Realm: Draw Near by Ted Beasley

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued a series on the spiritual realm. The Scriptures tell us our prayers can move the spiritual realm, and forces in the spiritual realm can move us – for better or worse.

You can watch the entire series at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

Each week, there are Next Steps to help us apply the message to our lives.

You can watch the message from Ted Beasley here:

Realm – Draw Near | March 16, 2014 from Gateway Church on Vimeo.

Ted Beasley shared the following insights:

“As we continue our series called “Realm,” which is about the spiritual world and how we connect to its power through prayer, let’s start out in Philippians chapter 4 this morning.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (4:6-7) 

Paul writes this passage from a Roman prison, awaiting his trial date before Caesar on the charge of treason.  And you get this sense from reading the letter of Philippians that he’s not worried about it.  And so he says to us, Don’t get all worked up with worry.  Instead, in everything, IN EVERYTHING, make your requests known to God.  And through asking, a supernatural peace that transcends understanding comes.  Is that the kind of prayer relationship you have with God? No worries. In all things praying, thanking, asking. And you just live with this peace that defies explanation?  Does this describe how you live?

Prayer gets a lot of press in the church.  It’s built up to be the foundation of your personal faith in God, the sign of your maturity, but truth is, for many of us, prayer’s elusive.  It’s a mystery.  It’s profound once in a while, good occasionally, uneventful most of the time, and in some seasons utterly disappointing.  Ever wonder if you are doing it right?  If you have the etiquette down?

Though 82% of Americans pray on a weekly basis, most of us in this room feel inadequate or even guilty about the quality and quantity of our prayers.  And for many of us, I think it partially comes down to a how-to issue.

In Luke 11 we read about how Jesus’ disciples ask a similar question.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation’.” (Luke 11:1-4) 

The disciples see Jesus praying, and to them, it sort of looks like the guy is onto something.  He’s always going off by himself and praying for hours at a time, and He comes back all energized and at peace.  So they plead with him, “Teach us to pray.”  It is then that Jesus delivers the Lord’s Prayer, but Jesus isn’t trying to provide a prescription for how we should pray.  He probably never intended for us to recite the Lord’s Prayer over and over.  He’s talking more about an attitude than a blueprint.  Jesus is saying that the right way to pray is to go the God with trust that he wants what is best for you, and then to communicate to him what is genuinely on your heart.  No formula.  No grading system.

Do you have resistance about prayer?  I’m not talking about whether or not you believe in prayer.  I’m talking about resistance.  Whatever mentally or spiritually blocks you from experiencing the power of prayer.  That thing inside of you that stops you from following through on your good intentions to be more prayerful.  There’s a spiritual battle around you when it comes to prayer.  Jesus acknowledged it in Matthew 26.  He asked his best friends to stay awake and pray with him.  But instead his friends start snoozing.  And you know what Jesus said to them when he woke them up and invited them again to pray?

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Luke 11:41) 

Your spirit wants and needs prayer, but your flesh, your doubts, your habits, your weakness, your fears all conspire to keep you from praying.  Galatians 5 says it this way:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another.  (Gal. 5:16-17)

For years, you may have just thought that you weren’t as good at prayer as everyone else.  Maybe you thought you just weren’t disciplined to make it work.  But listen to me, prayer is so important for your vitality that it is opposed.  There’s a war going on.  Your flesh is throwing up all kinds of blockades and excuses.

I always like to picture this as the devil on one shoulder and an angel on another. Too often, when it comes to prayer, I simply don’t engage with God at the level I want to, that my spirit longs to.  How about you?  If you were to rate your daily prayer life from 1-10?  And what’s standing in your way?  In addition to giving us some instruction on how to pray, I believe the Lord’s Prayer is a primer on how to overcome our resistance to fully communicating with God.  So, let’s walk through the Lord’s Prayer.

Resistance #1  You’re Not Very Good at This.

How Jesus Says to Pray:  Father.  If you are going to pray, you need to know who you are really talking to.  This single word “Father” defines our relationship to God, and it introduces an entirely new paradigm for praying.  The actual name “Father” is translated from the Hebrew word, “Abba.” This word is how a little Jewish child would address his father in the privacy of the home.  In all the literature of ancient Judaism before Jesus’ time, there was never one instance of anyone addressing God as Father.  It was always “The Lord Almighty” or “The Holy One.” God was high and lifted up, to be approached with reverence and awe.  To call him “Daddy” was unthinkable.  It was too comfortable, but Jesus did it all the time.  And it got him into trouble with the Jewish leaders of the day.

Paul says in Romans 8:

You received a Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry Abba, Father.  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  (Rom. 8:15-16)

What that passage says is that as a gift, Jesus gave us the opportunity to call the God with the unspeakable name, the God who created everything – to call him Daddy.  See, you and I don’t need to talk to God in any special kind of theological or religious language. Dads long to hear the voice of their kids, and really, what they want to hear most is how their kids are doing.  Prayer, at its core is about relationship. It’s talking to God about what you are doing together.  Prayer begins at the point of acknowledging where you truly are before God.  Don’t worry about the resistance of whether or not you are doing it right.

Resistance #2:  You’re Too Busy.

How Jesus Says to Pray:  Hallowed be your name.  This is the first of five requests in Jesus’ model prayer.  This is simply a request that God would make sure that his name be held in high regard.  Let your name be treasured and loved more than any other name.

Too often we don’t hallow anything anymore.  Because in our busy lives, we have other idols like paying the mortgage, having the finer things in life, impressing people at work, or having perfect little offspring who participate in every activity.

You’ve got to fight through this resistance that you are just too busy to really pray, because what you are in effect saying is that all of these eternally insignificant things that occupy your mind are more important to you that God. Jesus says, make his name hallowed in prayer. This request that Jesus tells us to pray reflects our desire that people around us would know and understand the greatness and goodness and necessity of God.  Prayer helps us acknowledge that God is holy and powerful and deserving of our respect and worship, and yes our time.

How Jesus Says to Pray:  Your kingdom come.  When Jesus speaks of God’s Kingdom, He is talking about any place where God’s will happens. It represents those places, those individuals, those groups of people, those communities in which what God prefers actually happens. In the Lord’s prayer found in Matthew, Jesus prays “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  In heaven, things happen exactly how God wants them to. There is order. There is no sin and no pain. There is peace,  joy, and fulfillment.

If you haven’t noticed, it doesn’t exactly happen that way down here.  God is in charge, and one day he will make a new world of this old world, but things don’t exactly operate in our lives the way he would prefer.  This world is not the way God intended it to be.  You are not yet who God intended for you to be.  The prayer of asking God that his Kingdom would come is simply a prayer to God asking Him to make things right.

We can pray that God’s rule and reign and kingdom would come to places like our government or our church or our schools.  We can also pray that his kingdom would come to our lives, our relationships, our hearts, our thoughts, our habits.  Anything that isn’t right, the way it should be or could be, we can pray, “God bring your influence there. I’m not too busy to invite Your kingdom to come.”

Resistance #3:  You’re Not Worthy.

How Jesus Says to Pray:  Give us each day our daily bread.  In response to your resistance that God is too big to care about your unworthy, petty requests, Jesus starts talking about bread.  Bread throughout the Bible is a metaphor for sustenance. Bread represents our daily needs. Jesus says that we ought to pray that God would provide what we need. Some of you would prefer to worry about material things. You would prefer to stress and wonder how you are going to make it or how you are going to afford something. To ask for that stuff would be selfish, right?

Jesus says you are dead wrong.  Jesus says, “If you earthly fathers love to take care of your children, how much more does your heavenly father love to hear your requests and take care of your needs?”  Some of you need to just get over it and ask.  Now that doesn’t mean that you get whatever you ask for. James 4:3 says the following:

When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 

Motives are important, but if you have a need, ask for it.  What’s the biggest need in your life right now materially, relationally, spiritually?  If your thoughts return again and again to that thing throughout the day, then talk to God about it.

How Jesus Says to Pray: Forgive us our sins.  The strongest resistance many of us encounter is connected to the unworthiness we feel because of our sin. In fact, this is precisely why Jesus brings up confession. Asking for forgiveness is a central part of prayer. In prayer we have to admit that we need Him.  Talk to God about where you might have messed up, or even celebrate a little victory. A huge purpose of prayer is that you would own your struggles and bad choices.

Do you know what happens when you do?  The resistance melts away.  You’re not hiding anything, and you can approach God with confidence.

To any of you who have ever felt unworthy, that you are not royalty, that you are not a child of the king, hear these true words from Hebrews 10:

So, friends, we can now – without hesitation – walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it – full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.  (Hebrews 10:19-22) 

On a lonely Roman cross 2,000 years ago Jesus settled the question of your worthiness once and for all.  He laid down his life and spilled his blood, gladly and with joy. His sacrifice enables us to change our identity.  In God’s eyes, you’re not known as a sinner or a freak or a disappointment. Jesus took on the punishment for your sin and bridged the gap between you and the Father. So walk into the holy place with confidence, not resistance.

Resistance #4:  God Has Let You Down.

How Jesus Says to Pray: Lead us not into temptation.  Most people mistakenly think that Jesus is talking about sin in this passage, and he is instructing us to help us to avoid sin.  The word temptation is bettered interpreted “trials” or “tests.” “Spare us from the bad things that might happen to us” is a better way of putting it. This request in a prayer expresses the fact that there are just some things that might happen to us in life that we won’t be able to handle. Jesus tells you to ask God to be your protector. Only God knows all of the things that He has protected you from over the years.  Maybe there is something that is coming up that you are dreading, or a perilous time in your life that you need God to walk with you through.  Jesus says make this part of your prayer.

Now sometimes our prayers go unanswered.  It did for Jesus.  Remember his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of his arrest?  “God let this cup pass from me.”  In other words, “God, if there is any way for me to avoid the anguish and dreadful pain of the cross, show me.”

And what did Jesus get in response? The echoes of silence. The absence of rescue. So what did He pray next?  In the midst of this disappointment, He prayed: “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” 

C.S. Lewis writes, “For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Moving mountains can wait.” Sometimes prayer is all you can do.  Sometimes it’s all that you have.  For whatever reason, God did not spare your from testing.  For whatever reason, your body is racked with grief and your heart is filled with uncertainty.  And the point at which you think you will abandon prayer is the moment in which you need it the most.  Because the deepest of all prayers, the true model prayer is, “Father, Abba, Daddy. I wanted it one way, and I didn’t get it.  But I desire you more than I desire having it my own way.  Not my will, but yours be done.”  And in that surrender, God will bring the peace that transcends all understanding.”

 

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