Peninsula Community Church
Prayer Series: Who You Pray To
February 21, 2016
Matthew 6:5-8 “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. 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. “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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
As we continue our study this morning I would like to focus our attention on the who of our prayer. The bottom line is the who of prayer is more critical than the actual prayer we pray. Without an understanding and a knowledge of who we pray to we will find that our prayers are not as effective as they should be. Additionally without knowing God our faith can be misplaced. When we pray we must understand that we are praying to someone. We are not just reciting words or ideas but we are actually communicating with God Himself. When we realize this the way we pray will change. With that in mind, I would like to share three things about God which are critical to our understanding of who He is and why prayer to Him is important. With that said let me offer a caveat here. In the time we have today, there is no way for me to completely give you everything there is to know about God. Therefore, we will only hit the highlights. As a result, I encourage you to do some self-study to learn more about who God is.
The first consideration for us this morning is that He is the sovereign God. He is in the secret place. He hears our prayers. He knows our needs. He knows the answer to our prayer. As the Sovereign God He is all knowing, so He knows your need before you ask. God is everywhere present, and so He knows what is going on all around you. He is all powerful, and thus He can do whatever He needs to do to bring about His purposes. He is eternal. Think about it. He has seen it all. And because He is eternal He knows the beginning from the end. Therefore, He knows how every circumstance in your life will work out. He knows exactly what He needs to do to bring about His purposes in your life.
As we look at the subject of the sovereignty of God, there has been much debate about what this means. Entire denominations have been formed around different ideas and perspectives in regard to their understanding of this subject. Let me say this in regard to the idea of the sovereignty of God. God is big enough, wise enough, and powerful enough to do whatever He deems necessary to accomplish His will. Here is a fact, God can do whatever He pleases as confirmed by Psalm 115:3. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. What this means is that God is not constrained by any outside force that will dictate what He should or should not do.
Therefore to say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High and that He is working according to His will. He is working in the armies of Heaven, and He is working among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand. As we look at this, we must be aware that God only acts within the context of His character and who is. Thus, He cannot lie for there is no falsehood in Him. He cannot sin as He is the purest form of perfection and holiness. He cannot fail because He is all powerful and all knowing. And He can be trusted because He is has been proven to be trustworthy over and over again.
Because He is sovereign, our role is to pray with an attitude of faith. In Hebrews 11:6-7 we find the author saying that … 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. To be effective we must present our needs to God with a faith that trusts and believes that He is able to answer our prayer. We must believe in His sovereignty and that He has our best interest in mind when we pray. His sovereignty combined with our faith positions us for answered prayer. What is faith? It is believing and trusting in someone greater than ourselves.
Because He is sovereign and He knows best, we must pray that our will is in alignment with His will. Listen to 1 John 5:14-15 – And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 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. So how do we know His will. There are two ideas to be considered. First, we pray that our hearts will be aligned with His heart. And second we read the Word of God for it is in reading and understanding the Word that we gain a better understanding about what He desires.
Additionally, we need to be aware that unconfessed sin prevents God from answering our prayers. The reason is that when we are motivated by sin we tend to ask for things that are not in alignment with His purposes or His will. David relates this to us Psalm 66:16-20 – Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
Not only is He sovereign but He is also the God that responds. Jeremiah 33:2-3 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it— the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Here is a promise you can take to the bank. God hears us and He responds to us. The responses may not be in the timeframe that we think or it may not be packaged the way we think, but He does answer. When we pray we are reminded that He is all knowing, all powerful, and that He is everywhere present. We know that His delay does not mean He does not care nor does it mean that He does not hear us.
In reading through the Old Testament, we find that the children of Israel had prayed for years for a deliverer. As we read the story of the Exodus, we find that God was already at work to set up a deliverer and yet there was no visual sign of movement toward the fulfillment of this and yet God was working on Israel’s behalf. Moses was born and was positioned to understand the ins and outs of Egypt’s government and the underpinnings of how things worked. And then just as we think that things are about to happen, Moses is kicked out of Egypt and he ends up in the desert for another 40 years. In Egypt Moses is being prepared in the ways of Egypt and in the wilderness God is preparing Moses to know the desert and thus He is prepared to lead the nation of Israel. Meanwhile the people are praying and crying out to God.
The third aspect is that He is the God that blesses and He knows how to give good gifts. God loves to give good gifts. Jesus described this later in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7:7-11. “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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him. Here is one thing we can count on, God knows how to bless and give good gifts. The point of the passage we just read is that God is not going to give us anything that is going to harm us.
Listen to the words of John Piper. When you pause to consider that God is infinitely strong and can do all that he pleases, and that he is infinitely righteous so that he only does what is right, and that he is infinitely good so that everything he does is perfectly good, and that he is infinitely wise so that he always knows perfectly what is right and good, and that he is infinitely loving so that in all his strength and righteousness and goodness and wisdom he raises the eternal joy of his loved ones as high as it can be raised — when you pause to consider this, then the lavish invitations of this God to ask him for good things, with the promise that he will give them, is unimaginably wonderful.
In the human realm, have you ever received a gift that you did not know what to do with. The gift ended up in a closet somewhere never to be used again. Or you end up selling it on e-bay or a garage sale. Here is a guarantee, if God gives you a gift you can be sure that it is good and it is exactly what you need. God gives us good gifts. God does not tell us that we receive everything we ask for but God gives us what is best for us in the moment. To give us everything we ask for would make us spoiled and would God one who spoils us.
As another aspect of Him giving good gifts is that He often gives us what we do not deserve or have not merited on our own accord. So to understand who God is we best understand Him through His gift of grace. That is why there are some who do not seem to deserve God’s answered prayer and yet they receive it. As in the War Room movie there is not one of us who have been distanced from God’s grace. None of us deserve God’s grace but that is the beauty of His grace. We don’t deserve it but He freely gives it.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom