THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 6-23-02
LESSON TITLE: PRAYER: "WHOSE PRAYERS ARE HEARD?"
We are excited to have you with us today for the Living Word Program. What a glorious Lord's Day morning it is.
As always it is an honor and privilege to have you with us. We are thankful you have chosen to join us as we commit this time to the things of God.
It is our hope and prayer this morning that we may each participate and do our part to make this time acceptable before Him and according to His Word. Now let's begin by talking to God through prayer!
Isn't it great to know that God is always there for us. In fact, as Christians we must always keep in mind just how much we do need our Creator. This morning we want to begin with a song that reminds us of how often we need God. So, won't you join in with the congregation and do your part as we sing together, "I Need Thee Every Hour."
(SONG # 1)
It is interesting to me to see how history continually repeats itself. You and I remember the many examples in the Bible of those that were faithful believers and followers of God the Father. However, when Jesus, God's son came, many rejected Him as a mere man.
It's hard to believe, but there are actual people today who say they believe in God the Father and that they are obedient to His will, yet they reject Jesus Christ as being his Son. In Matthew 3:16-17, we read the words of God. There it says, "when He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Wasn't it John who pinned the familiar verse, "for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life," John 3:16. You see Jesus is the Son of God and we know this because God, inspired His own writers of the Bible to tell us so.
Another fact that people often like to deny about this Jesus is that He is also God! In the book of John we see that the very first chapter starts out by addressing this issue. In verse one, we read, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here is a discussion about the Word. It says that it was with God and was God, so what is this Word? Let's look down in verse 14, there it says, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Obviously the Word referred to in this text is God's Son, Jesus.
You may still wonder how this can be so, that Jesus can be God and also be with God, at the same time? Well, my Father and I have the same last name, Sullins. We are one as a family, but still individuals, able to fulfill our own functions. We share a lot in common, but we are still separate and unique persons.
Another verse which really helps us to understand the deity of Christ is found in John 8:58. There Jesus said, "most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." In the text we see that the Jews were angry with Him because he referred to Abraham as one He knew. So in verse 57, they told Him that He was not even 50 years old, so how could He know Abraham. Thus He gave the above answer that He was before Abraham and was the I am! Also notice in verse 59, the response this brought from the people - they tried to stone Him.
In the book of Revelation, chapter 22, verse 13, Jesus further said, "I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." So I ask you, "do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He is God?" Who will you put your trust in, God, His Son and His Word or the foolishness of man? As for me, I believe God the Father, that Jesus is His Son and is God!
This Lord's Day, we will continue our series on, "Prayer!" The topic this morning will answer the question, "Whose Prayers Are Heard?" So, please continue with us and after our next song I will return with this study from God's Word.
Now let's join in our second song of the day. The name of the hymn is, "It Is Well With My Soul."
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
Thank you for continuing with us as we now have the opportunity to go right into God's Word and to see what He has to say again about His topic "prayer." We've looked over the last several weeks at many good topics, subjects if you will, about prayer and about who must pray, what prayer is, a concept there that really helps us to understand more and hopefully have a better appreciation to know exactly what prayer is all about and why we should be so encouraged. We have the privilege and the opportunity to pray to our God.
Well this morning we want to look again at prayer and this morning as specifically we have mentioned we want to look at whose prayers are heard which is a very important topic because we know that we hear on a daily basis whether it be on television or newspapers or magazines, wherever we might look among our friends, our co-workers, people talk about that they have prayed to God or they do pray to God. Well then it's important to know whose prayers are heard. Is it just that everyone who does pray is heard and that God answers all the prayers of those who pray to Him?
Well let's look to God's Word to find the answers. Obviously, that's always the best place because God has provided for us His Will clearly in the Bible and we can look there to see what He has said in relationship to those who are heard in prayer.
Look with me if you will to those things that really show that God hears those who are believers of His. You might look in the book of James chapter 5 and verse 17, obviously it says there that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." When are righteous, striving to be righteous as God is righteous, in other words, pure as He is pure, holy as He is holy, then and only then are we able to know that yes, our prayers are heard and notice that it says that they are effective. God hears and as we will see in a moment, He answers those prayers.
Not only that but what about faithfulness? We can look to the book of John 15, that is the gospel according to John chapter 15 and verse 7. There, Jesus in His own words tells us the following. He says, "If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done to you." Now if you'll know specifically here what Jesus said is very, very familiar to what John said in the book of 1 John, several chapters there deal with this concept of being in God, abiding in Him, being with Him, having fellowship with Him, having love, communion. Why? Because we are in the light as He is in the light. We are striving to be like Him. So, here we see a need to abide in God, a need to be faithful, a need to follow Him and we all understand the importance of being faithful and having faith because the Hebrew writer tells us in Hebrews 11 and verse 6 that without faith it is impossible to please God. So faith is a requirement and faithfulness then would be a requirement in order that God again not only hear our prayers, but He answers those prayers as it says here in the verse we read in Matthew 15, or rather John 15 and verse 7 that "truly God hears and He answers those prayers." He gives us those things that we ask for.
Another idea that we mentioned just a moment ago very similar to faith, but it's that belief. Really our faith is that belief in action so there is a distinction between the two but the knowledge that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We must demonstrate that belief and obedience to the Will of God. In fact, if you look there in the book of Matthew 21 and verse 22, we find there that it again tells us that if we believe, and we ask believing then again God hears us and when He hears us as believers and knows that we believe in what we are asking for and that God will give that to us, again the Bible tells us that He will give what we have asked for.
Isn't it wondrous to know that we can talk to God and we can make requests of Him and tell Him what we need and tell Him what's going on in our lives and that He's there to hear and He's there to help us in every way that He can and He's promised us that. That's one of the great privileges and blessings of being a child of God on this earth.
I want you to go on with me though to the book of John again and John 16 and notice what it further says about how that God not only hears, but how God truly will answer our prayers. He says there in the beginning of verse 23, again these are the words of Jesus. "And in that day you will ask me nothing. Most assuredly I say to you whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give you. Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full." Here Jesus says, "Look there's a time coming when you won't need to ask me anymore." He says, "You will ask the Father directly. You will ask my father in heaven and that when you ask, again believing, having faithfulness, having a true righteousness, purity, holiness as God striving towards that completeness in Him." When all of these things are in place again, God hears us and He will answer our prayers. That is God the Father. And as we pray through the Son, surely He will not only hear us and answer those prayers, but He will bless us in accordance with these things.
Isn't that why Paul as we have looked at another lesson such as in the book of Ephesians 5 and 20. Isn't that why he clearly told us there that we must pray. Pray always in everything giving thanks to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we pray to God. Jesus said, "Pray to my father. Ask what you will through my name and in my name and when you ask," He says, "you will receive." So when we again wonder whose prayers are heard, well obviously, the righteous, the faithful believers. And when their prayers are heard, their prayers are answered according to the Will of God. The problem is sometimes we say, "But God didn't answer that prayer. I wanted this or I wanted that." And we wonder why is it that God didn't hear me. Well maybe He did hear you and maybe in His wisdom and His complete knowledge and understanding of all things, maybe He understood that what you needed more was not to receive that which you ask for. So God will hear and God does answer. He doesn't always answer the way that we want, but He answers according to His almighty wisdom, much greater and wondrous than ours will ever be.
But then the question might come, "What about those who are not faithful or righteous?" Obviously, we will have many categories here. We will have some who have maybe become Christians at one point and fallen away. We would have categories of people who maybe are attending from time to time, but really aren't serious about their Christianity, really haven't completely clothed themselves in continuing faithfully in what God has asked. We would have examples of those who may say, "Well, I believe in God." But they have again just never shown anything towards Him. Or those who just reject God altogether and really don't grace the doors of any church building. They don't really try to pray to God or talk to Him. So who is it that God hears and answers in these situations? We've obviously seen that God hears the prayer of the righteous and answers those, but what about others? What about the sinners?
Well, there's an example that we might again look at in the book of John. You notice that John deals a lot with our relationship with God, the Almighty, the Creator, and he does that in a very good and helpful way. But there in the book of John again, we find an example in chapter 9 in the book of John. In fact, in verse 31 where a man had been healed and he was making a clarification before the Jews of something that was found under the Old Law or at least according to what the Will of God had always been. In verse 31 he made this statement. He says, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His Will, He hears him." In other words, they were trying to say "this man is a sinner. God will not hear sinners." Again, we need to understand clearly what this is all about. Let me ask you a question. Have you sinned before? Well certainly, we all have. The Bible says that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." We've all been involved in unrighteousness and that was before becoming a Christian and even after being a Christian. We still make mistakes, don't we? We still do things and get involved in things and we slip at times even though we're focused on God. We make mistakes and we say things we shouldn't. We think things we shouldn't. We watch things we shouldn't. We hear things we shouldn't. And we sometimes are found in sin. So if saying that God doesn't hear the prayer of a sinner would exclude all of us because all of us sin at times. But what does it mean here when he says that God doesn't hear the prayer of sinners? He means those who have chosen sin over God. he means those who have chosen a life and have rejected God altogether.
Let's see if we can go deeper into the Word of God and understand this more clearly because even Jesus in His discourse as He talked there in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter 7 said the following in verses 7 and 8. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given unto you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open unto you for everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds and through him who knock, it is open." Jesus here in a sermon is talking to those who many were followers, some evidently who weren't, some who had not yet opened the door, some who had not yet received the true knowledge that they needed about Him, about who He was. He says, "Open the door." You see again those who maybe were sinners, who were yet not true believers in Him but yet He says, "Open the door and I'm going to be there." God hears prayer. God hears prayers because prayers are addressed to Him.
Now the situation that we may actually get into is what prayers does He answer? Well there is not question that He answers the prayers according to His Will of those who are righteous and faithful and those who are striving to be pure and holy as God is holy. We've already looked at that in our study together. But what about those then who are outside of God, who are sinners, or those who are not really living according to the Will of God, who are not really righteous or pure or holy or not putting the love of God first and showing that love by keeping His commandments as it says in John 14:15?
Well the Bible again gives us an example how they answer those prayers. And I think again there in Matthew 7 it is clearly kind of inferred, but there the idea is that God will help those who want to truly know Him better and to follow Him. I don't think a sinner can pray and say, "God bless me in my sin and give me more in this life," and that God is going to bless him with that. Why? Because he is a sinner. He has chosen sin and still is not faithful to his God and hasn't relinquished and repented and turned from those things in order to follow God. I can't believe that God would hear and bless someone who chooses to do such against Him. But the truth is that He would hear that sinner if He knew the heart of that sinner was sincere and if He knew the heart of that sinner was really to know God better, to do what God had said and to obey Him if He had the knowledge that he needed to be obedient.
How do we know that? Well in the book of Acts, we find a beautiful example in the book of Acts chapter 10. But chapter 10 there begins talking about a story of a man named Cornelius, a man who evidently was religious in so many ways and actually it tells us he was a religious man because of that which he was doing, the actions that he was doing in his life proved him to be religious. Notice with me verse 1 and 2. It says, "There was a certain man in Cesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household and he gave alms generously to the poor and to the people and prayed to God always." Here we see a man who believed in God but a man that it seems still wasn't right. Why? Because if you look at verse 3, it says that there was a vision, an angel was sent by God to him. Why? Because he was praying to God always saying, "God, help me to be what I need to be." God sent an angel to him and told him that he wasn't right. In fact, He told him he wasn't right and how he could find out how he needed to be right. In verse 5 it says that he was to send some servants to Simon Peter and to bring him to him so that he might teach him in all things. But we find later in about verse 48 that actually he and all of his household did obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. They did respond to what Peter proclaimed and why? Because the heart of Cornelius was right. It was what it needed to be and even though he wasn't right before becoming obedient to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing Jesus and following Jesus, he still was heard by God because what he wanted from God was to be more like God, to follow God. And what he was pleading with God was to "help me know your Will." Well I think when God hears people praying and asking for help to know God better and to follow Him better, surely God hears that. When people knock and they open the door, God is there to assist and help them as best they can in ways that He does.
But at the same time, we must keep in mind that unless we are ultimately faithful, righteous, pure and holy, unless we are really believers in prayer, and those who are faithful before Him, God will not give us and bless us in all these ways that He has said. Why? Because prayer is reserved for those who are like God. Won't you choose to be like God today and to follow Him more so that in all things He might bless you when He hears you and give you what you ask.
(SONG # 3 - "I Know That My Redeemer Lives!")
Again, let me thank you for choosing to be with us this morning. I hope we all have been encouraged through our time spent together. Please remember, you are invited to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this service of God.
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Isn't it wonderful to know that God not only hears our prayers, but also that He answers them. May we all remain faithful in His service, so that He will always be there for us when we approach His Heavenly throne.