THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT

Program Air Date - 6-29-03

LESSON TITLE: LEARNING TO DRAW NEARER TO GOD: "WHERE DOES PRAYER FIT IN?"

WELCOME

Let me welcome each of you to our program on this wondrous Lord's Day morning. I hope all of you are well and that you are prospering greatly, in your physical lives according to what you are giving to God spiritually. It is wonderful to be a part of God's family and to have opportunities such as this to come before Him and learn more about what He wants of us, as well as praising His name through song. As we begin our homage to God this morning, won't you bow with me in prayer?

(Prayer)

If I were to ask you where your home is, I would get lot's of different answers. However, if we look to God's Word and consider this question from a spiritual standpoint - just where is our home. Our first song of the morning answers the very question of where our true home must be in this life and in the one to come. So, won't you join in with the congregation at this time as we sing together the song, "When All Of God's Singers Get Home!"

(SONG # 1)

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS

An interesting part of the Old Testament is the fact that we are given so many good examples and stories of those who were striving to please God in their lives. However, I also find it interesting that these same people were not perfect before God, but they were doing their best to live according to His will and to put Him first - thus they were considered as complete in His sight.

One such example is in God's great servant David. Throughout his life he showed over and over again his true love and devotion to God. As a young man he boldly stood for God and even as King he still did as God commanded. However, we also see that He was not perfect, and yes he sinned! Notice with me what he said about God, knowing that he had made mistakes and done things contrary to His Will. In Psalm 66:20 , we read, "Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!" David's merciful God is the same God that we serve today. How great our God is, in that He will not forsake us or turn on us, as long as we repent and strive to continue doing our best according to His Word.

So what does this mean for all of us? It means that God is always there for us and will hear us, even when we make mistakes. Better yet, when we ask forgiveness - He will forgive us if we acknowledge our wrongs and strive to continue in them no more. I think John put this best in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Finally, notice what David said about our prayers. God not only hears us but will not turn away from us, even when we make mistakes. Isn't it great to know that God is always there, ready to listen and answer our prayers to His glory. Especially in relationship to our needs and request in this life, God is always a good listener. And even though we mess up from time to time He is still there and ready to forgive if we are willing to do our part.

This morning, I will be leading our lesson thoughts of the day, as we continue our study together concerning, "Learning to Draw Near To Our God." Our specific lesson of the day is entitled, "Where does Prayer Fit In?" So stay with us and after our next song together we will return with this study from God's Word. Now let's return to our singing. The name of the next hymn, "Why I Love The Lord."

(SONG # 2)

LESSON

Speaker: Ray Sullins

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Thank you for staying with us this morning as we now have an opportunity to once again look at our new series of study, more specifically today looking at how prayer causes us to draw nearer to God. As we've just read together there in the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 beginning in verse 16. It is important that Christians are a rejoicing people, but furthermore that we as it says here pray without ceasing, that we are continuously praying as best we can, always knowing that it certainly is this avenue of prayer that we are privileged to have so that we might communicate with out God in heaven. So today, we want to look at prayer and really how prayer fits in to the life of the child of God and how prayer brings us closer, if you will, to our God in heaven. You know we've always served. That is, those of us who love God. We've always served a loving God, a caring God, a God who is ready to help us bear our burdens and ready to take our cares on His own shoulders and to help us bear those things so that we might not be brought down in this world or kept really from being what we can or having the things that we need in this life.

Certainly as we look throughout the Bible, it tells us clearly how personal a God that we serve. In fact, if you look at verses for instance like 1 Peter, in 1 Peter chapter 3 and verse 13, and we see again here the concepts of not only how loving our God is but really how much He really cares in serving us. Actually let's begin at verse 12 as well as verse 13. It says there, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil and who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good." You see, when we do those things that are good and righteous and holy according to the Will of God, then we have God on our side. And what does he say one of those things are? He says there in verse 12, "It is prayer and that God's eyes are always open. His ears are always ready to hear the prayer of one who is a follower."

So certainly again, our God is a loving God who cares for us and cares so much for us that He not only hears us but when He hears us He answers our prayers. In fact, in 1 John just the next book over, in 1 John chapter 5 and verse 14, we read this in relationship to prayer. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His Will, He hears us." Verse 15 goes on to say, "And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petition that we have asked of Him." Here he says, "Yes, pray." Here it says, "Be confident in our prayer and pray in such a way that we know that we are of God and that His Will will be done and pray in a way that we know that we are praying with Him at the forefront, not with really just our wants and our needs and how it's going to better us and selfish prayer and things that are really all about me but pray with God in mind, His Will, and he says, "therefore, when we pray He hears and when He hears, He gives us the things that we ask for." You see, we do serve a loving God, a powerful God, a God that says, "when we pray He hears us and He answers that prayer."

But again, if we go back to the verse we read first of all in Thessalonians, it says there that "we should always pray or pray without ceasing," and then it goes on to say how often or really in what ways or for what things. It says, "In everything give thanks. In everything pray. Pray always for everything and in all things." Why? Because of what God has done for us. He's the giver of all. How often do we forget on a daily basis that God does all for us that we have in this life, all the good things, the spiritual, and the physical things come from God? Therefore, when we have food on our tables and we have homes and cars and we're so well blessed in this country, do we forget God? Do we forget it's all about God and that He is the one that has blessed us in these ways? Well, I think often we do and when we do that we forget this important lesson of praying always and in everything giving thanks to God, especially to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord showing Him that we love and that we respect and that we're obedient to the things that He wants us to do according to His Will, as we have said.

If we go to Ephesians, we might also see that Paul talked to the church at Ephesus and in verse 18 said this in relationship to prayer. He said to "pray always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit being watchful to this end with all perseverance and with supplication for all the saints." Here he says to "pray and to pray for all of our needs and to pray for all of those even those around us who have needs for our brethren and our saints and those who are suffering in life." He says, "use prayer." Why wouldn't we want to use prayer? Because as Christians, have we forgotten it is the avenue, it is the way that we talk to God, the way that we communicate. There is no other way that we speak to our God in a more respective way, specific way than in prayer. Certainly our lives are lessons to God that show God how much we love Him. But when we talk to God, how do we do it? We pray. When God talks to us, as we saw last week in our series, "Drawing Nearer To God," He does that through His Word. Studying God's Word is so important because He talks to us and tells us what we need to know, all that we need to know through His Word. So in turn, how do we draw nearer to God? We talk to Him and the avenue that we are given to talk to our God is through prayer.

There are three other points that I'd like to bring out in our lesson this morning, as we again certainly understand the concept of the privilege of prayer. Have we ever thought about how privileged we are as Christians, how blessed we are, and especially this morning in relationship to our avenue given of communication to God. That is again, prayer and how that God because of His great love, being an almighty God has given prayer to man as the opportunity to communicate in so many ways, ways like asking what we will, thanking God, making requests of God, talking and thanking God for others, speaking to God on behalf of others. On and on and on we could go about the great privileges that we share as Christians as we pray and as we do these things as we have seen according to His Will, according to what is best in His plan, in His decision, in what He has determined since the beginning of the world and even before that according to the Will of God. But prayer is man's unlimited access to the Father, our ability to approach His throne and to again ask those things that we have need of, even though God already knows it, although God knows everything and although the Spirit even intercedes for us and speaks to the Father on our behalf with those groanings and things that we don't even understand and that we don't even know about, really the needs that maybe spiritually we don't comprehend. But our part is prayer, that we are to ask no matter what, that we are to acknowledge that we need God and prayer basically does that, that we approach His throne and we humble ourselves and we say to God, "I'm communicating with you because without you I'm nothing. I need you. I need the things that you can do for me and without you I cannot have the life that I need to have, I cannot have the blessings and the promises and certainly I cannot have the reward and the promise of heaven." So yes, prayer is something that is a privilege. It is something that is a privilege for all those who are righteous.

I love the way that James puts it, if you'll turn in your Bibles to James, because in James chapter 5, we have really the answer I believe here in helping us to know that we must be righteous in prayer and when we are righteous, again, God hears and responds. Notice how he puts it there in verse 16 of chapter 5, again the book of James. "Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed." Go on. "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." When we pray and we are righteous and we are striving to live as God has asked us to and when we are trying to be holy as He is holy, trying to be godlike, trying to be a Christian, trying to be Christ-like, then God hears us and He answers our prayers. Why? Because a righteous man's prayer is heard and answered because God loves those who are faithful. So the privilege of prayer reminds me everyday that God hears and that God answers.

But prayer is powerful. We've already seen in so many of our verses already that not only do we pray in everything and God hears it and He answers it. It doesn't say there are limitations on prayer. Now the limitations are really on us and who we are and how we are living. That's where we are limited if we don't believe and if we don't really have the attitude that we might look a little bit more at that in just a moment if time permits. But here as we see limitations aren't on God. God can do anything. God, according to His Will, can do all things and give me the strength and the things that I have need of. So prayer is powerful, powerful enough to help me through trials and tribulations and sins and sickness and illnesses and losses in life, death, whatever it might be. Prayer is powerful because I can approach the throne of God and He responds by helping me and comforting me and loving me and caring for me and providing for me and protecting me. That's my God. That's the God that we serve, and that's the God that as we are privileged to serve Him and we pray to Him as a privilege, that certainly we are reminded how powerful prayer is, a prayer that as we've seen in our text really of this series. There James chapter 4 and verse 8 that "when we draw near to God, He draws near to us." How do we draw near to God? Well yeah, we can do it by obeying His Will and studying His Word and knowing as we saw last week what His Will is and doing it, but another way we draw near is through communication. If I have a good friend or family member and I want to get to know them better and grow closer to them and feel like I know who they are and where they're from and what they're about, how do I do that? By talking. Well the same thing is true of God. By hearing what God says to us and by speaking to Him through prayer. This is the communication again that enables me to draw nearer everyday as I continually pray without ceasing on every occasion, in every way, for every purpose as often as I can, then I again draw nearer to God and therefore, as it says in the verse, truly He does draw near to us, the great plans that God has for us. The great plans of life and obedience and forgiveness. All of these things as we will find again are contingent on the power of prayer. Will we ask? Will we come before God? Will we tell Him our needs? Will we make supplication? Will we humble ourselves? And will we let Him know that without Him we cannot be forgiven? Certainly the power of prayer is significant in the life of one who loves God.

Finally if you will, the principles of prayer. We mentioned just a moment ago that our things really not within prayer itself there are limitations but in our lives that limit us from having prayers that are heard and answered by God. What are those things such as prayer? James says there, "the effective fervent prayer of..." what? "...a righteous man," as we saw earlier, a man who prays, is righteous, is well heard by his God, is well received by his God. So righteousness or faith. We see even in the book of Hebrews chapter 11, verse 6, "without faith it is impossible to please God." So without righteousness or an ability to strive to be holy, will God hear us? It doesn't seem so. The Bible says not. The Bible says that we need to be righteous to be heard, to be responded to by our God. We need to be striving and doing our best to be what God wants us to be if we are to be heard, if we are to really respond to the principles of prayer.

We've already talked about humility. Who better to show us humility or to show us the example of prayer than Jesus Christ Himself? He humbled Himself in the flesh to not only be a man, but to submit to God the Father and to be here a son on the earth and as He said to come to do the Will of the Father whether it be in word or deed it was all about the will of the Father. We see that again, a humble heart, a humble spirit, the same humility that we must have as we humble ourselves before the throne of God in prayer. So yes, we need to humble ourselves knowing the great need that we have for God, seeing the great example that Jesus left and the great ability that we have to pray to Him with faithful attitudes and hearts and in the right way using the right avenues and including the right things and as well as we have seen being sincere in our prayers, being those who pray according to His Will for the right things and not just for selfish things but for those things again that bring glory in our life to God and give us the better ability to serve Him, but in all things as Jesus said, "that thy Will be done."

I love the verses that we often read in the book of Luke. In fact, the parallel is found in Matthew chapter 6, but in Luke chapter 11 and verse 1, we find a beautiful question there that was asked by the disciples of their Lord as they said, "Lord, teach us to pray." He talked there in the prayer to His Father, the hallowed Father who was in heaven, the great and mighty God in heaven. He said, "Forgive us." He says, "Help us think of others and to be forgiving ourselves." He gives us a great example there in this passage that shows us how that we must make submission, must be submissive to God but make requests and supplication for not only ourselves but others.

Why not be the praying people that we need to be so that when we pray and we approach the throne of God and humble ourselves before Him, we draw nearer to Him knowing that in all things when we draw near to God, He draws near to us. Thus, will receive His rewards and promises.

(SONG # 3 - "When We All Get To Heaven!")

CLOSING COMMENTS

It was certainly great to have you with us today. Thanks be to God for this opportunity we have had to come before His throne this morning. Please remember, you are invited to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we join together in this service to God.

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May we all draw nearer to our God by talking to Him in prayer. But not just when we need Him, but as often as we can, as Paul said - without ceasing.

(Program closing)