Summary: Second in the Back to SCHOOL series focusing on Conversation with God (Prayer).
Isaiah 58 is full of some deep things to say about prayer and fasting; a lot of good things that we aren’t going to talk about today. Why? We’re going back to SCHOOL; we want to emphasize the basic teachings or doctrines of our faith. Last week we began with “Salvation;” today we continue with “Conversations with God.” In other words we are going to look at the basics of prayer; hopefully we will discover what prayer is and what it is not!
• Isaiah 58:9 (NIV)
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
• Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ’Here I am.’ (Isaiah 58:9 MsgB)
Isaiah said two things would happen; what are they? Don’t overlook the obvious! First, you will pray. Second God will answer! In other words, WE PRAY GOD LISTENS, and then GOD SPEAKS . . . ARE WE LISTENING?
1. WE PRAY, GOD LISTENS
What is prayer? Put simply prayer is a conversation with God. Prayer is the communication and interaction of the soul with God, not in meditation or contemplation about God, but in direct address to God. Prayer is talking with God.
Because prayer is conversation with God that means it is a two way communication; we speak to God, and God speaks to us. However all to often our prayers are more like a “Tonight Show” monolog, placing an order with a waitress or a laundry list at the dry cleaners. We talk with God and the only response we expect is, “That’s very nice,” or “Would you like anything else with that?”
Genuine prayer flows out of the belief in the personality and character of God, and His ability and willingness to communicate with us. Tell me who God is and I’ll tell you a lot about your prayer life.
o If you believe God is aloof, distant and uninterested in His creation or us, then you are unlikely to pray at all.
o If you believe God is judgmental and angry, then your prayer is going to be filled with fear and with no certainty that God will even listen to you.
o If you believe in God but know little about who He really is, then your likely to only come to God with crisis prayers for help.
o If you believe God is a loving heavenly Father, then you will communicate regularly with Him expressing your love and thanksgiving. You will share your heart with God confident that He cares for you and wants to help in your time of need.
Prayer flows freely out of our knowledge that God is love; He is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (present everywhere, so He is always with you). We pray with confidence because we know that God is in control of everything; nothing is beyond His ability or knowledge. Knowing that God will cause all things to work together for our good enables us to pray with faith in a God who loves us and will do what is best.
Prayer is not a ritual or a duty. God is not interested in repetitive memorized prayers; He turns away from prayers that are not sincere and heartfelt. God is not interested in prayer offered as a show or pretence to impress others.
• Matthew 6:5-8 (NIV)
 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
God is inclined to listen to prayers that are genuine honest and truthful. God just wants you to be real with Him. When you simply come to God with an open heart and tell Him what you need He will respond and help you. Notice: THE FATHER KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED EVEN BEFORE YOU ASK! It is impossible to fool God.
Look how God answered some of the honest cries for help in the Bible:
o Abraham’s servant was given the job to find a wife for his master’s son Isaac. He prayed, and God directed him to Rabekah (Genesis 24:10-20).
o Jacob was going to return to Cana, he had an angry older brother who wanted to get revenge still living there. He prayed, and God softened his brother’s heart renewing peace and friendship with Esau (Genesis 32:24-30; 33:1-4).