SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The Things You Must Pray About Every Day
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Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1588
Pastor Don Horban

Do you ever feel impressed by the duty to pray, but find your mind sluggish and falling behind? Do you ever start praying, only to find feelings of guilt rising because you run out of things to say long before youíve given prayer enough time? Do you ever desire to pray more, but hate the way you find yourself asking God for things you know arenít on the top of His agenda?

All of these problems grow from the same root. Prayer needs to be shaped by the pattern of Godís Word. Prayer needs to be informed by a proper understanding of the way God works. Prayer wonít sustain itself long on impulses. Prayers that spring only from personal emergencies will be few and far between. Letís face it, how many pressing - really life and death - situations do you and I face each day or week?

The Scriptures offer a deeper and richer prayer experience for all of us. There are worlds of devotional discovery that still await many of us. If you believe God acts in our hearts - that He longs to change people - transform their souls to enable them to make righteous decisions and pursue holy goals - then the Scriptures offer instructions for prayers that invite and establish soul changes God alone can make.

Today weíre going to look at seven doorways to prayers that, in your own devotional life, should become the meat and potatoes for your soul - and the soulís of those you love.

1) I MUST PRAY EVERY DAY THAT GOD WILL GROW MY SOULíS INCLINATION TO HIMSELF AND HIS WAYS

I work to remind myself of this the longer I walk with Jesus. I pray about this more and more. The tendency is to think we have all of the will-power we need to keep our hearts passionately stretching after God. We donít.

Hereís the question I ask myself: What makes me think I will still love Jesus one year from today just as I do now? The Bible says the love of many will grow cold. Notice, itís not that they didnít have love for Jesus at one time. And itís not that their love for Him wasnít genuine. Somehow, it wasnít sustained in their hearts. How do I know I wonít be one of those?

While theologians split hairs over these points, I know this much for certain, the inclination toward God, comes from God: Psalm 119:36 - ďIncline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!Ē

Now, David was not a wicked person. But he recognized his own wicked inclinations. He recognized his natural bent toward the material rather than the spiritual. Yet he was still a man after Godís own heart, because he prayed about this. He asked God for the kind of inclinations that would be honoring to Him. He kept a tether on his heart by constantly bringing it to God. He didnít trust himself with his own heart. He trusted God with his heart.

Please understand me. I know the importance of exercising the will in Christian discipleship. I know we donít live our lives driven by mere emotion or feeling. I understand the place of discipline in the things of the soul.

But I also know this. It takes an extremely disciplined person to keep pursuing God unless that person actually desires God. The Christian life is more than mere mechanics. True, God isnít loved unless Heís obeyed. But itís also true in the reverse. God wonít be obeyed for long, unless Heís loved from the heart.

The very first thing I need, every day, is the inclination of my heart toward God - the moving of my love in His direction. Nothing else will happen without this. Where does that inclination toward God come from? It comes from God. We play a role too. We feed and nourish the life God puts in our hearts. But God gives the desire to those who pray for it.

So hereís the question: What are you doing in your prayer life, not only to have your needs met, but to sustain your love for God? Pray every day for God to supernaturally incline your heart toward Himself.

2) I MUST PRAY EVERY DAY FOR UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRUTH OF GODíS WORD

Once my heart desires God and His ways, I need to see what His will is. I need to understand His ways - not just my own ideas and conceptions. My heart needs to grow in attentiveness and digestion of what God says.

I am constantly learning that I need deliverance from my own biases and blind-spots. I need an unprejudiced understanding of Godís ways. Where does this understanding come from? It comes from God: Psalm 119:18 - ďOpen my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.Ē

Or, Psalm 119:169 - ďLet my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word!Ē

Of course, the Psalmist was studying while he was praying. God doesnít give understanding to lazy people. But the interesting thing to notice is this: the psalmist linked his acquisition of understanding to his praying, not just his studying. Thatís the money point.

God alone gives understanding of spiritual truth. Anyone can read the truth. But only God can enlighten the heart with understanding.
So pray every morning that God will help you recognize and understand His truth throughout the day. Pray that you will rightly sift through the bombardment of lies and deceptions that are pumped into your senses by the media of our age. Pray for a knowledge of the truth.

3) I MUST PRAY EVERY DAY THAT MY SOUL WILL VALUE THE POWER, BEAUTY AND GLORY OF THE TRUTH I DISCOVERED IN GODíS WORD

This goes beyond the second step of simply understanding Godís Word. I must constantly pray that my mind will not only read Godís Word and discover interesting facts. I must pray that my heart will see glory in the truths I learn.

But how does a person like me come to savor Godís truth? Where does this kind of enlightenment come from? It comes from God:

Ephesians 1:18 - ď....having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints....Ē

This is such an important prayer, and Iíll tell you why. I need to see more than mere dry, factual truth in Godís Word. It takes more than data for my life and heart to remain engaged in the pursuit of God. James says demons know the truth of Godís Word. But their knowledge doesnít transform them. Their understanding of the truth engages their mind but not their heart.

So I must pray daily that God will help me to perceive glory in His Word. There is a kind of ďseeingĒ - an enlightening of the heart - that goes deeper than what is merely external or intellectual - ďO taste and see that the Lord is good!Ē

Paul is very clear that this is the spiritual sight that is missing in those who are lost - 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 - ďAnd even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.Ē

I canít make that happen all by myself. I can start the process off by humble, regular meditation on Godís Word. But only God can ignite His truth in my heart. ďLord, enlighten my heart!Ē

4) I MUST PRAY EVERYDAY FOR AN UNDIVIDED HEART

Iím aware that my attention can be so scattered. I can long for God to work in some areas of my life, and be anxious to keep Him out of other areas. I can be passionate about following Him on Tuesday, and can be covering up some secret sin by Thursday. We are all spiritually schizophrenic.

Where does a united heart for spiritual pursuit come from? It comes from God: Psalm 86:11 - ďTeach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.Ē

You must pray your way out of a fragmented heart. It takes constant prayer to make my life of one piece - to make my being consistently Godís just as much at its core as on its surface. I know there are other factors involved in this transformation. But surely we can learn from David as he kneels before His Lord, and repeatedly asks for a united heart:

Psalm 86:12 - ďI give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.Ē I can waver between thankfulness and forgetfulness. ďGod make me thankful with all my heart!Ē

Psalm 119:10 - ďWith my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!Ē I can seek God when Iím sick and avoid Him when Iím with the boys after the soccer game. ďGod, help me to seek you with all my heart!Ē

Psalm 119:34 - ďGive me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.Ē This is a huge concept. I want to please God when I sense my marriage is falling apart. I didnít want to obey him when he confronted me with my greed or my unfaithfulness. ďGod, help me to obey you with all my heart!Ē

These are just a few snap-shots from Davidís prayer life. But they reveal a passion for a united heart. Itís what Jesus called seeking His kingdom first - all the time.

5) I MUST PRAY EVERY DAY FOR A DIMINISHING ATTRACTION TO THE WORLD IN MY HEART

The devil wonít take lightly my quest for a heart united around the pursuit of God. His primary task in this present world is to dazzle and distract me from true value and satisfaction in God alone.

Who can take the luster out of the worldís gravitational pull on my heart? God can. I can think of three texts that bear this out:

a) Psalm 119:36 - ďIncline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!Ē Iíve already mentioned this text once in this message. But the part I want to emphasize here is the last phrase - ď... and not to selfish gain.Ē Most of us donít think we could ever be attracted to dishonest gain. We would never rob a bank, or steal someoneís wallet.

But David isnít dealing with the act of theft in this verse. Heís dealing with the temptations that come to his heart. Heís confronting something that is all wrapped up in the attraction and appeal there is in wealth. Thatís his whole point. Long before you steal wealth, you covet wealth.

Itís the desire that destroys. In fact, that desire, if left unchecked, will lead to sin. Thatís what David is dealing with in this prayer. ďLord, turn off the switch of covetousness in my heart to keep me from future sin!Ē

b) Matthew 6:13 - ďAnd lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.Ē Jesus says we should pray about the temptations that would incline us in the wrong direction. He says weíre to pray that we will have power from on high to resist the assaults of the devil.

His strength and power and glory is so great that He will fortify our hearts against the tempting, deceiving, distracting work of the enemy.

c) Psalm 90:14 - ďSatisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.Ē This is the same request with a different emphasis. The Psalmist prays that God will make his heart satisfied in Godís great goodness and lovingkindness. If my heart is satisfied in God I will be less likely to look for satisfaction elsewhere.

Thatís why, youíll notice, the Psalmist makes this prayer every morning. As often as the sun comes up, with equal regularity, Moses prays for satisfaction in God.

6) EVERY DAY I MUST PRAY FOR STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE IN MY PURSUIT OF GOD

Weíve already seen that the love of many will grow cold in the last days. Who can give me durability and perseverance in my walk with the Lord? God can.

Ephesians 3:14-16 - ďFor this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being....Ē

You canít get this kind of strength in any gym or health club. Paul is speaking of inner strength - spiritual power to stand under times of trial or loss or persecution. Life can and will grow dark at times for all of us. What keeps us from losing ground in our souls?

This kind of prayer takes a special kind of wisdom. You have to pray for it when you donít feel the need for it. You actually lay up strength in prayer in advance because you understand you may not have the time or energy to be all you should in prayer when circumstances grow strained and your body gets tired and your emotions are taxed.

So I must learn to pray now for those times when my faith is going to be tried more than I will be able to endure on my own.

7) EVERY DAY I MUST PRAY FOR FRUITFULNESS IN MY INFLUENCE FOR JESUS ON OTHERS

Colossians 1:9-10 - ďAnd so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.Ē

This is a very interesting prayer. I especially find myself drawn to that phrase, ďbearing fruit in every good workĒ (10). I can, with reasonable frequency, do good works. But this request isnít just about doing good works. Itís about being fruitful in doing good works.

My actions, I can usually control. What is out of my reach is the effect of my actions, however good they may be, especially in the lives of those around me.

Every day I need to pray that, beyond my own wisdom, and beyond my own plans and best intentions, God would graciously use my words and actions for the purpose of pointing others to His glory.

Only the Holy Spirit can use my life as a spot-light for the beauty of Jesus. I canít possibly take the time to think through every single word and action, twenty-four hours a day. Life moves too fast for that. But every day, I can pray - must pray - that God will remember, when I forget, to use my life to bear fruit for His eternal kingdom.

So church, lengthen your prayer lists, by all means. But donít just make them longer. Make them deeper. And trace the hand of God in you and through you as you increasingly learn to pray according to the will of God.