Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Prayer

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Our prayers are powerful and bring joy to God. Our Creator longs to hear from us when we are aligned with His will. We must understand what we're asking, why we're asking it, when we're asking it to better understand how we're reaching out to our Father.

Transcript

[Joshua Creech] You guys are close to Nashville, city life, the big lights, lots going on the strip. That's not for me. That's not where I grew up. That's not my cup of tea. Let me set the stage for you where I spent most of my youth, where I grew up. It ended up my grandparents and my parents decided to start looking for a new place to live. We grew up in the city until I was about 10. And so they started looking for places to live, and it ended up my grandparents found this lot of land.

They found 20 acres about 30 miles east of Cincinnati. Before we even get to the house, as soon as we turned on the driveway, my grandmother said, "This is it." They'd looked at tons and tons of other places, and she goes, "This is the one. This is it." So, from standing on the road, if you're looking towards our houses… because, during summer, you can't see it. You can't see her house or our house.

What ended up happening, they found these 20 acres that had one house on it, a big barn. So what they did, they ended up buying it, and they split it down the middle. They kept 10, gave 4 to my mom and dad to build a house, and then the remaining 6 to my aunt and uncles, so they could eventually build. They never ended up building. My parents did. So we lived with them for a short period of time until we could get the house built.

So, from standing… if you're standing at the road and just looking down, what you'll see is this long gravel driveway. It dips way down. Right at the bottom is a little creek that runs through. You got a culvert pipe, a little bridge, so you've got this little babbling creek. Sometimes, it would get a couple feet high, nothing huge.

But then you head back up that hill and you start heading to the house. Both sides of the driveway are wooded. You head up and you get to the top, and you see this little split in the driveways. So, if you head right, you go to my grandparents' house. If you head left, that's my mom and dad's house. It's surrounded by woods.

So, once you get to the houses, there's acres and acres behind the houses, just wooded areas. They had a couple main strips that we cut into it. We rode our motorcycles. We rode four-wheelers back through there. If you went back through there, you'd find a couple deer stands for when it was deer season, but it was mainly wooded.

The front section, we cleared out. Every now and then, we played paintball with some of our friends. So we had lots of fun in these woods. But if you walked all the way to the very back, and as soon as you get to the end of our property, you step out, and you step out of the tree line, it opens up and hundreds of acres of farmland.

We had somebody beside us that owned most of the property that stretched one whole side. And the entire back of the property was owned by the same farming family. That was all covered on that side. During summer, from either one of the houses, you couldn't see anybody, no other houses. In the dead… middle of winter, when there were no leaves, no brush, we could see one other house that was across the… beside us that was the good ways off in the distance. So this is what I grew up with.

I like my space. I like my privacy. It is what I enjoy. It's what I grew up with. It's what's familiar to me. That may not be your area, but maybe you can at least understand my sense of love for nature and the stars. There's something about the stars that you get to see when you don't see it in the city.

So now I want to give you a different twist on this. Now, picture if we were in 1800s if we're in 1800 right now here in the United States, or what would have become the United States, because anything west of the Mississippi would not belong to the United States yet. It would belong to other countries, other territories. So if you think about that. If you had the opportunity to be one of the first to go out and make claim to some of this territory, some of this property, what would be your ideal?

For me, it's easy. With my background, you know what I'm going for. I'm going for that beautiful creek, some type of water source where maybe we could fish out of, maybe bending around, dipping around, some beautiful wooded areas. That's what I'm looking for. You may look for the closer to the railroad sites if you like the city because they built the towns right along the railroads. But for me, it's that city. It's finding those quiet places.

So, if I'm looking and I'm trying to find this perfect spot because I want to raise my family there, I want to build a house there, and I think I find it, but ended up there's these two mountains that kind of force everything together, and there's not enough land to actually put a house, what are we going to do?

I need to move this mountain just a little bit back out of my way so that I could have the perfect spot. That would be my perfect spot. If I had the right to claim this land, we'd be stuck, right? We can't build there. But wait. We have a solution to this, we can find in the Bible. If you open up your Bibles up to Matthew with me, let's take a look, we have a way of fixing this problem. We have a solution, at least for me because I know where I want to put my house.

If you open up to Matthew 21, here we're going to find… this section starts with Jesus went to get some fruit off of a fig tree. They didn't find any, and so He cursed the fig tree. It withered up immediately. And the disciples asked, "How did that die so quickly? How did that wither up?" And this is what we get into, Matthew 21 if you start in verse 21. Matthew 21:21 Matthew 21:21Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
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. So this is where He answers when they ask about this fig tree.

He says, "So Jesus answered and said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to this fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,” it will be done.''' And in verse 22, "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." There's my answer. All I have to do is ask.

I can ask for this mountain to be moved. I can put my perfect house there. I can start raising my family. I can ask for whatever I want. Is that what we're told? Is that what this means, we can ask for anything and we will get anything, we will receive anything?

I want to take some time today and actually look at this and help us to understand exactly what prayer is and understand how we actually do have our prayers answered, so that it's in line with what God expects, and it is in line with His plan and what He's going to do. I want to go over some keys to answered prayer today, keys to answered prayer.

So point number one. Know the will of God. Know the will of God. This is critical. This is a critical component to answered prayer because this is what God wants from us. It's what He wants for us. Without knowing His will, we have no idea where we're going. We have no idea the direction of our lives. We'd have no idea on a day-to-day basis what we're supposed to be doing. We can figure out certain things about how we are supposed to live if we pay attention to His will.

We can't open up our Bibles. You can go in and find, "Joshua Creech, you're supposed to marry Elizabeth Miller. You're going to go to college. You're going to get married while you're in college. You're going to work as an accountant. You go to school to be an accountant. I want you to work as an accountant for 10 years. I want you have four kids, after 10 years, I want you to quit your job. I want you to serve My people as a minister.” And then I've got nothing else. That's as far as my life goes right now.

The future will tell me, but I can't find that in there. You can't find it. We can't find any of our names written in here. We don't find step-by-step instructions of God saying who to marry, when to get married, how many kids to have, what job to have. He doesn't get into specific details because He allows us to have the choice. He allows us to have choice over aspects of our lives and how we're supposed to… how we're going to live those lives. But He does have a specific way He wants us to live. He has a specific way of how we are supposed to live our lives without controlling every aspect of it.

So thinking about God's will. Christ put an exuberant amount of importance on this aspect. Christ Himself… if you flip back to the beginning if you look at Matthew 6. We can look here at the outline. We're given an outline for our prayers given by Christ. Matthew 6, if you start in verse 9. It says, "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

God's will includes a future focus as He desires all of our lives to be fulfilled, the plan that He has set in motion for us. If we think about these two aspects, they walk hand in hand, His plan and His will. They're unified. They work together. They're cohesive. And to be part of His plan, we must actively be doing His will. In order to become part of the God family, we have to actively be doing His will.

We're going to stick here in Matthew still. If you turn over with me to Matthew 12, look at Matthew 12:50 Matthew 12:50For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
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. Christ makes a special point clarifying that family is not all about blood. The lineage that we have here and now as humans, that's not all that matters, and that's actually not most important. Big picture, God's family is the priority.

Let's look at Matthew 12:50 Matthew 12:50For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
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. Actually, let's back up to 49. It says, "And He stretched out His hands towards His disciples and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."' We see the will of God being that critical component that He keeps turning back to. He's saying, "This is My family. This is our family." It's not just blood. It's not heritage lineage. This should be the focus. This has to be the focus. So that leads us to what exactly is God's will. We see the importance placed on God's will.

So now let's look at what is God's will. We know doing God's will is essential for the future. It's essential for being part of His family, becoming part of His family, and it's also part of having answered prayers. It plays right into this because it's part of that outline that Christ gave us.

So if you remember, we've been going through 1 John in the Bible study and talking about… we hit a couple of sections in chapter 1 and chapter 3 where it starts hitting on the Commandments and how important it is to be commandment followers and abide in the Commandments in 1 John and all he was battling.

And during that section, we talked about… I discussed how God doesn't really follow the Commandments. What the Commandments are, God has laid out these commandments. They're the expression of God's will for what He wants us to do. That's what the Commandments are. They're the expression of God's will. And so we understand what He wants from us. It's how we abide in His law. It's what we're supposed to do. It's what He wants us to do.

We used king David as an example. If you think about king David, by no means was he perfect, but he understood this importance. He understood what it meant to abide in God's law, be obedient. If you look… flip back to Psalm 40. King David spent his life pursuing to try to get some understanding of God's laws and practicing it.

Psalm 40, if you start in verse 6. That's not what I want. Let me see if I find it. Nope, that's because I'm in 39. Helps if i”m in the right Psalm. All right. Psalms 40:6 Psalms 40:6Sacrifice and offering you did not desire; my ears have you opened: burnt offering and sin offering have you not required.
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. It says, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears You have opened. Burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart."' It has to be in our hearts. It's His will. It's His desire.

We have to have the same mentality. We have to strive to do the same. We have to strive to do the same intent that David had here. If we think about it, if we study the Commandments, they are no longer just physical commandments for us. There's a spiritual aspect that Christ relayed and said, "There's a bigger expectation." Killing somebody is not the extent of it. You can't hate somebody in your head. You can't just commit adultery. You have to not lust in your mind.

There's a spiritual component now, which is more difficult for us to grasp. It is on a higher level, at higher expectations of what we're to do. We can look at the Commandments, and we can see how we're measuring up. We can understand how we have to practice these and apply them in our lives. But it takes studying them. It takes studying them to figure out all of the details that are embedded in the Commandments and how we have to apply it to us.

Flip over to Matthew 23, Matthew 23. It gives us a little nugget, some depth that's involved in God's laws. Matthew 23, if you pick it up in verse 23. It says, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." There it is. It's important. Pick up. He doesn't say you can ignore them. He says, "You should have been doing both without leaving the others undone."

Then in verse 24, "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." We see this depth to it. It's no longer just following and tithing. It's a change of ourselves. It's changing the inside, the heart, the meatier aspects, the deeper spiritual aspects of the Commandments.

A little bit of background of what they're talking about here because it sounds fun. You “strain out the gnat but you swallow a camel." What they used to do, they would strain all of their water. When they had water they were going to drink, they would strain it because they didn't want to swallow a gnat because gnats are unclean, therefore that would defile. It was sin.

So He's saying, "You're doing these outward appearances, you're doing this on the outside, but inside," He said, "you're wrong. You're not changing the most important aspect." And therefore, he says, "You're swallowing a camel." That's what He's dealing with it. We don't ever see a disregard for the laws. He didn't say, "You can stop tithing and just focus on mercy, justice, and faith." He says, "You have to do both of these." He goes, "There's more to it. There's depth to it."

Only pursuing God's law is knowing His will. And it's approving things for us. It's approving what's good. It's approving things that we need to be doing. Romans 2:8 Romans 2:8But to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
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says, "And know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law." That's how we know what we're expected to do. The law is the means by which we know what is good for us, what is good for our lives. Without the law, we have nothing. We have no direction in our lives.

As we look at God's law, these quick aspects and points, we understand that we could have an entire sermon on this. We could keep going into different facets, different aspects of actually God's will. I don't want to just focus on here because I have a couple different points because I want to keep in mind that overall picture of getting answered prayers, how we started off. But I wanted to look at a couple other things as far as God's will does go, so we can kind of define this a little more clearly.

If we look at something Paul wrote, Paul shows additional aspects of God's will back in Romans. If you turn over to Romans 12 with me, we see an aspect here, Romans 12 right at the very beginning. If you at verses 1 and 2, it says, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service," verse 2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

He wills us to be a sacrifice. There's an expectation on us to be a sacrifice. So that means we have to go and lay our lives down. No, no, that's not what this is. We may somewhere down the line, that may be what happens. We know there will be some martyrs, but that's not what this is really talking about.

This is talking about being a living, breathing, eating, sleeping, fun-loving, sacrifice. We have to be a good example in the way we live our lives. That's what a living sacrifice is. That's our day-to-day journey, our day-to-day path that we live on. We have to be a sacrifice by giving in to God's laws, by turning our life over to what He wants. We lay aside our own desires that the things that reroute too much energy or too much attention away from God, we have to refocus. We have to turn back to God.

It's okay. He expects us to have fun. He expects us to enjoy life. But if that's the dominant aspect, then we need to reroute. We need to refocus, regroup. We have to become obedient again. God looks at this… He looks at it as a process. It's not a single one-time event. It's a transforming of our minds. That's what we just read, this renewing of your mind. We have to renew our mind so that it becomes ingrained in us. And we're not constantly battling ourselves.

When we start to act like Christ, the more we do it, the more it becomes a habit, the more it becomes who we are. And we're not fighting against ourselves. It'll help guide us to honoring God and obeying Him, obeying His will because God's ultimate will is that we are all part of the God family. We are children. We are His children. That's His ultimate will. The aspects of His will that prevent us, there are none.

He won't prevent us from being children. We will prevent ourselves. But if we follow His laws, His guidelines, the way to live, that's what lead us down a path. That's what takes us to the path that leads us to God's character and Jesus Christ character. That's how we obtain that character, is by following the Commandments, by following the laws that He set out. That's the best approach for us.

By implementing all of that into our lives, we will learn to cultivate that character. That attitude will change, will change who we are. And we'll be that living sacrifice. We'll be the example to the world. We will show people who God is through our character, through the way we live our lives and the better approach to a world that we live in today. So that's point number one, is knowing God's will.

Point number two, ask in faith. Ask in faith. I want to jump straight into Scripture. If you turn over to James with me, James 1. We'll take a look at this section here. Right before this where we're going to pick it up, it starts talking about trials being used for edification. We benefit from these trials. And then we get into this, James 1, if we pick it up in verse 5. We'll read 5 through 8. It says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

Asking in faith is not a statement that we can take lightly. We see that we can be thrown to and fro without solid faith. We're double-minded men, unstable in his ways if we don't have the faith and the confidence in God. As humans, this is one of the big things we can struggle with. It's a big aspect that we have difficulty understanding a concept that's normal to us because, as humans, we tend to doubt. We try to think logically, whether it's mathematically or how things work in a physical world. We can't do that. We can't do that because, too often, we're looking at the how. We're trying to break it down at an individual level and figure out how exactly things are going to work.

It begins with, "How do I know 100% that God's actually going to answer my prayer." How do we know that? Or "How is God going to make my requests happen? How is He going to work this out, or how do I know that this came from God?" Maybe it did end up working out or something worked out in your favor. How do we know that came from God, that it was God's will that this happened?

Our faith becomes misplaced. We start focusing too much on faith, and we misunderstand what the bigger picture is here. We have to let God do the work for us. We have to let God work it out. Otherwise, why are we going to God in the first place if we are going to try to work it out, because that's what happens?

If we don't leave it in God's hands, faith becomes the object. But that's not where it has to be. God has to be the object. God is the object of our faith, not the opposite way around. God's the object. He's the one we turn to.

So if we find ourselves questioning or trying to figure out how God's going to do this, we're saying one of two things. Thinking about faith, we're saying one of two things. Either, one, "God can't answer my prayer," or "God won't answer my prayer." If we start questioning, whether or not or how those are the two things. Either "God won't answer my prayer," or "God can't answer my prayer."

If we say He can't, we find ourselves in a very precarious position. If we say He can't work something out no matter what it is, we're questioning His sovereignty. We're questioning the power and authority that He has, the abilities that He is capable of.

If we say that He won't, we're not really in any better situation or position because then we're questioning His goodness, we're questioning His mercy, His motivations. We have to be very, very careful if we don't have the faith when we actually turned to Him because we're questioning God at several different levels of what He's able to do.

If we go to God in faith, we have to pray and say, "I know God can do it. I know He's capable of doing it." As long as it's consistent with His righteousness and His plan, He is able to and will work this out all because God is good, all because He's good. You don't have to turn to these, but I've got a couple of Psalms that I want to read real quick. Psalms 107:1 Psalms 107:1O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever.
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says, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."

Psalms 119:68 Psalms 119:68You are good, and do good; teach me your statutes.
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says, "You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes." 145 in verse 9, it says, "The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." God is just good. There's no stipulations. There's no exceptions. There's no fine print at the bottom of the Bible. God is good.

I do want to flip to 1. If you flip to Nahum, turn over to the book of Nahum. We don't go here too often, but it hits on the same thing. Nahum 1, if we read verses 6 through 8. It says, "Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him." That's the scary side of God. That's the power, that's the authority that He has.

And then verse 7, we get into, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make an utter end of its place, and darkness will pursue His enemies." He is our stronghold. And what is a stronghold? That's our safe place. That's where we barricade ourselves inside. We have enough supplies to outlast the enemy that's outside the gates. That's where our protection is, and that's what God is for us. He is our stronghold, and it is because He is good.

God expects us to have faith, not to only hear and not to only pray to Him, but to rely on His judgments, to rely on His decisions. We have to believe in His loving care that His ultimate plan, His absolute power, and judgment is what's best for us. That's the best solution in our lives, is what He ends up answering. There's millions of people around the world who have good lives. There are a lot of people who have just good lives out there. They make good money. They have good families who are cohesive. They're nice cars, nice homes.

You can live a life now, and it's a good life. But God has the best plan for us. God has the best life, the best intentions for our lives, and that's His plan. That's what He wants. And that's why sometimes He says “Yes.” Sometimes He says “No." And it's sometimes, "Not right now." It's a little later. And we've seen prayers answered somewhere down the line and they work out just fine. But it's all on His timeframe. It's all because He understands the ultimate plan for us, the bigger picture. So we can't get caught up reasoning, questioning. We can't ask, "How are you going to do this?"

We've probably all been in situations where vehicle needed repaired, either a mortgage or the rent's due. We need food money. We have the water bill, electric bill. We've all been in situations where we seem to be struggling. We need some help. There's something coming up and we just… we don't have the means by taking care of it at the time, and we turn to God. And it's so easy at those times to say, "God, how are You just going to give me 100 bucks to pay this?" It's really easy to do that because we think in a logical sense.

The regional conference that we went to a month ago or so, I was sitting down with another minister, and he was telling me a story. He was talking about there was a time where he and his wife were struggling. They were still both in school. They were furthering their education. At this point in their life, they'd already had a kid. And he said they didn't have the rent money. They just didn't have it. They couldn't get it from anywhere else. They were trying to pay it.

They weren't just sitting back. He was working three jobs. He had three different jobs he was working. Like I said, they had a small baby, and they were both going to school. He's like, "I've got nothing else. I don't know how this is going to happen."

He wouldn't reach out to family. He thought that he wanted to keep it with just his small family. He said he was working this out. He goes, "Just before it was actually due," he goes, "we opened the mailbox. We pulled out a letter from a family member, and it had a check in it for enough to pay the rent." He goes, "We didn't tell anybody, but God must have moved somebody just to send it." We don't know how it plays out, but he received what he needed.

He couldn't see how he was going to get money in his hand, but he said, "God did it." God worked it out when it needed to be done. And we've all been in situations like that. We've all been put into a place where we just have to rely on God, there's nothing else. God will stir up other people when it's needed to get His plan done. To get His plan done, He will make it happen.

God's aware of our motivations. He knows why we pray, when we pray, how we pray. And if we sincerely are opening up to God, we're wanting to please God, we're wanting to be there and according to faith, according to His will, He's delighted to hear us. He loves to hear us because that's our communication. That's how we talk to God. That's how we open up to God. This is Him talking to us.

Our prayers are us talking to Him, relying on Him, and He loves to respond. He loves to respond according to what He knows is best for us. That's what we can't ever forget, what's best for us. Oftentimes, what's best for us is that that maybe not necessarily the detriment of others, but it has an impact on others, and we don't realize it. And that's why sometimes it won't work out for us because maybe God has a plan for somebody else.

If we think about… we’ve recently looked for someplace to rent. If you think from that aspect of when you're looking for a place to rent or a house to buy, when you're looking and you think you find that house, when you walk into that house, you go, "Oh, we love this. This is beautiful," and you look at your spouse and they've got the same glow in their eye like, "Yep, this is where we belong. This is what we've been waiting for," like my grandmother had when she just pulled into the driveway. You feel like you know. So then we turn it over to God. We pray to God. We say, "If this is where we belong if this is what you want for us, let this work out." The part that we sometimes overlook or miss, if we get that house or if we rent that space, somebody else can't rent that space. Somebody else can't buy that house.

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? They did a movie of… I'm getting too old. I'm not going to throw out years. It was called Butterfly Effect. And the idea, the premise of it is, is that when a butterfly lands, the ripples from its wings create a bigger ripple and a bigger ripple. Like if you throw a rock into a pond, it starts out with a small ripple and it just keeps spreading.

Well, all those rings impact somebody else. Just like if we purchase a house, somebody else can't purchase that house. Therefore, they purchase a different house, and maybe they keep somebody else from purchasing that house. And we just see this trickle effect. We don't see any of that because we see our lives. God sees the big picture. God sees the big ripples and how they're going to affect people. We can't get caught up thinking that we know better than God. So we have to ask in faith that His plan is the perfect plan. His is best no matter how it plays out. So that's point two.

Point three. Point three is ask in Christ's name. Ask in Christ's name. Does it sound automatic? It should. I hope it is. I hope this is something that's automatic. But at the same exact time, we have to be really, really careful that this doesn't become too automatic because that can be a problem. That can be a big problem.

Turn with me over to the book of John, John 16. Here, Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in His name, the Father will give. John 16, if you start in verse 23, says, "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." So often, we have to use the Bible in context and it's from front to back to understand that, "Yeah, we can't ask for anything." We just can't ask for everything and it's going to be answered.

But if we start piecing it all together, if we start picking up every aspect, all the little bread crumbs from the front of the Bible to the back of the Bible, we get a full picture. We start to understand exactly what it is. And that's why we're going over these keys to prayer because there are multiple keys that play an impact.

So, when we add Jesus Christ's name to the end of our prayer, what are we saying? What is it that we're actually saying when we ask in Christ's name because that is at the end of our prayers, that's what we add in there? Are we just habitually saying it? Does it just kind of roll off the tongue, that's how it concludes, or are we actually considering what we're asking, the impact of asking in Christ's name what it does? Because when we close prayer in Jesus’ name, we're essentially saying that I'm a follower of Christ and that this prayer He is approving. This prayer that I'm asking is being approved by Jesus. It's through His name. That's what we have to consider when we're looking at this.

If we're in an election year, think about the last time that rolled around, what happens? We see all these ads. We see commercial after commercial just flooding TV, flooding every advertisement you see during the election year. And we end up getting politicians who make all these claims, promises. They promise they'll do this. They promise they'll change this. They promise they're on our side. They promise they're going to make a difference. They make all these claims and promises. And at the very end of that ad, we hear, "I am so and so, and I approve this message," because they're saying, everything in that message, their name is included on and that they back everything in that.

That's similar to what adding Christ… being in Christ name is what we're doing. We're saying everything in our prayer. That is something that Jesus Christ would request from the Father. Those are things that He would ask, the things He would say. It's kind of like He's giving it. He's approving it. He's giving it. There's a lot of depth to that. That's important. That's an important aspect because He's never going to ask something that's against God's will. If that doesn't correlate or align with the Father's will, Jesus Christ would not ask. He would never ask for anything like that.

He would never do anything that contradicts God's plan, God's way of life, anything contrary to God's purpose. Those are things that He would not ask for. We have to consider that when we're praying. We have to consider whether what we're praying for is selfish. Are these selfish desires that we're asking of God? We have to be careful with that, too, the selfish aspect, because we ask for things doesn't necessarily mean they're selfish. We are able to ask for personal things.

Let's find… flip over to Mark with me. We think about Christ's Himself praying in Mark 14. We can look at His prayer as an example because He asked, He made a request to God. It was something that was personal. Mark 14, if you pick it up in verse 35. Here says, "He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."' This was kind of a selfish request. If this had happened, none of us have a chance. None of us matter if God had taken that away.

It is only through Jesus Christ that we even have a chance, that we even have an opportunity to be part of the family of God. And Jesus Christ knew that, but He still made this request and said, "This is going to be tough. This is going to be the most difficult thing I have to do. It is not going to be pleasant. It's going to be painful. It's going to be humiliating. If there's a way out of it, please, please take that away." But He says, "What You will."

He never lost sight of what the most important aspect was and that it's still God's will, that it was still more important for God's will to be done than His own, than for His life to be easy. What about us? Do we always make sure we go back to that when we're praying? Do we make sure we focus?

We can ask for things, we can plead to God, but do we always focus and say, "It's still Your will. It's still Your will, God. I would love to have this house. It looks like the perfect house for us, but if we don't get this, I understand. I pray that You open up something better or something that's going to be perfect for us." We have to get that mindset. It's tough. It is very, very difficult because we have such a limited scope.

Our view on life is so minuscule compared to what God sees. That's why sometimes when He answers “No” or He answers, "Not right now, a little later," we struggle. We struggle because we lose our direction. Sometimes we don't see the path that He does, and we start scrambling. We go, "Okay. Well, that didn't work out. What do I do now?"

We have to start looking at all these houses again. But whatever it is that we're asking, that's what we have to be careful of. We just rely on Him. Have the faith. Remember, have that faith that He's working it out. He's doing what He needs to to benefit us. Everything is to benefit us. And sometimes we don't see what benefits us is at the expense of others, but God does. And that's why He's taking the time to work out His plan.

Take a look at John. Flip back to John 14. I mentioned a little while ago the importance of reading in context, the importance of reading the entire Bible to understand exactly what God's doing. And sometimes, we can read one scripture or two scriptures and it seems like something, but we miss the bigger picture because we don't understand the Bible in a whole. This is one of those examples. It's really easy to take a couple.

So John 14, if we look at verses 13 and 14. We can overlook aspects of God by just picking out specific ones. And so verse 13 of chapter 14 of John. It says, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." Now, it looks like we can ask for anything. If we want to win the lottery and we pray, we should win the lottery. We should be millionaires.

But by backing up just one verse, we see a whole different light to this. We see a whole different perspective just by going back one. So if you go back to verse 12. It says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." Verse 13, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I would do it." He will do it if we are doing the work.

He says we can do great works. And that's what asking is. When we're asking, when we're asking for the support, for the help, for the mind, for the change of heart to move God's plan along, to be examples, it puts this in a whole new context of just asking for what we want, for asking what we think we need or what would be nice, what will be convenient.

We see the true meaning of what it is to ask things in prayer, to go to God and ask. It is we want to be like Christ. We want to mirror Him. We don't want to just tack on His name at the end of our prayer. We want our prayers to align with what His mission was, what He did on this earth. If it's asking something that's contrary to God's will, to God's law, it's not going to happen. If it's not part of His plan, it's not going to happen. We have to keep that in perspective.

So point number four. The fourth and final point that I have for answered prayers is make sure our life remains right. Make sure our life remains right. This is another one where we can expound on point after point after point. We only have time to get into one of the major aspects. What I want to hit on today is genuine and heartfelt repentance because that is one of the biggest things that keeps us on the right track because, without repentance, without this understanding of when we're right, when we're out of alignment with God's way of life, we have no course set. We have no true course. Without repentance, we think we're okay. We think we're doing everything fine.

If we repent, we're recognizing that we have areas where we have flaws. We recognize there's something wrong in our lives that we need to realign with God's way, with His purpose. That's why this is so important. It's why we see this stressed every year. We're coming up on Passover really quickly. Hopefully, you're taking time to do some deep soul-searching, evaluating your lives because every year, God has this in His plan, in the big plan for us to be woken up and say, "Hey, how are you doing this year?” and remembering the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made and for us to get down on our knees and pray for help to do better because we're all sinners.

In Luke 5:32 Luke 5:32I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
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, He states, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." That's all of us. Jesus Christ was the only human to ever walk the earth, to ever… whoever will walk the earth that was perfect, that lived a sinless life. He came to help us recognize that we need repentance. Repentance isn't a theory concept that we can't fully grasp. We understand exactly what it is. We can actually break it down because, in the most basic sense of repentance, all it means is change. It's just change. It's just changing that we can do. It's changing our minds, changing our behaviors, our attitudes, changing our priorities, changing our life because we have to be a light. We have to be a light to the world. And all of these aspects work together.

All of God's laws work to help us change to be a better life, to be a better example to the world. We're expected to show, to demonstrate this in our lives, demonstrate this change, this different way of thinking compared to the rest of the world. It's an expectation. It's taking what our old lifestyle was and just changing it, making it different. Sometimes it's easier than other times. Sometimes we have things ingrained in us from when we were little that we're stuck on. But it's this process of change. It's this growth and the development. It's putting God first in our lives. It's recognizing that we want a relationship with Him and therefore, we need these things.

Professing that we know God's laws, professing that we know truth, that we know what He expects, that doesn't cut it. It's easy to read it and say, "Oh, this is what He expects. I know what He wants." That doesn't cut it. He expects us to apply it. He expects to see it. He wants the world to see it. He wants to see us as an example. He wants to see that we are striving for something, something bigger than us, something greater than us, greater than us as individuals. It's God's family. It's God's family. Realigning how we live and act professes that. It professes that we want what He wants.

If you flip over to Titus, Titus 1 with me. He's writing about the Cretans here. It's always a funny word. I feel like I'm calling them something bad, the Cretans, the people of Crete. He's somewhat teaching incorrect things that needed to be stopped, and there was an importance to it. He said, "This needs to stop now." That's what we're going to read about here in Titus 1.

If you look at verse 16, it says, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." They were disqualified for every good work. It didn't matter what they did good. They were abominable. They were disobedient. But they said they knew what God wanted. They said they knew who He was. We can't only use words to say that we are close to God, that we have an understanding. We have to live as Christ lived. We see examples of walking.

Walking is used a lot in the Bible. It refers to our lifestyle, this human life that we have. However many number of years, that's our walk. That's the walk that we have. It's our day-to-day basis, our day-to-day activities because that's our journey. That's the path that God has for us. We have to walk according to God's Word, not simply in words, but we have to apply it. We have to put it into action. There's an expectation there. It's obeying His Commandments. It's being obedient. It's imitating Christ's example, living the way He did, doing the exact same thing. That's how we keep our life right. That's how we make sure we are on the right path when we can compare our lives to Jesus Christ and say, "This is where I need help." And then we have to repent of those areas in our life that we struggle. We have to be obedient.

Think about today. We came together on the Sabbath, not because we like the seventh day of the week, not because it was raining outside. We knew there were thunderstorms coming. We gather today on the Sabbath because God set this day aside. During creation, God said, "This is when you will get together. This is when you come together to fellowship. This is the day I draw you out of the world specifically for rest and to focus on Me so that you can realign your life. This is My day. This is My time." Not a couple hours. He gave us an entire day. He gave us 24 hours, sunset to sunset to focus on Him, to draw closer to Him, to draw closer to His family because this is where His family is.

We are striving to be firstfruits. We are striving to be part of that God family. And without a right life and living in a correct manner, we're throwing that away. We're throwing it away. We make attempts to get together other times of the week. Cincinnati was much easier. The whole Cincinnati congregation probably lived within a 45-minute radius. Most of them were probably only 30-minute radius. Out here, we're much more spread out or we've got quite a bit more distance between us. So it's more difficult to get together during the week, even if we make tries, we make attempts.

I know a lot of ladies do their luncheons, and we try because it is good for us to get together other times. It helps us to refocus, not on the Sabbath. We get to enjoy each other's company, but it is difficult. It is difficult. And that's why we have to take advantage even more so of today, that’s why we have so many potlucks, that’s why we have so many activities, so many socials because this is where we should want to spend our time. This is where we should want to be because this is family.

This isn't just a group of people who have the same belief. Hopefully, we're going to be family. If we're not family now, we're not going to be family later. That's hard to think about because I love you guys. We've been here close to six months now, but you're family. And it will hurt. It will cut real deep if any single one, any single individual is not part of that because I love my family, and God loves us at a level that I can't even… I have no idea what love truly is. I can't imagine how much pain He feels seeing some of the things that we do, the way we tear away from Him.

It's good to focus on God on the Sabbath. It's good to focus on His words, His family members. It doesn't mean we only have to talk about Him. We can only talk about the messages we heard this week or last week. It's okay to talk about football. March Madness is coming up quick. It's okay to talk about these things. But hopefully, the priority is still on God. Hopefully, that's what is the most important aspect of why we're here today, why we're here together. God promises to hear us. He promises to hear us if we sincerely approach Him.

We've had four points talking about having our prayers answered. It's not always how we want, but He does hear. He does love to hear. That's one of the things He gets enjoyment out of. He wants to see our willingness to lay down our lives and say, "We know you have the best intentions for us. We know that you have a bigger sight of what's going on. You can guide us. You can fix things. Now, I'm putting it in your hands."

I've got one more scripture to turn to. If you flip over to 1 Peter, 1 Peter 3. This says exactly that, that He wants to hear us, that He will hear us. 1 Peter 3:12 1 Peter 3:12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
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says, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." His ears are open to their prayers. He's listening. He is listening. He desires to hear us. He wants to hear us. It brings Him joy. It brings Him joy. You don't have to go over there. But Revelation 5:8 Revelation 5:8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
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, it actually compares the prayers of the Saints to sweet-smelling incense.

Now, as long as you don't have some type of allergy or allergic reaction to smells and scents, most of them are pretty pleasant, until you go to the candle store and there's a thousand of them and you can't make out one. Individually, though, individually, they're usually very nice. And that's what it says our prayers are to God. The prayers of the Saints are like sweet-smelling incense. That's joy to God. He wants to hear.

Prayer's powerful. Prayer is powerful. And sincere prayer, when we get down on knees to our Creator, to our Creator, the Creator of all the universe, who loves us, who wants us to be part of His family, He's going to answer. He's going to answer if we align ourselves. It's not moving a mountain so I can put my perfect house. If that worked out for His will, then maybe. But we have to keep these points in mind. We have to understand what we're asking, why we're asking it when we're asking it.

The Bible has multiple scriptures exhorting us to pray. It's a big aspect of what we are expected to do. Hopefully, these four points help guide us into being more aware of what we're praying, paying attention to what God's will is, having the faith that what God does with that prayer, the way He answers is best for us, asking in Christ's name, thinking about what it is that Christ would ask, how He would ask, and then making sure that our life remains right. Think about those when you pray. Look at that and evaluate. Evaluate what we are asking, how we're reaching out to our Father because He wants to hear. He loves to hear, and He wants every single one of us in His family.