Hello God? #3 - How to Screw Up Your Prayers. Matthew 6: Lifepath Church. October 25, 2015

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1 1 Hello God? #3 - How to Screw Up Your Prayers Matthew 6: 9-13 Lifepath Church October 25, 2015 There are many startling promises about prayer in the Bible. Here is what we are told in 1 John 5: And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. (1 John 5: NLT). Prayer is the place where heaven and earth touch. When we pray the power of God is brought to bear to change things. If you knew that God would hear you and answer your prayers, would you pray more? Would you pray more specifically? Me too. But notice what else it says, We are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him (1 John 5: 14). Is it possible to pray in a way that is displeasing to God? Is it possible to screw up our prayers? That s our topic for this morning: How to Screw Up Your Prayers. Let s go back to Jesus basic instruction on prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13 and hear what he has to say. Listen now to the Word of God. (Read Matthew 6: 9-13 NIV). I mentioned before that one of the things I studied to prepare for this sermon series was the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Jim Cymbala s, teachings on prayer. He gave a very interesting illustration. Right now there is a lot of power flowing all around us. There is a power that keeps the lights on, powers the sound system through which I m speaking, cools and warms

2 2 the building, and lights up the screen behind me. The power is invisible but it is flowing through the walls, the ceiling, under the stage. 100 years ago, when people were first getting electricity in their homes, it freaked them out to think they had the power of fire running through their walls. Steve Milillo, our sound and lights guy, can send that power flowing from his board to turn up sound or adjust the lights. Like prayer flowing into a situation Steve can change things from his sound board. Now, Steve, take several steps to your right and open up that box on the wall. What is he standing next to? The fuse box. If he starts throwing switches and please do not what happens to all the power flowing into the lights and sound? It is shut off. If those switches are flipped then it doesn t matter how much Steve moves the knobs and buttons on the sound board. No power is flowing. There is something that will flip off the power of prayer in our life like a fuse switch. Jesus teaches that it is crucial to pray forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. A daily part of our prayer should be to confess our sins before God. Why? Because unconfessed sin flips off the power of prayer in our lives. All too often it is possible to say God I need your help with this area of my life, but God, please don t look too carefully at the rest of my life. Just focus over here but, God, don t look over there. Focus on helping me get a job, but don t look at how I am treating my wife. Help me with my health but don t look at my business dealings. Help me with all my bills but, God, don t look at what s on my computer screen. We have disobedience in our lives that we refuse to give up on. Fuse switched off. Fuse blown. No power flowing. The bible says, If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable (Proverbs 28: 9). Prayers doesn t work that way because God doesn t work that way. The Scripture says that prayer is where heaven and earth meet. Prayer is about joining hands with God. It s about being in

3 3 relationship with God. And here s the thing, God is light. 1 John 1 says, This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all (1 John 1: 5 NLT). And to walk in the light means we have to be open and honest about all aspects of our lives. 1 John 1 continues with this: So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1: 6-7) If you are trying to keep something in your life hidden in the dark it s going to be impossible to connect in prayer to the God who is Light. Some of you are thinking, well then I guess God will never listen to my prayers because I will never be good enough. I have darkness in my life. I will never measure up. But look back at the Lord s prayer: Jesus doesn t teach us to pray, Congratulate us, God, because we ve done everything right. It says, Forgive us our debts. Standing in the light doesn t mean we re perfect. I belong here because I m perfect light too. It means being brave enough to go to God and say, As I stand in your Light, I see that I have some darkness in me. Forgive me and help me to walk in your light. And for those of you who might doubt that God can forgive you, look back at 1 John 1: 7 The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1: 7). Because we are flawed and prone to do what is wrong, it s necessary each and every day we make prayer for forgiveness a part of our prayers and to realize if we ve got something that we won t talk about to God, there s a problem. There s an old saying what you can t talk about owns you. This is what David meant when he wrote Psalm 32: Oh, what joy for those whos disobedience is forgiven, whos sin is put out of sight! Ye, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to

4 4 confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, I will confess my rebellion to the LORD. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm 32: 1-5 NLT). There are times when I feel my prayers just blocked because I know there is something I m not putting in front of God. Who is the person in my life that I am most likely to hurt? To fight with? To quarrel with? It s the person with whom I share the most. Funny how that works isn t it. My wife. More than once I have had a spat with Allie. Maybe in the morning. Maybe the night before. I get to the office and start my morning prayer. I get my bible out, I read and try to settle into my time with God. And right away I hear the still small voice, Why are you trying to talk with me. You need to go make things right with her first. And then I have to admit my guilt to God and go admit my guilt to her. I m sorry. And only then can I go back to my prayers. The Apostle Peter, who we know to have been married and was a bit of a hothead said this, In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3: 7). You see? When we don t admit and deal with the wrong in our lives, it hinders our prayers. It flips off the power like a fuse turning off the electricity. Why are you trying to talk with me. Admit you messed up, and go put things right. Walk in the Light means admitting we need forgiveness and putting things right. And then the Power of the God of Light will flow through our prayers.

5 5 But the hardest part of walking in the Light is the full line: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6: 12 NIV). Forgive us for our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. Oh man. That s a hard one, isn t it? Jesus knows that, which is why the very next thing he says after teaching the disciples this prayer is, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6: NIV). Holding on to a grudge is disobedience to God. Holding on to hatred will short circuit your prayers and your joy and your peace. I preach a lot about this because I think it s hard but it is the way to freedom. Not too long ago we talked about forgiveness. It doesn t mean allowing abuse either to yourself or someone else. It doesn t mean letting someone hurt you. Forgiving doesn t always mean you re going to feel a certain way about someone. It doesn t mean you re going to feel warm feelings of affection. I spend a lot of time talking about this. And we ll do it again, because this really is about conquering evil. The evil thing that someone did to you, as long as you are holding onto hate and anger and the grudge it is still controlling you and robbing you of God s joy. I thought it would be better to let someone else do the talking. I mentioned that I looked at Jim Cymbala s study on prayer to prepare for these sermons. He has a congregation member who has a powerful testimony about how forgiving someone else sets us free to pray. Watch this video..(run video) Each and every day when you pray, ask God, is there something in my life displeasing to you? Is there something I need to admit to myself, to You, to someone I ve hurt? Is there some sin in my life that is coming between us, God? Be bold and trust God s forgiveness. If we want the power of God in our lives we have to walk in the light.

6 Amen 6

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