I would like to speak with you this morning about knee power. These things that are about 18 inches above our ankles. The knees.
One day Julia's brother made a sparrow trap to trap birds and he put it up in the tree and Julia was very disappointed, very tender hearted girl, and she prayed that night, “Lord help that trap not to work”, and each night she would pray that same prayer. And “Thank you Lord, for helping that trap not to work.” And she was so confident, and her mother finally said, “How can you pray with such confidence?” And Julia said, “Well, the other night I went out and got the trap and kicked it to pieces. I know it won’t work.” Well some people think that our prayers are about like that, that really we are the answer to our own prayer, anyway. You think that would be true? I think the Lord does help those that help themselves, and I think we do need to do our part.
Why do we pray? Do we pray to inform God that we’re out of work? Doesn't He know that already? Do we pray to inform Him of our pain? Doesn’t He already know our problems, anyway? Are we trying to change God's mind with our prayer requests.
Why do people pray?
I think that prayer is sort of like something I have in my pocket here. Sort of like that. That's a key. It's a key to my car. And you know, you could use a car, I think, if it weren’t locked. You could use it quite well without the key to the ignition. I have the key to the door, but this is the ignition key. I think you could use a car for a lot of purposes. You could sleep in that car on a frosty winter day if the sun was shining bright. You could actually get warm in that car. You could use it for a number of things. If it were raining you would have a shelter.
You don't really need the key to get some use out of your car, but if you have a key then you could go to a higher level of use. You could actually put that key in the ignition and all kinds of wonderful activities then would be available to you. You could listen to fine music from that good stereo system. You could ride the seats up and down and even push the heat and the heat and the seat would warm you up. You could activate the G. P. S. system, you could look at the maps on that screen. There's all kinds of things that you could do, but; you turn the key just a little bit further and something else will happen. The engine will start and then you’re really going good. You can do all kinds of exciting things then. You could go about anywhere your heart desires. You could climb the highest mountain that a road is there and do it with hardly any effort at all. You could go to any one of a zillion places in the world that you want to. You could drive that car. That key is your key to a greater life, and that's how it is with prayer. Prayer is the key to a dynamic Christian life. Would you agree?
Let's go to James, chapter 4 in the Bible. James four and I want you to notice verse two, and I'm going to read this according to the God's Word translation. You can read it in your King James, or N. I. V. or whatever you have. It says, “You don't have the things that you want because you don't pray for them.” It's as simple as that. Often times we don't have because we don't ask. Look at John 16 in your Bible. And there are probably some people here in this congregation that do not believe in John 16, verse 23. It says, “I tell you the truth.” This is Jesus speaking. “My father will give you whatever you ask in My name.”
Do you actually believe that God will give you what ever you ask in His name? A new big screen T. V.? A new B. M. W? Will God do that? “Whatever you ask in My name, He’ll give it to you.” In other words, is God a cosmic bellboy? Is God a heavenly Santa Claus? Is God a blank check? Is He like a rabbit's foot bringing you all kinds of luck and good things in your life? Prayer is not just for an emergency in your life.
Let's suppose a flyer is shot down. He’s out there on a raft. He’s floating in the middle of the ocean and he’s about to drown. The sharks are circling all around him and he prays, “Lord, if you'll get me out of this I won't bother You for another 15 years.” That's not what prayer is for. “Lord, please bless all I do today.” That's not what prayer is for either.
There were some Seventh-day Adventist college students, and they were saying, “Should we go to the beach today or should we go to the mountains,” you know. “We’re wanting to get out of here and get away on the weekend. Today is Sabbath.” So they decided to flip a coin. They flipped a quarter and one of them said, “Well it is Sabbath,” and they said, “Well we’ll go to the beach if it's heads. Tails we go to the mountains and if it lands on its edge, vertically, we will go to church.” Well he missed the catch, it rolled into the grass and ended up vertical and they all went to church. Do you have to flip a coin to determine God's will, that is clearly outlined in the Bible? We know what we ought to do on Sabbath, don’t we? We don't have to flip a coin for that. Not at all.
Prayer is the most important spiritual exercise that you can possibly do. To walk with God, you've got to talk with God, and that takes time. That's what we call prayer.
It's gardening time and I've been out in my garden weeding. Have any of you been weeding this week in your gardens? The rain hasn't been coming and this is our time to weed. I have been battling what I would think would be a million weeds in my garden. And those weeds are pretty stout. I didn't plant any of them. They just are volunteers. It's amazing the power of a weed. And I've been praying this week, “Lord, give me the determination and the tenacity and the success of these weeds.” They almost grow faster than the seeds that I plant.
I would like to examine, this morning, five keys of successful prayer.
Number one is in Hebrews. Come to the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews, chapter 11, if you would, and I would like for you to look at the first part of verse six. Hebrews, chapter 11 and verse six. It says, “Without faith it is,” possible or impossible? “to please Him, for he that cometh to God must” do what? What do you have to do if you’re going to come to God in prayer? You “must believe that He is.” You have to believe in God, otherwise, what is prayer? If you don't believe God really exists, then your prayer won’t go past the ceiling.
I have a church member here that you know that told me an exciting story. Al Boyd. Al, would you come up? I want you to share this story with us. This happened here at the McDonald Road Church. A genuine answer to prayer. A genuine miracle. Al, share with us.
It all began last August. One Sabbath at the end of August I was sitting in the third row back there near the center aisle. And they were up here on the platform. They were talking about the Share Him evangelistic campaigns that they ask people to participate in. And as I was listening to that, I heard a voice speaking, and that voice said, “You could do that.” The voice said, “You could do that.” I looked around to see who was talking and there was nobody around me. Anyway, as I contemplated that that evening when I said my prayers, I talked to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, are You telling me that You want me to support one of those Share Him evangelistic campaigns?” And as I prayed, I felt that God was impressing me that that's what He wanted.” So I said, “Okay, that's what I'll do.” So I called the church office and I got Elder Folkenberg's telephone number, and I called Elder Folkenberg on the telephone and told him, “I'm thinking about paying for one of those Share Him evangelistic campaigns,” and he said they'd appreciate that. The next day I got a letter. I got a letter in the mail, and in that letter was 4 hundred and 50 dollars. I wasn't expecting any letter. That was the last thing on earth I expected, but somebody sent me a check for 4 hundred and 50 dollars. And the next day I got another check, and that time the check was for almost a hundred dollars. And you know, about two or three days later my sister called me from up in Michigan, and she said, “You're taking Plavix now aren't you?” And I said, “Yes, I am.” I wish I wasn’t, but I had a stent put in my heart, and the doctor recommended Plavix. I had one prescription filled for Plavix at the Wal-Mart drugstore. A hundred and 43 dollars for 30 pills, and I said, “Wow, that's kind of expensive.” And you know, my sister said, “In our newspaper up here, we had an advertisement that said a Canadian pharmacy could give generic Plavix”, so I got the 8 hundred number from her and I called the company and I bought 2 hundred pills. You know, for that 2 hundred pills I had a savings of 9 hundred and 50 dollars, plus 4 hundred and 50 dollars in that letter I got plus a hundred dollars from another letter I got. Altogether it paid off the entire 12 hundred dollars for that evangelistic campaign with 2 hundred and 50 dollars left over for next year. This year! I got a 2 hundred and 50 dollar head start on this year. God is so good to us, and God is so wonderful, and the things He does for us, and the prayers that He answers for us. Someday we’ll be able to sit in heaven and go over some of those prayers and the things that God did for us. Am I going to pay for any more of those evangelistic campaigns? You can bet I am.
Isn't that beautiful? It happened right here. God answers prayer. And I think Al Boyd made money on that deal. But he’s going to give it to; that's for the next Share Him thing. Ok. We must believe in God.
And number two, we must believe that God answers prayer. That's the second part of chapter 11, this verse says, verse six says, “And that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Those that listen to that still small voice. He rewards them.
Back in 1967 I was a young, green, whippersnapper pastor in the Michigan conference. We used to live in Michigan, and I was still wet behind the ears. I was just brand-new in my ministry and somebody called one day and they said, “You know, one of your church members is dying and wants to be anointed.” Well, I had never even attended an anointing service in my whole life. Didn't know what they were. Never had seen one, and they said, “Would you come and do it?” I said, “Well, yes, I'm a pastor. I'll do that.” So I drove out to Ed Bergeren's house. He was a member of my Bangor church in Michigan, there on Highway 43, and Dr. McFadden and Dr. Spalding from Gobels had seen him and done exploratory surgery. He was full of cancer. They sewed him up and they said, “You've got about a month to live, and that's it.” And a month had gone by.
Went out to the house. He was as white as a sheet. And we read there in James, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man,” and all of those things. And we anointed him with olive oil, and after the anointing service I opened my eyes and he was still the same. And I thought, “Umm!” I drove back home to Southaven with a huge lump in my throat. I thought, “It doesn't work. I’m a brand-new pastor.” Had all kinds of big questions in my heart.
The next day I called Lucille, his wife, and I said, “How’s Ed?” And she said, “You haven't heard, have you?” I thought, “He's dead.” She continued. “Ed woke up this morning hungry. I asked him, ‘Well, would you like some milk and toast?’ He said, ‘No. I want a big breakfast. I'm starved.’ So I fixed him a great big breakfast and he ate the whole thing.” And with my lips quivering I said to her, “Where is he now?” She said, “He’s up on the roof repairing our shingles that were leaking.” I thought, “Praise the Lord, I believe in prayer. Now.”
You know, God did that for me. I think for me, so that as a young pastor, I would know that He was real and that He was going to bless me and my ministry. And you know, Ed was completely healed of all that cancer. He had leukemia. Had no more leukemia. After that he lived many, many more years of perfect health. He became a carpenter again and was a wonderful Christian the rest of his life. What a miracle that was in my life.
Again I want to read John 16:23. “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you.”
One day I had been pastoring the Southaven church for several years and I had gotten acquainted with one of my members. Knew him quite well, and I got up the courage to ask him a question. I said, “John, what happened to your face? Your face is really scarred and your nose, and; is there a story behind that?” And John Stockton told me his story.
He was in Chicago, and they were building a fairly tall building, and he was up like three or four stories high and they had a 2 by 12 that was across the elevator shaft opening, and he was, he said, “I'll just take this stuff across there. It’s a shortcut.” So he used the wheelbarrow and hauled all of his loads across on that plank and avoided going all the way around. Well one day he had been doing this for day after day after day. He hauled another load across, and it broke. That plank broke right in the middle and he went down headfirst. And as he was falling down through the elevator shaft, several stories, at the very bottom of the elevator shaft there was another 2 by 12 going across directly below him, and he fell headfirst and broke that plank and as he went through it, the splinters tore gashes into his face and he landed in green water that had been collecting there over the weeks, from rain, because it was an open building still being constructed. And they rushed him to the hospital and he got gangrene in his face and shoulders and got red streaks coming all down his body. And a few days later, a Roman Catholic priest, he was a Roman Catholic, came and gave him the last rites. And that night, he was there in the hospital with a high fever, and he prayed and he prayed earnestly. He said, “Lord. If you will heal me, I will dedicate the rest of my entire life to you and your work.” Well the next morning he opened his eyes and there was a team of medical personnel standing all around him. Nurses and doctors, and he thought, “Oh dear, I must be dying.” But he wasn't dying and they were just flabbergasted at his condition, because during the night, sometime during the night, God just totally healed John Stockton.
And eventually he was sent home that day. He took Bible studies and he became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. Amazing. And he moved to Southaven, became a leader in the church there and he led between 50 and 75 people to the Lord Jesus Christ through Bible studies that he would do in people's home. What a wonderful, wonderful thing. And I think that when we get to heaven, and when I see John Stockton, he is going to have one of the most beautiful beaming faces of anybody in heaven. I just believe that.
John 16:24. “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy might be full.” Friends, do you believe that God is a prayer answering God? Has he answered any prayer in your life? I've heard a lot of you tell me of stories just like Al Boyd’s story. Things that He has done for you. Does He answer every prayer yes? Does He answer every prayer immediately? No. The next time you’re swept off of your feet by some big problem get on your knees. You've still got knees, and the power in your knees through prayer and your connection with God will amaze you.
The pastor who is not a praying pastor is a playing pastor and the congregation that is not a praying congregation is a straying congregation. It's time for us to get more into prayer. Amen?
We need to pray continually. Point number three. Come over here to Luke 21 in your Bible. Luke 21 and verse 36. It says, and I want to read this in the King James Bible. It says, “Watch ye therefore and pray always that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and stand before the Son of Man.” How often should we pray, does this text say? Pray always. Your success in prayer depends on your daily and even hourly use of prayer. And where is God's power? It's within us and God will give you that power. You need to use it.
I think too many of us Christians view prayer sort of like a spare tire in our trunk. Does your vehicle have a spare tire in it? Is there air in your spare tire? Do you know that? You know, we depend on that spare tire, don't we? But we never think about it. It's forgotten for months or maybe years at a time until all of a sudden we’re out here on the edge of the road someplace and we hear that thumping and we pull over and we've got a total flat. Then we think about our spare tire. We go back and we open up the trunk and we get in there and crawl through all that rubble and get it out and dig down in there and get the spare tire out hoping that there's some air in it. And what size is that tire? Is it a full-size tire? It's one of those little old Krispy Kreme or doughnut tires. It's awful. It's small. You put that on and you’re going down the hill like this, you know, and you're embarrassed to have that wretched thing on there, but it's saving you. It's helping you. You can't go very fast on that thing. You can't go very far on that thing, but it will get you to the gas station where you can take care of the problem.
People think of their prayers like a spare tire. Like an emergency parachute. Prayer is not a spare tire neglected in a dark corner of the trunk of your life. That's not what prayer is. Prayer is the key to the whole automobile. That’s what prayer is. You know, it's not very good for us to pray cream and live skim milk. If you want to have a successful life you need to bath it in real prayer.
Now let me concede that spare tires do work. I was pastoring a church up in Michigan, because we are Michiganders and I couldn’t help but notice that one of my elders was bald. Do you notice bald people sometimes? And I got acquainted with Bob and I said, “Bob, you know, you’re, I'm becoming just like you. Won't be long and I will also be bald.” And I noticed that his baldness was very unique almost like they put a bowl over his head. And I said, “How did that, was your father bald?” He said, “No my father had a full head of hair. My grandpa had a full head of hair.” I said, “Well how did you get bald?” He said, “Well, let me tell you my story.” You always want to listen to people's stories.
And Bob Sink was his name, just like the kitchen sink. Bob said, “You know, one day I was on a United States bomber in World War II, and we were flying over Germany dropping bombs and we had dropped all of our load and we had turned around and we were heading back home and the German’s fighter planes came after us.” And he said, “I was in the ball turret underneath the aircraft. That thing that's made of glass or plastic or whatever it is,” and he said, “I was in charge of protecting that part of the airplane. Well,” he said, “the first thing I knew, a bullet came through that ball turret, blasted out a huge hole in it and severed my oxygen line.” And he had no oxygen. Here they were up there as high as they could get to avoid this type of behavior, and it was cold. He said it was probably 40 degrees below zero, maybe colder. And he said, “I knew that I had about maybe a minute or two to live, and I would die because there would be no oxygen.” And so he said, “I prayed.” Now this is a spare tire type prayer, but those do work, but the other kind are better. And I'm not, I hope you hear where I'm coming from. So he prayed. He said, “Lord, if you will save me from this I will dedicate the rest of my life to your service. I'll do whatever you ask me to do.”
Well, somehow that bomber evaded the fighters and actually made it back to the base. They came back to the base and nobody had heard from Bob Sink. And so, as they were nearing base, they opened the hatch to his compartment and found that he was frozen and that his oxygen line was severed, completely. And he had been in that condition for about 30 minutes, they figured out later. They opened the hatch. They got him out, put him on the floor of the bomber and he was in his seated position because he wouldn't unbend. He was frozen solid. But he was alive. Somehow he was alive. No oxygen for half an hour. Frozen completely. And eventually he thawed out and eventually he recovered, but the hair on the top of his head never came back. And he never forgot his promise. He became a faithful Seventh-day Adventist Christian. He took Bible studies. He was baptized, and he was an alcoholic and he gave that up. He said, “I'm going to do this to the best of my ability.” And he followed the Lord all the rest of his life. A faithful leader in my church there in Michigan.
You know emergency prayers do work, but how much better for the Christian to pray at all times.
Look over here in Ephesians, chapter 6 in your Bible. Ephesians 6 and verse 18. And you may want to underline these two words. It says, “Praying,” how often? “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit.” We should always be in touch with God. There's never a time that you can’t pray.
There were two young boys, they were late getting to school. You ever kind of go to school late? You’re going down Apison Pike or Tallant Road or something, just trying to get to school, and the train comes. Well they were late. They were running to school and the older boy said, “Let's pray.” So he stopped and knelt down and started praying, “Lord, get us to school on time.” The younger boy came back and grabbed him and said, “Let's; get up! Let's run and pray at the same time.” You know God can hear you whether you're praying while you're running, whether you’re driving, when you’re in a ball turret of a bomber. God can hear your prayer and He does hear your prayer.
Point number four. Pray specifically. Pray for specific things. You may be praying for God to bless all the Share Him people and never even know if He did because you don't know all those stories of all those missionaries. Pray specifically.
I graduated from Indiana Academy, up in Cicero, Indiana and one of my people that went to Indiana Academy was Josephine Cunnington Edwards. Have you ever heard of her? And she was a graduate of I. A. And one time she was in the mission field, and she was doing a lot of sewing and she lost her scissors. And nobody else had scissors and they could not find them, and so she prayed, “Lord, I need a pair of scissors.” Next day in the mail here came a package from Minneapolis, and there was a note in the package that said, “I had this feeling that you might need these. They’re for you. God bless you.” And the parcel was mailed eight weeks before she lost the scissors. God knows your needs. He knows your needs way in advance and He will take care of you. Now I thought, “Would those scissors have come had she not asked?” I don't think they would've come. I think that God knew she would ask and sent them because of that, because God knows the future. Pray specifically and God will answer you specifically. The Bible says in Philippians chapter four, verse six, pray about everything and don't worry about anything.
The last point I want to make, point number five. Trust your life to God's will. Always pray according to God's will. God's will is what you want and you may be asking for one thing, but something better may be in God's plan, so always pray according to His will. And my last text is Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 20. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work,” where? “Within us.” May that happen to you and may God bless you.
Let's sing our closing hymn. I have always appreciated this hymn, Sweet Hour Of Prayer. You know, we sing this and some people probably should sing Sweet Minute Of Prayer. Do we ever pray an hour? We should. Sweet Hour Of Prayer. Let's sing this for our closing hymn.
Thank you, dear Father, for the great gift of communication with You. Help us to take advantage of this gift, and may our prayer life truly be blessed, and may we make contact every day with You and receive Your will in our lives. Dismiss us with Your blessings we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #36, O Thou in Whose Presence Scripture: Philippians 4:6,7 Hymn of Response: #478, Sweet Hour of Prayer
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 6/17/09