Prayer Through--"Come, Let's Pray"
John 16:24 "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."
I read this one simple verse as an example of the many exhortations of Jesus for His followers to pray. If we could sum up Jesus's teaching on prayer it might be two words--PRAYER WORKS.
If you're a born again believer in Jesus Christ today, you are a praying person. Somewhere in your house there is a prayer closet--a place you regularly go to pray.
Author R. A. Torrey writes of prayer, “Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.”
Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom advised, "Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”
John Bunyan who wrote the greatest selling Christian book of all time, Pilgrim's Progress, wrote “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.”
I believe however much we pray, our prayer life can always be stronger!
Jesus was the Master of prayer, and taught on prayer far more than anyone else in the Bible... He taught private prayer, “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 use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:6-7).
And He taught public prayer, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matt. 18:19).
Jesus regularly separated Himself from the crowds and went up into a mountain or into the wilderness to pray. Before choosing the 12 disciples He prayed all night long. Prior to the agony of the Cross Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane and found His strength in prayer.
Now, when we read the gospels, particularly John, we see that the closer Jesus got to the Cross the more He talked to His disciples about prayer. Seven times in 3 chapters He tells them essentially the same thing:
John 14:13-14 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
Now, I just want to lay out some simple, foundational truths about prayer to set the stage for this series...
- God has chosen to act in our world primarily in answer to prayer...
Is God sovereign over all things? Yes. Does He do what He pleases in His universe? Yes. Does He at times move in the absence of prayer? Yes.
Isaiah the Prophet speaks of a time when God was looking for an intercessor and found none, but He acted anyway.
"He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no intercessor; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him." (Is. 59:17)
God moved anyway---But even so, has God decreed that the vast majority of what He does on earth is in answer to prayer? Yes.
The Bible verses confirming this are many...
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jer. 33:3).
- Mighty things happen when we pray.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him..." (Heb. 11:6)
- God moves in answer to the prayer of faith.
James writes, "You have not because you ask not..." (4:2)
- Personal needs go unmet without prayer.
Jesus said, "The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few,” he told his disciples. 38 “So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields.” (Matt. 9:37-38)
- Prayer precedes soul-winning revival.
A simple glance at history reveals that God has...
-averted large scale tragedies,
-cancelled sinister satanic assignments, and
-changed the spiritual atmosphere and direction of entire generations in answer to the prayers of His people.
So the first thing we need to understand today regarding prayer is that God has chosen to act in our world in answer to prayer.
Secondly, in its simplest form....
All prayer begins with a desire or need---We wouldn't be praying at all if there weren't something we wanted that we don't have. And because we believe God can do something about it, we pray.
ILLUS: Look at it this way.....
Prayer is like fishing--we begin with an empty boat and a desire--I want fish!
And we know that the lake contains what we want, so we cast our line into the water believing that the bait is going to bring out of the lake what we want, and into our boat.
Likewise, when we pray we begin empty--with a need. We cast our request toward heaven believing that, by faith, what is in heaven will be brought down to us. And we have all the promises we need to make us confident of that fact!
Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). Prayer brings what is there, here.
You see, everything you need is in heaven in Christ Jesus! Phil. 4:19 "And it is he who will supply all your needs from his riches in glory through Christ Jesus."
Did you catch that? Every time God answers our prayers, it comes from His "riches that are located in glory!" The word "riches" here means, His abundant fullness; His possession of all things; His inexhaustible ability to supply our needs.
-First, He provides our material needs from His riches... The Bible says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (Ps. 24:1) "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it" (Ps 50:12).
But the Lord not only supplies material things from His treasures, all spiritual wealth is also part of His "riches in glory"...
Col. 2:3 "In him lie hidden ALL the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
Get that--the WHOLE KINGDOM! So....while God remains Sovereign, He has chosen to move on the earth primarily in answer to prayer. And....Prayer is the means by which what is up there is sent down here.
But what kind of prayer moves God's hand and brings what is there to here? Well, the Bible says that prayer offered...
III. In Jesus' name...
If prayer is the door, the name of Jesus is the key that opens it...
ILLUS: I listen to a lot of talk radio, and one thing you notice all the time is the HOST of the show will do a commercial for some local business, and will end it by saying, "And when you go, tell them "Hal" or "Joe" or "Mark" sent you," the idea being that if you go in their name, the owner of the business will show you favor because their advertisement has paid off! Well, if using a name on earth brings some benefit, going to God's throne room in the name of Jesus carries a thousand times the power!
Of the seven times in 3 chapters where Jesus encourages His disciples to pray, 6 of those times He instructs them to pray "in His name."
"Up to now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:24).
--Jesus is acknowledging here that prayer in His name is a brand new approach to prayer---"Up to now you have asked nothing in my name..."
With His death, burial, and resurrection, a brand new means to successful prayer is opened up through the name of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
"I will do whatever you ask in My name..." (14:13).
"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it" (14:14).
"My Father will give you whatever you ask in My name" (16:23).
Now, what does it mean to pray "in Jesus's name?"
-Does it just mean just tagging the words, "In Jesus' name," at the end of every prayer, like we write, "Sincerely," at the end of every letter? No, that can't be it. For one thing, if that's all it means to us, then the holy name of Jesus becomes nothing but a meaningless, vain repetition.
-Or is using the name of Jesus a way to demand something from God....A way to kind of throw your weight around in the Kingdom? No! God did not arm us with Jesus's name to make us demanding, spoiled children insisting on our own way.
Here's a shocker:
Did you know that not one prayer found in the writings of Paul, Peter, James, John or Jude are ended with the words, "in the name of Jesus?" Why not? Because they understood what Jesus meant and prayed in the spirit of that command:
--ILLUS: If I were to give a sum of money to a banker and say, "Here is my money. Invest it for me in a safe, steadily growing fund so that it benefits me..." And then signed my name to the contract, he then has the authority to work on my behalf. He can talk to investors in my name, can make deals in my name, and can act in the authority of my name...
But if he has integrity....
--He must act according to my wishes, not his own.
--He should only do what benefits me, not himself.
--He should not act badly as my representative so as to reflect badly on me.
Likewise, the "spirit" of praying in Jesus's name is...
--We must pray according to His wishes, not our own.
--We must pray for His benefit and that of His kingdom, not our own.
--We must pray for His glory, and not our own.
This is what it means to pray "in Jesus's name." We pray according to His will, for His benefit and for His glory. This is why Jesus said, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13)
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