Tapping into the Power Source - Acts 2; Acts 4 - Skip Heitzig
Spirit Hacks. Tips and tools for mastering your spiritual life. Acts, Chapter 2 and Chapter 4, get a marker ready for that. Martin Luther said, "To be a Christian without prayer is more possible--" excuse me-- "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing."
Hudson Taylor, a great missionary to China, said, "It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone." EM Bounds, who wrote so many great books on prayer, said, "God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world, the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil." And finally, Billy Graham said, "To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees."
When I hear sayings like this, I resonate with them, I agree with them, I say amen to them, but I got to be honest with you, they don't always make me feel great. They often make me feel guilty.
And I've discovered that when you mentioned prayer, there are people when they hear, we're going to talk about prayer, they have one of two reactions. I'm speaking here generally now. One reaction is boredom. The other reaction-- anxiety. Guilt. Let me explain.
You say, hey, we're going to talk about prayer. They go, oh man, that's such a boring topic. And that's because probably they have heard-- I bet we have all heard-- people pray in monotone voices, droning on and on and mentioning everything and everyone, and you're hearing-- they're going, put an amen on it and stop. I get it. They're not praying to us, they're praying to God, that's their prerogative. But if you're a part of a prayer meeting like that, you have felt that or thought that.
The other feeling many get when it comes to prayer, probably most often, is anxiety. Guilt. Oh man, I'm so bad at praying. I don't do it good enough. I don't pray long enough. And so they get frustrated. Well I want you to know, you're not alone if you feel that. You need to know that some of the greatest prayer warriors in history felt exactly the same way.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Great German pastor. God used him, he was executed in World War II. Admitted that his prayer experience was something he was ashamed of. Well that doesn't make me feel great, it makes me feel really guilty. Because he had a pretty awesome prayer life. Martin Luther, founder of the Reformation whom I just quoted, anguished in prayer sometimes three hours a day. I don't do that. Three hours a day. And he walked away feeling unsatisfied. And I've discovered that many people who labor in prayer walk away from their labors feeling disappointed and frustrated.
And so I wonder-- maybe we've done that, not God. Maybe, just maybe prayer was meant to be a joyous, life-giving, delightful experience. Maybe we've turned it into-- we've forced it into a hard, painful, guilt-giving experience and exercise that no one can attain to. Maybe not God, maybe we've done that.
In fact, maybe prayer was meant by God to do the exact opposite. Not to produce guilt, but to relieve guilt. Not to rob us of peace, but to leave us in peace. Not to elevate anxiety, but to alleviate anxiety. Perhaps, could it be that prayer was supposed to be a key to joy? I believe that. I believe that.
I don't believe you should walk away from your prayer going, wasn't good enough, wasn't long enough. I think it was meant to alleviate anxiety and produce peace. How do I know that? Because Paul writes in Philippians, Chapter 4-- don't turn to it, I'm going to read it to you, and I'm going to read it to you in the New Living Bible-- I want you to let it just soak in.
He said this-- "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." That's what prayer was meant to do. It was meant to up the game of peace and joy in your heart.
Now if you know anything about prayer in the Bible, you understand that the Bible mentions prayer a lot. If you were to count up the times that pray or prayer or praying are mentioned you would come up with about 370 different times. So it's all over-- smattered throughout the scripture.
But what is New Testament prayer? What are the qualities of prayer? What makes it work? What makes prayer effective? To answer that, I want you to look at Acts, Chapter 2 with me and Acts, Chapter 4-- we're going to actually look at a few different verses in the Book of Acts. Don't worry, we won't go bonkers on it, we'll just look at a few.
But what I want to do is move from general to specific. I want to give you first a description of prayer in the early church, then a depiction of prayer. So we're going to look at principal and then example. In Acts, Chapter 2, we're going to notice the prayer life of the early church generally. In Acts Chapter 4, we're actually going to eavesdrop on a prayer meeting that they have in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts.
Let's begin generally. Let's look at a description of prayer generally. Acts, Chapter 2, Verse 42. A verse we looked at half of last week. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." Now that verse is a list. It's a list of priorities that the early Christian believers maintained, steadfastly observed-- these things were important to them, and the activity of prayer is on that list.
So generally speaking, here's what I want you to see. They prayed regularly. Not sporadically, not when the bottom fell out of their lives, not when 9/11 happened or a stock market crash, they prayed on every occasion, they prayed regularly. In Acts, Chapter 1-- just turn back one page-- Acts, Chapter 1, Verse 14, they're gathering in the upper room.
It says, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication--" that's just intense prayer-- "with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." Go down to Verse 24, they want to replace Judas Iscariot, who's committed suicide, with another apostle. Verse 24. "And they prayed and said, 'You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which of these two You have chosen."
So you've got a picture about 120 of them gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem. This is the church. 120 of them. They're in a room. Jesus is no longer with them, He's gone, He's ascended into Heaven. But they have no manual on how to start a church, no social media-- they have nothing. No charter, no agenda. They're looking at each other going, now what? And the now what is, let's pray. They did it regularly. They would gather together and regularly pray.
Now this reminds me, interestingly, of the way we started as a church. We met in an apartment complex. It grew to about 100 or so. There wasn't much room, and so people were saying, well now what? They came with now what? And I said, I don't know, I've never done this before. I don't know what to do next, but I'll tell you what-- we're meeting on a Thursday night right now, let's meet again on Monday nights, whoever's free, and we're going to have a prayer meeting and basically we're going to say, now what, God? What do we do now? What's the next step? That's how we started-- Bible study and a prayer meeting asking God, now what do we do?
RA Torrey said, "Pray for great things, expect great things, work for great things, but above all, pray." And the early church did exactly that. They prayed regularly. They prayed in Acts 1, they prayed in Acts, Chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost, they prayed in Acts, Chapter 4 when there's persecution.
Go over to Acts, Chapter 6-- I won't keep doing this, I'll just give you that idea-- Acts, Chapter 6, Verse 4, there's a conflict, there's a kind of an issue with priorities. Acts, Chapter 6, Verse 4, the apostles say, "But we apostles will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." So it was something they regularly did.
You all know, perhaps, what it says in 1 Thessalonians. It says, pray without what? Pray without ceasing. Have you ever read that and said, how can I do that? How do you pray without seizing I mean you walk around all day mumbling. I'm praying-- [MUMBLING] hey Skip! [MUMBLING] don't talk to me, I'm praying-- [MUMBLING] I can't stop. That I have to pray without ceasing.
Well that's stupid, you can't do that. You've got to sleep. You're not going to pray while you're sleeping. You have to eat food, you can't-- [MUMBLING] that'd be gross. You have to talk to other people to maintain relationships, you have to work. So what does it mean pray without ceasing?
Well it's talking about something that is constantly recurring, not constantly occurring. You do it regularly, you pray on every occasion. Jesus said, don't pray like the heathen who think that they will be heard by their many words. So the idea of praying without ceasing is to make prayer a regular part of daily life.
And the early church did that. They made prayer a regular part of daily life. They prayed in the beginning, they prayed on Pentecost, they prayed on persecution, they prayed when there was a crisis, they just kept doing that regularly. A second thing to note generally about their prayer experiences is that not only did they pray regularly, they prayed customarily. What do I mean by that?
Well, go back to our anchor verse, to Verse 42. And if your version is like mine, it says they continued steadfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and what? In prayers. The Greek language has an article before prayers. It's "and the prayers." The prayers. [SPEAKING GREEK]-- the prayers. What does that mean?
It refers to a known practice manner of praying. The prayers-- they were Jews. They grew up with certain prayers for certain times during the day. In fact, look at Chapter 3, Verse 1 where it says, "Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer--" the ninth hour, that's 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon. What this tells me is they kept observing what observant Jews did in Jerusalem, and that is going to the temple to pray at 9:00 in the morning, at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the time for the evening sacrifice.
Of course, they had been with Jesus three-and-a-half years. They knew that you don't have to pray in a temple, you can pray anywhere-- shores of Galilee, walking down the road, while you get your donkey serviced or whatever-- you can pray 24/7. Doesn't matter where you pray. But they're in Jerusalem and they also understood traditionally, this is something we acknowledge, that when we're together, we go to the temple and we pray during these times. And they did not see a conflict with that kind of traditional outlook along with just praying anywhere.
It's funny. If you go to Jerusalem today, tour guides love to do this when they take you to the city of Jerusalem. They'll encourage tourists to go down to the Western Wall, the enclosure remains of the temple, and they'll say, pray here. Because though you can pray anywhere in the world and God will hear you, here it's a local call. They kind of pride themselves on-- this is the city that God decided to put His presence and name in. Here it's a local call.
So they went to the temple to make a local call. To keep the hour of prayer. Now this was their custom. Paul, the apostle, would travel all over the world, and where did he first go visit when he went to any town? A synagogue. In fact, it says an Acts 17, "As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue." Why the synagogue? That's where Jews gathered to pray. That's where they gathered to hear the scriptures. He made it a custom.
So they took prayers they learned as kids, infused them with new meaning, or you might say they saw the old prayers through new eyes. They prayed regularly. They prayed the prayers customarily. A third generality I want you to notice, they prayed instinctively. Hey, you know what their first reaction was when something happened? When a problem happened? When an issue happened? When somebody told them news that was a little bit disturbing? You know their first reaction was? Let's pray. Let's pray about it.
Go over to Acts, Chapter 12 for just a moment. Persecution is on the rise in Acts, Chapter 12. Peter is arrested, put in jail. Acts, Chapter 12, Verse 5. "Peter was therefore kept in prison--" watch this-- "but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." Notice their reaction. Their instinctive reaction when there was an issue-- Peter's put in jail, what did they do?
They don't picket. They're not picketing out there, let him go! Let him go! They're not writing letters-- let's have a letter writing campaign to get Caesar and-- they don't do that. They don't file a lawsuit. First thing they do is the most powerful thing to do, and that's talk to God about it. Pray about it.
It's the first thing we should try-- why has it become the last thing we do try? Why has prayer become this-- there's nothing left to do but pray! Really? That's what you've turned it into? A last resort? Like as if to say, well I'm going to work really hard, but if that doesn't work, I guess you got to trust God. Hello!
Corrie ten Boom asked this question-- is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? For the early church it was the steering wheel. They prayed regularly, customarily, instinctively. That's a general description.
Now turn over with me to Acts, Chapter 4. Let's get a little more detail. Let's get a depiction, an example of it. Let's eavesdrop on a prayer meeting. Acts, Chapter 4, they have been arrested, they have been let go, but they have been threatened by the hierarchy-- the government of Jerusalem-- don't preach the gospel anymore in this town, that was the mandate.
So Acts, Chapter 4, Verse 23. "And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said--" now we're hearing their prayer-- "Lord, You are God who made Heaven and Earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who by the mouth of Your servant David had said, why did the nations rage and the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ--" they're quoting Psalm 2. "For truly, against Your holy servant Jesus whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.
Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant to Your servants that with all boldness, they may speak Your word by stretching out Your hand to heal. That signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness."
That's their prayer. What are we to notice specifically about their prayer? Well first of all, it was honest. It was honest. It was a heartfelt, authentic, candid expression. There was nothing pretentious about it. They're dealing with a real life issue. What's the real life issue? They're threatened. They have been arrested. They have been mandated not to do certain things that they know the Lord wants them to do. And so they pray. They're honest.
Somebody once said, "there will always be prayer in public schools as long as there are final exams to take." You can have a law all you want against praying in public school, but when that student sits in that chair, he's going to probably-- or she-- get very honest with God if they have any kind of faith at all.
One of the striking features about the Book of Psalms is the honesty in praying. The Book of Psalms, one Psalm will say, "I drench my bed in tears." I'm crying so much, I'm just making the pillow wet. Another person says, God, You've forsaken me. Where are You? Another prayer, David prays for his enemies and he prays this-- get this. "O Lord, break their teeth in their mouths." Now that's an honest prayer. I remember when I first described that, I go, wow, I gotta underline that, that's in the Bible? That's cool. I want to pray to that, baby. Not that God will answer it, but it's there.
And why do those in the scripture feel that they can pray so honestly with God? Because they know something about God. They know that he is unshockable. First of all, God isn't impressed with your prayers. So why not be honest? God didn't go, wow, he prayed that with a British accent. That's so eloquent-sounding, and the vocabulary that she used? My, I admire that. Are you kidding? So be honest-- they were honest.
A second thing to make note of, it had perspective. This prayer had perspective. Look at Verse 24. Let's muse on that for a moment. "When they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and they said--" now here's their prayer-- "Lord, You are God." Doesn't God already know that? "You're God." Really?
Notice what else. "Who made Heaven, Earth, and the sea and all that is in them." Does God not know what He has done? No-- so why are they praying this? Because it elevates their perspective. They begin their prayer recognizing who they're praying to, that helps their faith. It gives them faith. It's for them, not for God. They're not informing God.
By the way, the word Lord that's used here is a very different word than the typical word for Lord in the New Testament. A lot of you know the word for Lord is the Greek word kurios. You've been around and you know that term, you've heard that term. That's the typical word for Lord. This is not that word. This is the word despota-- despot. If you look it up in the dictionary, it means a tyrant. But that's what the word has become.
Originally the word simply is a word that means absolute ruler or dictator-- in this case, benevolent dictator. So they realized, I'm not talking to Herod, I'm not talking to Caesar, I'm talking to the one who has higher authority than those numbskulls. I'm talking to the autocrat of the universe-- the Lord. The Lord. It's easier to have faith when you pray that way.
Jeremiah prayed that way. He was confronted with a very difficult situation. Jeremiah 32, Verse 17, he says, "O Lord or O sovereign Lord, You have made the Heavens and the Earth by Your great power and outstretched arm, there's nothing too hard for You." When people pray that way, it's because they want a perspective adjustment. And it's just healthy to realize, because we so often carry our limitations over onto God, we have to realize God is big.
Listen to some of our prayer. God, I'm so freaked out. It almost as if-- I don't know if you can handle this one-- this is a big one. This is cancer. A cancer and a cold are the same for God. Not for us, not for your doctor, but for God, one is not harder than the other. But we often carry our limitations over onto God as if God is as weak and limited as we feel.
So it's helpful for me to just get my perspective. Every now and then I just like to realize that I am one-- only one-- of 7.7 billion people on this dirt clod that we call the Earth that is only 8,000 miles in diameter. And the nearest star, the sun, 93 million miles away, is so big that if it were hollow, you could stuff 1,200,000 earths inside of it.
And that's just a little sliver of the Milky Way galaxy-- 10,000 light years wide by 100,000 light years long, and that's only one of billions of other galaxies, and the Bible says, God measures it all by the span of his hand. That's a big dude. That's a big God.
And when I pray this way-- Lord, You are God-- I know you know that, but this is for me now. You made the Heaven, the Earth, the Sea, and everything that is and it elevates my perspective.
Look at Verse 25 just briefly. Verses 25 and 26. They're quoting, as I mentioned, Psalm 2. Why quote scripture to God? Why quote scripture to God? Because Psalm 2 is a messianic psalm, and in doing so, they're saying, You knew about this-- in fact, You predicted this in advance and now it's happening. It didn't take you off-guard.
This is why knowing scripture helps you in your prayers. You gain perspective when you know the promises of the Bible. So here's the tip-- when you're in trouble and you feel overwhelmed by a problem, let your trouble be overwhelmed by an overwhelming God who is overwhelmingly powerful. How do you do that? Find a text of scripture that describes God's power, God's glory, God's majesty, God's control. Place that in front of you, look at it, and now pray. Based on that, now pray. That's what they did. It was honest, it had perspective.
Another thing to notice, it was balanced. This prayer was balanced. What I mean is, they don't immediately jump into personal petition-- prayer requests. They begin with adoration. There are five verses of things like, You're awesome, You made this, You made that, You spoke this, You spoke that, Your holy servant Jesus, Your plan, Your purpose. Then they don't even get to the request till Verse 29.
What does that mean? It means this is respectful. In coming to God, this is respectful. It's an honoring way to pray. It's the way Jesus taught us to pray. He didn't say, and when you pray, say, give us this day our daily bread. He said, when you pray-- you know this-- say, our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Now, give us this day our daily bread.
That's a balanced prayer-- keeps you from being lopsided. Sometimes we treat God like He's an emergency room rather than a loving, Heavenly Father who is to be adored and loved and praised. It was a balanced prayer.
Something else-- it was specific. It was specific. One of the things you notice, it's not vague at all. Look at Verse 29, look how specific. Lord, now look on their threats and grant to Your servants--" that's us-- "that was all boldness, they may speak Your word." Why'd they pray that? Because their boldness got them arrested. Now they're not feeling so bold. They've just been in jail because they were so bold. Now they've been threatened because of the boldness. They're feeling a little timid, so they need some of that back.
"Grant with all boldness they may speak Your word by stretching out Your hand to heal that signs and wonders may be done to the name of Your holy servant Jesus." So a simple prayer, but very, very specific. We need boldness because we're not feeling it right now, and it'd be really cool if you did some miracles to get people's attention. Very, very specific, right?
It's not vague. They don't say, Lord, you know every need, spoken and unspoken. What is that? I don't like people-- I'm praying for an unspoken need-- speak it! Be very specific about it. Well, Lord, I'm just-- I have an unspoken need, bless me. What if you walked into a restaurant and say, I have a general food need.
Bless me. They look and go, what? It'd be very helpful you say, I'd like number three, please, on the menu. Oh, you want bacon and eggs, OK. Not that God needs the information again, but the more specific you are, when it comes to pass, you can go, that's exactly what I prayed for. I think the more specific you are, the more specific the outcome. Again, you're not trying to impress God with your words, it's God you're dealing with. You don't need to lavish--
There's this great story about a Puritan who began his prayer by saying, "oh sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, great, holy, majestic, mighty--" he just kept lathering on these adjectives. There was a very simple lady in the prayer meeting who said, look, just call him Father and ask Him for something. Just be that direct, be very specific.
Finally, the last thing to notice about this prayer, it had results. It works, right? Verse 31, "When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with what?" Boldness. What did they just pray for? Boldness. What'd they get? Boldness.
So God answered their honest, balanced, specific prayer. First with a physical manifestation. The place was shaking, sort of as a sign-- I'm here with you. This is a sign of my presence outwardly, like what happened to Pentecost. Second, a very practical manifestation. They were filled with boldness. They're asking for, fill us with what got us into trouble in the first place-- boldness-- they got it back.
Something I want to draw your attention to. It might throw some of you. This is not a very long prayer. We're examining it and I can make a sermon out of it, but the prayer itself is very short. In fact, I timed it on my iPhone, I put my timer on-- 49 seconds. Prayed out loud. Now maybe I rushed it. Let's say a minute.
It took a minute to pray this prayer, and this was an effective prayer. But you know, sometimes you don't have a whole lot of time. You know, Peter was walking on the water filled with doubt. What happened? He started drowning. He prayed. You know what his prayer was? Three words. "Lord, save me!" That's it. He didn't have time to go, Lord, omniscient, omnipotent, holy, [MUMBLING]-- he'd have been dead.
But he had time to say, "Lord, save me!" And he was saved. It worked. It was answered.
James in the New Testament gives a classic teaching on prayer in James, Chapter 5. And he speaks about Elijah, the prophet in the Old Testament. Sums it up by saying, "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much."
Now he's referring to Elijah. But get this. If you go back and look at the prayer of Elijah-- 1 Kings, Chapter 18, that's the prayer he's referring to-- he's having a contest between the God, the prophet Baal aligned with God, and the false prophets of Baal. It says, "The false prophets of Baal pray to their God--" listen-- "from morning till noon." Let's just say it's a three to four-hour prayer. It's a long prayer. You know what they got out of it? Nothing. Zero. Nothing happened.
Elijah steps up and prays. 63 words, that's it. Fire falls from Heaven and consumes the sacrifice. They're praying four hours they get nothing; he prays 63 words, he gets something; why? Well they prayed to whom? Nobody. It's like calling somebody up and nobody is on the other line. You can talk, my day is going fine, how's your day? You know, I'm wearing this and that. Nobody's listening to you.
You can be sincere talking to nothing and no one. He is talking to the only true living God, 63 words was enough to bring fire down from Heaven. "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." I'm not trying to say you should pray shorter prayers. I think you can work your way up to having meaningful, long conversations with God. But here's my point. The key is not in the length of the prayer, the key is the one to whom you are talking. That's the key.
Max Lucado said, "Our prayers may be awkward, our attempts may be feeble, but since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference." I hope that set your heart at ease. So you don't walk away going, I feel so bad. Why? Well I just prayed. Well shouldn't you feel good? No, I don't do it good enough. It's not long enough. My words aren't cool enough. Stop! It's not about you, it's about the one who goes, talk to me, pray to me.
So prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence. God responds. And just quickly, you'll notice in our little story in Acts 4, there is a connection between assembled together and they prayed and power. They assembled, they prayed, and it was a very powerful encounter.
Great story about a church in New York City. They got a brand new organ-- pipe organs are quite expensive. New pipe organs rely on electricity, not like the old ones. Well, they got this new pipe organ in church, it was the first Sunday. The organist is sitting at the keyboard, presses the first chord-- nothing. No sound. Dead silence. Because the power cord was not plugged in.
A deacon saw the problem and texted the organist to say, as soon as the invocation is over, I'll plug it in. But the text read this-- after the prayer, the power will be on. After the prayer-- invocation-- the power will be on. Now you think about that and you apply that to you. After the prayer, the power will be on. I'm feeling kind of crummy today, but after the prayer, the power will be on. Well I'm feeling really overwhelmed. But after the prayer, the power will be on. But people are treating me and saying-- but after the prayer, the power will be on.
So I'll sum it up in a nutshell by saying, prayer voices our dependence on God and God likes it. That's the Skip Heitzig definition of prayer. It's not as good as Spurgeon or Martin Luther, but God-- a prayer voices our dependence on God and God likes it. That's prayer. God likes it. God likes his kids to be dependent, just like a parent. When a child says, Mommy, Daddy, you think a parent says, you're two years old, get a life. Get a grip. Are you kidding? The parent loves a child voicing dependence, so does your Heavenly Father. It voices your dependence on God and God likes it.
Quick tips, some hacks, how to pray effectively. We'll put him up here-- pray simply. Just be yourself. Be your best self, but be yourself. This to use simple words from your heart, pour it out-- like Spurgeon said, I'll pour it out into the ears of God. Number two, read scripture. Read scripture. Scripture helps you get your bearings, scripture reminds you who you're talking to, it elevates your perspective. The more scripture you know when you pray, the more effectively and faith-filled will be your prayers.
Third, keep a journal. Why? Because you can write requests down, and when they're answered, you can go, wow, I prayed about that on that day. That'll help you in the future. I keep a journal-- I'm not great at it, I don't do it regularly, I'm not like, Mr. Holy always in my prayer journal, but I keep it and I'll pull it out every now and then and I'll often write prayers in it that are near and dear to my heart so that, for this reason, when they're answered, I can say, that's the day that I prayed for that.
Another tip-- pray in real time. Pray in real time. I get people all the time, hey, Skip, would you pray for this? Would you pray for that? If I just say yes, you know what's going to happen? I'm going to walk away and forget I had the conversation. So I like to do this-- let's pray right now, and I'll just pray right there on the spot. Pray in real time.
When you leave the house, men, in the morning and you kiss your wife, pray for her. Right there. Pray for your wife. As you hug your kids goodbye, pray for them. When you're at work, you open the computer, pray for your day at work. As situations come up, you want to regularly on an ongoing thing, instinctively, that's praying without ceasing on every occasion. Pray in real time.
Another tip-- use a template. I guarantee you, almost any New Testament epistle written by Paul, there's a little section at the beginning of that where he prays for the church, and he tells them what he's praying for about. And I find that to be very helpful in my prayer life-- it's a template. Also, let's talk about the template, right? The Lord's Prayer. Jesus said to the disciples, hey, when you pray, do it like this.
And I found that the Lord's Prayer is an excellent skeleton for me to hang my own thoughts and expressions on. So I'll pray something like this. Our father, You're not just God, You're my father. I have a relationship with You because of what Jesus did on the cross. I'm talking to the one that I have a personal relationship with-- my Father who loves me like a child.
And you're my Father in Heaven. You're not on the Earth, you're not limited by what I see, you have unlimited visibility. You're seeing all things from a heavenly perspective. You're my Father in Heaven.
And I want to hallow Your name, I praise You, I glorify You-- I'll think of a few things that come to my mind that I want to praise the Lord for, and I'll use that as a way to hang my own thoughts and expressions and pray with that template.
A couple others they didn't even include in this, but I find it helps when I pray aloud. I'm guessing you may have the same problem I do. If I confine it to my thinking in my mind, I get distracted in five seconds by another thought. And I divert or I check a text or-- it's just-- so if I'm talking out loud like I would talk to you out loud, it helps me to stay on target.
And often I will combine my talking in prayer to my walking. I'll walk around the neighborhood, if you're a neighbor of mine, you're going, oh, I was wondering, I thought you were kind of like losing it. Walking and talking to yourself. No, I'm talking to God, but I find that when I walk and I talk, it just helps me to use that time, an ongoing time to do my business before God.
I want to close with a story. It sort of wraps all this up. Howard Hendricks some years ago told a story about a family in Dallas, Texas that had fallen on very difficult times. Life was hard. They had four kids in the family, and one night at family worship, Timmy, the youngest boy, said, Daddy, do you think Jesus would mind if I asked him for a shirt? That's how bad it was-- couldn't afford a shirt for Timmy.
Dad said, of course not. In fact, let's write it down in our prayer request book. So he wrote down a shirt for Timmy and he added size seven. That's specific, right? Shirt for Timmy, size seven. Every day he prayed for the shirt.
After weeks went by, one Saturday morning, mom received a phone call from a clothier in town, a Christian businessman who said, I just finished our July clearance, and knowing that you have four boys, I thought you might be able to use something. Could you use some boy's shirts? And she's on the phone, she's smiling, she goes, what size? He says, size seven. She says, how many you got? He says, I've got 12.
So that night, they got together for family worship and Timmy says, don't forget to pray for the shirt. And mom says, we don't have to pray, sweetheart. How come? said Timmy. She said, the Lord has answered your prayer. He said, he has?
So she went and got one shirt-- one shirt and put it down on the table. Timmy's eyes grew big like saucers. And then she put 12 down, just one on top of the other until she got to 12. Now, says Hendricks, Timmy thinks God is going into the shirt business.
But he concludes that little story by saying, but there is a little kid in Dallas, Texas named Timmy who believes that there is a God in Heaven who is interested enough provides boys with shirts. Very specific, faith-filled, ongoing prayer, and it brought that result. For some of you, the very first prayer you should pray is not, Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. It's not, Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. But Lord, forgive me of my sins. I believe in Jesus Christ. I want to enter into a relationship with you by faith in Him. I turn from my sin and I turn to you.
That's the first prayer that must be prayed to enter into a relationship with the Father in Heaven. That's how He gets to be your Father in Heaven. And then after the prayer, the power will be on. Let's pray.
Lord, I want to pause because we're talking out into the air. We're not talking to a human being. We're now addressing the God of the universe. The one who was absolute total control and power over everything and everyone. Moreover, He is our Father. He loves us like children who depend on Him for everything.
Thank you, Lord, that we have a window to see how communication with You should be done. Lord, You know the needs of our heart, I pray we would be very honoring in our requests. Very filled-- praise-filled. We'd be very specific and balanced and all the things that the early church had in their prayer to You.
Lord, I pray that we'll walk away from our encounters with You not filled with grief or anxiety or guilt or remorse, but joy and peace, and feeling like we've laid it before You-- we've poured it into Your ears. It's in Your hands, we can walk away unburdened. Knowing that what happens now is what You wanted to happen. Fill us with faith by our perspective, realizing who we're talking to.
And Lord, we long to see then those results, the very things we prayed for. Lord, I pray for anyone here who doesn't know You. That they would just get to know You by an honest, introductory prayer of asking Jesus Christ to cleanse them of their own sin.
You could do that right now right where you're seated. You could say to Him-- and if you don't know Him and you want to know Him, just say this to Him-- Lord, here I am. I'm a sinner. I admit it, you know it. Forgive me. I give you my life. I believe Jesus died on a cross, was raised from the dead, and is alive right now.
I turn from my sin, I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow Him as my Lord and enjoy You as my Father. Cleanse me and now use me for Your purpose in Jesus' name. Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.