Sermon: Live the New Life (4)

Today Pastor Choi shares his personal testimony regarding prayer: He shares how God revealed Himself to him in prayer, what are the conditions to answered prayers, and some practical tips to effective prayer life including Prayer Journal.

   Live the New Life (4)

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Live the New Life (4): Prayer                John 15:7, Philippians 4:6-7

  • John 15:7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction:

  • Testimony: My New Year’s Eve prayer in 1975.  I still remember what I prayed to God that night. By then, I have been a Christian for two years.   I was a senior in high school and was about to apply to my dream college.  I was a promising student all through the high school years except the last semester which was very critical: I wasn’t doing well in academic tests.  For instance, my Korean SAT scores didn’t turn out good.  Unlike today where you can take two or three tests and choose the best scores, back then in Korea, it was a one-time deal.  I wasn’t doing well in school tests, either.   Those two poor scores convinced my guidance counselor (also my home room teacher) not to allow me to apply to the best college in Korea.   I was crushed.  The hope to get into my dream college was slipping away from my hands.
  • You see, that’s when your loving mom comes in.  Knowing her son was having a hard time at school with the counselor, she came to my aid.  She went to the counselor and tried to reason with him that her son was well qualified to apply to the best college.  If not, she argued, at least he deserved to give it a try.  Well, he wouldn’t budge.  For about a week in December, a tug of war was going on between the two.  In the meantime, I was frustrated.  So, I decided to go to the Lord in prayer.
  • You see, I learned from the church that we Christians are supposed to pray to God in our hardships, right?  Up until that point, although I prayed every day, like anybody else, I didn’t truly understand what the prayer is all about.  My prayers were more likely lukewarm and nominal, not meaning much, all words that are cut and dried.  Anyway, that night, I walked into the prayer room of my church around 11 o’clock.  It was New Year’s Eve.  Normally, there was a curfew after midnight, but that night was special, so I didn’t have to worry about rushing home before midnight.   So, I prayed to the Lord as follows: “Lord, I am confused and frustrated.  I need to hear your voice right now.  All I care is to know what you want me to do.  Just tell me which college: do you want me to apply to my dream college or the other college my counselor recommends?   I really need to know tonight before I go home.  If you don’t tell me tonight, I won’t believe in you any longer!” How foolish I was to give the Lord such an ultimatum!   I will continue my story later in the sermon, because it is connected to Philippians 4:6-7.
  • This morning, we are going to think about prayer.  If the Word of God is the food to our soul, prayer is the breathing to our soul.  Our soul depends on it.  Without prayer, our soul will perish.  If you think your soul will be fine without prayer, you are gravely mistaken.  When you don’t pray, your soul dies deprived of spiritual breathing.  When you don’t pray, your soul would pant for prayer, like our body would pant for the air if we don’t breathe even for a minute.  Consider all the people of God in the Bible.  Did they pray?  Yes, in fact, every one of them prayed to God:  Abraham did.  So did Moses.  So did King David.  All the prophets did.  Even Jesus did.  God revealed to them and communicated with them in prayer.  He answers those who call upon His name (Ps. 99:6).
  • Let’s listen to what Jesus says about prayer.    First, John 15:7.

John 15:7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • If you abide in me:  Jesus lays out here two conditions to answered prayers.  First, we need to abide in Jesus.  What’s that mean?  It means to remain in Jesus.  Remember, my sermon point in the past few weeks?  The sign of a believer in Christ is to remain in Him.  To remain in Jesus means to be in Him.  To be in Christ means that whatever happened to Christ also happened to you.  When Christ was crucified, so were you.  That means, your old self is dead when Christ was dead.  When Christ resurrected, so did you as a new creation.  Your old boss, that is you, is gone and the new master has come, that is, Christ.  He reigns in you.  You no longer live for your selfish interests.  Rather, you live for Christ to bring glory to His name.  You no longer pursue your selfish desires.  You rather serve Christ and others.  Don’t forget: no prayer based on selfish desires and motives is affirmatively answered.
  • If my words abide in you:  this is the second condition to answered prayers: let Christ’s words abide in you.  This means that when you pray, you must cling to the word of God and to the promise that God has given you.  It will make your prayer life very effective.  What is Christ’s words to prayer?  It is like the nail on the wall to the clothes.  Let’s say you want to hang your coat on the wall, you need something to hang onto such as a nail.  No sane person keeps trying to hang the coat on the flat surface.  It’s the same with prayer.  You pray to God with the backup of God’s promise.  For instance, if I ask for peace in my heart, instead of saying, “Lord, grant me your peace,” I would say, “Lord, you promise that you will give me peace that the world cannot give nor take away from me (John14:27).  You are the author and giver of peace.  So, Lord, please grant me that peace.”  It has a much better chance of being answered.
  • Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you: Christ wants us to expect great things from God in our prayers: ask for whatever you wish.  Wow!   When we seek God’s glory and do what He is pleased with, and when we cling to His promise in the Word, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be answered: E.g. My experience with my brother who was involved in a motor cycle accident.  Serious head injury- blood clot in his brain, a size of tennis ball–doctor told the family, 50-50 chance of survival after surgery–family opted out–in comatose for 15 days–woke up on Day 15, after another two weeks he walked out of hospital on foot without having any surgery.   God gave his life back to me after I asked for a miracle in prayer and fasting.

Philippians 4:6-7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Many of us are familiar with this verse.  In fact, it is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
  • Do not worry about anything: It literally means to stop worrying.  Worries won’t do anything, will they?  Actually, they do one thing.  They keep us awake at night; they keep our prayers from reaching God’s throne room.  They also choke up our prayers. They are the enemy of prayers.   So, stop worrying.
  • But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving:   The key word here is thanksgiving.  We must wrap every prayer with thanksgiving to God.  Thanksgiving is a key to the answered prayers.  Many of us, though, don’t bring thanksgiving in prayers and wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers.  In fact, some of us bring in the opposite of thanksgiving to our prayers: grumbling.  From now on, be sure to bring thanksgiving into your prayers and see how your prayer life changes.  E.g.  A child asks for her favorite candy from her mother.  She wouldn’t start with grumbling.  She would have a far better chance if she starts with words of gratitude.  It works the same way with our heavenly Father.  Wrap your prayers with thanksgiving.
  • On Petitions: be specific.  Don’t ask God for general things: E.g. Lord, give me a good day today.  Lots of people who don’t believe in God have a great day, too.  This kind of prayer is too general.  Here’s another one: Lord, give me good health.  A lot of people who don’t say a prayer enjoy excellent health as well.  Whatever you pray for, be very specific that once answered you cannot deny that it is from God.  E.g. Gideon and the wool test.   E.g.2: Blind men and lepers asked for a specific healing from Jesus: “I want to see, I want to be cleansed.”
  • Peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus: E.g. The second half of my story “New Year’s Eve Prayer.”  Remember I gave God a foolish ultimatum that night?  Well, my prayer time was over and nothing happened.  I didn’t hear anything from God saying either way.  So, I said to God, “All right, then.  This is it.”  And, I went home and had a midnight snack.  While I was eating, the Holy Spirit in me said to me, “My child, everything is going to be all right.”  Then, for the first time in my life, I had a peace overflowing in my heart that surpasses all understanding.  The end result?  My teacher reluctantly allowed me to apply to my dream college.  And, I took another entrance exam and I made it!  Praise God!  Then, one day not long after, I went to the school to thank my teacher for his support.  I saw him working at his desk.  As soon as he saw me, he stood up and literally ran up to me.  He grabbed my hand and said, “Congratulations!  Kyewoon, you saved my face!  Thanks a million!”  Later, I discovered that out of 54 students in his home room who all applied to college at the same time I did, I was the only one who made it into any college.  The others all failed.  Praise God who does things beyond our imaginations!

Action Points:

  • Start your own prayer journal today:  Three columns: first column is for the date when you started your prayer.  Second column is for description of the prayer: what you pray for.  The third column is for the date when your prayer was answered.  E.g. During my first year in college, I kept my prayer journal for six months.  96 entries were all answered (Yes, No, and Wait).  That convinced me that the Lord answers my prayers.  Prayer is real.
  • Never assume that prayer won’t work until you try it.  God wants you to discover the power of prayer by yourself by experimenting with it.
  • Don’t expect that God will always answer your requests immediately.  Sometimes He does.  But, other times, the answer is to wait.  God answers our prayers in His time.
  • Don’t assume that God will always say yes to every request of yours.  Sometimes He says no, like any other loving parent, especially when He knows it would hurt you rather than help you by granting your wishes.
  • Don’t assume that God will say no all the time, either.  He will surprise you with answers beyond your imagination.
  • One thing is for sure: once you experience the power of prayers firsthand, you will never depart from it.  We cannot live without prayer.
  • Start praying today.

 

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