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PRAYING PART FOUR

5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:5-11

 

            Last time we began our look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer, with an eye towards its meeting our previous analysis of prayer.  We got through two topics last time, 1) Only God (that is the God of the Bible) is worthy of our prayers and 2) we must always acknowledge our humble state when we pray.

            Today we will explore the final two points of Nehemiah’s prayer, 1) His prayer was and our prayer must; be founded upon hope and 2) we must pray with faithful expectation. While at first glance these two may seem similar I hope to show their significant and important differences.

 

1)  Prayers must be founded upon hope  

Verse 8-9   Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

            It may seem obvious but I think it may be helpful if I first define the word “HOPE”.  Hope has come to mean the following:

noun

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

            Note the uncertainty of the matter, it is a feeling and desire

2. Grounds for believing that something good may happen.

            Again uncertainty; it may happen as in "he does see some hope for the future"

 

Now the classic or dare I say biblical definition is quite different. Although considered “Archaic” or out of fashion it is: a sense of trust or confident expectation

 

            You can see the modern translation is one of uncertainty a feeling without foundation as in wishful thinking. The biblical definition conveys conviction. It is in that manner Nehemiah prayed to God.

            Look with me what he prayed;

1) He implores God to remember

2) To remember His promise to the Israelites

3) That even though they had been disobedient and scattered abroad

4) If they repented He was powerful enough to gather them

5) Gather them not just anywhere but in Jerusalem

            Nehemiah points out that God had made certain promises and Nehemiah expected God to honor them. Should we expect anything less? I dare say no, for why pray to God if you do not trust Him to hear your prayers and more importantly be capable of fulfilling them.

            Our hope today is the same as Nehemiah’s. God has promised us just as He did the Israelites. Yet our Hope is founded upon something greater than that of those of Nehemiah’s time, our Hope is still in God but founded upon Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;  I hope you see it is still God where our Hope lies, it is just founded upon Christ and His work at Calvary.   Psalm 130:5 reiterates this: I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

            Our hope stands in stark contrast to that of the wicked (those without Christ):

 

Prov 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish

            Our hope brings joy

Prov 11:7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.

            The unrighteous only hope is death

Prov 11:23 The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath

            Believers desire (hope in) good things the sinner in evil

Prov 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

            Our hope is in a future that cannot be taken away          

 

2)  Pray with faithful expectation

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

 

You need not utterly despair even of those who for the present "turn again and rend you." For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual, when no other method avails. This is prayer. Therefore, whatsoever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, "Ask, and it shall be given you." -- JOHN WESLEY

 

 

Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith. http://www.joelbeeke.org/author/jrbeeke/

            We have discussed many times that one must pray in a manner that honors God and acknowledges His authority and control in all matters. Praying in such a manner that imposes your will upon God, (belief things will always work out as you planned), that just by asking God He will remove all troubles in your life or asking God for proof He is with you, are all recipes for prayer disaster.

            Everyone who prays does so with expectations at some level. These prayers are either founded on Worldly Expectations or Righteous Expectations. Righteous expectations start with:

            1) God’s sovereignty - Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

            2) Obedience - Joshua 1:7-9 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success

            3) Faith - Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

            4) Confidence - 1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

            I like what R.C. Sproul says on the matter:

We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”     Excerpt from Does Prayer Change Things?  by R.C. Sproul

            Let us look back on Nehemiah’s prayer a moment:

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

            By declaring himself and those in Jerusalem God’s redeemed Nehemiah has a righteous expectation of God hearing these prayers of His people.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Humbly but with confidence Nehemiah asks God to look favorably upon his prayer. The end of which is so significant but many miss it.

I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

            Note what Nehemiah asks for, mercy from the King of Persia. Nehemiah did not ask amiss. He pleaded with God to look favorably upon him not by building him up but by changing the heart of his captor. In essence Nehemiah prayed God use this pagan to bring about your will. There was no ego involved here, no vengeance against those who had oppressed God’s people, no self in this at all. Instead Nehemiah prayed for God to bring glory upon himself by using a pagan King to do God’s bidding. That my friend’s is a righteous prayer, it is a God centered prayer. Only with God centered prayers do we have a faithful expectation of being answered.

            I will close by citing part of an article by noted author and Pastor Derek Thomas. He expresses 4 points in the article and I will only quote the final.

How can we ensure that our prayers are God-centered? Consider the following five-step strategy:

1. Remind yourself that there is only one God in the universe, and that you are not Him.

2. Adoration comes first, before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. Worship the Lord in your praying.

3. Read a psalm before you pray, and attempt to emulate what you find: a preoccupation with God in all His multifaceted nature. Find psalms of joy or grief, praise or lament, and note how the psalmist spends time with God, making Him the center of his thoughts and desires.

4. Learn to love God’s names so that saying and repeating them fills you with an inexpressible joy, a reminder of who He is and His covenant faithfulness to you in the gospel of His grace.

5. Learn to “wait” upon the Lord. Watch how the psalmist, “fainting” as he thinks of his own troubles, finds relief by deliberately focusing on the great things God has done:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds (Ps. 77:11–12). http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-centered-prayer/

 

Until next time may God watch over and protect you.

 

In HIS Service

 

The following was preached at Bayside Baptist Church, Bay St Louis MS Sunday 28 Dec 2014

1 Peter 3:10-15

 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:

11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

 

            I have entitled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? I will be focusing in on verse 15 but let us take a running start at it by looking at verses 10-14 briefly.

 

            Peter begins this portion of his epistle by pleading with the brethren to do no evil. To avoid it (v11) to not speak it (v10) in fact we are to seek peace and to do good (v11) always.

 

            I believe the scripture points out two reasons for this directive. The first can be found in verse 12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:…  Now I am a simple man of simple means but this is pretty clear to me. God is watching my every move. If I live a righteous, that is God honoring life, He will also hear my prayers. BUT, in this case the word is more than just a connection between two sentences, it is a clear warning, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Now I do not know about y’all but getting the all-knowing ever present, all powerful God of the universe mad at me is not high in my priority list.

 

            Peter next goes on to say something a little confusing at first. Do you see it?  Let’s look at verses 13 and 14 again:

 

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye:

 

            Maybe it is just me but when I read that I am both encouraged and intimidated. Verse 13 implies that no one can harm the true chosen children of God. Then verse 14 says But and if ye suffer the Greek text suggests a better rendering to be nevertheless when you suffer. Now wait a minute I thought no harm can come to me.

 

            The problem here is my trying to interpret scripture of my own understanding. I read no harm and think physical pain while the text refers to spiritual security. Look at Romans Chapter 8 with me:

 

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

            I hope you can see what both Paul and Peter are speaking of here. Nothing of this earth can separate a child of God from him. Christ said of His sheep (followers, chosen children of God) no one could remove them from His hand.

 

            I want to add a caution here for I believe there is one thing that can come between us and God. That thing would be ourselves. Maybe you have never experienced this, but I have. Gotten to a place where all is going so smooooth, that you think hey I got this and soon forget about God. We alone but barriers between us and God.

 

            Look back at main text in Peter. God is so merciful though that He does not leave it at that. No He tells us in the remainder of verse 14; be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Knowing that we would have times of trouble, trails and suffering God adds words of comfort.  I think the reason for that comfort and the second reason for the directive in verse 10 and 11 lies in verse 15; one of my favorite verses of scripture:

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

            Remember I have titled this sermon Where Does Your Hope Lie? As the New Year fast approaches many of our friends and relatives will be preparing to make a New Year’s resolution in the hopes of changing something about their lives. Folks make these resolutions each year in the hope they can change for the better or find peace and comfort they are sorely lacking.    Ask a group of everyday folks outside Wally World or Lowes where their hope lies and you would get countless different answers. For some it is family, a job, or their “church”. Still others find it in bottles of booze or pills and sadly many would simply answer “hope what Hope”? As Sanctified Born Again believers we do not find any assurance in our own determination, our own will power to make changes in our lives. No we rest on the power of God to both change us. It is the comfort we have in that Hope, that Anticipation that indwells all true believers; a hope, those of the world are blind too. 

 

            I want to break verse 15 down into three tasks that I have labeled Acknowledge, Answer and Attitude.

 

            The first task noted in verse 15 is to Acknowledge or Sanctify God in our hearts. Now this is more than just admitting God exists for even the devil does this. No the Greek word translated Sanctify in the KJV entails so much more. I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this as: But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord

 

            We must confess God as sovereign ruler of the whole universe. Surrendering our all to Him and declaring His son Christ Jesus as Lord and Master of our lives. To do less and call ourselves “Christian” is to live a lie.

 

            This sanctification must not just be verbal; it must be in our hearts. Romans 10:10 tells us that with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. It must be a true deep rooted belief that is evident in both our talk and our walk. We cannot have one without the other.

 

            The next charge in verse 15 is Answer. We are to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you(us). This is the defining task, the crux of the matter if you will. We, who are true believer’s, must be ready always. Not just when we feel good and are having a really blessed day. No in the midst of trials and turmoil, on top of the mountain and in the depths of the valley we must be ready to give an answer or as the ESV translates it always being prepared to make a defense.

 

            The answer is not some theological gem, no, it is simply a reason of the {or for the} hope that is in you (us). If you will allow me to reminisce for a moment, when I first started down the path of Christianity I was attending a church that was always talking about witnessing. My first thought was these people are in court a lot. I mean my only association with witnesses was from Perry Mason TV series. Ok so I soon got over my ignorance and then came the in nervousness. How was I to witness to anyone? I barely knew the bible so surely God would not want me to talk about it our Him?

            Well somewhere along the way I came across this verse and I realized what witnessing (for most of us who are not called as evangelists) really is and what God expects. It is really quite simple. If you love God and He has changed your life. Taken you from HOPELESSNESS to FILLED WITH HOPE that is what you need to share. Being able to quote scripture left and right is all well in good. But people want to hear your story. What has God done for you? Using scripture in a personal manner has a far greater impact on those we share it with.

 

I like how John Calvin put it in his commentary on the verse: But it ought to be noticed, that Peter here does not command us to be prepared to solve any question that may be mooted; for it is not the duty of all to speak on every subject. But it is the general doctrine that is meant, which belongs to the ignorant and the simple. Then Peter had in view no other thing, than that Christians should make it evident to unbelievers that they truly worshipped God, and had a holy and good religion. And in this there is no difficulty, for it would be strange if we could bring nothing to defend our faith when any one made inquiries respecting it. For we ought always to take care that all may know that we fear God, and that we piously and reverently regard his legitimate worship.

           

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown’s Commentary says of a reasonable account. This verse does not impose an obligation to bring forward a learned proof and logical defense of revelation. But as believers deny themselves, crucify the world, and brave persecution, they must be buoyed up by some strong "hope"; men of the world, having no such hope themselves, are moved by curiosity to ask the secret of this hope; the believer must be ready to give an experimental account "how this hope arose in him, what it contains, and on what it rests"

 

Webster’s 1828 dictionary has two definitions of Hope that I find helpful:

 

1. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well-founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises; a scriptural sense.

A well founded scriptural hope is, in our religion, the source of ineffable {overwhelming} happiness.

 

2. To place confidence in; to trust in with confident expectation of good. Ps.43:5 remind us: Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God.

 

            What is it we can bear witness to? It is our hope, the resolve that God is greater than all our problems that His grace and mercy abound. It is in that alone we have indescribable joy and happiness.

 

            The final tasking is Attitude. We must approach life with a proper attitude. For some of us that is really, really hard.  Maybe you can’t relate to this but when my kids were young they would sometimes misbehave. Now I sure none of your children are like that but I remember saying more often that I can count “if you don’t change your attitude I am gonna change your altitude”.

 

            Now God does not threaten us to have the proper attitude (although I know He disciplines us). Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote our testimony must be done with meekness and fear.  This does not mean we are a push over, a door mat for all who wish to stomp on our parade. Nor does it mean we are to force feed our beliefs down others’ throats. The ESV translates it with gentleness and respect. Our attitudes can affect all aspects of our lives; none more so than our witness for Christ. Peter earlier in verse 4 of chapter 3 said this gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight.

 

            Remember the words of Paul :  Philippians 2:15 - That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; We must be that shining light in an otherwise dark world. Why is this so important? Christ tells us in:  Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  If our testimony is damaged by our attitude how is God glorified in that.

 

            In summary why is it that true brethren; love life, refrain from evil, and do good? Because God has given us hope. Not just any hope but a hope like no other. A hope that one cannot find among those of the world for it is only given through Christ Jesus. It is a hope so strong and powerful than believer’s cannot but help share the Good News of what Christ has done for them.

 

            Where is your hope today? Do you have that hope? The Hope that only God can give? Are you a child of God today? It really is a simple matter. There is no special prayer no magic words. You only have to ACCEPT you are a sinner; CONFESS your sinfulness and BELIEVE Christ died for your sins.  The bible says that is all that is needed to inherit the kingdom of God and the glorious hope of eternal life.

 

            In closing I wish to express my desire that the coming year will be full of hope for you and yours.  Christian artists Bill and Gloria Gather summed up and shared their hope in Christ when their son was born in this song:

 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

 

In HIS Service