April 30, 2018 |Answering your questions about prayer…

We have just concluded a four-part sermon series on prayer that we’ve called “Talking with God”.  I hope that this series has been practically helpful for you to enhance your personal praying to God.

If you missed any of the last four Sundays, I highly encourage you to go to our website and listen to any of our previous sermons online.  We have an archive of every sermon from the last year available for you to listen to and share with others.  

While this will not be the last conversation we’ll have on prayer, I thought it would be helpful to take on a few common questions about prayer and offer a brief response on each of them.  I want to thank those who posed these questions in our Church Facebook Group.  Perhaps you’ve asked such questions before yourself.  

Question: I prayed for it.  Why didn’t God give it to me? 
One of the misunderstandings many Christians have about prayer has to do with the way God responds to our prayers.  The Bible says in James 4:2-3, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  First we learn that we do not receive an answer from God because we do not ask.  Or as Mark Batterson put it in his book on prayer, The Circle Maker“100 percent of the prayers you do not pray will go unanswered.”  

But let’s say we did ask God for it; but, we have not received what we asked for.  No matter what you ask, whether a raise, healing, a blessing, or whatever else, we first must check our hearts.  Psalm 139:1-4 tells us that God knows us inside and out.  He knows your thoughts and your motives.  And according to James 4:3“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…”. If your heart is not pure, if your motives are selfish, if you have unrepentant sin, you can be sure that God will not answer your prayer.  

But let’s assume that as far as we can tell, we are pure in our request to God and we still have not received what we ask.  Rest assured that God has heard you; for, “praying continuously” is God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) and Faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).  It may be that God’s plan is behind our comprehension.  Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that “God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways”.  While we may not like this answer at the moment, we can trust that God is infinitely wiser than us.  And as a Father who gives good gifts to His children, our Father desires to give us what is ultimately best for our lives (Matthew 7:11).  

Question: What’s the purpose we pray “in Jesus’ Name”? 
Jesus first instructed believers to pray in His name in John 14:13-14, which says, And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”But let’s not misunderstand Jesus’ teaching.  Merely adding the phrase “in Jesus’ name” to the conclusion of your prayer doesn’t add spiritual power to your request.  There is no magical formula to pray rightly.  

What Jesus is teaching us is that He possesses all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:19).  And it is by Jesus that we have access to confidently approach God’s throne anytime we need to (Hebrews 4:16).  When we pray, we believe that we can talk with God, not because of our own efforts or goodness, but our access to God is possible solely because of Jesus.  

Question: When I pray to God, am I talking to the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit? 
It is an important and yet confusing belief that our God is three-in-one; that is to say, we pray to a God who is triune.  From the beginning of the Bible,Genesis 1:26 records the creation of Adam like this, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”  Notice the plural personal pronouns — “us” and “our”.  Creation involved more than the Father’s hand.  Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.  In the New Testament when we read about Jesus’ birth and baptism, we discover the Father, Son, and Spirit all mentioned individually.  

The Bible also teaches that when we pray, we can pray to one entity of the Godhead or all three.  We can do this because all three are unified as one.  When you address the Father (as Jesus does in Matthew 6:9), we can trust that all three unite together in response to our prayer.  

Much like Jesus taught us we can pray to our Heavenly Father in the model prayer, there’s also an example of Stephen praying to Jesus as he was being martyred in Acts 7:59.  

Although we don’t find a mention in the Bible if anyone praying to the Holy Spirit, we are taught to pray “in the Spirit” (Jude 20).  Paul taught us in Romans 8:26-27 that when we are too overwhelmed to know how to pray that the Holy Spirit prays for us on our behalf.  Perhaps the best way to clearly explain the role of the Trinity in prayer is like this: “We pray to the Father, through (in the name of) the Son, and by the power of the Spirit.  All three parts of the Trinity are active in responding to our prayers.    

Question: Should I repeat my prayers, asking God for the same thing day after day?  
So long as your prayers are in agreement with God’s will (meaning you’re not praying with selfish motives in your heart), believers are actually encouraged to pray repetitively and persistently.  Jesus even gives us an example through His parable of the persistency widow in Luke 18:1-7.  Through this story, Jesus teaches us to pray faithfully until we receive God’s answer.  

This is the idea behind Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 7:7 which says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” We understand asking God…but seeking and knocking gives us the idea that this isn’t just a one time request; but, there is a persistence behind our asking. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Ashton

 

 
April 24, 2018 |What if you could ask God for anything?
Our Father in heaven loves to hear from us.  Throughout the Bible we find invitation after invitation to ask of God anything that’s on our hearts.  Jesus invited us to “Ask, and you will receive” (Matthew 7:9).  

And as you read Jesus’ invitation to yourself, I anticipate some pushback from conservative believers.  I know some will think this (because I have thought it before): “God isn’t a wishing well.  You can’t just expect Him to give you whatever you ask for.”  

And while it’s true that our requests must align with God’s will, the mentions of “God will do whatever you ask” promises in the Bible are numberous.  What do we do with all of these invitations to “ask and receive” prayers?  

I have a suggestion:  Believe God is able and trust Him to do what He thinks is best.  

God is all-powerful.  He’s also all-knowing.  So He is both powerful enough to be able and He’s wise enough to do what’s right.  So ask Him…for anything…and trust He will do what’s best.  

There’s a promise regarding the power of prayer found in the Bible in James 4:2.  In this verse we read “You do not have because you do not ask God.”  While illustrating the power of prayer, James reminds us of the prophet Elijah inJames 5:17-18, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.  Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Do you see what that verse says?  Elijah’s prayer affected the weather.  He asked … and he received.  

Obviously God is in control of everything that occurs.  And our praying does not in any way pull control of any part of the universe away from God.  But, because our Father is so good and loving, He has allowed His kids the gift to call on Him and ask for anything.  

This is how we understand prayer … both of these are true at the same time: “We have not because we ask not”and “God is infinitely wise and absolutely reigns in control of every part of our universe”.  So we should pray about anything and believe God is both capable to answer our prayer how He best sees fit.  

I cannot wait to share one more lesson on prayer with you THIS Sunday.  I hope to see you at either our 8:15am or our 10:30am service.  

In Jesus’ Name,
Ashton

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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