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Persevering Prayer

with | May 20, 2010

Christians often toss prayers up with little regard for the nature of their intended recipient. But when we rightly pray, it is our righteous Father in Heaven who hears us – a Father who loves us, and who intends good toward us.

Christians often toss prayers up with little regard for the nature of their intended recipient. But when we rightly pray, it is our righteous Father in Heaven who hears us – a Father who loves us, and who intends good toward us.

Persevering Prayer

With
|
May 20, 2010
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Crawford:  The reason we don’t pray is because of a pride issue.  I have discovered in my life that proud people can’t pray.  Proud people struggle with prayer, and the reason is quite obvious when you think about it because prayer is an expression of our neediness.  You cannot pray authentically until you embrace your own need.  Prayer is a statement that I am desperate. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 20th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  The reality is we are desperate, and prayer is one of the ways we remind ourselves of that reality.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  I tell you what, we are going to get…

Dennis:  We are going to have a preacher today.

Bob:  Well, we are going to have a one-, two-, punch because—at least when it comes to the subject that we are going to hear addressed:  the subject of prayer.  That is one of those subjects where I need to be punched from time to time.  You know.

Dennis:  Yes.  Encouraged.

Bob:  The guy who is going to be doing the punching…

Dennis:  Ooh.

Bob:  He is a guy who if he was preaching…

Dennis:  I was going to say heavy-weight but he might not appreciate that.  (laughter)

Bob:  If he was preaching 100 miles away, I’d drive to hear him preach because he is just a great pastor and preacher.  In fact, I am going to get a chance to be with him and his wife this fall at the True Woman 2010 events, they are going to be in Indianapolis in September and in Fort Worth in October.  Crawford and Karen Loritts are going to be there, both of them speaking at the events.  I’m looking forward to just hearing him preach there.

Dennis:  Crawford Loritts is a long-term friend; in fact, we go all the way back to the early 80’s.  We both share the same birth date, and he is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church.

Bob:  It is the same birth date, but one of you is older.

Dennis:  I am more mature. 

(laughter)

Bob:  That is what I wanted to get out.

Dennis:  I am a couple of years older than Crawford. 

(laughter) 

He just turned 60 this year, okay?

Bob:  He is the pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia.  Right?

Dennis:  That’s right. 

Bob:  For a number of years was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.

Dennis:  That’s right.  He and his wife, Karen, still speak at our Weekend to Remember® Getaways all around the United States.

Bob:  The message we are going to hear from him today was actually a message he shared with our whole team of speakers when we got together for some training earlier this year.  You know, to be able to take these messages that were shared with a small audience and share them with a broad audience is one of the great privileges we have here on FamilyLife Today.  I know whenever we feature messages like this, we hear from listeners saying, “Thank you for how God is using the ministry of FamilyLife Today in my life.  That was just what I needed to hear.”

Dennis:  That is why we do what we do on FamilyLife Today.  This ministry doesn’t exist for us back here.  It exists for you.  We are all about equipping you in your marriage, in your family, and in your relationship with God. 

We have some friends who have come alongside us who want to encourage you as listeners to give.

Bob:  What they have is pledged now more than $300,000 toward a matching fund.  You know what a pledge means.  That means that they don’t have to fulfill the pledge unless FamilyLife Today listeners make the donations that require the pledge to be fulfilled. 

So, we are coming to you and saying, “Would you please be as generous as you can be this month?  Make a $10, or $20, or $50 or $100, or $500, or a $1,000 donation, whatever you are able to do.”  Make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation.  Your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar.  That is a great opportunity to see your impact doubled.

Dennis:  I mentioned earlier in the month, Bob, when we were talking with our listeners that FamilyLife Today is running a bit behind right now—what we need to be seeing come in from a donation standpoint.  I just need to ask you as a listener, “If you can give right now, as Bob said, this would be a very good time to make a generous donation to FamilyLife Today.” 

By doing so, what you say to Bob and me, “I am with you guys.  I stand with you.  I believe what you are doing about teaching the biblical blueprints for my marriage and family.  I have benefitted, and I want to share in the cost of this broadcast.”

Bob:  1-800-FLTODAY, the number to call to make a donation; or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  You can be sure that this is something that we are praying about and so it will help us to review this message from Crawford Loritts, talking about the power and the importance of prayer in our lives.

Crawford:  Every year at our church—we have started a tradition there—the first full week in January is a week of extraordinary prayer.  I preach the first Sunday and the second Sunday on prayer.  We have just come through that at our church.  I am more convinced than ever before that what E. M. Bounds said in his classic book Power Through Prayer is absolutely, categorically, infinitely correct and right; and that is:  The greatest thing a Christian can do is to pray—is to pray.

This week I had two marvelous reminders of the power of prayer.  I started to not use his name because I do not want to be guilty of name dropping; but I will—not name drop, hopefully—but use his name.  I had the wonderful privilege on Wednesday of flying up and meeting with

Dr. Graham.  He is frail.  He is 90 years old.  He is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.  He is losing his hearing, and his eyesight is weakening. 

I walked in with two other friends.  I had a list of questions to ask him; but then when I sat down and we started talking, I didn’t want to ask him anything.  I just wanted to listen, but I did ask him this question.  I said, “Dr. Graham, what is the most significant thing that has ever happened in your life and ministry.  What is core?” 

Before I could finish the question, he said, “Prayer.  Prayer has been everything.”  He didn’t mention his contacts; he didn’t mention Hearst “Puff Graham”; he didn’t mention the people that he gathered around him; he didn’t mention any of that.  At 90 years old, he said with force in his voice, “Prayer.” 

Then on Friday I got a letter from a 90-year-old woman, Hazel Quackenbush.  We have known Hazel for years.  I went to college with her daughter.  Her daughter dated and subsequently married one of my best friends.  His name is Joe Douglas.  Joe and I were prayer partners all the way through college.  Joe’s room was right next to mine.  At night we would go to either one’s room, and we would pray together in the evening.  Joe is a pastor of a great church in New Jersey now. 

I hadn’t contacted Hazel in a long time and I saw in her letter that she had turned 90, and they had a big birthday for her.  There was a phone number.  So I called her Friday.  I said,

“Mrs. Quackenbush, do you know who this is?  This is Crawford Loritts.  Do you remember me?”  She said, “Of course I remember you.”  She said, “Why wouldn’t I remember you?”  (laughter)  Then she said these words, “Your picture is on my prayer board.”  That woman has been praying for me all these years.  The greatest thing we can do is pray.

Why do we pray?  I think there are two reasons why we pray.  I am going to give you the lesser of them, and then I want to dive into the main reason why we pray.  Then I want to talk about the loving involvement of the Trinity in our prayer lives.  It is going to be more relational than it sounds. 

There are two great reasons why we pray.  The lesser of the two is to get our needs met.  That is the lesser of the two reasons why we pray.  We ask, and seek, and knock to get our needs met.  Unfortunately—those of us who are pastors, and in churches, and in ministry—our prayer lives have been dominated by the lesser reason.  That is the reason we get cynical because it is a little bit of a quid pro quo.  We start using God, and we get a little cynical because God doesn’t come through for us.  That is the lesser reason.  We pray because we want our needs met. 

Sometimes we don’t pray.  The reason we don’t pray is because of a pride issue.  I have discovered in my life that proud people can’t pray.  Proud people struggle with prayer, and the reason is quite obvious when you think about it because prayer is an expression of our neediness.  You cannot pray authentically until you embrace your own need.  Prayer is a statement that I am desperate.  Prayer is a statement that I don’t have it all together. 

I am forever grateful to Bob Lepine for sending me one of the top five books that I have read in the last five to ten years.  It is a book by a guy by the name of Paul Miller.  The name of the book is A Praying Life.  The first chapter and his chapter on the relationship between cynicism and prayer are worth the price of the book itself. 

Miller says that, “One of the subtlest hindrances to prayer is probably the most pervasive.  In the broader culture and in our churches, we prize intellect, competency, and wealth.  Because we can do life without God, praying seems nice but unnecessary.  Money can do what prayer does.  It is quicker and less time-consuming.  Our trust in ourselves and in our talents makes us”—listen to this line—“structurally independent of God.  As a result, exhortations to pray don’t stick.” 

It is a little bit of a bind, isn’t it?  You aren’t going to pray until you are in touch with your need.  As a pastor, I have learned that I can cajole, and preach, and guilt people, and tell them how to do stuff—particularly in the prayer area; but they are not going to pray until somewhere along the line there is this “avalanche of need” that grips them.  That is the tipping point.  That is when we really, really pray. 

That is not what I am going to talk about today.  I am going to talk about the second reason—which is the primary reason, biblically—I’m convinced of this from Genesis to Revelation.  The real reason why we pray…the real reason why we pray is because God wants us to experience His love and care for us.  Meeting our needs is a backstroke issue with God. 

The real reason why we pray is because of the loving heart of God that pursues us and wants us…wants us to experience His love and care for us.  This takes legalism out of prayer.  This really motivates us to pray because, quite frankly, prayer is the means through which we hang out with God.  There is no intimacy with God apart from interaction with His heart.  The way that we interact with His heart is by seeking Him, talking to Him, experiencing Him.  Prayer is massive.  It is the gateway into the very presence of God. 

That is the reason why Hazel Quackenbush and Billy Graham will answer, “Bam!  Prayer is everything.”  They weren’t saying, like going to the grocery store, God just checked off what they were asking for.  They were talking about the intimate relationship that they had with a loving Father.  It is the way through which we hang out with God.  God loves us and desires to have an intimate relationship with us. 

That is why, in the Bible, the Trinity is pictured as a loving resource.  Have you ever thought about it?  The three persons of the Godhead major in prayer on our behalf.  It is this picture of a sovereign, loving, pursuant God—through God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—chasing us down and drawing us to Himself. 

So, let’s just take a snapshot of these three portraits.  The first portrait is a caring God.  The second portrait is a powerful representative.  The third portrait is a passionate interceder.  Look at what He says here in Luke 11—I really want to look at verses 11-13 but I do want to just drill down the opening word when Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him, “Would You teach us how to pray?”  He says, “Yes.  Here’s the first thing that you say, “Father.”  Father—we sometimes skip over that and look at all the other things that He says in the Lord’s Prayer or the model prayer that the Lord prayed.  But it begins with, “Father.” 

Then Jesus picks up the explanation and the application of that down in verse 11, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?  Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children”—mm, mm—“how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” 

I don’t want to get caught in the weeds with the text here and analyze the analogy that He is talking about, this kind of thing; but I do want to make a few applications or inferences, implications from what He is saying.  One is that God wants to give us what is good for us.  I don’t want to play with words.  Notice that I said what is good for us, not necessarily what is good to us.  That will change the way that we pray. 

God gives us what is good for us and not necessarily what is good to us.  So, as we read this text here, don’t get superficial.  He is not saying that God always does stuff that is good to us.  God doesn’t do things that are good to us; he does things that are good for us.  The implications are right there.  God does want the best for us, but not by our definition—not by our definition.

Secondly, God—what we think is good could be harmful, could be harmful—but God always wants what is good.  The third implication is what might be a blessing to you could be a curse to me.  You got to get past this comparison, jealousy stuff.  Simply because God said, “Yes,” to someone else about how their prodigal—that their prodigal came home when they were 18—don’t be prescriptive when it comes to God because what could be a blessing to you from a timing perspective could be a dastardly curse to me. 

Whenever you are going through a tremendous challenge, it is tremendously important to immerse yourself in the control of the Spirit of God.  You need to see where you are going and what you are doing through supernatural eyes.  We have got to do it counterintuitive; run to the Father.  I love what Warren Wiersbe says along these lines.  He makes the observation, “Because God knows us and loves us, we never need to be afraid of the answer He gives us.” 

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was swimming up at the Boys Club there in Newark, New Jersey, which wasn’t too far from our house.  A bunch of us were just jumping off the side of the pool and just turning in the air as we jumped and went in the water.  When I jumped off, I was a little too close to the side of the pool.  I turned around and hit my chin on the side of the pool.  I busted my chin. 

My dad worked nights so he happened to be home when they called my father.  He came and got me and took me to the hospital.  Back in those days, they didn’t have the anesthesia that they have now, this kind of thing.  So, when you got stitches, you got stitches and everything that went with it.  So, I’ll never forget this.  I can remember it to this day.  I’m lying there on the table and the doctor says to my dad, “Hold his arms down.  Hold his arms down.”  He stitched me up. 

My dad would not hurt me for anything, but sometimes you have to be held down before you are fixed.  Do you hear what I am saying to you?  Somebody here needs to hear that.  Sometimes you just have to be held down before you are fixed.  You have to trust in a loving God who sees the beginning from the end, and He is not out to get us.  It hurts like the dickens, and you want to cuss and throw things, and you want to do bad stuff; but He says, “I’ve got to hold you down until I fix you.”  So we have the portrait of a loving father that does things that are good for us but not always good to us.

Bob:  We’ve been listening to Dr. Crawford Loritts talking about prayer and about the Father who chastens the ones whom He loves.  That is an important reminder when we are in the midst of trial to know that all discipline seems unpleasant at the time, but it does yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Dennis:  There are two things in that message that really just stood out to me personally.  One is—prayerlessness generally can be associated with arrogance or pride.  I have just found in my own life, when I am most dependent upon God, I am not typically as full of myself.  The reason I say it that way, the closer I get to Christ, I am constantly being convicted how self-absorbed I really can be. 

The second thing Crawford said around the love of God.  It is the love of God that compels us to turn our hearts back to God.  Even in the midst of discipline, God’s love invites us back into a relationship with Him.  I am thinking of Romans 8.  The final verses talk about neither height nor depth nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  I don’t know what you as a listener right now are experiencing, but I want you to know there really is a God in heaven who is passionately in love with you and is pursuing you and wants a relationship with you.  Yes, He loves you enough to get your attention. 

Bob:  Part of the relationship we have with Him is time with Him in communication.  If you say, “I have a relationship with somebody,” and then you don’t talk with them or when you do, it’s a quick, “Here, I need this,” that is not much of a relationship. 

We came across a book recently that I think is very helpful on the subject of prayer.  Paul Miller wrote a book called A Praying Life, and it confronts straight-up a lot of the issues we struggle with in prayer, whether it is praying together as a couple or just being people committed to a life where prayer is a regular part of our spiritual activity, a regular spiritual discipline.  In the book he shares a number of insights and conclusions about how we connect the broken pieces of our lives and allow prayer, even when it is poorly-delivered prayer, to fill in the gaps with meaning and some substance.

You can find out more about the book when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  We have information about Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s daily devotional Moments with You, or about praying for your family, praying for your children.  Again, find out more online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call us toll-free for more information about resources that are available.  1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329.  That is 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. 

By the way, our team just recently got together to pray for a number of prayer requests that had been sent to us by donors who communicate with us on a regular basis and had shared with us their prayer requests.  We really count it a privilege to be able to pray for friends of the ministry, for listeners to this program, and many legacy partners take advantage of our regular communication back and forth to share their prayer requests with us.  It is an honor to be able to join together in prayer oftentimes with people we have not met but people who share a common vision and passion for marriages and families and for what God’s Word has to say about those things.  We appreciate the privilege of being able to pray for those of you who have gotten in touch with us and have requested that. 

We also appreciate your financial support of the ministry.  As Dennis mentioned earlier, there is a matching-gift campaign that is going on right now.  Every donation received during the month of May is being matched dollar for dollar up to a total of more than $300,000 that has been pledged to a matching-gift fund.  We are hoping to take full advantage of that matching gift.  If you are able to help with a donation this month, it would be very timely and very much appreciated.  You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone.  Let me say, “Thanks,” in advance for whatever you are able to do in support of FamilyLife Today

I hope you can be back with us tomorrow when we are going to hear Part 2 of Crawford Loritt’s message on the power and importance of prayer—the art of effective prayer.  That is coming up tomorrow; hope you can join us.

I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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