Today and the next two Sundays, we are going to take a journey through the Bible, concentrating on three promises. In two weeks, promises of the benefits that will come our way when we obey God. Next week, a promise of a benefit that will come our way when we obey God’s teaching to forgive. Today, promises of the benefits that will come our way when we pray.
For today, the journey will take us to three Bible passages. The first of them is in the Old Testament. Psalm 145. Specifically, the promises are in verses 18 and 19. To set the stage, we will also think about some of the rest of Psalm 145.
Psalm 145 begins with the promise by David, the author of the Psalm, that he would extol God and bless His name. To extol means to praise. To praise enthusiastically. To bless means to praise and worship. Name means everything about the one talked about, in this case God.
David promised to praise and worship God. Everything God had done. Everything God was doing. Everything God was going to do. Everything about God. His love, power, compassion, guidance.
The list could go on forever. And notice the words “every day” and “forever and ever.” Wow. What a promise that was. David had had many good days in his life, including as king, but he had also had some very bad days, including confrontations from other nations and from his own family and from his own sinful nature. David had to have known troubled times would continue to be mixed in with the good days, but he promised that even then, he would praise and worship God.
Will we make the same promise?
David did some more promising. Verse 5 and verse 4. He promised to meditate on God’s majesty and wondrous works. He promised to do that by himself. He also promised to tell of God’s works to other generations, including to those younger than him. How important that is - to teach our children about God so they, too, will learn to love Him and praise Him and worship Him.
Of course, David would not have made those promises unless he deemed God as being worthy of them. What made God worthy?
David wrote - verses 8, 9, and 13 - that God is gracious and merciful. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve, such as God’s love. Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve, such as not being punished for our sins. God shows grace and mercy to those who believe in Him.
God is slow to anger. What a blessing that is.
He is abounding in steadfast love. He will never stop loving.
And God is faithful in all His words. Everything He ever said - everything He says - is true and right.
And there is more that makes God worthy of praise and worship. Verses 14 through 17.
He upholds those who are falling and raises up those who are bowed down.
We have often prayed this way, that when someone or a family is grieving or is going through some other major problem, God will encourage them. It is prayed they will feel themselves being raised up by God.
God gives food. Without Him, we would not have that blessing.
God satisfies desires. Not necessarily worldly, physical desires, but desires that are in tune with God’s will and way.
God is just and He is kind.
God is more than worthy of praise and worship. David makes that point very strongly in Psalm 145. What should be the result? According to verses 18 and 19, we are to pray. Prayer should be part of our praise and our worship. Even prayer is what He deserves.
But remember the theme of this message. The theme of promises related to prayer. Listen. God is near to all who call upon Him. Calling upon God means to pray to Him. God is near. What a wonderful reward. What a promise for those who pray.
In His nearness, God hears their cry - their prayers. And He answers, fulfilling the desires of those who fear Him. Those who respect Him enough to pray. And He saves.
As David continues the Psalm, he very quickly brings up the alternative. The wicked - those who do not follow God - He will destroy. But He will preserve those who love Him. Therefore, David repeated, he would extol and bless - he would praise and worship - God. Everything about God, every day and forever and ever. We are to do those things as well.
What promises are there in Psalm 145 concerning prayer, of which God is worthy? When we pray, God will be near to us. What a comforting promise that is. When we pray, God will hear us and answer us. What an encouraging promise that is.
I am saying this to myself. I need to pray more. Do you as well? Let’s do so, thereby receiving the promises proclaimed in Psalm 145.
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Hebrews 4:14-16. Another passage that explains why God, this time in the form of Jesus, is worthy of our prayers. Another passage that proclaims promises associated with our prayers.
In verse 14, Jesus is described as a great high priest.
In the Jewish faith, the high priest had two very specific responsibilities. He was to bring the voice of God to people, and he was to take people into the presence of God.
That is what the Jewish high priests were to do. However, being human, they were never able to fully and completely achieve either of those responsibilities.
We certainly see the truth of that when we consider what happened around the time of Jesus’ suffering shortly before His crucifixion. The high priest at that time did all he could, including illegally, to keep people away from Jesus - the Son of God - and then to kill the one and only hope for Heaven.
No Jewish high priest ever fully lived up to his title and role, but, states the writer of Hebrews, then came Jesus, who was the great - the true and real - high priest that is needed because He did fulfill both responsibilities.
Concerning bringing the voice of God to people, Jesus could do that because, as it is worded, He passed through Heaven. In fact, He was in Heaven for all eternity until He came to earth 2000 years ago. Being in Heaven, He knew - He still does know - God’s voice. That is what He shared in His teachings during His earthly ministry.
Concerning taking people into the presence of God, He is able to do that because He experienced everything we experience, including the temptations we face. Verse 15. He is able to sympathize with our weakness because in every respect, He was tempted as we are.
Examples of that? The main ones described are when, at the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus was in a wilderness. He had fasted for 40 days and was obviously very hungry when Satan appeared to Him and tempted Him - tested Him - three times.
One time Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread. Another time, Satan tried to talk Jesus into jumping off the top of the Temple. A third time, Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world.
What temptations those three things were. He was tempted to use His power to help Himself. He was tempted to bypass a day-to-day ministry by impressing people by jumping and not getting hurt, though the fall would have been several hundred feet. He was tempted to bypass a ministry of love, which He could have done by being given authority to rule every kingdom of the world any way He wanted.
What temptations those three tests were, all of them in some ways similar to how we might be tempted. How good it is to know Jesus survived all three of the tests. He did so by quoting the Bible to Satan.
There were other temptations Jesus faced all through His ministry. The temptation, for instance, to give in to physical fatigue, or to get angry at those who were slow to learn what He taught, or, on the cross, to call on the angels of Heaven to come rescue Him.
Let me interrupt myself for just a moment. Easter morning, the adult Sunday School class featured many songs of Holy Week and Easter. One of the songs was Ten Thousand Angels Cried. What an interesting thought that song offers. Here is the message of the song.
Stillness filled the Heavens on crucifixion day. Some say it rained, but maybe 10,000 angels cried. They all stood ready to take Jesus from the tree, waiting for the words of His voice to rescue Him. But the words never came. The Savior died of His own choice. It must have looked like rain, but maybe it was tears when 10,000 angels cried.
The point of verses 14 and 15 of Hebrews 4 is this. Jesus was and is again in Heaven, so He knew and knows the voice of God. He came to earth to bring God’s word to us. And Jesus Himself was tempted, so He knows what being tempted feels like. He understands what we face, so He can take our cases to God, even if we fall short of what He did. Even if we are not as successful as Him in withstanding any and all temptations.
Therefore - verse 16 - here is a promise - we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace.
Remember what grace means. It is receiving what is not deserved, which in this case means being close to Jesus. So close He hears and answers our prayers.
More promised rewards when we do pray with confidence. We will receive mercy - Jesus will forgive our sins - and we will find grace, and we will receive help in time of need.Do you have a need? Many of us do, of one kind or another. Maybe your need is testing you in some way. Are you praying about it? The teaching is that you and I ought to be praying. We ought to be praying to Jesus, who knows God’s voice and God’s word, and who understands our requests for help.
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So far, we have talked about promises related to God and to Jesus. That God will be near to us when we pray. That He will hear us and answer us. That Jesus will give us mercy, grace, and help in time of need. That He will give us those things when we pray.
Now Romans 8:26, where we add a promise centered on the Holy Spirit.
Verse 26 of Romans 8. Likewise - as we know that God and Jesus will help us - the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Including being so weak we do not know how to pray or what to pray, or we are not sure how to pray properly.
I would like to include in that description when the need is so immediate we do not have time to pray very long.
A Biblical example of that was one night, when the disciples of Jesus were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. A storm arose. The conditions were dangerous. Who happened by but Jesus, walking on the water.
The first thought of the disciples was that they were seeing a ghost. Jesus dispelled that by telling them to take courage. It was Him who was with them.
The disciple Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water,” which Jesus did, which Peter answered by getting out of the boat, himself walking on the water.
What a fantastic miracle that was. However, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and noticed the conditions around him. That scared him. At that very instant, Peter began to sink.
With the conditions, Peter had no time for a long prayer. He had no time to explain what he thought Jesus should do. So, in a way, he did not know what to pray, except for three words. “Lord, save me!”
That was it. According to Romans 8:26, who took over the prayer from there? The Holy Spirit who, as it is written - this is a promise - the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. How? The Spirit intercedes for us. He does so with sighs too deep for words.
When we cannot express our needs to God and to Jesus, when we do not know the words to say or have the time to say them, the Spirit, who knows our thoughts, intercedes for us. So even the prayers we cannot express will be heard and answered by God and Jesus.
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God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three parts of the Trinity have promises related to prayer. Promises for those who pray.
Again the question. Are we praying? As already mentioned, I need to pray more. Do you need to pray more? Do you suppose we can make it a goal to pray more?
Wonderful rewards are promised when we pray - God’s nearness, God hearing and answering, mercy, grace, and help from Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s intercession - all of which should be a wonderful encouragement for us.
How about two examples of prayer and being rewarded?
George Muller was a Christian preacher, educator, and philanthropist who lived in England in the 1800’s. His ministry included establishing and directing homes for orphans and schools for children, eventually caring for more than 10,000 children in his lifetime.
His ministry of course cost a lot of money. However, he vowed to never ask people for money. Instead, he was determined to rely only on prayer. He stuck to that vow. Whenever funds were low, he and his staff prayed.
Interestingly, when needs were met, he and the staff prayed again. That was critical, but Muller very simply believed God would provide.
For instance, at 6:00 one evening, the need was very great in the orphan houses and day schools. There was absolutely no money for the children’s breakfast the next morning.
What did Muller do? He did not panic. He prayed, doing so with two of his workers. The prayer was for enough money to be given before 8:00 the next morning so milk could be purchased.
The result? As soon as Muller and the two with whom he prayed rose, a letter was delivered. In the envelope was some money. Fifteen minutes later, someone stopped by where Muller was and shared some more money. Money given to that donor by someone who wanted to help the children.
Guess what. The amount in the letter and the donation was enough for the next days’ breakfast. In addition, between the arrival of the letter and the donation, someone else stopped by with the promise of a large gift of money the following week, which would take care of many upcoming breakfasts.
In another instance, it was time for an evening meal. The children with Muller at that time were invited to the table. The only problem was there was no food on the table.
Not to be deterred, Muller led the children in a prayer of thanks for the meal they were about to enjoy.
That prayer did not seem to make any sense, but - you hear it coming - as the prayer ended, there was a knock on the door. I was a baker, who just happened to have - of course, it was not a happenstance, it was an answer to prayer - the baker had a load of fresh bread that needed to be used. Could Muller and the children with him use the bread? Of course they could.
Minutes later, there was another knock on the door. This time it was a milkman. His cart had broken down, right in front of Muller’s orphanage. Something had to be done with the milk. “Would you be able to use it?” the milkman asked. Of course they could. It was another answer to prayer.
We need to make sure prayer is a critical part of what we do. One way to word it is, does prayer saturate the church?
As mentioned, I need to be more saturated in personal prayer. How about you? Let’s pray. The promises for those who do are wonderful.
The closing song is the hymn Teach Me to Pray. We will sing verses 1 through 3. Just the verses, without the chorus. The words of the chorus will be used in the benediction.
Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray;
This is my heart cry, day unto day;
I long to know Thy will and Thy way;
Teach me to pray, Lord, teach me to pray.
Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer,
Here mid earth’s sin and sorrow and care;
Souls lost and dying, souls in despair;
O give me power, power in prayer!
My weakened will, Lord, Thou can renew;
My sinful nature Thou can subdue;
Fill me just now with power anew,
Power to pray and power to do!
God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, we want to live in You. We want You to live in us. We want that relationship individually and as a congregation. We know that can and will be accomplished when we pray. We also know that when we pray, You will bless us abundantly. That is what You promise. Help us to be saturated in prayer. Amen.