It Happens After Prayer
The following is an overview of my sermon planned for Sunday, September 11, 2016. The Bible text is Isaiah 37, in particular verse 21.
If you wish to explore the topic of prayer more fully, I recommend highly H.B. Charles Jr.'s book, It Happens After Prayer. It is a helpful, biblical, and practical manual on prayer.
Did you hear about the young man who finished his apprenticeship and got his plumber's license? He went on vacation to Niagara Falls and stood staring at the thundering cascade. He turned to his wife and said, "I think I can fix this." His wife stared back at him as though he had lost his mind, "No you can't."
Isn't that a great picture of us - trying to control our lives? We face our problems and opportunities with self-confidence. We say, "I've got this. I can fix this. I can make this happen.” And the Lord looks at us like we lost our minds and says, "No you can't."
The Lord does NOT want us to be independent and all-sufficient. He wants us to depend on him and to pray about everything. He wants us to act like his kids.
A. BACKGROUND TO PRAYER.
A massive Assyrian army was massed 20 miles from Jerusalem preparing to march on the city and destroy it. Assyria had already crushed every city, town and fortress in the region. Jerusalem was doomed! Ezekiel 36 tells us all about it.
Hezekiah - the king of Jerusalem and Judah - had two options: surrender or pray. He chose prayer - Isaiah 37:1-2:
Hezekiah tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD. 2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. - Isaiah 37:1-2
He went into the house of the Lord, the temple in Jerusalem - the house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7). He went in to talk to the Lord. He also sent word to the prophet Isaiah, hoping that the Lord would talk back.
And the Lord did talk back - verses 5-7:
When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'" - Isaiah 37:5-7
The Lord made a promise of deliverance to Hezekiah. Your city will be spared. Your enemy will die. Today, of course, we have an even greater promise. Our promise of deliverance is in Christ - Romans 10:13:
“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
When bad news came from the battlefield, Hezekiah prayed again - verses 14-20. And this is where we find the second reason for prayer …
2. THE GLORY OF GOD.
I want you to see Hezekiah's ultimate motivation for prayer. Obviously, he wanted his city to be rescued and he wanted his life to be spared. But there is something deeper:
So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD." - Isaiah 37:20
What was the ultimate motivation for his prayer? It was the glory of God.
Believe it or not, we're not the most important thing in God's mind. The Lord’s honor; his fame and his praise among the nations is top of the list. And our prayers should ultimately be about that. “Lord, please help me, guide me, provide for me, heal me, give me wisdom, FOR YOUR GLORY.”
So ... That's all background. Now we come to the foundational precept in this passage. A rule of life that we can all follow to our great profit:
B. THE FOUNDATIONAL PRECEPT OF PRAYER IS ...
"It happens after prayer."
Look at the Lord's response to Hezekiah's prayer - it’s in verse 21:
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED TO ME concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, - Isaiah 37:21
"Because you have prayed to me." The Lord made promises about deliverance from Assyria and the death of King Sennacherib - see verses 33-38. By the way, these promises were all fulfilled. It took 20 years, but Sennacherib met his when his enemies assassinated him in the temple of his god.
It happens after prayer. That’s our precept.
God works when we pray. That sounds weird - off somehow. After all, the Lord is sovereign. He's in charge. He doesn't need our prayers. All his plans would succeed without any help from us. But he has chosen to get them done through our prayers - “BECAUSE you prayed.” E.M. Bounds wrote:
"Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” Our prayers unleash God's massive power for our good and his glory.
Now, let’s take a few minutes and make this very practical - something we can take home.
There are two ways to apply our precept - it happens after prayer:
1. Because it happens after prayer, pray about EVERYTHING.
“Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns." Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)
When we pray, we invite the Lord into our situation to do something about it. The best way to make sure this happens in our busy lives is to schedule a daily time alone to talk to God. Find a time and a place where you can focus. Create a written prayer list (or use a notes app on your phone or tablet). Or pray Bible passages back to the Lord (this is really helpful when you’re tired or stressed). The idea is to simply bring everything to the Lord. Dump it all on him.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7
A couple of years ago, Kim, Kalie and I went for a long bike ride up the Leelanau Peninsula. It was a beautiful day, but I felt like the brake was on the whole time. I kept stopping and checking my wheels but couldn't find the problem. When we got back to the campground, I got off my bike and collapsed in a heap. My right leg wouldn't support any weight at all (I received a hip replacement shortly after that). That had been my problem all day. I was basically pushing the pedals with only one leg. And that's the problem in life.
When we don't pray, we're pedaling on our own. We're missing more than half the power we need. No wonder life is hard. Do you remember the hymn:
“O what peace we often forfeit, o what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
Pray about everything.
The second take home is …
2. Because it happens after prayer, pray about everything CONFIDENTLY.
The Bible tells us to:
"pray without ceasing, - 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
This means to pray and pray and don’t let anything stop you. It isn’t talking about constant talk, or repetitious mumblings. It means to pray and don’t give up because:
You’re not bugging God.
God hears every request.
God will answer.
That’s why Jesus “told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and NOT LOSE HEART.” - Luke 18:1
He may not answer right away. But don’t give up.
He may not answer the way we expect. But don’t give up.
He may answer "not yet" and he may answer "not like that" But don’t give up.
He may answer, "yes" and he may answer "no". But don’t give up.
Never let anything shut down your prayers. Jesus again …
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. - Luke 11:9-10
The Lord is willing and able to answer your prayers.
Do you know what an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or EPIRB is? Sailors? When a boat sinks, the water activates an emergency signal that is transmitted by satellite to the nearest rescue co-ordination centre. It transmits constantly until the rescuers arrive.
That's what we're doing when we pray. The Lord loves you and he loves when you pray like a kid: bold, dependent prayers. We don't stop transmitting until the Lord makes it clear: stop.
Today's foundational precept is IT HAPPENS AFTER PRAYER.
“IT” is the next step, the open door, the insight, the favor, the strength, the victory, whatever we need in our lives that brings glory to God.
HB Charles reminds us to pray about anything and everything (It Happens After Prayer, page 39):
You can pray for ...
Forgiveness like David
Wisdom like Solomon
Healing like Hezekiah
Children like Hannah
Deliverance like Jonah
Cleansing like the lepers
Salvation like the crucified thief.
Make prayer a priority because …
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." - Psalm 91:15-16