Matthew 6 / January 7th, 2018 / Todd Gray
Prayer, in general, or praying with consistency is something that most people have struggled with in their life. We often let the fear of failure in prayer stop us from ever starting. As long as we view prayer as simply a way to ask things of God, we’ll struggle. Matthew 6 helps reframe the purpose of prayer for us. When we understand the purpose of prayer is building a relationship, it gets much easier.
This week, I was obviously thinking about prayer and what we were going to talk about, but when I connected prayer to a battle plan or connected prayer into preparation or preparedness, my mind automatically every time goes to my military service because if you’ve ever served in the military or known anybody that’s been in the military, this idea of preparation, this idea of being ready is a critical concept for our military service, and it’s like that from really the beginning.
Let’s say, for example, that you watched some terrible terrorist attack that took innocent lives this last week, because they almost happen weekly now, don’t they, and you’re sitting there at home, man or woman, thinking, “You know what? I want to do something about that. I want to be a part of stopping terrorism in our world to prevent the innocent loss of life around the globe.”
It wouldn’t be like you would just go to the recruiter today, and tomorrow or Monday morning, he would hand you a rifle, and then the next day, ship you out to the battlefront. No, that would be irresponsible. You would not be ready, but what would happen is you would enter into a very long season of preparation because you would need that to be ready for the battlefield. For many of you, it would start with some assessment, some exams, a physical exam, a mental exam, some questionnaires you needed fill out, a background. Then if you went through all of that, then the enlistment would come, or the commission would come where you say, “I’m willing to sign up for this amount of time.”
Then the joyous vacation that we call boot camp. A lot of fun, that is, and a boot camp for many of you shaggy-haired guys, all the ladies would probably be okay because you can put it up in a bun or something, but that day would start with a good old-fashioned haircut and a shave. From there, you would go to weapons training and physical fitness and battle plan preparation. Then even after all of that training, maybe months now, you would still have more training. You go to advanced training after boot camp, and maybe after a few months of that or even up to a year and a half of that, maybe then they will send you to the battlefront, to the battlefield.
Why all that training? Well, unless you’re like war-times circumstances like Vietnam when they send you a little bit early, but why all the preparation before you’re thrown out there into the battle? I’ll tell you why. Because the modern battlefield is very dangerous, not only for you, but for those you will be working with to fight the enemy, like terrorism.
Church, it’s very similar for your spiritual lives. The battlefield that you walk onto every day is very dangerous. Your enemy, Satan, he is an expert, a far greater expert than even the best, best, or worst terrorist that we have in our world today. He has on-the-job training for thousands of years just to mess with you. He is looking for the next poor sap to send into a depression because you’ve had a bad week or a bad year. He’s looking for the next marriage, the next couple. Right now, you may be in here. He’s looking for the next couple that’s on the rocks to destroy your covenant relationship.
The Bible says that he prowls around like a lion. What do lions do? They hunt. Satan prowls around like a roaring lion. He’s looking for someone in here today to devour. The battlefield is dangerous. You must be prepared for that battle. You say, “Pastor, I’m scared now. What do I do?” The preparation includes things like reading the Bible and maybe most importantly, daily communication with God through prayer. This is why we’re starting 2018 and this series on prayer so that you can be ready to face the war, now, listen to me, that you’re already in.
See, unlike military and unlike the boot camp, we don’t get to spend the time and preparation before we send you out into battle. As soon, in fact, even right now, a spiritual battle might be going on in your mind in distraction or in your relationship, but for sure, as soon as you walk out those doors and enter the mission field, the battlefield is there. No better way and no better place to be prepared than here through prayer.
This is what Jesus is doing for His disciples in Matthews 6. Go ahead and get there if you’re not there. Matthews 6, start in verses 5 through 8. Jesus is in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. He’s trying to make His disciples battlefield-ready through a lot of different things, and now He’s moving into His discussion on prayer, and we’re going to be for several weeks. We’re going to start here in little bit of preparation and proper prayer like why do we pray and how to pray, and then we’re going to walk through the Lord’s prayer a verse at a time.
Finally, at the end of this series, when February 3rd comes, that’s when we’re going to launch this battlefield for prayer, or battle plan for prayer emphasis where we’re going to walk through 35 days of consist prayer together as a church body. Not just on a Sunday morning, this group, but everybody that’s connected through social media, through small groups, Bible study or life groups, everybody is going to be going through these 35 days of prayer together.
Let’s start off. Let’s stand together as we read Matthew 6. Start in verse 5. Jesus says, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward in full, but you, when you pray, go into your inner room. Close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you’re praying, do not use meaningless repetitive. Your Bible may say babble as the gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their mini words, so do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” This is God’s word. Please be seated.
Church, to prepare for battle, you must practice proper prayer. This is an essential part of your daily Christian walk. You do so to increase your intimacy with God, listen to me now, and not to impress the affections of men. That’s what Jesus is boiling all this down to. It’s not for them who are next to you. It’s for Him who is in this vertical relationship with you.
The first way to practice proper prayer, simply put, is by praying. Get to it. Stop talking about it. Don’t read any more books about it. Don’t look at any more Facebook groups about it or look up any more Bible plans that discuss it. A real simple way to get prepared for prayer is by starting a prayer time daily. Notice Jesus says here that prayer is expected. In verse 5, 6, and 7, He says things like, “When you pray,” not, “If you pray,” or, “If you decided to pray.” In verse 6, He says, “When you pray.” Look at verse 7, “When you are praying.” Before Jesus even utters one instruction about how to pray or even when to pray, He is assuming that His disciples are already in a season of prayer. Why? Because for Jesus, prayer is a privilege. Because it’s a privilege that you get to speak to the King of the universe. Let that sink in for a minute this morning.
Maybe the reason that you’re not active or consistent in your prayer life is because you don’t understand, really, or you haven’t thought about it in a while, what’s happening when you pray or what has been accomplished for you in Christ that opens up the throne room of Heaven to you. God. If your mind can even get close to wrapping itself around the concept of God, the Creator of the universe, the Master of all things that have ever been and the Master of all things that ever will be, the Creator of the sun, the moon, the stars, the galaxies that you can see and those that we don’t have the technology to even see yet, that guy wants to talk to you. That Being wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to know you better. He wants to hear your complaints. He wants to carry your burdens. He just wants to be around you, and He wants you to know Him more.
I think one of the questions that Jesus is asking us here is why would you not pray? The One who created you, the One that can do something about the situation that you’re struggling through, how could you not enter into or take advantage of this relationship that’s been earned for you.
Church, I look at prayer as a Gospel issue, which means this, that on your own, in your human flesh sack of sins, as we say, or I guess I say a lot, you probably don’t say that, but on your own, you have no right or even capacity because of your sin to speak to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The sin of humanity has separated us from God. It’s been like this since the garden, but it wasn’t always like that, was it?
In the garden, before sin, what did Adam do? He walked with God. He talked with God. He had a intimate daily face-to-face relationship with the King, but then sin came in and caused the separation. Immediately, what happened to Adam? He was kicked out of the garden, the separation between he and God was changed. What started, and it changed the nature of the relationship. No longer could Adam just go to God any time he wanted. It has to be on God’s terms.
In fact, a whole system had to be set up in place just so men in their sin could interact with a holy and perfect and just God. We had to put priest in place. We had create a sacrificial system. Only the high priest, only on certain occasions could be the one to have this almost one-on-one interaction with the king, like on the Day of Atonement, the high priest could com before God, literally, person-to-person or face-to-face, but not without the blood of a lamb to be covered for his sin, to be an atonement for his sin and the sin of the people, and that was only for a short time, and it wasn’t consistent. It wasn’t every day.
On and on, this would go, the separation between God and men because of sin. Until when? Until Jesus came as the great high priest and the perfect lamb of God who went to God to make atonement for sin, and in fact, as the lamb of God, he was the sacrifice, which bled for our sin. Jesus is the one who earns your right through the cross and the resurrection to even speak to God in prayer, and because He rose from the dead and He exist eternally as your great high priest, He continually makes intercession, and He’s made available to you the throne room of God any single time you wanted.
Sit on that. Chew on that. Let that permeate the weariness of your soul and see if it doesn’t cause within you a “aha,” appreciation for prayer. Passages like Hebrews 7 and Hebrews 4 help me. Hebrew 7:24 says, “Jesus, because He continues forever holds His priesthood permanently.” You say, “Why is the permanent priesthood of Christ important for me?” Look at verse 25. “Therefore, He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him,” in other words, those who believe, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Then in Hebrews 4:15 and 16, he says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,” but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet He was perfect, meaning He was without sin; therefore, verse 16 says, “Draw near to Him with confidence to the throne of grace.” How do you draw near to the throne of grace with confidence?
Through prayer with the sacrifice of Jesus on your mind, knowing that you did not earn that right, but Jesus earned that right for you. What happens when you draw near to the throne of grace? He goes on to say, “So that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. Jesus is our mediator. Jesus is our great intercessor, and He’s earned our right to pray.
The first step for you this morning, if you haven’t taken it, would be to call upon Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin. Enter it into relationship with God through your faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Then as the believer, a simple question would be to ask yourself this morning is, why wouldn’t you take advantage of the relationship that you have between you, a sinful man, and the Creator of the universe that Jesus has opened up for you? Maybe it’s just because you don’t think about it enough. Maybe it’s because you don’t practice it enough, but whatever it is, we should take advantage of it.
What if I told you this morning that I made an appointment for you with Donald Trump in the Oval Office tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Some of you, in your arrogance, would say something like, “Well, I don’t want to speak to him anyway.” Okay, I get that, but you probably want to give him a piece of your mind. Some of you would say, “Absolutely, I want to go. I want to just hear what he has to say. I want to hear what he has planned for us.” Either way, you’re going to keep that appointment.
What if I bought you a brand new truck, and I went to your house, and I parked it in your driveway. I left the keys in it. Then I tested you and said, “Hey, the truck is here. It’s yours. No strings attached.” Why wouldn’t you get in the truck, start it, drive it around, and start using it. Here’s my point. Of course, you would drive the truck if I gave you such a fantastic gift. Of course, you would keep the appointment with the president if I made it for you. In such a better way, Jesus has made for you a standing appointment with God.
One of the things I realize this week for myself is, Todd, why don’t you keep it? Every day, in fact, not just one time a day, all the day long. See, for Jesus, prayer’s expected because prayer is a priority, because prayer is a privilege. God wants to talk to you. For a new year’s resolution, there’s so many. There’s so many to choose from. Why not, put at the very top of your list, something like “make time for God in prayer.” Not complicated.
You say, “Pastor, prayer’s expected, that feels like a burden. It feels like you’re giving me another thing to do on my to-do list. It feels a little heavy.” No, no. I’m not trying to give you more to do. I’m not trying to push more burdens on you. I know your calendar’s full. I know your list is long. Here’s what I’m trying to do: I’m trying to alleviate your burdens, believe it or not, by helping you and teaching you to have a desire to bring your burdens to God so that He can carry them for you. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to make that time for God. You’re going to have to give something up, but I promise you, it will be worth it. Your burdens will slowly fade the longer and the more you bring them to God consistently.
Prayer’s expected, but look, also in verse 5, Jesus says that prayer needs to be, I thought of a lot of words this week, but the best one I could come up with was authentic. He says, “When you pray, you’re not to be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so then they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
Here, Jesus tells us that God wants real prayer, authentic prayer, not selfish prayer, not prayer with pretense. He just wants to talk with you as you are. Many times in life, we could learn what to do by watching someone else do what they shouldn’t do or by reading about someone doing what they shouldn’t do. That’s what’s going on here. Jesus is trying to teach you how to pray by giving you an example of these hypocrites who are doing it wrong.
Now, these hypocrites are most likely, especially in the context of Matthew 5, 6, and 7, these were the scribes and the Pharisees. These weren’t the homeless people wandering the streets begging for food, or some people may consider them the lowest of the low. No. These were the highest of the high. These were wealthy men. The Pharisees were the leaders, the religious, the church leaders of the day. Jesus says, “They got it wrong because all they want to do is they want go to church, stand up tall and speak loud so people can hear them praying. All they want to do is they want to go the restaurant, they want to be on the street corner, and they want to be the first to pray, not to speak to God, but so that people hear them pray.” He says don’t do it like that.
The word hypocrite is a fantastic word. It means pretender. Some people translate it actor, but I think actor has too much class for this word. Actors aren’t pretending. They have an artistic expression, but at the root of that word is someone who pretends. These hypocrites were pretending to be something that they’re not. They were praying, but they weren’t talking to God. They were praying like this, “Oh, Lord. We love You so much, and You’re so awesome,” and what they really wanted was the attention that they were getting from the people; therefore, Jesus says that’s when they get their reward, when their pride is petted and they are full of themselves, their reward stops right there.
What’s interesting, this term, hypocrite means pretenders, but then the term “to be seen by men,” the “be seen” term, it also means “to shine.” That’s what these men wanted to do, and women. It’s not gender neutral. I mean, it is gender neutral. Anybody can be like this, but the men or the women wanted to stand before the crowd and to shine. Do you notice the play on words? Jesus has already said something similar to this. “Let your light shine before men so they may see your good deeds,” and then do what? “Honor your God in Heaven.” That’s how it’s supposed to work. The light of Christ comes in you, and the light of Christ shines out from you, and the world sees that light that is shining, but you don’t let them see you. That shining light is pointing them to God who is greater than you.
This is the opposite of that. This is a man or a woman desiring to shine for themselves. This is the type of prayer that you would say that you want people to come up to you and say, “Man, that was a beautiful prayer. You must really love God,” or they talk about your prayer afterwards with their friends. “That was such a great prayer. They must be strong in their faith. I wish I prayed like them,” and you could secretly listen to them say that, and that’s petting your pride on the inside. Jesus says that’s not what prayer is because at the root of that is selfishness. At the root of selfishness is pride. That’s the last thing you want in a relationship with God.
What you want is authenticity. What you want is a relationship. Obviously, we know that the application here is don’t go to the restaurant, don’t stand up in church, don’t pray publicly or in front of anybody just to receive the praises of men. I know you got that. Let’s take it one little step further.
Jesus is really speaking against selfish prayer. You may not pray in public to be heard by men, but how many times have you said a prayer in your own house that was consumed with things that would only benefit you personally? That’s where it’s going to start hitting home for you this morning, and or me this week. How many times do you pray just to benefit yourself, whereas Jesus is wanting you to pray authentic prayer that brings glory to God?
Let us not pray selfishly. Let us pray authentically so that what we ask God or what we ask God of or how we communicate with Him brings Him glory and doesn’t give the glory to us alone. Prayer is expected. Prayer is authentic. Also, look here, proper prayer is personal. That’s what it’s saying here in verse 6. In verse 5, He starts off with, “This is what prayer shouldn’t be,” and then in verse 6, He’s going into, “This is what prayer should be when you pray,” again, it’s expected. “Go into your room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Let me clear some things up. “Pastor, can I pray in public? Can I pray with my family? Can I pray at dinner?” Sure, you can, but the primary way that you grow an intimacy with God, that you grow in your relationship with God is in a private setting between you and Him, or even maybe, because you’re one flesh, you and your spouse and Him. That works too, but primarily, you and God. That’s why it talks about your room, your house, your door that you close. You’re growing with God intimately.
Now, you can pray with your family and in public and these kind of things if it is with the right motivation. What’s the motivation, just to say it again? Personal intimacy should be the motivation of your prayer, whatever the setting is. That’s why I want to tell you, for many of you, you need a prayer closet far more than you need another prayer meeting to go, and I love prayer meetings, but prayer meetings, even in themselves, if you don’t have a prayer closet and you’re not praying to God on your own and your intimate relationship has not grown with Him, a prayer meeting can quickly turn into who’s there and who’s not there?
You know what I’m saying? It can quickly turn into who you’re praying for instead of who you’re praying to, and as soon as that happens, you’re off track if you’re not growing in your intimacy with god. Find your prayer closet, long before you seek the prayer meeting, but, here’s where it gets good, if you’re in your prayer closet, like the generations of believers before us, and you’re yearning with Christ and you’re pouring out to Him, then run to the prayer meeting as well because that’s when we pray to God together and He hears our prayers together. This is how revival comes about. This is how public repentances happens, which we don’t see that anymore. This is how we grow in Christ together, but it has to start between you and God before it’s you and the public and God. Does that make sense?
Church prayer is personal because it seeks personal intimacy with the Father. Every single person here today needs a prayer closet. Now, don’t stress out. You don’t have to go add an addition to your house. As Americans, we’re thinking, “Oh, great. Now I need another 200 square feet in my house. Husband, you gotta go build that.” No, no, no. Your prayer closet can be anywhere at any time as long as that’s where you get alone with God and you seek this intimacy with Him.
For me, it happens a lot more outside of the house and in nature than inside of the house. You may be built like me, but for you, it may be in the house, it may be in the bath tub, it may be in the basement or anywhere you can get away from the kids. I get that, but wherever it happens, that’s your prayer closet. We learned in verse 5 that if you’re not authentic with God, you will not have intimacy with Him. What we learned in verse 6 is that you are not spending time with you, you will not have intimacy with Him either.
Many times, distance damages a relationship. It doesn’t happen like this all the time. There’s some examples where this doesn’t happen, but in most relationships, to include your relationship with God, distance hardens or hurts the relationship.
This happened to my wife and I when were both in the Air Force, and she got deployed to Iraq for, I don’t know many months it was, too many months, and we were separated. We had a child together, and we both loved Jesus personally. He was our foundation, and we grew in Christ together. It wasn’t that weren’t Christians or that we weren’t growing in Him. We were going to church and spent time praying together, but when she left, it got harder. Now, we were even blessed to have things like video chat and satellite phones, and we tried to do that as much as we could, but over time, we could both, I mean it was palatable. We could both just feel there was a distance growing.
My grandmother died in that time. She was even able to come home, and it was fantastic, but even then, I knew that there was a distance. When she came home, finally, after the deployment, it was literally audible, the distance was. We were in a bad spot. Just sharing, honest, with you this morning, a real bad spot. We were very close to what I would consider separation, but here’s a piece of advice for you: Seek help.
If you’re in a marriage right now, let your pride go if you’re hurting. If you’re struggling, it’s on the rocks, let your pride go and seek some help. We went to a pastor friend, and he helped us see the things we had in common, mainly, the foundation of Christ. He helped us reopen the lines of communication and honesty, and upon the foundation of Christ, we rebuilt our marriage through intimacy, through honesty, and through communication. I want to tell you today, we’re far better off because of the praying, the talking, the crying, and the fighting that we did then, but you know that separation that we felt? It can happen to anybody. It can happen to you in your relationship even though you live in the same house together. The same way that it can happen between you and God who, as a Christian, He lives inside of you. Why? Because intimacy cannot happen without consistent time being spent together.
The same advice that I give you as a married couple that’s going through a hard time is the same advice I’m going to give you in your prayer life if it feels still. Spend more intimate time together, both as a couple and especially with God. Spend more time together. That’s why it tells you, “Go.” It’s a command. Go find your prayer closet, and then what do you do? The next command is pray.
We want to help you do that in 2018. That’s why we’re starting the battle plan for prayer on February 3rd. That’s why I’m preaching this whole series, the Battle Plan now. On February 3rd, we’re going to start this 35 days of prayer together. Here’s how I want it to work. If you’re single or you’re going to do it as an individual, I want you to spend some time, and we’re going to tell you how to do all of this in the future, but you’re going to spend some time writing out your struggles, your tribulations, your request. Then we’re going to ask you to take that list of all of this stuff and narrow it down to five focus request, and then for 35 days, consistently, every single day, you’re going to take those request and plead the throne room of Heaven with them.
Now, as a couple, I call this a win-win. We’re going to ask you on your own to make the same two list and then after you do that to come together and combine both your list to one list of five request. Then every day, together, you’re going to plead the throne room of God with those five request. Here’s what’s going to happen.
Number one, as a couple, you’re going to grow closer to Christ, but number two, as a bonus, as a couple, you’re also going to grow closer together. I call it the Christian love triangle. It’s not weird. Imagine a triangle. I have two points at the bottom and one point at the top. Here as you are as a couple. It’d be easier if I drew it, but you can follow my fingers. As you grow closer to God, what’s happening to you as a husband and wife?
[inaudible 00:33:04]. growing closer together as well. You’re going to grow closer together as a couple and grow closer to God. It’s literally a win-win. Now, I can’t tell you what exactly is going to happen, but if you were here two years ago when we did the 40 days of prayer, I can promise you this: What will happen is something miraculous, something life-changing. There’s going to be a request on there that you haven’t seen change in years, and God’s going to answer it, or there’s going to be a request on there that you haven’t seen for change for years, and you’re going to have peace while you walk through it. When, at first, when you wrote it down, you think, “That’s untenable and that’s unbearable.” God’s going to fix it, make it go away, or make it bearable, and who knows what else he’s going to do as you grow together.
Church, prayer is expected, prayer is to be authentic, and prayer is to be personal. This week, what I want you to do as we move towards February 3rd, we’re doing a lot of preparation here, a lot of groundwork, find your prayer closet. Put that on your to-do list this week. I’m going to give you more to do next week, but put that on your list next week. Where is my prayer closet? If you’re busy, I know a lot of you are [inaudible 00:34:12], “I’m very busy.” Okay, then do it earlier. “No, I’m already wake up that 3:00.” Then do it at lunch. “Well, I can’t do it at lunch.” Then do it at night.
Whatever it is, stop talking about it, and make a plan to accomplish it. As a couple, it’s going to get a little harder. I get that. For me and Tammy, it’s when the kids go to bed. All we really have to do, it’s not complicated, but it’s hard to do, is just turn off Netflix or turn off the TV. Just turn it off, and our prayer closet’s actually our bed. It doesn’t have to be weird. It’s good. We go through our request right there, and we pray together.
I don’t know where your closet is as a couple, but you’re going to have to fight for that time this week and do it. You say, “Well, my spouse travels.” Do it on the phone. Get a FaceTime appointment. Whatever it is this week, find your prayer closet and get intimate with God because prayer is personal. Not only is prayer personal but we also see here, finally, that prayer is focused in Matthew 6:7 and 8.
What we’ve been talking about here is preparing for the prayer closet, to get you enlisted and say, “I’m signing up. I’m willing to do it,” and to start giving you equipment. Now, from here on, from this point in this sermon through the next sermons, it’s all going to be about what happens in the prayer closet. What happens when you get a loan with God together as a couple or an individual? What happens in that closet? The first thing that Jesus says here is don’t babble. Isn’t that interesting? Don’t use meaningless speech. Jesus is a relational person, God is a relational God, and He wants to have an intelligent dialogue with you. This shouldn’t be surprising for you. Every relationship in your life right now wants the same thing. Think about it.
You may not babble to God in prayer, or do you? How any of you try to pray when you’re going to bed at night? Yeah, you’re all like, “Okay, I get it.” This is how it happens. “Oh, Lord Jesus, Jesus God. Oh, Heavenly Father, Lord, Lord, Lord, nice pillow. I had a good day. Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord Jesus. Lord Jesus, Heavenly Father, this life, Holy Spirit … ” You’re out. What did I say? I just said Holy Spirit and Lord Jesus a lot. What did … Nothing. It’s empty, meaningless repetition. It’s okay if that happens every once in a while, but how does that work out when you do that with your wife or your husband?
If the only time you talk to them is at night right before you go to bed, “Uh-huh. Yeah, honey, I get that. Oh, that’s so … ” How’s that relationship going to be? Not very good. “Get up and talk to me about this. What are doing?” or you have to plan it earlier. God’s no different. He doesn’t want your leftovers. He doesn’t want your babble. He wants intelligent dialog with you. He wants to hear your heart.
We get a great example of babble in 1 Kings 18. Do you remember that battle between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It’s like a showdown. Elijah was God’s, like really one of two prophets in the whole land. He had already told Jezebel, the wicked wife, and King Ahab that there’s no rain, and there was no rain, and finally, at the end of the day, Elijah says, “Okay, you bring your 450 prophets of Baal, and I’ll bring me God’s one prophet. You bring Baal, and I’ll bring my God, and we’ll have a showdown.”
They get on top of the mountain. They prepare two bulls on top of wood. He says, “You pray to your God. I’m going to pray to my God, and whichever God answers by fire and consumes the bull’s sacrifice, that’s the true God.” He says, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you one better. You go first.” The prophets of Baal, they start carrying on babble, meaningless repetition because they’re not talking to a real god. Over and over again. I’m talking like all day, morning to night, they’re praying. No answer. Why? Because there’s no god. There’s no Baal. It doesn’t exist.
At the end of the day, Elijah, and try to see if it’s good or bad, but whatever it is, he starts poking fun at him. He says, “Oh, maybe your god’s absent. Maybe he’s on vacation.” He even makes a reference to, “Maybe your god’s in the bathroom,” or whatever. The prophets of Baal, the 400, they get crazy anger. They start cutting themselves, killing themselves, and start rocking back and forth, incantations, all of it.
No answer, but a very focused, heartfelt prayer we read from 1 Kings 18:36 by our prophet Elijah. He says, “Oh Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today, let it be known that you are God and Israel, and that I am your servant.” Notice how it’s not selfish. “I have done these things at your word. Answer me, oh Lord, answer me that this people may know that you, oh Lord, our God, and that you have turned their heart back again.”
What a great example of a heartfelt, authentic, personal, God-glorifying prayer, and immediately, fire comes down from Heaven, consumes the sacrifice. That prayer is focused, but the babble prayer of the prophets is not what God wants you to do. He wants it to be intelligible. He wants it to be focused. He wants it to be specific, so when you make your list, think about that. Don’t pray at a time where you’re not meaning what you’re saying because that’s all that babble means. Babble or meaningless talk or meaningless repetition. It simply means saying words without thinking about what you’re saying.
How many times has that gone well for you in your life? You just kind of spout off. I do this a lot, by the way. You kind of just spout off, and you’re not thinking about what you’re saying. How many times is that just like a touchdown? For me, the percent is somewhere at zero. No, God’s the same way. Mean that you say, and say what you mean.
Learned a lot about prayer today, that prayer is expected. Why wouldn’t you want to talk to the King of kings? As yourself that question, and if you can’t answer it, then think about the Gospel and what’s been accomplished for you, and see if that doesn’t cause you to draw near to God a little quicker.
We learned that prayer is authentic. It’s not about the person next to you, listening to you. It’s not about selfishness. It’s about God’s glory from your heart. Prayer’s personal. You, as an individual, and the next closest step after that is you as a couple. God wants to know you. He wants to hear from you.
Finally, let that prayer be specific, meaning let that prayer be focused, not meaningless words prayed to a fake god because He’s as real as He’s ever been today. You just may not see it. This is a good start in preparing for the battle that’s waiting for you as you walk out these doors today.
Lord, thank You for just letting me fill the weightiness and the impact little bit more this week of doing what I’m doing now, speaking to You. I close my eyes. I don’t always close my eyes. I bow my head. I don’t always bow my head, but at any point in time, at anywhere, I can stop, and God, You, the Creator of all things, You’re there. I’m able to bend Your ear. You hear my prayer. You answer my prayer, and unlike humanity, you want what is best for me. God, let prayer be expected in my life. God, let prayer be authentic from my heart. Let prayer be personal, and God, let my prayer and the prayer that I share with my wife as we walk through this together, God, let it be focused.
Yeah, God, I know that there’s some here that can’t have this relationship with You because they don’t know You. I pray that today would be the day that they confess their sin and believe upon Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord and they would be able to enter into this intimate relationship with You their whole life long as they prepare to do the same thing all eternity long. For us as believers, let us just get to the work of prayer, Lord. It’s in Jesus name we said, everybody said, amen.