Halim Suh teaches on why prayer matters using Luke 11:1-2
Series: This Matters
Could it be said of you that you’re a person of prayer?
I asked myself this question this week. Yes, if it means I pray before I read my bible and before meals. No, if it means I cast all of my worries and anxieties upon Him. No if it means I pray without ceasing, without losing heart, crying out in agony, “My God, my Father, not my will, but Yours be done.”
Yet something inside of us tells us that is how we ought to pray. That’s what our prayers should look like, but they don’t. We all know we ought to pray, but many times we just don’t.
Before we start talking about prayer, let’s actually pray together. In the quietness of wherever you are, pray and ask God to make you a person devoted to prayer. Ask Him to make us a church that would pray without ceasing and steadfast towards prayer.
Pray for 3 whole minutes….
How was that? Was it difficult, maybe uncomfortable, even awkward?
Jesus said, “My house will be a house of prayer.” Not a house of singing or preaching, but prayer. Yet, we struggle to do it even for 3 minutes.
PROBLEMS WITH PRAYER
Of all the things God has commanded us to do, prayer may be the most difficult to obey. When we go to pray, the universe seems to turn against us. Our phone starts dinging with texts that we must check. We look up and notice the ceiling fan is really dusty and we have to clean it right then. We’re so easily distracted. You try to focus on loving the King of the Universe for 3 minutes and find out how weak you are.
There are countless problems why we have difficulty and just decide not to pray. Can you relate with any of these statements?
• It’s awkward.
• It feels overwhelming and hard to be still.
• It’s hard to stay focused; my mind keeps wandering.
• It feels futile. I speak to Him, but I don’t think He’s really going to answer.
• I don’t see the point, He knows everything already, and I don’t want to bother Him.
• It feels like I’m trying to talk with God, but He doesn’t want to talk with me.
How is it we can be completely convinced we ought to pray, even earnestly desire to, but still not pray? Today, we’ll talk about two of the main ones:
• I don’t think He hears me.
• I don’t think it accomplishes anything.
I DON'T THINK HE HEARS ME
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 (ESV)
The disciples heard Jesus praying. Something about the way He was praying made them want to be able to pray in the same way.
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Luke 11:2 (ESV)
We know this as the Lord’s Prayer. It’s so familiar to us we tend to go across the words without even thinking about them. Yet, the first thing Jesus teaches His disciples about prayer is to begin with, “Our Father.” This should shock us!
God is the God of the Universe, but He is also your Father. You are His child. That’s the first and foremost thing we have to know and experience when we approach Him through prayer.
We have to know and experience our sonship.
Many of us know this, but we’re not experiencing it. If I were to ask you what it’s like to be a child of God, you may say…
“It’s amazing. I was a sinner who rebelled against God, but He saved me. He sent His son Jesus to live the life I could never live and died the death I should have, so that I’m no longer His enemy, but now His child.”
But what is it like to meet with this heavenly Father of yours, to talk with Him? You would probably respond, saying…
“It’s really awkward. I always wonder when our time will end. I want to meet with Him, but it feels like He doesn’t want to meet with me. I say things to Him, but it feels like He’s not hearing me.”
There is a massive discrepancy between the way we would describe our sonship and the way we experience it. We are his children, but we don’t feel like it when we’re meeting with Him. But Jesus said it’s the first thing you must know when it comes to prayer. You are going to your Father.
BEING LOVED LIKE JESUS
God is placing it in the hearts of people in our church to adopt; to take the child with no home, no family, many living in destitute conditions, and bring them into their own home, adopting them to be their own child.
After waiting for three long years, our pastor Michael Stewart and his family were finally able to bring home their son Kelly from Haiti. There are many other families adopting in our church now too.
These adopting parents are holding, touching and loving their adopted children the same way they hold, touch and kiss on their biological children. They love and care for them in the exact same way. There is something really right about that.
If you’re in Christ today, you are God’s adopted child.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… Romans 8:15-17 (ESV)
This is what Jesus was talking about when He said pray, “Our Father.” God is His Father, but He’s your Father too.
If earthly parents are able to do what is right in treating their adopted children in the exact same way as their natural children, then our God is able to do it incomprehensibly more.
YOU GET WHAT JESUS GETS
When you look at the Scriptures and you see Jesus praying, you get the sense that God is bending His ear down to earth and is paying attention to what Jesus is praying, that God is listening to what Jesus is asking for and needs from Him right then.
…And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me…John 11:41-42 (ESV)
When Jesus prayed, God heard. He always heard and was ready to explode into action, because Jesus was His child. His son.
You are God’s child through adoption.
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…Romans 8:16-17 (ESV)
You are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. Not a second-class heir. Not a lesser, inferior heir. You are a co-heir.
Since you are a co-heir with Jesus, you get what Jesus gets.
Each and every single time you pray, God immediately bends His ear down to earth and is paying attention to you. He’s listening to what you need from Him right then. You are His child. You are a co-heir with Jesus. You get what Jesus gets.
God met Jesus in prayer and He will meet you in prayer. Our God feels toward you exactly the same way He feels towards Jesus.
We’ve heard that before, but have you experienced it?
I DON'T THINK PRAYER ACCOMPLISHES ANYTHING
You’ve asked God for things and nothing happened, so you gave up on prayer. You may be thinking God is sovereign and He’s going to do what He’s going to do, so what difference does it make if I pray? It doesn’t really matter, right?
It does matter. When you pray, your prayers are not just disappearing into thin air. Your prayers physically go somewhere.
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. Revelation 8:1-5 (ESV)
God has a scroll in the heavenlies. The opening of the scroll represents the unfolding of the end of history, ultimately leading to the return of Jesus. But the scroll is closed up and sealed with seven seals. The seals must be opened for God’s ultimate purpose of judgment and redemption to occur. God’s seals must be broken for Jesus to finally return. At first there was great weeping in heaven because no one was found worthy to open the seals. But then…
5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5 (ESV)
Who is it talking about? Jesus. Why is He able to do it?
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:9 (ESV)
It’s absolutely incredible that John is given a vision into what will bring about the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan to judge and redeem. The purpose for which God create the universe, why God created us, why He sent His son, is all about to be fulfilled. As Jesus breaks open each seal, one-by-one, we’re getting closer and closer to the return of Jesus. We get to the seventh and final seal, Jesus breaks it open and it says the heavens are silenced. An angel comes to the throne of God with a bowl, which is filled with the prayers of the saints. It’s filled with our prayers and it’s burning like an incense before God. The angel pours it out on the earth and it brings about the consummation of the kingdom of God.
John Piper says:
…What we have in this text is an explanation of what has happened to the millions upon millions of prayers over the last 2,000 years as the saints have cried out again and again, "Thy kingdom come. . .Thy kingdom come." Not one of these prayers, prayed in faith, has been ignored. Not one is lost or forgotten. Not one has been ineffectual or pointless. They have all been gathering on the altar before the throne of God…and the time will come when God will command his holy angel to…pour it out on the world to bring all of God's great and holy purposes to completion. Which means that the consummation of history will be owing to the supplication of the saints who cry to God day and night. Not one God-exalting prayer has ever been in vain.
Make no mistake, no prayer, prayed in faith, will ever go to waste. They are gathering on God’s altar until the appointed time.
THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF HIS PEOPLE
If God were to come to you and say, “Ask of me anything right now and I will do it for you,” what would you ask for? Hopefully you would ask for His kingdom to come, that He would let Jesus return right now. After all, that’s what Jesus taught us to pray…
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.”
We should be praying for the kingdom to come, because it’s through our prayers that the kingdom will come. The greatest thing left for God to do is have Jesus return. He has ordained this to happen through the prayers of His people.
I can’t help but to conclude this is the way God accomplishes all of His great works. Whatever He has determined to do in human history, He does through the prayers of His children.
So when we pray for any given thing our prayers go into a bowl. If anybody else prays for that same thing, those prayers also go into that bowl. In God’s appointed time He’s going to look at the bowl and say it’s full and ask for it to be poured out. What God desires will happen through those prayers.
I believe that’s what happened with Kelly when he was finally able to come home. For three years Stew and Kimberly prayed, asking for him to come home. God took those prayers and placed them in a bowl. Their three other children would pray, asking for their brother to come home. God took their prayers and placed them in the bowl. The rest of the church family would pray, asking for God to work in the Haitian government and bring Kelly home to the Stewarts. He took our prayers and placed them in the bowl.
Then after three years, God looked at the bowl and said, “It’s full now. Pour it out. Let Kelly come home.”
Your prayers matter and they’re accomplishing great things. God has purposed the prayers of His children to accomplish all of His great works. No prayer prayed in faith is ever wasted or prayed in vain.
PRAYER LIKE A CHILD
We could say, “Okay, whatever I want, I’ll just keep praying and then when the bowl is full, I’ll get what I want.” This is not true. Prayer isn’t incantation. It’s not some hocus-pocus magic. It’s not the summoning of some great power to manipulate Him into doing what we want.
Prayer is speaking with your heavenly Father. It’s a meeting between a Father and His child.
If you’re going to be a good parent, you don’t say yes to all the things your children ask for, because they ask for some stupid stuff. Only a negligent father would say yes to everything his kids want.
Our God is a good and perfect heavenly Father who knows exactly what His kids need. When you think about prayer, you have to think of it in these terms, in terms of a parent-child relationship.
When your child is an infant, they can’t say a single coherent word to you. Nevertheless, you hold, kiss, feed, and change them. You also continually speak to them, until one day they look at you and say, “momma,” or “daddy.”
You may be a brand new Christian and you don’t really know how to pray at all. You don’t know how to begin or say a single coherent word to your heavenly Father. But nevertheless, He will hold, kiss, feed and change you. He will put His Spirit in you, the Spirit by which we cry, “Abba Father!” You may not know how to pray yet. But you watch and as you observe Him be faithful to you over and over again, there will be a moment when you call out to Him, “Abba, Father.”
Then your infant grows into a new phase where they start demanding things from you. Give me milk, candy, your phone. How many of our prayers look similar to this, where all we do is ask God for things.
If my daughter Evie would ask me for ten pieces of candy, I’m going to say no to her every single time. But I want her to ask me, because as I consistently say no to the things that are bad for her and yes to the things that are good for her, I’m teaching her my character.
God would prefer your wrong prayers to your no prayers. Through those wrong prayers, He will be teaching you His character, the things He desires and doesn’t desire for you.
After the give me stage, your child gets to the why stage. As we develop in our understanding and experience of our sonship, our focus will start to veer away from ourselves and ask God why. We want to understand more.
As any good parent, you explain, knowing that many times the thing your child is asking is beyond their ability to understand. But you explain anyway. You say, “I know you don’t understand this right now, but just trust me.” God does the same with us.
Lastly, as your child matures and is speaking with you, they start asking you about you. My oldest son Malachi loves to ask me for stories about when I was a kid. He wants to know something about me. When our focus goes away from us to God, we’ve reached the full maturation process in our growth in prayers. He is the focus and we want to know about Him, His character, and to hear stories about things He’s done.
That is what Moses was doing when he said, “God show me your glory. I want to see your face. I want to know you God.”
Ultimately, God is offering this in prayer.
Where are you in these stages? Can we ask God for some things? Absolutely. He’s your good Father. He’s going to give you things as any good father. But above and beyond all that, what God is offering us in prayer is Himself, as Father.
When we begin to pray like that, we’re saying, “God, more than anything you could give me here on earth, I want you.”
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25 (ESV)
3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1 (ESV)