30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
July 30, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and we thank you for honoring us with your time as we present another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, trusting that you had a good week and now are ready to study more of God's Eternal Word. It is my intent this morning to look into the pages of that book that we call the Bible and to determine how it applies to our life today. I hope and pray that you are interested in finding out what God would have you do to be saved when this life is over.
Our study this morning is entitled "The Power of Prayer." First, let me define the terms used. Webster's Dictionary defines "POWER" as: "The possession of sway or controlling influence over others; also, a person or government invested with authority or influence or exercising control." Thus, when one has power, he or she exercises control or influence over something or someone.
The second word we need to define is "PRAYER." Prayer is the expression of an entreaty or a heartfelt desire as we talk to our Heavenly Father. Thus, by combining these two terms together and speaking of the "Power of Prayer," I am saying that when we express the feelings of our heart unto Jehovah, we exert influence over God. Friends, what I am saying then is that our heavenly Father listens to what His children have to say. What a powerful lesson this is. Do we appreciate the power of prayer? To talk to our Heavenly Father with the understanding that He is listening to, yes, even heeding the feelings of our heart. What a potent lesson! What an important lesson! To rest our case solely and completely in the Hands of our merciful Father.
Let us notice some of the many scriptures that tell us that prayer is a privilege. I shall not exhaust what God's Word says about prayer, but here are some of the scriptures. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8)."Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:19). "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13, 14). "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14).
You will note in this last passage just quoted that prayers are qualified by the phrase, "according to his will." That simply means that our prayers must agree with the will of the Heavenly Father. I cannot ask of Him something that is unlawful or not permitted. But, I shall have more to say on this later in our study. Our point just here is that God's child has the exalted privilege of talking to our Father with the understanding that He is listening; that we exercise some influence over Him. And these are but a few of the many passages which teach the need and the privilege of prayer.
Please turn now to the book of James, chapter 5, verses 16-18. The inspired writer states,"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit." This is an account of an incident which is recorded in 1 Kings, chapters 17 and 18, of the Old Testament. You will note that James says that Elijah was a man of like passions with us. Elijah was man just like me, he was in the flesh, just like all of us. Elijah had the same problems that you and I have; he lived in the flesh with all of its difficulties. He ate, he breathed, he walked, he talked, he suffered, he rejoiced; he did all of these things just like you do, just like I do; he was a man (that is, of the flesh) just like each one of us. This is a very important point. You see, if Elijah could influence Jehovah, so can we, because we are alike in that we both live in the flesh, as humans.
You will note that Elijah prayed, and it rained not for three years and six months. The reason for the absence of rain was because of the sins of God's people under the wicked King, Ahab. It was a judgment brought upon the people of God because of their sins.
Before we notice the prayer of Elijah for the rain to come, let us look at another incident in these chapters. Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest to see if Baal was truly deity or merely a false god. The challenge was to prepare an altar, put a sacrifice on it, and pray for Baal to consume the sacrifice. Elijah would do the same thing, and pray unto Jehovah. The idea was to see which one was the stronger. The altars were prepared, the sacrifices were made ready. The 450 prophets of Baal cried long and loud, but no answer. You may read of this in 1 Kings 18:23-40. You will note in verse 26 that it says, "But there was no voice, nor any that answered."Baal was a false god, a god of their imagination. Elijah taunts them, "Cry louder, maybe Baal has fallen asleep, maybe he is gone on a trip" (verse 27).
I believe there are many in the world today who need to study this incident. There are many, many, in our world today who seem to think that they have to shout and holler to get God's attention. Why do men and women think they must have some kind of an emotional upheaval in order to get God's attention. My listening audience, one does not have to shout, jump up and down, holler or have some kind of an emotional explosion in order to get Jehovah's attention.
You will notice that after the 450 false prophets failed to get Baal to consume their sacrifice, Elijah offered a simple prayer and Jehovah heard him and consumed his sacrifice. You see, God hears the prayers of His children, prayers offered in faith to a loving Father. In the verses which follow, 1 Kings 18:41-46, Elijah prayed that it might rain. He sent his servant out several times to look toward the sea and see if there was a cloud. Is not that the way that rain comes? We see a cloud and then the rain follows. Rain does not fall from a clear sky. Please note this also: The Old Testament does not mention that the drought and later the rain were the results of Elijah's prayer, yet we know that the Lord did answer his prayer. James tells us so, as we mentioned in James 5:18. Servant, how big is the cloud? The size of a man's hand, a small cloud. If you saw that cloud, would you say that it was going to rain? How would one determine that the Lord sent that cloud? Yet, He did. What we are saying is that God's hand can work in the lives of His people without a miracle being performed. Has God ever worked in your life? How do you know that He did, or that He did not. James says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. And I believe that. Do you? God's children have the exalted privilege of praying to their Father with the assurance that He hears. The answer may be an affirmative answer. It may not be an affirmative answer. It might be a simple "No." It may not be the answer that we desire. But, He knows what is best for us, and will respond accordingly. Often, a father refuses the request of his child, because it is best for the child. A father would not give his child a loaded gun, simply because he asked for it. Likewise, neither will God give us things that may be detrimental to us.
God is still the sovereign King of the universe, He is still on His throne, and prayer is the golden key that opens the door of heaven. I turn now to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 9. In verses 13 through 19 we read of an incident wherein Moses intervened in behalf of the Israelites to spare the nation from destruction. Moses had gone up into the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. While he was gone the people made an image and worshiped it. Jehovah's wrath was vented against them and He told Moses that He would destroy them (verse 14). In the following verses we see Moses pleading for the Israelites. Notice verse 19, "For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also." I do not know how many times Moses had influenced Jehovah, but it does state that Jehovah hearkened unto Moses THAT TIME ALSO. Did Moses have any influence with Jehovah? It certainly seems so, does it not? Moses also prayed for Aaron, and Aaron was spared. Our point here is that Moses had, upon more than one occasion made requests unto His God and Jehovah had listened to him. Just as Elijah, Moses was a man of like passions as we. Moses walked, talked, breathed, suffered and rejoiced just like we walk, talk, and breath. If God heard Moses' prayers, will He not also hear ours? The key to this is that we must be a child of God. We must be in His family. We must be on talking terms with Him. No, we do not have to shout and holler, just a simple prayer is sufficient. His ears are not deaf, He has not gone on a journey; but He ever is watching us and ready to assist.
I now turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 1. We read of a lady named Hannah, a woman who greatly desired a child, but had none. Her prayer is found in verse 11, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head."
The prophet Eli came to her and states, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him" (verse 17). Here, once again, we see and example of the prayer of His children influencing Jehovah. Hannah desired a son. She prayed to Jehovah for a son. Jehovah granted her petition. But note: the child was born in the same way that all other children are born. He was born of a father and a mother. If we had been there, there would be no way of knowing that Jehovah had a hand in the matter. Yet, the prophet tells us that God heard and answered the prayer of Hanna.
Again, what we are saying is that one does not need to expect some kind of a miracle to be able to know that the hand of the Lord was working in our lives.
Turn now to 2 Kings, chapter 20. Here we find that King Hezekiah was sick, even at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him to: "Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live" (verse 1). Continuing now with verse two, let's see what Hezekiah did;"Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. "And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David." (2 Kings 20:2-6).
You will notice here in this text that Hezekiah was told to prepare to die. Hezekiah prayed. The Lord heard and granted his prayer and gave him fifteen more years to live. Has man ever influenced Jehovah? Who would deny that? Indeed, prayer is a powerful instrument, because our God is powerful.
How does God work in the lives of men? How does He answer prayer? When does He answer prayers? I do not know. I have more questions than answers! But, I firmly believe that the child of God by faith can and should pray and God's ear is attuned to his petitions. Our problem is that the mind of man has become so hardened by the commercialism and materialism around us that we have almost reached the conclusion that perhaps God is no longer interested in our prayers. Such is not the case.
Let's consider another illustration now: Suppose that there is an individual in the darkest parts of Africa or some other remote place who has never heard of a telephone. He would laugh at the idea of picking up an instrument and talking to someone across on the other side of town, or the other side of the world. That would be nonsense to think that one could pick up a phone and talk to someone half way around the world. He had never used the phone, doesn't know anything about it. It is sheer folly to think it could be done.
But, put him in our society, put a phone in his hands and show him how to dial the number and instantly he will be able to use the telephone. He does not need to know how it works to use it. He does not need to understand transistors, resistors, diodes, switches, electronic gadgets, and the many things which make up the telephone. In the isolated parts of Africa it was sheer nonsense; but here, the telephone works and is useful.
To those so wrapped up in this world and the materialistic minds of our generation, prayer seems to be nonsense, so senseless; but, to one who has submitted to the Lord and to His Word, prayer is real, important: a necessary ingredient to the one who has a living faith in the Messiah and in the Father above. What are your feelings about prayer? Do you pray? Do you believe in prayer? Are you in God's family with the privilege of talking to the Father?
Please turn now to Matthew, chapter 6. In the model prayer, where Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, He says that we can pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" (verse 11). Can we, and should we pray for our daily bread? The answer is Yes. Does God listen? Again, we answer, Yes. Now, we cannot pray for our daily bread and then sit on the stool of do-nothing and expect bread to show up on our front door each morning.
How do we receive our daily bread? Does not God provide the soil from which wheat is produced? But does not man need to till the soil? Does not God provide the seed for planting? And within that little seed is the ability to reproduce itself and bring forth like kind. But, does not man need to plant the seed in the earth? God provides the seasons, the spring time for planting. But, man must do the harvesting. And from the harvest, bread is provided. Who provided the bread? Someone says, why man provided the bread. But, did not God provide all the necessary ingredients that may used to provide the bread? Of course, He did.
Now I may not plant the seed and cultivate the crop and make the bread, I may not be a farmer. But, I have resources to buy from the farmer and make the bread, or buy the prepared bread. But, the whole process comes about by God's mercy and grace; by God's arrangements. I cannot provide what God has provided. I cannot put life in the seed. I can take what God has given and use it in harmony with His laws and receive what the Lord so graciously provided for me. I need to thank God daily for my daily bread. And so do you.
Look at salvation, it is basically the same as receiving our bread. God has provided Salvation, but I must do my part in accepting His gift. Jehovah has provided us with a wonderful Savior, Christ Jesus. He paid an awful price for my sins, and for yours. He shed His blood on cruel Calvary. That blood was shed for all mankind, but not all mankind shall benefit from that deed, because not all people are willing to accept what Christ has done for them. Though Christ died for all, not all shall be saved. Let us look at the plan of salvation.
There is the Divine side and there is the Human side. Just as there is the Divine side and the human side in receiving bread. On the Divine Side, God by His grace has offered salvation unto all. But, man must hear of this salvation, that is something that man must do. Listen to God. Jehovah has provided the seed needed to be planted in the hearts of men. That seed is the Word of God, Luke 8:11. But, man must accept that seed. That is done by faith in the Word of God. And unless you believe you shall perish. John 8:24, states, "Except you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins." Jehovah provides salvation. Listen to our Lord, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believes not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). But, each one must hear the message, believe it, and be baptized for the remission of their sins in order to accept the salvation provided by the Lord.
Indeed, salvation is a gift from God. Paul makes that very clear in Ephesians 2:8, when the inspired writer states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." So is our daily bread. But, just as we must labor for our bread, so must we become obedient to the commands of the Lord if we would be saved. It is this that lead the apostle Paul to say, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18). And again he states,"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
I am reminded of a statement made by Helen Keller, when she said, "There has been no greater blessing bestowed upon man than the realization that God allows a mother and father to work together with God's Law to reproduce and bring forth a child-- there is the divine element; there is the human element-- working together with God to produce in harmony with God's Divine Law." So it is with the spiritual reproduction of man into the Family of God. There is the Divine element and there is the Human element in salvation. God has provided that which man could not do. He expects man to do what he is able to do. That is what obedience is all about.
Often we hear, "If one has to be baptized in order to be saved, that's doing works for salvation. Oh, no my friends. Baptism is a command of God. Acts 10:48, so states. Baptism is simply obedience to a command of God. It is one part of the human element in the plan of salvation. Must not man hear? Must not man believe? Must not may repent? These are all things which man must do to be saved. So must man be baptized to be saved. It was this that led Peter to say,"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21).
Are you a child of God? Not if you have not by faith, been baptized for the remission of your sins. If you are not in God's family, you do not have the privilege to pray unto God. How in the name of reason and logic, can one expect the Father to listen to our prayer when we will not listen to the commands of the Father. If I expect God to heed my petitions, I must be willing to listen to His word and to obey that Word.
I truly believe in the Power of Prayer. But, I just as truly believe that only God's children are heard by the Father. But, who is the child of God? The one who believes in Christ Jesus as the Son of God and is willing to obey every word spoken by the Lord. Do you believe that the Lord said, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved?" If so, have you done that? If you have not done that, then how can you profess to believe in Him?
May each one have the courage to continue to study about the Power of Prayer and then to practice it. And by all means, ask yourself the question, Have I obeyed every command of the Lord?
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"