The Difficulty of Prayer

May 19, 2020

 Matthew 6:9–10

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 This Morning we are looking at two verses.  Jesus is teaching us the difficulty of prayer when he says, “This, then, is how you should pray …” Jesus believed it was necessary to teach us. The first lesson to being a good pray-er, to learning the secrets of prayer, is to know that it’s hard, to know that it takes learning. One of the worst things you can possibly do is to walk into the Christian life thinking prayer is easy, thinking prayer is natural. It’s natural in the sense that we’re built for it, but it is not easy.

 Prayer takes learning. That’s the first thing Jesus teaches you. When he starts to teach you, he’s telling us something that’s so obvious we’re going to miss it. Prayer takes learning.

 I also happen to know that it’s harder to pray for 30 minutes than it is to preach for 30 minutes.

 It’s much harder. Are you surprised at that? Much harder. Listen, I’ve had some bad sermons. Some of you may have heard them. You know, I can ramble. I can sort of forget where I’m going. I can sort of lose my place and kind of go off and … I’ve had some bad sermons but never have they been so bad that I forgot that I was preaching. I mean, I’ve gotten off the subject and I’ve rambled and all that, but I’ve never gotten so bad that I was going along and I suddenly say, “Oh, wait. Oh, I’m preaching. There’s a congregation out there.” That’s never happened to me.

 But I can’t tell you many times when I have been on my knees before the King of the universe and I forget that I’m praying. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to you. Listen. Prayer is harder than preaching. Prayer is tough. You try to focus on the loving King of the universe for 30 minutes and you will find how weak you are.

 John Newton, the great hymn writer, says that when he is trying to pray, just trying as hard as he can to concentrate and pray, he feels so weak he says sometimes “the buzzing of a fly in the room is an overmatch for [my strength].” It’s destroyed me! Here I am in front of the King of the universe and this mosquito is killing it. I can’t pray. I can’t think. I can’t concentrate. Prayer is hard. The reason it’s hard is because prayer is a personal thing. There is nothing magical about it.

 When you get together with a friend, the conversation just goes smoothly. You’re so happy to see them and the conversation is natural, and the love flows, the words flow, and the concepts flow. That’s what it means to be a good pray-er. All I’m telling you is this. How much time do you put into it? Do you put in at least, every day, a good chunk of time? Don’t you see how it’s more important than your exercise? It’s more important than your workout. It’s more important than your meditation. It’s more important than your counseling.

 It’s more important than anything else. I’d like us to go to Jesus and say, “I’ve been a fool. I haven’t really enrolled in your school. I’ve been frustrated because my prayer life just hasn’t taken off, but I haven’t spent the time.”

 I challenge you to pray for 20 minutes or 30 minutes a day and not miss a day just for three weeks and you see what happens to you. See. The first thing Jesus says is you don’t know that prayer is difficult, but it’s a profound thing, a deep adventure you never get to the bottom of.

 



How to Pray

May 18, 2020

 Matthew 6:9–15

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

The first thing I am going to do this morning is begin with a question. How many of you are happy with your prayer life? How many people believe they pray enough?

The Lord’s Prayer, somebody has suggested, has probably the most familiar words in the English language. Probably more people have said the Lord’s Prayer more often … There is no other formula; there is no other set of words that have been spoken out loud by more people in the history of the world. What’s ironic is this is the secret to what you seek. At the core of our being, we need, we desperately want … We need and we desperately desire real soul experience.

In Luke 11, another place where Jesus taught the same prayer the disciples watched Jesus pray and they desired the same experience if intimacy and closeness to the Father. Jesus waits until they ask… because now it has more significance. Jesus teaches them and brings it to us in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says, “This is how to pray. This is the key. Look at it.” I think maybe that one of the reasons why we don’t know how to use it is because it’s so familiar. Right?

Sandy’s parents lived in Centralia Washington and their house was about 200 feet from the railroad track.  You’ve come to visit them for the first time, you’re sitting there talking to them, and the train comes by and shakes you off the couch. You look around. You think it’s something that’s coming right through the window. You say, “What was that?” They say, “What? What was what?” You say, “That train.” And they say, “Oh, the train. You know, we’ve gotten so used to it, we don’t even notice it anymore.” You say, “You’re kidding, right?”

Jesus Christ says, “Listen. Do you know why there is a lack of the awareness of the divine in your life? You don’t know how to pray. Wouldn’t you like to be able to come face to face with the Father and King of the universe every day, to pour out your heart to him and to sense him pouring out his heart to you? Wouldn’t you like to connect like that? Wouldn’t that fulfill you?”

The answer to all these questions is yes. This week we are going to look at the Lord’s Prayer. It’s so familiar. It’s a model. It’s a scaffold on which we’re supposed to build our prayer life. This model prayer tells you everything you need to know about communication with God. Have you prayed today? He is waiting…

 



We Are Changed

May 16, 2020

Matthew 11:28

28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Jesus is in the life-changing business. From the very beginning, there was a strange thing. People would come to Him, sometimes satisfied people, sometimes messed-up people, sometimes lepers and injured people, forgotten people, despised people, prostitutes, tax collectors, admired people, wealthy people, religious leaders.

There was something about this man, Jesus, which made their hearts break and surrender to his way of life and follow him.

A proud, vindictive, violent, arrogant, self-preoccupied, religious leader named Saul of Tarsus was going down the road, and then suddenly Jesus appeared to him in a great light. As a matter of historical record, he became Paul—a man whose mind, whose writings, whose love for people, whose self-sacrificial gift of his life to the world was so compelling that it fascinates human minds to this day 2000 years later. People devote their lives to studying what it was that he wrote. How did that life get changed?

The evidence of lives changed by Jesus is so abundant that the full story can never be told. It can never be matched—not by any culture, by any book, by any program, by any hero.

But Jesus has been doing that for 2000 years.

A debauched, despicable, despised slave owner named John Newton meets Jesus one day. Overwhelmed by grace, he writes the song that we sing to this day: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

A sixty two-year-old dad, who’s been an alcoholic for forty years, one day invites Jesus into his life and is given the power to let it go.

A guy by the name of Bill Moore grew up in poverty, got drunk one time and shot a man over $5000. He ended up on Death Row. A couple of guys go into prison (because God prompts people to go into prisons), and they tell him… Bill, there is a man, Jesus, who loves you, and He gave His life on a cross. He died for you. He went to Death Row for you. Nobody had ever told Bill about Jesus before.

Bill turned his life over to Jesus, and it changed him so much, changed the darkness and bitterness and hatred inside him so much that other people began to be drawn to him. People started meeting Jesus through this guy on Death Row.

Bill became known as “The Peacemaker.” His cellblock was the safest place in the penitentiary, because so many people were coming to Christ through Bill Moore.

Churches found out about this, and when people needed counseling, no kidding, churches started sending people to the penitentiary to get counseling from Bill Moore.

Can you imagine calling our church to ask for a referral and hearing, “I want you to go over to Death Row. There’s an inmate there…” Who does that? Jesus does that.

Bill Moore was changed so much that he won the love of the family of the man that he killed. It changed him so much over the sixteen-year period that all kinds of people wrote letters for him. Eventually, the authorities not only cancelled his death sentence—they not only commuted his sentence, which was unprecedented—they paroled him.

“Bill, what in the world turned your life around? Was it a new medication? Was it some kind of rehab program? Was it a new approach to counseling?”

Bill said, “No, it wasn’t any of that stuff. It was Jesus Christ.”

Atheism really has nothing to say to a guy on death row, but Jesus does.

Atheism really has nothing to say to a human being lying on a deathbed, but Jesus does.

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

If you have never made this decision, if you’ve never made this commitment before, here is the invitation that’s been changing lives for 2000 years. Jesus comes to you right now and says, would you try me? You may have questions. You may have doubts, I know, but you have this one life, and you’ve got to build it on something. Will you build it on me?

 




Daily Devotions 2020