Prayer Part 1 – God Calls Us Into His Presence

Prayer Part 1 – God Calls Us Into His Presence

DRAWN TO AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP

What if we all got serious about prayer and devotions? What are devotions? From the word devote – you’re devoting time to God. Spending time reading and studying His Word and praying to Him, in other words talking to Him, and not just to ask for stuff, but you’re having a two-way conversation. So that means times when you just listen.

So what if we got serious about solid prayer and devotion practices in our everyday lives? What would change? Just ponder on that for a moment. How different would not only your life be, but how different would the lives of others around you be? Maybe you’d know the Bible better, have some scriptures memorized to refer back on when needed. But even more so, maybe you would have an intimate relationship with God. That’s actually pretty special, rare in our world, and pretty beautiful.

And whether, we want to be honest about how well or not so well we are doing with our prayer lives, at some point along life’s journey, most of us fall to our knees, bow our heads, fix our attention on God and just flat-out pray. We may look both ways to be sure no one is watching; our knees may be out of shape, but we still pray.

It’s as if something within us is hard-wired with the knowledge to know that prayer gives us an intimate moment with the One who alone can provide peace to endure and power to overcome whatever challenges we are facing.

I have a racehorse nature, and that tugs at me to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Taking time to pray means veering off the fast track – and if I’m honest, that’s not always a move I want to make in times of busyness.

Almost 17 years ago, I and a few other adults from my church took the youth group to a Christian Music Festival called ALIVE in Ohio. We had all girls with us. And let me just tell you we had a ball! We were camping in tents, and it rained 4 out of 5 days, the last day was the only sunny day. During the event, they had speakers and bands…and mud. Anyone remember Kirk Cameron? I had posters of him on my walls as a teen and was excited to find out that he was going to be speaking at the event every day – all five days.

During this awesome event of $70,000+ people, (have you ever seen that many Christians at once worship? It’s is so beautiful) there was a huge movement that happened in me.

Every day, Kirk’s message was a continuation of the last one, and it spoke right to my soul. Every day, God was grabbing my attention, with someone I would pay attention to, and reworked everything about me in that short period of time. This is what camping in the rain, sleeping in wet tents, slopping around in mud all day, knowing you might as well just give up, you ain’t staying dry and clean, so just go with it, you just let happen what happens, can do to you. When I left go, my mind, my heart, everything about me became totally transformed. My thoughts were so heavily on God – I literally wanted nothing else.

The last night of the festival, Kirk encouraged that if God was tugging on your heart, go to the prayer tent and pray with a volunteer. Well God was doing more than just tugging, so I went, and it was there that I gave God 100% of me.

When I went home, I had this fire burning in me like I had never experienced. In fact, others would describe it like a fire burning in my gut. I wanted to be baptized. I got involved in leading worship. I would sit for hours at a time, listening to the music CD’s I purchased at the festival and read the lyrics and cried and prayed and cried and prayed.

This fire was so strong that I started getting up at 5:30am to have a half hour of scripture reading and prayer time with God before I went to work. I was late many days because I just couldn’t get enough. If you know me, I love mornings, but I love my sleep even more. Ask my mother about how hard it was to get me out of bed in the morning before school. But none of that mattered any more. I wanted God even more! For the FIRST TIME in my life, God was my biggest priority.

Going forward, my life went through changes and my prayer and devotion life went through changes as well. It had ups and downs. And through all the ups and downs of my prayer and devotion life, I always remember those first days. In fact, I still compare my prayer and devotion life with those first days. And those first days, weren’t just a few days or weeks, they were a whole year long. It was one whole year before I started to cool off even a little bit.

And I can tell you that the first thing I realized, was that the most fulfilling result of a life of prayer and devotions, was not the satisfaction of checking it off my to-do-list like it was a chore – because perfect attendance in your prayer closet or reading every little word in the bible doesn’t equal deep fulfillment.

And the most fulfilling result was also not receiving miraculous answers to my prayers, although those are wonderful when they occur…..what I discovered is that the greatest thrill to a life of prayer and devotion is the difference it makes in my intimate relationship with God.
It’s the way you start to see God show up in everyday things, the way you start to look for Him. It’s the way your attitude starts to change about everything. It’s the way you get to know God as the god He is, the way you start to see how He really sees you. But it’s more that even that…it’s spending quality time with your Father, your Protector, your Guide, your Lord. It’s simply enjoying our time together.

Before I discovered this intimate prayer and devotion life, God and I were only casually acquainted. I grew up in the church, I knew who He was and that He loved me. But we just didn’t get together all that often. But once I discovered this new profound intimacy, our conversations changed from ‘oh you’re still here’ to literally soul-searching conversations for a chunk of time every morning and recapping it all at the end of the day.

And because I’ve hopped around on my prayer path over the years, sticking with it strongly and other times getting distant, I get how life can distract us from prayer and devotions. All year round can be a busy time. There no just one busy season anymore.

Like right now, it’s getting warmer and nicer outside. It’s not raining every day, so we can be out doing more. Spring sports are in full bloom. Gardens are being planted, our yards are growing and need maintaining, turkey season is in full swing, summer’s only right around the corner where we’ll have vacations, picnics and all sorts of fun stuff going on.

But because of all this business that we allow in our life, and because I know I’m not the only one who has ups and downs in my prayer and devotion life, I want to encourage you to start now, and slow-down with me. I’m asking you to practice solid prayer habits. Not just to say you did it, but because I know what it can do for all of you. I’m inviting you to find the most fulfilling and rewarding part of prayer and devotions – the intimacy with God. In fact, God is inviting you! Listen to how Jesus invites us in Matthew.

Matthew 7:7
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.”

If we’re struggling with making time to pray and read God’s Word and think, “Well I have too many responsibilities to fulfill, there’s no way I have the time to do this properly,” then we are not being honest with ourselves. We really don’t make time because God is not our priority.

And two excuses we use for a failed prayer and devotion life is believing 1) that God is unwilling to hear our wants and concerns; that He really just doesn’t care about all those details. And 2) is believing that God is not really able to fix our problems. None of us want to openly admit that, but why else are we not trusting the very One who created us and has the power to literally do anything…like raise people from the dead. We think then, we need to be in control.

GOD IS WILLING

So I want to squash those lies in our heads today. God is interested in your prayers because He is interested in you! What matters to you is a priority for His attention. Nothing in this universe matters as much to Him as what is going on in your life this very day.

He’s your Father, and He wants to hear what you have to say. Do you know that Jesus is the one who started to refer to God as Father? He is the one who taught us to call God, Father. The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, start how? Our Father! Jesus did this so we could better understand how God thinks about us and His generosity for us. In Matthew 7, Jesus continues and explains this relationship.

Matthew 7:9-11
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?”

He’s trying to convince us that the invite to prayer – to an intimate relationship with God – is real. The Bible teaches that we serve a God who is actually looking for opportunities to pour out His blessing on us. It’s as if He’s saying, “What good are my resources if I don’t have anyone to share them with? Just give me a reasonable amount of cooperation, and I will pour out my blessing on you.”

Our God is righteous and just, holy and tender, responsive and compassionate. He is willing – even anxious – to hear from you. Even more, He is willing to act on your behalf. Check out this Old Testament scripture that says so.

Deuteronomy 28:2-7; 12
2 You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: 3 Your towns and your fields will be blessed. 4 Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. 5 Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. 6 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed. 7 “The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you….12 The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.

David challenges us to:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

Give it a try! Test Him.

In the New Testament, the theme continues. There we learn that we have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters and have become heirs of His glorious kingdom.

Ephesians 1:5
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Out of all the things God could want, He wants you!

Galatians 4:7
“Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” You’re going to get all that He has – His heart, His soul, you’ll be a part of His kingdom.

Romans 8:16-17
“For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”

What a fantastic promise! So God will cover us with blessings because He adopted us as His sons and daughters. As God’s children and legal heirs, should we ever fear to tell our Father our needs?

But here’s the other problem. Even if we believe that God loves us and wants to help us, the question still remains: Is He really able to do so?

GOD IS ABLE

If you could ask God for one miracle in your life, knowing with 100% certainly that He would grant your request, what would you ask for? Would you ask for your marriage to be put back together? Or for a situation in your job to change? Would you plead for a straying son or daughter? Or for a loved one to surrender to Christ? Would you pray for regained health – in your body, your finances, your prayer and devotion life?

When I asked that question…I guarantee each and every one of you came up with something. Whatever your request might be, do you regularly and diligently, every day, bring it to God in prayer, trusting that He will intervene in your situation?

I think most of us could admit that we don’t pray often about our deepest needs. Whether it’s because we are too busy or we grow faint and get tired of asking. So we fall back and try to face our difficulties in our own power. At some basic level and perhaps subconsciously, we doubt whether God really can make a difference in the problems we face.

But the truth is that God is capable of handling any problem we could possibly bring to Him. Creating planets didn’t seem to be much of a problem for Him. Neither was raising the dead. Nothing is too difficult for God to handle, but we won’t see much proof of this until we actually start asking Him to handle our concerns.

Just a few examples, out of many, that prove God does have the power and is able:

In Exodus 14 and Joshua 3, when God decided certain seas or rivers needed parting, He parted them.

Mark 4 says that when a storm endangered the lives of His disciples, He stilled it.

And one of the best ones, Joshua 10 assures us that when Israel’s troops needed more time to succeed in the battle, God extended the hours of daylight on the earth so that they could do so.

How about when the Holy Spirit came to the believers at Pentecost, each went out, all suddenly being able to talk in different languages, they preached that Christ had come back from the dead and was the Savior of the world. As a result, thousands of people were converted to the new Christian movement.

Or what about God’s power to turn the obsessive, persecutor Saul into an Apostle for Jesus Christ, who is now known as Paul. And take a look at Peter, from a timid fisherman to the Rock, solid in his faith. These things actually happened in actual time to actual people.

But while it’s one thing to know God’s power throughout history, it’s another to own that truth today – in our lives, in our town, in our church, in our problems and concerns. To believe this, we must believe that God does not change, that He is the same God today that He was back then. AND I promise you, God is not growing old and His power is not weakening. He is the same God!

Isaiah 40:28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary.

Whatever it takes for you to own God’s truth, do it. Because once you own it, you turn from being a faint-hearted pray-er to an outright prayer warrior.

The reality is that God is good. It’s in His nature to be good; it’s who He is. A giving God, a blessing God, an encouraging, nurturing, empowering, and an inviting God. This is the God who willingly waits for your call. God, through Jesus Christ, has issued you a personal invitation to call on Him anytime. And if you have not yet surrendered your life to Christ, Jesus’ invitation from Matthew is this:

Matthew 11:28-29
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Once you choose to follow Christ, you may pray about anything:

Philippians 4:6-7
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And you don’t have to be timid in making those requests.

Hebrews 4:16
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

When you accept God’s invitation, miracles begin to happen. Once you are convinced in the core of your being that God is willing, He is able, and that He invites you to come before His throne, and you do some serious business in prayer and devotions, you will be amazed at the changes that will occur in your life, in your marriage, your family, your career, your health, your ministry, how you point people towards God.

Are you ready? Are you willing to take this journey with me? Will you slow down?