strength, courage, wisdom, and direction to step in your footsteps, looking straight ahead at you, using your Word as a lamp to her feet and a light to her path.

And I pray for each one here, that you would bless them and keep them, and cause your face to shine upon them. May we press into your presence now with our songs of worship and our study of your Word. Transform us by your Holy Spirit.

And it's in Jesus' name we pray.

Amen.

Click the pulpit for a notecard, and let's continue our fellowship with God by singing songs of worship and praise.


 
YOUR WORD IS A LAMP

Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path

No longer do we walk in darkness
No longer do we walk in darkness
No longer do we walk in darkness

For you have called us out of darkness
    into your marvelous light
We turn our backs on what is wrong
    and choose to do what's right

Your blood is flowing through my veins
to cleanse until all that remains
is clay that's molded through the pains of life

Your Spirit blows into these bones
to claim this temple as its home
and starts a fire that soon becomes a blaze

EVEN THE MOUNTAINS

We praise you Lord because you're worthy
You are Lord and King of the earth and sky
Let us lift you up and declare your glory
Let us lift our hands and our voices high

Even the mountains praise your name
the rocks and the stones cry Holy!
Whoever seeks for your face
     will never be the same
Let your kingdom come
     in Jesus' name

I'm an instrument, I am only a vessel
Help me open up to receive your love
Let us put to death thoughts of opposition
Let me step aside and point the world to above

WITH ALL THAT I AM

I praise you Lord
I praise you Lord

With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I praise you Lord

For there is nobody like you
    in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
    all my praise
And I praise you with all that I am
Yes I praise you with all that I am


I'll serve you Lord
I'll serve you Lord

With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I'll serve you Lord

For there is nobody like you
    in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
    all my praise
And I'll serve you with all that I am
Yes I'll serve you with all that I am


I love you Lord and
I'll love you Lord

With all of my heart
With all of my soul
With all of my strength
I love you Lord

For there is nobody like you
    in heaven or on earth
Who is worthy to receive
    all my praise
And I love you with all that I am
Yes I love you with all that I am


Thank you for your presence, Lord, and for accepting our praises as sweet incense rising up to your throne. We are your people, and you are our God. And although in ourselves we are nothing and are hopelessly weak, in you we can do all things and we are seated with you in heavenly places!

Guide us now as we open your Word. Speak to us and change us to be a little more like you.

We ask these things in Jesus' name.

Amen.


You may be seated.


You know, worship doesn't end when the music stops. We worship God when we read his Word, and when we talk about the things of God, the nature of God, and how to strengthen our relationship with him.

And worship does not end when this service ends, for as we go about our day, and as we pray, "may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to you God," then we are worshiping God with everything we say, think, and do. And as we live a life of worship, we will live a life filled with the presence of God. And remember, in his presence is fullness of joy.


Just last Sunday we finished a series on prayer, and I hope your prayer life has been strengthened as a result. I know mine has been strengthened, and I have been challenged by the Word of God.

You know, prayer is such an important and vital part of our walk with God, it's no wonder our flesh and the enemy fight against it so fiercely.

The enemy doesn't fight against ineffective prayer, and the flesh sometimes quite enjoys a good holy-feeling recital from a book or a nice little feel-good chat with yourself. But true communion with God is a threat to the enemy and to the desires of the flesh, so we can't expect it to always be easy. In fact, I can assure you that at times, praying will seem harder than cutting off your own head.

Why is prayer so important? Well, first of all, it's communion with God. God's not interested in seeing you be religious. In fact, the religious spirit makes him sick, and it keeps us away from him. Instead, God is interested in relationship. And we cannot have a relationship with God if we do not fellowship with him, talk with him, and spend time in his presence.

Second of all, we desperately need divine intervention in our lives. And we have divine intervention all the time, often without our knowledge.

We need for God to change us, or we will continue to become more like the world. We need the Holy Spirit to convict us, or we will become more and more bound by sin. We need guidance, wisdom, protection, and strength, or we will continue to fall until we are unable to get back up.

If our loved ones, friends, neighbors, or anyone else is going to have even a glimmer of hope for Salvation, we must pray. There are some who have more years to live on this earth for Jesus, but if someone doesn't intercede for their healing or deliverance, they will die too soon.

We've spent the past ten weeks talking about prayer and about the outline Jesus gave us for beginning each day with prayer. And if I may, I'd like to take just a few minutes today to address the issue of Answers to Prayer.


Does God answer prayer? I've heard people who doubted. They may have prayed for healing for a loved one who died instead. They may have prayed for someone to receive Christ, but that person died in their sins. They may have prayed for a financial blessing, but it did not come. They may have prayed for the love of another, but instead their heart was broken.

People pray for all sorts of things, from world peace to ending poverty and starvation, to stopping all pain and suffering in the world. But these prayers seem to go perpetually unanswered.

As you make daily prayer a way of life, some of these questions might cross your mind as well. Yes, you will see God do things as a result of your prayers. But when something important to us does not go the way we desperately prayed it would, it's easy to forget what God has done.


The first thing to ask yourself when you make a request of God might be this: Is this in line with Scripture and with what God has said?

Balaam was a prophet who liked to make his own rules. In Numbers chapter 22, the enemies of God's people asked him to place a curse on them. He prayed, and God told him no. God said, "You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed." However, the enemy was not content with that answer and sent more people to ask him to reconsider. So Balaam asked God again. This time God allowed him to go. And it almost cost Balaam his life.

Of course we know what happened with Balaam, how he led the people of Israel into sin and deception. You see, it's not enough that we pray, or even that we hear the voice of God and have God manifest his power through us. What does Scripture say? "Obedience is better than sacrifice."

Sometimes we ask for things that are contrary to God's Word. Or we ask for things that we know are contrary to what God has spoken to us. And if you think this might be you, then it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a part of your prayer, "God, if I am praying in opposition to your Word or your will, please reveal it to me. I don't want anything that isn't of you."

We might think it would be a good thing for God to have a wealthy person hand us millions of dollars. And yet gaining large sums of money quickly usually ends in corruption, depression, and sometimes in suicide, as many of the soon-forgotten lottery winners have shown.

Proverbs 28:20 tells us, "A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished." This can also be translated, "He who seeks quick riches will fall into trouble." If God blesses you with a large sum of money, be both thankful and very careful. Tests do not come only in the negative, but can sometimes come as something positive. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Let God continue to shape your character, and as you seek his Kingdom and righteousness above all else, he will bless you in the right ways at the right times.


I personally knew of a couple who prayed that they could be together. They prayed and prayed, and held on to various promises in Scripture and to various signs and wonders.

There was only one problem. The woman was already married. To someone else. Of course she complained about how their marriage was so bad because of him, and they allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking God wanted them together for a ministry calling.

It's easy for some of us to respond to this by saying, "Well that's obviously wrong. I wouldn't do anything like that or fall for something so obvious." And yet we fall for other things instead. Don't be so confident that your sight is any more clear than theirs. If you get trapped in this prideful dilusion, you will be the next to fall.

To make a long and painful story short, they got their wish. A family was torn apart. Her children became another statistic of divorce. And these two people, after finally getting their wish, endured two years of absolute torment from the inside out, and ended up divorced.

And the moral of that story is, don't compromise the Word of God even the tiniest bit. Part of the long story you haven't heard is that they had an elaborate list of Scriptures, examples, and convincing arguments to support what they were doing. Whether great or small, none of us are immune to deception, and if we really, really want something, even if it disagrees with solid Biblical truth, we will be tempted to continue asking that we can have it anyway. And the doors to temptation and destruction may very well begin to open.


So what about the lost person for whom we prayed who died in their sins? Sometimes the answer to this might be the same as the answer to many other questions about things that happen in the world. And that answer can be summed up in two words: "Free will."

Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." It's not God's will that one single person end up in hell. But we have the power to choose. We are not mindless puppets on an invisible string. Rather, we are free agents with the power to choose. There is not one single one of us who has not used our free wills over and over again to please ourselves and hurt others. Even if we have never acted with the intention to hurt others, I assure you we have all done it more times than we can imagine.

None of us is an island to ourselves. We all affect others, either directly or indirectly. None of us know how many people are in hell right now who would not be there if we had been where we should be spiritually so that we could have prayed for, talked with, or reached out to them.

But on the other hand, if you accept condemnation for your mistakes of the past, it will only destroy you and keep you from doing that which God has put before you. The point is that every single one of us has blown it. And every moment that we put off lining up our minds, hearts, and lives with God's Word and his will for us, is another moment that we are using our free will for evil.

And the reverse is also true. Every moment that we seek after God is a moment we are moving in the right direction, and God can use us in ways we may never know in this life.

If we are moving toward him and seeking after him, then even our temporary failures are part of the right journey. The victorious Christian is not the one who never falls, but the one who always gets back up.


So what about the disease for which you've prayed, and the person ended up dying instead? What about the other prayers that seemingly have gone unanswered? Are we just praying outside of the will of God? Is there something we're doing wrong? Or are we just spiritual failures and God isn't even listening to us?

It seems as though the one who says "There are many things we simply don't understand" gets in trouble pretty quickly. But anyone who says this is a cop out is really claiming a pathetically vast body of knowledge that no human being could possibly grasp.

The truth of the matter is that we don't always know what God has in mind. We don't always know every detail of his will for our own lives, let alone the lives of everyone for whom we will ever pray. Our aim should never be to fully understand everything that ever happens, but to be constantly moving closer and closer to the one who is sovereign over all.


It's been said that there are three answers to prayer, "Yes, no, or not yet." It's not a matter of "will God answer my prayer," but rather, "what will God's answer be?"

And I'd like to add one answer to this list. Yes, no, not yet, and "maybe."

Someone might pray, "God, cause my wife to respect me more." And God might answer, "That depends on whether you're willing to start listening to her and caring about her point of view and her feelings."

Another might pray, "God, tell my boss to give me a raise and a promotion." And God might answer, "That depends on whether you're willing to stop grumbling about your co-workers and feeling sorry for yourself and how your greatness is overlooked."

This doesn't mean that these will be your answers if you pray for these things. The point is that sometimes we need to do something. The man who does not work for the simple fact that although he's very capable, he's just lazy, just might expect that if he prays, "God, pay my rent, pay all my bills, and put food on my table," God may very well answer, "If a man does not work, neither let him eat. If you get off your duff and work as unto me, I will provide for you through your job."

It is indeed possible for God to answer a prayer but for us to not accept that answer. Perhaps it is in working, or in telling someone you forgive them, or in submitting to your husband or truly and selflessly loving your wife. Perhaps it is in obeying your boss from the heart, or in refusing to say bad things about your co-workers or neighbors. But whatever the Bible and the Spirit of God have told you to do, do it. It just might be the answer to your prayer... or to someone else's.


One final thing I'd like to point out about prayer is this: Making requests is only a part of prayer. Prayer is not equivelant to petition. If prayer was simply making requests, then Scripture would not say, "With prayer and supplication, make your requests known unto God." You see, if prayer meant "make requests," then this verse would mean, "By making your requests known to God, make your requests known to God." Instead, we see that prayer is much more than making requests. Prayer is HOW we make requests. But it is much more than asking for something.

The Lord's model prayer begins with praise and worship, and flows into seeking for the presence of God and surrendering to his Lordship and his will. After that, requests are made, and not just for yourself, but for others as well. After all, it says, "Give US this day," not "Give ME." So even in making requests, they should not be centered on us. Sure, we can and should ask God to provide our own needs. But let's remember those around us in need, and really pour ourselves out before God in prayer for others.


The altar workers can come to the front now.

And as they come, I'd like to ask you this: Are you in the place spiritually where God hears your prayers and you hear his voice speaking back to you? Or are you still running from his presence and his will? Are you outside of the Kingdom of God, wanting to come in but still holding on to the world?

The things of the world never deliver on their promises. But God always delivers on ALL of his. All you have to do is accept him on his terms.

Scripture says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

If you're even considering giving your life to Jesus, then you believe deep in your heart that God did indeed raise him from the dead. All that's left is for you to confess him as your Lord.

If this is you, then I want you to repeat this prayer after me, and say these words to Jesus from your heart.

Say this with your mouth: "Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive me for my sins. Wash me clean. I accept you as my Lord and Savior. And I agree to do things your way. I choose to begin my relationship with you today. Thank you Jesus. Amen."

And now instant message someone up here on the ministry team and tell them you just accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

This altar is open. Feel free to come to the front for prayer or ministry. If you want someone to talk or pray with you, instant message one of the ministry team. If you'd like to chat, please make your way over to the fellowship room where we'll all meet for fellowship after this time of prayer and seeking God.


Lord, thank you for what you're doing in our lives. I pray a special blessing on this congregation. May you become more and more the center of our lives, and may we put all our hope in you.

Amen.