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Pray

Part 1 - Talking to God

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(3/6) Good morning, welcome to our brand-new series at Christís Community Church called "Pray." Iím so glad that youíre here with us today and I wonder how many of you would admit that your prayer life could use a jump start. You know, itís like you love Jesus, you love his church, you love his Word, but you just know that you could pray better.

Any of you here this morning ever feel inadequate in prayer? Any of you ever feel guilty for not praying enough? Anybody that could pray better?

Okay, so this morning weíre aligning ourselves with Godís will and weíre positioning ourselves to do better as we tackle the topic of prayer. And I believe this series is critical as we approach our Lordís Passion Week and celebrate the Resurrection, because a foundational understanding of prayer is crucial to understanding God, to grasping the mystery of prayer, and beginning to boldly pray dangerous prayers. You know prayers like Jesus prayed, "Not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36). Prayers like the apostles prayed, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6). To pray over the dead "Get up" and they would rise to their feet (Acts 9:40-41). And to pray "for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). We want to pray prayers like that donít we?

And Iíll tell you, in Bible college one of my favorite courses was a course on prayer, and in that class there was a book called "Every prayer and petition in the Bible" by Larry Richards and it was in that class that my own prayer life exploded with intimacy with God. I learned the power of journaling, writing down my prayers, and it was through this course that I began to develop prayer principles based upon Godís promises that have become part of my life. And it was in this book that I examined some of the most ancient prayers ever recorded by some of the most powerful men of God in human history, as it explored in great detail the petitions, the complaints, the confessions, and the blessings as they were expressed to God.

And so as we begin this series today I want to first consider why more people donít pray. And honestly, I believe in a large way itís the fault of the church by instilling in the people of God the notion that we can only pray if we pray with these high and lofty prayers. So then as we pray we begin to question ourselves, you know is it okay to pray for this, am I praying the right way, and you know is this even legal? Can I ask for that?

And so a lot of good people really lack confidence to pray. And because of our misconceptions many of us go through life truly believing in God, but not really having a prayer life that would be evidence of our relationship with God. You know we try to pray, but immediately doubts creep in, we get distracted, because we are praying what you could call ADD prayers. Itís that prayer that as soon as you start praying, you start to get a little bit of momentum going, and you remember you forgot to do this or you forgot to get that and your mind is off in a million other directions. Itís that ADD prayer.

Or maybe you question how God could even care about the little things that are bothering you. You know heís the God of the universe, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present and that problem that youíre facing just seems to somehow pale in comparison to the enormity of the tasks at hand. And really you question bringing these things to God because youíre not even sure your prayers will really make a difference. And if he already knows anyway why do we need to pray and maybe it wonít even make a difference like the last time. You know, why bother God?

Yet prayer is important. Itís important enough that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. And itís important enough that time and time again we are encouraged to pray like in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 16.

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

But what exactly is prayer? Well, weíre going to look at a couple verses in Psalm chapter 5 that helps to break it down. And weíre going to look at a couple passages of Scripture that will help us, number one to understand that prayer is simply talking to God, and number two that like any conversation that we have, every conversation doesnít look the same. Our prayer is just that, itís our prayer, and when we can grasp that, we suddenly find the freedom to pray thatís ours in Christ. So letís look at Psalm chapter 5 verse one as we begin.

Psalms 5:1-3, "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

David prays, "God donít just listen to my words but listen to my sighing. Not just what Iím saying but what I am expressing through my body language, the groans and the grunts. All of that. Itís all communication toward God, like when my wife Dana and I are talking and maybe she gives a sigh of frustration. Or maybe Iím holding her in my arms, massaging her neck, and she gives a content sigh. Itís the same thing as when we pray, talking with God, if we give a sigh of frustration, of contentment, or whatever. And we can be that way with God, because thereís that intimacy there, because this isnít just a God weíve heard about, but this is a God weíre in relationship with, a God whoís our King and our Lord.

And so David prays, heís sighing, and now he waits because he knows that God is going to do something. Heís waiting in expectation, he doesnít know what God is going to do, it may not be exactly what he asked, it may be something totally different and something better, but he trusts God because he knows his heart and his character. And we can come to God in the same way, but recognizing that we all come, we all approach in different ways. You know, for you prayer may not be kneeling down beside the bed. Some of you might like to sing your prayers to God and there are others of you who probably shouldnít. Some of you might like to write out your prayers to God or maybe you just pray during the routine tasks of your day. Maybe when youíre hurting you might just go to God and pour out your emotions toward him, shouting or crying with him. You see, we can be so connected to God, so intimate with God, that we just do life together with him in prayer. You see, prayer is so simple. Itís just talking with God; if youíll allow yourself to break out of your preconceived ideas of what prayer should be.

Today I want to show you from the Scriptures four ways to talk to God as we lay the foundation for this series. And so first I want to talk to you about how we are going to talk to God, because we have a lot of false ideas of what prayer is. You know, if we sit down to eat and weíre going to pray over our meal, "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is prayingÖ" for this meal (Neh. 1:5-6). We thank you for this pizza, "that we may give thanks to your holy name, that we may glory in your praise" (1 Chro. 16:35). Forever and ever, amen." And you see, as wonderful as all that is, we donít have to put on our prayer voice and talk to him any different than we would talk to anybody else.

1. Pray with Authenticity

So number one, we pray with authenticity. We donít need to put on a show for God in prayer, because I donít think heís really going to be impressed anyway. You know, itís like if one of my kids came up to me and said, "Great and glorious father of our household, we beseech theÖ" And Iíd be like, "Huh!" right? But my children come up to me, Jeremy may take my hand, Olivia may climb onto my lap, and with authenticity they say, "I love you dad." They may hug me and ask me to help them. Olivia may ask me to play dolls with her. And God as our Heavenly Father wants us to talk to him with authenticity, not with a show of our great vocabulary and some false pretense of pompousness, but just to be real and honest with him.

As we read the Scriptures, we find time and time again when people are so honest with God itís almost scary. You know, you wonder how God is going to respond, but the reality is that God is secure enough to handle it. Itís you and I that often respond to people in the wrong way because of our flesh. But God is love and God is Spirit and he would actually prefer our authenticity.

Like one day in Egypt long ago, Moses was upset with God, because heíd been obeying God, heíd been doing what God told him to do, and things hadnít gotten better. As a matter of fact they had actually gotten worse. We can read about this in Exodus chapter 5, verses 22 and 23, when Moses cried out to the Lord in prayer,

"O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all" (Exodus 5:22-23).

You see, Moses just speaks to God honestly and you can hear the sarcasm, you can hear the confusion, and you can hear his doubt, but God is not offended. He wants us to pray honestly and with authenticity. We can pray when we donít understand, when weíre confused, when we donít even know how to pray, and weíre concerned. You just pray with authenticity, because the only time God criticized peopleís prayers was when they were unauthentic.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-7,

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6:5-7).

Jesus calls them hypocrites, because theyíre more concerned about what people think of their prayers than what God thinks of their prayers. And so he tells us, to pray privately, not to keep on babbling with many words, but just to be real with God and talk to him like we would an intimate friend. If you would like to see your prayer life improve just talk to God like a friend, be real, and your prayer life will blossom.

2. Pray about Everything

The second thing, number two, is that we should talk to God about everything. You know we have this tendency to want to handle the little things ourselves and only bother God with the big stuff. But the reality is that itís all little stuff as far as God is concerned, and if we wonít let God help us with the little things, how can we trust him to help us with the big things?

As I read the writings of the apostle Paul, I realized that I donít pray enough, because no matter what problem you may be facing, whatever situation you encounter, you not only have permission, but you have a command to make a request to God. Listen to what Paul says to us in Philippians chapter 4, verse 6,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).

Now thatís quite a privilege isnít it? Over and over we are told to pray, to ask, and to present your requests to God. Peter tells us, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Donít worry, just ask God for help. 20 times in the New Testament weíre commanded to ask God. James even tells us in chapter 4,

"You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:2).

We need to understand that if thereís something that matters to us, it matters to our Heavenly Father. Paul says, in everything, the big things, the little things, and the in-between things, talk to God about it. And there are hundreds of prayers recorded in the Bible that illustrate the variety of concerns that people took to God. But here are just a few to make this point: Zechariah prayed for a son, Solomon prayed for wisdom, Moses prayed for water, Gideon prayed for a sign, Abrahamís servant prayed for favor, David prayed for forgiveness, and Elijah prayed that it wouldnít rain. And so as we look through the Bible we see all these different kinds of things that mattered to God because it mattered to His kids. The Bible says pray about everything. Whatever matters to you talk to God about it.

3. Pray Continually

Number three, we talk to God continually. This has transformed my prayer life because I canít pray long with my ADD prayers. I may pray for 30 seconds, maybe two minutes or five minutes, and then Iím gone. You know, Iím scheduling appointments, ordering parts, calling so-and-so, moving this, doing this or that, but Godís will is that we would pray continually. 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 16-18, tells us this,

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

So what Iíve learned to do is to live each moment with an awareness of the presence of God and instead of beating myself up for not praying for long periods of time, just to pray often throughout the day. So in the morning Iíll pray, but then Iíll read the Bible, Iíll pray, and Iíll read the Bible some more. Iíll write, Iíll pray, and on and on throughout the day I pray and pray and pray. As I talk to one of the kids Iíll pray, as I walk to the office Iíll pray, as I walk outside Iíll pray, as I scroll through Facebook Iíll pray, as I go to this meeting Iíll pray, and so each day is an ongoing continual conversation with God.

For some of you, this may be just what you needed to hear, because prayer doesnít have to be just in the morning, or evening, or over a meal, but itís an awareness of the presence of God throughout the day. Itís a continual conversation and maybe depending on what youíre going through, it may be a persistent prayer like the widow in Luke chapter 18. Jesus told his disciples this parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up, saying, that there was a widow in a certain town who kept coming to the judge pleading for justice and he finally gives in saying, "So she wonít eventually wear me out with her coming."

And then Jesus said, chapter 18 verse 7, "Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice and quickly" (Luke 18:7-8).

So Jesus tells us to pray continually, to pray until God does something, until God changes our circumstances, or until God changes us. And so we pray until something happens with a continual prayer just like Hannah prayed. She was praying for a son and in 1 Samuel chapter 1, verse 12, Eli the priest saw her, "As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard."

"She kept on praying!" And so as youíre feeding the kids breakfast, as youíre driving to work, as youíre exercising, as youíre going to that meeting, you keep on praying, because prayer is just talking to God with authenticity, about everything that matters, as you walk day in and day out with a continual awareness of the presence of God.

4. Pray with Expectation

And number four as we close, we pray with expectation. David prays, heís sighing, he lays his requests before God and waits in expectation. He doesnít know what God is going to say or what God is going to do, but he knows that God is going to do something. And we can come to God in the same way praying with expectation, talking to God, and waiting for his response. We listen intently, because God not only wants to hear us, but he wants us to hear him. Because if thereís not two-way communication itís not much of a relationship is it? But how is God going to speak to you? A loud voice booming around the earth? Maybe like he does in Revelation chapter 14, verse 7, he may, but he often doesnít!

When God spoke to the prophet Elijah, a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, but the Lord wasnít in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord wasnít in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord wasnít in the fire. He did however reveal himself and chapter 19 in verse 12 tells us,

"Öafter the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:12-13).

After the fire came a gentle whisper and thatís how God spoke. This morning, God may speak to you through his gentle whisper. He may speak to you when youíre in prayer, when you open his word, he may speak to you through other people. God may speak to you through your circumstances. When you have the eyes to see, and the ears to hear what heís saying and to see what heís doing, God may speak to you audibly. God may speak to you through the voice of the Spirit if youíll listen.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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