Good, effective praying starts with love for God in your heart — not with the need particularly, but with love for God.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, dear radio friends. How in the world are you? Yes, that little greeting establishes the fact that this is indeed your friend, Bob Cook, and we are together again sharing the Word of God. I am so grateful for that privilege, and I thank you for being there.
Now we’re just finishing up 1 Thessalonians, and we’re in the fifth chapter. The last time we got together, we touched on a verse that says, “Brethren pray for us.” Small thought here, I propose nothing particularly, but I want to throw it in. Do not handle prayer requests lightly. If somebody says, “Pray for me” and you just say, “All right I will”, don’t toss it off and forget it. You pray for them. As many of you know, I add a little personal note to some of the response letters that we send out when people send in their gifts. I’ll add a little note, especially in cases where folks have had problems and have said, “Dr. Cook please pray for me, pray for the salvation of my son, or my husband, or my wife”, or whatever it may be, they’ve got heartaches and problems. As I read the letter, my heart goes out to them. And so, when I put a personal note on it, oftentimes I’ll say, “I’m praying for you, Tom.”
Well, long ago, the Spirit of God convicted me that if I write that, I’d better do it. And so when I write a note like “I’m praying for youâ€Ÿ, I stop right there and I pray for that person, or for that family, or about that situation whatever it is. You must be true to your word on this matter of praying. Brethren, pray for us. See, if somebody asks you to pray, either do it or don’t do it. But don’t promise and not do it.
Solomon says, “When thou vowist avow, differ not to pay it. Neither say thou before the angel that it was an error. I was just kidding, for God hath no pleasure in the death of fools. Pay that thou owest.” When you make a promise in matters of God as well, heaven knows that in human relationships, when you make a promise, you must keep it. And it’s never more important than in this matter of praying for people. Take time with folk to pray for them.
Well, I thought it might be helpful to look at some of the other cases in the Word of God where folk were asked to pray. Saul, the erring King of Israel, asked Samuel to pray for him. He really wanted to get out of his punishment for disobedience. Then, in the New Testament, you have the case of Simon the Sorcerer. In chapter 8 of Acts, Simon offered the apostles money and said, “Give me also this power that on whomsoever I lay hand, he may receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Peter responded by saying, “Thy money perish with thee because thou has thought that the gift of, gift of God maybe purchased with money. Thou has to need to be pardon a lot in this matter for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”
Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Guilt, fear. He wasn’t repenting, he was trying to get out of the results of his wrongdoing. Because we’re human, I suppose every one of us has at some time or other prayed, “Oh, God get me out of this.” You knew that the mess you were in was of your own doing. But you just prayed, “Oh I, I…”, you know, “please get me out of this.” Again, I think I’m touching on a very human nerve here. You may have prayed, “Oh God if you just get me out of this, I’ll never do it again.” Have you prayed like that? (Laughs) Probably so. That’s Simon the Sorcerer. “Oh pray for me that none of these things come on me, then I won’t get punished.”
Now I’m not averse to praying for people who ask for prayer when they’re in trouble or in a mess — I’ve done it many times. But we have to remind ourselves, don’t we, that the kind of praying that just tries to get you out of the trouble does not really get at the root of the problem.
Simon’s problem was that his heart was not right — thy heart is not right. And there were two things that made it not right. One was the gall of bitterness — he was harboring hatred and resentment in his heart, and the bond of inequity — he was a slave to wrongdoing. That was the essence of the “not rightness” of his heart. He didn’t repent of that, see. He just said, “Oh, get me out of this, pray for me.”
Years ago, I had a friend who, when I met him, would always say, “Pray for me doc, I need your prayers.” And I did pray for him and still do. The fact was, however, when he said, “Pray for me”, at that very time he was deep into problems that were very, very serious in his home and his morals. “Pray for me. Oh I need your prayers”, while he went right on sinning.
Now this is a hard thing for us to even talk about, isn’t it, because it come so close to home? Every one of us has been in that place where the psalmist must have been when he cried out, “Oh God, unite my heart to fear thy name.” Our hearts and our motives often have to split out. And we surely want God’s will and His blessing. But we also want our own way.
As Simon said, “Pray for me. Iâ€Ÿm not repenting, but I just want to get out of this.” What do I have to do, what must I do to, to pray everything right in this matter? Well, Peter gave him the truth of it. He said, “Repent of your wickedness and pray, repent and pray. You pray, repent and pray.”
The word repent in English is a translation of three Greek words in your New Testament — look them up in your own Lexicon if you have one. One is metanoia, which means “to think differently, change your mindâ€Ÿ. Change your mind about this. Sin isn’t cute, it isn’t something to get away with, it isn’t something to enjoy and say, “Well some other time I’ll straighten up.” Change your mind about sin. Look at it as God looks at it. Wrong, horrible, insulting to God’s holiness, and fatal. Sin will kill you. The wages of sin is death. Change your mind about sin.
Then there’s a second word in your Greek New Testament that’s translated with the English word repent, and that’s metamelomai, which means to change the way you feel about things, change your feeling. And it’s in the middle voice, so it means you’re responsible for the changing. Change the way you feel about things that are against the will of God.
Then there’s a third word translated from repent and that is the Greek verb called strepho. From it, we get our medical term “streptococcusâ€Ÿ — germs for example. It means turn around and go the other way. Turn around and go the other way.
Years ago, when I was preaching in missions in Chicago, there was a man illustrating repentance. He said, “I’ll show you what repentance means.” And he stomped across the platform of the mission emphasizing his words with heavy footsteps and said, “I’m on my way to hell, I’m going to hell.” Then he stopped short and he said, “This is what repentance means.” And he whirled around and began to walk in the opposite direction saying, “I am on my way to heaven, I’m goinâ€Ÿ to heaven, I’m goin’ to heaven.” Well that was an illustration that the man gathered in off of Madison Avenue skid row could very well understand. You turn around, you go the other way.
Paul said, “Flee also youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22). Some things you need to run away from. Don’t have a prayer meeting, run, go the other way. That’s repentance. Well anyhow, Peter gave the right advice to Simon, didn’t he? If I’ve been praying selfishly, “Lord get me out of this mess but let me have my own way, what am I suppose to do?” Repent and pray, and face up in your praying to this matter of not right heart — a heart that isnâ€Ÿt right in the sight of God.
In Simon’s case it had to do with resentment and hatred he had in his heart — the gall of bitterness, and it had to do with things that had enslaved him — I don’t know what they were. Peter called it the “bond of iniquity”. Some things had enslaved him, and he was still a slave to some things. And for all of his profession, it said Simon believed and was with him. Simon himself believed and was baptized, and continued with Phillip wondering at the miracles and science that were done. So he had gone right straight through the whole ritual and routine. But he hadn’t gotten right. Oh that goes so deeply into all of our hearts, doesn’t it?
I have to be right with God if I’m going to do any effective praying. So that was the advice that Peter gave to a man who wanted prayer. He asked for prayer to get out of the results of his own sinful conditions. Now Paul has a prayer request that’s listed over in Romans 15, and we’ll just take a look at that before time runs out.
Romans, Chapter 15 verse 30. “Now I beseech you brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit that you strive together with me in your prayer to God for me, that I may be delivered from them that do not believe, and that my service which which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; and that I may come unto you by the will of God and may with you be refreshed.” Now you have several request there.
Small thought here. It is always a good thing to be specific in your praying. It’s all right to pray, “Lord bless me.” I have done that, I did it this morning. It’s all right to pray for blessing. But it is better to pray specifically for things — which I also did this very day. He said, “Pray that I may be delivered from unbelievers, that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted by the saints, that I might come to you with joy by the will of God, and that I might, when I get there, be refreshed with you.” That’s what he wanted them to pray for — specific requests.
Now time will run out before we can get through this passage. But let’s start with it just for a few seconds. He said, “Pray…” And on what basis, for the Lord’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit. Good, effective praying starts with love for God in your heart — not with the need particularly but with love for God, and the answering love of the Spirit of God shared abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost. We will address that the next time we get together.
Holy Father, in Jesus name, I pray that thou wouldst make us good pray-ers. Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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