Prayer is a relationship. It is interaction between you and God. It’s a dynamic conversation between two individuals who love, care for, and enjoy one another.
What determines whether God hears our prayers or not is how much we are like Him and His character or our righteousness?
Proverbs 15:8 (NLT)8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright.
Proverbs 15:29 (NLT)29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.
Like any parent, God's concern for our children's character is greater than his interest in granting our requests. Like any boss, he primarily desires faithfulness in an employee's work before granting private requests. Like any kind of leader, he willingly hears requests made by genuine followers whose loyalty is constant and sure.
1 John 3:22 (NLT)22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.
We read that God hears the prayers of the upright or righteous and not the wicked, if fact the scriptures that we read said that God detests the sacrifice, or prayer of the wicked. We know that God doesn’t detest the person but the wickedness. The essential difference between the upright and the wicked lies in what they do with the sin in their lives. The wicked conceal it, evidently so that they may persist in it. The upright, on the other hand, acknowledge their sin and renounce it.
Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)13 People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
How do we become righteous?
Clearly, upright cannot mean sinless.
The New Testament reveals by faith in Jesus Christ, we are accounted to be fully righteous.
Romans 3:21-26 (NLT)21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Friend Of God
This week we want to start talking about how we develop our relationship with God through our times of prayer.
Friend of God
Lyrics by Israel Houghton
Who am I
You are mindful of me
That You hear me
When I call
Is it true
You are thinking of me
How You love me
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend
Lord of glory
You have called me friend
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
You call me friend
(Who am I
You are my Lord
You are my Lord, Hallelujah!
You call me friend)
You call me friend)
Defining The Relationship
Human beings are uniquely created in the image of God. When God created the earth, son, moon, stars, and all the animals He said it was “good.” However, when it came to humans, the tone changed. He said that the creation of humans was “very good.” Human beings are an extra-special creation for at least three reasons.
First, it is clear that humans have an identity that is rooted in God.
Genesis 1:26-27 (HCSB)26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.
Second, humans are special because they were created for a unique purpose. No two humans are the same.
There is no other person who is exactly like you! You are an original!
Knowing that we are unique should humble us. It should make us realize just how much God loves us. We understand that no two people have the same fingerprint. That blows my mind just to consider that there is no other one in the human population who has the identical pattern that I have or you have.
It doesn't end there. We are told that one's DNA is strikingly different as well. No two people have the same identical DNA.
Psalms 139:14 HCSBI will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.
Other aspects of creation serve general functions, but only humans have a unique, individual purpose.
Third, humans are designed to have a one-on-one relationship with God through Jesus, enabled by the Holy Spirit. As a right of being created in the image of their Creator, humans can relate directly to him. It is through Jesus that this relationship is made possible.
Romans 8:33-39 (HCSB)33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, ⌊hostile⌋ powers,39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Let’s be honest, relating to God as friend is a tough concept for most of us. It may even seem irreverent or arrogant. After all how can we be friends with the King of kings, Creator of the universe, a holy and sinless God? But we are invited to be and are called God’s friends though our faith in and relationship with Jesus. He even calls us brothers.
Hebrews 2:11-12 (HCSB)11 For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers,12 saying: I will proclaim Your name to My brothers; I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.
Let’s not get it twisted our friendship with God is not a friendship of equals. He will always remain in His rightful place of honor and authority. We are still the work of His hands, His people over whom He has final say. That never changes, no matter how close or intimate we become with Him. A proper respect of God is part of being His friend.
Psalm 25:14 (HCSB)14 The secret counsel of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He reveals His covenant to them.
God has a very high view of friendship. To Him, friendship means being willing to lay down your life for the one you love.
John 15:13 (HCSB)13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.
This is the kind of love that He calls us to, not a disposable, easy-come-easy-go friendship between “pals”. Relating to Him as a friend may even bring greater depth and meaning to your human relationships, as we learn more about friendship from Him.
Friendship is just one of the ways God relates with us. God is many things to us at the same time, including Father, Shepherd, Lord, Redeemer, Teacher, and Friend. No one aspect of who He is cancels out the rest. The better we know Him - in all of His various aspects - the more accurately we’ll be able to relate to Him, talk with Him, and enjoy Him.
Friendship with God is not only for our benefit. He is a Person with feelings.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is not a mystic “power” or “thing.” or an “it” as if the Spirit is a thing or force that we can control or use. A person is a living, intelligent being, with a mind, feelings, and emotions. The Holy Spirit has attributes that only a person could have. He has intelligence, feelings, a will, He prays, He can be insulted, He teaches and He directs.
Consider what it means that we, who all want friends, are created in God’s image: He wants friends too. Not many people are willing to go there. But those who take Him seriously and enter into that deep relationship with Him bring Him great joy.
When two people become friends their relationship includes things like;
Doing things together
Asking for advice and input
Covering each other’s backs
Enjoying each other
Trusting each other
Challenging and debating
Caring for one another’s children and grandchildren
Pleasing each other
Is there anything in that list that you think you can’t include in friendship with God? Remember what friends do is reciprocal meaning both friends do it.
Do you think that friendship with God can include all these things?
Let’s look at Abraham and Moses whose relationships with God included friendship,
2 Chronicles 20:7 (HCSB)7 Are You not our God who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and who gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend?
Isaiah 41:8 (HCSB)8 But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, My friend—
James 2:23 (HCSB)23 So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.
Exodus 33:11 (HCSB)11 The LORD spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.
Now let’s look at some interactions between God and these two friends to see what friendship characteristic we can find?
Genesis 18:1-33 (HCSB)1 Then the LORD appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day.2 He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed to the ground.3 Then he said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please do not go on past your servant.4 Let a little water be brought, that you may wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree.5 I will bring a bit of bread so that you may strengthen yourselves. This is why you have passed your servant’s ⌊way⌋. Later, you can continue on.” “Yes,” they replied, “do as you have said.”6 So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick! Knead three measures of fine flour and make bread.”7 Meanwhile, Abraham ran to the herd and got a tender, choice calf. He gave it to a young man, who hurried to prepare it.8 Then Abraham took curds and milk, and the calf that he had prepared, and set ⌊them⌋ before the men. He served them as they ate under the tree.9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he answered.10 The LORD said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him.11 Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.12 So she laughed to herself: “After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?”13 But the LORD asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’14 Is anything impossible for the LORD? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.”15 Sarah denied it. “I did not laugh,” she said, because she was afraid. But He replied, “No, you did laugh.”16 The men got up from there and looked out over Sodom, and Abraham was walking with them to see them off.17 Then the LORD said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham?18 Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.19 For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. This is how the LORD will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him.”20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious.21 I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to Me. If not, I will find out.”22 The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the LORD.23 Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?24 What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it?25 You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”26 The LORD said, “If I find 50 righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”27 Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord—even though I am dust and ashes--28 suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” He replied, “I will not destroy ⌊it⌋ if I find 45 there.”29 Then he spoke to Him again, “Suppose 40 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do ⌊it⌋ on account of 40.”30 Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do ⌊it⌋ if I find 30 there.”31 Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy ⌊it⌋ on account of 20.”32 Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy ⌊it⌋ on account of 10.”33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
- Offering hospitality
- Sharing conversation
- Trusting each other
- Sharing secrets
- Challenging and debating
Exodus 33:7-17 (HCSB)7 Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the LORD would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp.8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent.9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and ⌊the LORD⌋ would speak with Moses.10 As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent.11 The LORD spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent.12 Moses said to the LORD, “Look, You have told me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. You said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’13 Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.”14 Then He replied, “My presence will go ⌊with you⌋, and I will give you rest.”15 “If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here.16 How will it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight unless You go with us? I and Your people will be distinguished ⌊by this⌋ from all the other people on the face of the earth.”17 The LORD answered Moses, “I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.”
- Sharing conversation
- Covering each other’s backs
- Trusting each other
What is a New Testament example of God entering into friendships?
John 15:9-17 (HCSB)9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love.10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.17 This is what I command you: Love one another.
To make the point of friendship Jesus compared the relationship between master and servant to that of friend to friend. What are some of those differences.
Master and Servant Friend to Friend
Master orders Friends discuss
Master withholds information Friends share everything
Later on after Jesus told His disciples that they were His friends He prayed for them and in His prayer He included us;
John 17:20-26 (HCSB)20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.24 Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.25 Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.26 I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.
In verse 21 Jesus prays that we who believe will have the same kind of relationship with Him He and His Father have, and he wants the world to be aware of that relationship.
We are not doing this study just to learn about the relationship between God and us. We are doing it so that we can experience the relationship and to experience the depth of the relationship through prayer so I want us to practice the things we talk about and learn. This week we talked about the characteristics of friendship so this week when we talk with God let’s practice developing that friendship relationship. When you pray this week about anything, it doesn’t have to be a major thing just anything you happen to be praying about right now. Do it as if you were talking to a friend on the telephone, open up share your secrets, debate, laugh, tell jokes (be reverent). You might want to even start by talking with God about your relationship with Him. If you are not comfortable calling God your friend and more comfortable calling Him Master ask Him why you are hesitant in considering Him a friend. You might want to ask Him if there is anything that hinders you from experiencing the closeness both of you want. After you talk then wait for God’s response. He may speak through your own thoughts, or direct you to something in the Bible but wait for Him to respond. You may even want to record your conversations in a journal.
Next week we are going to talk about the risk of being real with God.