Why Prayer Matters
Scripture: Matthew 7:7-11
Rev. Steven B. Miller, Becca Rich, Matt Appell, Feb 19, 2017
Read Matthew 7:7-11
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The Word of the Lord - Thanks be to God
Will you pray with me?
Lord Jesus, we come again to your Word for an understanding of who you are and how we are to be in this world. Draw us closer to you as we listen again to the Word of life as we learn to pray. Let the good Word come with power and grace along with the full assurance of faith. Give this preacher your words as he shares what you have laid upon his heart. Quiet the distractions of our lives and those negative voices that would seek take us away from what your Holy Spirit has for us in this moment. For we pray these things in Jesus' powerful name. Amen
Do any of you remember the commercial from McDonald's for many years that gave the ingredients for the Big Mac hamburger? I do - two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Did you ever notice that there is only one ingredient that is special and for that matter unspecific? I think the special sauce is Thousand Island salad dressing but we are never told - because it is special? Now that you are getting hungry for lunch I will move on to the special sauce of the Christian Life - and that is simply - prayer. Only Presbyterian pastors can make the connection between fast food and spiritual things - we are gifted!
Even though I am gifted in curtain areas I must say that I am a slow learner when it comes to the power of prayer in my own life. It was not until I about age 36 that I came to realize that the "special sauce," the stuff that really excites the Christian life, is in fact prayer. When I was twelve years old I would have said prayer is so boring - which can be a true statement! Then in my twenties I prayed more but never left the first gear of a five speed. Then I went to Princeton Theological Seminary - but that was not where I got educated on prayer, lots of talk, lots of reading, and not much "real purpose driven" prayer. Rather, my most powerful professors for prayer were four wonderful saints - older ladies named Mae, Joan, Ruth and Jean along with 3 gentlemen named Jim, Arlin and Jim from the prayer ministry of the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church. These saints understood that the church moves forward on its knees - as many people understand in this church as well. There were many days where I would see the Santa Ynez prayer team camp out in the prayer room for hours covering the church and its missionaries with prayers of protection and the Lord's blessing. The best work done by the church is done when we cover it with persistent prayer. Special shout out to the prayer team: Lynn Wilkins, Betty Gates, Diane Raymon and Jo Zimmerman in their prayer coverage for this church for many years. (they pray for your blue cards weekly)
As you may have experienced in your prayer life, there are many forms of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication prayer to name a few forms. And then there is the prayer of listening as we seek the Lord's direction for our lives. Let me encourage all of you to listen for the Lord's voice after you have worked through your prayer list. To get into the quiet place and be able to pray - "Speak Lord for your servant is listening." - is the beginning of a powerful time of listening with the Lord. It often takes some time to turn off the noise of life that is in your head, but it is worth it hear the thoughts from God. Over time I have seen the power of prayer shape me and mold my attitude and my mind. Prayer does change things in many ways - but not always in the way you thought it might.
So, lets look at Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 7 verse 7 one more time: "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches - finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."
In this passage Jesus is asking us to ask for important things from God - things that we need! Prayer that is self centered, materialistic, and demanding from God normally hits the ceiling and bounces back. Pray for real things that matter - grace, salvation, your daily needs, the gift of the Holy Spirit, healing. Or even to direct you to place that fits your calling.
In 1992 I was praying for the Lord to call me to a church. Later that same year, I was one of two candidates left for an associate pastor position at a large church in the Bay Area. Well, after four interviews, I did not get the job. And I was sad that I was not chosen - but later I found out that the other candidate that did get picked lasted a year under the leadership of a pastor who struggling with alcohol issues. When I heard that news I was very thankful for not being chosen - be careful what you pray for even when Jesus is telling us to ask for anything the answer might be different than you had hoped for good reasons you many not ever know in this world.
I want you to know that all of our prayer requests get an answer from the Lord. Yes, no, and not yet are the answers. The hard part is discerning the answer of "no" verses "not yet." Let's be clear that our heavenly father loves to give us the good things of the kingdom, and if you ask for them you will likely receive them, but it will be on the Lord's terms and timetable.
Good things come to those who wait. I have a friend who is a pastor, Bob Whitaker, who says the best answers to prayer take 26 years of persistence. Bob prayed that is brother would come to faith in Jesus Christ, and it took 26 years to have the answer be yes. On the other hand, when I loose my car keys and am frustrated and finally come to prayer and ask for God's help, I normally get an answer pretty quickly.
We need to understand that even though the Lord knows we have this bit of evil selfishness inside of us, he still wants to answer our prayers. Listen to Jesus' words in verse 11: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"
The Lord knows our need for shelter, food and clothing as well as the Holy Spirit, grace, peace, love, redemption, forgiveness and protection, but we need to ask for these things if we need them. Rather than me illustrating more on these topics I want to welcome two SYF Students to come up and share their experience with prayer. First Becca Rich and then Matt Appell.
Westminster Presbyterian Church