HOW BIG AND HOW EFFECTIVE ARE YOUR PRAYERS?

 A STUDY in Psalm 20:1-9; Psalm 13

Before getting started in this Song of David, I hope you will take the time to listen and read the verses contained in Psalm 20.  

Oh, what an awesome God You are!

Does God Answer Prayer?

As good Christians, we are expected to answer that question…”Of course, He does!”  After all, He promises to answer prayer in His Word and God keeps His Word.

Yes, God does answer prayer!  And yet, I’ll ask the same question again – “Does God answer our prayers?”

Think for a moment and consider some of the prayers and petitions you’ve presented to God in the past.  Do you feel God has answered each of your prayers?  Has He provided healing when asked?  Has He saved those for whom you have asked salvation?  Has He sent the rain to earth in the midst of a hot and dry and thirsty season?

To be honest with you, each of us at times struggles somewhat with the question:  “Does God answer prayer?”

He does BUT…

So, what does it mean to answer prayer?  Does it mean “Ask and you should receive?”  Can we say that God ONLY answers us by giving what we ask for?  Can we come to God like a child with (what was a penny) a quarter, which he places in the candy machine and is guaranteed to receive a candy bar?  It comes out automatically and immediately.  We know that it doesn’t always work that way.  We know that God gives us those things for His sake and it has to be according to His will, not ours.

But still, we may wonder why then ask God?  If He’s going to do what He has already determined is His will and what’s best for us.

Perhaps the problem lies in how we expect God to answer.  We see PRAYER as something in which we ASK and in which God GIVES.

“Whole Prayer”

Walter Wangerin, in his book “Whole Prayer” says that PRAYER is communication.  That it’s NOT speaking to God but with God.

So let’s divide our prayers into four activities:

  1. First, we speak.
  2. Second, God listens.
  3. Third, God speaks.
  4. Fourth, we listen!

I wonder in my own prayer life how much time is spent speaking to God and little time listening to Him.  It becomes a one-sided communication.  And when we do this, we then wonder WHY He hasn’t answered us.  Perhaps He has, but we didn’t hear Him.

Psalm 20 is a PRAYER of the people, probably as they gathered before their king David as his army was about to go into battle.

They begin and end the PRAYER with a call for God to ANSWER not just this prayer, but future calls for help as well.

The Hebrew word for ANSWER is “anah”.  It means “to eye or to heed”, i.e. pay attention; to respond; to begin to speak; to sing, shout, testify, announce: -give account, afflict, bring low, cry, hear, lift up, say, speak, testify, (bear) witness. [See footnote [i].]

To ANSWER is to pay attention, to respond with words and/or with action.

The ultimate request was that the Lord protect them and give them victory.  That their plans will succeed.  That is the ANSWER they’re looking for.  That He will give them the DESIRE of David’s heart!  That ALL their requests be granted!

But they, we, have deeper needs.  Even deeper than the need for victory or the desires of our heart.

It’s the need to know that God has heard us; that we come to know God and His perfect will for our lives.

We need to hear Him and to know Him.

It’s in that way that He is not a candy dispenser or need dispenser, but rather one whom we come to know and trust.  To TRUST His answer even more than we do our own requests.

We need to hear His voice!

To hear Him comfort us, console us, and teach us.

And so we consider not just the ANSWER, but how God speaks in return to our requests and petitions.  To let us know He has heard us.

As parents, we don’t want our children to just ask for things then leave and expect us to give in time what they ask.  We want to communicate our LOVE by showing why their request(s) may be wrong and bad for them.

We want to talk about their desires on what they’re based.

So God wants to speak to us.

Even in this Psalm, we see two ways by which God speaks to us.

In VERSE 2, people say “May He send you help from the sanctuary…”

This could mean send help from heaven.  Or, it could refer to God Himself, since He is found in the SANCTUARY, His house.

In the Psalms, the SANCTUARY is always a picture of the place where we meet with God.  It’s where people worshipped and where God spoke to His people.  In Israel, it was the Temple, the place where the Israelites came to get his thoughts straightened out, get his thinking correct.  There they met with God, heard the Word of God, the mind and thoughts of God.

For us, the SANCTUARY can be the church (the “building”) or the Scriptures.  It’s there that God speaks to us.  Our minds are enlightened, that we begin to see the world around us from God’s eyes, not the way it appears, but to tell you the way things really are.

When we need help, we need to LISTEN to God.  And yet, do we really LISTEN to His Word?

God speaks to us through His Word and many of the answers to prayer are already given to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

[16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

[17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

That’s ‘inhaling God’s exhaling’ [God breathed–The Breath of God Almighty].

The people also pray that God would grant them support from Zion.

Psalm 20:2 (b) – “…and give you support from Zion!”

ZION represents God’s Rule.

God’s Rule comes from a heavenly Zion or Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem is sometimes referred to as Zion.

Sometimes God answers prayer when He speaks to us by ministering to us in different ways.  He sent His ministering angels to the prophet Elijah at Mt. Carmel and to Jesus in Gethsemane.  In each case, they prayed to God for help in their distress.

Although God didn’t answer by changing their circumstances, He did speak to them so they could see His plan and His will for their lives.

So God can speak to us through angels and through the Holy Spirit, by enabling us to see things from His perspective.

In fact, when we pray, if we listen, we’ll see God’s COMFORT and PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms, many begin with cries for help, with anger directed to God even with despair. eg. PSALM 13

But God, as the psalmist listens, draws him to end the psalm or prayer with hope and peace and victory!

Psalm 13:1 (AMP) – HOW LONG will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

Psalm 13:6 (AMP) – I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.

There are ways God answers us and speaks to us that are not in this psalm.

God speaks to us through our experiences.  God is SOVEREIGN.  He can open and close doors for us.

We may want, desire something so much and yet we don’t know if it’s God’s will in our lives.

TRY AND SEE!  It was The WORD Detective ministry for me.

God also spoke through the counsel of other believers.

Not from Oprah, or the gang at work, but from those who know the Lord and who care.

For the director of music.

 A Psalm of David.

[1]  How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?

[2]  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?

[3]  Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;  [4] my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

[5]  But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 

[6]  I will sing to the LORD. for he has been good to me.

Or Nathan giving counsel to David after David had sinned.

God provides ANSWERS for ALL our prayers!

Do we listen?

Do we hear?

Do we pray?

Tony Evans – Spend 30 seconds praying and 3 hours worrying–better the other way around.

But as we pray, LISTEN TO GOD!

Take time to list!

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CREDITS

Sermon notes:  Psalm 20:1-9 by Glen Branham, May 9, 2005.

Footnote [i] :  Abarim Pub. Anah meaning in Biblical Hebrew.

Bible translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted in the text.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Video:  Youtube – Psalm 20

 

 

 

Planning to Fail (PART TWO)

SCRIPTURE STUDY – JAMES 4:13-17

Although there might be more, I discovered THREE words in this passage of Scripture that will help in finding God’s plan for every area of your life.

The FIRST word begins with the letter “C”.  CONFESSION.

CONFESS your sins.  Get your heart right with God if you want Him to lead you.

Psalm 66, VERSE 18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” 

In other words, you are wasting your breath if you PRAY unconfessed, unrepented of sin in your heart and in your life.  If you’re remembering and talking about the Great Prayer Promises in the Bible–that’s one of them.

1 John 1:5, 6 goes on to say, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you:  God is light; in Him, there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet you walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”  [NIV]

You see, if there’s SIN in our lives, rather than walking in the Light, we are stumbling in the dark.  Let me put in this way.  Do you have an IDOL in your life?  You say, “No, they worship ‘IDOLS’ over in foreign countries.  We don’t worship idols here.”

Really?

An IDOL is anything you love more than God.

An IDOL is anything you serve more than God.

An IDOL is anything that you fear more than God.

Here’s a verse of Scripture to ponder:

Ezekiel 14, VERSE 3 [AMP]

[3] Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and put the stumbling block of the iniquity (sin) and guilt before their faces; should I permit Myself to be inquired of at all by them?

That is, can these men who have IDOLS say, “God lead me?”

God says, “Look.  These men have idols in their hearts.  What right do they have to come to Me and ask Me to guide them?”

So, if you want to know God’s WILL for the future, number one, CONFESSION.  Make certain there’s no unconfessed, unrepented SIN in your life!  If that sounds strange, it’s not!  It’s normal living.

Number TWO is CONSECRATION.

The word “consecration” sounds a bit churchly to most.  In the Bible, the word means “the separation of oneself from things that are unclear, especially anything that would contaminate one’s relationship with a perfect God.”  [See footnote [i].]

It’s not enough to be CLEANSED; you need to be CONSECRATED!

Proverbs 3:6 READS, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).

Do you really want to know God’s WILL in your life, or do you just want God to help you with your plans?

“In ALL your ways,” not some of your ways, acknowledge Him!

Number THREE – Listen.

You see, there’s a VOICE behind you.

I feel this is the most important.  Well, not the most important, but a vital thing and that’s concentration!

  • Confession, Consecration, Concentration.

LISTEN TO GOD!

There’s a Voice behind you.

There’s God GUIDING you with His eye.

The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a gentle dove, as a still, small voice.  That’s why we need that quiet time alone, away from the worldly noise, alone with Abba Father.

You might say, “Well, God never speaks to me!”  One would have to be foolish to deny that there’s no music in the air just because you have the radio turned off.

God is speaking.  Are you listening?  Or do you keep interrupting the conversation with all the “Yeah, but’s”?

BEWARE of this godless planning.

BEWARE of self-centered planning, okay?

Not only should you beware of self-centered planning, but you need to be aware of self-confident presumption.

Our lives are but a VAPOR.

The words, “…what is your life…you are but a mist [a vapor]…”; it’s the word atmos.  It’s where we get the English word, Atmosphere from. It’s like that foggy breath you see when you [the Word Detectivie] walk the dog on crisp, cold air, days in the Fall.  It’s there for a little while, and then it vanishes.

We don’t know what the FUTURE holds.

This may be the year you check out of here.  You may be going to heaven, or this may be the year you’re going to hell if you don’t know Jesus as your Savior.  This may be your final year on earth.  You don’t know.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking right now.  You think “Well, I’m in good health.  I’m young, I’m this, I’m that.”  But you don’t know, do you?

What is your life?

It’s but a VAPOR that appears for a little while then vanishes away.  And what we all need to be aware of is not only self-centered planning, but being AWARE of self-confident presumption–thinking we’re going to do this, or we’re going to do that before we leave this old earth and we get frivolous with our use of time.

Proverbs 27:1 says “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

So as you PLAN THE FUTURE, you should say, “Lod God, I don’t know what the future is, I don’t know how much more time I have.  So Lord, help me to apply my days unto wisdom.  And Lord, may I live out the rest of my days, whether they be few or whether they be many, may they be used for You.”

To Kill Time is Suicide by Degree.

Don’t presume upon the time that you have.

Here’s the THIRD thing you need to beware of in your planning.

Not only self-centered planning, not only self-confident presumption BUT perhaps the most dangerous of all…you NEED to beware of SELF-COMPLACENT PROCRASTINATION.

You got to notice where James is headed here in the passage. [verses 15-17]

[15] You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. 

[16] But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit.  All such boasting is wrong. 

[17] So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin.  [AMP]

Now, here’s a man who knew what he should do, BUT…he didn’t do it.

He’s boasting in himself all that he’s done.  He became complacent.  

He’s AWARE of God’s WILL, but he doesn’t want to do it.

PROCRASTINATION MAY BE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM THAT MOST OF US HAVE TODAY. 

It’s a very deceptive SIN.  Many of us think we’re doing good if we don’t do the ‘dirty dozen’ sins.  You know, we have our own little list of sins, and we say, “Well, I don’t do any of those things, thank God!  I’m fine.”

But most of us don’t think of Procrastination as a sin:  [17] So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it,,, it’s a SIN.

Now most of us don’t believe that, but I believe it with all of my heart.  The Bible teaches it.  The Bible teaches that the sins of OMISSION are greater than the sins of COMMISSION.  Let me try to explain.

The SIN of OMISSION, the SIN of PROCRASTINATION is such a dangerous and deceptive sin.  It’s the reason that so many people are lost.

Why do people go to HELL today?  Because they steal, commit adultery? NO!  Oh, those are sins worthy to damn us, but those sins have been PAID for!

The REASON a person is LOST today, simply put, is because he’s FAILED to do what he ought to do.

John 3:18, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”  [NIV].

No longer is MAN condemned to hell because he’s a sinner, because those SINS have been paid for.  “He that BELIEVES in Him [Jesus] is not condemned, but he that does not believe is condemned already…”  WHY?  Because he has NOT believed.  It is the SIN OF OMISSION now that sends a soul to hell.

The REASON that people have WRONG THINKING is that of the sin of omission.

The reason that homes break up, THE SIN OF OMISSION.

The reason that churches fall, it is THE SIN OF OMISSION, failing to do what needs to be done.

You say, “Well, one of these days I’m going to do such and such.”

You have SIN in your heart!  “…to him that knoweth to do good and doeth not, to him it is a SIN” (KJV).

Thinking about your FAILURE –

No one likes to FAIL, so ‘planning to fail’ must seem to be out of the question in your life.

While thinking about your future, BEWARE of self-centeredness, don’t leave God out of your plans.

BEWARE of self-confident presumption.  You don’t have a promise of tomorrow.  Your LIFE is but a VAPOR, a MIST!

What you are going to do, DO!

If you think about your future, BEWARE of self-complacent procrastination, saying, “You just wait and see. One of these days I’m going to do it!”  “So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin” (AMP).

So, do you want to face your future with positive results?

“NO FAILING HERE!”

Face your future then by giving your HEART, MIND, and SOUL to Jesus Christ and letting the Holy Spirit be in you to GUIDE, SHOW you and give you a HOPE that is wonderful and glorious.

If I had a thousand lives to live, I’d give them ALL to Jesus.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  “What does the Bible say about consecration?” @ GotQuestions.org.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search, Settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted in the text.