Prayer: Practice by Dr. Abidan Shah

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PRAYER – PRACTICE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever said, “Lord, have mercy?” If you grew up in the south, I’m sure you have either said that or heard that at some point. It’s a prayer, but it’s really a stress relief or an exclamation of happiness, surprise, or anger. It’s like the other one – “Lord, help me.” Again, not a real prayer, just a colloquialism. Unfortunately, they are no different from some of our “real” prayers, which are a little longer, but they have also become just an extended colloquialism. Here’s the main point of today’s message: Just because we begin with “Dear God” and end with “Amen,” it does not mean that we are really praying. Prayer is a conversation with the living true God as our heavenly father. We come to him in sincerity and speak from our hearts. As we recognize who he is and express what we need, we receive the assurance that our heavenly father is already working the best answer for us. Last weekend, we focused on the doctrine of prayer. Today, our focus is on the practice or the mechanics of prayer.

Matthew 6      5 “And when you pray…”

Before we go any further, notice that Jesus did not say “if you pray” but “when you pray.” God assumes that we will pray to Him. He expects us to pray to him. Prayer is our daily dialogue with God in which we ask Him for our needs and receive from him the answers. Since the beginning of time, men and women in the Bible have prayed daily. Even Jesus had a daily time of prayer. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” It’s like the song “What a friend we have in Jesus,” where it says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.” Many of us are not praying. How do we know that? You don’t return from God’s presence fearful, hopeless, defeated, doubtful, and discouraged.

Application: Do you come to God in prayer? What comes first? Plans or Prayers. Are you bearing needless pain?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered 3 important guidelines for prayer:

  1. Avoid prayer as a show.

6      5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

Context: After the Jewish people had returned from their exile, they were serious about religion. The priests and the scribes created an elaborate ritual of prayer and liturgy. Their daily prayer was a long list of 19 petitions known as the “Shemoneh Esreh,” each starting with the statement “Blessed are You, O Lord” and ending with “The whole world is full of His mercy.” They had to pray this prayer standing up. Hence, the daily prayer is also called “Amidah.” You had to pray facing the “Aron Kodesh,” the ark that houses the Torah scrolls. Observant Jewish people would begin by taking 3 steps backwards and then 3 steps forwards. The steps backwards symbolized moving away from the material world and the steps forwards symbolized approaching the King of Kings. During the prayer there was a certain way of bowing – “Barukh Atha Adonai.” You had to come back up when you said “Adonai.” Then when you said “Kadosh,” you had to get on your toes about 3 times, with each time rising a little taller. Again, not everyone followed this and there were many variations. When it was over, you bowed to the left, then to the right, and then to the front and said – “He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen.” Then, you had to do the same stuff after the prayer – take 3 steps backwards and 3 steps forwards.

Some of the people would be on their way to the synagogue and be running late. So, they would stop in the street corner and start their Amidah. Keep in mind that the Jewish people were not expected to pray in the streets but some would do it anyways. It was forbidden to interrupt anyone praying the Amidah unless it was a safety issue or you had to go. It was a big show! Jesus knew the hypocrisy of their hearts. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not saying, “Don’t pray in public.” Instead, he was saying – “Don’t pretend to pray only in public.” Imagine if your kids only talked to you in public with grandiose words! At home, “Get out of the way, old man!” Jesus knew their hearts and he confronted their hypocrisy. One antidote for hypocrisy in public prayer is private prayer. Public prayer is like the edifice, the visible part of a building, and private prayer is the foundation.

Application: Do you pray for a show? Are you pretending to be more spiritual than you really are? How is your private prayer life?

  1. Avoid vain repetitions.

7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do…”

Background: The word for “vain repetitions” is a Greek word battalogew, which is a very unique word. It is not found anywhere else in the New Testament or in ancient Greek literature or the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament). It was a description of the worship of heathens. Listen to what Jesus said about it in verse 7 “…For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them…” We may not be heathens but it is not much different than what we do even today. We mumble unnecessary words in prayer that add nothing to our conversation with God. Imagine if your kids talked with you and repeated your name and used unnecessary words! Sometimes, we even use “magical formulas” like “Plead the blood of Jesus” or “In Jesus Name.” Other times we repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Doxology or the Apostles Creed. I’m not suggesting that any of this is sinful or wrong but the point is this – “Do we really mean what we say in prayer?” 8“…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Here’s the whole point – Prayer is family talk. It is a loving conversation between a father and a child. You cannot fake it.

Application: How do you see God when you pray? Can you see Him as your Father?

  1. Approach God as your Heavenly Father.

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray…”

Now, we come to what’s known as the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster or sometimes even known as the Disciple’s Prayer. It is found twice in the Gospels – one here in Matthew 6 and a shorter version in Luke 11. It could be that Jesus taught the same prayer several times or it could be that Luke placed it at a different point in his gospel, as he often does. What is interesting about Luke’s version of the prayer is that he gives us the context in which Jesus gave this model prayer. Listen to Luke 11:1 “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” What is very interesting to me is that the disciples did not ask Jesus – “teach us to preach” or “teach us to evangelize” or “teach us to do a miracle” but “teach us to pray.” Why? Because they witnessed how important prayer was to Jesus. Everything in this prayer has to be read with the mindset of God as our heavenly father.

9 “…Our Father in heaven” = God is our Father—Creator, Superior, and Redeemer.

“…Hallowed be Your name.” = God’s names are His character and His work in our lives. He will hallow his name. But, how about in my own life?

10 “Your kingdom come…” = It is the sovereign eternal rule of God over His world. It begins in our hearts when we are saved and will be completed when Christ returns.

“…Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” = God has a revealed will (what God expects) and a secret will (what is God up to). Here the prayer is for the secret will.

We’ve come to the midpoint in the Lord’s Prayer and, so far, we have looked at the first 3 lines known as the “Thou Petitions” – “Hallowed be thy name,” “Thy kingdom come,” and Thy will be done.” Now we will look at the next 3 lines known as the “We Petitions” – “Give us this day our daily bread,” “Forgive us our debts,” and “Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the evil one.”

11 “Give us this day our daily bread.” = Daily we should come to God as a little child looks to his/her parent for sustenance. But, the bread is not just physical but also spiritual.

12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” = This is probably the hardest line in the Lord’s Prayer, if not the whole Bible. E.M. Bounds said “A heart all love, a heart that holds even its enemies in loving contemplation and prayerful concern, a heart from which all bitterness, revenge, and envy are purged—how rare! Yet this is the only condition of mind and heart in which a man can expect to command the power of prayer.”

13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one…” = Even though God allows us to go through trials to purify and humble us, he wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

“…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” = He is the rightful owner, now and forever. He can change circumstances, now and forever. He gets the glory now and forever.

Invitation: How is your prayer life? Is it a show? Is it filled with vain repetitions? Is it a child coming to his/her father? Have you said the sinner’s prayer? Have you prayed to ask Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Thankful for His Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR HIS PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

His PlanIntroduction: How many of you think that you come from a dysfunctional family? Raise your hand. Keep raising them and look around at all the people who are lying! All of us come from a dysfunctional family. Some of us cover it up better than others. If you think your family tree is lush, green, and fruitful, just remember that all our roots are shallow and infested with worms. Don’t forget that we all come from a crooked landscaper and an ambitious diva, Adam and Eve. In this message we’re going to meet a person who grew up in a really dysfunctional family but he overcame that and thrived. The secret was his deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he was thankful to God for his plan. You can be bitter or you can be thankful. It all depends on your view of God’s sovereignty and goodness.

Genesis 50    15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16So they sentmessengersto Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17“Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him…19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.

Question: How do you see your life? Are you bitter or are you thankful? Are you a victim or a victor? Are you saved? Without Christ, you will live to avenge or prove yourself?

Context: For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be in a series called THANKFUL that will not only prepare us for the Thanksgiving Season but also give us a biblical perspective on life and problems. In today’s message, we will look at the life of Joseph, how he grew up in a dysfunctional family but God had a divine plan and instead of being bitter and vengeful, Joseph demonstrated a deep faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Let’s begin:

I. A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 

Joseph came from a dysfunctional family no doubt but how dysfunctional?

  • Even before we begin with Joseph’s immediate family, there were some skeletons in the family closet in previous generations. Remember, great grandfather Abraham had a child through his wife Sarah’s maid servant, her lady-in-waiting, Hagar! Should have waited on God. Also, don’t forget that his dad Jacob had tricked his brother Esau and later his father Isaac and stolen the blessing from his brother Esau, which was rightfully his. But, when Esau found out, he was angry and vowed to kill his brother Jacob once their daddy died. This is a messed-up family.
  • How about Joseph’s immediate family? His father Jacob had to run for his life from Esau and go to Uncle Laban’s house who had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. After making him work for 7 years, Laban gave him Leah on the wedding night! What a horrible shock! After 7 more years he got Rachel. Now Jacob had two sister wives who were actually sisters and they hated each other. To make matters worse, the wives also offered him their own ladies in waiting to get more kids from him! I don’t have time to go through the details. Altogether Jacob had 12 sons but he favored his “choice” wife’s firstborn, Joseph and gave him a special coat. By the way, it was not a “coat of many colors.” In Hebrew it is a “coat that extended to the palms and the feet.” It was a ceremonial coat that implied authority and power. Jacob may have sensed that God had great things in store for Joseph. Maybe he was thinking that the promise may come through Joseph. How did brothers take this? 10 of them hate him. Listen to Genesis 37:4“But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.” Then Joseph made matters worse by sharing with them his dreams. Now they hated him even more.
  • You know the rest of what happened. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers as they were moving the herd and when the brothers saw him coming, they decided to kill him. One of the brothers counselled them instead to thrown him in a pit. When he was gone, another brother, Judah, suggested selling him to a caravan of Midianite traders, who in turn sold him into slavery in Egypt and went home and lied to their father. What a mess!

Application:Are their skeletons in your family closet? Do you think that you are the only one who grew up in a dysfunctional family? Think again.

II. THE DIVINE PLAN 

Now Joseph is a slave in Egypt but pay attention to God’s divine plan in his life:

  • Genesis 39:1 “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” Think about it, he could’ve been sold into cheap labor to build one of the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings or work on one of the farms in the Nile Delta Valley. Instead, he is working for Pharaoh’s chief officer.
  • How is work going?Listen toGenesis 39 2“The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3And his master saw that the LORDwaswith him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.”Meaning:Even though bad things have happened to Joseph, God has worked them together for good.
  • Life is never that simple.Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph but he rejects her advances which makes her mad and she has him thrown into prison. But, guess what kind of a prison? Genesis 39:20“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisonerswere” Potiphar could’ve had Joseph’s head but he knew that he was innocent and that God was with him. So, he put him in a Federal Prison where he met high profile people and learned Egyptian politics. Genesis 39:21“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Every step of the way God was with Joseph and blessed him.
  • I don’t have time to go into all the details but through a turn of events, Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh’s dream that none of his magicians and wise men could interpret. Pharaoh was so impressed that he not only made him in charge of the famine problem but he also made him ruler over his house and his people. Not only that but he also gave Joseph his signet ring, clothed him in fine garments, put a gold chain around him and paraded him in his chariot crying before him – “Bow the knee.”Oh yes, he also gave him the daughter of priest of On as his wife.

Personal Story:The year was 1993 when I was waiting by the Pennsylvania turnpike at 2am waiting for a ride. It was cold and I was standing inside a telephone booth to stay warm. I had lost everything. I don’t have time to go into all the details. I remember praying and telling God that without him I was done. Look where God has brought me.

Application:Can you see God’s divine plan in your life? Can you see only the bad or can you see the divine hand of God guiding you?

III. A DEEP FAITH

Let’s fast forward 27 years. Joseph saved Egypt and the world through the horrible famine. His brothers came looking for food and eventually realized that Joseph is the second in command in Egypt. They repented and reconciled and brought their father Jacob to Egypt. They were a family again for the next 16 years and then Jacob died. The brothers became concerned that Joseph would take revenge for what they had done to him 39 years ago. They probably made up the story about their father saying on his deathbed “Please forgive your brothers for what they did to you.”

Human nature is tit for tat. It is bitter and vengeful. But what was Joseph’s response? Genesis 50    19 “…Do not be afraid, for amI in the place of God? 20But as for you, you meant evil against me; butGod meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it isthis day, to save many people alive.” Joseph saw what his brothers did to him from the lens of God’s sovereignty and goodness and he showed grace and mercy. He was actually thankful for what he went through.

Application:How do you see your past? Are you bitter and vengeful? Can you see God’s sovereignty and goodness in working “all things together for good,”as Paul says in Romans 8:28? Are you thankful? Are you saved?

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