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This morning I want to focus on prayer, offer a pattern for prayer and give you an opportunity to exercise that pattern during our service.  You’ll notice the sermon is broken up into four segments with worship and response opportunities in between.  Let me encourage you to be involved in the prayer ministry of TVCOG.  If you aren’t on our email or phone chain, you can indicate that you’d like to be added on the back of your blue card.  We have a prayer team that gathers on Sunday mornings at 8:45 to pray before Sunday School.  We have some circles of prayer just before the morning service that anyone can be a part of as well.  We have people who volunteer to pray for a page of our church directory all year as well as people who take the name of a student or two to pray for during the year.  There is also a team of people dedicated to praying for the staff and we have a Mom’s in Touch prayer group that meets every other Wednesday night to pray for children and children’s schools. I believe prayer provides the power for everything we do as Christians and I hope this morning you’ll be challenged to go beyond where you have been in your prayer life. A little boy offered up a prayer for the family Thanksgiving dinner: “Dear God, this is Jimmy. Thank you for Thanksgiving and Christmas and all of the holidays. Thank you for the turkey and dressing and Mom and Dad and even for my little sister, even though sometimes she can be a pain. Thank you for books and TV and game boy. Thank you for loving us. Oh, yeah. And take care of yourself, God, because without you, we’re sunk.  Amen.”  Without God, we’re sunk!  That’s the heart of prayer.  God, unless you show up, God, unless you direct, God, unless you help, God, unless you approve and bless, we’re sunk.  The tragedy in many churches and in many Christian homes is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer. Would you now, in a moment of silent prayer, ask God to speak directly to you through this message?

The pattern for prayer that I’m using this morning is probably not new to many of you.  It’s the ACTS method.  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  By using this pattern, we keep from reducing our prayers to a memorized “God is great” routine and we keep them from being fast food spiritual orders to a short-order cook in heaven.  When we use this method, we utilize prayer as God intended for it be; a conversation an opportunity for intimacy and dialogue and regular communication.

Adoration in Prayer David’s Prayer in I Chronicles 29 is one of many scriptural examples of a prayer of adoration and praise.  We pick up the prayer in verse 10.  10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the Lord and the king.

Do you hear the words of adoration in David’s prayer?  He can’t say enough about how fabulous God is.  He praises Him because He is infinite-from everlasting to everlasting.  He adores Him because God has all greatness and power and glory and majesty and splendor.  He praises Him because He owns everything in heaven and earth.  He is the King of the kingdom.  He is exalted above everything.  He dispenses all resources whether wealth and honor or strength and power.  His name is glorious.  It’s like David can’t get the words out fast enough.  He was CAPTIVATED by the enormity of God, captured by His awesomeness.  Everyone there bowed down and fell prostrate before the Lord in adoration and worship! I remember when I fell in love with my husband, I’m sure I drove my friends crazy because all I wanted to do was talk about Thom.  Thom.  Thom.  Thom.  He was Mr. Wonderful.  He was so sweet.  He was so much fun to be with.  He was so consistent.  He was so thoughtful and romantic.  He was so charming.  Thom.  Thom.  Thom.  I was captivated by him.  I loved to rehearse how I benefited from our relationship, what he provided to me in my life, what he meant to me.  It was a heartfelt expression that bubbled up and oozed out of my life and radiated on my face because his love had touched me, deeply.  That’s what adoration is.  That’s what David was expressing in I Chronicles 29. I asked people to comment on what adoration in prayer might mean on a Facebook post this week.  As usual, I got lots of responses.  I received one from an atheist high school friend who wrote that adoration to God in prayer meant that God had a fragile ego!  That somehow He needed to be propped up, helped out and applauded to keep being God.  She included a “smiley face” with her comment. Here was my response to her:  Kristen, I see the smiley face on the post!   I think you’ve helped me develop one of my sermon points with your comment.  The truth is, God isn’t magnified or puffed up by our adoration.  It adds nothing to Him because He is already supreme.  He can’t be added to.  Therefore He doesn’t need or ask for our adoration.  However, it is offered by people who know Him because He is unlike anyone else that can be known.  The only authentic response to absolute beauty, perfect power, splendid majesty, and lavish grace is “WOW!”  Adoration to God isn’t something He solicits, but something relationship with Him simply elicits.  It’s a natural response.  Those who know Him and have experienced His love can’t help but adore Him.  Adoration was designed by God to help us be intimate with Him. When we adore God, we show Him that we “get Him.”  We naturally respond with honoring and respecting and magnifying Him because we take the time to reflect on how big He truly is.  After all: In Genesis, He’s the breath of life In Exodus, the Passover Lamb In Leviticus, He’s our High Priest Numbers, The fire by night Deuteronomy, He’s Moses’ voice In Joshua, He is salvation’s choice Judges, He’s the law giver In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer First and second Samuel, our trusted prophet In Kings and Chronicles, He’s sovereign Ezra, true and faithful scribe Nehemiah, He’s the rebuilder of broken walls and lives In Esther, He’s Mordecai’s courage In Job, the timeless redeemer In Psalms, He is our morning song In Proverbs, wisdom’s cry Ecclesiastes, the time and season In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover’s dream In Isaiah, He’s Prince of Peace Jeremiah, the weeping prophet In Lamentations, the cry for Israel Ezekiel, He’s the call from sin In Daniel, the stranger in the fire In Hosea, He is forever faithful In Joel, He’s the Spirits power In Amos, the arms that carry us In Obadiah, He’s the Lord our Savior In Jonah, He’s the great missionary In Micah, the promise of peace In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He’s pleading for revival In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage In Zechariah, our fountain In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven In Romans, He’s the grace of God In Corinthians, the power of love In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin Ephesians, our glorious treasure Philippians, the servants heart In Colossians, He’s the Godhead Trinity Thessalonians, our coming King In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He’s our mediator and our faithful Pastor In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant In James, the one who heals the sick. In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride In the Revelation, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords There is no better way to begin a time of prayer than by expressing adoration praise to God. O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord! BREAK Confession in Prayer-While adoration reminds us of who God is, confession reminds us of who we are. We are flawed.  We are sinners.  We are needy.  It’s an opportunity for us to humble ourselves in our relationship with God.  By the very act of confession, we are positioning ourselves under God’s authority and showing Him that He is Lord and the boss of our lives. Nothing hinders fellowship like sin.  That’s why confession should be a regular as in daily, part of our prayer life.  It will enable us to keep our relationship in good working order.  Hear Isaiah 59:1-2.  “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.  But your sin has separated you from God.  Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear.” How many of you know that being separated from God isn’t a good idea?  Look at your neighbor and say, “That’s not a good idea.”  When God isn’t hearing our prayers, when we don’t sense His presence, when we aren’t right with Him, many complications can set in. You see, sin actually weighs you down.  It causes you to be “heavy” in your spirit, to the point that taking the next step, the right step, doing what you ought to do to please God becomes difficult.  Going to church becomes difficult. Reading your Bible becomes difficult.  Soon, you’re not just stuck in the same place spiritually, but emotionally you get stuck.  You may eventually isolate yourself from people who love you.  It’s a disastrous thing to be separated from God.  Why stay there when God has made it so easy for us?  I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s that easy.  God doesn’t want us to be weighed down and burdened down and stuck by sin.  That’s why He created confession. It has been said, “When the soul has laid down its faults at the feet of God, it feels as though it had wings.”  Child of God, God wants you to soar.  God wants you to fly.  He doesn’t want you hiding in your house, losing your relationships and getting stuck in the rut of sin! It is nearly impossible for a Christian not to come into contact with sin and become infected with it.  God understands that.  That’s why He created confession. Confession is the way God disinfects our souls, and makes us pure again. Psalm 51 was David’s prayer after he had fallen out of fellowship with God.  Verse three says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Just like David, we know when we’ve messed up.  1 John 1:8, 10, when he says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” Wise old Solomon says that our two options are ‘concealing’ and ‘confessing’.   The ‘concealing’ option is when we choose not to acknowledge our transgression or sin to God and we go about our life as if nothing happened.  The ‘confessing’ option is when we choose to acknowledge our transgression or sin to God, ask for forgiveness and seek the grace needed to change. Solomon says that those who choose the ‘concealment’ option “will not prosper.” The truth is that we can never ‘conceal’ or hide our sin from God. In Jeremiah 2:22, we read “‘Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,’ declares the Lord God.” There simply isn’t any manner that we can truly ‘conceal’ our sin. We live in an age where few people confess – they just don’t like to admit the truth. Even when they do wrong, they want to minimize it, forget about it or just move on.  That is just want Satan wants.  He wants to keep you in denial and keep you tied to your sin because he knows if you are truthful about it, deliverance is on its way.  Why?  Because there is great power in truth.  When you confess, you are telling the truth and what does God’s word say the truth will do?  Set you free!  John 8:32 Hear me this morning.  God wants you to be free.  Satan wants to keep you bound.  Don’t let him.  Don’t give him that authority in your life.  Tell the truth to God and be free in Jesus’ name! BREAK Thanksgiving in Prayer Start your prayer by rehearsing who God is through adoration.  Continue your prayer by rehearsing who you truly are in confession.  Then shift from “who” to “what.”  Thank God for what He has done.  Express your gratefulness.  Gratitude is never out of style! Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Since God is all of the time good, we ought to be all of the time thankful. “Thank you” is the minimum requirement of our children when someone gives them something or does something for them.  This isn’t the kind of thanksgiving I think we offer in prayer.  It’s not a programmed courtesy, but a true expression of gratitude because you know God has blessed you, helped you, saved you, forgiven you and is preparing a place in heaven for you.  Have you ever stopped to thank God for the room that is waiting for you? Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6 When you thank God for all He has done, your faith begins to get focused on the fact that God does take care of you.  You will have what you need.  He will intervene on your behalf.  He will provide what is needed for whatever you are facing that moment. Giving thanks puts our mind in a positive place which is on God’s provision.  If you are more focused on what you lack or what you need than you are on God’s ability to supply and what His resources include, you’re approaching your prayer life from a posture of defeat. But when you count your blessings and remember what God has done and is doing, you’ll capture your mind and make it behave to the truth that God is at work in your life to bring about something good. You can thank God for the outcome before you get to experience it.  “God, where I am is dark and it stinks, but thank you in advance for leading me to the light.”   “God, I know as I trust in you, you won’t fail me.”   “God, I thank you that you are with me in this mess.”   “God, I thank you for my healing, whatever it looks like because I know it will grow me and bring you glory.”   “God, I thank you for saving my son or daughter!  I can’t wait to rejoice with you on the day what I believe comes to pass.”   “God, I thank you for turning my situation around.”  Doesn’t that just encourage your faith?  Sometimes, listen, sometime you have to encourage yourself and you can do it by giving thanks to the Lord. BREAK

Supplication One of the Hebrew words translated supplication, “chalah,” comes from a root that also can mean to be rubbed or worn, weak, sick, afflicted, grieved, to stroke in flattery as well as entreat. I’m telling you there is no pride in supplication.  When we are interceding for people or asking God to do something for us, we’re begging, we’re pleading, we’re coming with a sense of being worn out by our circumstances or tired of our circumstances and when we present our supplication, it’s not about using the right words or keeping it together, but it is an emotional plea for help.

Supplication was designed by God to help us cast off worry.  Look at Philippians 4:6. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Some of you are worried this morning.  You’re worried about your finances.  You’re worried about your kids.  You see they are making choices that will take them down the wrong road.  Some of you are worried about the holidays and about how family will behave around one another.  Some of you are worried about your marriages.  Some of you are worried about retirement and how it will change your life.  Some of you are worried about others who are sick.  Some of you are waiting for test results and are worried about the outcome.  Some of you are worried about a test at school or about picking the right college or finding the right scholarships to apply for.  Some are worried that people don’t like you.  I’m telling you upon the authority of God’s Word that you can trade worry for peace through supplication.  Listen to verse seven of Philippians 4.  “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will stand as a guard over your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” It is a burden to worry.  It’s a burden to be anxious. I Peter 5:7 says we can cast all of our cares upon Him because He cares for us.  Children aren’t supposed to worry.  We’re very careful about what we discuss in front of our children because we never want them to bear a burden unnecessarily.  It’s not that we want to shield them from life’s realities, but it’s that as their parents there are some things that we’re supposed to handle so that they can be free in their heart, mind and spirit.  They can be children.  It’s the same way with God, but to a greater extent.  He is supposed to handle our challenges so that we can be free in our heart, mind, and spirit.  But He can only handle what we give Him.  He doesn’t just come to us and take our baggage off of our back, but He stands ready to receive and carry it when we finally give up and quit trying to carry it ourselves.  Prayer is literally the way burdens change shoulders. It’s not just about releasing worry, but it’s about seeing God work.  Prayer changes things.  The best way to influence people for God is to pray for them.  The best way to see your circumstances in a different light or to see them change is to pray.  Pray first before you talk to people about the Lord.  Pray first before you make a major purchase.  Pray first before you talk to your spouse about a problem.  Pray first before you begin to study for the test.  Pray first before you take the trip.  Pray first before you head into the job interview.  Pray first before the business meeting, board meeting or presentation.  Supplication to God gives Him an invitation to be involved in whatever you are facing. I’ve shared this on a Wednesday night and Sunday night already, but it is such an obvious answer to prayer, I want as many of you to hear it as possible.  Two Thursday nights ago, Hannah and I were talking and instead of asking how school was or how her friends were, I asked her how she was doing spiritually.  (Parents, we ought to be checking with our kids on their spiritual progress and not just be concerned about the soccer score or the grade on the report cards.)  Anyway, she told me she believed she was learning more about the Bible, but that she still had her doubts.  She said she also struggled to believe differently than she was being taught in school about evolution. I explained to her that doubts were a normal part of life.  That a man in the Bible came to Jesus and asked him to heal his son.  He said, “Jesus I believe, but help my unbelief.” I told her that even one of the twelve disciples was famous because he was a doubter.  I told her that everything that has been created had to have a creator.  The chair you’re sitting in this morning didn’t appear from nowhere.  Someone made it, right?  If we are here, and I think most of us are, J that means someone made us.  We didn’t ooze out of something or evolve out of something, but we were created by someone and His name is God. I told her she could pray for a sign for God to confirm these truths to her and to help her with her doubts.  She was shocked to hear that.  I went to bed that night praying for Hannah.  I want her to believe all of her life that this is real.  God isn’t like Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  She won’t wake up one morning to find we were just having fun with her.  The very next night-the VERY next night, at the state youth convention, the first few sentences out of the speaker’s mouth included a question.  “Does anyone here doubt that God is real?”  I poked Hannah.  She poked me.  Then she said, “There was a man in the Bible who asked Jesus to heal his son.  He told Jesus he believed, but that he also needed help with his unbelief.”  I poked Hannah.  She poked me.  Then she said, “Let’s break this down.  Let’s go back to the beginning.  Everything that has been created had to have a what?”  Hannah’s eyes were as big as saucers.  I asked her, “Did you pray for a sign?”  She said, “No, but I’m guessing you did!” Hallelujah!  We have a God who hears a mother’s heart cry for her daughter.  We have a God who bottles the tears you cry as you call out to Him.  We have a God who can heal us, change our circumstances, and give us peace even if our circumstances don’t change. The tragedy of our day is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer. Hebrews 4:15 says, “15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
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