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God Promised. Do I still pray about it?

God Promised. Do I still pray about it?

The Holy Spirit woke me last Friday with Acts 9, the story of Saul’s conversion.  As He opened the scriptures, I was struck by new things in this familiar story.  Among them a principle the Lord has been driving home to me lately—that God-given promises and visions require prayer.   Even when we respond in faith, confessing, believing, expecting God to act – prayer is still vital.

As we pray in concert today, I feel led to share these encouraging insights about prayer from Acts chapter nine.  The story of Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) actually reveals a lot about the mind of God concerning prayer.

1.    It shows how God views prayer

As Saul neared Damascus, Jesus’ appearance knocked him to the ground.  Saul heard a voice saying,

4“…Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5”Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, he replied. 6”Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul led him by the hand into Damascus where for three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything.  In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias.  The Lord told him,

11Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.

Verse 11 is very enlightening in the King James version:

“Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth” (emphasis added).

God seems to be speaking of prayer in terms of wonder: “Behold, he prayeth.” In The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick writes,

The language there is that of humanity, but it is the only speech man knows, and however inadequate it may be it stands for corresponding reality in God.  Can God wonder?  Can there be in Him elements of surprise and amazement?  Can it be that there are things that to God are wonderful?  That is how God speaks, and to Him there is nothing more gloriously wonderful than prayer.  It would seem as if the biggest thing in God’s universe is a man who prays.  There is only one thing more amazing, and that is—that man, knowing this, should not pray.  Behold! In that word there is wonder, rapture, exultation.  In the estimate of God prayer is more wonderful than all the wonders of the heavens, more glorious than all the mysteries of the earth, more mighty than all the forces of creation.[1]

God sees payer as a sign of all that happened to Saul on his way to Damascus. To say that this experience meant a lot to the churches of Judea is an understatement – it turned their arch persecutor into an evangelist, a preacher.  Paul writes to the Galatians,

21Later I went to the churches of Syria and Cilicia.  22I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.  23They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ 24And they praised God because of me.

Paul’s conversion came about as the result of an experience?  What was the experience? Paul says that in the experience, “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me” (Galatians 1:16).  This is how he sums up the Damascus experience and relates what it meant to him.  God sums it all up in the words, “Behold, he prayeth.”

 

This is what it meant to God, and what conversion always means to Him. Prayer is the proof of the grace we have received from Him – proof that we have received the Spirit Who cries out, “Abba Father”.

The result of conversion, in which we receive adoption as sons, is that being sons, we begin to pray.  And as a child of God, living dependent upon His Spirit, prayer is the mark—the gauge— of the degree to which we are living as a child of God by His life and power. Andrew Murray writes,

Our limited prayers, with the excuses we make for them, are a greater sin than we know.  It shows that we have little taste or relish for fellowship with God; that our faith rests more on our own work and efforts than on the power of God.  It demonstrates that we have little sense of the heavenly blessings God waits to shower down on us, that we are not ready to sacrifice the ease and confidence of the flesh for perseveringly waiting on God.  And finally, it proves that the spirituality of our life—our abiding in Christ—is altogether too weak to make us prevail in prayer.[2]

2.   It shows the way in which God answers prayer

God answers joyously.  His words ring with excitement and joy as He speaks to Ananias.  Similar to the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son.  “Rejoice with Me!”  “Behold, he prayeth!”

God the Father rejoices when His lost children begin to pray.

3.  It shows the degree to which God esteems prayer

God did not tell Ananias,

  • “Behold, Paul has seen me face to face.”
  • “Behold, Paul preaches.”
  • “Behold, Paul is a changed man”
  • “Behold, Paul is a learned man with the best education his religion has to offer.”
  • “Behold, Paul will be an excellent asset to the Kingdom of God.”

God said, “Behold, he prays!”

“Behold” means “to observe, regard, see, look at.[3] Synonyms include:  “gaze upon, view, watch, witness, note, observe.[4]

If God told someone to come observe your prayer life, would it be a beautiful thing to behold?  Could someone gaze upon it, or would it flash by so quickly they couldn’t dare blink or they might miss it?  Could God tell someone to take note of your prayer life?  Or is it virtually non-existent?

“Behold” also means to “mark”.  Is prayer what marks your life with Christ?

Prayerfulness or prayerlessness is the defining mark of our life.  Not how much we attend church, not how many Christian activities we are involved in, not how much we serve, not how much we give, not the number of good deeds we perform, not how eloquently we preach or teach.   Without prayer, these are all mere works of the flesh.

When the pressure of work for Christ is allowed to be the excuse for our not finding time to seek and secure His own presence and power in it as our chief need, our sense of absolute dependence on God is not right.  It shows we have no deep understanding of the divine and supernatural work of God in which we are only His instruments, no true entrance into the heavenly, altogether otherworldly character of our mission, and no full surrender to and delight in Christ Jesus Himself.[5]

4.  It shows the importance of prayer even when we have a vision, a personal promise, from God

God told Ananias, “11Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight. (Acts 9)

Paul had seen Ananias coming—God showed him this in advance. It was God’s desire for Paul and its fulfillment was underway as God was literally sending Ananias on his way to Paul.  YET, this did not preclude Paul from praying. Just because God showed Paul that Ananias would come and place his hand on him and restore his sight, Paul did not think there was no need of prayer concerning this matter.

This principle is echoed throughout scripture:

Daniel

Daniel “understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years” (Daniel  9:1-2).  Daniel had God’s promise, His guarantee, that their captivity would end after 70 years. Did Daniel decide there was no need to pray? The very next sentence says,So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (v. 3).

Elijah

Elijah prayed for God’s promised rain. Elijah bowed down to the earth, put his face between his knees and told his servant, “Go and look toward the sea.” The servant came back with the news, “There is nothing there.”  Elijah sent him back to look seven times…all the while praying with perseverance and persistence. (I Kings 18:43)

Elijah had just told Ahab that there would be rain.  “And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain” (v. 41) Elijah knew it was coming, and yet he prayed until the servant went seven times and the promise was fulfilled.

Elijah made a declaration based upon God’s promise. He told Ahab what God was going to do.  This is a vital element to faith.   We studied this at Passionate Pursuit last Spring.  There are four stages to Biblical faith:

  1. Persuasion by Revelation
  2. Embracing by Action
  3. Confession by Declaration
  4. Conflict or Fight of Faith

Elijah had received the revelation—He knew what God’s will was concerning the rain. (God told Elijah, “I will send rain on the land.” I Kings 18:1).  Elijah embraced it by action—by going to the top of the mountain where he could see God’s inevitable answer, the storm clouds gathering.  He spoke as God does regarding the rain—God “speaks of the nonexistent things that He has foretold and promised as if they already existed” (Romans 4:17).  When the rain was nonexistent, Elijah spoke to Ahab as if it already existed.   Yet, this did not preclude prayer. The presence of Elijah’s faith did not eliminate the presence of prayer on the matter.   Prayer did not denote unbelief.

About Elijah and his prayers, we are taught, “pray for each other…Elijah was a man just like us…He prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16-17).

 

I don’t know what promises God has given you—perhaps they are for your children, for your business, your ministry, your church.  Perhaps He has asked you to believe Him for certain results, for a certain future ahead.  Perhaps you have boldly confessed what God said He would do.  Beloved, do not feel as if prayer is out of line. It is necessary for God to fulfill the promise.

This is encouraging for me personally.  God has given me many promises over the years–for Shades of Grace, for my health and ministry.  Even for you, as someone whom the ministry reaches.  I have walked by faith on many of these promises for nearly 20 years, and seen many fulfilled.  For others, I am still experiencing contradictory circumstances, but I know the answer isn’t far away.  And some, well…their very nature makes them what I call “lifetime” words–the kind that take a lifetime to fulfill.  Should I not pray about them in the meantime?  Although these are truths we well know, it is always encouraging to be reminded of them.   I want to be someone about whom God can say, “Behold, she prays.”  This message has not come to me without conviction and repentance.  There are days my prayer life is not what God wants it to be.

God has given many people a promise for their life, and yet God cannot testify to the impending answer, “Behold, he prays!  Behold, she prays!”  As God is right now in the act of sending your answer, does He see you praying? Is he rejoicing over the fact you are praying?  For Paul, the answer came, the vision was fulfilled, because he was praying.  The fulfillment found Paul in the act of prayer.  Can God tell your promised end, “Go to _____, for behold, he is praying”?

Prayer prepared Saul for the answer.  Ananias found Saul praying and waiting.  It is not so much how prayer moves God or the coming of our answer, but how it moves us–into abiding in Christ, His life, His power and His truth.

I have no idea why the Lord had me share this with you today, but I know without a doubt it is meant for someone.  I am praying for you, that the Holy Spirit will fill you with His prayers as you wait upon God.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7).

Prayer Bullets

 

  • Passionate Pursuit meets this evening at 6:30 CST.  I appreciate your prayers for this night—that the Holy Spirit will descend in power and move upon everyone present.
  • May prayer be the defining mark of believers in this nation–in each state, each church, each community, each family.  Pray for the believers in your state, your region, your church and family.  May we become people of prayer.

 


[1] Samuel Chadwick, The Path of Prayer (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2000,), 15

[2] Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1998),  500

[3] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/behold

[4] http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/behold

[5] Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray on Prayer (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1998),  500

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2 Responses to “God Promised. Do I still pray about it?”

  1. Carol says:

    Amen. Good teaching. Prayer is the key to every need we have. Without prayer and the word, we are with out power. But with these weapons, we can have victory.

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