Why aren’t you praying?

You have not because you ask not. –James 4:2

The enemy does not want you praying.

He knows something you do not.  He knows the power of your praying.

He will do anything he can to stop your praying, to sabotage your prayers, to throw a monkey wrench in the works of your prayers.

And some of us are cooperating with him, so that his work is done before he gets star

Think of what we do…

One.  “My prayers don’t amount to much.”

Ever say that?  I’ll bet you have.  And I am here to tell you that is rank unbelief.  Because you have mistakenly thought your praying was all about yourself–your faith, your maturity, your understanding, your something.  But it’s not.  Our praying is about our obedience.

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Some necessary things about prayer

I had led a family to Christ.  They soon joined our church and were baptized the following Sunday.  My notes remind me of something the grandfather said.  He was chairman of deacons in a church 3 hours away, and of course, they were excited about what had happened.  He said to me, “We’ve been praying for this family, but one by one.  We had no idea they’d all get saved at the same time!”

Dale Caston, deacon in my last pastorate, told me something that took place in a high school class when he was a teen.  The teacher asked the students, “What do you expect to get out of this class?”  She looked at one student: “Eddie, what do you expect?”  Eddie said, “Well, I’ve had you before–and I don’t expect nothing!”  Dale tells it with a laugh because he knows the part expectations play in a thousand aspects of life.

What do you expect when you pray?  The curse of modern Christianity is that we expect little from the Lord, too much from the pastor, and nothing from ourselves.

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Why we pray for revival and it does not come

“…you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37)

Let’s start by posting the answers up front.  We pray for revival and it does not come because:

–1) We do not want revival. Not really.

–2) God does not trust us with a revival, and for good reason.  He refuses to bless a prodigal, to arm an enemy, to endow a rebel.

There! Those are the answers as to why there is no revival in response to our prayers. .

Now, pull up a chair and let’s talk about it.

It’s that plain and simple: we really do not want a Heaven-sent, life-rearranging revival.

We want the results, the good part, but not the upheaval in our personal lives, priorities, and schedules which a Heaven-sent revival would demand.

We want our churches filled, the community changed, and the believers encouraged. What we do not want is to be caught up in a spiritual fervor that drives us to resign certain affiliations, stop unworthy activities, and devote ourselves to lengthy prayer meetings and Bible studies and ministry.

We want the harvest without the work.  We want the blessing without paying the cost. We want certain aspects of the harvest, but not all.

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So many reasons to pray for the pastor

A friend and I were having a discussion about preachers. We both love our preachers, and years ago, I was her pastor, so we have a mutual understanding about a lot of things.

The conversation went like this.

She: “One of the things I’ve enjoyed in our church lately is an enhanced understanding of every phrase of the Lord’s prayer. So much so that I was offended recently at a funeral when the minister asked us to stand and ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think it’s something to be recited; it’s something to be prayed diligently!”

She added: “Now don’t go getting the wrong idea. I think that preacher is a delightful person, and I like him very much.”

I said, “Asking someone to ‘recite’ the Lord’s Prayer reminds me of something similar that drives me up the wall. You’ll be in a moving worship service, and the leader will say, ‘Now, let us have a word of prayer,’ or ‘I’m going to ask Bill to lead us in a word of prayer.’ I don’t know why that bothers me so much. I feel like calling out, ‘Hey friend, pray! Don’t just have a ‘word’ of prayer. Go to the Heavenly Father and pray!’ Somehow, it minimizes the importance of prayer, as though we’re all tipping our hats to the Almighty, then going on with the important stuff.”

We branched out to discussing how we preachers sometimes say foolish things without a clue as to how it’s being received. I told her about a recent internet conversation with a friend in North Carolina.

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The best encouragement to pray

“O Thou who dost hear prayer, to Thee all men come” (Psalm 65:2).

God hears prayers.  It’s what He does.

God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Scripture is consistent on this.

The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  And Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father….’” (Luke 11:1ff).

Slow down. Do not rush through the “Our Father” (what most of us call “The Lord’s Prayer”).  Look how it begins.

You are praying to the Father.  He is not just yours, of course, but “our” Father.  He has quite the large family.

He is the Father.  He birthed us.  Created us.  Redeemed us Knows us.

God is on your side.  He is not impartial toward you and definitely not antagonistic.  He wants to do well for you, to bless you in every way.  Jesus said, “Fear not, little children. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

The concept of God as your Heavenly Father is the personal gift to you and me from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  He knew the Father as no one else, and revealed Him to us that way.  He frequently spoke of the oneness–the intimate relationship–He had with the Father before time began.  (See John 17:5ff.)

A couple of times the Old Testament refers to God as the father of Israel, but nowhere in the Hebrew scriptures does anyone look toward the skies and address God as Father.  We learned that from Jesus.

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Your story might make a great parable

This is for pastors.  The rest of you may listen in.

We have all had defining stories occur in our families and our personal lives that would make great teaching parables. Interesting stories in themselves, they also serve as vehicles to convey spiritual truths to our people.

I have three samples for you.  Whether you use them as parables–microcosms of spiritual lessons–or simply as sermon illustrations will be up to you.

First Parable:  Eugene Peterson, in his book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” gives one of his parables.

Dr. Peterson was in a hospital room, recovering from minor surgery on his nose which had been broken years earlier in a basketball game. The pain was great and he was in no mood for fellowship.

However, the young man in the next bed wanted to chat. Peterson brushed him off–his name was Kelly–but overheard him telling his visitors that evening that “the fellow in the next bed is a prizefighter. He got his nose broken in a championship fight.” Kelly proceeded to embellish it beyond that.

Later, after the company had left, Peterson told him what had actually happened and they got acquainted. When Kelly found out that Peterson was a pastor, he wanted nothing more to do with him and turned away.

The next morning, Kelly shook Peterson awake. His tonsillectomy was about to take place and he was panicking. “I want you to pray for me!” He did, and they wheeled him to surgery.

After he returned from surgery, Kelly kept ringing for the nurse. “I hurt. I can’t stand it. I’m going to die.”

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Ron Dunn’s prayer stories

Ronald Dunn, now in Heaven, was a prolific writer and speaker on prayer and the deeper life.  He pastored in Texas and authored many books.  What follows are stories taken from his book “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.” Published in 1991 by Thomas Nelson.

First story. (I’ve heard this from numerous speakers, but it’s Ron’s story.)

I was speaking at a banquet for a church’s intercessory prayer ministry when (this mother of a teenager) shared a recent answer to prayer. A few days before, as she was getting a pie ready to put into the oven, the phone rang,  It was the school nurse.  Her son had come down with a high fever and would she come and take him home?

The mother calculated how long it would take to drive to school and back, and how long the pie should bake, and concluded there was enough time. Popping the pie into the oven, she left for school. When she arrived, her son’s fever was worse and the nurse urged her to take him to the doctor.

Seeing her son like that–his face flushed, his body trembling and dripping with perspiration–frayed her, and she drove to the clinic as fast as she dared.  She was frayed a bit more waiting for the doctor to emerge from the examination room, which he was now doing, walking toward her with a slip of paper in his hand.

“Get him to bed,” he told her, handing her the prescription, “and start him on this right away.”

By the time she got the boy home and in bed and headed out again for the shopping mall, she was not only frayed, but frazzled and frantic as well. And she had forgotten about the pie in the oven. At the mall, she found a pharmacy, got the prescription filled and rushed back to the car.

Which was locked.

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Truths the devil uses to stop us from praying

The forces of hell will do anything to keep us from praying.

Satan tells lies to keep us from praying.  He uses pleasures and misinformation and our laziness to keep us from praying.  He uses false teachers and busy schedules and great television to keep us from praying.

He also has been known to use truth.

Don’t miss that:  Sometimes he speaks the truth.

Here are eight true statements Satan uses to put a stop to the most powerful force in the world, the prayers of God’s people…

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The eternal difference your prayers make

“So, you were the one praying for me!  Thank you!”

In Heaven, two things will happen, I predict–

–1.  People will be coming up thanking you for praying for them.  You barely remember calling out their names to the Father, but He heard and used your prayer and they are living forever because you were faithful.  Sure makes you want to be faithful, doesn’t it?  (See Luke 18:8)

–2. People will be coming up telling you they had prayed for you. And that will answer a question that had bugged you for years:  Was it someone’s prayers that caused those wonderful things to happen in your life?  And now you know. Sure makes you want to be grateful, doesn’t it?

This was brought home to me by a testimony in Christianity Today for July/August 2014.  (I wrote about it then and still treasure it.)

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What I said when she said her prayers were so weak

“It’s not all up to you.”

She had given me a burdensome list of prayer needs.  Her husband was battling a terminal illness, her daughter was in a bad situation, the grandchildren were at risk, and she herself felt so far from the Lord.

I’m breaking no confidence in sharing this.  First, she gave permission, and second, her needs are not unlike a dozen people whom I know. There is a lot of this going around.  A few minutes later, a mother whom I do not know, but who found us on the internet, wrote with a similar list of prayer needs.

She asked me to pray for her. She did not ask for advice. However, while I am indeed lifting her needs in prayer, the next best gift I can give is to encourage her own praying.  I asked if she was “up” to my commenting on her prayers.  She was.

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