The Privilege of Prayer – 2015none • Lynn Munsterman • February 21, 2015 • Ladies Spring Friendship Luncheon
Ladies Spring Fellowship Luncheon
February 21, 2015
I just realized why they invited me; they didn’t have to adjust the mic so you’re ready for me. This
is amazing and it’s something that I’m not used to, so if you don’t mind I’m just going to pretend you’re a bunch of friends out there, this is a friendship luncheon, right? So I’m just talking to a bunch of friends. And there are a lot of them, some of you I know and some of you are already friends and I hope the rest of you I get to know pretty soon. But I do have a table of some family
and among that family is my mother who is watching me, and if you see me kind of wriggling like this it’s because I’m trying to make sure I’m standing up straight. [Laughter] because I heard about that all my life, “Lynn, stand up straight,” and she’s watching today so I want to do that.
But as we talk about friendship we probably experience that friendship comes in all levels. It’s something that we can grow, or, we can forsake (I’m trying to figure out where I am here). It needs to be cultivated with belonging, knowing, participation, sharing verses. Jesus wants believers to be His friend and in John 15 Jesus defines friendship, and I’m going to paraphrase, it’s knowing what He’s about and being about it with Him, obedience, prayer is critical for obedience.
Earlier in John 15 Jesus used the word “abide” to explain this relationship, menō, to dwell, to remain fixed. In fact, He used the illustration of a branch that receives nourishment from the vine ONLY as it remains fixed. Today as I talk I’m going to use the word abiding friends to distinguish what being a friend of God involves as opposed to being a worldly friend. I think this distinction is important as we approach the subject of the privilege of prayer. It’s a subject very dear to me because apart from prayer I really don’t think I would be here today. Over the years I’ve learned that God in His love does not take away every trial, but He does show Himself in His glory; He’ll light the road of any journey.
My most recent journey is here with us today, my little Nathan, my two and a half year old grandson who at six weeks old died for a time unknown, his breathing and his heart stopped but he’s with us again. So he has suffered a lot of damage to his brain and did I mention that I was babysitting when it happened. Apart from prayer, dependence upon the Lord, I couldn’t function. My very first reaction when I lifted his limp little body is a prayer, it was “NO GOD, not this.” that was my very first reaction.
But you know what? As I yelled the Lord was already working because my daughter, Sheryl, drove up, she brought the kids in, she administered CPR to Nathan and in the midst of this she ministered to me. Nathan’s mom with her baby lying there, ministered to me; she said Mom, God knows. I knew He knew, but to hear it from her, that was a gift from God. Then the paramedics did CPR, still nothing. They rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance, they did revive him there but he was life-flighted to downtown. I didn’t know what to pray; I prayed “Help!” I prayed “Please!” I prayed “take me,” I just didn’t want to live any more, I wanted it over. I said “take me instead,” I tried to bargain. But God brought verses to remind me to trust Him with eternity and with every aspect of today, even that day, many of you here have upheld us in prayer.
We’ve had our ups and downs and lately Nathan has had a few more downs than I would like but you know what? God hasn’t removed the trials but He’s given us strength, peace, and even joy, something that I might not have believed if it hadn’t happened to me. I know God in a so much deeper way now, in the midst of it. I don’t know what the days to come hold, but I’m confident that He’s holding them. My prayer is not to a God that serves my every desire; He has a higher purpose and with His help I want to serve His every desire.
I want to be “a living, holy sacrifice acceptable to God,” to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind,” doing His will despite the circumstances. I need His help to do this. I need prayer! He’s fully able to accomplish physical healing, I know that, and I pray for that. But He’s also fully able to sustain us as we humbly call on Him and He works, even this tragedy, for good. I’m learning that. Prayer is my lifeline. So when Miss [not sure of name] asked me to speak for the luncheon, and by the way, we thought the subject should be prayer, what could I say? I covet the prayers of those of you who have been praying for me for this.
But as we get started, let’s go to the Father in prayer. Heavenly Father, glorify Your Word, that Your Word may glorify You. May Your truth penetrate our hearts, and drive us closer to you. Use this time to Your glory, I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
There are many views of prayer as there are of God for God. But there is only one true triune God, eternal creator, sustainer of all and He’s working out His plan, His purpose and His creation. It’s an understanding who God is; it’s a privilege that He has granted His children becomes breathtaking. The privilege of prayer is not defined by us; it’s defined by God’s very being. It’s a privilege that we should pursue. I come to you today, not as one who is there but one that is in progress and I desire to encourage you along the way. For some of you I may seem ahead in this ahead on this promised path and for others of you I’m waving you on from behind, but we’re on this path together and we’re to encourage one another. Prayer is not reserved for perfect people and it’s not just for those of us that are at the end of our rope. It’s not to replace study, fellowship or service, but it is to empower all of those. It’s vital to our Christian walk and it’s vital to the health of the church body. Prayer is communication, a heartfelt conversation as God’s children seek Him.
So I thought maybe we should review this relationship for just a minute. God’s attributes, who He is, are not merely in Him, they are Him. His attributes aren’t something that we determine about Him, they’re distinct essential characteristics that He has revealed of Himself in His Word. They don’t contradict each other; they are true within each other. For instance, in His justice He still has grace and mercy; that’s why He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins. God created the heavens, the earth. He created man special, in His image. He made us spiritual because He’s spirit, and He breathed in man the breath of life. He made us relational, able to commune with God, able to share in some of God’s attributes, but this is important, not all of God’s attributes. Many people will try to tell you that we can be a god, or God, as some form of God. That’s not true, we never have been and we never will be God. But we do get to share in some of His attributes. To the extent that we exhibit His attributes in us we bear His image.
God’s glory is seen in His creation, yet God gave man choice. Adam and Eve, remember the story, they walked in the Garden with God, they communed with Him, they talked, but they were told not to eat of two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life; if they ate they would “surely die.” It wasn’t a suggestion. To reject God’s Word would be to choose a lie. Speaking of lies, do you notice who’s in the Garden, talking to Eve? Satan, the deceiver, the father of life, a fallen angel, created good by God but fallen because he wanted to be a god. He’s in the Garden. Did that escape God’s attention? Did God omniscient and all-knowing God not see that? Satan engaged Eve in conversation; he cast doubt on God, His Word, His purpose and Eve listened, she looked, she lusted after the forbidden. She chose not to consult Adam, the one she was made to help and she ate the forbidden.
Then she offered it to Adam, and he ate. He watched, he heard what she said and he chose to follow Eve’s lead; instead of following God they chose to follow a lie. Have we ever done that, knowingly? Satan did not force them to disobey; God did not force them to obey. They chose.
Who was missing in that conversation? Do you think that all knowing ever present God really was absent, or did they fail to include Him? Are there times we don’t want to pray because we’re focused on our will, unwilling to turn our focus from our will to His? Is it all about us? Adam and Eve, when they ate they experienced evil; they knew it, they felt shame, they ran, they hid, they tried to cover themselves. Sin breaks fellowship. Adam and Eve didn’t want to talk to God. Can you see how this relates to prayer? But God knew… God knew! He knows. He called them out; He shed the blood of an animal to cover their shame, the very first death. Life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood, Hebrews tells us, there is no forgiveness of sin.
Of course, this was a foreshadowing of a price Jesus would pay. It was a price no animal or sinful man could ever pay. It had to be perfect blood, but man couldn’t pay it, only God could. So it had to be God-man, Jesus. Adam and Eve had been told to rule in the garden under God, but instead they chose a lie. They forfeited their rule; they handed it to Satan. It was the role he wanted but it wasn’t the way he wanted it. He would never be sovereign, he would rule under God, and his rule would be temporary, the prince of the power of the air.
Mankind did surely die as a consequence; physical death began, aging, decay in the body, and in creation, spiritual death began. The relationship with God was broken and amongst themselves the blame game started, tension in human relationship. All children now would be born in pain and in sin under Satan’s rule but the walk in the Garden was over.
But wait, that’s not the end; there’s hope! Omnipotent sovereign God was not taken by surprise. He sent them from the Garden, no longer to walk in it, He sent cherubs to guard the garden, to keep man from the tree of life, a choice He removed for their own protection. But amidst the curse we find promise. Listen to this: the seed of Satan would bruise the heel of woman’s seed, bruise, painful but not fatal. But, the seed of woman, Jesus would be born of a woman, would trample the head of the serpent. Now that’s fatal. It sounds vague to us, I know, but Eve and others seemed to understand. As with the birth of children they looked for a coming Savior. Yes, all sin, and we live in a fallen world, but we’re not without hope. God has a plan, a way back to Him, His image in us, His glory. But we still have choice. Believe His promise to send a Savior or reject it.
Hebrews 1 makes it clear that God continues to reveal His promise throughout the Old Testament. But let’s fast forward to the New Testament because we find out that at the appointed time and the appointed place for the appointed purpose, God sent His Son, God in the flesh, God with us. The world saw the radiance of His glory. He lived a perfect life, He taught, suffered, then willingly went to the cross to pay the penalty of sin: sin past, sin present, sin future. The sacrificial lamb was slain but this time it wasn’t a picture, Jesus died paying the sin price. THEN He rose again conquering that death, offering us eternal life, relationship with Him. AND, there’s more, to those who will receive His gift He gives His Holy Spirit. It’s a permanent indwelling with whom every believer is sealed with promise the moment they believe. God offers relationship, life in Him, opportunity to pursue Him, growing our relationship, becoming abiding friends, His image in us for His glory, which of course is our best because that’s what we were created for.
But can you see the situation here? There is choice. Do we pursue that? Do we make choices that help us grow, obey, or do we just sit where we are in that relationship. There may be someone here who hasn’t believed this promise, we’re all eternal adult beings born in sin; that is, we are born spiritually dead, we are separated from God.
But we do have a choice; we don’t have to stay spiritually dead. Jesus offers freely eternal life, eternal relationship with Him. And He’s the only way to God. He says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It’s eternal. It can’t be lost. You know, we’re talking about prayer today; prayer is so awesome but it can’t save you. You have no access to the Father unless you accept His gift, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” But once you do that you’re His child. And He wants you to pray. As a believer take advantage of prayer; pursue abiding friendship. Sanctification is a life-long process, learning to be set apart from sin to God. We want to be set apart from sin to Him. One way to do that, to learn to grow, is to pray. Prayer is a privilege our Triune God grants His children to pursue abiding friendship, purpose from the Father, proficient in the Son, and power in His Spirit.
God created man in His image, an image marred by the fall, but throughout God’s Word we see Him calling us back to His image, His glory seen in us. One of my favorite places to observe this is in John 17 as Jesus, God the Son, prays to God the Father the ideal prayer. He first presents Himself and His desire to be glorified so that the Father might be glorified. So He presents Himself, what He wants to see in Him living righteously is to see the Father’s name manifest in the world. That’s His purpose on earth. There in verses 6-19 He addresses the disciples, the disciples who had received His Word and He says that they might manifest the Father’s name. He is in the Father’s name,  “Sanctify them in truth; Your word is truth.” And then take it to the world.
But what I want us to take away from this chapter today as He addresses the purpose of the church, all who would believe through the Word that was given. And this is what He wants. He says that they may be sanctified, set apart in His Word, which is truth, knowing Him, being in Him, abiding so that the world would see Jesus in them, and believe He, Jesus, was the sent one, the promised Messiah, the one we just talked about in Genesis.
His image seen in them is not going to be an exact representation, but to some degree as we follow Him and abide we represent, we show His glory to the world. We were created for His glory, His children have been given all we need for life and godliness, to partake of His divine nature but we must partake to receive, use what He gave us the moment we believe. We think of His precious and magnificent promises. God knows my situation; He knows your situation; partaking of His divine nature instead of rejecting it is the way to escape the corruption that comes from us.
Remember Eve’s focus? What’s our focus? Is it something we shouldn’t be lusting after or is it Him? He awaits our choice, “abide in Him, He abides in you.” “Draw near to Him, He draws near
to you. Partake of Him and He grants precious and magnificent promises. His divine nature has granted all we need for life and godliness. True…true knowledge of Him, that’s the word epignōsis, it’s an experiential knowledge of Him; it’s getting to know Him. Do we partake? Are we trying to get to know Him? Learning His Word, going to Him in prayer? When Adam and Eve rejected God’s Word they had experiential knowledge of sin but God wants us to taste and see that He is good.
Experience Him, He is faithful and He is true. But speaking of truth His Word is truth, it’s the plumb line. Remember it says “Sanctify them in truth, Your Word is truth.” Prayer is an approach to His Word as well as a response to His Word. It’s a conversation over His Word. You don’t say a conversation, you have one. It’s not rote prayer. It takes time to listen; conversation is a two way thing. No, it’s not audible but it sure seems that way, and believe me, it’s not wishful thinking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to prayer and got hit upside the head with something I didn’t expect to hear, and to be honest, I didn’t want to hear, something that shows something wrong in me. It was always something I needed to hear.
He has given His Word, we have no need for further word; there is no new revelation from God and we’re admonished not to add to it or take away (that happened in the garden). God speaks to us in and through His Word; it’s the standard. So if adjustment needs to be made they need to be made in us, not His Word. He wants us to seek Him and His Word, to seek His wisdom and He says if you don’t understand, ask, James 1:5.
Go to the Father, ask for His wisdom, He wants us to lean on His understanding, not our own. But as in the Garden the world or flesh will try to discount God’s Word. Don’t listen to the lies, the worldly philosophies that try to change it or explain it away. Don’t rationalize. His Word is true, we need it, make it your standard. The Father has a plan with purpose; He’s provided us with all we need to pursue that purpose. Apart from Jesus we have no access, no position. We enter His family through no work of our own; we haven’t earned it. In Him we have relationship, a position of privilege with access to the Father. This relationship can’t be lost, BUT it can be squandered. It can be wasted with choices that reject His truth, not obeying.
Jesus is our example of how to live; He shows us a better way, choosing to sacrifice worldly ways for His ways, changing our focus, looking to Him, His way, taking every thought captive, renewing our mind so as to be transformed to His image instead of being conformed to the world. We can’t do it on our own but He won’t do it without our participation, working it out goes hand in hand with prayer. On the go, wherever we are, in the midst of the trials, in contact with Him, in contact with His Word as well as when we’re home alone in our quiet space, praying to Him in silence.
We pray in Jesus’ name. This is a privilege unique to the church. John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray according to all that He is, His person as well as His purpose, His authority, the Lord of salvation and our position in Jesus gives us authority to approach holy God the Father, covered (remember Adam and Eve covered with the skins), covered by His, Jesus’ righteousness, not our own. Apart from Him we’re unworthy. When the Father sees us come to Him in prayer He sees what Jesus did. And as we come to Him we come to Him with Jesus’ purpose, to do the Father’s will, to be about the Father’s business.
Do you see the unity that’s happening here? The Father and Son with one purpose and we’re supposed to be in that purpose, pursuing that unity, His will, His way, for His glory. And do you see what that equals in that verse? “…your joy may be made full,” John 16:24.
As you look at the verses overhead [John 14:13-14; 15:7-8, 16; 16:24] consider for a minute to try reading these verses by replacing “in My name” or “abide in Me” with “according to the Father’s will.” Is there any question left as to our purpose in prayer? Is it becoming very obvious that with privilege comes responsibility? That responsibility may not be burdensome. The Father loves us so much He sent His Son; He wants to give His children good gifts. Every good and perfect gift is from above. He desires our joy. He wants to give us His peace, take our burdens as we lay them at His feet. He knows true joy, peace, and real good are found in Him. He knows we need Him working in us. We’re told to pray in the Spirit; purpose in the Father, position in the Son, and now power in the Spirit. Both the Father and the Son refer to the Spirit as their Spirit. He’s called the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of light, the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of glorious power, and it goes on.
Remember we said a name represents who we are. That’s who He is. It’s another privilege that’s specific to the church, being able to pray in the Spirit. His Spirit working in us to grow us; our spirit (little “s“) under the leading of His Spirit, the Spirit of truth and power working. The Holy Spirit administers the Father’s plan.
In John 4:23-24 we’re told that God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Truth there, the spirit of truth working in our hearts, applying God’s Word, which is true, to our spirit, little “s”, the Word that’s living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, it’s a light that exposes lies and reveals truth, it reveals His will His way, His Holy Spirit brings it to mind, helps us understand and apply it. You know, there’s no need to call down the Spirit, He’s in us. The question is, choice again, will we listen? Will we give the Spirit control? Remember that Word that’s sharper than any two-edged sword? It’s not only a weapon to defend us; it’s an instrument to do surgery on our hearts. It’s when we pray in the Spirit, choosing to place ourselves under the Spirit’s control that our prayers have power.
Remember Romans 12:1-2, this is the power working in us to renew our minds, transform us. It’s under the control of the Spirit that we’re convicted of sin and empowered to turn away from it. Transformation demands confessing our sins, receiving forgiveness on an ongoing basis because unfortunately we often sin… on an ongoing basis! We should never hang up the phone with the Spirit, we should always be in contact, when it says “pray without ceasing,” that’s because we need to pray without ceasing, not because He needs us, it’s because we need Him.
When we reject the Spirit’s control ignoring Him we grieve Him and our hearts are hardened. That makes it easier not to listen the next time. In time we can become deaf to His leading and on the risk of quenching the Spirit. He will not force Himself on us; we have a choice. Prayer, even when we don’t feel like it, keeps us in contact. We need prayer! “Pray without ceasing!” It’s an ongoing battle but God has equipped us for the battle. Yes, spiritual forces of evil want our allegiance. Satan can’t inhabit believers or take their salvation but he wants to distract them from their purpose, God’s glory.
Prayer, communication with sovereign God, keeps us focused not on the battle but on Him, our position in Him, our purpose. Believers have the armor of God but we must choose to put it on. And we must choose to take time to pray. We must choose to have communication open at all times, without ceasing, not as a last resort but at all times in the Spirit. Praying for each other to pursue His purpose, His glory, not only in us but in the church body, the body of Christ, so that the proclamation of His gospel would go to the world. We are to pray that Jesus might be seen in us, His church.
Now this is a tough one because we are to thank God for every opportunity to show this and sometimes that opportunity comes in really hard things. Can we trust the Lord in really hard things? Can we praise Him when times are really hard? Rejoice in Him, even in the midst of battle, with all its tribulations, His children can have peace and joy. You realize I said “can.” It’s possible but we need to choose to follow that mode. It’s a joy the world doesn’t understand, to be honest, I’m experiencing it but I don’t understand it either. But we do have hope, and that’s a wonderful thing. God is working His will as we look with hope to a future day, a day with our Savior, when we will bear His heavenly image with Him in glory, glorification.
Until then we walk one step, one choice at a time, with the Holy Spirit as our helper. We often quote Romans 8:28, we know that those who love Him and are called to His purpose can be sure that He works all things together for good. But do we pay attention to what it says before that? That the Holy Spirit is interceding when we don’t know how to pray. I am so thankful for that. I had no idea how to pray, but I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit because He can intercede. There are many times I still don’t know how.
We don’t understand His will; we don’t understand or even know what we want; we just want things fixed and we want it fixed NOW. Right? He knows God’s will, the Holy Spirit knows and He knows our weaknesses and He intercedes accordingly.
So pray in the Spirit with confidence, knowing He’s working, that even though we don’t understand and we’re not able, He is. Trust Him, obey Him, take the next step and make the right choice. It’s a comforting thought. And as you pray focus on His will, not that you don’ let your requests be made known to God, just keep them in the context of His will, of His purpose.
Remember Eve, she was going against His purpose, that’s an example of what not to do. Remember how she lusted for the forbidden fruit. There’s a fruit that God wants us to desire, the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5, we get some exciting news there, abiding friendship results in the Spirit bearing His fruit in us. It’s not something we do but something that’s produced as a result of abiding friendship.
The branch that’s fixed in the vine allows the nutrients to flow from the vine to the branch and produce fruit and the fruit is the vine’s glory. The believer sees fruit to the degree that they abide. There is obvious benefit to the church body with this, as we seek unity and we see the Lord and we see the Lord glorified, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, that which is acceptable, which is perfect. This fruit invites the world to desire it, taste and see, the Lord is good.
Prayer in the Spirit pursues abiding friendship, cultivating our hearts to bear His fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.” If I hadn’t been in the habit of prayer when I found little Nathan I could not have survived, even then, as I told you, my prayer was kind of short, but I have a faithful friend who is with me all the time, even when I’m not so faithful. I enjoy my time alone in prayer but I also need an ongoing conversation. I don’t want to leave Him out of any of my choices, although I can’t lie to you because there are people here that know me, I’m often caught doing just that. He is empowers me to walk, He picks me up when I fall, and keeps me going despite the circumstances. My trust is not in prayer; my trust is in a God that calls His children to prayer.
I don’t know all of you, I don’t know what you are going through, but I’m sure there are trials going on out there. Do they seem overwhelming? Are you trying to carry a heavy load on your own? Let me repeat what Sheryl said to me: God knows! [can’t understand word] throne of grace, make your requests known, draw near “and He will draw near to you,” He loves you, He wants you to choose Him. He wants you to experience Him, become an abiding friend.
He wants to save you from an eternity of struggling without hope. You know, I know my mom is here and I want to stand straight in front of her but God is with us all the time. Are we standing straight before Him? Truth is, we are not always; we need Him, but He knows. Pray to Him, go to Him, He empowers us to see beyond the circumstance to the Savior. Be an abiding friend. He’s working His plan.
God is faithful, through whom you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord. Realize your purpose, your position, your power in Him, the privilege of prayer. Thank you.