A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH for Sunday, May 15, 2022.
For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, select here.
I am thankful and overjoyed to report that my father had successful surgery to remove the remains of a small tumor in his stomach, and that he is indeed eating and drinking without any issues. Dad mentioned, just before leaving the hospital, that the food for breakfast was pretty good, but there was no bacon! I told him, once he leaves the hospital, that it would be worth the while for him to go to First Watch and get some bacon there and not worry about whatever the hospital puts out as bacon. The bottom line is that he is doing much better now, and we are moving forward with the knowledge that 17 months of continuous prayer over my father’s condition.
17 months of continuous prayer. With prayers answered. To God be the glory and praise!
I’m sharing this not because my efforts in prayer for my father were anything special. They were simple, ordinary prayer requests over what I would consider to be a long period of time, but God has a way to take what is ordinary and answer in an extraordinary way!
God turns the ordinary into extraordinary. And that is how we are to always see Him and the results of our prayers.
In order to see His extraordinary ways, we must build upon the fundamentals within our relationship with Jesus Christ, and that begins with fervent prayer. First Thessalonians Chapter 5, verse 17, depending upon your version, provides an easy memory verse on how to pray: Pray without ceasing…pray continually.
Continuous prayer is something that all of us need to practice. In other words, don’t stop praying!
Your life as a believer in Jesus must be a life full of prayers and petitions to God. A lifetime of prayers and petitions.
Prayers and petitions.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul shares how prayers and petitions are remedies for anxiety. How appropriate this message is for today! God provides answers, and we are thankful to experience the relieving presence of Jesus—even as we wait on Him.
We all know what prayer is. I will provide a Christian-based definition for the purposes of this message. Prayer is an act of communion with God. It can include elements of worship, devotion, confession, praise, and thanksgiving.
Jesus provides a reminder in Scripture as to the fundamentals of how we are to pray:
Matthew 6:9-13 NIV
9 “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 And 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.’”
Now, these are merely the fundamentals of how to pray. When we pray, there should be some form of structure. Less rambling and greater focus. This is how a new believer, or perhaps a person who is new to prayer, should practice the act of prayer. What is the most important element of these fundamentals? It is a foundation of reverence and respect for God in the examples Jesus gives to us.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray “at all times in the Spirit.” When we do this, we should always remember that even when we are unsure about what to pray about, Jesus and the Holy Spirit provides intercession for us:
Romans 8:26-27, 34 ESV
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
As He knows our innermost thoughts, He will take our prayers and petitions and make sense out of them before God!
By the way, Jesus is not impressed with long prayers in your efforts to show yourself as important. Before Jesus gave us the fundamental way to pray, He shared this:
Matthew 6:5-8 ESV
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Prayer is to be taken very, very seriously. As you mature in your relationship with Jesus, your reverence, respect and honor for God should grow with it.
I also mentioned petitions to God. Petitions are essentially specific requests made to God. I could probably do a message about petitions alone, because this is the element of one’s faith that is much like using Silly Putty®.1 Silly Putty® has stretching capabilities when it is at room temperature, and it can be formed into an infinite number of shapes. Our faith may start us out in one place, but when we begin to pray with specificity, our faith will indeed be stretched and it will even be challenged, but in a very good and very healthy way.
The prayers for my father over 17 months were very specific, and God showed me, beyond all doubt, that He responds and answers prayer in extraordinary ways.
Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Your prayers and petitions, over time, should reflect a maturity in Jesus Christ. Maturity is not tied to your age. Maturity is tied to your consistent focus on Jesus and your consistent prayers.
Praying with specificity.
Praying with focus on Jesus Christ.
Are you worried about anything? You know what to do.
Each one of us can pray with consistency and see the results of what God can do, and what He ultimately will do.
John 15:7 ESV
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
He hears all prayers. He listens to you. He wants you to tell Him how you are feeling, and He wants you to speak your mind. Believe me when I tell you that He can take whatever you dish out.
It is very important for all believers in Jesus to remain focused on Jesus. It is only when we remain focused on Jesus where we will continue to grow and mature in our faith.
Your prayers, as you stay in God’s Word each day, will indeed get better with content. They will become less general and more refined. As you trust in Jesus, He will help you with your focus on prayer, and in turn, growing and maturing in your relationship with Him.
Let’s discuss this focus on prayer as we mature in Jesus. Here are five areas of focus for us to know as we pray:
It begins with faith…the foundation of everything that we believe about Jesus. It is a prerequisite within your life as a believer.
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Mark 11:24 ESV
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
1 John 5:14-15 ESV
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
Faith is required as you build your confidence in the power of God and what He can do in response to your prayers. This consistent approach is necessary for the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit to have its greatest impact in your maturity as a believer. You must be an active participant in your faith journey with Jesus.
A prayerful believer must be open to what God will do in the midst of prayer and be receptive to the results, whatever they may be. This is part of how God stretches your faith just like Silly Putty®.
Luke 1:37 ESV
For nothing will be impossible with God.
Romans 12:12 ESV
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Sometimes faith requires us to take risks as we grow in Christ. Being open to a myriad of possibilities as we pray to God is indeed a risk worth taking. It is worth taking because we need to see the ultimate power of God as He answers prayer. Until that moment comes, we must rejoice as we worship Him, be patient as we wait on Him, and never stop praying.
Genesis 18:14 ESV
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
We often pray based upon our own reasoning. Jesus challenges each one of us to go beyond our reasoning. He reminded His disciples that “with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NLT)
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
A prayerful believer is a believer who is steady and consistent in communication with God. It starts with reading His Word on a daily basis and by remaining in prayer as often as possible.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT
4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Joshua 1:8 NLT
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.
Galatians 6:9 ESV
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
God is continually teaching within the prayer process with His provision of wisdom and knowledge through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 9:10 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Psalm 119:130 ESV
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
We often equate wisdom and knowledge with life experiences and college degrees. Neither of these achievements compares to godly wisdom. God wants people who love Him and experience His peace through consistent fellowship with Him.
James 3:17 ESV
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Jesus bolsters you up in your prayers to remain firm and steadfast. To be steadfast is merely standing firm. Keeping your eyes on Jesus requires an immovable and unchanging attitude.
James 1:4, 12 ESV
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Steadfastness emulates the unchanging character of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:8 ESV
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
He remains as our great “I AM” as we seek Him for answers and guidance with our prayers and petitions.
Your FOCUS in your prayers and petitions requires the following: Faith, Openness, Consistency, Understanding and Steadfastness. Trust Jesus in your prayers every step of the way.
As we look to Jesus in prayer, may we always present ourselves as acceptable to Him. We must be mindful of being an obedient servant for Him:
Romans 12:1-2 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
We have to be right before Jesus when we go into prayer. Don’t hesitate to ask for forgiveness as we move through life. He is faithful and just to forgive us from our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
No matter how long it takes, make your requests known to God. The results of your prayers will be extraordinary!
Pray with specificity.
Pray with focus on the One who loves you…Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines
1 Wikipedia contributors. (2022, April 26). Silly Putty®. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:16, May 11, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Silly_Putty&oldid=1084824532