God’s Great Need
21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
A. What Have I Learned about Prayer?
1. Two weeks ago I was asked for recommendations on books about prayer.
a) This request was from a serious prayer warrior, and I suddenly realized that he is really beginning to understand about prayer because he really wants to know more about prayer!
b) That is the first sign that you are beginning to truly understand prayer – you want to know more!
2. I gave him some of my favorite book titles on prayer and then I went to my bookshelves and looked to see what else was there.
a) I was immediately drawn to a small book called “The Kneeling Christian” by An Unknown Christian.
b) I picked it up and began to go through it and saw all the highlighted passages.
c) As I read them, I realized that these were the majority of my beliefs and understandings about prayer.
d) Then I wondered why I had not gone through all of these teachings with you here at the Lighthouse.
3. Over the next few weeks we will be digging deeply into the topic of prayer and I hope to be able to share with you what I have learned about prayer in all the years I have been praying.
B. How Some People Pray
1. A traveler in China visited a Buddhist temple on a great feast-day.
a) There were many worshipers of the idol that was in the shrine.
b) Most of the worshippers brought small pieces of paper with their prayers written or printed.
c) They would wrap up the pieces of paper in little balls of stiff mud, and throw them at the idol.
d) When asked about this strange process he was told that if the mud ball stuck to the idol, then the prayer would be answered.
e) But if the mud fell off the prayer had been rejected by the idol.
2. Now we may smile at this way of praying.
a) But in fact many Christians pray the same way to the Living God!
b) They know very little about real prayer.
c) Yet prayer is the key which unlocks the door of living powerfully in God’s Kiingdom.
3. One thing that I have learned for sure is that all real spiritual growth, all victory over temptation, all confidence and peace in the presence of difficulties and dangers, all spiritual comfort in times of great disappointment or loss, all true communion with God, depends on the practice of secret prayer in your life.
4. Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” and we need to say to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
a) Not teach us how to pray, even though that is important.
b) But “Lord, teach us to pray”!
I. Making God Wonder
A. God Wondered – Isaiah 59:16
1. This is a very striking thought!
a) The boldness of this idea should get the attention of every serious Christian.
b) A wondering God!
c) What is it that causes God’s “wonder”?
2. Isaiah 59:16 “He saw that there was no (righteous) man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.”
a) God was not surprised that there was no righteous person, but He wondered why there was no one to intercede!
b) This was in the days before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ “full of grace and truth”, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and power, “himself making intercession for us” and in us (Rom. 8:26).
c) This was before the truly amazing promises of our Savior regarding prayer in the days when sacrifices for their sins was more important than prayer for other sinners.
3. But think about how great God’s wonder must be today!
a) So few people today know what prevailing prayer really is!
b) Every one of us here today would say that we believe in prayer.
c) But how many of us truly believe in the power of prayer?
4. We need to be very careful about how we study and listen to these lessons because everything depends upon prayer!
a) Why are many Christians so often defeated? Because they pray so little.
b) Why are many pastors and teachers so often discouraged and disheartened? Because they pray so little.
c) Why do we see so few people brought “out of darkness to light”? Because we pray so little.
d) Why are churches simply not on fire for God? Because there is so little real prayer.
5. The Lord Jesus is as powerful today as He has ever been before.
a) The Lord Jesus wants people to be saved just as much today as ever before.
(1) His arm is not shortened that it cannot save.
(2) But he does not stretch forth his arm unless we pray more and more.
b) We can be sure that the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.
B. God Wondered and Jesus Marvels – Mark 6:6
1. If God “wondered” in the days of Isaiah, then don’t be surprised that in the days of his flesh our Lord Jesus Christ “marveled.”
a) He marveled at the unbelief of some people and He still does!
b) Jesus said that it was unbelief which prevented him from doing any mighty work in their cities.
c) Mark 6:5-6 – “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”
2. Remember that those who were guilty of this unbelief saw no beauty in him that they should desire him, or believe on him.
a) He must truly “marvel” today when He sees those of us who truly love and adore Him, so few people who really “stir themselves up to take hold of God” (Isa. 64:7)
b) There must be nothing so absolutely astonishing as a Christian who does not pray!
c) These are eventful and ominous days with so much evidence that these are “the last days” in which God promised to pour out his Spirit, the Spirit of supplication, upon all flesh (Joel 2:28).
d) Yet so many professing Christians barely know what “supplication” means.
e) So many of our churches not only have no prayer-meetings, but sometimes they actually condemn and even ridicule them.
C. Prayer in Churches Today
1. Some churches recognize the importance of worship and prayer and they expect the clergy to read prayers in Church every morning and evening.
a) But when this is done it is usually in an empty church!
b) And sometimes they race through prayer time trying to get to “real worship”.
c) Some churches use “Common prayer” and it is often vague and indefinite.
2. But what about those churches that still have the old-fashioned weekly prayer-meeting?
a) “Weakly” might be a better word!
b) C. H. Spurgeon said that he conducted a prayer-meeting every Monday night “which scarcely ever numbers less than 1000 to 1200 in attendance.”
3. What about The Lighthouse? When we have had prayer meetings recently we have had less than 10 people here praying.
a) Why is this? Have we ceased to believe in prayer?
b) Some people think, “It’s only a prayer-meeting”.
c) How many of us really enjoy a prayer-meeting?
d) Is it a joy or just a duty?
e) Please forgive me for asking so many questions.
f) I am not here to criticize. Anybody can do that.
g) My desire is to stir up Christians “to take hold of” God, as never before.
h) I want to encourage, to enhearten, because we are never so high as when we are on our knees.
i) Criticize? Who dare criticize another? When we look back and remember how much prayerlessness there has been in our own life, criticism of others just disappears!
II. God’s Call to Prayer
A. What We Need Most
1. God always gives us what we need the most!
a) So when God calls us to prayer, both to you individually and to the church, it is what we need the most — a call to prayer.
b) Do we dare face this question of prayer?
(1) Do you really believe that there is great power in prayer?
(2) Is prayer the greatest power on earth, or is it not?
(3) Does prayer “move the Hand that moves the world”?
2. Are you really concerned about God’s commands to pray?
a) Are the promises of God concerning prayer still in effect?
b) We are all saying “Yes, yes, yes” to these questions.
c) We don’t dare say “No” to any one of them!
d) Did you know that our Lord Jesus never gave us a command that was unnecessary or optional?
e) Do you really believe that Jesus never made a promise that which would not, fulfill?
f) Our Savior’s three great commands for definite action were:
g) Pray – Do this – Go!
3. The question is are we obeying Him?
a) Every week from this pulpit God says, “Do this” and “Go”.
b) We say it so often that you might think these are was his only commands!
c) Today we are reminded of his commandment to “Pray”.
d) But if we do not obey “Pray” it is not much use at all to “Do this” or to “Go.”
B. Success or Failure in Serving God
1. I am convinced that our lack of success and all failure in the spiritual life and in Christian work, is due to ineffective or insufficient prayer.
a) Unless we pray “aright” we cannot live “aright” or serve “aright”.
b) This might seem like an exaggeration, but the more you think about it in light of Scripture, the more convinced you will be about this great truth.
c) James 4:2-3 “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
2. As we begin to see what the Bible has to say about this mysterious and wonderful power of prayer, we will read some of our Lord’s promises as if we had never heard them before.
a) What will do to our life spiritually?
3. When Albert Richardson was studying in Theological College, a fellow-student (who became a famous English missionary) burst into the room holding an open Bible in his hands.
a) The student was at that time a young convert to Christ.
b) He had gone the University “caring for none of these things.”
c) But when he accepted the Lord Jesus as personal Savior, he became a serious follower of Jesus.
d) The Bible was a new book to him, and he was constantly making “discoveries.”
4. That day he came is saying with joy and surprise— “Do you believe this? Is it really true?”
a) “Believe what?” Richardson asked, glancing at the open Bible with some astonishment.
b) “Why, this . . .” and he read Matthew 21:21–22
(1) 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
c) “Do you believe it? Is it true?”
d) “Yes, of course it’s true—of course I believe it.”
e) And in Richardson’s mind all kinds of thoughts flashed!
f) “Well, that’s a very wonderful promise,” he said. “It seems to me to be absolutely limitless! Why don’t we pray more?”
5. When the young believer went away, he left Richardson thinking hard.
a) He had never looked at those verses quite in that way.
b) He had a vision of Jesus and his love and his power as he never had before.
c) He had a vision of a life of prayer and “limitless” power.
d) And he saw that it depended on only two things – faith and prayer.
e) For the moment he was thrilled, fell on his knees, and hopes and aspirations flooded his soul!
f) God was speaking to Albert Richardson in an extraordinary way.
6. This is God’s great call to prayer!
a) 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
b) Have you heeded that call?
C. Where Have You Failed as a Believer?
1. Where have you failed in your life as a believer?
a) Yes, you have prayed, probably more than before, but sometimes nothing much seems to happen.
b) Why? Is it because you do not see what a high standard Jesu requires in the inner life of those who pray successfully?
c) Is it because you have failed to measure up to the “perfect love” standard described in 1 Corinthians 13?
d) David needed to cry, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51) before he could pray.
e) 1 John 3:21-22 “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
2. Of course, we believe what Jesus said!
a) It is a limitless promise, and yet somehow we claim so little from Christ.
b) And our Lord “marvels” at our unbelief.
3. But if we could only read the Gospels for the first time, what an amazing book it would seem to us!
a) Today I pass on God’s great call to you.
b) Will you give obey it?
c) Will you grow spiritually because of it?
d) Or will it fall on deaf ears and leave you prayerless?
D. Wake Up!
1. The Devil is blinding our eyes.
a) Satan wants to keep us from facing this question of prayer in our lives.
b) Every time I thought about studying for this lesson I felt frustrated, and even now I am wondering if I should have done it.
c) There seems to be some mysterious power trying to restrain me.
2. Then I realize that there is nothing the Devil dreads as much as prayer!
a) His great concern is to keep you and me from praying.
b) He loves to see us “up to our eyes” in work, as long as we do not pray.
c) He is not afraid of us having Bible studies – provided we don’t pray very much.
d) Someone wisely said, “Satan laughs at our toiling, mocks our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
3. All this is so familiar to us—but do we really pray?
a) If not, then we will fail at what God calls us to do.
b) Never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for others is to pray.
c) You can accomplish far more by your prayers than by your work.
d) Prayer is omnipotent because it can do anything that God can do!
e) When we pray, God works.
4. We all know how to pray – what we need to ask of God is what the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”