26 Jan 2020
The early church was faithful in prayer. And so should we. 1. Commitment - They were devoted to prayer. The people and the leaders paid constant attention to prayer. They were diligent in it. They met regularly in prayer meetings. Today, prayer will not be a significant part of our life and our church if we only pray when it's easy or convenient. Effort, diligence, commitment is needed for us to be a house of prayer. 2. Confidence - The early church prayed with confidence because they were praying for God's work, God's Kingdom, God's gospel and God's name. Today, we need to consistently aim our prayers towards the glory of God. Every time we draw a line in prayer to the glory of God, we can be confident God hears because He is committed to His own glory. 3. Consequence - The early church was not discouraged when things did not turn out the way they had expected in prayer. They understood that God's ways are higher than our ways. Let us remember that God's good is always better than our good, and be faithful in prayer!
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For those who are new, we really want to see clearly where the Lord would lead us and where we pray the Lord would lead us. And it has been shared the past few weeks that we want to be like the church in a book of Acts, and this is our vision, this is our goal.
We want to be a certain kind of people, a people like the people in the book of Acts - an Acts church for today. The church in the book of Acts, as we have mentioned is a church that was centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. The church in the book of Acts was a church that moved forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Last week, we learned that the church in the book of Acts was a people rooted in the Scriptures. Today, the 4th value or characteristic that we would like to ask God for, is that we should be a people who are faithful in supplication.
Some of you asked, "What is the meaning of the word, 'supplication, such a long word?” Well, it's actually the word that means prayer - faithful in prayer. You say, "Why don't you just use prayer?" Well, because I need all the words to start with 'S'.
Centered on the Savior. Filled with the Spirit. Rooted in the Scriptures. So, faithful in prayer, cannot what! So must be faithful in supplication. So pardon me, alright? Humor me, allow me to have this supplication there.
I remember when I was a new convert, a new Christian here in Gospel Light. Didn't know a lot but there were some delight, some memorable experiences. One of which is our prayer meetings. We hold, we used to hold prayer meetings for a very small group of people, that time our church was maybe 100 plus 200 max. And we had a weekly prayer meeting in two groups.
So you have an East group prayer meeting and a West group prayer meeting. 10, 20 people would attend and it was a small cozy environment. We share prayer requests, we would pray and we have a little supper thereafter. Once a month, we will gather at Pastor Paul's house and it was a combined prayer meeting for those once a month times. And we will catch up with the people from the other zone and it was wonderful. Again same deal - pray, supper and the young people we will have fun together as well.
And when we had our building at 360 Dunearn road, we then met at 360 Dunearn Road every week. And that was kind of a highlight for our church, isn't it? Because we would come to pray. It will be full. The car park will be full. The … the hall will be full. And then I suspect it was so popular because also of the chwee kueh. The chwee kueh after the prayer meeting is delicious. And we will all wallop all the food but it was nice, it was beautiful.
Besides the Friday night prayer meetings, we also have Sunday morning prayer meetings. And I remember when I was a new believer, I just wanted to be in the house of God early. I want to be with God's people. I want to learn. I want to do anything I can. I just want to be useful. So we will go early, set up the chairs. In those days we rented a, a room at RELC. So we would set up the chairs, we will lay out the hymnals. We don't use projection in those days.
And after setting up, then we will gather for prayer, just a small group of us. But it was nice, it was great to pray before the service, for the service. It was great to pray for the preaching of the Word of God, for hearts of brothers and sisters in Christ.
So when I was a young Christian, I didn't know a lot. But I did know two very simple things, the importance of the Word. And how there was preaching and Bible studies regularly throughout the week, and the importance of prayer. Just two simple fundamentals - Word and prayer.
I just realized you don't have to be very smart. You don't have to be very experienced. You don't have to be very resourceful. You just need to know how to beg God. You just need to know how to ask. You just need to know how to pray.
Now today, Gospel Light moved on for 20 over years, and we have grown bigger. We are a little bit more sophisticated in terms of the structure and so on. But I think, no matter what, we need to come back to the fundamentals of the Word and prayer. If the Word is something that is very close to the heart of Gospeliters in general, because you appreciate the Bible and the teaching of God's Word, then I think prayer is one area we can do a lot better in.
The church in the book of Acts was big. I mean, there were 3000 on day one, and God added to them daily and thousands were added subsequently. They were huge! But the book of Acts was also a church that was big on prayer.
So today, I just like you to follow me in a little glimpse into the prayer life of the people in the book of Acts. And ask God to make that more and more a reality for you and for me, alright? So very simply, let's look at the first characteristic of the prayer life of the people in the book of Acts.
Number one, I see their commitment. I see their dedication, their devotion to prayer. They were a people that knew the importance of prayer, and actually lived out a priority for prayer. When Jesus taught the disciples just before He would ascend into heaven, He told them, “Not to go preach yet but to wait for the promise of the Father.” [Acts 1:4]
So Jesus had taught them everything, they knew what their mission was. That is to be a witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself. But He told them don't go because you need to have the power of the Holy Spirit upon your life. Till then you are to wait. Now, if people tell me to wait, I will wait lah. And to me waiting means 'zho bo' (doing nothing in Hokkien dialect).
So if I was one of them, I'll say, "Okay then ah, let me go holiday to Bali or Batam, whatever then I come back lah." But to them they realized, waiting is not being passive about things. What they did is written in verse 14, "They devoted themselves to prayer."
So they were waiting for the promise of the Father, but they were not doing nothing. They were actively waiting on their knees. They were praying down, the actual promise of God. Waiting to them is not passivity. It's calling out to God and say, "Lord, let what you say come true now. Let what you say be a reality for us now." So I learned that the apostles really valued prayer, saw it as important that this was their priority as they waited.
And then on that day, Peter preached, 3,000 souls got saved - new converts. You could say - babies in the faith. And you know what the early church did? The Bible says in Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to a few things." The early church, they didn't have all the internet. They didn't have all the sophistication we have today. But they knew the fundamentals. "They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers." They devoted themselves to prayers. Wow!
Later on, when the church grew even bigger, there were more needs that were surfaced. The widows in the church were left hungry. You see, they were kicked out of their normal Jewish society, because they had turned from their Judaistic religion to believe in Jesus Christ. So they were widows who are hungry and there must be people in the church who will meet those needs.
But the apostles, the leaders, knowing that, that is a great need, they said, In Acts 6, verse 4, "We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word." Now, they are not saying, "It's below us, it's beneath us to serve the widows." No, they're saying, "We need to get man to meet these needs, but we will have to devote ourselves to prayer." The early church understood and were committed to prayer. That was super, super important for them.
You say, "Maybe this is all talk!" Oh, no! It's not all talk because it's real. One of the examples I know why this is real, is when Peter was captured. You know, Apostle Peter, he was caught, Herod wanted to kill him. He was thrown into the prison and the Bible tells us, after he was miraculously delivered by the angel, in Acts 12, verse 12, When he came to his senses, when he realized, oh, God has just saved me because he was kind of like in a vision, in a dream.
"And what he realized this, the first place, he went to …" recorded for us, is "...the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose other name was, Mark." You say, "What's so significant about going to this house?" Well, it is in this house, "... where many were gathered together and were praying."
In other words, the first thing, the instinctive thing for Peter when he woke out of the vision or dream, is that he knew that there will be a prayer meeting in this house. The church, in the book of Acts, I believe, was in a regular lifestyle of meeting together and praying together.
So I hope you already see that, "The early church devoted themselves to prayer." (Acts 1:14) The apostles devoted themselves to prayer. The Christians, the members that are converts, the new believers devoted themselves to prayer. [Acts 2:42] And the leaders again said clearly, "Our priority is to pray." (Acts 6:4)
The word, 'devote' or 'devoted', is a strong word. It's a word that means to pay constant attention to, to persevere; to be diligent. It really comes from the root word, 'to give strength towards; to put effort there; to put due diligence within'.
In other words, we learn that to pray, you need effort, you need attention. It does not happen automatically. It does not happen by chance, you've got to put in effort to do it. And you know, the reason why many of us do not pray, is maybe because we do not understand it requires effort and devotion and priority.
You see, we've heard so many sermons. In fact, when I was thinking about this sermon, I was thinking, we have already had many verses. We have talked about the verses, and you know the verses. "You have not because you ask not". "Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you". "Men ought always to pray and not to faint". We've so many verses! But we do not pray because we thought somehow, that it will come automatically but it doesn't.
You've got to devote yourself. That's the thing about the spiritual things of life. There are always temptations and distractions and, and until we learn this, until we see that the early church, they flourished because they understood the importance of prayer and they prayed because they understood the commitment that is needed in prayer, we will never get to really be a house of prayer.
To many churches, prayer is merely something we do as a formality. Someone said, "Many churches use prayer like a zipper : they open their services with a prayer and then they close with a prayer."
Now, that's not what the Acts church is all about! They did not, we do not read of them having a service in what we are doing, in a style we are doing, but prayer was then a lifestyle. Prayer for them was a way of life, was a way of community, was the way of the church.
So this morning, are we, a church that prays? Leaders, what is leadership? Well, in the world today, leadership looks like someone who looks impressive, smart, has all the accolades, all the education, all the certificates and degrees. Leadership looks like someone who has got it all under control, who is very capable. Leadership looks like someone who has all the right answers.
But in the Bible, I read that more than that, actually. In fact, quite opposite of that! Leaders are men who realize they are weak and that we are powerless. And they are people who will serve God and His people on their knees. That's what the apostles did - "We will give ourselves to prayer".
Don't you find it interesting that they did not say, "The Word and prayer but the prayer and the Word."? How important it is in the eyes and the esteem of the apostles! In fact, I read about Samuel the Prophet, the one who anointed king David. He considered it a sin when he did not or if he should not pray for the people of Israel. Leadership is not telling people what to do. Leadership in the Bible is bringing God's people to God in the place of prayer.
Are you an elder? Are you a deacon? Are you a CG leader, a ministry leader? Leadership is not Mr. know it all. Leadership is about praying for God's people. The people of God, what's your priority? You know, we think that Christianity is about the leaders doing God's work and I have nothing to do. I see that in the book of Acts, the new converts devoted themselves to prayer. How encouraging is that?
You know, Spurgeon, he's known as the prince of preachers, lived about 150 years ago. His influence is far and wide, but the famous thing about him is this. When people asked him, "What's the secret of your success Spurgeon? Is it your oratory skills? Is it how eloquent you are? He would always answer, "My people pray for me." He believes in prayer. And his church believes in prayer. Before it's well known, that before the service, there will be a group that gathers to pray and during the service, the people will continue to pray.
The beautiful thing about the prayer ministry is really you don't have to be very talented. You don't have to be very skilled. You just need to be someone who believes God, believes in the power of prayer. You are someone who believes that 5 minutes of prayer is far better than 50 years of my labor, perhaps. And you're someone who says, "I would humble myself and cry out to God because I believe in it."
Well, there were a people who believed not only in prayer individually, but clearly in the book of Acts, they believed in prayer corporately. They believed in prayer meetings. Leonard Ravenhill, he said this, "Sunday morning shows how popular the, the church is; Sunday night shows how popular the preacher is; prayer meetings show how popular God is".
Now in those days, they have two services - Sunday morning, Sunday evening. So if you hear of pastor in the morning and you're sick of him, you won't come Sunday evening. But if you really like your pastor, you will come Sunday evening. That's why he says what he says.
Prayer meetings, prayer meeting shows how popular God is according to Leonard Ravenhill. Do you really love God, believe Him? Well, it's probably not a very good gauge to look at Sunday morning. He says, "Prayer meeting is better." We look good on Sunday morning, don't we? I mean, Gospel Light looks good on Sunday morning. If you drive by, wah! A lot of people come. You come to this hall, it's pretty well packed out. This must be a good church! God must be popular here! Really, I don't know. May not be because if you just join us on our prayer meetings, you may have a totally different picture.
By the way, do you know when our prayer meetings are? You giggle and you laugh because you may not know. "Wah! Jialat, paiseh [feel embarrass in Hokkien dialect] ah, I do not know." You know, when is our prayer meeting? 8pm, Wednesday, attic, up there, alright. Another day for prayer where you can join together? Sunday. Where? Alright, so Sunday 8 AM right there at the back, that cry room.
Now I know how it is. "Oh, I … Pastor, I wish, I could come, I want to come. But, you know, I'm really tired, I have a long day. My work is busy and you know Punggol is so far. I stay all the way at Tiong Bahru and coming to Punggol, you know the traffic ah, traffic jialat know. Come Punggol, especially those normal week days. Jam, jam, jam, jam, jam, very hard to get here." "Sunday morning. I also want to come back. Saturday night, I go out with my friend, too late lah. Then, very hard to wake up, so pardon me. I really want to come prayer meeting want. I really, really want but too tired, too far, too inconvenient, too many problems in my life, too busy. So I hope you understand."
Now I, I understand. I totally understand because I, I struggle with the same things that you do. But the point that I'm trying to say here is that, "Prayer, if you want it to be a priority in life is never going to be easy. Because if you do it when it's easy, you will never do it." And I think it's not just prayer meeting. It's also in your personal life, whether it's Bible study, whether it's prayer, whether it's serving God. It's never easy!
If it's easy, it does not need to be commanded right here. It does not need to be talked about, because you do what is natural, but this is not so, effort, devotion, constant attention, strength has to be poured in, sacrifices have to be made.
Again, it is Spurgeon who said, "We shall never see much change for the better in our church in general, till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in esteem of Christians." You know, I believe what Spurgeon said. I don't think God will give us many more souls, saved, God will give us the privilege to see lives changed. We are not going to see men and women step out of their comfort zone to serve God in greater ways, if we do not pray. Simple, you have not because you asked not.
We fail to understand except the Lord build a house, we labor in vain that buildeth. We are deceived into thinking, we have a big crowd. We have a preacher, we have all this orchestration. An, an organization behind it, church is okay? It's not! It's not! Because our families are struggling. Your lives are lived encumbered with the things of this world. And we are cold towards the things of God. Where must it begin? On our knees, in the place of prayer, and it will never take place without commitment.
So the early church, fraught with all kinds of threats and dangers. They knew, they knew their resource is in God through prayer. They were committed to prayer. Enough of that, otherwise you get commitment phobia and so let me move on to the second point.
Another thing I learned about the prayer life in the early church was that they were a people who had a certain confidence in prayer. Now, we all struggle with that, right? Sometimes, when we want to pray for something, we are not really sure if that is what God will answer. For example, "Wah, I, I, I, I really like that car. God, can you give me that Maserati?" “Don't know whether should pray or not.” Some churches teach you to pray lah - pray for Ferrari can get Ferrari.
But you know, in your heart, you, you're not so sure, right? Maybe it's your daughter's exam. "God, give my daughter, chin chye (anything in Hokkien dialect) lah, 275. Just 275." But then, then you ask, "Don't know whether I should pray for that or not?" And so you have this question - should I pray for this? Should I pray for that? Should I pray for buying this and owning that?
Well, the early church, they had a strong confidence. One story I just picked out is what you have just read for Scripture reading. The apostles, they were threatened, not to preach Jesus anymore. And they got back and told their friends about it. And instead of complaining, which all of us do, huh, in Singapore. Wah! Got problem, we complain. They didn't complain. They turned to God in prayer and looked at their confidence in prayer.
Look at their, their excitement as it were in, in prayer. I read that they said, "And now Lord, look upon the threats and grant to Your servants to speak, to continue to speak Your Word with boldness." (Acts 4:29) Now, they were not shy about this prayer request. They boldly asked! And I think it's because they realized number one, they were God's servants. They were not asking for things for themselves, per se.
They were asking for boldness for, for boldness to them. Yes, but it's only for the fact that they are serving God. They are God's servants. And to speak God's Word about God's Son, about God's salvation plan, about the Gospel of God for the glory of God. I see that their confidence is because they knew it was about God and His Name and His glory.
Let me ask you something, folks, "Who do you think is, who do you think God is most committed to?" You know in life, when you make decisions, it's often based on a kind of prioritization, right? Who you are most committed to and, and then you have to make secondary decisions thereafter. Who is God most committed to?
Many Christians, hear teachings like - God loves His church and is committed to His people. And so it is easy for us to answer - God is most committed to the church, God is most committed to you and to me. Now, let's get that clear, He is absolutely committed to His church, He is. He loves His people, with an unflinching love. It will never fade away because it's a love in Christ.
But if that is the only thing you learn and know about, then I'm afraid you will be imbalance. Because the Bible tells us as much as God is committed to the church and to His people, the Bible tells me God, I think, is even more committed to Himself. His commitment to His church is secondary, if I may say, to the commitment to Himself. He is most committed to Himself and the most God-centered person in the whole universe is God Himself.
The Bible tells me in Psalm 106:8, "Yet He saved them for His Name's sake." Why did God save people? Oh, for their good. It's true! But the Bible tells me, "He saves them for His Name's sake." His salvation is to manifest His mercy, His grace, His power, His generosity, the full splendor of who He is. He does this to glorify Himself for His Name's sake.
Isaiah 43:7, "Everyone who is called by My Name whom I created for My glory". Why did God create you? What did God create me? Oh, so that you can enjoy life? He created you me for His glory. Now if you're not a Christian today, I totally understand you will come and say, "Wah! This God so egotistical ah?"
But you know this, that we are made by God and we are made for God. In other words, humanity will never be truly satisfied until we are in a right relationship and until we know God. You see, we are all made to worship something, do you know that? We, we are all made to admire something, to be glad when we see something exhilarating, something that thrills our heart.
And the human heart, although it has some glimpses of that in this world around us, it will never be really satisfied until we know God and when we see how all satisfying He is. So it is when God is committed to manifest His glory, that we will really be glad in Him. So this is not egoistical in, in a sense that is utterly self … selfish, but it is also for our good.
And by the way we hate egotistical people because people don't deserve it. But God is altogether worthy of our worship and He is absolutely therefore committed to Himself to manifest His glory that His people may also rejoice in Him.
It goes on in Isaiah 48 and verse 11, "For My own sake." And if you don't get it, it's said again, "For My own sake. I do it for how should My Name be profaned, My glory I will not give to another." God is a jealous God and He's committed to His glory.
Ezekiel 20:14 tells us the same, "I acted for the sake of My Name." Ezekiel 36:22, "It is not for your sake or house of Israel." Now, by the way, God is so committed to Israel, but He's saying, " That, that is secondary to My holy Name."
Why did God save you and me? "Pastor, I know. So that I don't have to go to hell." That's great! That's true! Those who believe in Jesus, you are spared the wrath of God, that will be manifested for all eternity in hell. Yes, that's true! We are saved so that we do not get to hell. But another more important reality is in Ephesians 1:5-6, "We are saved to the praise of His glorious grace." Again in verse 12, "We might be to the praise of His glory." Again in verse 14, "To the praise of His glory."
So, Paul in Ephesians is layering, layering, layering the importance, why God saves us. It's always back to His glory. So I gave this kind of a short diversion, because I want you to see that the confidence is in prayer is when we realize God is most committed to Himself. So when we pray for the glory of God, we know this is the petition we have desired of Him. But if we pray, not for His glory, but for our own selfish ambitions, you will have no confidence in your prayer that He will answer that prayer.
And doesn't it make sense now that when Jesus was asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1) Jesus answered, and said, "When you pray, Father, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come." (Luke 11:2) By the way, it's not herald, nor hullo. It's hallowed, it means to be set apart. "Lord, this is my number one priority. Father, this is my number one reason why I pray, that Your Name will be set apart to be honored and praised. It is for Your glory." "And I'm not praying for my kingdom, I'm praying - Your kingdom come."
So folks, we can be confident in prayer when we pray for His glory and this is the practical thing I like you to consider. Many times people ask me, "Pastor, can you pray for me?" "Jason, can you pray for this? My husband, John is sick. Can you pray?" I say, "Sure, but the immediate thing I would also think about is this, "How?"
"Huh! Pastor, you don't know how to pray ah?" No, it's not I don't have to say the words but the how here means - how can I pray in this situation that leads to the glory of God. I want the person to be healed. I mean, it's just normal human compassion not to see anyone suffer, right? But beyond the desire to alleviate sufferings, it is imperative that we see in that situation, how we can connect that person and that situation in our prayer to the glory of God.
So every time you think about prayer, think how you can shoot an arrow, draw a line up to the glory of God. And I think that would be good practice. How to draw this line in prayer, to connect to God's glory? How can I pray for John, so that this is an occasion that brings glory to God?
Perhaps it is in John's healing, that God's power and faithfulness and mercy might be known by John and the family. Or, in some cases, I may also pray that if John should continue in this illness, that he will still glorify God, by continuing in faith and perseverance. That's glory to God! Or if John is not a Christian, pray that even in this illness, he might see the fragility of life and that he might turn from sin and believe in Jesus. That's to connect to God, you see.
So there are many things that we need to consider in prayer but this is that one thing you need to learn - connect it to the glory of God. Because you ask and you do not receive that's the problem with prayerlessness. But then anyhow pray also got problem - you asked and do not receive because you asked wrongly, to spend it on your own passions.
So pray with this check, this filter, with this line that needs to be drawn - How does this lead to the glory of God? You know, we, we love this verse, John 15:16, "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He may give it to you". What a favorite verse for many people! "Wow, whatever I asked the Father in My Name, He may give it to me." "There comes my bungalow and my Ferrari and my …. so on." That's how people take it to mean, but they, they don't see the context.
The context here is what, I highlight for you already - bear fruit. And in verse 8 of chapter 15, we know that bearing fruit is doing anything in a Christian's life that brings glory to God. You bear much fruit so that My Father is glorified, verse 8. So we are confident, we can ask anything in the Father's Name, and He'll do it for us in as far as we know. It is in the context of bearing fruit and bringing glory to God.
God is not a fool, that you can treat as if you utter a few words, He's obliged to do what you want. He's far too good and far too wise to do that. God is God and He's most committed to His glory. And if you know, your salvation in Jesus Christ, and you have the fear of God, and you know how great God is, there will be nothing more you want then that the glory of God be made manifest. And that would absolutely shape your prayer life.
So the Bible tells us, "Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God." It certainly includes prayer. “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man's will done in heaven but for getting God's Will done on earth”. [Robert Law] So let's find this confidence on your knees, today, praying for God's glory, rooting yourself in that reality.
Time's running out! Faithful in supplication means, I'm committed to prayer. Never going to be easy. Don't talk about it only, put into action, make sacrifices, rearrange your schedules, prepare to sleep less, prepare to work harder. Whatever that may look like because you know the vital importance of prayer.
Number two, let us learn that the confidence we have in prayer is when we are committed to His glory as God is committed to His glory.
Number three, this is important because sometimes we, we stop praying. We lay off, we get discouraged in praying because we, we don't see the results we want. So let's look at the consequence of prayer in the church found in the book of Acts.
Sometimes the answers to prayer, really amazing. In Acts 4, "After they prayed, the whole place was shaken." [Acts 4:31] Now, thankfully, it doesn't happen here in Gospel Light. Otherwise this building have to be torn down and built up again. I don't know that would be scary. Hey, but it happened then! God gave His stamp of approval in a visible manifestation. The building, the place they were in was shaken. Amazing!
And of course, some answers are miraculous like how, "Peter when he was kept in prison, the church prayed for him and the angel rescued him."(Acts 12:11) I mean, he's like, you know, all the guards and all the chains is just dropped off. The gates open, everyone was asleep, he just walked out, yaya papaya, walk out. That was like so amazing!
But sometimes it did not turn out the way, I think they prayed for. For example, Stephen was called out for preaching the Gospel. I'm pretty sure there must be many men and women praying for Stephen, as he was interrogated and threatened. But at the end of the day, Stephen died.
He said, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them and when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:60) Not that he, he slept, but this is a euphemism, it's a nice way of saying - he died. He was stoned to death. "Hah, I thought, I thought God would answer this prayer." No, Stephen died! Okay, Peter was delivered, shouldn't God deliver all His servants, His leaders? No, because the Bible tells us in the Acts 12:2, "James was killed."
So sometimes in prayer we, we get surprised. We, we get discouraged because, "I prayed for this and it did not happen, I prayed for that and God did not hear." We almost think that, you know, prayer is like a hit and miss thing. Sometimes if WIFI good, God answers. Sometimes Wi Fi not good, God does it hear then He doesn't answer us.
We, we think it's inconsistent reception up there. Oh, no, no, no! God doesn't have a problem with reception. The Bible tells us, "Even before you ask, He already knows what is in your heart." He has no problem understanding what your request is. But this is what we all need to understand - God is far too wise, to do what we want.
I think as parents you know this for your kids, right? "Mummy, I want to drink this." Your, you as a father or mother, you're too wise to let him drink that. "Mommy Daddy, I want to, I want to try some, some marijuana." You're far too wise to give your son, marijuana. "But I really want and if you don't give me marijuana, you don't love me." "You are not having marijuana." We understand that, right?
So God is far too wise to give us what we want. Now sometimes when He doesn't give us what we want, it looks very painful. Stephen died. James died. I can never understand why. Well, that's why we are men and He's God. And we can only understand it, perhaps on the other side of eternity. But the point is this - God's ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and our thoughts.
Now, this is what we all will struggle with. None of us exempt, even the great Apostle Paul. Apostle Paul, he, he pled with the Lord three times, "Please take away this thorn in the flesh." I mean, he's super smart, he's super godly, he's super wise. I mean, none of us is even close to Apostle Paul. He asked three times, "Please…" And God said to him, "Nope, Paul, My grace is sufficient for you.” “It's better, Paul, you thought is good for me to take away the thorn. But no, no, Paul, let me tell you something better, it's better for you to have the thorn in the flesh." (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
You see, folks, we got to come to realize this, we can't know God's ways all the time. If you can, you're God. The fact is we don't. The friends of Daniel - Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, they were threatened with the fiery furnace for not bowing to the king's idol. And this is what they said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…. I've no question we have no question, God has the power to, He has the ability to, and He will deliver us." Aah, they seem to presume upon God's will. No, not necessarily because if you read on, "... but if not, be it known to you, oh king, we will not serve your gods." (Daniel 3:17-18)
In other words, I think Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, teenagers in Israel, captured to Babylon, teaches us something about theology. Faith in God is not believing that He must do what we want. Faith in God is believing that God can but He will do what is best. Faith is not presumption. Faith is not pretending you are God. Faith is believing He can, even though He does not always do what I want. His ways are far better!
That's why God gives you the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit lives in you. Why? He helps you to pray, you know that? Go read Romans, chapter 8, we have a weakness in prayer. What's the weakness in prayer? Fall asleep all the time. Well, that's a weakness. But the weakness in prayer is that we do not know what we should pray for, as we ought.
But the beauty is this, His Holy Spirit is in us to perfect our flawed prayers. You can't lose actually! You can't fail actually! When you pray, even if it's off, the mercy of God is that the Spirit takes that flawed prayer and perfects it before the very throne of God.
My friends, don't be discouraged in prayer because it is not that God did not hear you. It is not that God does not love you. It is not that God cannot do what you want Him to. But that He's working, always something better for you, something better than what you have thought. The promise is sure, there's no question because the Bible does tell us, "All things work together for good to them that love God." (Romans 8:28) He's not going to deprive you of anything that is good for you.
And from this verse, we have a very powerful English grammar statement that many people here in this church would be familiar with. And it is this: God's good is gooder than our good. Something that I said some years back and great English, okay huh. Bad English, but I hope good theology. God's good, is better than our own definition of good and we have to trust Him.
So I'm gonna end with this Chinese New Year, We always say, "万事如意" [wàn shì rú yì, to have all one’s wishes]. But Chinese New Year, Christian pattern, Christian version. Let us learn to say, "万事主意" [wàn shì zhǔ yì, all things according to the will of God] ". Why? His good is gooder than our good. So if you say, "万事主意" people ask you , "Why you say that?" Because God's good is gooder than our good.
And it is true! Again, I quote this for you. I've said this before, but I quote this again. "If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see many changes, I would make in this world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are." Great wisdom there.
Your God never fails. Your God is never unfaithful to your prayer. The question is, will this church, will you and me, will we be faithful in supplication? The Church will never rise higher than our prayers. Let's take this to heart. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Maybe some of you today as I speak, you have been discouraged in your prayer life because you have been praying for someone. You've been praying for something for many, many years and you feel like God does not hear you. You feel like God doesn't care. You feel like perhaps prayer doesn't work. But could it be today, we have a pre-supposed idea about the way God has to answer us. Maybe we have thought that we are smarter and wiser than God. You may not say it but subtly, that's how you feel.
This morning, let God be God. You see, if it's left up to us, Jesus would never have died. If it's left up to us, we will never be saved. The only way man can be saved is according to this hidden mystery of God, that He would send His Son, Jesus Christ, to go to the cross and die to bear away our sins. And today, as recipients of this grace, recipients of the message of the Gospel, we can all fully affirm God's way is best. Because it is only in this salvation's plan that we are so freely forgiven. And now we can so joyfully serve Him. And it is in this salvation that all glory goes to God.
So my friends in your life today, trust Him, that His ways are the best. His ways will always result in His glory and your eventual eternal good. Don't give up! Keep trusting! And in our prayer life, let us then learn to align ourselves to the glory of God. Let us learn that prayer is not trying to get Him to do what I want, but prayer is saying, "Let Your will be done on earth." Be committed to His glory and what a joy and confidence it will bring to the throne of prayer.
But most of all, this morning, Gospel Light, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are you deceived by the apparent peace and prosperity of this land? Are you perhaps complacent because life is good or that church seems to be doing well? I actually think we are not and how we need to be humbled as a people and say, "Lord, we are desperate because we don't understand the importance of prayer. We say, "We do." But we don't'! Because we do not really pray." I don't pray as I ought, our church does not pray as we ought. That's the reality!
But hey, it all comes down and it all can begin with a step of commitment we would make. Maybe in your own prayer life, maybe it's saying, "I can't do much. I'm not very smart. I'm not very rich. I'm not very resourceful, but I think I can learn to pray and join us in prayer."
What's the secret of our success in years to come? Oh, we have a nice building. Nope! Oh, we have a great team of leaders. Nope! Oh, we have a strategic location. Nope! What's the secret of the success? God, God, what else? God, we have learned to lay hold of God. We have learned that it is not by might nor by power but by His Spirit. We have learned to say, "It is not about us, it's all about Him." And we've learned that in the place of prayer. All Glory be to God.
You see, this is God's style and God's people need to pray. Make that choice in your heart, folks. And they who pray to God secretly, will be rewarded openly one day. Father, thank You for this morning. Bless us in the way that we will be realizing our desperate need for You. Bless us in such a way that we will humble ourselves, we will repent of our prayerlessness and that we would commit ourselves to prayer.
Lord, I pray there will be none here who will do that because of emotional blackmail or anything like that or peer pressure, but that we would want to pray because we believe You and Your promises that You've given and lavished to us for prayer. Make us a house of prayer. Let all glory be Yours. Thank you in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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