As we begin 2015, what is one of your hopes (resolutions)? Share w/ friend… only 1, it’s not Christmas list!
Jesus often asked “What do you want?” (Mat 20:21; 20:32; Mk 10:36; 10:51; Lk 18:41). It is a good thing to have hopes, dreams, and goals. However, hope without planning is pointless.
Hope is not a strategy. Desires and dreams are not enough to cause movement or change in an individual’s life. Discipline is needed to nudge a person toward action and following through. If hope is to be fulfilled it must be linked with a habit. Today’s message is about aligning our hopes with our habits.
- Hope to be healthier or lose weight then have habit of eating better & exercising.
- Hope to meet that special someone then have habit of showering and brushing teeth… guys need to be reminded of this; ladies habits are more advanced, that’s another sermon.
- Hope to be a baseball star then have habit of practicing every day.
- Hope to be a better student then have habit of reading & hw.
- Hope to be more organized then have habit of making lists and completing tasks.
- Hope to save money then have habit of creating & staying on budget.
- Hope to read more books then be accountable… me with school.
- Hope to grow closer to God then have habit of spiritual disciplines.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.
EXAMINE Matthew 7:7-11 Just ASK
Gospel of Matthew provides large sections of teaching of Jesus. More, it provides a path of discipleship for every person who takes Jesus seriously. 3 reasons to pray from Matthew 7:7-11
We pray because we have been invited.
We receive countless invitations each day. Read this. Click and watch this. Open this box. Come to this event. Participate in this activity. Eat and drink this. Try this product. The invitations are endless. And yet, somehow we still find the time to respond to each invitation.
Jesus invites you to pray. Pray is the religious word, which Jesus uses more relevant language of “ask – seek – knock”. 3 words/commands to repeat the invitation to pray.
These words are powerful.
- Ask: How many of you have questions about God? about your life circumstances (past/present/future)?
- Seek: Our lives seek and chase things we love every day; life is meant to chase Christ!
- Knock: Shows desire & action [illus: boy making a phone call to a girl…]
These words show persistence. Ask/Seek/Knock present active imperative verbs, implying continuous action.
- Ask: Most questions lead to more questions.
- Seek: Implies pursuit
- Knock: A single knock means little. [illus: 1 knock is mystery but multiple knocks is answered]
- Prayer to God includes various levels of pursuit:
- Ask: God is near. Seek: God is removed. Knock: God is hidden.
- Prayer to God includes perseverance. (cf. Lk 18:1-8 “continual coming”; Acts 12:9 “earnest prayer”)
- Perseverance is not about irritation but intimacy
- Like kids “We want Chic-Fil-A, Chic-Fil-A, Chic-Fil-A” vs. children who crawl into dad’s lap and ask for dinner whatever he wants to provide as long as he eats w/ them.
- Perseverance is not about irritation but intimacy
In all, we are reminded to know and learn…
- Jesus invitation to pray is true & trustworthy:
- John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
- John 16:23-24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive that your joy may be full.”
- Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence/boldness draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- James 5:13-15 “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.”
- I do not know the destination but, God I’m ready to follow.
- We have to see prayer as a wheel, but our problem is we see it as a spare tire rather than our steering wheel. (adapted from Corrie Ten Boom)
- When a Christian stops fellowship with other Christians the devil smiles. When a Christian stops reading the Bible the devil laughs. When a Christian stops praying the devil dances. (adapted from Corrie Ten Boom)
- “The one concern of the devil is to keep the saints from prayer. Our enemy fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men of power. Prayer brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. There is no power like that of prevailing prayer.” Samuel Chadwick, The Path of Prayer
- Prayer to God includes participation; asking and acting are partners.
- The responses Jesus says “ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will opened” seems to assume a next stage of response for that person: acting on what was given, found and walking through the opened door.
- Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before pigs”
- Matthew 7:20 “Thus you will recognize [my disciples] by their fruits.”
- Matthew 7:24 “Everyone who hears my words and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
- James 1:22 “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
- 1John 2:4 “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.”
We pray because we have been adopted.
Jesus revolutionizes the prayer relationship because He invites us to call God, Father. God is not only infinite but also intimate as our Heavenly Father. No other religion views God in such a personal and important manner; in fact it would be considered blasphemous.
Paul Miller, A Praying Life, p.20 The praying life feels like dinner with good friends
A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationships. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. Making prayer the center is like making conversation the center of a family mealtime. In prayer, focusing on the conversation is like trying to drive while looking at the windshield instead of through it. It freezes us, making us unsure where to go. Conversation is only the vehicle through which we experience one another. Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center.”
- Prayer is not about a formula but a relationship. It is better to have heart w/o words then words w/o heart. (adapted from John Bunyan)
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” Matthew 6:9
“your Father who is in Heaven” Matthew 7:11
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:15
- What does it mean that we are adopted by God the Heavenly Father?
- We are loved:
- as a child’s Father cannot be removed by DNA so our relationship is not based on feeling but fact – remind ourselves God IS my Father!
- God is not only Father by creation but also our Daddy through adoption.
- “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
- “God sent forth his Son, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:5-7
- We are loved:
- We must trust (rely on):
- Physically – children need food, shelter, etc. provided for them
- Emotionally – children need lots of touches… so we with God in Word, Prayer.
- Psychologically – children are very literal and hang on every word (“but you said…”)
- We must be vulnerable: (children come messy) “The difficulty of coming just as we are is that we are messy. And prayer makes it worse. When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God. We don’t know how bad we are until we try to be good. Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer. In contrast, little children never get frozen by their selfishness. Like the disciples, they come just as they are, totally self-absorbed. They seldom get it right. As parents or friends we know all that. In fact, we are delighted (most of the time!) to find out what is on their little hearts. We don’t scold them for being self-absorbed or fearful. That is just who they are. SO… The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy… Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do.” (pp. 31-32) “The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to – our helplessness – is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own. Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.” (pp.55)
- Pray as a child of God. Tell God your worries, your preoccupations, things that are overwhelming you. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
We pray because we believe God gives good.
Jesus illustrates this principle of prayer with a comparison of earthly parents to God’s Fatherhood. The child who asks parent for bread, which would give a stone? Or the child who asks for fish, which would give a serpent? If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
- Human parents – though evil – still give good gifts… HOW MUCH MORE…
- God – who is our Father (immeasurable relationship) and lives in heaven (immeasurable resources) – gives good gifts.
Jesus’ point can have three applications:
- It is unfair to judge human fathers to God’s Fatherhood. In God’s common grace, human fathers can be a wonderful reflection of God’s compassion and care; yet, even they still fall short.
- If human parents are evil so are human children. And yet, in God’s grace we are still invited to ask, seek, and knock toward God and receive His good, gracious and generous gifts.
- In our prayer requests we must ask ourselves what is God’s good?
- your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)
Prayer can view God as useful or ultimate. Attempting prayer to get our desires and demands filled is using God to obtain our personal objectives. However, when we pray for the purpose of submitting to God and seeking His words to shape our life and requests, then we have the proper priority and see clearly. God’s gifts are not ultimate, God is. We should seek God’s heart before we seek to receive from His hands.
What are some things the early church prayed for?
- prayer for unity of faith and mission (Acts 1:8-14; 2:42-47)
- regular prayer to seek God (Acts 3:1; 10:2, 9; 16:16; )
- prayer for addition of leadership (Acts 1:23-26; 6:1-6; 14:23)
- praise of God and bold advancement of His kingdom (Acts 4:23-31)
- prayer for receiving the Spirit and spiritual growth (Samaritans Acts 8:14-17; Saul to Paul 9:11; Cornelius 10:2, 30)
- prayer for deliverance from evil (Acts 8:18-24 Simon from evil spirits; 12:5 Peter in prison)
- pray for revival from dead (Acts 9:40)
- prayer for missionary awakening & movements (Acts 13:1-3)
- praise of God even in difficult circumstance (Acts 16:25)
- prayer of thanks and spiritual encouragement among friends (Acts 20:36-38; 21:5)
- prayer for daylight (Acts 27:29)
- prayer for healing of others (Acts 28:8)
- Take piece of paper and divide into 4 sections (half horizontally & vertically). This actually creates 8 sections using both front and back.
- Label each section with a day of the week.
- Write in something to pray each day:
- Sunday is for seeking God (Psalm 27:4)
- Monday is for missions (Romans 10:15) and sermon message (Psalm 119:18)
- Tuesday is for tasks (Colossians 3:23)
- Wednesday is for outward requests (James 5:13-17)
- Thursday is thankfulness (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Friday is for family & friends (Psalm 78:6-7)
- Saturday is for sabbath (Psalm 121)
- 8th Box: open for you
Will you accept God as your Heavenly Father?
John 1:12 “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”
Will you ASK God for good things…
Matthew 13:58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
May we be people who believe in God’s promises and power…