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Sermon 4/1/07 –
On Prayer – Matthew 10:19-20

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On Prayer

When they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak, for it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:19-20)

I’m reading an excellent book by Billy Graham, a 700-plus page autobiography taken from his journal, called “Just As I Am,” and it’s encouraging to read about the wonders that God has done through the life of this gentle, humble man. He gives the praise and glory to God, as all of us should. And He is a man of prayer.

As Rev. Graham was entering Madison Square Garden in New York City, many years ago, with “flashbulbs… popping all around,” his “heart kept saying, over and over, ‘O God, let it be to Thy glory. Let there be no self.” As he sat on the platform night after night, he experienced “how demanding (such) speaking can be, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.” He had run out of sermons and was preparing a new one each day, an exhausting effort in itself. He “sat on the platform and prayed silently, ‘O God, YOU have to do it; I can’t do it. I just CAN’T do it.’” And yet, when he stood up, “all of a sudden the words would begin to come – God giving strength and spiritual power in a way that could not be explained in human terms.

Billy Graham gives the Lord everything he has during the crusades. He said, “Something went out of me physically in the New York Crusade that I never fully recovered. Never again would we attempt anything as extensive in length.” Yet he continued to give himself to the Lord’s call. He prayed, “Help these people to receive You in answer to the prayers of the people – and do not let me get any credit.” He also prayed, “I am willing to take any kind of tiredness, disease, or whatever it is, for this one night, for You to win these people.

Soon after that time, he said, “I noticed something distorted in my vision; when I looked at the ground, it seemed to be wavy or ridged. Suddenly, I had a sharp pain in my left eye and it lost its peripheral vision,” diagnosed as “angiospastic edema of the macula,” which the doctors “traced directly to strain and overwork.” He “still had only 30 percent vision in that left eye,” when they started the next crusade.

Recently, a member of our Prayer Team, a pastor, entered an email dialogue with me about prayer. He asked, “How do we do this?” in relation to the prayers. The needs are so great and our strength is so little. I responded that it is not unlike the work of a body-builder – you must use those muscles in order to make them strong. We must pray in order to become people who can effectively pray. Somehow, the more we pray, the more we believe that God answers. And belief is a key to answered prayer.

I often say that I am a “learner” in prayer, which my wife cautions me about because others don’t understand - we are ALL learners in prayer. We take the prayers to the Lord in our home each Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM. After communion, I do the first prayer, asking for them out loud; the person to my left takes the second one, and so on. I might not make it through them all, except others pray with me and it helps that the prayers are written.

Years ago, I was very troubled by my limitations in prayer. I would start to pray for someone, and then my mind would wander. The Lord put it on my heart to keep a journal, which turned out to be the journal of prayer and Bible study that I kept for the next 15 years. Writing my prayers has given me focus. In our Scripture for today, Jesus told us what to do if someone attacks us for our faith. He said, “do not worry about how (to answer them) for it will be given to youit is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matthew 10:19-20).

The same principle works in prayer. – the Lord is discernibly with us. He enables us. People all over the world are continually in crisis. They get through one and here comes another. My question is, with billions on this earth: how does the Lord do it? The answer? - He is God! and He imparts something of Himself to those who pray.

In his next email, the pastor said, “Some requests sound like asking God to do magic. I know He does miracles. By ‘magic’ I mean when some one asks for us to pray that God will heal finances when they have been irresponsible… or asking for healing for high blood pressure when we have anger and bitterness.” I like his comment about “magic” and he’s right. Prayer is not “rubbing a magic lamp;” it’s trusting that God really cares.

Many have noticed with interest the qualification that John the Apostle placed on “ask anything in My name…” He stated that “if we ask anything according to (God’s) WILL” we will have the answer (1 John 5:14-15 & context). Yes, we often do create our own problems through irresponsibility and unforgiveness. And I believe the difficulties that arise in life can be God’s answer to a greater need inside of our character.

And sometimes the troubles that come are not about us at all. The first half of 2 Corinthians One is an excellent study of the “Whys?” in life – Why did this happen to me? Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, THAT WE MAY BE ABLE TO COMFORT…” OTHERS – and the section gives reasons why we suffer. We might get a certain form of cancer and think, “Why me?” Then we are assigned to a chemotherapy room and next to us is a person with precisely “our” kind of rare cancer. They might listen to us about how the Lord has comforted us, whereas they might reject a thousand eloquent sermons by those who do not have that cancer. It’s not just about “me.”

By the way, our weakness in prayer can be a good thing. Paul noted God’s response to his “thorn in the flesh” – “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fact that we are overwhelmed by the needs of others in prayer is good because it draws us to seek the Lord’s help in praying for them. I cannot pray alone – more than eloquence, more than people, I need the Lord. And so do you.

Lord, I trust in You now. Forgive me for the times I have not prayed. Let Your thoughts, Your Words, Your heart, Your love, be mine. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

www.FirstChurchOnTheNet.org
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Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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