Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ON BEING AN APPEALING CHRISTIAN” Part 7

 

Several weeks ago, one of you asked if prayer was an appeal. At that time, I put off the question, indicating that we would deal with the matter of prayer at a later time. Now is that later time when we consider prayer as a special kind of appeal. Of course, prayer would be a special kind of appeal, in that it is an appeal to God rather than another human being.

Keeping in mind that not all appeals feature every facet of a perfectly formulated appeal, so we also find that not every prayer found in the Bible finds all the features expected in a fully formulated prayer. It would also follow that not every prayer found in the Bible is so fully developed that its appearance as an appeal is always obvious. However, if you will grant me the flexibility to speak in general terms, I am confident that you will recognize that, in general, praying is a form of appealing.

 

Third, PRAYER AS AN APPEAL

 

We have focused on a Biblical style appeal to one in authority over you for a number of weeks now. The question I must ask is whether you have ever given much thought to prayer being an appeal. Granted, prayer is not an attempt to bring before God new information that He has not previously considered or previously known. To assert such a thing would be denying the essential attribute of God’s omniscience, failing to recognize that God knows everything. However, with that granted, consider prayer as a special type of appeal.

We know that God is omnipotent. However, there is a striking parallel between praying to God and making an appeal to a human being who has authority over you, differing only in that God is omnipotent, that God is omniscient, and that God is good, while human beings obviously have none of these attributes.

With such differences as these in mind, examine the model prayer the Lord Jesus Christ used to instruct His disciples. As we look at that model prayer, take note how prayer to God really is an appeal that has all the key ingredients that any other kind of appeal ought to have. Turn to Matthew 6.5-13 and read with me:

 

5      And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6      But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

7      But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

8      Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

9      After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10     Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11     Give us this day our daily bread.

12     And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13     And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

The first requirement we should expect to find for prayer is the importance of having a right standing with God.

 

If prayer is a specialized type of Biblical appeal, you should have no legitimate expectation of getting your prayers answered unless and until you have a right standing with God, the One to whom you are appealing. Is there evidence in this passage that a right standing with God is necessary for successful prayer? There are a number of indications in our text that give evidence that having a right standing with God is a necessary prelude to successful prayer. In verses 5 and 6, we see that show off praying in public to get attention is discouraged, as is the vain repetitious praying of the heathen, verse 7. Such praying would suggest not really having a right standing with God. Despite what some people might claim, scripture suggests that such prayers have no chance of being answered.

Notice verses eight and nine. In verse 8, the Lord Jesus Christ refers to God being “your Father.” In verse 9, the model prayer begins, “Our Father.” Therefore, the suggestion of these phrases is that a person is in right standing with God to pray to Him when God is your Father, and not before. Remember, in John 9.31, an enemy of our Lord said, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”

To be sure, some will say that the man who said that was a Pharisee, an enemy of Christ. However, does his statement not agree, in principle, with Isaiah 59.2? “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” It is clear that right standing is profoundly important when answers to prayer are expected. An unsaved person does not and cannot have right standing with God and, therefore, will not successfully pray to God.

How can a right standing with God be established? How can you become a child of God, having God as your Father, so your prayers will be answered? John 1.12 shows how to become a child of God: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Turn to Hebrews 4.16, where the great privilege of the child of God to pray and expect answers to our prayers is clearly declared: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Without having a right standing with God you cannot expect success when you pray. In other words, unless you are genuinely saved you can pray all you want, but your prayers will have no guarantee of being answered by God. You must be able to approach God in prayer. However, you will never be able to approach God in prayer and ask for favors while rejecting His Son Jesus Christ.

Does this mean the unsaved cannot plead with God for mercy? Not at all. However, pleading with God for mercy is not the same as praying, since the sinner who pleads for mercy must recognize that he meets none of God’s requirements for a successful appeal.

 

The second requirement we should expect to find for prayer is having the right basis for an appeal.

 

The right basis, you might remember, indicates that your appeal, your prayer, has for its basis God’s best interests, not your own. Not that you are asking for something contrary to your best interests. Few would ever pray such prayers. However, when you pray, your requests must line up with what happens to be in God’s best interests, as well. In other words, are you seeking an answer to prayer that glorifies God?

Since a prayer is an appeal, we should expect to see evidence of a right basis for this prayer template we refer to as the Lord’s Model Prayer. Verses 9 and 10 show this very clearly: “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” There is no doubt that the first concern of this model prayer is that God be glorified, that God’s name be exalted, that God’s will be done, and that God’s kingdom be established. The prayer goes on to ask for bread, and forgiveness, and deliverance from evil. That is well and good. That is acceptable. However, notice that what is being asked for personally will go toward giving God what is His due and glorifying His name.

Thus, we see that the words of this prayer reflects an attitude of submission to the plan and purpose of God, a commitment to God’s work and not, primarily, the advancement of self; a concern for God’s reputation and not our own. The words of John the Baptist in John 3.30 reflect the heart attitude of someone with a right basis for appealing to, for praying to, God, when he said about the Lord Jesus Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

How am I supposed to make sure my prayers have the right basis so that I can have an expectation of my prayers being answered? Simple. Bible preaching, along with personal Bible study, will help you to know what God wants. As well, humility will ensure that you are willing to submit to what God wants when you pray.

 

The third requirement we expect to find for prayer is the right timing.

 

It is obvious that appeals made to parents or bosses need to be properly timed so the appeal can be properly considered and good judgment exercised. For example: You do not ask your boss for a raise Friday afternoon at 4:55 PM, when he is trying to make it home to take off for a weekend of camping. As well, appeals made to parents and the appeals spouses make to each other should not be last minute requests that reveal a lack of foresight, planning, or consideration for the other person.

However, what about the right timing when it comes to praying to God? “Give us this day our daily bread” suggests a prayer for an immediate need. In other words, it is okay to pray for something you need right now, assuming of course that you are not asking God to compensate for your own foolishness, slothfulness, lack of preparation, or failure to pray consistently. What do you think will happen when a 65-year-old Christian prays and asks God to take care of him, when the fact of the matter is that this same man frittered away his income when he was younger, and refused the Biblical admonition to prepare for a rainy day? Maybe God will be merciful. What do you think will happen when someone asks God for his daily bread, but he will not work hard to earn the money to buy the food he would like to eat? I think such prayer requests are likely to be denied by God, since answering the prayers of that kind of person would actually discourage others from obeying God when it comes to wise planning for the future.

All other things being equal, however, any time is the right time for prayer. First Thessalonians 5.17 instructs us, actually commands us, to “pray without ceasing.” Therefore, I would think that no prayerful appeal to God is badly timed, unless you are praying a prayer you knew to pray earlier but did not. Are you saved? Are you praying for something that will glorify God and advance the cause of Christ? Then you can pray anytime you want to pray.

 

The fourth requirement for this specialized kind of appeal called prayer is right information.

 

Keeping in mind that God already knows everything, there is no such thing with God as misinformation or a failure to properly consider facts and important details. As was pointed out earlier, God knows everything. Additionally, He is all wise. Something to keep in mind when it comes to right information with prayer is understanding that God is very much delighted when you lay before Him the reasons why you think He should grant your prayer.

Most of you have received a copy of Charles Spurgeon’s wonderful sermon, Order And Argument In Prayer. In that marvelous sermon on prayer, Spurgeon reminds us of seven kinds of truths, realities that are voiced back to God, that are properly used in prayer. Let me list them for you: Spurgeon shows us that it is well in prayer to plead with God His attributes. Ask God to grant your prayer because He is good, because He is gracious, and because He is merciful. He goes on to reveal to us that a mighty piece of ordinance in the battle of prayer is God’s promise. Ask God to do what He has promised to do. Another thing to remember is what was employed by Moses, the great name of God. Ask Him to do something for His great name’s sake. Fourth, do not forget to plead the sorrows of His people. Brethren, it is also good to plead with God the past. What He did in the past He may be graciously willing to do again. We may even use our own unworthiness as an argument with God. “Father, grant this request because I do not deserve it, but to show yourself gracious.” Then, there is the grand Christian argument of the sufferings, the death, the merit, the intercession of Christ Jesus. “Father, do this for Christ’s sake.” Implicit in each of these arguments is that God will be greatly glorified by answering such prayers.

 

The fifth requirement for prayer if prayer is a form of making an appeal is right attitude.

 

Can it be denied that humility before God is always the right attitude, including when you are praying? As well, an indication of the right attitude is your reaction when you do not receive, or you do not think you receive, the answer to prayer that you desired. Do you really believe God is good? Do you really believe God is gracious? Do you really believe God is wise? As well, do you grant that He is sovereign and that, in the end, He has every right to do what He chooses to do? Then your response whatever the answer to prayer happens to be will be reflected in your attitude. My friends, I admit to having great difficulty with this. Conforming my will to what I come to see is the will of God is very hard for me to do after I have prayed for what I have longed for. Perhaps you are that way, too.

I think Ephesians 3.20 was written to help people like me in times like that: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” We need to recognize that God always answers prayers, and that sometimes His answer is so surpassingly superior to what piddling thing we asked for that we do not yet recognize it. James 4.2 reminds us “ye have not, because ye ask not.” Thus, we will never obtain some things from God without prayer. Therefore, you have to pray. You have to ask, unless you would do without.

However, keep in mind that some answers to prayer are so wonderfully beyond our comprehension that we do not see the benefit, we misunderstand God’s response. There will come a time, perhaps later in life and perhaps in the next life, when you and I will see with greater insight many of God’s answers to our prayers.

 

The sixth requirement for prayer is right words.

 

We understand that carefully chosen words negotiate the obstacles a person might have in his mind that overcomes his natural tendency to deny your appeal, to ignore your request, or to refuse your plea. Thankfully, we have here another way in which prayer to God is different from an appeal to a boss or a government official. You see, there are times when you approach God in prayer without having the slightest idea what to say, or not even know what to pray for. Sometimes you simply fall on your face before God and moan with a heart that is heavy and burdened.

God is so wonderful at such times, having made provision for our weaknesses and failings. Have no fear of not knowing what to pray for or what words to use in prayer, my friend, because God has taken care of all that for you. Romans 8.26 shows us the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit where prayer originates, in the heart of the believer: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As well, First John 2.1 shows us that we also have help at the receiving end of our prayers: “. . . we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Therefore, you see, the child of God has the wonderful benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit to initiate prayers for him and the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father on high to advocate for him at the throne of grace where our prayers are received. As well, consider the utter delight God the Father has in hearing and answering the prayers of His children. Listen to the words of the Savior as He describes the Father’s willingness to hear and answer prayer. I read from Matthew 7.7-11:

 

7      Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8      For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9      Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10     Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11     If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

 

The seventh requirement for prayer is right response.

 

What do you do after you have prayed? What is your response to be? Do you just sit back and wait for God to answer? Some people pray and then give up when their prayers are not answered right away. Others pray and then presume, seeing God as a glorified bellhop Who simply has to give us precisely what we want, no matter the effect of our request on His holy cause.

A right view of prayer sees prayer as something more than demands placed upon God that He has to fulfill. So much of the prosperity theology these days holds God ransom for riches, reading into the Bible that He simply has to give them what they ask for, so long as they use the right code words and challenge God’s truthfulness to keep what they claim to be His covenant obligations.

Beloved, it does not work that way. God is not anyone’s glorified bellhop. He serves no one. He is God, terrible in majesty and awesome in holiness. It is our great privilege to approach Him in prayer to find grace to help in time of need.

 

To be sure, prayers to God are appeals, but they are someone different from appeals made to people. I will not review what these differences are, since they are pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. However, I would like to point out two things before we conclude this evening, that seem to escape a great many people these days.

First, keep in mind that God never appeals to anyone. An appeal, you must understand, is a plea to someone in authority over you. Praying certainly is appealing since God obviously has authority over us. Ask yourself, then, who has authority over God? The answer to that question is obvious. No one has authority over God. For that reason alone God never appeals to anyone. Rather, He directs His creatures to do His bidding.

Consider the Lord Jesus Christ. He obviously submitted to His heavenly Father, and was much in prayer and submission to His Father’s will. Thus, it is no surprise to see the Lord Jesus Christ appealing to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, is there any place in the Bible where we find the Lord Jesus Christ appealing to anyone, asking a sinner to come to Him? No. An appeal is a plea extended to one who has authority over you, so it would be entirely inappropriate for the Lord Jesus Christ to extend an appeal to anyone other than His heavenly Father.

Turn it around for a moment. Is it appropriate for a sinner to appeal to Jesus to save Him? When you recognize that Jesus commands sinners to believe on Him, to come to Him, to trust Him as Savior, on what basis would a sinner ask Jesus to save him unless he ignores Christ’s directives to believe on Him, to trust Him, and to come to Him?

So you see, as important as appeals are, they play no part in that transaction between Jesus and the sinner called conversion. Jesus is Lord; therefore, He will not ask you to trust Him. Likewise, because Jesus is Lord, and because He has already commanded sinners to come to Him, it is entirely inappropriate for any sinner to ask Jesus to save him.

Do not ask Jesus to save you, man!

Do what He tells you to do!

Come to Him!



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org