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June 25, 2017

Prayer, Our First Work

Do you need to relearn to pray? Listen or read to find out.

Pastor Mike Gerhardt, June 25, 2017, Series on Prayer - Outline 1, PRAYER, OUR FIRST WORK, Eph 1:15-23, 3:14-21. I will do a summer series on prayer. Do you pray expecting great things from God? Dear God, So far today, I've done all right. I haven't gossiped. I haven't lost my temper. I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed; and from then on, I'm going to need a lot more help. Amen. Children have interesting prayers. For years our boys would turn every request into a thanksgiving. Dear God thank you for Grand Mom being in the hospital so that you can heal her. Amen. Brandon and I were headed for Mc Donald’s and we passed a car accident. I wanted to teach my son to pray for then people involved, so I pointed and said to my son: We should pray for them. From the backseat, I heard his prayer: Thank You, God, for not letting those cars block the entrance to McDonald's. One time a little girl in Sunday School ended the Lord’s Prayer by saying: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us some E-mail. Do we really know how to pray? The disciples asked Jesus, teach us to pray. Maybe some of us may have to relearn to pray. I have been off and on about exercise. There was a three-year period not so long ago when I was engaged in extreme cross fit. Working out for an hour with five guys five days a week. Running up and down ten flights of stairs carrying 35lbs over our heads. Doing 50 pull ups in a row even if it was only two at a time. Exercise got my body in shape. I believe prayer can be like that. Exercise the prayer muscle to get your soul in shape. As a new believer, I came before the Lord regularly and frequently but then I got lazy. I tried simpler ways to pray. I figured I could never pray as Billy Graham. Now for your personal prayer life to do more than survive, you must exercise. To be clearly focused, you need to strain and stretch out your faith muscles and grow strong in prayer and in the Spirit. Most of us are thinking: that’s too much work. Here is Paul’s prayer for intimacy with God. Ephesians 1:15-23. For this reason… I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Paul prayed for others to know God. What do you get for someone who has everything whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or graduation? There are those out of the ordinary gifts that I would like to buy for someone: An electric lawn chair, reversible socks, convertible hat and rain poncho, or even maybe an exotic pet like a homing vulture. There’s a gift you can give everyone that will fit perfectly, they’ll never have to return it and personally, I’ve known very few to complain about the gift of prayer. When I am out to eat, I often ask my waiter or waitress if I can pray for them. I was in Rome NY and prayed for a man who was locked out of his house for missing a mortgage payment. He had to take his wife and two children to his brother’s house, and he was working two jobs, sleeping in his car until he could make up the payments. God wants us to pray for others. Paul prayed for those of faith with thanksgiving. A thankful heart is a praying heart. We pray to know God intimately. Pray for wisdom, which gives us insight into the true nature of God and his ways, why he is what he is. Pray that His Word would be revealed to us. Pray to have our hearts see the truth and put things into perspective, to see God as our Father. Pray to be enlightened to the hope and blessed inheritance we have in Jesus. Pray to have the power of the Spirit. Clarence Bauman said: The purpose of prayer is not to inform God of our needs but to invite him to rule our lives.

Earl Hunt observed: Prayer is a kind of calling home every day. We had given our boys cell phones so they could call home. It is amazing that we actually believed they would call home. Once I called my middle son and he texts me right back: what do you want? So I text him right back: I want you to answer the phone when I call!  Though they are great sons, they rarely called then but they are better now. As parents, we felt neglected. God has given us a kind of cell phone, it’s called prayer. Our home is not here, we are foreigners in this world. Our home is in heaven with God. We need to call regularly, to become at home with God, to share the feeling of peace in God’s universe that this earthly world can’t give us. We need God’s perspective, a new insight, a fresh courage, a holy boldness that can only come when we call home to talk our Father in heaven.  

Paul prayed for love. When you think of love, do you think of passion, poems, and panting? Courting, flirting and hurting? Infatuation, indiscretion, and indigestion? Unrequited, uninterested and undeniable love? Someone has said love is the soy sauce on the Chop Suey of life. Ephesians 3:14-21. For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell (to occupy, to settle down permanently, not just “tabernacle” like John 1:14) in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted (an agricultural term) and established (an engineering term) in love, may have power (to invigorate, brace, fortify), together with all the saints, to grasp (perceive, comprehend, literally “to soak in”) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (a cup of the ocean, we are to be an earthen vessel of God’s love). Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more (a hyper compound of comparison, superabundantly, quite beyond measure) than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Prayer’s posture can reveal the heart. There are several in the Bible: standing with hands lifted like Moses, face down on the ground, or on knees like Paul with the elders at Ephesus, Jesus in the Garden or Stephen when he was being stoned to death. What is your posture? My posture is often sitting comfortably in an easy chair or lying in bed almost asleep. What is wrong with this picture? No wonder my prayers aren’t vibrant. Paul prayed for those Ephesians to be rooted and established in love, and to grasp the depth of Christ’s love. Christ’s love is our source of nourishment and a foundation of strength. William Barclay wrote: The real meaning of agape is unconquerable benevolence. If we regard a person with agape (love), it means that nothing that the person can or will ever do will make us seek anything but his highest good. David Mace said: Love is not self-sustaining. It must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed and that demands ingenuity, consideration and time.

Ask to have the heart of God.  He will fill you His LOVE, his agape love beyond all that you could ask or imagine. Here are some things I’ve learned about love and myself: The more I understand of God’s unconditional love for me, the more I can love others in that same love and grace. The more I pray for others to grasp the love of Christ, the more I am forgiving of their actions against me or God. The more I am filled with the overwhelming love of God, the more I can extend myself and my love to others. Lon Woodrum wrote: Love does not have to live; It can afford to die. It can afford to be against a beam on Calvary. Love does not have to live: It only has to give.

Love is the one thing you can spend wildly, give it away to everyone you see, pour it on everything, throw it to the wind, empty your pockets of it, spill it out all over and tomorrow you’ll have more of it than ever before. God will see to it. He promises love “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” The infusion of God’s love compels me to pray for others. Love is what I have been praying for us, together. Relearning to pray may mean relearning to love.

When we love someone, we want the best for them. There are many people we know who do not know Jesus as Savior. I want you to consider just one person you know who doesn’t know Jesus. Would you pray for them until they trust Christ? Will you pray every day for them? Can you truly say you love them and not pray for them every day? Maybe you need God’s love. You need to know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And maybe if we pray, God will give us his love “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”