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Summary: “Prayer without expectancy is unbelief in disguise” “Our Daily Bread” October 1, 2008 – Matthew 7:11

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Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)

Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ

Sunday, May 1, 2011

by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter

“Praying … Not Preying!” [Part One]

John 16:23-33

A father took his young son to town one day to run some errands. When lunchtime came around they went to their favorite diner. When the waiter brought their food the father said, “Son, let’s have a moment of silent prayer.” Well, the dad got through praying first and so he waited patiently for his son to finish his prayer. After a couple of minutes while their food was getting cold, the boy’s head was still bowed and his hands folded. Finally, when the boy looked up his father asked inquisitively, “What on earth were you praying about all that time?” With the innocence of a small child, the boy replied, “How do I know? It was a silent prayer!”

Yes, prayers, especially through the eyes of a child, speak volumes about how we, too, should pray to our heavenly Father. When Robert Louis Stevenson was a small boy he once said to his mother, “Mommy, you can’t be good without praying.” “Oh? And how do you know that, Robert?” his mother asked. “Because I’ve tried it!” he answered.

This reminds me of the story of the little boy who was sent to his room for misbehaving. A short time later he came back downstairs and said to his mother, “I thought about what I had done and so I prayed to God.” “Well, that’s good!” his mother said. “And did you ask God to help you behave?” “No, but I did ask Him to help you put up with me!”

Yes, all too often when we pray, we have our own agenda; a kind of “wish list”! I tell you the truth my most solemn prayers are when I am silent before God; when I ask God to speak to me first! The scriptures tell us that we are to pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17], but a godly man once said: “We should pray often; use words only if you must!”

In this morning’s passage the apostle John recalls a time shortly before the Lord went up to Jerusalem for the last time. Just as on previous occasions Jesus told His disciples that He must go up to Jerusalem where He would be turned over to the elders and chief priests and that He would have to suffer and die. But that on the third day He would rise again from the dead [Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22-27; John 7:33-34; 14:16-19; 16:16 et al.].

One can only imagine how unsettling this pronouncement would have been for those who had been Jesus’ followers for some three years. But Jesus assured them that His death and resurrection would not only be of benefit to them, but to all who believe in Him. By returning to His heavenly Father, Jesus could then intercede on their behalf, and in His place He would send “the Comforter” … the Holy Spirit [John 16:7].

In this passage we are told not only how to pray, but by what means we should pray. In a word, we should PRAY (spell out the letters) … not PREY (spell out this word)! And because of what Christ has done, is doing and shall do …

THE BELIEVER NOW HAS ACCESSIBILITY (repeat).

John begins verse 23 by quoting Jesus whereupon He said: “In that day…” (a reference to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon the multitudes - Acts 2:1-13; fifty days after His resurrection and ten days following His ascension) you will no longer ask Me anything. I tell you the truth, My Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name.”

In other words, the disciple’s sorrow would soon turn to joy… unspeakable joy! The Day of Pentecost inaugurated not only the Church age, but it also came to represent a new relationship between the believer and God. In John MacArthur’s study Bible he writes this appendage: “Previously people approached God through priests. But after Jesus’ resurrection, the believer could approach God … directly. A new day has dawned and now all believers are themselves priests.”

In Hebrews 10, beginning in verse 19, we read: “Since, therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh.”

Then, too, in verse 27 of this passage Jesus assures us that God the Father loves us because we have loved His Son; and by virtue of our believing that Jesus came from God.

Some thirty-four years ago I attended my first Cursillo; a weekend retreat which proved to be, at least for me, a time when there was to be no retreating. It marked a time in my life when I boldly approached the throne room of God and received untold blessings from on high! No longer did I find myself ensnarled by generational bondage through the sins of my father and my father’s father. In a very real sense I was set free: mentally, emotionally, and spiritually! From this intimate encounter with God, I found Him to be readily accessible in ways I could never have imagined!

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