Praying for Things

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(1 John 5:14-15)

INTRODUCTION: This morning we are starting a new series of messages on prayer. Prayer is such an important part of the Christian life. We put a lot of focus on the Bible in the Christian life, as we should. The Bible is like food for your soul. But prayer is like oxygen. And just as in the physical world you won’t make it long without food or breathing, in the spiritual world you can’t make it without the Bible and prayer.

There are many aspects to prayer, and we’ll cover some of them in today’s message, but this series is really focused on one kind of prayer, the kind of prayer where we pray for things, hence the name of the series: “Praying For …” And so over the next six weeks we will be covering the following topics: 1) praying for forgiveness; 2) praying for healing; 3) praying for victory over sin; 4) praying for church and family; 5) praying for the lost; and 6) praying for missions. We will see what the Bible says about each one, and how we can grow in our prayer life in praying for these things.

But today we start with just a general introduction to praying for things. What are some of the general principles God gives us in his word about praying for anything? We will look at a number of Scriptures in the course of the message today, but let’s start with these two verses from 1 John. (Read 1 John 5:14-15 and pray.)

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So today we are talking about praying for things. Now when I say the word “things” here, I don’t mean praying for things as opposed to people, but “things” here really means anything – praying for people, praying for certain needs in your life, praying for various circumstances, praying for anything really.

One of the amazing truths of the Christian life is that God in the Bible tells us to pray for things. He tells us to ask. He invites us to ask. And so, prayer is a great privilege for the follower of Christ.

But God doesn’t just tell us to pray for things in the Bible. God tells us how to pray for things. God gives us very specific and helpful instructions in the Bible on how we should pray for things. And so, we are going to look at seven of those instructions this morning. And as you follow these instructions, they will help you grow in your prayer life, they will help you grow closer to God in the New Year.

1. Pray with a plan

So, let’s get started. First of all, it’s important to pray with a plan. Someone once said, “When you fail to plan, it’s the same as planning to fail.” If you don’t have some type of plan in place for prayer, you are less likely to pray on a regular basis.

   – Have a specific time and place for prayer (Mark 1:35)

Probably the most important part of this planning is to have a specific time and place set aside for prayer each day. Jesus had a specific time and place for prayer. We read in Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) What was Jesus’ time and place? Early in the morning and off to a solitary place where he could be uninterrupted.

You might choose a specific room or chair. I heard of one young mother whose time and place was under a blanket on the floor while her kids played around her! That was the only way she could get some uninterrupted time for prayer.

   – Example: 20/20 (20 minutes in prayer; 20 minutes in God’s word)

For the past several years I’ve practiced what I call my 20/20 – twenty minutes in prayer followed by twenty minutes in God’s word. I get up and drink some water, and then I go for a twenty-minute prayer walk. When I get back to the house, I make myself a hot cup of tea, and then I sit in my favorite chair sipping the tea while doing my Bible reading for the day. I pray at other times during the day and week, but I like to start each day off with my 20/20.

It’s the year 2020 and if you want to have 20/20 spiritual vision this year, then you definitely want to pray with a plan. Feel free to use the 20/20 method I use or use something else, but definitely set aside a specific time and place for prayer each day. It will change your life. Remember, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

2. Pray with balance (A.C.T.S.)

So, that’s the first part. Pray with a plan. Secondly, pray with balance. As we mentioned earlier, this whole series is about a specific type of prayer – praying for things – but there are other types of prayer as well. I like using the letters A.C.T.S. to make sure I am keeping proper balance in my prayer life.

   – Adoration (Psalm 29:2)

The letter “A” stands for adoration. Begin your time of prayer with adoration. Praise God for who he is and for what he has done, is doing and will do. This is a great time to sing songs of praise to the Lord in a spirit of prayer. Psalm 29:2 says: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:2) “A” stands for adoration.

   – Confession (1 John 1:9)

The letter “C” stands for confession. Spend some time confessing your sins before the Lord and asking God’s forgiveness. We read in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) We will talk about this some more next week when we talk about praying for forgiveness.

   – Thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

The letter “T” stands for thanksgiving. Thank God for his many gifts in your life. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

By the way, thanking God will protect you from the three C’s in life – coveting, comparing and complaining. Coveting is when you want what someone else has. Comparing is when you compare what you have with what someone else has. Complaining is when you complain about what you have or don’t have. Whenever you find yourself coveting, comparing or complaining, that’s a sure sign that you are not being thankful. Concentrate on thanking God, and the three C’s will go away.

   – Supplication (James 4:2)

And then the letter “S” stands for supplication. That’s what this whole message series is about – praying for things, bringing your various requests before God. James 4:2 says: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2) If you don’t have forgiveness, it’s because you haven’t asked for it. If you don’t have victory over sin, it’s because you haven’t asked for it. Many times, the reason you don’t have something is because you don’t ask for it.

So, that’s the second part about praying for things – pray with balance. Don’t just pray for things. Also spend time in adoration, confession and thanksgiving.

3. Pray in Jesus’ name

The third part of praying for things is praying in Jesus’ name. You can pray all night and all day if you want, but if you don’t pray in Jesus’ name, your prayers aren’t going anywhere.

So, what does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? Are they just magic words that you tack onto the end of your prayer to make it work? No, it means so much more than that.

   – Pray with Jesus as your mediator (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

First of all, it means to pray with Jesus as your mediator. 1 Timothy 2 tells us: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

There are many reasons you need a mediator when you pray. God is in heaven; you are on earth – you need a mediator. God is infinite; you are finite – you need a mediator. God is holy; you are a sinner – you need a mediator.

Jesus is the perfect meditator. He is both God and man. He died on the cross for your sins so he could stand in the gap between you and God. Jesus is the only mediator. Once again, we will talk more about this next week when we talk about praying for forgiveness, but for now know that praying in Jesus’ name means first of all praying with Jesus as your mediator.

   – Pray with Jesus’ authority (John 16:23)

And then secondly, praying in Jesus’ name means praying with Jesus’ authority. Jesus says in 16:23: “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:23) When you pray in your own authority, guess what? Nothing happens, because you and I don’t have any authority of our own. But when you pray with Jesus’ authority? Well, Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and so now your prayers are going to be effective.

4. Pray with right motives

And that leads us to the next part of prayer, which is praying with right motives. You cannot pray in Jesus’ name if your motives are wrong. That would be appropriating Jesus’ name for your own purposes, and God will not allow that.

   – Do not pray with selfish motives (James 4:3)

There is both a positive and negative side to praying with right motives. On the negative side, praying with right motives means you do not pray with selfish motives. James 4:3 warns us: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) God is not real big on selfishness, so if you are praying with selfish motives you should not expect God to answer your prayers.

   – Pray that God will be glorified (Matthew 6:9)

And then on the positive side, praying with right motives means praying that God will be glorified. When Jesus taught us to pray, that’s the very first thing he told us we should pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 6:9: “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” (Matthew 6:9) When you pray, “Hallowed be your name,” you are praying for God’s glory, that God’s name will be honored and glorified.

When God doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, you need to check your motives. Are you praying selfishly? God won’t answer that. Are you praying that God will be glorified? God loves to answer that!

5. Pray according to God’s will

And then, equally important to praying with right motives is praying according to God’s will. Just as you can’t pray in Jesus’ name if your motives are wrong, you can’t pray in Jesus’ name if you’re not praying according to God’s will. Jesus would never pray anything against God’s will, and so you can’t pray in Jesus’ name unless you also are praying according to God’s will.

   – Pray for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10)

Whatever you pray, you need to pray for God’s will to be done. This is the second part of the Lord’s prayer. Right after “Hallowed be your name,” we read in Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

   – Submit your will to God’s will (Luke 22:42)

Pray for God’s will to be done, and then submit your will to God’s will. Jesus set the example for us in this when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read his prayer in Luke 22:42: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) We might think we know God’s will in a situation, but only God really knows. And so, when you pray, submit your will to God’s will – “not my will, but yours be done.”

6. Pray with faith

1) Pray with a plan; 2) pray with balance; 3) pray in Jesus’ name; 4) pray with right motives; 5) pray according to God’s will; and then 6) pray with faith. This is another reason God doesn’t always answer our prayers, because we do not pray with faith. So, let me give you three quick instructions about praying with faith.

   – Approach God with confidence (1 John 5:14-15)

First of all, approach God with confidence. We read in 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) When you approach God in Jesus’ name, with Jesus as your mediator, and with Jesus’ authority, and you are praying with right motives, and you are praying according to God’s will, you can have every confidence as you approach God in prayer.

God’s will is revealed in his word, and that is why it is important to know the Bible. When you pray according to God’s word, you can approach God with confidence knowing that you are praying for God’s will to be done.

There’s a flipside to this as well. I can also be confident in approaching God knowing that if I ask anything not according to God’s will, he will not give me what I asked of him. That is extremely comforting, because I don’t always know God’s will in a situation. And if it’s not God’s will for me, then I don’t want it in my life.

So, that’s the first part of praying with faith: approach God with confidence.

   – Ask in faith believing (James 1:6-7)

Secondly, ask in faith believing. James 1 tells us: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7) It doesn’t make any sense to ask God for things in prayer if you don’t believe that he will answer.

That’s the second part of praying with faith. Ask in faith believing.

   – Claim God’s promises (Psalm 145:13)

And then the third part of praying with faith is to claim God’s promises. Psalm 145:13 says: “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13) There are over 3,000 promises of God in Scripture, and God has never broken a promise yet.

I want you to think about gift cards for a moment. I read recently that every year close to $1 billion dollars in gift cards go unclaimed. (https://www.everplans.com/articles/so-much-money-is-wasted-every-year-on-unused-gift-cards) They’re just sitting around forgotten in purses or wallets or the bottoms of drawers. What a shame! Those gift cards are already paid for. They are there just waiting to be used, and so many people let them go to waste.

Well, it’s the same with God’s promises. God’s promises are just like those gift cards. God has given you over 3,000 gift cards in the Bible, and Jesus already paid for every one of them. Don’t let them go to waste! Don’t let them go unclaimed! Pray with an open Bible turning God’s promises into prayer, and you will see many remarkable answers to prayer in your life.

That’s the sixth part of praying for things this morning. Pray with faith.

7. Pray with perseverance

And then finally, pray with perseverance. Perseverance and faith go together. Sometimes we don’t get what we ask for in prayer because we stop short of the goal. We pray lightly or half-heartedly. We give up in prayer because we don’t really believe. God wants you to persevere in prayer.

   – Keep on asking, seeking, knocking (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said in Matthew 7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) The commands in that prayer could actually be translated this way: “Keep asking and it will be given to you; keep seeking and you will find; keep knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps asking receives; he who keeps seeking finds; and to him who keeps knocking, the door will be opened.”

   – Always pray and never give up (Luke 18:1)

We read in Luke 18:1: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1) He goes on to tell a parable about a woman and an unjust judge, and how the woman kept coming to the judge with her plea until he finally gave in to her and granted her request.

Well, God is not an unjust judge. He is your loving Father! So, if even an unjust judge responds to persevering pleas, how much more will your loving God and Father answer your prayers when you come to him. That’s the confidence we have in prayer. That’s the confidence that helps us to persevere in prayer.

God doesn’t want you to ask once and then forget about it. Perseverance is part of faith. We need to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. We should always pray and never give up.

CONCLUSION: God gives us clear instructions in his word about praying for things. 1) Pray with a plan; 2) pray with balance; 3) pray in Jesus’ name; 4) pray with right motives; 5) pray according to God’s will; 6) pray with faith; 7) pray with perseverance.

The God of the universe invites you to come to him through his Son Jesus and ask him for things in prayer. That is astounding! Let us not only take advantage of this amazing privilege of prayer. Let us also be careful to follow Gods instructions that we might be effective in prayer – effective in prayer for God’s glory, effective in prayer for God’s kingdom, effective in prayer for the good of those around us.

God asks us to pray. So, let’s do it! Lord, help us to pray, and help us to do it right.

© Ray Fowler

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