Motivations for Dependent Prayer (Mark 11:20-26)

Monday, May 26th, 2014
Sermon Series: Mark

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Motivations for Dependent Prayer

The Lord instructs His men in their need for prayer once He is physically gone

The gospel of Mark 11:20 to 26

 

I loved Katie and Trevor’s wedding this week. I love weddings, and love officiating them, especially for the family. Trevor knew Katie was a spiritual woman, because Katie was always talking about prayer—prayer, prayer, prayer. Even when Trevor asked Katie out for the first time, Katie said, “You don’t have a prayer.” Not true, but funny.

Prayer is what Christians do. You know about the two Christian hunters who were out tracking a bear? They finally found their prey, but this grizzly was far more than what they bargained for. Both hunters unloaded their complete supply of ammunition, but it only served to anger this monster bear. With all of their cartridges spent, they began running from the pursuing bear. The mammoth beast was rapidly closing in on the poorly conditioned men. (They were deacons.) Thinking it prudent to climb a tree for safety, the two men scampered up a tall pine.

The bear quickly found them, and it became very evident the tree-climbing idea wasn’t a good idea. One of the desperate hunters began to pray loudly, “Oh Lord, please let this be a Christian bear!” They then noticed the bear kneel down at the base of the tree and say, “Lord, we give thanks for the food we’re about to receive.” That’s unbearable!

Prayer is difficult to teach on, since most of us battle with doing it, though we know we should. We drift in and out of seasons of prayer. We get intimidated by anyone who prays more than we do. We feel guilty about our lack of prayer, and we secretly feel like failures. This AM, the Lord wants to encourage you, motivate you, and change your heart so that you will want to pray more in Mark 11. I am so excited for you to hear God’s Word today–you’ll love this passage!

Prayer is not a mindless activity like whistling, nor folding your hands with your eyes closed, nor a chore demanding time, nor is it like a life-preserver at a pool, to be used for emergencies only. Prayer is a conversation, a relationship, a sign of faith, an act of humble dependence–empowerment for battle, and a process of joy. Do you have any memorial prayers?

As a brand new believer, I prayed for tacos for dinner–I was 18. I then visited a friend’s house I had never been to, and had tacos, even though they’d never made tacos for dinner before. Or the fact Jean and I prayed about buying a cuckoo clock on our honeymoon as a memento, with a sixty dollar spending limit–but we could not find the one we wanted even close to that price. Only God knew we’d be in Vienna, Austria on our one-year anniversary, at the one hotel having a unique sale, with our exact cuckoo clock, and guess for how much?  Exactly sixty bucks.

The Lord has a way of showing you His love and care. Today in the gospel of Mark, the Lord is going to tell His men they need to learn to pray since He is leaving physically, but will still be with them spiritually through prayer. Life is going to change quickly, but the same power and resources they enjoyed while Christ was living with them will still be theirs–but now it will occur through prayer after He ascends into heaven.

In the strangest place in Mark, Jesus will now talk about prayer–38% of Mark’s entire gospel is devoted to His last week on earth, and 20% of Mark’s gospel is devoted to the day of Christ’s death. As we arrive in Chapter 11, the Lord’s Passion Week begins. In preparation for the final confrontations and closing events, there are four major events.

First  The cosmetic coronation as the Lord enters Jerusalem

In verses 1 to 11, the crowd is emotionally charged in anticipation of Jesus the Messiah overthrowing the Romans. There are shouts of Hosanna–Matthew tells us the entire city is stirred, asking who this is. Luke reports that the city was so electrified the stones were ready to cry out. But nothing happens. It is not time for Christ to conquer, but to be crucified. And the same crowds that thunder praise on Monday will shout crucify Him on Friday. It is not surprising that as Jesus approaches the city proper, Luke tells us, “Jesus wept.” They missed the cross–the king must suffer first then later be crowned.

Second and Third  Second judgments on false religion

In verses 12 to 21 on Tuesday, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree that represented the fruitless faith of the Jews. The fact that this fig tree had leaves but no fruit exactly portrayed what Jesus had seen in Jerusalem the previous day, when he looked around the temple after His big entry. Then Jesus moved from analogy to action, as He attacked the heart of the Jewish faith, cleansed the temple. Christ denounced their worship, and expressed divine judgment by overturning tables, chasing out the greedy sacrifice sellers, and stopping the merchants from using the temple as a shortcut.

Rather than the Messiah attacking Rome as many thought, the Lord attacked His own people and their worship. The great temple was the fruitless fig tree. It showed signs of life externally, but internally produced no fruit. The temple was where God was worshipped–the place where atonement was made, sin was appeased, wrath subdued and God’s mercy found. But it had been desecrated for profit. It had become a flea market.

Fourth  The call to dependent prayer

It’s Wednesday morning, and look what happens in verses 20 to 25. “As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”  22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.  24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”

Stop there, since this is where the original text ends. Verse 26 was added later by some scribe, who borrowed it from Matthew 6:15, but it doesn’t appear in the earlier manuscripts of Mark. Verse 26, [“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] There is nothing new in these verses that the Lord has not taught His men during this three-plus years of public ministry.

So why a lesson on prayer here? Great question! Simply because Jesus is leaving, physically. For over three years, the Lord has been there to give them all they’d need. It was sad and funny at the same time, right? Every time there was a critical prayer meeting for the Lord’s men, they just fell asleep–it wasn’t a pressing need. Why? They had all they needed with the physical presence of Chris–everything came directly from His hand. When they needed protection, He provided that. When they needed direction, He provided that. When they needed food, He gave that. When they needed wisdom, He provided that.

Their prayer life was diminished because Jesus was there with them to provide everything they needed. But life is about to radically change. They’re going to transition from having the Son of God right there with them, within arm’s reach, to not having Him there at all–a massive shift for us. All we’ve ever known is prayer–we’ve never had Jesus around physically, so whatever we need, it’s been through prayer.

When we heard the Gospel, we prayed to be saved. When we struggle with temptation, we pray to be delivered. When we need something, we ask for God’s provision. When we want wisdom, we ask it of God. All we’ve ever known is prayer–prayer is our lifeline, prayer is our air in this foreign underwater world called Earth, until that day when we surface again in Heaven.

But it’s not so with the Lord’s men–they’ve been dependent on Christ they can see. But now they must become dependent on the same Christ, but not see Him physically. So they need to know that the same power and the same resources are available and accessible to them that were available when the Lord was physically present. A big change is afoot. So these verses are here to prove to us that all of Heaven’s resources are at the disposal of the believer who prays. How great is our God to make this kind of promise? How gracious is Christ to make this amazing provision for us?

It is Wednesday morning, and now they notice the fig tree has completely withered from the roots up. The curse was fulfilled. The pronouncement of doom on Tuesday was realized as a reality on Wednesday. It was fully withered–it was. The judgment of God was expressed upon false religion. This astonished Peter. The tree was completely drained of life and vitality–from full leaf to a shrunken, dead, dried out ghost.

In His only negative miracle, Jesus destroyed that tree. Peter says in verse 21, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” The parallel account in Matthew 21:20 tells us Peter added, “Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?’” He’s not asking, “How did it happen?”, but “How does this kind of power work, Lord?”

He is startled, he’s seen thousands of positive miracles, but this is the first miracle Peter’s seen like this. They are all startled the tree is dead–how does this happen? God in a body displaying divine power, but this time not for blessing, but for judgment. So Peter says, “How does this happen?” And Jesus answers Peter in verse 22, “Have faith in God,” meaning, such power displays, whether positive or negative, come from God. They come exclusively from God.

So now the Lord tells His men who they can draw upon for power, to receive God’s strength. They need to know this, because Jesus is leaving soon, and they’ll need to know how to pray to Him when He is not around. So Jesus gives them, directly and indirectly, five qualities of effective prayer–five necessities, five heart attitudes for prayer after He is physically gone. What are they? I want you to know them, because they’ll motivate you to pray, and encourage you in your walk, or make you want to know Christ better. So get these down–write them in your Bible.

#1  REMEMBERING what God has already done  Verses 20 to 21

Verses 20 to 21, “As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’” See that word, “reminded”? Peter is looking back at what happened, and is now realizing just how awesome this event is. Peter is remembering what Christ did, and marveling at the awesome display of power.

This happened folks! Jesus spoke a word and killed a tree–that is awesome! I wish I could speak a word and kill weeds. But knowing me, I might speak a word against a phone salesman and the line would definitely go dead. Peter recalls and remembers that awesome display of power. And effective prayer begins like that–it remembers what God has done in the past.

Some of your struggle in trial right now is because you are not remembering what God has done. Why would you want to call on the Lord now, if He’d not proven Himself in the past? The book of Deuteronomy calls God’s children to remember what God has done. As the new generation is about to go to war and fight against intimidating nations, God said . . .

7:18  remember what the Lord did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt

8:2  remember how God led you in the wilderness

8:18  remember it is the Lord who’s given you the power to make wealth

9:7  remember how you provoked the Lord in the wilderness

9:27  remember the example of servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

15:15  remember you were a slave, but I redeemed you

Remember how I have worked, what I have done, what prayers I’ve answered so you’ll trust Me–do not forget! Can you remember a time when God answered your prayer so specifically, in such detail you knew God was alive and listening? Jean and I have many memorial prayers. One of the earlier ones was the time we needed a car–I had a ’72 exploding Pinto, and she had a Volkswagen Rabbit which finally died. We desperately needed a car, but were so poor we couldn’t rent, lease, let alone buy a car.

After trying every other means, in weak faith, little faith, I told Jean we have to pray that God would give us a car–so we did. Three days later, in jest, I asked Jean what kind of car she was praying for–I was praying for a Mercedes, what was she praying for? She got all serious, and said specifically, “A station wagon, but not a big one.” Then she proceeded to tell me all the reasons why that was the right car to pray for–kids and ministry.

About a week later, I get a phone call from a friend. He’d been trying to sell his car. Each time he put it on a lot to sell it, he either got a ticket, or some sign was placed nearby saying, “Don’t put your car here, Bub.” After doing this for about a month, he said, “I believe God is leading me to give the car away, and I want to give it to you.” Oh, and by the way, this is an exact quote, “It’s a station wagon, but not a big one.” I literally fell backwards in my chair.

Want to grow in your prayer life? Remember what God has done. Want to begin to see great answers to prayer? Recall what God did. The more you remember, the stronger your confidence in God. This is why elders are meant to be older–they have seen God answer prayers, work in crisis, resolve issues in the past so they don’t overreact but trust God–which is what Jesus says we’re to do.

#2  Depending on God’s CHARACTER  Verse 22

Verse 22, “And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God.’” Now the point here is not about faith, it’s about God–trusting God. Prayer is depending on God. In Matthew 21, the parallel passage adds, “Have faith in God and don’t doubt.” The nature of faith is not the issue here. The character of God is the issue. Another way to say it, “Trust God.”

If you want to have an effective prayer life, you must trust God. You must trust His power, but you must also trust His purpose, His promises, His plans and His will. In other words, you must trust He knows better than you do–you must trust what He says in His Word. In the disciples’ prayer, when the disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray,” He said in Matthew 6, “Pray this way. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” That’s how you pray–“God, whatever honors Your name, advances Your Kingdom, and accomplishes Your will–that’s what I pray.”

The other way to pray is to pray to get what you want, get what you desire–the Bible calls this “consumed by your own lusts,” to demand things from God. That is why James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures”–your own desires.

All prayer starts with God’s honor, God’s Kingdom, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” That’s what it means to trust God. First John 5:14 and 15 are similar. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according [to what?] to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

If you ask in His will, you’re going to receive what you ask. If you ask to consume it on your own desires, you’re not going to receive it. So first, remember what God has done. Then second, submit, depend, trust in God’s character—“Have faith in God.” Trust God–trust Him with your life, trust Him with your family, trust your circumstances to Him. The believer who prays remembering what God has already done, and the believer who prays trusting that the best of all things is the will of God—that believer unleashes Heaven’s power.

This is so important for these men to learn, because their lives were about to take a dramatic turn. Jesus is physically leaving. I’d never demand from God what I want, or try to corner God so He has to give me what I want, which is taught by many today. I just want what He knows is right and best. Then add to those motivators in prayer.

#3  Believing God is ABLE  Verse 23

Verse 23, “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” This seems over the top, #outrageous–but it’s true. This is exactly what God means. Jesus is speaking this personally, “I say to you, ‘Whoever.’” I like that, don’t you? I see me in there somewhere, and each of you in that whoever.

And here comes this illustration, “Whoever says to this mountain…” Now people have written pages on what the mountain is–really. A hypothetical mountain . .  . He’s standing on a mountain . . . it’s the Mount of Olives . . . the Temple Mount . . . but that’s not the point–why? “Whoever says to this mountain,” and “cast”, meaning be taken up or lifted up and hurled into the sea. That’s a pretty big order.

And does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” Wow! Now how many of you would take that literally? Test it if you want, but I don’t think it’s going to work. Go stand in front of the very large Mt. San Jacinto, even the smaller Palomar, and pray. Let me help you–that mountain is not likely going to rise up into the air and drop into  the Pacific. Jesus never did anything like that in His earthly life.

So what is this? It is an analogy, a hyperbole–nothing more than that. It’s the way Hebrew speakers illustrate. We speak that way too. We might say about a person who is a formidable person, “That person can move mountains,” and we know what that means. Or, “you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” You are not literally doing that–it is an expression, a figure of speech, like you’re worked up over some minor molehill issue, and making it a big deal mountain.

No, Jesus is talking about big issues, big prayer requests, overwhelming concerns–God must do the impossible needs. The Lord says verse 23, “if you do not doubt.” One who doesn’t doubt in his heart down deep, but believes what he prays, it will be granted him. Doubt does not serve Christians well, because who are you doubting? God.

Now remember this. All the junk you hear from the faith movement, where they say if you have enough faith you can do anything, or your faith has the power–that’s not true. That’s a lie. Your faith has no power, and your words spoken in faith have zero power. That’s a deception. God has all the power. Your faith is only a way to activate God’s power within the framework of His purpose. The doubt here is not doubting your own faith–it is doubting Christ, His Word, His character and His wisdom.

TV preachers tell you you can’t doubt the power of your words–you can’t doubt the power of your faith. GOD’s perfect Word screams the opposite. That’s why I can’t listen to those TV guys. Let me help you get it right this morning. You better doubt the power of your faith, and you better doubt the power of your words, because they’re impotent–your faith and your words are powerless. The power is with God. Jesus isn’t talking about doubting you–He is warning them against doubting Him. Don’t doubt God.

James 1:6, “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” The doubter is blown all over the place. James 1:7 and 8, “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” The issue in verse 23 is whether you believe God, or whether you doubt God–don’t doubt. Believe what God says is going to happen, believe God is able, and that prayer will be answered.

Verse 23 is calling for faith–in the power of God, in the wisdom of God, in the ability of God. So you ask, “How much faith do I have to have to activate this?” Look at Matthew 14:29. Peter got out of the boat, walked on water, came toward Jesus, then he saw his circumstances. He saw the wind and waves, became frightened and began to sink, praying, “Lord, save me.” Immediately Jesus took hold of Him and said to Peter, “’You of [how much faith?] little faith, why do you doubt?’”

Wow–Jesus heard his prayer. What’s the key principle here? Little faith is enough . . . little faith is enough. Did Peter have stupendous, sweeping faith? No. He had little faith. But he was granted his prayer, even though his faith was small–little faith. We don’t have perfect faith, do we? You were saved by faith, true? Was it a perfect faith, a hundred percent, to the max? No. Was there a shadow of doubt? Yes.

You live by faith and walk by faith—but is it a perfect faith, is it the supreme, ultimate faith? No. It’s always going to be faith mixed with some doubt. At some point, no faith becomes little faith. And a little faith, when you say, “I believe, help my unbelief”–that little faith is enough to activate the power of God. That is great news, because we all live here on a fallen earth with the remnant of sin still messing with our motives and thinking. We’re human, we walk by sight, and we struggle with faith.

In Matthew 6 He says they have little faith because they didn’t believe in His provision. In Matthew 8 He says they have little faith because they didn’t trust Him in the storm. In Matthew 16 they have little faith because they don’t believe He can provide and supply for the crowd. I mean, the men constantly had little faith like me, you. When they had the clothes, the food, calm seas and visible resources and Jesus was there, they had little faith. But now that Jesus is leaving, they’ll need growing faith and a deepening faith in God’s ability.

So just exactly how much faith is little faith? According to Matthew 17:20, it’s the faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. That’s more good news. Faith isn’t the power, faith is the empty hand that receives the power from God. And they needed to learn this. They were going to have to at least get their faith up to the size of a grain of mustard seed, because in Matthew 17 Jesus actually says the same thing he says here in Mark 11:23. Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Be removed’ and it will be removed.”

Hey, my family–even a small amount of struggling faith can draw down the power of God in the life of a believer. What an amazing promise to encourage you to pray, and watch God answer your prayers, causing you to grow in believing God is able. Of Abraham it says in Romans 4:20, “With respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Then add to that encouragement . . .

#4  Asking God to ANSWER according to His will  Verse 24

Faith is linked with believing prayer, and prayer is the greatest sign of the faith you express. If you believe God, you will ask, you will pray–this is obvious. Verse 24, “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” Verse 25, “Whenever you stand praying . . .” To motivate your prayer life, always be

#1  REMEMBERING what God has already done

#2  Depending on God’s CHARACTER

#3  Believing God is ABLE

#4  Asking God to ANSWER according to His will

Effective prayers are prayers that are made—you ask. You don’t merely affirm prayer, you actually pray. This is obvious. “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask . . .” Effectual prayer is asking, actually praying, actually talking to God. James says, “You have not because you ask not.” Ask! Pray! Jesus says in verse 24, “I say to you”–this is personal from Me to you. I’m saying this to you. Then catch the next two words in verse 24, all things. “All things for which you pray and ask.” All things? Then “believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

This must have reminded them of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:7 to 11, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

We have a Father who loves us, sent His son to die in our place. If He gave us the greatest gift, do you think He will withhold the lesser gifts? Look what Jesus says at the end of verse 24, “Believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” That’s shockingly magnanimous. It’s scary! Why? It sounds like a charismatic’s dream come true. This is just too unqualified here. And that’s why we look at the entire New Testament, so in James 4:3, “You ask and you don’t receive because you ask to consume it on your own desires.”

The Bible is clear on qualifications–whatever is according to His will, whatever is by God’s Word, according to God’s will. Mark later shows us the Lord’s heart on this in Mark 14:36–our Lord is in the garden, sweating as it were, great drops of blood in anticipation of His own crucifixion. And He cries out, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

The Lord understands our cry for healing, for a better marriage, over children who torture you with their rebellion. He gets your struggles with money. He embraces your physical battles, emotional wounds, and disappointments. Our Lord holds you in His heart. He will never forsake you, and He will never withhold any good thing from you. And all things will work together for your good, if you faithfully ask.

Which means you can pour out your heart to Him, you can storm Heaven, but it will always be with this qualifying statement, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” Why? Simply this–His heart, mind and will, His character, His person, His wisdom is greater, purer, wiser, more generous, more gracious, more merciful than anything you can ever imagine. The Lord knows best–Your will, not mine! The Lord makes all of this more clear in the Upper Room the next night.

John 14:12 through 14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” That doesn’t mean you can ask anything, then say, “In Jesus’ name,” at the end. That’s not the point. It’s not the words, “in Jesus’ name”–it means asking consistent with who He is. His name is who He is, consistent with His person, His purpose and His will. Effective prayer is asking God to answer according to His will, and . . .

#5  Allowing no UNFORGIVENESS to remain in your heart  Verse 25

Verse 25, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” And again verse 26, though true, is not found in the early manuscripts here in Mark, so I won’t exposit it here. [“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]

One final motivator to powerful prayer–“Whenever you stand praying,” standing being the most common posture for prayer, lying down was another posture, and kneeling was another posture. But the most common was standing. But when you stand praying, here comes the requirement—forgive, forgive. “If you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”Wow!

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” So I’ve got to deal with the sin in my heart. With me, that could be a long process. If, when I want to pray to the Lord, I’ve got to get rid of all the sin in my life, that will be a long, drawn-out process, because I’m never going to be what I ought to be, and there’s always going to be sin lurking somewhere in me. Is it the same with you?

So the Lord just says, “Let me make it simple for you. Forgive–forgive. If you have anything against anyone, hurl it away.” That’s what the word “forgive” means–it literally means, hurl it away, send it off, get rid of it. “So that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” Jesus isn’t talking about salvation. This is describing sins that are part of your life as a believer, which stand between you and the Lord. We must forgive! These are the sins that hinder your relationship–they negatively affect your fellowship with Christ. They stifle it.

You remember John 13:9 and 10. Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus said to him, He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean.” We’ve been cleansed by what Christ did for us on the cross, through faith–but, as we walk in this sinful, dirty world, our feet will get dirty, sinful, day-by-day. So we confess and repent of sin daily, and ask God to keep our feet clean–anything that might hamper, or interrupt our fellowship with our heavenly Father.

So as it relates to others here in verse 25, there must be no unforgiveness. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:23 and 24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

Here’s your choice–hold a grudge, or have your prayers answered. Take your pick. Hang onto vengeance, or have your prayers answered. Ephesians 4:32, “Forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us.” We need the attitude of Stephen as they are murdering him in Acts 7:60, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Are you encouraged? To motivate your prayer life, always be . . .

#1  REMEMBERING what God has already done

#2  Depending on God’s CHARACTER

#3  Believing God is ABLE

#4  Asking God to ANSWER according to His will

#5  Allowing no UNFORGIVENESS to remain in your heart

This is a life-changing promise, isn’t it? Whatever we ask in His will, in His purpose, in His plan, God will answer. Salvation is a sovereign work of God, but not apart from our faith. Sanctification is a sovereign work of the Spirit of God in us, but not apart from our faith. And pulling down the power of Heaven, praying, is bringing to earth the sovereign purpose and will of God. But it’s activated in the same way those other truths are activated–by our faith. Do you see in all of this . . .

ONE  The need for FRUIT

A fig tree with full foliage was now dead and dry as bones. What a lesson for the disciples and for us. Beware of appearing full of spiritual life, but being without fruit. Friends, I have personally known far too many churchgoing, so-called Christians who did not have the fruit of internal attitude, the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—far too many who did not have the fruit of service. Oh they said they loved Christ, but never served anyone in the church.

Fruit is always in Scripture a manifestation of salvation. A true believer in a proper relationship to God will bear fruit. Mark 4:20, “Those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Fruit is the expression of authentic salvation. All true believers can draw on the power of God and be fruitful.

TWO  The need for PRAYER

Christians, we can pray, we should pray–we must pray. It is a battle, and we often lose–and if you’ve been losing badly, then let me offer this challenge. Start with five minutes each day. Use ACTS–adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Who’ll take up the challenge? Raise your hand and keep it up. Take this outline, review it and pray five or more minutes per day this week.

THREE  The need for SALVATION and SANCTIFICATION

You can’t glorify God, only God can through you. You can’t live the Christian life, only Christ can through you. You can’t please God, the Spirit must work through you. You don’t know what to do, the Word must guide you. Friends, you can do nothing as a dead, decaying sinner. You must believe Christ died for your sins on the cross and rose from the dead, cry out to Christ to awaken your heart so you might trust Him in faith, and turn from your sins with a holy hatred. Then as a true believer, moment-by-moment, you must depend on His Word and His Spirit to empower you and move you to pray.

I beg you, cry out to Christ for salvation. And Christian, repent of your independence and lack of prayer. And rely upon Him to change your prayer life. And let’s believe Him to do great things in your life and in our midst–pray! Let’s pray in silence, ask Him to awaken your heart, or to fire up your heart to believe Him for great things.

 

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church – Murrieta.

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