I Found the Answer…I’ve Learned to Pray

Series: When Men Pray

Lesson 3: September 16 – 22, 2020

Background:

The Babylonians were coming toward Jerusalem from the east.  They had already defeated the Assyrians, so the people of Jerusalem knew they didn’t stand much of a chance against such a superior military power.  The leaders of Jerusalem believed they should align with the Egyptians.  But Jeremiah told them. “God says you are going into captivity.  What you really ought to do is believe God, go out, and surrender to the Babylonians.” 

The outraged leaders, thinking Jeremiah was a traitor, threw him in prison and refused to listen to his warning.  Jeremiah probably wasn’t too surprised at the leaders’ reaction.  But what would God say to him now?  He had obeyed the Lord, and he was in prison because of it – what next?

Jeremiah was in a real prison.  We may be in figurative ones constructed out of circumstances or predicaments, but the bars are just as strong and the walls just as high.

Jeremiah 33:1-3 (NKJV)

1     Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying,

2     “Thus says the Lord who made it, the Lord who formed it to establish it (the Lord is His name):

3     ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Point to Ponder:  Why do you think God reaffirmed His identity to Jeremiah (v. 2)?

God says to Jeremiah three things that we need to remember. . .

  1. Prayer Principles
  2. Encouraged to Pray – “Call to me
  3. We may never be put behind bars, but God will put us in situations in order to teach us how to talk with Him.

1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV) – Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Ephesians 6:18 (GNT) – Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.

Luke 18:1 (NKJV) – Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart

2)    Answer Promised – “I will answer you

ü  God promises He will not only hear our prayers, but He will answer them.

Psalm 91:15 (NKJV) – He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.

Isaiah 58:9 (NKJV) – Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.

Isaiah 65:24  (NKJV) – “It shall come to pass, That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. . .”

Point to Ponder: Think about the requests you have made of God recently.  Are they being answered? Do you really believe they will be? 

Point to Ponder: You see, the question is not Does God answer prayer?  The real question is How does God answer prayer?

  • God’s Answers
  • When God answers our prayers, He either answers with
  • Yes
  • No
  • Wait

Consider the following examples . . .

Example 1 – Yes

Luke 11:5-13 (NLT)

5     Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him,

6     ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’

7     And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

8     But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 

9     “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

10   For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  

  • The man had an unexpected problem.
  • The man knew he had someone he could turn to who had what he needed.
  • The man went himself.

Hebrews 4:16 (KJV) – Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

  • The man made a specific request.
  • When there was no response, the man kept knocking.
  • This is where there is a contrast between God and the man. The provider was reluctant because he was sleep. But God is never reluctant or sleep.

Psalm 121:4 (KJV) Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

  • The man answers the door because of importunity.

Ask – Petition

Seek – Petition + Effort

Knock – Petition + Effort + Persistence

  • Many times, we need prevailing prayer or we will have a failing prayer.
  • Remember. . . there is a promise in a prevailing prayer. (v. 10)

Example 2 – No

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)

7     because of these surpassingly great revelations.  Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

8     Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

9     But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Principles to live by when God says “no.”

  1. Treat trials as a gift from God. “I was given”  You can treat them as a…
  2. Nuisance to be ignored “just go away”; “problems solve themselves”
  3. That noise in the car, or the numbness in your left arm, or the bills that you receive and immediately throw into file 13.
  4. You don’t pray about them because you refuse to even acknowledge their existence.
  5. Punishment to be endured – “I deserve everything that I’m getting.  Just better grin and bear it. It will be gone before too long.”
  6. Problem to be solved
  7. Battle to be waged – are you going to fight against God?

Or as a …

  • Gift to be accepted; acceptance is the issue; “the point of prayer is to get God’s will accomplished on earth not man’s will accomplished in heaven.”
  • Gifts bring joy.
  • Gifts come from people who love you.
  • Gifts, at least the best ones, come from people who know you. 
  • Remember what God has already said. “surpassing great revelations
  • When God doesn’t seem to be saying anything, rest your confidence on what God has already said.
  • Think about some of the surpassing great revelations that God has given to you. 
  • Continue praying to God. “three times I pleaded
  • Paul’s prayer was persistent  and it was passionate.
  • Paul pleaded with God!
  • The word that is translated “pleaded” is the same word that is used to describe
  • the way that Jairus asked for the healing of his daughter who was dying

Mark 5:23 (NIV) – He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”

  • It was how a leper sought cleansing from his leprosy.

Mark 1:40 (NIV) – A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

  • And it was how a servant begged his master for mercy over a bill that he owed so that he would not be thrown into prison and separated from his family

Matthew 18:29 (NIV) – “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

Point to Ponder: How would you pray if your daughter was dying? How would you pray if your body was being destroyed with cancer? How would you pray if you were getting ready to be separated from your family that you loved because of covid-19?

  • The first response that many people give when God doesn’t come through for them is that they give up on God or they give up on prayer. And that’s before they ever get to the pleading level. They may have hinted, suggested, or even asked, but they haven’t pleaded. It may very well be that God is just waiting until you are flat on your face before Him laying it all on the line, humiliating yourself in His eyes before He will give you the answer to your prayer. “God resists the proud but gives grace unto the humble.”

Luke 18:1 (KJV) – And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 

  1. Listen for God’s voice. “My grace is sufficient
  2. We allow so many things to compete for our attention in our lives.
  3. We are so busy. There’s no time and no motivation to just sit down and listen. Sometimes, the only time that we’re willing to listen to what God has to say.
  • Trust in God’s power. “power is made perfect”
  • Trust in God’s power, not your- own.
  • Trust in God’s power when you have none. 
  • When God chooses not to use His power to alleviate the pain, trust in God’s power to see you through the pain.
  • Serve God right where you are. “I delight in weaknesses

Point to Ponder: You want God to change your situation, but did you ever think that God has put you in that situation to use you right in the middle of it?

  • Don’t ask God to change things until you’ve looked for and found how you can minister in or be changed by the circumstance that you face. God doesn’t do anything without a reason.  

Example 3 – Wait

John 11:1-6, 20-21 (NIV)

1     Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

2     (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)

3     So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4     When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

5     Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6     So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,

20   When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21   “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died

In all situations, we need to. . .

  1. Tell Jesus (v. 1-4)
  2. Our Distress
  3. Our Difficulties
  4. Our Disappointment

Matthew 14:12 (NKJV) – Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Matthew 15:22 (NKJV) – And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

John 11:20-21 (NKJV) – 20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here1, my brother would not have died.

Points to Ponder:  When trials come, who do we run and tell?

Points to Ponder:  Do you remember a time when you were disappointed in Jesus?  How did you handle this disappointment? 

II.      Trust Jesus

  • He doesn’t come when you want Him but He is never too late!

John 11:5-7 (MSG)

5     Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,

6     but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days.

7     After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

  • Blessing delayed is not blessing denied!

John 11:33-34 (NKJV)

33   Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

34   And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

  • When you don’t understand

John 11:12-15 (NKJV)

12   Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”

13   However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14   Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

15   And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

III.     Turn it over to Jesus

John 11:39-41 (NKJV)

39   Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40   Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

41   Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.

Point to Ponder: What brings more glory to God. . .healing a sick man or raising a dead man?  Turn it over to Jesus.  He does ALL things well.

Conclusion:  We don’t like waiting around. Especially when it looks like a unique opportunity might slip away.  We don’t like to hear God say, “No,” especially when everything in us says, “yes, yes, yes!”  We often try to find a Scripture verse and claim it while we continue our prayer, hoping somehow to change God’s mind.  What we’re really saying is, “God, I didn’t like that answer.  How about reconsidering my point of view?”  But deep in our hearts we really want God’s perfect will for our lives. 

We must remember that God’s answer is always His ultimate best for us. 

  • Claiming Scripture will not change God’s will because His Word cannot contradict His will. 
  • If He says no, then the answer is no. 
  • If He says wait, then we should wait. 
  • God is more interested in our character, our future, and our sanctification than He is in our momentary satisfaction. 
  • His answers are always an act of grace, motivated by His love.

PRAYER PRINCIPLE:                     Be thankful that during prayer we have the ability to tell Jesus about our situation and circumstances even when we don’t fully trust Him enough to turn things over to him.

SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE:       When you know someone waiting on an answer from God, don’t try to explain God; just share how you were able to trust while you were waiting.

EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE:            Share with others the nevertheless spirit that Christ adopted so that we would not have to die a hopeless and painful death.

STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE:            When we give, we are helping others to get to know Christ.

DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE:            Even though you may not have received the answer you desired when you prayed, remember that God always answers with his love for us in mind.

NEXT WEEK’S TITLE: Prayer Changes Things

SERIES:          When Men Pray

NEXT WEEK’S READING ASSIGNMENT:  2 King 18; Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b; Joshua 6:10; Matthew 26:60-63; 2 Kings 19; 1 Peter 5:6-7

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