Self reliance is esteemed in our culture - but it's not the example Jesus gives to us. In a life marked by continual prayer, the Son of God demonstrates His dependence on the Father. Let's consider what Jesus teaches about prayer and its role in our lives, remembering that prayer is a privilege, not a duty.
This collection of topical teachings from Skip Heitzig includes anniversary celebrations, messages about the vision of the church, special teachings from conferences and countries around the world, and more.
Cross References: Genesis 18:9-15; Matthew 6:5-9; Matthew 7:7-8; Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 11:1-4; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 John 1:1
Keywords: prayer, dependence
We have been covering the Sermon on the Mount on the Wednesday nights and expound going really to the gospel of Matthew and I've been doing it slowly and methodically and as deeply as I can without getting to bogged down in the text for giving enough background and enough application and covering it thoroughly. And that's really our method on Wednesday night, in expound through the entire Bible.
So we've been going through the gospel of Matthew, after we're done with Matthew, we're going to go back to the Old Testament, the Book of Leviticus and then we're going to shoot back to the New Testament and gives us sort of a balance of all the new, but allows us to plow through all the books, every verse, every page until it's done. Until the Lord comes back or a new generation takes over, whatever it might be, that's where we're at.
In the Sermon on the Mount, we've gone through some pretty amazing truths. But if you ever come across a scripture, a truth, you read it and it's like a double take verse. Double take meaning, is like "What, what? What did that just say? What did I just read? Did I hear what I think I heard? And if I did, do I really believe that?" Those are double take verses. Those are like promises that are so amazing, that we have to park there or go back over them. That's what we're going to do tonight.
Let me give you an example of a double take verse. When God told Abraham and Sarah -- now they were old when he told him this like almost as 100 that "You're going to have a child together. You guys are so old but you're going to have a child together. This is impossible, but it's going to happen." And God even said in Genesis 18, "Within a year, Sarah your wife is going to have a son." Now that was a double take verse. It's like, "Did I just hear God say that me, this old codger is going to have a child. Is that really going to happen?" And then, "Do I really believe that's going to happen?"
Now, we know that Abraham believed that it was going to happen, right? He said "Amen" to God. Sarah on the other hand, did what? She laughed. She was behind the tent doing -- and thinking nobody heard her and God said, "Sarah, just laughed." She goes, "I didn't laugh." God said, "You laughed." And then he said, "Is there anything impossible for the Lord?" That's a double take verse.
Another one might be and there are a lot of them in Proverbs 3, "Trusting the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean to your own understanding and all your ways, acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." Did you ever just meditate on that verse and understand exactly what God is promising and then asking yourself, "Do I really believe that?"
Another one is found in the Sermon on the Mount. In the gospel of Matthew Chapter 7 -- I realized the lights are dim so only those that have close proximity to light will be able to read it. You don't have to worry about it. It's only a couple of verses. I'll read it to you. "Jesus said" -- this is Matthew 7 Verse 7. "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. And he who seeks, finds. And to him whom knocks, the door will be opened." Did I hear that correctly? Did God say to me what I think he just said to me? Do I really believe what he just said to me?
Now that great promise, that double take verse takes us back to something Jesus said even in Chapter 6 when he said, "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who think that they're going to be heard by their loud flowery, long speeches, but when you pray say, 'Our Father in heaven.'" That's the Lord 's Prayer, really the Disciple's Prayer, Matthew Chapter 6 beginning in Verse 9. Those verses are connected to one another. They're related to each other.
I've read a bunch of different book on prayer. And quite honestly, there are some really good books on prayer. Then there are books on prayer that every time I read them, the only thing I walked away feeling is guilty. I walk away from the book feeling that I didn't pray long enough, my knees aren't bloody. I didn't wear holes in the carpet because I was kneeling for two straight days, not eating anything and a lot of people view prayer that way. As soon as you mention, "We're going to talk a little bit about prayer." they get really tense and that's because I believe there's two mistakes that we've made.
Number one, we have the wrong view of prayer. Number two, I think we have put prayer in the wrong role. First of all, the wrong view of prayer. A lot of us still think prayer is a Christian duty rather than a Christian privilege, something we have to do rather than "I get to do this. I can talk to God and he will not only listen to the words that I'm saying to him but he's going to work in response to what I'm saying to him." It's a privilege. That's putting prayer with the wrong view. That's looking at it with the wrong view, a duty rather than a privilege. That's sort of saying like, "Well, God I guess I have to spend time with you. I really don't want to spend time with you but I have to. And every time I do, it really hurts." I guess that would be an insult to God, wouldn't it be? Like if I said, "I'd love to hangout with you. Do I have to?" I wouldn't really like that if I invited you to do that.
Second, we have put prayer in the wrong role. I think we have. Because we've seen it as a duty we feel that its role in my life is to make me feel tense and anxious and guilty. The last time I checked the Bible, prayer is a guilt relieving exercise, not a guilt giving exercise. It's a verse we even looked at last week, on Wednesday night when we celebrated Thanksgiving together.
In Philippians Chapter 4, "Be anxious for nothing." Paul said. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving, let's you request be may known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard or keep your hearts and your minds." That's the promise that it relieves us. It doesn't induce anxiety and guilt. It relieves it. So, we need the right view of prayer and we need to put it in its right role.
Okay, so we've been looking at Sermon on the Mount and we just heard this great promise that double take promise and we know that it ties back to how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, back in Chapter 6, the Lord's Prayer, the Disciples Prayer.
Now, I want to turn to a parallel passage, parallel passages, a passage that sounds very similar to this but it's found in another place and perhaps at a different time and location. This is in the gospel of Luke in Chapter 11. Listen to this, "Now it came to pass as He, Jesus, as He was praying in a certain place when he stopped, when He sees that one of His disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.' And so he said to them, when you pray say, 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us and do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.'"
Now first of all, how awesome would it be to hangout with Jesus? So just for a minute, place yourself in the disciple's sandals. Okay, you're here with this guy. He says some incredible things. But then one day, he does something incredible. He cures somebody who has a disease and you see it right before your eyes. You think, "Was that guy just blind? Did I just see him see things and is he like running around so excited because he now has sight instantaneously?" Jesus did that. "How did he do that?"
And on another day, Jesus decides to take a stroll not by the water, but on the water. And the disciples see him walking toward them. They thought it was a ghost. Who wouldn't? On another day, Jesus raised somebody who is dead back to life. And they were watching all this. They're observing it.
So, that's the background when John writes first John and he open up his book and he says this, "That which was from the beginning which our ears have heard, which our eyes have seen, which we have looked upon and our hand have handled. He is the word of life." That's John after finally realizing we've been walking with, watching and hanging out with God in a human body. We heard him. We saw him. It was totally amazing. So, they're watching Jesus.
Something else they noticed about Jesus no doubt is that, as Jesus was doing these things and people were crowding around him, life got very busy, very hectic. There was a lot of pressure in his life, a lot of demands. People around him had demands and they would press in. The Bible says, "Whenever Jesus was in public, crowds would press in among him and on him." And yet, Jesus seemed to be calm, steady, purposeful, not filled with anxiety. I would call him the decaffeinated Jesus, not high-strong, not like, "I can't handle these people!" just mellow, just purposeful, just steady, just knowing what the Father's will is. The disciples noticed that.
Something else they noticed. Not only was he powerful and effective, and calm and purposeful and filled with direction. He also lived in dependence on His Father a lot. Jesus, though He was God in a body, prayed a lot. The disciples watched Jesus pray, it says here.
In Mark Chapter 1, "We are told that Jesus got up early in the morning before it was even daylight and He went to a solitary place and there he prayed." The disciples must have been stirred and awoken as Jesus woke up. "What is he doing up so early?" And then they find out He went out to pray.
On another occasion in Luke Chapter 6, it says that, "Jesus stall-away and went to a mountain side and prayed to His Father all night long." That's Jesus dependent on His Father. So the disciples are watching Him. They're listening to Him. And they're putting a few things together. "This guy is calm, purposeful, very effective, and He depends on His Father quite a bit."
So with that in mind, listen again to that request. "It came to pass as He was praying in a certain place that when He ceased, one of His disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples.'" Notice they didn't say, "Lord, teach us how to pray." They knew how to pray. They were Jewish. They grew up praying some memorized prayers, some daily prayers, some weekly prayers. They did it their whole life. They didn't say, "Lord, teach us how to pray. Lord, teach us to pray." It's more than theology. Was it, "Lord, teach us a theology class on oratory prayer to God." So teach us to do that, to do what you do. We want to do what you're doing. You're depending and connecting with Your Father in such a way that we see its effect in their lives. Teach us that.
So tonight, because we're having communion and we see it as a special night because we have designated this week as a week of prayer. And for those who choose prayer and fasting and some have gotten together during the last couple of nights in our prayer room for prayer, we wanted to open this up now on Wednesday night to the whole Church.
In a few moments after our communion, we're going to actually be joined with six to eight other Churches in America who are doing the same thing, praying together over the same stuff and I believe God is going to honor that and do some great things. But a little more about this before we go on.
We have a problem and that's what we're really addressing. The problem we have is human beings just sort of naturally a part of us, is we are by nature self-sufficient. It's just what we are. It's our make up. We're self-sufficient. I can handle this. I can do this. I can figure this out. It can be a good thing. It can become a bad thing.
A lot of times, we are self-sufficient, we are self-reliant. We don't really think we need God. We wouldn't say that. But by how we live, we effectively are saying that by our lives -- until a catastrophe. When a catastrophe happens and life spins out of control instantaneously, the death of a loved one, a war, September 11th, we get shaken. And in a catastrophe, we recognize, "I'm inadequate. I need something greater than myself. I need to live in dependence upon God."
After the first Gulf War, that was 1991 if memory serves, I discovered that Church attendance in America grew, I mean huge. It was like 44% of the adult population in America filled the Churches. It was the highest recorded Church attendance in 25 years.
In fact, one news article the "Of the Gallup Organization" said that 57% of Americans during that Gulf War are the beginning stages. Fifty-seven percent of Americans claimed that they were praying twice a day with great intensity. Now things didn't stay that way. People just sort of slipped back into their old ways of doing things and become very self-sufficient after the smoke clears and then 9/11 hits, same thing. Churches swell. People get serious about God. There is an intensity, there's repentance and I need you in dependence upon God. And that's because, we go back to the wrong view of prayer, the wrong role of prayer. We have put prayer in this little category called, "For emergency use only." "I don't really need it but if I do need it, I can pull it out. It's my emergency parachute."
So, it all begins. If you as a disciple want that effectiveness, that connectedness, that purposefulness that Jesus lived with, and you would say to Jesus, "Teach me to pray." You have to recognize a sense of need. Do you really need Him? Do you know that you need Him? Because if you know that you need Him, that when Jesus said, "Ask and it will be done. Seek and you will find." It's like, "Yeah, I get that and I believe that."