Last week, last year, I talked about part one of a three part series on how you could be a strong Christian. That is, Bible study. And I showed you a new Bible that I got for Christmas. I've been reading it. I hope you’ve been reading yours.
Today is part two of the three part series, which is prayer. Next week is part three, which will be about sharing your faith. Okay? So I hope you’ll be here and take advantage of these three things. Bible study, prayer, and outreach.
The text I would like to preach from today is in Matthew chapter six, verse six. I would like for you to open your Bible to that text, and let's read it. Matthew six, verse six. It says, "When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, Who is unseen. Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret will reward you." This scripture has five parts. And I would like to speak to this scripture today.
First of all, let me begin by telling you a story. I like to tell stories. And so did Jesus. When I was a young boy, I grew up in Hartford City, Indiana, and we had an ice box in our kitchen. Now an ice box is nothing that makes ice. It uses ice. So you have to go down to the ice store, and it's not these little bags of crushed ice that are almost melted when you buy them. You know how they do that. But it's an ice house that makes big blocks of ice. About this big by this big by that wide. And so, my dad would say, "It's time to get ice. Do you want to go?" "Yes, I want to go." And we go to that old ice house. It was insulated with many, many layers of thick cork, and it smelled of ammonia. It was on the east side of town by the railroad tracks, and we would get our big block of ice. My dad would pay the man and out would come from this building, a huge chunk of frosty ice covered with fog and we would load that into the car and take it home, and break it apart with our ice pick, and put it in the ice box. And then it would keep the food cold. Nice and cold for, probably, a couple of days. I don't know. And then we’d go back and get some more ice.
Well one day, the news came that the ice house was on fire. I thought, "How could the icehouse be on fire? We got to go see this." Well lo and behold, it burned to the ground. It was full of the world's greatest firefighting material, water, but the problem was, the water was frozen. That's a problem in the spiritual life too, right? So I want to make some lessons out of this. The icehouse burned to the ground, and there was a big pile of ice that lasted for many days.
I've thought about that event many times since then. We live in a world full of big problems that are raging out of control. You don't want to be in Kenya, Africa right now. Even the Crutchers aren't there. They, the last I heard, are in Zaire escaping the problems. Homes are being consumed by flames of passion. Flames of sin. The spiritual power that is needed is locked up in frozen hearts. We're in a problem.
And our problem is that our hearts need thawing out. And we don't invite Jesus to do that. Jesus thaws ice, you know? And if you are among the frozen chosen, you need thawing out. And if you stay among the frozen chosen, you will soon be among the frigid lost. You will have missed eternal life. I want to be fireproof in the last days. And the way to do that is to get on fire for Jesus right now. To invite Jesus into my heart. Every day. Through meaningful prayer life. That melts ice, you know? The roots of the Church are in the prayer closets of its people. That's where the church grows, and that's where you grow. If you read your Bible, that's great! But you need to have a prayer life. And I want to discuss with you five parts, that I see, in Matthew six, verse six. A success formula for Seventh-day Adventist Christians living in these last days.
Part number one, the Bible assumes that you will have a prayer life. Notice how this verse reads. It says, "When you pray." It doesn't say you should pray, go and do it. It says when you do it. Just assumes we will. "When you pray." Do you have a good prayer life? And I'm asking you, do you? You know, conversion is the anchor that anchors you to God's throne, but prayer shortens the rope, and brings you together. Just like a good family needs to have communication. A husband and wife. You need to talk. Otherwise you're drifting apart and you don't know it. Make prayer a priority. It needs to be a priority. Prayer works.
Let me tell you about a lady, 27 years old. You may say, "Well, here's a story." Well, this happened on Gunbarrel Road, in the Target store. Are we getting a little more personal now? This lady, just two weeks ago, was shopping. Christmas shopping with her little girl or little boy. She was on the phone with her mother, and saying, "Well,"… (I don't know if it was a girl or boy so let’s say it's a girl.) "She wants this, but I can't afford that. Well, maybe we'll get this." And they kept going through, and she was describing to her mother what they were doing, and talking about it. And the little girl would point to this, "I'd like some shoes." you know. Or “I'd like that dress.” And just different things. And they walked all the way through Target, and did not realize that there was a man following them. And so they walked through, they walked on out of Target eventually, stood on the outside. Didn't have any money. Didn't buy anything. Eventually got into their car and this man followed them to Collegedale.
And I was told this story by the manager at Wal-Mart here in Collegedale. Todd told me this story. He said they pulled into the Murphy gas station there in Collegedale to get some gas. And at the time they pulled in, they ran out of gas. 27-year-old mother with her little child. Little girl. And so they coasted over to the curb. Sat there. And this man had been following them in his car. And he came up and knocked on the window and said, "Ma'am, open your trunk." And she obeyed. Opened her trunk. And he put one thousand dollars worth of Christmas presents in her trunk. Things that the little girl had pointed to and wanted, and that they’d been praying, "Lord, we don't have any money. What are we going to do?” And God sent the answer. What an awesome story. Prayers are being answered right here in Collegedale. I don't know the lady's name, but it happened. And it just happened. God answers prayer. What an awesome God we serve. God assumes that we will pray.
Point number two that I see in this scripture. We need to have a place to pray. Because the Bible says in Matthew six, verse six, "Enter into thy closet." It assumes that you have a closet. Have you ever gone into your closet where all the clothes are and prayed in there? Nobody… praise the Lord, Annice does that, or has. We don't follow this, do we? Where is the closet where you should pray? Is it actually where the clothes are hanging? Well, it could be. It could be.
You need to begin in a certain place, probably in the morning, with your prayer life. That is the gate of the day. And it ought to be well guarded with prayer. It's the beginning of the time, the end of one end of the string, of which all the events of the day are hung. It needs to be well tied. So start the day well. And the person who rushes from his bed, to his breakfast, to his office, without praying, is missing a lot. Take time to linger at God's feet. Do it in a specific place. Have a place. Make time. If you don't have time for prayer in the morning, it's just as foolish as rushing out the door without getting dressed. You wouldn't do that. Put on your spiritual armor. Does that make sense? Do it in the morning. Otherwise you're going to be vulnerable to sin and temptation. You're going to be vulnerable. The things that you look at will entice you instead of repelling you. Begin your day with prayer. Take time to bathe in the softly flowing river of God’s love before the heat of the wilderness and the burden of the day overcome you.
As the day gets into high gear, take prayer with you. There was a man in Phoenix, Arizona who was in a traffic jam. The grid had locked. Cars were just sitting there. People were honking at each other. Glaring at each other. He happened to look at the car beside him and here was this person, happy. And so he rolled down his window and honked and got her attention and she rolled down her window. And he said, “Why are you… how can you be calm in a situation like this?” And she said, "Because of my steering wheel. I use it as a prayer wheel." You know, the steering wheel has all those little bumps on the back of the steering wheel. And she would pray one prayer for each bump. Pray for her husband. Pray for her child. That child. The neighbor. And so forth. Get all the way around the wheel. Have you felt those bumps on the back? And then she’d get around again and pray for certain drivers. And she said, "I've been praying for you." And so he tried it. The next time he got in a big traffic jam he tried that and finally he found himself at peace. Prayer works. Your prayer closet, the location of your prayer closet changes quite a few times throughout the day. It might be in front of your computer. It's a good place for you to pray. Your computer can draw you closer to Jesus, or it can send you to hell. Your steering wheel can cause you to go into road rage, or it can cause you to be connected with Jesus. You know how that goes. So be sure to make use of every opportunity.
Point number three, in Matthew six, verse six. It says, "Go into your prayer closet and shut the door." Shut the door! Why should you do that? What does that mean? To me, that means that your prayer life should be very personal. It should be secretive. You should pray about things that just the Lord knows, and therefore I think, that many times, in your prayer life, it ought to be silent prayer, because I don't even want the devil to know my weaknesses. Does that make sense? The Lord understands my thoughts. He reads my mind.
There was a little boy that sat in the pew and heard the minister shouting as he was praying, and the boy said to his mother, "Don't you think that if he lived closer to God he wouldn't have to raise his voice so much?" And maybe when we’re yelling at each other, we’re not very close to God. When you pray to your heavenly Father pour out your deepest needs to Him and He will listen to you. He will listen! I read from a book called Acts Of The Apostles, "Prayer is heaven’s ordained means of success in the conflict with sin."
Point number four. Matthew six, verse six, says this. Who should you pray to? What does Matthew six, verse six say? Pray to who? "To the Father." So I would assume if you're praying to your Father, that means that you regard Him as your heavenly Daddy. A very wonderful Person. You have a relationship, a fellowship with Somebody. You're praying to a Friend. Your Father. If you've had an abusive father, then you're going to have to switch gears somehow, and think that our heavenly Father loves you. So you’re praying to Somebody that loves you. And that's why we sing Sweet Hour Of Prayer. “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend.” You're praying to a Friend, up there in heaven.
There was a pregnant young mother that came to our mission station, and she gave birth to a very premature baby, and the mother died in the process. And they realized they needed to keep this baby warm. It was in the mission station. They didn't have anything out there. And the baby was doing poorly, and so they knelt down and prayed for the baby. Each person at the mission station. And the little girl who was the daughter of the missionary prayed, “Dear Jesus, send us a hot water bottle so that we can save this baby and send it today, because tomorrow the baby will be dead. And while you're at it send a doll.” A doll. Well, a large package came in the mail that afternoon. It had been mailed from England. And they opened it. And there were a lot of clothes in there, and they dug deeper, and they found a brand spanking new hot water bottle. And the little girl rushed to the package. She said, "I know there's a doll in there." And there was. And it had been mailed five months before that day. From England. It had been shipped. I have the references on the web. True story. Awesome! God answers prayer before it’s prayed. God knows you're going to pray, and so He provides the answer. We just need to pray a prayer of faith. "Ask and you shall receive." That little girl knew that her loving Father would put a teddy bear in there. God loves to answer prayer. He loves to answer prayer.
Point number five. Look at Matthew six, verse six again. It says, "Pray to thy Father," and what will happen? What is the end result of prayer? What does this text say? What will God do? He will what? "Reward you." God will reward you. You will be rewarded. "Thy father will reward thee."
In 1946, there was a grocery store on the west end of town. A woman came to that store, and she said to the grocer who was a hardened man, "I need some food. I don't have any food for Christmas. I want to prepare a meal for my children and myself. My husband was killed in the war. Could you help us?" And he said, "Well how much can you afford to pay? How much money do you have?" And she said, "All I have is a little prayer on the piece of paper." And he said, "Well ma’am, let's just see how much your prayer is worth." He said, "We'll just put it on this balance scale here." So he put the prayer on the scale and he said, "Let's just see how much food you can have." So he got a loaf of bread and put it on this side and it didn't move. And he was shocked. He got something else and put it in there, and it didn't move. And people were watching. There was a crowd starting to assemble, and he got red in the face. He couldn't believe this was happening. And he loaded more and more in. The scales were rigid. And finally he said, “Well that's all the scales will hold anyway. Here's a bag. You bag at yourself. I'm busy." He went to the other end of the counter, and she put it all in the bag, with a little bit of room at the top of the bag, and he took a big package of cheese, and slid it down the counter. "Here, you can have that." And off she went. And he rushed to the scales. To find out what was wrong. They’d always worked. They were certified. He was a grocer. And they were broken. They broke at that exact moment, and he had to get them repaired. And he pondered, “What caused them to break at that exact moment? Unbelievable.” And he began to think about this. For the rest of his life he remembered the face of that lady. He could never forget how Jesus had used him to be the answer to her prayer. He never saw her again. And to his dying day, he kept that slip of paper. And do you know what the paper said? I'll read it to you. It said, "Please Lord, give us this day our daily bread. Matthew chapter 6, verse 11." That's all that was on the paper. Prayer weighs a lot., and your prayer has great weight with God. Be sure to pray it. It won't weigh in if it's un-prayed. God is a rewarder of those who sincerely pray to Him. God will reward you.
Let me tell you another story. This is about a little girl named Miranda. And you may say, "Pastor, are you sure these stories are true?" Well, you'll find out. Miranda was suffering from convulsions. She was 18 months old when they started, and she had a disorder called Rasmussen's encephalitis, and it was inoperable. The desperate parents contacted Dr. John Freeman at Johns Hopkins University. They did a lot of tests, and after carefully studying the case, they approached Dr. Ben Carson, and now you see this is a true story. They approached Dr. Ben Carson, and he was brought in on the case, and he agreed to take, and do more investigation. And he did a lot of testing. He did a lot of analysis. He talked with the parents. By this time, Miranda was four years old, and she was having over 100 seizures every day. Ruining her life. She was not able to hardly talk, or walk. Her body was out of control. Finally, after much study and consultation, and extensive testing, Dr. Ben agreed to do the surgery, and he gave the parents a homework assignment. He said, "I want you to go home, and I want you to pray as if your daughter’s very life depended on that prayer. I want you to earnestly pray that God will use my hands."
Miranda's brain was inflamed. It bled. Anywhere an instrument touched her brain, the brain would bleed. For eight tedious hours, Dr. Ben Carson operated on her brain. And carefully he took a small surgical instrument and coaxed tissue away from vital blood vessels and nerves. Eight hours he did this, praying, as he says later, the whole time. Praying that God would guide his hands. Many times in the surgery his thoughts turned to God. Finally after eight hours, and his exhaustion, the surgery was over. He removed the left hemisphere of her brain. Sewed her skull back into place, and then was the question, “Would she ever talk? Would she ever be normal? Would she ever walk again?” As they wheeled the gurney down the hallway toward her mother, the mother came along the gurney and the little girl's eyes happened to flutter open, and she looked up, and she said, "Mama, I love you." And let me tell you that today she is walking. God answers prayer.
Matthew six, verse six. Another version of the Bible. "When you pray, enter into your secret chamber, and when you shut the door, pray to your Father who is there in the secret place. And He who sees all private things will reward you openly." Praise God for that verse. Isn't that a beautiful verse? So the answer to the frozen churches, and frozen lives, and the spiritual experience that is being killed and dying is prayer. Jesus. If you're among the frozen chosen, you will find that Jesus is your dearest Companion. When you develop your prayer life. And I urge you in this year 2008, study your Bible. Develop a life of prayer. Please. And do some outreach this year, and you’ll never be the same. Your life will be different. Don't consume all of your energies at work, or at your hobby, or whatever. Use your energies to focus on Jesus Christ. Your spiritual life will thaw out.
Let me share one story in closing. It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco, California. The pastor of the church was looking over the church. We do that. I walk through the Church every now and then and look it over. And he noticed that in the manger scene, out in front of the church, the baby Jesus was missing. Somebody had taken Jesus. And he stood there and thought, "Who would ever do such a thing?" And while he was standing there he happened to notice a little boy. The little boy had a red wagon, and in the wagon was the baby Jesus. And he was just pulling in with his wagon, into the church, from somewhere. And the minister walked over to the boy, and he said, "Fellow, where did you get your passenger in that wagon?" And the little boy says, "I got Him at church." And the pastor said, "Why did you take Jesus from the church?" And the little boy explained. He said, "Well, about a week before Christmas, I came here, and I knelt down in front of this manger scene, and I prayed to little Jesus and I said, ‘You know, if You would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would take You for a ride.’ And I got a red wagon, and so I took Jesus for a ride."
Is Jesus that much of a friend to you? Do you have that relationship with Jesus? You can! Enter into this year different than you did last year. Be on fire for Jesus. May God richly bless you this year.
Let's sing our closing hymn. Number 485.
Hymn of Praise: #4 Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven Scripture: Matthew 7:7,8 Hymn of Response: #485, I Must Tell Jesus
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 1/15/08