Calvary Road Baptist Church

“Requests”

 

 

EXPOSITION:

This morning’s exposition is on the subject of prayer, a subject that ought to be of vital importance to every believer, and especially with camp beginning this afternoon. One reason prayer is important to believers is because you have never heard of a man or a woman who was greatly used of God who was not a prayer warrior.

Much is made of the Christian warfare that Paul comments on in Ephesians 6.10-17, where we find exhortation to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, to put on the whole armor of God, and that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. However, how little attention is given the two verses that follow, Ephesians 6.17-18:

 

17     And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18     Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

 

I used to say, much more frequently than you have heard me say it recently, that there is no such thing as a great man of God, but that there are ordinary men who are greatly used of God. I believe that with all my heart. A corollary to that principle is the Scriptural certainty that those men and women God does use are always and in every case men and women of prayer.

Some people pray loudly. Others pray quietly. Some people pray eloquently. Others pray simply. Some people pray once a day for a long time. Others pray shorter prayers, but with astonishing frequency. The common factor in the lives of those God blesses tremendously and uses is the fact that they pray.

However, what is prayer? There are two erroneous views of prayer afloat these days.

On one hand, there are those who are of the mistaken opinion that prayer is some sentimental time spent before God, where you supposedly bask in the light of His glory. Now, there may be a time for that in the life of a Christian, but do not mistakenly call that time prayer. It is not prayer.

The other error that is afloat these days, and it is an error propagated oftentimes by the very same people guilty of the first error, is that prayer means to come before God to claim what is rightfully yours by covenant and by birthright. This error is most easily seen in the so-called ministries of Kenneth Copeland and Fred Price, the name it and claim it guys. Essentially, this view of prayer holds that God is somehow obligated to answer your prayers. Therefore, in essence, such a view of prayer sees prayer as laying your demands before God and insisting that He give to you what you want, or His name and reputation will be tarnished. My friends, such as this is not prayer, but blasphemy. Such a view of prayer denies that God is sovereign, that His will and our own are not identical, and comes dangerously close to portraying God has some glorified bellhop, Who exists only to respond to our properly worded demands.

My friends, God does answer prayer. Praise His name He does answer prayer. However, what is prayer? John R. Rice had it right when he titled his well-known book, “Prayer:  Asking and Receiving.” Prayer is not demanding of God. Prayer is asking God.

In Philippians 4.6, we learn a great deal about the nature of prayer: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

 

First Question: FROM WHOM?

 

Looking carefully at our text, we see that Paul wrote, “let your requests be made known unto God.” The people he addressed his remarks to about prayer were those same people he wrote his Philippian letter to. He did not make comments, here, about the prayers of the lost. Neither did he make comments about the prayers of so-called Christians who were not faithful in serving God in a church. His comments were written to saved people in a church. It should make sense to us that Paul’s comments about prayer would be directed to people he knew to be saved. This because we know that the Holy Spirit of God is the true Author of all prayer. His indwelling presence, then, would be a vital precondition to effectual prayers.

What else do we know about where prayers that are answered by God come from? Doesn’t the psalmist tell us that if we regard iniquity in our hearts God will not hear us? So, then, what does that tell us about the Christian who is unfaithful in church? Is it not a sin, a known sin, to be unfaithful in church? Of course it is. Therefore, it is unlikely that Paul’s instructions for an effective prayer life would be directed to someone unfaithful in church.

Therefore, if you are a genuinely saved person, and if you are a faithful church member, Paul’s comments are directed to you.

 

Next Question: TO WHOM?

 

Rightly understood, prayer is directed to God the Father. When His disciples approached Him and asked Him to teach them to pray, like John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, the Lord Jesus Christ modeled a prayer for them to pattern their prayers after. That pattern prayer begins with these words: “Our Father.” Following the Savior’s example, all prayers by believers are properly directed to God the Father. We see this in our text, where Paul directs his readers to “Let your requests be made known unto God.”

The Holy Spirit, I said before, plays a very important role in prayer. In addition to actually initiating prayer in the bosom of the believer He indwells, the precious Holy Spirit also makes intercession for us in prayer when we do not know what to pray for, according to Romans 8.26.

Like the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ also plays an extremely important role in the prayer life of the believer. Though we do not see prayers of Christians directed to Jesus in scripture, we are told, in Hebrews 7.25, that Jesus makes intercession for us who come to God by Him.

So, prayer is effectually offered up by faithful believers to God the Father.

 

Question #3: FOR WHAT?

 

What should you pray for to God the Father? In the Lord Jesus Christ’s model prayer, prayer was made for daily bread, which is a short-term need, as well as for His kingdom to come, which we now know to be a long-term goal. Other examples show that prayer was made for everything in between.

This is precisely what Paul was referring to here when he wrote, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer.” My friend, there is nothing that is too small to pray about. There is nothing that is too big to pray about. You are to pray about and for everything.

However, understand that prayer is not for alleviating personal responsibility. For example: If you ask God to impress upon you which street you should drive to work on, you are wasting your time. God would rather you use your good sense and demonstrate wisdom, than to answer such a prayer as that. Another example: Let us say that you are taking a test, only you do not know the material. Therefore, you pray and ask God to give you success on the test. Guess what? You can forget it. Prayer was not given to you by God to compensate for lack of hard work and diligence. Asking God to help you remember what you studied would be a legitimate prayer to offering up.

Therefore, prayer is appropriate for every detail and circumstance of life. However, recognize that prayer is not for relieving you of responsibility. Rather, it is for enabling you to more effectively fulfill your responsibilities.

 

Question #4: BY WHAT?

 

Prayer is from the Christian. Prayer is to the Father. Prayer is for everything. Now we ask the question, by what means? Paul uses three words that provide for us the essence of a prayer life:

First, there is the word “prayer.” “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer . . . .” The word translated “prayer” is a word that in the Greek New Testament is generally used only in connection with God.[1] It is a general word that refers broadly to the activity of bringing your desires and your wishes before God.

Second, there is the word “supplication.” “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication . . . .” “Supplication” is a word that can be used in connection with either God or men. It refers to petitioning someone for something.[2] It has the flavor of making an appeal. Additionally, Paul frequently uses the word with the word for “prayer,” as though in his mind praying to God and petitioning God for things go hand in hand. Indeed, they do go hand in hand.

Then, there is the word “thanksgiving.” “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” If you go through his letters carefully, you will see that there are few attitudes that are so strongly stressed by Paul than gratitude. If you were to ask him privately, I am sure that Paul would decry the spirit of ungratefulness that was so opposite his own character. Folks, you simply will not have a prayer life without this necessary ingredient of thanksgiving. Until you are truly thankful to God for the things in your life that have so far transpired, you will not be especially eager to go to Him in prayer in the future. Yet you must go to God in prayer, unless you want to be overcome with worry.

 

Last Question: BUT HOW?

 

There is a right way to pray and a wrong way to pray. The right way to pray, the proper decorum, if you will, when you come before God is to bring to Him and to lay before Him your requests. Paul writes, “Let your requests be made known unto God.”

Here is where we put to rest the two false notions that prayer is just coming before God to bask in the light of His glory, on one hand, or that God has to answer your prayers in the affirmative, on the other. Notice that the word is “requests.” Two things about “requests” to remember:

First, a request is a request, not a demand. You will find no examples in the Bible of anyone making demands of God, as some of the television preachers advise. Be careful not to make demands of God, beloved.

Second, a request is a specific desire that is laid before God. It is not the “Dear God, bless everyone” kind of prayer. It is the “Father, Please convict so and so of his sin and draw him to Jesus” kind of prayer. It is the, “Father, my car is dying and I need more money to feed these kids. Give me opportunities to change jobs, to work another job, or to get a promotion” kind of prayer. In other words, it is specific desires laid before the throne of grace for which you desire a stated result. That is the kind of praying Paul was advocating for his beloved Philippians.

 

Notice that Paul has said nothing here about how loud you pray. Pray loud or pray quietly, it matters not. Neither has Paul recommended either flowery or simple prayers. What he has told us is that prayers should be accompanied by thankfulness, that prayers should be petitions brought before God, and that prayers should be specific.

My friends, coming as this guidance does, right after a prohibition against worrying, we would be foolish not to see the connection. “Be careful for nothing; but . . . .” Do you worry about specific things? Are you overwhelmed with doubts and fears? Does impending tragedy loom on your personal horizon? Then take that specific issue which troubles you, no matter what it is, and bring it before God in prayer, specifically asking Him to fix it, or cure it, or provide a way out, or a method for resolving it. Because once this is done, the problem is now God’s problem to solve.

“Why should I pray if God already knows everything?” We see nothing here of informing God of anything. Prayers that inform God are out of line. God does not need to be informed of anything. What the Father is well pleased with is for His children to come before Him, humbly depending upon Him to work in their lives, and asking Him to do specific things for which they will be thankful.

Purpose to pray these kinds of prayers to God, beginning today, and especially throughout camp.

 

SERMON:

 

In our text, Paul provides instruction and encouragement to discouraged believers in the Philippian church, showing them how to conquer their fears and worries through prayer to God. What about unsaved people? What about those who deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ? What about those who are fruitless professors, men and women who have a form of godliness but who deny the power thereof, ever learning and never able to come to knowledge of the truth? What about those who have prophesied in Jesus’ name, and in His name have cast out devils, and in His name have done many wonderful works, but they were people who Jesus never knew?

Turn to Luke 16.19-31:

 

19     There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20     And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21     And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22     And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23     And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24     And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25     But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26     And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

27     Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:

28     For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

29     Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

30     And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

31     And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

 

Have you noticed what is missing from this account of the rich man in Hell? He is in such misery and torment, it seems as though he will do anything to ease his punishment. Moreover, lest you think his motives for trying to prevent his five brethren from going to Hell were good, you can relax. His only concern was their rage and fury toward him when they followed his lead and ended up in Hell with him. In other words, his motive for being concerned about his family was purely selfish.

Who does this man turn to and beseech across that great gulf that was fixed between them? He pleads with Abraham. But why Abraham? What can Abraham do? Why did the man not pray to God? Two reasons:

 

First, HE KNEW GOD WOULD NOT HEAR HIS PRAYERS

 

I want you to think about this for a moment. God has no obligation to listen to the prayers of anyone who is not saved. That fact is born out by the uncorrected testimony of the man born blind, in John 9.31. This man said that God does not hear the prayers of sinners, and no one, not the Lord Jesus Christ, not the gospel writer writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and not the Pharisees he was speaking to, corrected him. Why not? Because it is true. God has no obligation to listen to the prayers of the lost. On that, everyone in Jesus’ day agreed. There are several reasons for this:

First, because God is very angry with your sin. Why do people have such a hard time dealing with the reality of God’s anger? There is no question that the Bible teaches God to be angry with sin. The result of God’s pent up anger and wrath when His long-suffering finally expires, is to pour out His wrath on the offending party and cast them into Hell. Why do you think Paul wrote, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men?” Why do your think the writer of Hebrews pointed out that “our God is a consuming fire?” Why do you think Solomon listed those things that God hates in Proverbs, and those things that are an abomination to Him? Why do you think the Old Testament is filled with the record of what God has done with those who sinned against Him without repentance?

My friends, God is holy, righteous, just, good, and merciful. Everything that could possibly be found commendable is found in God to such a degree as to pass understanding. For Who He is and for what He has done, God deserves the worship, adoration, and praise of every creature under the sun. Moreover, when He is not worshipped, served, and properly honored He is being denied His rightful due. All of this angers Him. All of this outrages Him. All of this infuriates Him. That is why the Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Therefore, because of His anger and His outrage, He is not interested in you coming to Him and asking for favors. He has no desire to see the wicked get what he wants. How dare any lost person sin against Him on one hand and then ask favors of Him on the other?

Second, and this is related closely to the first, you have no means of access to God. If you iniquity separates between you and your God, as Isaiah tells us, and if your sin has hid His face from you, so that He will not hear, Isaiah 59.2, how do you plan to overcome that? How do you make God, who is angry at you for your sin, listen to you when He does not want to? What can you possibly do to overcome that obstacle? Now granted, it is a far better thing for a lost person to cry out to God for mercy than to lackadaisically continue in his sin, but do not think that by your crying out to Him you are in any way lessening the severity of your problem. Cry out to Him as much as you will, you are still deserving God’s wrath.

Some would say, “But the sinner prayed, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’” Yes, he did pray that prayer. He prayed that prayer before Calvary. He prayed that prayer during the Mosaic Law dispensation. Moreover, he presumably prayed that prayer after offering a sacrifice at the Temple to atone for his sins. That contrite sinner, who was a Jew living under the Law of Moses, could approach God only because his sins were temporarily hidden from God’s sight by the atoning blood of a sacrificial animal. However, none of those conditions applies to either you or me. Perhaps the most important consideration with respect to that man is whether he got saved.

Remember, Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Yet this sinner was seeking God’s mercy while Jesus, the only Savior of sinful men’s souls, was standing unrecognized a few feet away. I would suggest you not use this fellow as an example of anything except a lost man pleading to God for mercy. For him to have gotten saved, for anyone to get saved, he must come to Jesus. How, then, do you escape hellfire if you cannot pray to God? And you cannot pray to God. For God is very angry with your sin and you have no means of access to Him. Will you rely upon religion? Will you rely upon cleverness? None of these things will help you.

 

Then, THE MAN DID NOT PRAY TO GOD BECAUSE HE KNEW IT WAS TOO LATE

 

Why did he cry out to Abraham? Desperation. However, he knew it was too late. Let me show you that there come times when it is too late. In addition, those times are before the judgment of God actually falls. Let me state again that it is too late before judgment actually falls. Two examples and then an explanation:

The first example is the world before the Flood. Genesis 6.3 shows that there came a time when God said, “That’s it. 120 years is all they have left. So, 120 years before the Flood it was too late for the entire human population as a whole to escape God’s judgment. Then God directed Noah, a preacher of righteousness, to build the ark. While the ark was being built, it was possible for individuals to respond. Then came the day when the ark was finished and Noah and his went inside the ark. A careful reading of Genesis 7.10 and 17 shows that God shut Noah and his in the ark seven days before the Flood. Therefore, it was too late for the human race 120 years before the Flood. It was too late for any individuals seven days before the Flood. It was too late before judgment fell.

The second example is the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God decided to destroy those two cities because of their wickedness. Like the human race before the Flood, the first announcement that it is too late comes after it is too late. God is going to destroy the cities. However, Abraham pleaded with God to save the city of Sodom if a certain number of righteous people were found living in it, because he knew his nephew Lot lived in the city. God agreed to spare the city if ten such people were found.

You know the facts. Though it was too late for the city, perhaps some individuals could be spared. Try as he would, Lot could convince no one. In the end, the angels God had sent to the city rescued Lot and his wife and his two daughters. What if someone reconsidered at that point in time? It was too late. What if they decided to make things right with God? It was too late. My friends, there comes a time when it is too late.

Most people think it is too late when a guy dies in his sins. It certainly is too late by then. The rich man certainly knew it was too late for him. However, he might have thought that his death made it too late, and if he thought that, he would be wrong. You see, though most people do not know it, it is usually too late before death.

Why is it that the older a person gets the less likely he is to be saved? Why is it that so few of the aged ever are saved? You would think they would think more and more about death and would be so much more interested in making sure they were going to heaven. That is not the case. What happens is they pass a point of no return in their sinning against God. There comes a point in time when God, who is long-suffering and merciful to grant long life and opportunity to repent to sinners, says, “That’s enough.” Sometime after that, perhaps years, perhaps decades later, the person actually dies and goes to Hell.

John R. Rice used to tell of a man he talked to about being saved, and the man said, “No, I will never be saved.” When asked why, the man indicated that it was if God spoke to him one day and told him that if he was not saved now he was not ever going to be saved. Well, the man never was saved that day, and he lived out the rest of his days with the certain knowledge that he was doomed to an eternity in the lake of fire.

 

Prayer is a wonderful privilege God gives to His children. It is a privilege denied to you. The rich man who died never even tried to pray to God for relief. Why? He knew God was angry with his sin, and he knew it was too late. Understand, God is angry with your sin, just He was angry with that rich man’s sin. The question remains, is it too late for you?

It was too late for the entire human race long before God’s judgment fell. It was too late for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah some time before the fire and brimstone fell on them. It was too late for Belshazzar, even as Daniel interpreted for him the handwriting on the wall.

My friend, the judgment of God is certain to fall on all who are not saved. However, what most people do not realize is that it is too late before judgment falls. Is it too late for you? Maybe it is and maybe it is not. Just as there are people who think they still have time to be saved when they do not, there are also people who are convinced it is too late when it is not too late. No one who is lost has good judgment about such things.

My advice to you is twofold: First, plead with God for mercy, in the hopes that He will draw you to His Son, Jesus Christ. As well, sit down and talk with me. Let me talk to you so I can guide you to Christ.



[1] See footnote for Philippians 4.6 from Jac J. Muller, The Epistle Of Paul To The Philippians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), page 141.

[2] Ibid.

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