Title: Beefing Up
Theme: Five Conditioning Techniques for a Satisfied Prayer Life
Introduction: Arnold Schwarzenegger was a very disciplined bodybuilder; he knows about beefing up. He said, "Experiencing this pain in my muscles with the aching going on and on is my challenge. The last three or four reps is what makes the muscles grow. This area of pain divides a champion from someone who is not. That's what most people lack, having the stamina to go on and work through the pain..." In regard to beefing up the body, Daniel Kenney writes, "By definition bodybuilding is: a form of body modification involving intensive muscle hyper therapy. When a person first makes the choice to get in-shape, the first thing they do is become educated. Muscular fitness and body building is a result of various exercises such as resistance training, cardiovascular stressing or weight lifting. These activities produce microscopic tears and stresses on muscles that are repaired naturally and involuntarily by the bodies’ natural means." Becoming a bodybuilder or getting in real good shape takes discipline; it hurts, however, it does the body good.
Proposition: I would propose to you God's Word has techniques that lead to a satisfied prayer life. Techniques that get us through the spiritual aches that demand us to give up. Heartaches from watching children and grandchildren live a life for self, disappointments, wrong expectations and prolonged answers to thousands of prayers have weakened the faith of many to a prayer life that is not fully satisfied. Misconception of how to pray has caused many to enter into prayer with an attitude of, "Prayer is something we pretend to do," (Rick Warren, Five conditions of Answered Prayer) because it is what religious people are supposed to do.
Interrogative Sentence: Just what Biblical techniques can beef up our prayer life? A life that indicates prayer is the steering force in our lives. Better yet, a life that keeps Christ at the steering wheel of everything we do and every decision we make. 1 Thessalonians instructs us to, "pray continually." Like a bodybuilder or someone who is disciplined in getting into good shape, it takes education and a willingness to stress our spiritual heart muscles through Biblical modifications that rips and causes discomfort. Let us pray!
Transitional Sentence: There are deeper truths to a satisfied prayer life than, "does God promise to answer everyone's prayer?" In building a muscular body, muscles must be pushed to their limits. A modification needs to be made if we are going to truly have a spiritually-satisfied prayer life. A spiritual technique to apply is an honest heart before God. John 15:7 says, "If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you."
One awesome Biblical truth to cling to, if you have a Holy Spirit revelation of the following conditions set by Jesus: remain in Him, by the Word of God being in you, ask whatever you wish, it will be given to you. It has been well said, but in Scripture every promise has a condition or a premise. Your prayer life will never be more effective than how much you understand Scripture. “The more you understand the Bible the more you'll know how to pray affectively." (Rick Warren, Five conditions of Answered Prayer) Time for some real truth: how many prayers do you and I have of which we are still waiting answers for? Is it possible that we need some Biblical modifications through study of God's Word?
Six months ago, I saw my local physician and heart doctor. They told me again to walk, drop weight down to healthy level, eat better and take your meds daily. A week ago I had an incident, which has caused concern for those who love me and my doctors. I was thinking a modification is in order as well as some honest evaluations. When I saw my doctor, there were questions asked of which she expected truthful answers. I might as well be truthful; she can tell by looking at me that she already knew. I wondered if the questions asked were not for only for her, but also for me to be honest with myself.
Transitional Sentence: Honesty before God enables us to apply the technique of examining ourselves with Biblical questions that tears at the spiritual heart. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who tries to conceal his sins cannot prosper but he who admits them, confesses them, and forsakes them will have mercy." Anyone who covers up his determined sins by hiding, justifying, or blaming someone or something else will not prosper. He who is willing to confess his sins to God will be shown mercy. (Matthew Henry Commentary; The Pulpit Commentary; Commentary of the Old Testament) 1 John 1:8-9, "If we claim to be without sin, we're just deceiving ourselves. The truth is not in us. However, if we confess our sins, He's faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." This passage was written by the apostle John, instructing Christians on what to do when sin overcomes them as well as sharing the benefits of confession to the Lord. It begins with true confession: "confess" (homologeō - ὁμολογεω) means to agree with another or rather to agree with God in regards to the implication of the sin committed by a child of God. This includes the hatred of that sin, the Christian's sense of guilt because of it and his heart's desire to purge that sin out of his life. (Wuest's Word Study in the Greek New Testament; Word Studies in the New Testament)
There is a big difference between being sorry and being repentant because of the circumstances one finds himself in because of sin and being broken by the fact your sin had hurt someone else and the Lord.
Pastor Don Baker wrote the book Beyond Forgiveness, the Healing Touch of Church Discipline, sharing the true story of Pastor Greg, who—along with other churches—had for many years tried to conceal the sin of adultery in his life. Eventually, Greg was found out, just as the Scriptures promised. (2 Samuel 11-12) Pastor Don and the church he oversaw took time to Biblically restore Pastor Greg back into the ministry. It began with true confession before God, then to those whom he was accountable to. After twenty-six months of Biblical restoration, their prayers were answered. Greg was back serving the Lord full-time. He writes, "What Pastor and the staff and the board did took guts. I do not know of any church that has done that. Thank you pastor for the courage... I will tell you, it is really rich when you are obedient. I want to say, to any of you who are messing around with sin, let it go, give it up, ask God for forgiveness... And above all, I would thank God for His restorative power to make a new man of me and for allowing me the privilege of being a minister [again]. What a great God we have." (Beyond Forgiveness, Pastor Don Baker - Page 98 - Restored)
Pastor Don and the church he oversaw with the Lord remained in Christ and in His Word; they saw prayers answered in an area most churches will never get to see. Most churches have and will continue to fail the area of Biblical restoration. It begins with an honest prayerful evaluation to God's Word.
Transitional Sentence: Another technique to a healthy satisfied prayer life is purposely listening to God's teaching. The Bible says, "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him." (1 John 3:21-22)
Confidence before the Lord (παρρησιαν προς τον θεον) comes from an obedient heart to the whole council of God's Word. Through the hard work of study and surrender walk with the Lords gives motivation to pray our callings to completion. (The New American Commentary; Commentary Critical and Explanatory; Word Pictures in the New Testament) Hearts do not condemn us (παρρησιαν προς τον θεον) is a present active subjective, coming not from a claim to be sinless, but of a consciousness of fellowship in God's presence. (Word Pictures in the New Testament; Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament)
If you are a new employee, learning a job can takes years, or even as a new business owner. If you doing your best to obey your overseer or learning the trade of your business, then you can approach God in prayer asking for His protection, guidance, and wisdom. However, if you spend your time on the cellphone, calling, texting friends and family, or on the internet expending energy on useless entertainment when should be learning the trade and making business connections, then you will not have the confidence to approach God in prayer. It has been well said, "God does not demand perfection. He simply demands [a heart] of obedience to His Word." (Rick Warren, Five conditions of Answered Prayer)
Transitional Sentence: Listening for God births forth the technique of seeking God's will in prayer. "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) Modern-day Christianity has caused many to miss the mark in prayer. They like the writings of those who say, "Love God and do what you please." (St. Augustine, Rick Warren, Five conditions of Answered Prayer) Christians who have confidence to approach God ask the important questions: Am I in God's will in regard to being the person He wants me to be? Am I in God's will in the circumstances I am in? Am I in God's will in the directions I am heading in this life and the life to come?
Christians who have a satisfied prayer life have the heart of the Psalmist who wrote, "The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for Your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as You always do to those who love Your name. Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me. Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey Your precepts. Make Your face shine upon Your servant and teach me Your decrees." (Psalm 119:130-135)
Christians who find God's will for them in prayer ask these heart-felt questions: “Who's will am I really seeking?” “Lord, just what are Your instructions for me?” “What is my responsibilities in this task?” “How do you want me to respond in this circumstance or situation?” Prayer undergirded with these heart searching questions enables the child of God to enjoy a satisfied prayer life.
One man who was able to trust God's will in prayer was Adoniram Judson. "When he was about to go to be with the Lord, news came to him that some Jews in Turkey had came to Christ after reading the account of his sufferings in Burma. Judson told his wife who was at his bedside, 'This is good news. when I was a young man, I prayed to the Lord, asking Him to send me to the Jews in Jerusalem to be a missionary. But he closed the doors for me and opened doors to Burma, were I suffered torture and imprisonment. Now, because of what I went through, God has brought some Jews in Turkey to Christ.... He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will!" (Knights Treasury of 2,0000 Illustrations, Walter B. Knight) The aches of preaching the Gospel held up in prayer brought satisfaction to Missionary Judson as he sought God's will.
Transitional Sentence: Surrendering to God's will leads to another technique, a forgiving attitude toward others. Mark 11:24-25, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:24-25) A forgiving spirit like that of Christ is a key technique to a satisfied prayer life. Some people do not see prayers answered because of an unforgiving heart toward someone or because of bitterness to some situations they find themselves in. The Bible gives clear instructions, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:15)
Nothing tears at the heart of a father, mother, family member or friend than someone who will not forgive. People have left the local church, have gave up on their callings and failed to enjoy prayer because of bitterness. Christ forgave and prayed for those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34) Steven prayed for those who stoned him to death. (Acts 7:60)
Just as muscles are built strong by small tears from working out, staying connected with the Lord and being strong in prayer can come from controversy that can lead to bitterness. Gray D. Preston writes:
"A final step that helped me to forgive was to gather my thoughts and feelings and take them to the Lord. Sometimes I would write them on paper and read them to God in prayer. Other times I recited them to God directly from my thoughts. Reciting negative thoughts and feelings to the Lord allowed me to ask God to forgive me for my sin. I was then able, with His help, to move forward to offer forgiveness to others.
There’s a story about a traveler making his way with a guide through the jungles of Burma. They came to a wide but shallow river and waded through it to the other side. When the traveler came out of the river, numerous leeches had attached to his torso and legs. His first instinct was to grab them and pull them off.
The guide stopped him, warning that pulling the leeches off would only leave tiny pieces of them under the skin. Eventually, infection would set in.
The best way to rid the body of the leeches, the guide advised, was to bathe in a warm bath for several minutes. This would soak the leeches, and soon they would release their hold on the man’s body.
When I’ve been significantly injured by another person, I cannot simply yank the injury from my soul and expect that all bitterness, malice, and emotion will be gone. Resentment still hides under the surface. The only way to become truly free of the offense and to forgive others is to bathe in the soothing bath of God’s forgiveness of me. When I finally fathom the extent of God’s love in Jesus Christ, forgiveness of others is a natural outflow." (Character Forged from Conflict, Staying Connected with God During Controversy) Applying the technique of Christ's forgiveness is the key to maintaining a healthy prayer life.
Transitional Sentence: A forgiving heart enables us to apply the technique of praying for wisdom. James 1:5-7 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like the wave on the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord" The people whom James was writing to had problems with their praying. (James 4:1-3; 5:13-18; The Bible Exposition Commentary) If anyone lacks wisdom, they are to “keep on [asking] throughout their entire lifetime.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament) This wisdom is "the supreme and divine quality of the soul whereby man knows and practices righteous living. It is that endowment of heart and mind which desires the right conduct of life. It is knowledge turned into action in the decisions and personal relationships of everyday life. This wisdom from God uses experiences of life to develop Christ-like character " (Daily Study Bible Series)
This wisdom enables Christians to mature and become complete, counteracting evil in the human life. Prayer for God's wisdom is not useless, because God gives it generously with out a critical spirit. God simply gives wisdom to all who ask time after time. (The Bible Exposition Commentary; Daily Study Bible Series; The New Bible Commentary) When a Christian asks God for wisdom there are two things: he must remember God gives freely, without finding fault, and they must ask without having any doubts about God's love for them. They must be sure of His power and His desire to give wisdom. Christians must have God's wisdom as they live out this life so they do not waste opportunity to mature. His wisdom helps us understand how to use present circumstances for our good and for the glory of God.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary)
"A gifted secretary was going through a great trial. her husband had a stroke, he went blind, then had to be taken to the hospital were it was certain he would die. Her pastor saw her at church and assured her that he was praying for her. She asked, 'What are your praying for?' The pastor was startled, He told her that he was praying for strength. She said, 'I appreciate that, but also ask for wisdom not to waste all this." (The Bible Exposition Commentary). Praying for God's wisdom insures you not to waste any situation or circumstance that can mature you in Christ-like character.
Transitional Sentence: Praying for God's wisdom moves you use to the technique of praying in Jesus' Name. John 14:13-14 says, "And I will do whatever you ask in My name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name and I will do it." With that kind of promise from Jesus, it is imperative that we understand what it means to pray in Jesus' Name.
"Appropriate praying/asking here, therefore, must follow the same model Jesus exemplified. Mere reciting of the name of Jesus must not be understood as a mantra of magical power that provides the petitioner with his selfish heart’s desire." (The New American Commentary) "Jesus is not giving us a 'magic formula' that we automatically attach to our prayers." (The Bible Exposition Commentary) "To ask in Jesus name is not simply to insert His Name at the end of the prayer." (Believer's Bible Commentary) To pray in Jesus' Name is to ask in accordance with Jesus' mind and will. It is to ask for whatever pleases God, glorifies Christ and is Holy Spirit led. (Believer's Bible Commentary; The New American Commentary; The Bible Exposition Commentary)
"When we pray 'in Jesus’ name,” we pray both in the authority of His name and in the character it represents. I am Your servant: (The Nelson Study Bible) "When we pray to Jesus Himself, it must be in His Name. The name represents the person; to ask in the Name is to ask in full union of interest and life and love with Himself, as one who lives in and for Him. There is assurance that what I ask in that Name cannot be refused. The name and the power of asking go together: when the Name of Jesus has become the power that rules my life, its power in prayer with God will be seen too." (Heritage of great Evangelical Teaching)
"I heard a story that illustrates it. A pastor took his young son and his son's friends to the carnival for a birthday party. He bought a roll of tickets and he'd stood at the front of every ride and as the kids came by -- his son and the fourteen friends -- he gave everybody a ticket. He was just handing them out. All of a sudden he looked and realized there was a little boy with his hand out asking for a ticket that he'd never seen in his life. He stopped and said, 'Son, are you with my son's party?' 'No,' replied the little boy. 'Why should I give you a ticket?' The young boy turned around and pointed to the man's son and said, 'Your son said you'd give me one.' So he gave him one." (Rick Warren, Five conditions of Answered Prayer) When we pray and ask God for requests, we don't ask on our own merit, but we come on the merit of Christ.
In Closing: When we beef up our prayer life, using the Biblical techniques mentioned in this message can tear at the spiritual heart. True application of them can make us a little sore, like working out to get in shape. However, it does the spiritual heart good. Applying them will make us stronger in prayer thus empowering the church to be more effective in her calling. George Müller was a man who applied these techniques into his prayer life. He wrote, "I spend hours in prayer every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray when I walk, I make it a point to pray when I lie down. I pray when I am awake, thus seeing answers to thousands of prayers. When I am persuaded that a thing is right, I pray until I get a clear answer. I never give up.' When we grasp a Biblical vision on something or someone we can pray continually, until we get a clear answer. Let us pray!