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When You Haven't Got a Prayer - 1 Samuel 12:19-25

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The great mission worker Hudson Taylor was often refreshed by times of prayer. His son noted, "For forty years the sun never rose on China that God didn't find him on his knees." Someone called prayer the gymnasium of the soul. When was the last time you had a good "workout"? Today we delve into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and the human and consider the last topic in our White Collar Sins series--prayerlessness.

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3/25/2018
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When You Haven't Got a Prayer
1 Samuel 12:19-25
Skip Heitzig
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The great mission worker Hudson Taylor was often refreshed by times of prayer. His son noted, "For forty years the sun never rose on China that God didn't find him on his knees." Someone called prayer the gymnasium of the soul. When was the last time you had a good "workout"? Today we delve into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and the human and consider the last topic in our White Collar Sins series--prayerlessness.
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White Collar Sins

White Collar Sins

We say we want to be holy, yet we tolerate sin on a daily basis, comfortable with its permeating presence in our homes, our relationships—our very lives. And while we view murder, lust, and lying as unbearably wicked, we trivialize gossip, gluttony, and envy. In the series White Collar Sins: Death in Its Sunday Best, Pastor Skip Heitzig challenges us to view all sin as destructive and recognize its painful consequences.

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Outline

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  1. Prayer Is Needful (v. 19a)

  2. Intercession Is Powerful (v. 19a-b)

  3. Obedience Is Essential (vv. 20-22)

  4. Prayerlessness Is Sinful (v. 23)

Study Guide

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Recap Notes: March 25, 2018
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "When You Haven't Got a Prayer"
Text: 1 Samuel 12:19-25

Path

The great mission worker Hudson Taylor was often refreshed by times of prayer. His son noted, "For forty years the sun never rose on China that God didn't find him on his knees." Someone called prayer the gymnasium of the soul. When was the last time you had a good "workout"? Today we delve into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and the human and consider the last topic in our White Collar Sins series—prayerlessness. Pastor Skip gave us four facts about prayer to encourage and guide us into prayer:
  • Prayer Is Needed (v. 19a)
  • Intercession Is Powerful (v. 19a-b)
  • Obedience Is Essential (vv. 20-22)
  • Prayerlessness Is Sinful (v. 23)

Points

Prayer Is Needed
  • Samuel was a man of prayer, going back to his childhood, and people knew it (see Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1). They sought Samuel when they rejected God by asking for a king. At this point, they felt convicted. Their realization shows us that God wants to raise you to the highest possible level in life, but He will only take you as far as you will let Him.
  • On average, people pray for ten minutes or less. Some never pray unless it's an emergency; there are few atheists in cancer wards or unemployment lines.
  • If you make prayer for your first response, it will never have to be your last resort.
  • Even though God is sovereign and ultimately does what He wants, we must pray because in His sovereignty, God voluntarily links Himself to human cooperation, often binding His work to our prayers.
  • Samuel Chadwick said, "The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion…but trembles when we pray."
  • Probe: Read Ezekiel 36:37, Matthew 21:22, John 14:13-14, James 4:3 and 5:16, and Revelation 5:8. How do these verses show the relationship between our prayers and God's work? How is prayer needful for us?
Intercession Is Powerful
  • There are four different kinds of prayer:
    • Adoration—it's easy to find things to praise God for in His awesomeness.
    • Petition—it's easy to bring our needs to God.
    • Imprecation—it's easy to ask God to bring our enemies down (though He is likely to say no since we're supposed to be praying for them).
    • Intercession—it's hard to look past ourselves and pray for others.
  • Interceding for others is hard but helpful (see James 5:16). Standing in the gap (see Ezekiel 22:30) has many biblical and historical precedents (Abraham and Abimelech, Moses and Pharaoh, Job and his friends, Paul's nine requests for it, John Wesley's "Holy Club" and the Great Revival, Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival, among others).
  • Intercession works, but it's a battle. Distractions will arise because you just brought a gun to a knife fight—bringing God into a situation brings the real power to bear.
  • Probe: When have you battled for someone else in prayer? What challenges did you face to keep at it? What did you see God do as a result of sticking with it?
Obedience Is Essential
  • Samuel told the people, "Don't be afraid. Yes, you've sinned, but keep seeking God with all your heart. He's listening, but don't expect me to shoot up a prayer while you live any way you want."
  • We should never use someone else's prayers as a crutch for our disobedience, or someone else's holiness for our unholiness.
  • Probe: Read Exodus 19:5-6, Romans 1:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5, and Revelation 14:12. How is prayer a form of obedience to God?
Prayerlessness Is Sinful
  • Samuel said it would be a sin against God for him not to pray for them. Let that sink in: not to pray is a sin.
  • Think about it this way: Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, has invited you to come to Him in prayer. He wants you to engage with Him, praising Him, bringing needs to Him, and spending time with Him. How amazing is that?
  • Prayerlessness is a sin in three ways:
    • It insults God: He wants to show us amazing things (see Jeremiah 33:3); who are we to shrug Him off?
    • It impoverishes us: we miss out when we fail to partner with God in the work He wants to do in and through us.
    • It injures others: we rob others of the blessings God wants to bring through our intercession.
  • Regarding all the recent backlash on people sending "thoughts and prayers," it depends on who is praying and to whom the prayers are being directed. Prayer is action—the first action we should take. God prompts us to act after we pray—and we should act, at that point. We can always do more after we pray, but we can't do more before we pray.
  • Peter Marshall, former chaplain to the Senate, prayed, "Forgive usforthinking that prayer is awaste of time, and help us to see thatwithout prayer,our work is a waste of time."
  • Probe: Think of how you spend your time. How can you reallocate your time to include more regular prayer?
Practice

Connect Up: Billy Graham talked about wishing he had spent more time in study and prayer, just telling God that he loved Him. Take time now to do that and commit to taking time each day just to let God know how much you appreciate Him.

Connect In: The needs around us, even in the church, can feel overwhelming. We want to pray but the thought itself is exhausting. What are some ways you can discipline yourself to intercede for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Ask God to give you a heart for prayer. Consider making a list and dividing it into prayers for each day, setting a regular time and sticking to it, like you're keeping a meeting or appointment. What other tips have worked for you?

Connect Out: Billy Graham also said that the three most important things when undertaking any ministry are prayer, prayer, and prayer. He believed that prayer works. Prayer is your connection to God as your power source. What does it mean to make sure you've got a tight connection with God before you head out into the world?

Transcript

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When You Haven't Got a Prayer - 1 Samuel 12:19-25 - Skip Heitzig

Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray this message encourages you. And if it does, let us know. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

Someone once called prayer the gymnasium of the soul, so when was the last time that you had a good workout? In the message When You Haven't Got a Prayer, Skip delves into the mysterious cooperation of the divine and human, considering the last topic in our White Collar Sins series, prayerlessnes. Now we invite you to turn your Bible to 1 Samuel chapter 12 as Skip begins.

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of 1 Samuel chapter 12. 1 Samuel chapter 12. When something is impossible, when there's no hope of succeeding in something, we often say, you haven't got a prayer. That's like, good luck. Not going to happen. Never going to happen. You haven't got a prayer.

So winning the Powerball lottery-- since the odds of that happening are one in 175 million, most people just say, you haven't got a prayer. Or expecting to get an A on the exam when you never opened the book once and you barely attended classes-- you haven't got a prayer. Or the guy who doesn't brush his teeth-- he's going to date that beautiful girl, ask her out? Dude, you haven't got a prayer.

That little idiom, you haven't got a prayer, is for some people a reality. What I mean by that is some people haven't got a prayer because they never have a prayer. They just don't pray.

When Billy Graham, who, as you know, recently went to heaven at age 99-- when he was asked, what are the most important steps in preparing for an evangelistic outreach, he answered by saying three things mattered most-- prayer, prayer, prayer. He was a man of prayer. He believed in prayer.

He had a ministry bathed in it. I have a magnet that is still hanging in my kitchen. It's a refrigerator magnet. It just shows Billy Graham's profile and that one word underneath-- pray. And I love just walking by and go, oh, yeah. Seeing that is a helpful reminder.

When Billy Graham was interviewed one time-- and it's become a famous one-- he was asked the question, if you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? And his answer-- I would study more. I would pray more. I would travel less. I would take fewer speaking engagements. I would spend more time in meditation and in prayer just telling the Lord how much I love Him and adore Him.

I believe that the last years of his ministry, God gave him his heart's desire. I just had this conversation. I've had it many times with people. They say, why do you suppose God kept Billy Graham alive for so long-- 99? I mean, he was kept up in that home, and he didn't get out. Wasn't able to do much speaking or writing. He was just up there.

I just think the Lord allowed him to have a reset on his life. Because he always said, I wanted to pray more. And he was able to spend the last few years of his life just in prayer for people and contemplation of God.

Now, you know some people have just a simple faith-- a profound simple faith-- and they just pray about everything. Whatever comes their way, they're like, let's pray about that. That's their first response. It's so beautiful.

I have a friend-- I would say more of an acquaintance. I've always marveled at his life since I've known him, because he goes into difficult places. But you'll be in a conversation with this guy, and we'll be talking about some future possibility. And he'll just say-- he'll just sort of pause. He'll go, well, Lord, we just pray about that right.

And he just starts talking to God while he has just been talking to me. And it's almost like, whoa. What just happened? But he does that a lot. It's become second nature, so I just get used to that when I'm around him-- that profound, simple, daily trust in the Lord.

I heard about a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist, and she prayed about everything. And she often would pray aloud so that her neighbor would hear her pray-- not for that reason, but it was just paper thin walls or the windows were open. But he could hear sometimes her pray.

And so he would think, that lady's nuts. Doesn't she know there is no God-- that praying doesn't really matter or really work? But she just kept praying no matter what. She prayed, and she'd pray aloud for her needs.

Well, one day, the old gal ran out of groceries, and she was in a desperate need. And so she prayed about it, and she prayed out loud about it. She said, Lord, you know I need groceries. It's a difficult time of the month. But Lord, I trust that you're going to provide.

Well, he heard her over pray this, and He thought, a ha. I'll fix her. So he went out and bought a whole bunch of groceries and put all these groceries in bags on her doorstep then knocked on the door and hid behind the bushes. She opened the door, looked down, saw the groceries, and she said, praise the Lord. God has provided groceries for me.

And she started getting all excited and doing her happy dance. Well, this neighbor jumps up out of the bushes and says, a ha! You crazy old woman. God didn't buy you those groceries. I did. He thought he had her.

Well, then she gets even more excited, starts going down the street in front of all the neighbors, praising the Lord and thanking the Lord. That atheist neighbor caught up with her and said, why are you doing that? She said, well, I knew the Lord would provide groceries. I didn't know He was going to make the devil pay for them.

[APPLAUSE]

So you just got to appreciate that simple profound faith that people have in trusting God for anything. Others, however-- I would include most of us-- I think honestly struggle with this area of prayer.

I don't know about you, but whenever there's a sermon on prayer, it's like, ugh, here it comes. You just automatically start getting ready, because you just have this instinctive knowledge that, yeah, this is an area of my life that I really need to work on. It's perhaps our greatest challenge.

Well, with that as an introduction, I want to take you to 1 Samuel chapter 12 and verse 19. It says, all of the people-- that is, the people of Israel-- said to Samuel-- he's the profit at that time in this case. All the people said to Samuel, pray for your servants to the Lord your God that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.

Then Samuel said to the people, do not fear. You have done all this wickedness. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside, for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.

For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. But I will teach you the good and the right way.

I would like to look at this passage with you like peeling an onion. We'll just take one layer at a time. And with each layer, we'll go a little deeper, a little more profound. We'll sort of start general and superficial and work our way to the deeper part. I want to give you four facts about prayer.

Now, I do want to say this up front. I do not want to guilt you into praying. I don't want you to feel really bad. OK. I'm going to do it now. I feel bad enough. I'm going to do it. I don't want to guilt you into anything.

I do, however, want to lovingly goad you into prayer. In fact, I'd love to guide you into seeing how much we need to do it. But let's begin with the simplest layer, the simplest level, and that is that prayer is needful. Prayer is needful.

You'll notice in verse 19, all the people said to Samuel, pray. Now, Samuel was known as a man of prayer ever since he was a little kid and he was dropped off at the Tabernacle. And it's recorded in Chapter 3 of this book.

He prays, speak, Lord, your servant hears. You just got to picture a little kid just a little older than being a toddler with his little robe on, hands in the air, going speak, Lord. Your servant hears. He was a man of prayer.

Well, centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah recorded that Samuel was known to God as a great prayer warrior. God through Jeremiah in chapter 15 of that book said-- God speaking now-- even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my mind would not be favorable. So God picks out two examples of prayer warriors, one being Moses, the second being Samuel-- great men of prayer. Also, in Psalm 99, Samuel is celebrated when the Psalmist said, and Samuel was among those who call upon God's name.

Now, the people knew this about Sam. We can call him Sam, right? We know him by now. They knew this about Sammy. They knew that Samuel was mighty in prayer, because he demonstrates it here. Would you go back a few verses to verse 16 and notice?

Now therefore, stand and see this great thing, Samuel the prophet says. See this great thing which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is today not the wheat harvest? I will call to the Lord, and he will send thunder and rain that you may perceive and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the Lord in asking a king for yourselves.

So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said to Samuel, pray.

Now, here's the setting. Samuel is giving a speech at the coronation of Israel's first king which was king who? King Saul. But Samuel was not a happy camper, because the people of Israel had asked for a king. And the reason they asked for a king is that we may be like all the other nations. We want to be like everybody else around us. They have a king, we don't have a king.

This broke Samuel's heart. Why? Because God had directly ruled over them in a theocracy. They didn't want a theocracy, they wanted a monarchy. Because other nations have kings and queens, and we want a king. That broke his heart.

But he warned them. Four chapters back in chapter 8, he says, you know, I just want you to know what you're going to get if you get a king. He said, he's going to draft your sons for his army. He's going to take away your land-- some of it-- by eminent domain. He's going to place a 10% taxation on everything you own and everything you get. He's going to use your children for his own labor in his palaces, and you will live to regret this request.

And they said, we don't care. We want a king. So he's all bummed out. He goes to God in prayer. God says, hey, give them what they want. They're not rejecting you. They're rejecting me.

So there's a great principle there, and that is that God wants to raise you up to the highest possible level-- whatever level you allow Him to raise you to-- and He will do the very best for you at that level. However, if we insist on our own way, which we often do-- I want to do it my way. When we do that, we often settle for second best or third best or fourth best.

And here's God trying to raise us up to the highest possible level. And He will do that and do the very best for you at that level. But God so often wants more. Well, now they come to him, and they want prayer. Because suddenly, they realize they need prayer. So they come to him in verse 19 and they say, pray.

Have you noticed that sometimes people never pray except when they're in trouble, that many people view God like an aspirin? You don't need aspirin until you what? Hurt. I don't need God until I hurt. Now I hurt. God? That's when they pray.

They treat God like an emergency room. You just don't call the ER and talk to people. You call the ER if you need to get in because you have a crisis, you have an emergency.

According to the best research, 78% or 79%-- let's say 79%-- of Americans pray once a week. 55% say they pray every day, but listen to the article. It said after their research, some of these prayers are born in extremis-- that is, in desperate situations. There are, says this article, there are few atheists in cancer wards or unemployment lines.

The Huffington Post-- I read an article this week-- noted 90% of Americans have prayed for healing. Now, I get this. I understand this-- that when life puts you in a corner, you instinctively look up to God, even if you don't do it regularly. That's the time you talk to Him. I understand that.

When we can't fix the situation, we look hopefully to someone who can. But most people pray as a last resort, not as a first response. I'm here to tell you when you make prayer your first response, it will never have to become your last resort. You start with that.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly. Others give only an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continually with all his might.

Can you imagine a rope and a bell? And somebody pulls it, and then keeps pulling it, and keeps pulling it, and keeps pulling it. And you're thinking, gosh, that's bugging me. Be that guy. Be that guy. Hey, God. Hey, God. Hey, God. Ring, ring, ring, ring.

Now, some people will say regarding prayer that, well, why pray? I mean, if God is sovereign-- do you believe God is sovereign? So God is sovereign. God rules the universe. God can do whatever He wants to do. What difference would your prayer make if God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants to do? He will accomplish his purpose no matter what, so why pray?

So listen very carefully. In His sovereignty, God has voluntarily linked himself to human cooperation. Did you get that? In God's sovereignty, He's made the sovereign choice to voluntarily link himself with human cooperation-- that is, God is bound to the prayers of His children. He merges His work with our prayers.

Often, He will do that. Now, He could do whatever He wants regardless, but often, He will do that. And there are so many scriptures about that. I'll just give you two.

One-- Revelation chapter 5, End of Days. Jesus takes the scroll out of the right hand of God the Father. It's the title deed to the Earth. He is performing what God had always said he would do. That God's eternal purpose. That never changes. He's doing what God the Father wanted him to do.

But listen to how it's written. As he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the lamb. Each one had a harp. And they had golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. Here is the lamb doing what the Father always said he would do in cooperation with the prayers of the saints.

Here's another one. It's stood out to me, because I was in my devotions reading this yesterday. It's in Ezekiel chapter 36 where God tells Ezekiel, go prophesize to the mountains of Israel and say the people are going to come back and be very populated onto you. All the people will come back to this land and be very fruitful in this land. This is what I, the sovereign God, will do.

And over and over again, He goes, I will do this. I will do that. I will do this. I will do that. So you think, done deal. God is sovereign, He's going to do it. But listen to what He says after that.

He says, I am ready to hear Israel's prayers for these blessings, and I am ready to grant them their requests. It's very fascinating. God says, this is what I am going to do, Ezekiel. So I want you to know, and you tell them, I'm now ready to hear them pray about that.

So God has voluntarily linked himself to human cooperation. Augustine put it this way. Without God we cannot, but without us, God will not. Very interesting.

I just wonder if God doesn't want to give you so many things-- picture somebody with gifts in his arms, just waiting for you to ask. And you go, oh, come on. God's just going to give them, right? Well, James came right out, and he said this. You have not, because you ask not. You have not, because you ask not.

So prayer is needful. That's the first layer. Let's drill down a little bit. Prayer is needful, but intercession is powerful. Notice verse 19. Notice something. They just don't come to Samuel and say, hey, Samuel, pray. You're a man of prayer, just pray.

They came to him in verse 19 and said, pray for your servants. Pray for us that we may not die. They're not just asking Samuel to pray. They have a specific kind of prayer in need, what we would call intercession-- praying for somebody, praying on behalf of somebody else. Intercession means to ask on behalf of somebody else.

Now, why? Well, they had just seen how effective Samuel's prayer was in the natural world, bringing thunder and rain and this storm. So they're thinking, hey, spread some of that around. Pray for us. We don't want to die.

Now, when it comes to praying, there's a few different kinds of prayers. I know most of you know this already, but just follow me here. Sometimes-- oftentimes-- prayer is easy to do. Hold on. You're going, easy to do?

It is easy to do. Some forms of prayer are easy. Others are hard. Example-- adoration, praising God. Easy or hard? Pretty easy. Doesn't take a whole lot of effort to realize God is pretty awesome.

And to tell Him He's awesome-- that doesn't take a lot of effort. That's not hard. It's not like, oh, man. I got to tell God He's cool. Really? Are you a knucklehead? He is cool. He is awesome.

Praising him is effortless, so easy to do. Adoration-- so easy to do. OK, let's get that out of the way.

Second form of prayer-- petition. Personal petition-- asking things for myself. Easy or hard? That's really easy, because I always know what I think I need. I'm always in touch with God. I need that. God, I need that.

So that's pretty easy to pray for myself, because I am aware of my need. Philippians 4:6-- be anxious for nothing. But in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. That's easy.

Now, there's another interesting form of prayer-- not adoration, not personal petition, but imprecation. Have you ever heard of imprecatory prayer? Some of you have. That's sort of a weird term-- a theological term. There are 10 psalms in the book of Psalms we call imprecatory psalms-- eight written by David, two written by Asaph.

That's where David or Asaph prays against somebody like their enemies. They're pretty gnarly prayers, by the way. It's like, oh, God, break their teeth in their mouth. Oh, God, put them in slippery places. Don't let them recover. I mean, it's like what mafia people would pray.

Some of you are leaning in going, tell me more about this prayer. This could come in handy. OK, so somebody wrongs you, and let's just say you have the opportunity to pray an imprecatory psalm. Easy or hard? That's pretty easy. I could pray one of those prayers. In fact, I've written one out.

Now, just a word about that. Whatever you pray to the Lord, no matter what it is, even if it is an imprecatory prayer against your enemies, you got to know something. Number one-- God doesn't have to say yes to everything you pray for. In fact, we say, well, God didn't answer my prayer. Yes He did. He said no. That's an answer. He answered your prayer.

Number two-- Jesus in the New Testament said, love your enemies and pray for them-- not in imprecatory prayer, but you pray for them in a loving way. So he brought it up to a whole higher level. So adoration-- easy. That's my vote. Petition-- easy. Imprecation-- easy.

But here's a fourth form of prayer that's hard. We're talking about intercession. Intercession is hard. Why is it hard? Because now I'm not focused on myself, which is most of the time, or focused on God, which some of the time, and He's awesome.

But now, I'm focused on you and what you need, and I'm not really good at that. It's not comfortable. It's not easy for me. In fact, to pray for other people-- the Bible says it's laborious. It's labor.

In Colossians 4, Paul wrote about his buddy Epaphras, saying, who is laboring fervently for you in prayer. It can be laborious. It can be hard. And though it is hard, it is also helpful. Because, as James wrote, the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man, what? Avails much. It works. It avails much.

There's a role of an intercessor spoken about in the Old Testament as somebody who stands in the gap. Have you ever heard that phrase, standing in the gap? You wonder where it comes from? It comes from Ezekiel chapter 22 where God said, I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of this land that I should not destroy it.

God said, I really want to do something. I don't want to destroy these people. I'm just looking for somebody who will be an intercessor-- who will stand before me in prayer on behalf of them. So to stand in the gap is somebody who forms a link between God and people so that God can work.

Example-- Abraham stood in the gap for King Gerar. King Gerar, or King of Gerar, was named Abimelech. Remember the story when Abraham goes down to Gerar, and he lies about his wife, saying, well, that's really my sister? And so the King of Gerar takes Sarah, his wife, thinking-- because he lied to him, that's my sister-- takes him home as part of his harem.

That night, God appears to Abimelech in a dream and says, you are a dead man. You just took a man's wife. You restore that man back his wife. Listen to this. God said, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you. If I am King Abimelech, I said, that guy's a prophet? He just lied to me. That guy's a creepy husband, and he's going to pray for me?

But he didn't want to die, so he brought Sarah back to Abraham. And it says, Abraham prayed for him. And the Lord enabled Abimelech's wife to have children. So God even honored a creepy husband's prayer. In intercession, he stood in the gap.

Moses stood in the gap for Pharaoh when Pharaoh said, ask your God to stop this hailstorm-- Exodus chapter 9. Next chapter-- ask your God to stop the plague of locusts-- Exodus chapter 10. Moses stood in the gap.

Job stood in the gap for his friends. If you know the Book of Job, it's Job suffering and his three and then fourth friend bad mouthing him through the book and telling Job why he's suffering. And why God allowed this to happen? At the end of the book, God says, I'm angry with you, to his three friends. I'm angry with you, because what you have said about me and about Job isn't right.

And listen to this. This is Job 42 verse 7. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer. That's the role of standing in the gap-- an intercessor.

Did you know that nine times in the New Testament, Paul the Apostle asks his audience to pray for him, to stand in the gap for him? You know why he asked for prayer? It's easy-- because he believed it would work. If you pray for me, if you intercede for me, if you stand in the gap, it will work.

John Wesley stood in the gap for his nation. John Wesley and a few friends had a club at Oxford University. Get this-- it was called the Holy Club. The Holy Club. We need some clubs like that today, especially on campus.

The Holy Club at Oxford University were students-- John Wesley and a few of his buddies. Every Wednesday, they would pray and fast. And the result of the Holy Club was God brought revival to that nation. They stood in the gap.

Evan Roberts and his friends stood in the gap for their country of Wales. Night after night, night after night, they prayed. God sent a two year plus revival called the Welsh Revival in which 150,000 people were radically converted to Christ. They're intercessors. They stood in the gap.

Now, something else about intersession quickly-- when you engage in it, that's when you realize that prayer is a battle. You will be amazed at the disturbances that come your way when you say, I'm going to sit down. I'm going to pray about that and pray for these people and intercede. You will be amazed at the interruptions.

You sit down to pray, the telephone rings. You sit down to pray, somebody is at the door. Who's at the door? Sit down to pray for somebody-- that's when you get the text message you've been waiting for all day but didn't get it till now. That's when all the emails start coming.

You go, what is going on? What just happened? I'll tell you what just happened. You just brought a gun to a knife fight. Do you get the analogy? You're in a fight. You're working it out yourself. Suddenly, you bring a gun to the knife fight. Fight is over.

When you pray, you are calling on the big gun. You're involving God. You're bringing Him. Instead of hand-to-hand combat-- I'm going to fight the devil-- you're bringing God into this. No wonder Satan wants to keep you from prayer. He doesn't want the big guns.

Samuel Chadwick wrote, the one concern of the Devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. As one person put it, Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees. Prayer is needful. Intercession is powerful.

Let's take it down another layer, another level. Let's go deeper. Obedience is essential. Obedience is essential.

So they come to Samuel and say, pray for us. We don't want to die. Verse 20-- Samuel said to the people, do not fear. You have done all this wickedness. In other words, it is on you. You're right to confess.

Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside, for then you would go after empty things-- that's idols-- which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great namesake, because it is please the Lord to make you His people.

What Samuel is basically telling this crowd is, look, God's not going to forsake you. Now, you just make sure that you don't forsake God any longer. You asked me to pray for you. You've come to me to pray for you. But don't expect me just to shoot up a prayer while you live any way you want to live.

Prayer is not some 911 call. You still need to stay close to the Lord, stay true to the Lord, trust the Lord, walk with the Lord, be obedient. Don't turn from Him. There's obedience on your part.

There's a great principle here before we move on to the next-- never use someone else's prayers as a crutch for your disobedience. People come all the time. Hey, would you pray for me? I got this and that going on.

Yeah, but there's a lifestyle issue we're dealing with. Well, just pray for me. Never use somebody else's prayers as a crutch for your disobedience, or never use somebody else's holiness as an excuse for your unholiness. Obedience is essential.

Let's take it down to the fourth and the last level. OK, so you've been really good in this series, and there have been some hard hitting sermons. I just want to preface this with great love. This is the last point. This is where it packs its punch. This is where it hurts a little bit.

Prayerlessness is sinful. Prayerlessness is sinful. Look at verse 23. Moreover, he says to these people, as for me, Samuel the prophet, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. But I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart, for consider what great things He has done for you.

Question-- why does he called this sin-- not praying for you, prayerlessness? Why does he call that sin? And why does he say it's against the Lord? God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.

Ah, that's the kernel of truth that I want to get at. It's a sin against the Lord, number one, because prayerlessness insults God. Would you agree with that, that prayerlessness-- not praying-- insults God? You say, why does it insult God? Well, think of it.

He's the creator of everything. And as the creator of everything, yet He invites you into his presence. He says, come, talk to me. Come, fellowship with me. Come involve me in your life, and I will work when you do. Call on me-- Jeremiah 33:3-- and I will answer you. And I will show you great and mighty things which you know not.

That's an invitation from God. So if you were to say, well, God, I don't have time to talk to you-- which most of us would have that as an excuse. It's hard to make the time to pray.

OK. I would counter that by asking you this-- do you have time to binge watch that series on Netflix and Hulu? Do you have time to get in a workout at the gym? Do you have time to play a round of golf? Do you have time to go shopping? Well, there's always time for shopping. Do you have time to practice that musical instrument so to become proficient at it?

The average person lives to what age do you think-- average? Average person lives-- 77 is the average lifespan. The average person lives 77 years. That equals 28,000 days, or 670,000 hours, or 40 million minutes. Follow me.

The average person spends 24 minutes a day getting dressed-- some more. That equals 13 hours a month, or seven days a year, or one year in your lifetime. The average person spends 40 minutes a day on the phone-- some more. That's 20 hours a month. That's 10 days a year. That's two years in your lifetime.

The average person spends one hour a day in the bathroom. That's 30 hours a month. That's 15 days a year. That's three years in the bathroom in your lifetime.

The average person spends three hours a day watching television-- some way more. That's 90 hours a month. That's 45 days a year. That's nine years in a lifetime. I'm not going to even get in looking at your mobile phone. That's a whole different issue, a whole different skew.

But get this. The average Christian spends less than 10 minutes a day. Now, hold on to that-- less than 10 minutes a day. But let's just be generous and say 10 minutes a day-- 10 minutes a day. If it were the case-- 10 minutes a day-- that would be six hours a month. That would be three days a year or a total of seven months in a lifetime.

According to Barna Research, they've researched this for decades. If you know anything about-- the Brana Group research Christian's behavior. They do in-depth research. According to Barna Research, the average Christian prays one minute a day-- one minute a day. Prayerlessness insults God.

There's a second reason he calls it a sin. Prayerlessness impoverishes us. I lose out on an opportunity to partner with God in a work He wants to do. How awesome to say, look what happened. I prayed about that. It impoverishes us.

Jesus said-- you know this-- ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall-- tell me-- find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you. That's what Jesus told us. That's a command. Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.

So doesn't it make sense-- if you never ask, you'll never what? You'll never receive. I don't receive anything. Did you ask? You have not, because you ask not. So prayerlessness insults God. Prayerlessness impoverishes us.

And finally, prayerlessness injures others. It injures others. Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you. What do you mean, it robs others? Well, it robs people of the blessings God wants to give them, and that is the epitome of selfishness.

Now, I've noticed something. I bet you have too. It's becoming vogue lately-- just very recently. Whenever there's a crisis, whenever there's a desperate situation or tragedy occurs and people say, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We tweet that out. We say that.

It's now become vogue to say, we don't want your thoughts and prayers. Have you heard that? That's not enough. You know, what they're saying is, don't just tell us you're going to pray for us and think about us. Do something about this. That's what they mean, and I understand that.

But they say, thoughts and prayers are not enough. Well, I guess it depends on who is doing the thoughts and prayers and to whom the thoughts and prayers are being directed. Because in prayer, I am saying to the creator of the universe, God, I know I live in a fallen world. Father, I know that bad things happen to all people. Would you please give comfort and encouragement and peace to the victims and families of this tragedy?

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's everything right with that. That doesn't mean you stop and you do not act. It's not like, yep, done my job. I thought about them, and I prayed about them. Because when you think and you pray, you're probably next going to be moved into action-- or you should.

But what I want to underscore is this. Prayer is action. It's the first action, because we're engaging God in the process. You can always do more than pray after you've prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you've prayed.

[APPLAUSE]

Peter Marshall-- if you know anything about Peter Marshall, I would commend his biography that his wife wrote about him. Peter Marshall was the chaplain at one time to the United States Senate. And Peter Marshall began a Senate session with this prayer. Oh, Lord, forgive us for thinking that prayer is a waste of time. And help us to see that without prayer, our work is a waste of time. I like that.

So let me bring this to a close and say this. If there is a God and if that God invites us to come into His presence, talk and fellowship with Him, and promises to involve Himself in our daily activities and promises to act on our behalf, and if He has made that way possible by sending His son to bleed on a cross so that we could have fellowship with Him and pray to Him and He would act, then what are we thinking not doing that?

What on Earth could we be possibly thinking not doing that? And could that be the reason that we lack real power? Could the reason for our lack of power be just that right there?

I'll close with this story. Herbert Jackson was a missionary. He went to the mission field. And part of the package of him being a missionary in this mission field was a mission car. It was beat up. It didn't start like this with a key, he had to push start this car.

So Herbert Jackson figured out how he was going to do it. He lived and worked near a school and worked at the school sometimes. They all knew him. So what he would do is he would get some of the kids out of class to push the car to push start the car in second gear. I don't know if you've ever done that. I lived that way for a while.

And they push started the car. So he would then drive around, make his rounds. And whenever he'd make his rounds and drive out in the bush, he did one of two things. A, he left the car running so he wouldn't have to try to start it, or B, he would find a hill and park it on a hill so it would be facing downward. So he'd just let it go and start it in second gear and get it going.

He did that for two years. Eventually, he got sick, had to come back to the United States. A new missionary came to replace him. Herbert Jackson said, hey, with this deal, you get a car, but it didn't work. But I figured out the school system how-- told him all about it. The guy wasn't impressed.

He said, do you mind if I pop the hood? So the new missionary popped the hood, noticed a cable was disconnected, connected it, got in the car, turned it on, and it started. Now, just think about that. For two years, Herbert Jackson lived that way.

Now, listen to how this goes. The power was available to him. The only problem was a loose connection. Get my drift? Power is available to us. The only problem is a loose connection. Get connected, stay connected, and live in His power.

[APPLAUSE]

And now let's pray like we mean it. Father in heaven, creator of all things, sustainer of everything, you sent your son to enable us to have a connection with you that we never could have apart from that effective work on the cross. You made a way into the holy of holies, as the writer of Hebrews said-- an impassable way.

But there we are in your presence speaking to you as the creator, our friend. Lord, I pray-- we pray-- that you would forgive us for not involving you more, for not making the connection more. And Father, would you help us to go way beyond a minute a day?

But that we, as the apostle said, would pray without ceasing. It would just come naturally to us. It would become a part of our lives because of what we need and because of who you are. In Jesus' name, amen.

Prayer is needful, refreshing, and powerful. So how will you put the truths that you learned into action in your prayer life? We'd love to know. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org.

And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
1/14/2018
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Sin in a Three-Piece Suit
Matthew 23
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Someone remarked that our sense of sin is in proportion to our nearness to God. We’re usually good at being aware of blatant wickedness, but what about less obvious infractions? Are we willing to point fingers at others for flagrant iniquity while coddling our own vices? The truth is that many are too Christian to enjoy sinning while being too fond of sinning to enjoy Christianity. My purpose in this series isn’t to condemn anyone. I hope to stimulate a heart for holiness for a fulfilled life and happy relationships. To start off this series, consider five characteristics of sin.
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1/21/2018
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The Lazy Life of the Couch Potato
Proverbs 6:6-11;Romans 12:11
Skip Heitzig
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The first in our list of White Collar Sins will be laziness—showing a lack of effort or energy, the unwillingness to act or, in some cases, even care. Though many would smirk at this as being petty or trivial (after all there are much worse things in the world), the Bible itself addresses it as being substantial since many other lives can be affected by it. Laziness grows on people; it begins in cobwebs and ends in chains.
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1/28/2018
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Fighting the Green-Eyed Monster
Genesis 37; Acts 7:9-10
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Some attitudes can go undetected, at least for a while. You can't see someone committing envy or having resentful thoughts. But envy is detrimental because it blinds us and makes it impossible for us to think clearly. It discolors everything around us and steals our peace. Some know what it’s like to be envied, like Marilyn Monroe who once quipped, "Success makes so many people hate you." But most of us from time to time struggle with envying someone else.
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2/4/2018
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The Destructive Harvest of a Bitter Heart
Hebrews 12:14-15
Skip Heitzig
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We all know someone who has become embittered in life. They have planted kernels of unresolved anger and resentment and have become entrapped by the overgrown jungle of the bitter fruit it has created. To choose the bitter path (and it is a choice) is to walk down a self-destructive road that banishes peace and promotes self-centeredness. Let’s consider several Scriptures and the four attributes of a heart poisoned by bitterness.
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2/11/2018
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Psst! Have You Heard...?
Leviticus 19:11-18
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The sin of gossip has never made it into the same lists as murder and manslaughter. It's regarded as one of the "little sins" that even Christians are unwilling to avoid. But gossip is in the same family as murder because it assassinates a person's character. It destroys reputations, disrupts families, divides friends, and causes heartbreak. And the problem isn't just in the speaking but in the hearing as well. Let's look at a direct command not to gossip.
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3/11/2018
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Gluttony: Society’s Most Acceptable Sin
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
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Overindulgence has become a hallmark of our modern American culture. Our bodies are constantly alive with conflicting desires and drives. The temptation to eat too much, drink too much, or indulge in any number of things is constant. And it is also trivialized. So what if a person eats a little too much? It’s his body! It’s her life! Or is it? How can we bring honor to God with our bodies? Is caring for them carnal, or is it a responsible activity of stewardship?
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There are 6 additional messages in this series.