If you want to learn how to pray based on the authority of God’s Holy Word, you must first understand the purpose of prayer. It is not to ask God for your will to be done, but to submit and conform to His. Prayer is also the vehicle through which God shares His purpose and direction for our lives and for the world around us. He wants us to talk to Him. He deeply desires intimacy with us. And the great thing is He is never too busy, He will never place you on hold, and He will never ask to call you back later. He is there waiting 24/7 for a chance to speak with you and me.
After understanding the purpose of prayer, every believer should meet three basic prayer conditions. And the first is making it a top-drawer priority for your life.
Do you remember the day you were adopted? Now, you might be thinking, “Ed, uh, I was born to and raised by my biological parents”. That is great! However, in a real sense, every single person on the planet falls into one of two categories: the adopted and the orphaned. The word “orphan” simply refers to a child who has been deprived of parental care and has yet to be adopted. Sadly, far too many people are spiritual orphans. But the good news is, is that because of God’s love adoption is an option.
God wants to teach us while He tests us. The Holy Spirit guides us through these situations to learn a new look. Did you notice my emphasis on the three “I” words: interruptions, inconveniences, and irritations? This is the exact problem with our impatience—we are completely self-focused and me-istic: my schedule, my agenda, my feelings, my finances, my commitments. When we focus on, “I” we do not have “eyes” the way God wants us to see. However, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, He will softly take our head in His hands and shift our focus from “I”, “me”, and “my” to the sky. And suddenly, when we take our eyes off ourselves, we will have a new look allowing God to build patience in our lives. For example, I recently ate lunch at a little Chinese restaurant. When you enter, you order at the counter, receive it, and then take it to a table. After waiting for several minutes, with tray in hand, I saw an open table. Well, I took one-step forward, when a woman four people deep in line, bolted in front of me with a romance novel in one hand, her purse in the other, and threw both items on the table. She gave me a look that said, “The early bird gets the worm, baby”. For a second I fumed, until the Holy Spirit told me to quit looking at myself and focus on Him—a new look. And, when I thought of God’s patience with me, it put a new spin on the entire situation. Proverbs 14:29 states, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly”. Patience is a marker of spiritual maturity. I define this as waiting without worry.
When we are prayed up, linked up, rested up, dressed up, and fessed up for the finest hour, we are showing God the respect He deserves. Because we are prepared, we are open to God’s voice, and better equipped to respond to His identity and activity by what we say and do in every facet of life. Something supernatural transpires as we unite as the body of Christ to praise His name.
Maybe you are thinking, “Well Ed, I am not a believer—I mean I can’t extend my hand to God, even though you claim He is extending His hand to me. Can I just extend a pinky?” Jesus is saying, “Yes!” He said if you have a pinky-sized faith, the faith of a tiny mustard seed, you can know Him personally. When my kids were small I would grasp their hands before crossing the street. I could feel them trying to wiggle free, but because I am their father and stronger I would not let go. God is the same way! He loves you! You are His child! Extend your pinky and He will lead you into a life of worship! He will rain down blessings upon your life—blessings so great they would make Bill Gates’ fortune seem like chump change!
Your Relationship With God
After that, I’ll pronounce them and then I’ll say, “You may kiss the bride.” [Ed turns to Chris and Yanci] Now, I won’t have you kiss right now. Remember, I talked about what you don’t do before you say, “I do.” I’m kidding, it’s OK to kiss. I’m joking around. [The congregation laughs] You see, the people that laughed have been here for the whole series. Those who didn’t laugh didn’t even get it. That’s all right.
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Maybe that is not your reaction. Maybe you don’t do the Tupperware thing. Maybe you do the U-HAUL thing. Maybe that is how you deal with difficult people. When a difficult person rears his or her ugly head, instead of really coming clean and speaking the truth in love, what do you do? You just go back to your office, you pack up your things and you leave. You move. You move from office to office, occupation to occupation, workspace to workspace thinking you can move away from irregular people. I have got news for you. They are everywhere. You can’t get away from them. Nor can I. Do we have anybody doing the U-HAUL thing? Moving from job to job, occupation to occupation, just because you have a little relational turmoil? Could that be you?
Some of us do something else, a kind of aggressive reaction. We do the monster truck think. We probably have a lot of monster truck men and women in the house. A difficult person rears his or her ugly head and instead of doing the Tupperware thing and containing it, instead of doing the U-HAUL thing and moving, you just fire up those big engines. You look at them like a little tin car and you fire up those engines and you just dominate them. You yell at them. You get on their case. You just nail them and you run right over them. And now and then during your semiannual moments of introspection, over the roar of the engine you may look in the rearview mirror and all you see in your occupational path is a bunch of relational wreckage.
Well maybe you don’t do the Tupperware thing. Maybe you are not doing the U-HAUL thing, nor the monster truck thing. Maybe just maybe you are doing the satellite thing.
Boy what a spiritual giant, man, hey Jonah, amen and amen there.
Come with me and I will show you the EZ method on how to drive.” I was wondering what my parents had done to me.
I had to be behind the wheel with Tony Sellers for hours and hours and hours, looking that the nerdy jumpsuit. He would say, “OK, Ed, excelerate, excelerate. Stop, stop, stop.” One time he had to override my brakes and slam on the brakes for me. But he was always telling me one thing. “Ed, check in the rearview mirror, please. Every 30 seconds, check. Ed, you haven’t checked. Check. Ed, one more time. Check.”
I want you to check in the rearview mirror of your life because I am going to do the same thing. If we put God in the top slot, worship Him as God, honor Him as God, let me tell you what the evil one is going to do. The evil one will have something chasing God, trying to overtake God, trying to elbow God out, trying to take our sovereign Savior and put Him on the back burner and this god or goddess wants to run the show. I have got something chasing Christ in my life and so do you. What? How will you know? When you have idle mind, kind of in neutral, hanging out, what occupies your mind? Is it yourself? Your problem is selfism. Selfism is chasing you. Is it maybe the thrills and chills of life? Well, thrillism could be your deal. Are you always thinking about things, dreaming and scheming and acquiring things? That could be in second place. Or maybe it is knowledge. What is chasing you? Constantly look in the rearview mirror of your life. When you do, when you watch it like a hawk, it will help you to reorganize and constantly reprioritize your life. So today, ladies and gentlemen, I pray that we have taken off our shoes and turned them over. And I pray that we have begun to polish our scarred up and scuffed up soles. This is going to be a ten-part process of polishing. When we really begin to polish our soles, no longer will we ever, ever deal with idol minds.
You’ve got to thank God for the wind. Jonah, though, didn’t pay that much attention. And the Bible says the winds were blowing at such a force, force-ten winds, that the sailors were frightened.
What if, for example, my stomach said to me, “Hey, Ed, man, I don’t want to work anymore. I just want you to feed me.” If I could talk back to my stomach, I’d say, “Get to work!” In several weeks I’m going to Atlanta to speak before about 2500 young leaders, most being pastors—I get an opportunity to do that now and then.
And, now and then, these pastors will say to me, “Ed, I meet people in my church who come up to me and say, “Hey, I just want to get fed.” If someone ever tells you that, and I challenge these leaders, just tell them this, “Get to work!” You don’t grow just by saying, “Feed me, baby, feed me.” You grow and you’re blessed and you mature by getting to work. Just think, we’ve got some people right now who are sitting on the stands.
You’re sitting on your blessed assurance right now. And it’s time to leave the stands and hit the field. But if you are not using your God-given skill set within this context of a local church, you are keeping this body of Christ from being all it can be, of scoring more and more touchdowns for the glory of God. You are keeping it, you are holding it back. You’re stagnating it. Don’t let that be you.
I’m drafted, I’m signed, I’m gifted. Number four: Colossians 3:23, I’m coached. “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord.” See, I’m not speaking for you. I’m not speaking to try and impress somebody. I’m speaking for an audience of One. Every time I say, “God, I want to please you. I’m about you. I’m worried about your eyes, your agenda. You’re the coach.
You’re the man,” then my life soars. The moment I say, “Oh, I wonder what they’re thinking about what I said. I wonder what that group thinks. I wonder what these pastors over here think.” That’s when I mess up, and you’re the same way when you start comparing yourself to others. “I wonder what they think. I wonder what she thinks. I wonder how I look. I wonder…” It’s about God.
Let me tell you what a mature believer says. A mature believer says, “How can I help you? How can I serve you? How can I get outside of myself and do something for you? How can I work in the most important thing around: the local church?” The immature believer is the stomach believer. “Feed me, baby, just feed me. I don’t want to work. I’ll just sit and soak and sour. Just feed me.” I’ll say it one more time: get to work! Get to work.