Sermon by Pastor Franses
What a joy it is to be able to worship God with you today. I want to share with you some thoughts about prayer. Ask yourself, "how diligently do I really pray?" Are your prayers being answered or are the things you desire from God seeming to just hang in mid-air? Are you praying or are you simply doing what you feel is necessary for a Christian to do? Are you communicating with God or are you repeating the same words over and again that you have been saying since you learned of prayer.
Prayer is more than just saying hello to God. Some people have such a misunderstanding of prayer that thier spiritual lives never develop beyond being a newborn babe in Christ simply because they do not talk to Him. We need to learn and understand that EARNEST prayer is required for things in our lives to change. If you want to read with me in your Bible, I am quoting from the KJV, James 5: 17-18. "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."
Right now I want to hone in on one particular word in this scripture text. The word "earnestly". The bible clearly states that Elijah (Elias in James) prayed earnestly. Elijah was a man. He was a prophet of God and miracles were wrought by his hand through God because of earnest prayer. This word that I want to capitalize on right now, "earnest" is important because we ought to all pray as Elijah. The word 'earnestly" taken from the Greek since I am using James account of the event, means with continual duration, diligently and worshipfully. Perpetually, incessantly and something that ought to be done again. Elijah, through diligent, worshipful prayer changed the heart of God and rain was either stopped or rain fell. The very course of nature changed as a result of faithful prayer.
Sadly, in our Christian society today, there is a new belief going about that says since God already knows my needs, then I don't have to pray, all I have to do is believe and things will change. Tell that to Paul and Silas who prayed in the midnight hour in the midst of a cruel jail. Tell that to Hezekiah after he prayed and wept bitterly before the Lord asking to be healed and not die. Tell that to Daniel as he stood and prayed 3 times a day and wound up in the midst of hungry lions as a result and by his faithful praying was delivered! You might say we are not able to change the mind or heart of God. some may ask why we are not able to change the mind of God. Some may say because that was then and this is now. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever(Hebrews 13:8) God still deals with us the way He dealt with man in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and in our own life yesterday. It has recently come to my attention that many have fallen into a false teaching that undermines our faith in the power of prayer that can bring God's intervention in our lives. Some Christians feel that what happens to us is fate. Church, that is a pagan belief and the very idea that everything we do and every thing that happens to us is fixed and unchangeable is ludicrous. Scripture teaches us that God deals with his children by divine providence. God is not precariously dangling over our heads with a sledge hammer and ruling us with an iron fist and absolutes. He responds to the prayers of the righteous.
In James 5:16 we read that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (KJV) I love this...the "effectual fervent prayer" means strong and without ceasing! If fate were indeed true, then why was blind Bartemeus healed? Why were lepers cleansed? Why was Paul delivered from jail countless times? If fate were true, why then is my husband cancer free today? Why didn't you die in that car crash? Why? Because someone prayed! Somebody fell on thier knees and began to petition God on your behalf. Maybe you yourself fell into a fervent, earnest prayer. Sadly, we have those in our churches who pat themselves on the back for one hour of prayer a day and feel they have accomplished much. Then, those same people become upset with God when things don't seem to go thier way. We have powerless Christians because they are prayerless Christians. Our churches are powerless because they are prayerless. Marriages are falling apart because they are prayerless. Children are killing in the schools because Mom and Dad don't pray. We sit proudly at the dinner table and stuff our faces with the provisions of God and don't thank Him. I sat in a resaurant with another minister of the Gospel a few years ago having lunch. When our plates were delivered to the table by the waitress, I proceeded to bow my head and pray. This minister stopped me and said, "there is no need to pray over that. God gave it to you, just enjoy it. He does not expect you to pray everytime you sit at the table." It is amazing to me how some have twisted to Word of God to fit thier own agenda and ignore what God said.
Now, some might say, "I am a Christian, I pray, why then do things not change for me?" There are more than one good reason for this. One, you are in too big of a hurry. Our society embraces "instant". We love instant coffee, instant grits, instant potatoes and all of this warmed in a microwave oven that cuts cooking time into minutes instead of hours. Our minds are accustomed to instant so we figure God is going to bless us instantly. Abraham was a very old man before the promise of his own son became a reality. Why do we feel that we should not have to wait for the promise of God? Every prayer we pray is heard by our loving God. Some we must wait on, and others, well, they are miraculously and instantly answered. Bartemeus was instantly healed yet Lazarus was dead 4 days before he was brought back. Some of us do not receive because of unbelief. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17 that the reason they were unable to heal a lunatic child is because of thier unbelief. You say, "but I DO beieve". that may not be enough. Jesus added in Matthew 17:21, "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (KJV) You want to see miracles? You want to be able to change the course of nature? Do you want to draw closer to God and see your home and your church prosper spiritually? Then you must fast and pray. As I searched and studied this scripture, Jesus was telling the disciples to "pray earnestly"! There it is again, earnest prayer. Diligent, continual , incessant, worshipful prayer. It seems to me that we always want God to take care of us, but we won't pray. Some of us haven't fasted a meal, won a soul for Christ, prayed alone in years and yet we feel that that God should leave the 99 and pamper us. As soon as our feet hit the floor we should be seeking the Lord, not the coffee pot! Jesus told us in Matthew 16:25," If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (KJV) In other words, disown yourself, do a little fasting, do a lot of praying and watch the Hand of God work in your life.
Let us pray: heavenly Father, forgive me where I have failed in my prayer life. Open my eyes to the need of prayer in my life and the need for earnest prayer. help me to not be lax especially now as we see the day of the Lord nearing. Help me Father to communicate with you and become more intimate with you so that needs are met in these last days. IN Jesus name I pray. amen