“PRAYING THE WORD” John 15:7
INTRO – What do you do when your world caves in on top of you? How do you handle the curve balls that life constantly throws at you? What is your game plan when the unexpected phone call comes, or when the meeting that you didn’t know was going to happen happens, or when the minor medical procedure turns into a major life-altering medical condition? What do you do when tragedy strikes, when trials come, when trouble hits?
All of us have faced these experiences. Some of us are facing them right now. And we will all have to face them again sometime in the future, probably the near future.
And for many of us, our first response to the question of how we will handle these is that we will pray. GOOD ANSWER! I am more & more convinced that the 2 essential spiritual disciplines of Bible intake & prayer are truly more needed, necessary, important, & imperative that we really realize. They are as fundamental & essential to our spiritual lives as food & water are to our physical lives. Don’t know many of us who will knowingly miss eating food & drinking water on an ongoing basis. We’ve got to have our eggs & biscuits, our fried chicken & mashed potatoes, our burgers & fries. I’ve already told y’all that I’ve got to have my cereal. I’m a cereal addict! Lisa Ellis keeps me stocked up in Cinnamon Toast Crunch!!! We all have to have water, & some of us have to have our coffee, or our Diet Coke, or our sweet tea, or our Monster energy drinks! We’ve got to have our food & our drinks!
But in the area of Bible intake, way too many of us will go days, weeks, even months without getting into the Word. Oh, we might read a little devotional here & there, or listen to our Life Group leader or preacher. But the consistency in Bible intake is lacking. The faithfulness is just not there.
Our prayer life is a hit-&-miss event, w/ more misses than hits. We might say the standard blessing of the food when we eat & pray a little prayer for our spouse & kids as we are drifting off to sleep at night. But spending time in intentional, fervent prayer is not a regular part of our lives.
Sometimes, the reason that we don’t pray on a regular basis is b/c we feel like we don’t know what to say. “What do you say for 15 mins., 30 mins., & hour or more?” We pray for our spouse, our kids, & grandkids, if we’ve got them, but beyond that, we sort of run out of steam. And then, even when we are praying for our family, we sort of find ourselves praying the same thing over & over again. Does God answer those prayers? Isn’t that that “vain repetition” that Jesus was talking about? Answer to those question: Yes, God DOES answer those prayers. Just remember that He may not answer it the way we think He should.
- If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”
- If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”
- If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”
- But if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says, “Go!”
And, NO, those repeated prayers are not the “vain repetition” that Jesus was talking about. Remember, He was talking about the babbling that the pagans did to try & get their gods’ attention. When you & I are praying for our family, we are doing what Jesus told us to do in Matt. 7:7-8 – “Keep on asking…keep on seeking…keep on knocking.” That’s a very biblical aspect of this essential spiritual discipline.
But the focus of today’s sermon is to help us marry the 2 essential spiritual disciplines that every Christ-follower should be practicing. And what are those 2 essential spiritual disciplines? Bible intake & prayer. Those 2 are not divorced from each other. They are not 2 completely separate, unrelated practices. Certainly, they are stand-alone practices in some ways, in that I don’t open my Bible & read every time I pray, & I don’t bow my head & pray every time I look up a verse in my Bible.
But these 2 essential spiritual disciplines ARE deeply intertwined with each other, & will be more & more intertwined as you & I grow in spiritual maturity. We will begin to see how much our Bible intake affects our prayer life. And we will be see how our prayer life is affected by our intake of the Word. Our reading of the Word, study of the Word, memorization & meditation of the Word, & our hearing of the Word through this sermon each week will be much more powerful & will have a deeper impact in our lives when we are praying regularly & asking God to speak & move in our lives. And our prayer lives will be much more powerful & effective as James 5:16 says when we are regularly hearing the Word, reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, meditating on the Word, & applying the Word to our lives.
We need to PRAY THE WORD. We need to let the Word shape our prayers. If it’s important that we pray according to God’s will – & it is – 1 John 5:14 – “And this is the confidence we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” – then we need to know what His will is & pray that way. You can be confident that when you are praying the Word, you are praying according to His will. John Piper: “Realize that there is a direct connection between the degree to which our minds are shaped by Scripture and the degree to which our prayers are answered.”
So, here are 3 keys to PRAYING THE WORD:
Fill your mind w/ the Word – There’s your Bible intake. This is where it all starts. Would you agree w/ me that our minds are the devil’s main battlefield, the place where he attacks us the most aggressively & the most frequently? We are constantly in a battle in our thought life. Battling against bitter thoughts, anxious thoughts, lustful thoughts, impure thoughts, vengeful thoughts, wrong thoughts. We can either let the devil continue to have the victory in our minds & in our thought life, or we can fight back the way Jesus fought against Him, & that’s w/ the power of the Word of God. “In opposition…to all the suggestions of the devil, the sole, simple, and sufficient answer is the word of God. This puts to flight all the powers of darkness. The Christian finds this to be true in his individual experience. It dissipates his doubts; it drives away his fears; it delivers him from the power of Satan.” (Charles Hodge)
I’ve talked & counseled w/ several people recently who are battling all kinds of thoughts & the enemy has been beating them up in their minds – “I’m a failure…I will never get over my hurt…I will never defeat this sin…I’m useless…It’s too late for me…I’m too far gone…” Friend, let me tell you something: If you are sitting here today listening to this sermon, it is NOT too late for you; you are NOT too far gone; you do NOT have live in defeat. And how do I know that’s true? BECAUSE OF WHAT THE WORD OF GOD SAYS!!!
- Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true…honorable…just…pure…lovely, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
- Colossians 3:2 – “SET your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth.”
- Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be being transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Fill your mouth w/ the Word – Prayer – Pray the Word back to God. As the Holy Spirit speaks & reveals the truth of the Word to you, then use that truth to shape your prayers. What better way to pray than to use the very words that God has spoken in His Word! Mike Bickle: “It is not enough just to study the Word—we are meant to talk with God as we read it. Bible study is meant to create an active dialogue in our hearts with God. One way in which we gain strength in our prayer lives is by feeding on the Word through engaging in conversation with God as we read it. Scripture gives us the conversational material for our prayer lives. Talking to God as we read the Word makes prayer easy and enjoyable. We speak the truths of the Word back to God as we read.”
- Use the Psalms to speak praise to God
- Psalm 8
- Use instructions & commands to confess sin or weakness, or to ask for help & strength
- 10 Commandments
- Sermon on the Mount
- Colossians 3:5-17
- Use some of the prayers of Paul to pray for others
- Colossians 1:9-14 for my family & staff
Once you get used to praying this way, you’ll find yourself praying Scripture all the time. Beth Moore has a great book on Praying God’s Word. Donald Whitney has a book called Praying the Bible. Get some of these resources & start developing this practice. When you memorize verses, you’ll pray them back to God. When you doing your Read-Pray-Obey reading each day, you’ll shape your prayers around the verses that you’re reading. As you’re reading throughout the Bible, you’ll start praying verses back to the Lord. It will revolutionize your prayer life!
Believer, when you are on your knees, remember you are going to a king. Let your petitions be large. —C.H. Surgeon
Fill your life w/ the Word – Apply it & live it out – “Abide” in Jesus & in His words. Stay there. Live there. Walk there. We won’t do it perfectly 100% of the time. But the call on the Christian’s life is to fill our lives w/ the Word of God & live it out. Look at John 15:5 & 8 – Jesus calls us to “bear much fruit” in our lives.