Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous (improper, not in good taste). It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologue of the church. - Walter Wink
To purchase a copy of the book click this LINK or the picture at the end of the notes.
By Rick Warren
Today I want to talk to you about four ways to pray effectively, based on the life of Nehemiah:
1. Base your request on God’s character. Pray like you know God will answer you: “I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!”
2. Confess the sins of which you’re aware. After Nehemiah based his prayer on who God is, he confessed his sins. He said, “I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us” (Nehemiah 1:6-7 NLT). It wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn’t even born when it happened; he was most likely born in captivity. Yet he included himself in the national sins. He said, “I’ve been a part of the problem.”
3. Claim the promises of God. Nehemiah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Please remember what you told your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:8 NLT). Can you imagine saying “remember” to God? Nehemiah reminded God of a promise made to the nation of Israel. In effect, Nehemiah prayed, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we’d repent, you’d give it back to us.”
Does God have to be reminded? No. Does he forget what he’s promised? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us remember what God has promised.
4. Be specific in what you ask for. If you want specific answers to prayer, make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they’re answered?
Last week we asked why pray when God already knows what’s going to happen anyway; when the things we pray for don’t happen even though they aren’t bad things; when we see faithful Christians pray for those who have a horrible illness and they pray and all their Christian friends pray and they never recover; if it’s always got to be God’s will; why pray at all. What we concluded was that if we are to look to Jesus as our example He prayed all the time about everything and He told us to keep praying. It’s all part of changing our perspective to trying to look from above to take a God’s eye view.
Because God wants us to be in a relationship with Him He doesn’t want us to hide our emotions when we talk to Him. We can even disagree with Him and in many cases wrestle with Him and that’s what we are going to talk about today.
By Carrie Lowrance
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without fault and it will be given to you.” -James 1:5
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pray and even what to pray when life gets you down. In my own experience, I always pray for three things: wisdom, discernment and for God’s will to be done.
1. Pray for Wisdom
When we are in the midst of a storm and have to make heavy decisions that seem to have no answers, it can seem like wisdom is eluding us. It is always wise to first ask God for wisdom in order to make decisions. We must not lean on our own knowledge and understanding. According to Proverbs 4:7, wisdom and good judgment are some of the most important things to acquire.
2. Pray for Discernment
It is crucial to pray for the ability to discern God’s voice, for it to be amplified beyond a doubt. We all discern His voice in different ways, from hearing His voice in our head to a feeling of utter peace and stillness. For some of us he speaks very loud and clear. Regardless, praying for discernment helps your spirit weed out the deceiver from a spiritually sound answer.
3. Pray for God's Will
We sometimes get caught up in how we want things to work out or how we think things should go. It’s part of being human. When you realize you’re doing this, stop and pray and ask God for his will to be done. Give Him the praise and the glory because you know you are exactly where He wants you in order to teach you something or for you to grow.
Are things so hard right now that you don’t even know what to pray? Let these words be your cry.
Dear Lord, times are really hard right now and life has really got me down. I don’t know what to do. I ask that You bestow Your wisdom upon me. I don’t want to lean on my own knowledge anymore, because it has let me down so many times. I need to hear Your voice. Give me the discernment to hear Your voice and Your voice alone. Speak to me in the way You know I will hear you best. I also pray for Your Will, Lord. I give You the praise and the glory in my circumstances because I know that I am exactly where You want me. I know this is to teach me something or to help me to grow. No matter what, I trust you and ask You to show what is best in this situation. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.
Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous (improper, not in good taste). It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologue of the church. - Walter Wink
I like the Sojourner Truth prayer:
“Oh God you know how much I am distressed, for I have told you again and again. Now, God help me get my son. If you were in trouble, as I am, and I could help your, as you can me, think I wouldn’t do it? Yes, Tod, you know I would do it”, and the other one “Oh, God, you know I have no money, but you can make the people do for me, and you must make the people do for me. I will never give you peace till you do, God”
Then the one Nelson Mandela recounted in his autobiography. Where the minister said “That if the Lord did not show a little more initiative in leading the black man to salvation, the black man would have to take matters into his own two hands”.
God invites us to wrestle with him in prayer: to persistently present our honest selves; to cling to God in the dark without letting go; to call God to account for his promises and character. There are people, faithful people, people we look to in the Bible as examples, who stood toe-to-toe and wrestled with God. Here are some examples of those kinds of prayers.
Abraham was bargainer. In our study “Prayer Beings With Relationship” we called this a debate. Philip calls it haggling.
Genesis 18:17-19 (NKJV)17 And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him." 22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.23 And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"26 So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."27 Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So He said, "If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it."29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty found there?" So He said, "I will not do it for the sake of forty."30 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."31 And he said, "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty."32 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
What is your response to that?
There weren’t 10 righteous in Sodom but Abraham really got what he wanted in saving Lot and his daughters. He also points out that Abraham quit asking before God stopped granting. It’s obvious that Abraham wasn’t afraid of haggling. He was very respectful however realizing who he was haggling with. Yes God was his friend but as we have talked about before it’s not a relationship between peers.
Moses had out-and-out arguments with God, starting with the very first meeting..
Exodus 3:7-17 (NKJV)7 And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"12 So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."13 Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?"14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "15 Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, "I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;17 and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey." '
Exodus 4:1-17 (NKJV)1 Then Moses answered and said, "But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, 'The LORD has not appeared to you.' "2 So the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" He said, "A rod."3 And He said, "Cast it on the ground." So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail" (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),5 "that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you."6 Furthermore the LORD said to him, "Now put your hand in your bosom." And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.7 And He said, "Put your hand in your bosom again." So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.8 "Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. And the water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land."10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."11 So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say."13 But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send."14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: "Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.15 Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.16 So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.17 And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs."
Then he negotiates and it appears that he gets God to change His mind.
Exodus 32:7-14 (NKJV)7 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!' "9 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation."11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.' "14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
This time it’s Moses who has had it and it’s God who settles him down.
Numbers 11:4-17 (NKJV)4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: "Who will give us meat to eat?5 We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;6 but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium.8 The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil.9 And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.10 Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.11 So Moses said to the LORD, "Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,' to the land which You swore to their fathers?13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, 'Give us meat, that we may eat.'14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now--if I have found favor in Your sight--and do not let me see my wretchedness!"
16 So the LORD said to Moses: "Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
Numbers 11:21-25 (NKJV)21 And Moses said, "The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, 'I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.'22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?"23 And the LORD said to Moses, "Has the LORD'S arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not."24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle.
25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
He didn’t win every argument with God because as we know he couldn’t convince God to let him go into Canaan
What did Moses do that warranted such a severe penalty from the Lord? First, Moses disobeyed a direct command from God. God had commanded Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff. Second, Moses took the credit for bringing forth the water. Notice how in verse 10 Moses said, "must we (referring to Moses and Aaron) bring you water out of this rock." Moses took credit for the miracle himself, instead of attributing it to God. Third, Moses did this in front of all the Israelites. Such a public example of direct disobedience could not go unpunished. Moses’ punishment was that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12).
Numbers 20:7-12 (NKJV)7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,8 "Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals."9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, "Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?"11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
What about Job?
He really questioned prayer.
Job 21:15 (NKJV)15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?'
In the end it wasn’t Job that God came down on it was His friends who didn’t confront God but thought they knew Him.
Job 42:7-9 (NKJV)7 And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD commanded them; for the LORD had accepted Job.
There are countless examples in Psalms of the psalmist complaing. The one Philip uses is Psalm
Psalm 69:1-3 (NKJV)1 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.2 I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me.3 I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Like Moses Isaiah was reluctant to accept the task that God wanted him to do.
Isaiah 6:5 (NKJV)5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
Jeremiah was another example of somebody giving excuses and complaining.
Jeremiah 1:6-9 (NKJV)6 Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth."7 But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.8 Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD.9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
Jeremiah 4:10 (NKJV)10 Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Surely You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, Saying, 'You shall have peace,' Whereas the sword reaches to the heart."
The Famous Bible Wrestling Match
Then there was the famous wrestling match between Jacob and an angel. It was apparently and all night contest.
Genesis 32:22-29 (NKJV)22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"27 So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob."28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray." And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there.
That match resulted in Jacob being given a new name “God-wrestler”
The word Israel can be translated he who striveth with God, or God striveth, or he who persevereth"; or, it may be associated with the word śar, "prince." The "man" declared: Thou hast striven with God... and hast prevailed. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
Then there’s Jesus struggle in the Garden which is appropriate today since it’s Easter.
Matthew 26:36-42 (NKJV)36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there."37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.38 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."40 Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."
The agony of soul he experienced is depicted by sorrowful, sore troubled (av, very heavy), exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. The key to understanding Christ's agony lies in identifying the cup. Although any normal human being would shrink from the horrors of crucifixion, martyrs have often faced cruel death without such extreme distress. Nor can we adopt the view that Christ feared premature death at the hands of Satan, for the cup came from the Father, not from Satan
The most satisfying explanation of the cup refers it to the divine wrath which Christ would incur at the cross as he became man's sin-bearer. This experience during which God for a time was separated from his Son, gave rise to the awful cry of Mt 27:46 (And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?")
If one man's sin can cause him bitter grief when he feels the estrangement of God, how incomparable must have been the anguish of Jesus, who knew what it meant to assume the guilt of all men. From beginning to end, Christ's prayer was perfectly submissive to the Father. And the prayer was answered, not by removal of the cup, but by strength to drink, and ultimately by resurrection "out of death". - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.
These examples show that God invites argument and struggle, and that it appears that He often yields especially when you call on God’s mercy. Bishop Trenchan Anglican archbishop and poet.) : Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance it is laying hold of His highest willingness
Does God Ever Change His Mind
People often ask whether prayer can change God’s mind. If God has determined something do you really think that He is going to change His mind? If you know that God has not answered a request do you really think you can talk Him into doing it without you doing something different? If when you change or make a different choice, and the prayer is answered it proves my point that you have made a different choice. God has not changed His mind you are the one that has changed and come into God’s will for you. God knows everything, and He has known it forever. He’s known the end from the beginning. He never changes and never changes His mind.
Isaiah 46:10 (NKJV) Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'
Let’s end with the end of chapter 7 in our book
The chaplain asked the patient, “What do you think is the opposite of love?” The man replied, “Hate”. Very wisely, the chaplain replied, “No, the opposite of love is indifference. You have not been indifferent to God, or you would never have spent the night talking to him, honestly telling him what was in your heart and mind. Do you know the Christian word that describes what you have been doing? The word is ‘prayer.’ You have spent the night praying.”