Summary: First sermon in series, Reality Prayer - How to Ask So God Will Answer.
[This is the first sermon in the series "REALITY PRAYER, How to Ask So God Will Answer"]
Do you know the difference between passive thinking and active thinking?
We’re thinking passively when we believe things are always happening "to" us.
We’re thinking actively when we believe our actions have some effect on the things that happen in our lives.
Active thinking involves taking personal responsibility for some things in our life. We all have great potential to become active thinkers, but especially if we follow God’s truth.
Being an active thinker rather than a passive one determines whether we will be a "victor" or a "victim" in life. Our problems will either defeat us or develop us depending on whether we are active or passive thinkers.
Which leads to the first principle of reality fasting from our text passage.
WE SHOULD TAKE SOME PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAVING OUR PRAYERS ANSWERED. WE SHOULD BE ACTIVE THINKERS REGARDING OUR PRAYER LIFE.
No, we are not delving into false teaching here. If you paid close attention to the text passage as we read it you began to understand this principle.
It may sound unusual to state the case this way (that we are personally responsible for having our prayers answered) because we know that God is the one who answers prayer. What this principle points out is that we too have some responsibility in having our prayers answered.
We cannot afford to be totally passive in our thinking on this issue. We must become active thinkers when it comes to asking so God will answer.
In Isaiah’s day the people were complaining that their prayer and fasting hadn’t been effective. They were complaining in such a way as to insinuate it was God’s fault! They were thinking passively.
"God, you should be answering our prayers. Haven’t you seen us fasting? Haven’t you seen us going without food to get answers to our prayers? God, it’s not fair. We’re fasting - but you’re not answering!"
We need to stop and take a dose of reality here.
Sure God sees fasting. But He sees a whole lot more!
He sees our exploitation of others. (Verse 3) He sees our quarreling and strife. (Verse 4) He sees our injustice and oppression. (Verse 6) He sees it when we withhold food, clothing and shelter from the poor. (Verse 7)
What a sobering truth.
In her book, "A Closer Walk", Catherine Marshall writes: "One morning last week He gave me an asignment: for one day I was to go on a fast from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.
"For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person. This was especially true at lunch...I listened to the others and kept silent...In our talkative family no one seemed to notice. Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations. But still I didn’t see what this fast on criticism was accomplishing - until mid-afternoon.
"That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it - joy! Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stiffle my own creativity."
The next realization in reality prayer and fasting is this:
OUR IMPROPER ATTITUDES AND ACTIONS OFTEN STAND IN THE WAY OF GOD ANSWERING OUR PRAYERS.
The attitude that we can "earn" answers to our prayers because we have gone through the religious motion of fasting is shallow on our part.
It’s as if we’re saying God should stop and take notice of our super piety.
When we behave this way we have our halos on too tight!
What an insult to God! We believe we can "earn" His blessings by our effort.
Here’s what actually happens when we fast and pray for the right reasons. (Fasting and praying is like every other dimension of worship.)
1. We desire a deeper relationship with God so we choose fasting and prayer as one of the options available to us to accomplish that goal.
2. We disassociate ourselves with other things for a while so we can focus more on God. It’s as if we’re saying, "God, I don’t even care about food right now I want so much to walk in your presence."
3. In so doing we actually do develop a closer walk with God. We begin to "see His face" - which is the way the scriptures depict our relationship when we draw close to God.