Welcome For those new to our group, welcome to “The Spirit Helps Us Pray” If you are wondering where we get that title, it comes from this book we are using for the study, and from Romans 6:28. What did you guys think of the book? Last week I also shared some a little book by an unknown author called “The Kneeling Christian” and tonight I think is worth beginning with this passage I shared: &quot;Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work. Prayer is omnipotent; it can do anything that God can do! When we pray God works. All fruitfulness in service is the outcome of prayer— but perhaps many of us need to cry... as the disciples did of old, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Let’s go to the Lord and open in prayer.
This section begins our Old Testament survey of prayer. If you missed last week’s section we talked about the what, why and how of prayer. (Review Slide) BTW – I have a Facebook group set up to post each week’s lesson, so if you miss anything you can find it there. Tonight we’re going to begin to introduce the “who” of the Bible, who prayed, and why and how did they pray. (review slide). As we begin to look at prayer, the question many Christian have is “does God really answer prayer?” Of course the answer is “yes” and we will begin to unpack that Biblically as we move forward. But I found this little story of the prayer life of one of the great man of prayer, George Mueller, to be a good story to begin with: On one occasion, when crossing from Quebec to Liverpool, George Muller had prayed very definitely that a chair he had written to New York for should arrive in time to catch the steamer, and he was quite confident that God had granted his petition. About half an hour before the tender was timed to take the passengers to the ship, the agents informed him that no chair had arrived, and that it could not possibly come in time for the steamer. Now, Mrs. Muller suffered much from sea-sickness, and it was absolutely essential that she should have the chair. Yet nothing would induce Mr. Muller to buy another one from a shop near by. “We have made special prayer that our Heavenly Father would be pleased to provide it for us, and we will trust Him to do so,” was his reply; and he went on board absolutely sure that his trust was not misplaced, and would not miscarry. Just before the tender left, a van drove up, and on the top of the load it carried was Mr. Muller’s chair. It was hurried on board and placed into the hands of the very man who had urged George Müller to buy another one! When he handed it to Mr. Muller, the latter expressed no surprise, but quietly removed his hat and thanked his Heavenly Father. To this man of God such an answer to prayer was not wonderful, but natural. And do you not think that God allowed the chair to be held back till the very last minute as a lesson to Mr. Muller’s friends-and to us? We should never have heard of that incident but for that delay. (The Kneeling Christian) To this man of God such an answer to prayer was not wonderful, but natural. Can we possibly develop that same natural response, that expectancy that our prayers will be answered? I would certainly like to. So let’s start to develop that level of trust in the Lord, as we’ll see in the life of the Patriarchs. (Advance slide)
Who were the Patriarchs and why did they pray and what can we learn from their prayers? That’s our study for tonight. And, tonight we’re going to start digging into Biblical Prayer but I want us to keep in mind the definition we’re using (refer to handout): Biblical prayer is… Distinguished by Biblical understanding, Evidenced by right thinking about the greatness of God, Understanding of the supremacy of Christ, Appreciating our own unworthiness and weakness, for the Purpose of knowing the Father more fully, Experiencing the Holy Spirit more wholly, and Cooperating with Jesus mission more completely, For the transforming of our lives and that of others All for God’s glory and honor! Are you ready to dig in? Just say “Yes Lord, I’m ready!” And, for our new folks, this is an open format where response is appropriate and appreciated. I don’t want to do all the talking. And, by responding I know you’re still listening and I haven’t put you to sleep yet.
“ In the beginning God created”…Why did God create prayer? (Responsive) The same reason God created man and woman. Last week we talked and you read about some of the various forms of prayer including Communion and Communication. God created prayer for just that purpose – Communion and Communication. And, God desired worshippers as we know is also a form of prayer. I think we would be safe in saying that God created prayer as a result of the Fall. Why? Because…. Adam and Eve (Review Slide) Adam and Eve had it all, they had perfect communication and communion with God at the beginning. They had it all, all that God wanted for them, but they thought they wanted more. I say they thought they wanted more because we soon see the results of their wanting – they hid from God. The first really crucial truth to understanding prayer is that we never ‘need’ anything more than what God’s purposes for our lives. But as we know God does ask us to ask of Him even for those things such as “daily bread.” Why do you think God requires us to ask for everything we need? (Responsive) Adam and Eve had it all, but even with that they hid from God. Isn’t that what prayerlessness is? But we blame everything else from our busyness to our enemy, like we discussed last week. And, there’s some truth to that. But we hide from God because we may be guilty of sin, we doubt God’s intentions, or we live in fear of what God may require of us, or we lack trust, the exact opposite of the story of George Mueller. All of this separate us from God’s presence. The point is…(refer to slide) Seth (Review Slide) Nothing much is said of Seth in the Bible, nothing about his prayer life, but in the Hebrew the name Seth means “compensation.” That’s an interesting name. It could means Seth was compensation for his brother Able, whom we know Cain had murdered for offering a better sacrifice. Or, perhaps it means that God was already in the process of restoring communion with Himself? It is through the line of Seth that Jesus comes. We should know that throughout all of His-story, God is working to restore the perfect communion and communication lost at the Fall. The Bible is really all about God’s story for His glory, His mission to restore perfect communion and communication. (refer to “The Mission of God”). (Review slide) Enoch (Review Slide) And, then there is Enoch. We have to be careful we have the right one. The first Enoch mentioned is born through the line of Cain, the second is born through the line of Seth. Of the second Enoch we read twice “And Enoch walked with God” (see Genesis 5:22 & 24). And, we see the result of Enoch’s walk, he was “no more” It’s been said that whenever God says something twice in short order, He really wants us to understand it. So how are we to understand this phrase “walked with God”? What do you think it means? (Responsive)
From Genesis 1 to Genesis 8, actually through to Abraham, whom we will soon visit with, we don’t see much prayer happening. Biblical historians will cite this period as about 2000 years or so, the Pre-flood era. That’s a long time to be prayerlessness! (refer to Gen 4:26) Chapter 4 ends with an interesting observation – verse 26 says “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.” There are actually only four words in Hebrew that make up this sentence. Chalal “At that time men began” - Qara “to call on” - Shem “the name of” - Yehovah “the Lord.” Now I offer the following only because I think it follows the condition of man at this time; the flood follows this calling on the Lord. That should tell us something. Let me preface this next point by saying many theologians disagree on this point. The word “began” in the Hebrew “chalal” is a very interesting word. 52 times it is used to mean “begin” but it is also interpreted profane 36 times, pollute 23 times, defile 9 times, break 4 times. All four of the other interpretation have negative meanings, don’t they. Two observations I want to draw from this with respect to prayer. First, we know that this passage is used in direct connection with Enoch through the line of Seth, and we just saw that Enoch walked with God and was no more for God “raptured” him. And, we also know that through his line Noah comes, which is eventually of course the line through which Christ comes. Makes me think that those who walk with God are important to Him, wouldn’t you say? But was “calling upon God”, or walking with God a common occurrence? Clearly it was not. Therefore… Second, going forward in the Biblical account, we see the decaying of mankind down to the last man standing - Noah and his sons. All other man were not walking with God. Some thing’s just make you go hmmmmm.
Last week I said that Prayer is one of the oldest practices of mankind. Prayer from the altar is another. Here are some altars from the world’s great religions. (Introduce previous slide). I’ll circle back to the altar in a minute. Mankind hadn’t been praying, they weren’t walking with God, things were getting pretty ugly on the planet by all accounts (see Genesis 6:1-7). But we read of Noah in verse 6:8: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” And of course, we know that Noah was the only one prepared, the only one with a Life Boat, he and is family were saved from God’s judgment. And, in Genesis 7:5 we read “And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.” Let me repeat that “Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” This very idea of doing “all that the Lord commanded” is going to be repeated over and over again the lives of the Old Testament men we’re going to study. And, then we see something interesting happen when Noah finally disembarked from the Ark. Genesis 8:20 says “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD.” What a curious response! Why would he do such a thing? God hadn’t told Noah to do build an altar. But let’s begin to look at this practice in the lives of the patriarchs. (review slide) The Bible (NIV) records the word Altar 380 times; only 23 times in the New Testament but listen to this. Revelation 8:3 says: “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar . He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.” We should embrace the idea of the altar; there is going to be one with us in Heaven, and we’re going to be worshipping before it for eternity. Even now our prayers are at the altar of Heaven impacting history!
What were the occasions of prayer at the altar? With respect to the Patriarchs consider (review slide): Seeking God at the altar has always been the practice of the faithful since Noah found dry land. This should tell us something of it’s significant role in the Church even today. We don’t need to disassociate ourselves from the idea of spending time at the altar, as some kind of religious act. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn’t have any religion, they were simply obedient seekers of God, and all built altars. The altar should be a natural expression of our prayer life for we serve a God who is El Elohe Israel – the Mighty One – the God of Israel. Prior to moving to McKinney, my family lived on Long Island and attended a “full Gospel” church called Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. Prominently on display in the front of the sanctuary was an altar. I don’t believe it was there as a religious symbol but as a visible connection to God through prayer. Not every Sunday, but many we would have an open altar time where church leaders, elders and deacons, of whom I was privileged to be one, would pray for those who came forward. And, on most Sunday’s we actually had a line of people seeking prayer. How I miss that connectedness, that precious prayer time, that church-wide openness to come to the throne of grace. I was so happy to see Pastor Bruce recently introduce that practice here. But I have noticed that not many people come forward for prayer. I think that is something we need to pray about; a willingness of God’s people to come to the altar of prayer.
After Noah, we again don’t find much prayer in the world, at least by the Biblical account, until Abraham. In Genesis 11, we do find man doing there own thing, building a tower to so that they could “make a name” for themselves. Second truth for tonight’s study – man collectively has always been interested in living life on their own terms but God is always looking for people who would believe Him, who believe in prayer and they have always been few in number. Abraham was such a man who believed God and believed in prayer. E.M. Bounds is certainly one of my favorite men of prayer. Listen to Bounds expound upon the life of Abraham “Abraham, the friend of God, was a striking illustration of one of the Old Testament saints who believed strongly in prayer. Abraham was not a shadowy figure by any When we study Abraham’s character, we find that after his call to go out into an unknown country, on his journey with his family and his household servants, wherever he tarried by the way for the night or longer, he always erected an altar, and “called upon the name of the Lord.” And this man of faith and prayer was one of the first to erect a family altar, around which to gather his household and offer the sacrifices of worship, of praise and of prayer. As God’s revelations became fuller and more perfect, Abraham’s prayerfulness increased, and it was at one of these spiritual eras that “Abraham fell on his face and God talked with him.”… It was Abraham’s rule to stand before the Lord in prayer. His life was surcharged with prayer and Abraham’s dispensation was sanctified by prayer. For wherever he halted in his pilgrimage, prayer was his inseparable accompaniment. Side by side with the altar of sacrifice was the altar of prayer. He got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord in prayer. And, here are just three verses that refer to Abraham, the man who believed God, built altars, and prayer was “his inseparable accompaniment.” (review slide)
Now let’s consider Jacob and look at a particular prayer he prayed. “Jacob was not a strict pattern of righteousness” according to E.M. Bounds. That’s probably putting it nicely. But, that is until such time as he encounters God in Genesis 28, where he has a dream at Bethel. Jacob says in verse 28: 16 - 17: &quot;Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.&quot; He was afraid and said, &quot;How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.&quot; That encounter set Jacob’s future in motion and we find Jacob in Genesis 32:9-11 praying for deliverance (Read verse). What a revelation – “God is in this place!” Recognizing the truth of that statement is crucial to a fervent prayer life. What is deliverance? (Responsive) It’s not some spooky prayer concept that some extreme Christians use in Spiritual Warfare. What did Jacob need to be delivered from? Jacob was in fear of his brother Esau. Year’s before as we know the story, Jacob had committed one of the greatest frauds in the history of mankind. He had stolen Esau’s birthright for a bowl of porridge and then his father’s blessing. Maybe Bernie Maddoff’s $50 billion dollar con measures up. Jacob was now returning home and would have to face his brother. Let’s break down this short prayer (review slide) Do you see a familiar patter in this prayer? (update slide by point) Jesus gave us the greatest model of a prayer of deliverance. We’re going to study this prayer is greater detail later in our study but for now why would we need such a prayer? Why do you think we need to pray for deliverance? (responsive) Prayers of deliverance arise out of the recognition that “God is in this place” but we’ve not yet fully embraced the idea of God’s sovereign rule over our lives, we’re not yet fully trusting in God. Of course, no one has ever done it perfectly except Jesus. But we can do it better like George Mueller.
We also find in these men of the Old Testament, the first examples of Biblical Intercession. Here are some of the examples of intercession we find in lives of the Patriarchs. (review slide) How would you define intercession? (responsive) As already noted, one of the great men of prayer was Andrew Murray, here is what Murray had to say on intercession: “ We are a royal priesthood — a priestly people. As long as prayer is only a means of personal improvement and happiness, we cannot know its full power. Intercession! Oh to realize what it means! To take the name, and the righteousness, and the worthiness of Christ, to put them on, and in them to appear before God! (Repeat) It is in intercession, more than in the zeal that works in its own strength with little prayer, that the highest type of piety, the true Christlikeness is cultivated. It is in intercession that a believer rises to his true nobility in the power of imparting life and blessing. It is to intercession we must look for any large increase of the power of God in the Church and its work for men.” Principles For Effective Intercession , by Joy Dawson, contains these ten principles of intercession which are tried and proven as being effective (review handout)
Last week, we ended talking about Christ’s supremacy. Tonight I want to end with considering God’s sovereignty. Included in our definition of Biblical Prayer is the “greatness of God” and included in the greatness of God is His sovereignty over all things. What does it mean to be sovereign? (responsive) Dictionary.com offers these definition for the adjective form: belonging to or characteristic of a sovereign or sovereignty; royal. having supreme rank, power, or authority. supreme; preeminent; indisputable: a sovereign right. greatest in degree; utmost or extreme. being above all others in character, importance, excellence, etc. efficacious; potent: a sovereign remedy. Let’s look at some of the examples of how God’s sovereignty effected the lives of the Patriarchs (Review slide) That God is sovereign is without question, tonight one of your handouts is full of scripture references of Old Testament passages that declare God’s sovereignty. Last week we looked at the wonder of God. God wondered that there was no intercessor (Isaiah 59:1). Here’s a continuing thought from the Kneeling Christian: (Document – Lesson 2 – Slide 10) Only the Sovereign God of the universe could declare such a thing! What does it mean for our own life? For me it means healing of cancer. What does it mean for you? (Responsive)
Next week we’re going to study the prayer life of Moses. Certainly a man who was transformed by the power of Prayer. Because as should know by now, prayer is omnipotent, it can do anything that God can do. In closing, consider these thoughts from our “unknown author” The fact is—let us be quite honest and straightforward about it—the fact is so many of us do not believe God. We may just as well be quite candid about it. If we love God we ought to pray, because He wants us to pray, and commands us to pray. If we believe God we shall pray because we cannot help doing so: we cannot get on without it. Fellow-Christian, you believe in God, and you believe on Him ( John iii. 16 ), but have you advanced far enough in the Christian life to believe Him; that is, to believe what He says and all He says? Does it not sound blasphemous to ask such a thing of a Christian man? Yet how few believers really believe God!—God forgive us! Has it ever struck you that we trust the word of our fellow-man more easily than we trust God’s word? And yet, when a man does “believe God,” what miracles of grace God works in and through him! No man ever lived who has been revered and respected by so many peoples and tongues as that man of whom we are told three times over in the New Testament that “He believed God” ( Rom. iv. 3 ; Gal. iii. 6 ; James ii. 23 ). Yes, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” And today, Christian and Jew and Moslem vie with each other in honoring his name. We implore every believer on Christ Jesus never to rest till he can say, “I believe God, and will act on that belief” ( Acts xxvii. 25 ). (Ask someone to close in prayer)
“ The Spirit Helps Us To Pray” A Biblical Theology of Prayer
Lesson 2 Prayers of the Patriarchs and Their Contemporaries
Prayer from the Beginning Adam & Eve – God desires communion and communication (Genesis 3) It was God who created It was God who initiated It was God who sought Seth – After the fall communion and communication was lost (Genesis 4) It was man who hid It was man who broke the link It is man who is in need Enoch – But some “Walked with God” (Gen. 5:22) There are a few who understand There are a few who seek There are a few who follow We were designed for relationship with God who desires to commune and communicate with us. Recognizing our need is the prerequisite for calling upon God. “ Walking with God” brings us closer to Him, but too few chose that route
Prayer from the Altar Noah – originated the practice of Altar building (Genesis 8:20) This was man’s initiative This was man’s connection This was man’s effort Abraham – continued the practice of Altar building Built to honor the Lord Built to meet with the Lord Built in obedience to the Lord Isaac and Jacob – continued the practice of Altar building The generations of seekers The generations of pray-ers The generations of the faithful But as it denotes faith, relationship and worship; God honors the practice of coming to the altar. Hearing the Lord, worshipping at an altar, and showing faith are all inseparable in the OT. Seeking the Lord in prayer is the common thread of the faithful, there will never be an end to our altar worship
Abraham – experienced the results of his own prayerlessness leading him to Egypt and compromising his wife, taking Hagar to himself thus having Ishmael… but God’s purposes prevail
Isaac - experienced God’s sovereignty in praying for Rebekah to have a child; instead of one child the Lord gave him two sons that later war with one another… but God’s purposes prevail
Jacob – experienced the results of his own deceit in dealing with his brother, forced to flee his home and live with his idolatrous uncle, until finally returning to the Lord years later… but God’s purposes prevail
Job – experienced God’s sovereignty as few have, even though he was considered “blameless” by God himself, but simply as an demonstration of God’s sovereignty over every life… AND God’s purposes prevail!