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Motivation for Prayer

May 14, 2017 Speaker: Afshin Ziafat Series: Sermon on the Mount

Passage: Matthew 7:7–7:11

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Some of you know, my mom lives in Los Angeles. You may not know this; I think some of you do -- I'm not making this up: My mom is actually a famous Persian singer. Like her songs are on iTunes. Twenty years ago she was very well-known.

So anyways, my mom, not a Christian for many years, some of you know that about 5 or 6 years ago, right when I first got to Providence, she got sick. And I went to LA and I was in her hospital room, and the chaplain had come by. And there was a questionnaire, and on Religion she had checked the box for Christianity. So I saw it on the desk, and I said, "Mom, are you a Christian?"

And she's like, "Well, it's starting to make the most sense to me." And I said, "Well, this is pretty big news. Let's talk." And she just told me how myself and my sister, how she just watched our lives and how we'd been pursuing Christ, and just kind of seeing the fruit in our lives, and she said that it just seems to me that that must be the right way. And so it's been really cool to see what God's done.

So there's a conference coming this week to Frisco, called the Send Conference. We're having kind of a pre-conference here at Providence this coming week. A few years ago, this Send Conference was in Prestonwood in Plano, and there was an Iranian pastor from LA who wanted to plant a church. I talked to him about my mom and I said, If you plant a church in LA, you need to let me know, so I can send my mom there.

Fast-forward to just a few months ago, I was speaking in Long Beach, California, at the Send Conference, and my mom came to hear me preach. And that same pastor from years back in Plano, was there. He walks in to my session, and I went to talk to him afterwards. It turns out that he saw my mom and thought, That looks like a Persian lady, and he went over and said, "Are you Afshin's mom?" She said Yes.

So he invited her. Now my mom has been going to this church every week for the last 3 or 4 months. Which is amazing. Now this week, that pastor e-mailed me; and my mom had already told me this because she was all excited. He said, You're not going to believe this. And he went through this story again and said, I didn't know your mom was a famous singer! Somebody in our church said to him, You know who she is, right? And then said her singing name, and he had no idea.

And so, anyways, they've collaborated with one of their musicians who is a producer, and my mom is now actually making a Persian Christian worship CD! How amazing is that? I want you to know that I was over the moon excited. I wanted you to know about that so you could pray about that. So how cool would it be that my mom now would have songs singing about Jesus in Iran? That would be amazing. So let's pray to that end.

So today, we had child dedications, and we committed as a church to walk alongside these parents. The parents were committing, dedicating their children to God, saying hey, this is Your child, we as parents are the stewards. And they were committing to us as a church that they're going to train their child in the way of the Lord.

And we also committed as a church to walk alongside them and to help them in pointing their children to Christ. Well let me just shamelessly throw a plug here. A great way that you can put feet to what you just said (Hey, I'm gonna walk alongside you as parents) is, if you're not serving anywhere, consider serving in our Providence Kids ministry. It's a phenomenal way for you to come and take one hour here and one over there, to serve the next generation. So I want you to pray about that, consider that.

Man, as we were praying for these children (and we need to continue to do so), what I want to talk to you about today is just that. One of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us, one of the most powerful tools God has given us, and yet I believe maybe one of the most misunderstood and neglected aspects of our Christian walk. And that is Prayer.

So today I want to talk to you about prayer. I really think the church in the west is very much like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember when Jesus was praying, and He asked them to pray, and He went away to pray, and He came back and they were asleep? And remember what Jesus said? He said, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

And I think most of us, we want to be prayer warriors. We believe intellectually that there is power in prayer, that it's a great gift. But, man, the flesh is weak. We are such a prayerless people. And truth is, I don't think we see the motivation to pray.

So I believe that our text this morning in the Sermon on the Mount is going to be very useful for us, because in it we're going to see strong motivation to pray.

So if you would, grab your Bibles and turn to Matthew chapter 7. We're going to carry on in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7, verses 7-11. Jesus says,

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 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!

Now there are a myriad of reasons why I could tell you that I think we need to be praying; that there is great benefit to prayer. But I think in this text, four motivations for prayer jump out at me. And I think if we get them before our eyes, my prayer is that I (starting with me, I'm the first) I and we would engage in this incredible gift of prayer that's been given to us.

  1. Prayer is Pleasing to God

So the first motivation for us to pray is that it is Pleasing to God. It is pleasing to God. I want you to see this in the very first verse I read, verse 7. It says, Ask and it will be given to you; Seek; and then thirdly, knock. And I want you to focus on Ask, Seek, and Knock. They are deliberate meant to be progressively more active. In other words, they are ascending in their scale of urgency.

Richard Glover said it this way, speaking of a child, says, "If his mother is near and visible, he asks. If she is neither, he seeks for her. And if she is inaccessible in her room, he knocks."

And it's amazing, this ask, seek, knock. It's almost as if God is desiring for us to be persistent in our pursuit in prayer. To be persistent in how we pray. Not just to pray one time and then give up on it. But that person in your life that you've been praying for, for years maybe. God delights in us continuing to keep on keeping on; keep praying; keep praying for that person in your life. And that pleases God when we do so.

In fact, I want you to see this in Luke 18, when Jesus shares the parable of the persistent widow. Let's look at it quickly. In Luke 18:1-8 it says,

1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

And so I want you to underline that. I believe that is why our persistence is pleasing to God. Our persistence pleases God because it demonstrates our faith in Him -- that we really believe Him, and to keep coming to Him is a demonstration of our faith. And even this, it says in verse 1 that He told this parable for a reason, to the effect that they ought always to pray. As 1 Thessalonians 5 says, that we're to pray without ceasing. And again, you say, why doesn't God just take one prayer? Why does he want us to keep coming? Again, as I already said, it's because He wants to see our faith demonstrated in our persistence.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 11. This whole chapter is the Hall of Faith, the great men and women who came before us in our faith. And that entire chapter, the author of Hebrews is trying to make this one major point: that God approves of people, justifies people through faith. In other words, after the cross, we are saved by grace, in other words, by what Christ did for us on the cross through faith -- through our belief in what Jesus did.

Before the cross, it wasn't that they were becoming saved by their works, but it's that they believed God when He sent the law, when He sent those promises, and they moved in it, that God approved of it. It says of Abraham that he believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness. And so my favorite verse in Hebrews 11 is verse 6. Listen to this: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek him."

So God is saying, Here's how you please Me: When you diligently seek Me because you believe that I reward those who diligently seek Me. And this is what God desires from us.

This is like the story of the Canaanite woman, remember, who wanted healing for her daughter, who was possessed. The disciples were trying to drive her out, and finally she comes, and Jesus says, It's not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. And she says, But even the dogs wait at the master's table for the crumbs that may fall. And He looks and says, Woman, great is your faith. It will be done for you. And so she demonstrated her faith in this persistence in coming to Jesus.

And so not only is God pleased because it demonstrates our faith, but I think it reveals our dependence on Him. Yes, God can give us good gifts, and He does many times, even when we never ask for them. But God is delighted when we ask Him, and many times, He waits to give. He waits until we recognize our need of Him and turn to Him in dependence. God wants to see that. It's just like many times with my child. I will let her go her way until she turns and says, okay I need you; I need help. I want her to learn that she does need that.

It demonstrates that we need God. James says, You have not because you ask not. John Stott writes, "Prayer is not unseemly. It is the very way God Himself has chosen for us to express our conscious need of Him and our humble dependence on him." Prayer, friends, is a declaration to God that, God, I cannot do it. This whole Sermon on the Mount should make you say, I cannot live this out, God. And it should drive you to prayer to say, God, I am dependent on you.

So friends, if that doesn't motivate you, if you’re a follower of Christ, your Father in Heaven is pleased -- you want to be pleasing to him? -- when you persist in prayer.

Number 2. If that motive isn't good enough for you (I hope it is), let's ramp up the motivation now. The second thing I want to say is the promises of God. 

So number 1, the fact that it's pleasing to God ought to motivate us to prayer. Number 2, the very promises of God ought to motivate you to pray. And look at the amazing promises that He writes in Matthew 7:7-8. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." And then He repeats it: "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." 

Twice He's repeating Himself to say, Your prayers, this is the promise: They will be heard and they will be answered. That's huge. John Calvin said it this way: "Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard."

And this is so important for us to get: He's going to HEAR my prayer and He's going to ANSWER my prayer. And so this is the huge motivation. So verses 7 and 8 are underscoring this point.

Please do not miss this. Here it is; the huge point is this: Your prayers are effective and powerful. The prayers of a Christian, the prayers of God's people, are actually making a difference in this world. God is actually using them. Listen to how James puts it: "The prayer of a righteous person has great power at its working." And then he gives Elijah as a reference: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it didn't rain. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth bore its fruit."

What is James trying to do but the same thing Jesus is saying? And that is this: Elijah is just like us. Do you understand the gift that you have, that your prayers are actually impacting circumstances?

Now, at this point we may get confused, and say, Wait a minute. I thought God was completely sovereign. After all, don't we go to Providence Church? We declare God's providence, that His plans and His purposes are never thwarted by what we do or do not do. So, what difference do my prayers make? What am I actually accomplishing when I pray?

So let's be clear about this: Prayer is not informing God of our needs, as if He had no idea. Remember in Matthew 6, when Jesus was teaching about anxiety, He says, Look, do not be anxious about what you eat or what you wear. Your Heavenly Father knows that you have those needs, and He will provide for you.

So prayer isn't telling God something like, Hey, God, here are some of my needs; probably You don't know; let me just help You out. That's not what's happening when we pray.

Nor is prayer forcing God's hands into MY will -- giving me what *I* want. Yes, God is sovereign, and His purposes and plans are always fulfilled. So then, why do I pray? And here's the answer: God is sovereign, yes. But yet prayer is the God-ordained means by which we join God in accomplishing His purposes in the world. Let me say it again: Prayer is the God-ordained means by which we join God in accomplishing His purposes in the world.

What I mean is simply this: That God is sovereign, and yet in his sovereignty He ordains the ends AND the means. Yes, His plans are going to be accomplished. And the means by which it's going to be accomplished, one of the means, is the prayers of His people. And God is saying to you, your prayers are going to be used by Me. Therefore, engage.

The greatest story that really illustrates this is the story of Moses. Turn to Exodus 32 when Moses is praying for the Israelites after they built the golden calf, and God wants to destroy them, and Moses intercedes. Look at this in Exodus 32:7:

7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it . . .

Then jump down to verse 9:

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; in order that I will make a great nation of you .”

God is saying, They have turned to worship false gods; I'm gonna destroy them and start over with you, Moses. 

And look how Moses intercedes, in verse 11-14: 

Moses implored the Lord, and said, "Oh Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did He bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth?' Turn from Your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember (look how he appeals to God's sovereign plan) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom You swore by Your own self. You said, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of Heaven, and all this land that I have promised, I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever. (Verse 14, look how God responds:) And the Lord relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people.

Now, what in the world is going on there? Okay, is what happened that Moses reminded Him, Don't forget the promises You made, and God said, Oh man, you’re right! Moses, I completely forgot! You know what, I've changed My mind and I'm not gonna destroy them.

Is that what happened? Certainly not! Did it happen that Moses was just so righteous and somehow his prayer was so effective that God was gonna go this way, and he was able to change God's plan? No! That's not what's going on. God does not change his mind, scripture says. 1 Samuel 15 says that God is not like a man, that He would regret. He doesn't make a decision, regret it, and go, Oh shoot, I should have gone this way. God doesn't do that. And so, what gives here? What's going on here?

Well, I think what's going on here is, look: His plans and purposes are never thwarted by any human effort. BUT, here's the answer: God's plans and purposes, again, as I said, also INCLUDE the prayers (and the preaching, I would add) of His people.

So for preaching, let me give you another seeming problem -- an apparent, not a real problem. It's in the book of Jonah. Remember when God tells Jonah, in 40 days I'm going to destroy Nineveh. And that's the message God gives Jonah, and he preaches it, and they repent, and then it says that "God relented, and He did not destroy them as He promised that He would."

Well, same thing there. What happened? Did God change His mind? Well, here's the answer, again. No, God had a plan, but in the Ninevites' case, God knew that they would repent. And He knew that He was going to save and not destroy the Israelites. But He knew that it was going to happen through the prayers and the preaching of His people.

So in Jonah's case, God knew that the people would repent, and that He would relent. But God also knew that it was gonna happen through the preaching of an impending doom. And this doom is coming for you, and God knew -- it's not like God changed His mind, but He knew that that message is what would cause them to repent. And in the case of Moses, same thing. It's very interesting in Exodus 32:7 actually, it says that God "sent Moses down." If God knew He was going to destroy all the people, why would He send Moses in the midst of them, except that He knew that Moses would be the intercessor; he would be the mediator. 

Just like Jesus is our greatest example: God says that the wrath of God is bearing on us. We deserve eternal punishment for sins. All mankind does. We are all sinners. And yet God, even when He promised that we will die if we turn from him in Genesis, right there in Genesis, He also promises one who will be sent down to be our mediator, to save us.

And so, No, God's not changing His plan. This should give you great encouragement to actually pray! God is saying, Your prayer, your preaching, your loving others IS My means of accomplishing My purposes in this world. And if that does not fire you up to pray, that God says that my prayers are effectual.

This is the way God sets up everything. God ordains provisions for you and your family, but He also ordains your working a job to be the means that you effectually receive those provisions, right? God ordains babies to come into this world. And God also ordains a very glorious, beautiful means by which babies are conceived. I've never heard any man say, if God has ordained my children, then what difference does it make? I'm not gonna participate in the means that He's assigned for it. No man's doing that, right? We're not gonna slough off the means there, right? So why are we sloughing off the means of prayer?

What a great gift He's given us, to be a part of what He's doing. Praying! And so He ordains that people are going to respond to the message, and He ordains beautiful feet to carry the gospel. He ordains His powerful moving in this world, and He ordains people praying.

So, number one, you want to pray because it's pleasing to God.

Number two, you ought to pray because of God's promise that He's going to use your prayers.

Then number three, the paternal care of God is another reason why you ought to pray. Now, moms, I'm sorry. I know it's Mother's Day, and I used the word "paternal." But it's because it's in the text. God is our Father. That's what I mean there, okay. But I love you, moms. 

Look at this in verses 9-11. I love this:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more (and this ought to make you fall out of your chair) will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

So the third reason why you should turn in prayer is, first of all, Jesus just referred to God as your Father who is in Heaven. Are you kidding me? Because of Christ, because of what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, when I put my faith in Christ, the Bible says, Behold what manner of love, that we should be called children of God. God is my Father now, that I can turn to and pray. How amazing is that? How would it change the quantity and the quality of your prayers if you knew you were approaching God as your Father?

Augustine said it this way: "For what would He not now give to sons when they ask, when He has already granted this very thing; namely, that they might BE sons."

Do you understand? This is the glorious good news of the gospel, that Jesus has made a way for you to refer to God as your Father; to know Him as your Father, to be a co-heir with Christ. Jesus says, in my Father's mansion there are many rooms, and I'm going to prepare a place for you, that you can be a child of God.

In Romans 8, that you are now given the Spirit to pray, "Abba, Father," to turn to Him as your Father. As we saw in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 earlier, that we pray, "Our Father, who is in Heaven. And man, what a great gift we neglect, that you can know Him as Father.

But here's the point I want to make. Don't miss it. Why you should be motivated to turn to God because He's your Father, is because this: First of all, since He is our Father, we know that He knows what's best for us. You know, in the 50's there was a popular TV show called "Father Knows Best." A character was named Jim Anderson, and he was trying to cope with this growing family. The title itself, "Father Knows Best," resonates with our experiences with our own children, fathers and mothers.

We experience this. Every father, every mother, has had that moment when they're giving what they know to be the best guidance for their child, and yet they see their child neglect it and go their own way. And when that happens for me -- I don't know about you -- I'm immediately reminded by God how often I fail to remember that HE knows what's best for me, and therefore He can be trusted in every situation.

Now why am I bringing this point out? Why is this important? Here's why: Because, friends, the promises of God, the previous point, are not unconditional. It's not, Ask whatever you want, and you’re gonna get it, with no strings attached. Okay? Seek and you shall find, knock, and it's gonna be opened to you, regardless of what you ask. Listen, that would be ridiculous if you believe that, then you believe God is like the genie of the lamp, from Aladdin. You rub the lamp, and a genie comes, and whatever you demand, it does, right?

No! That's certainly not what Jesus is teaching here. What is He teaching? I think the key phrase is in verse 11. Look what He says in verse 11: "If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is Heaven give GOOD THINGS (that's the phrase) to those who ask Him?" 

And I think the key words are, Good Things. I think, friends, that "good things" needs to be qualified. God knows what is good and what is not good for us. And a loving Father is only going to give good things that we need. Not things that we ask for, that we think are good. Not things that are just maybe temporarily for our good, but end up giving us harm. He sees the beginning from the end. He sees it all, and He gives us ultimately what is best for us.

And so that's why I think this example is so important. Please don't miss what Jesus is saying here. He's saying, Look at me, guys: No father, no mother, if their child asks for a piece of bread, is gonna hand him a stone. Or ask for a fish, and is gonna hand him a serpent. Right? No one is.

But does that mean that you can ask for whatever, and you’re gonna get it? Well, think with me. What if the child ASKS for a serpent? What if the child ASKS for a stone? Are we gonna say that a good loving father is gonna give him a serpent? No! You see, God knows what's best. And if He's a loving Father, He's not gonna give you jest ANYTHING you ask for. He's gonna give you good things. That's what a loving Father does.

And you would expect a good father to deny the prayer, the request of a child, for a serpent. You'd say, that's not a good father, if he granted that request. And so, that is what we've got to see with God. 

Martin Lloyd-Jones said it this way: "I thank God that He is not prepared to do anything that I may chance to ask Him. I am profoundly grateful to God that He did not grant me certain things for which I asked, and that He shut certain doors in my face. So Martin Lloyd-Jones is a big Garth Brooks fan, evidently, right? Sometimes I think God for unanswered prayers. That's what's being preached here. God is good, and He knows what's best for us.

So what's awesome is, not only does God know what's best, but as a loving Father, the reason I say that knowing Him as Father is motivation to pray, is because He knows what's best, but not only does He want it, but He's committed to it. He wants what's best for you. A loving father doesn't just know what's best for his children, he's committed to what's best for his children. And this is what we need to be reminded of. This is what He's doing here. If YOU who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much MORE will your Father who is in Heaven give good gifts. 

By the way, every eye up here: A side note; you've got to see this: Don't miss what Jesus just said: Even evil people know how to give good gifts to their children. Do you want to hear the gospel? Listen to me. Just because you do good things, doesn't mean you have a right standing with God. This is the truth of the gospel. And so many people misunderstand. They use Gandhi, or whoever it might be; they say, He's done so many good things.

It doesn't matter how many good things you do. Without Jesus, you are still a sinner separated from God. And I think that what Jesus is doing there very subtly, is asserting the inherent sinfulness of mankind. It doesn't matter how many good things you do. You're still evil, apart from Jesus.

And you say, man, there's some people who do a lot of good things. Look, it's like jumping across the Grand Canyon. Some people are gonna jump farther than others. Let's just be honest. But it doesn't matter. We're all gonna splat at the bottom. It doesn't matter how many good things you do. Nothing is gonna get you to the other side, except for a Savior. And that's who Jesus is.

And so, friends, this is the gospel. It doesn't matter how many good things you do. But don't miss what I'm trying to say here. God is wise. He knows what's best. But He's a loving Father, and He's committed to giving us what's best. It doesn't mean that what's best is always gonna be free of discomfort or free of hardship for you. It means that He knows ultimately what's best.

And again, let me underscore one more time. The amazing part of it for me is that He is committed to it. And He has already proven it to you. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:32. Listen to this: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" If that's not motive for you to pray, to turn to God . . . You might say, I don't want to turn to God, because I really want this person in my life. I don't want to turn to God because He may not want that person in my life. I don't want to turn to God because I really want that thing, whatever it might be. And what if He doesn't want it?

How can you doubt what GOD wants for you? He's already proven that He's committed to giving you what's best for you, by giving you His SON. Is He gonna now give you something cheap? You turn to Him with confidence and pray, knowing that, God, even if You don't answer this prayer, and You deny what *I* think is good for me, I believe You're never gonna give me the stone, You're never gonna give me the serpent, but You're gonna give me good things, because You're a good Father. And that's motive to pray. 

So friends, it's Pleasing to God; there are the Promises of God, that He's going to use your prayers; and that God is our Father ought to give us incredible motivation to pray.

And one last thing that really lines up with what I just said, and that is the Plan of God. What I mean by that is, I think what we're trying to see here is that all of this is meant to give me confidence to go to God because I trust His will. And prayer, friends, ultimately, is more MY aligning myself and discerning what GOD's will is, than it is my trying to change God's plan. I love 1 John chapter 5:14-15, that gives such confidence in prayer:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL (key phrase) he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

So it's praying according to God's will. We studied the Lord's Prayer a few weeks ago; Timothy Ateek preached it. Go back to Matthew 6.

Everybody, all people, even non-Christians would readily pray Matthew 6:11-13. "Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses, our debts. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." I mean, non-Christians would pray that. But not everybody would pray verses 9 and 10: "Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done."

And, friends, you say, Why do you pray? Here's why you pray: To align yourself to God's will. This is the point of prayer, is to say, God, I have these needs and wants in my life, but ultimately, I know who You are, and my ultimate prayer is this: That Your name would become great in my life and in my world. And my ultimately prayer is this: That YOUR will, even overriding whatever I pray ignorantly -- YOUR will be done in my life.

And this is why we turn to Him in prayer. John Stott says it this way: The purpose of prayer is emphatically not to bend God's will to ours, but rather, again, to align our will to His."

When we get out of prayer, when we get out of God's word, when we get out of fellowship with believers, that's when you start seeing yourself stray away from God's will. You might say, I don't know God's will for my life. But I'm telling you, prayer aligns you with God's will, and that's a great motive for you to pray.

So, friend, it's pleasing to God. If you're a Christian, you ought to know that, at the end of the day, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And God says, I'm pleased when you persistently pursue Me in prayer.

It is effectual, and God says, I'm gonna use you praying to accomplish My purpose. Man, it is a good thing because God is good. He's a loving Father, and you KNOW He's gonna deliver what's best. Why would you not turn to Him?

And then, friend, you align yourself with God's will. Let's bow our heads and pray.

Father, we love You and thank you for Your word. We thank You for the truth of scripture, and we thank You for the incredible gift of prayer. And forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we too often neglect this.

Would you take a moment to pray silently where you are? Maybe you've never prayed in your life. Prayer is simply communicating what's in your heart, to God. Just turn to God. Then it's tuning your ears to listen to Him. Just turn to Him and say, God, I want to know You, I want to hear from You.

And those of us who do know Him: Can we take a moment and confess our prayerlessness? And say, God, You've given us great motive to pray; to keep it before my eyes that I might seek You and know You and know Your will. Just pray that, and I'll close us in a moment.

What a gift, God. What a gift, Jesus. This seems strange, but Lord, I pray for us as a body, and I'm praying that we would be a praying church. That's my prayer. God, I'm begging You, in the name of Christ, I pray, Holy Spirit, that You move and fan a flame in our hearts to desire to meet with You, to pray, to seek Your face.

I think in our homes, in our lives, in our relationships, in our church, we so often just rely on our own works and our own programs and our own effort. Lord, help us remember that we have not because we ask not. That unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain who build it. Let us not build apart from You.

So Jesus, I'm asking for myself, for us, that we would not neglect, but that we'd take hold of the beautiful gift You've given us. Make us a praying people, Lord. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

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