Sunday, February 4, 2024

Powerful Prayers: Praying the Scriptures & Delighting in God's Presence

"James Duncan, preaching with great unction and power, was asked what was the secret of such powerful preaching. "The secret," he said, was "thirteen hours of consecutive prayer."
When asked the secret of his spiritual power, Charles Spurgeon said: "Knee work! Knee work!"

Charles Finney, after spending a day in the woods in prayer and fasting, preached that night in a phenomenally irreligious congregation. The sermon was accompanied by such divine power that the whole congregation, except one man, fell
prostrate upon the floor, and voiced their agony under conviction of sin, in such loud outcries that the preacher was forced to stop." 
-Christ Life Newsletter.

Imagine if every person in the world prayed an hour a day! The entire world would change. Imagine if every person in this city prayed a half hour a day. The crime would drop to 0. Imagine if every person in the world knew God’s love. The whole world would be filled with peace.

But fear not my friends, it may seem overwhelming, to pray for an hour or a half hour. You can pray for a few minutes, and start there. Because God is near. And he hears our prayers. He answers in mighty ways too.

God is here right now. He is among us. And he is working. The kingdom of God is here.

"Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” -Luke 17:20-21

Understand that God lives within you. We know that for certain. We know Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to live within us. That’s not a theory. It’s a fact. It’s a present reality for every Christian.

So when you look for God’s presence recognize yes God is all around you, but he is also within you.

When we pray we should pray like Jesus did, looking toward heaven, but we can also know God is around us, and within us.

God is not far off. He is here. He is with us.

Today we’re going to consider two types of prayer that Jeanne Guyon discusses in the first three chapters of her book “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ.”

The first is the practice of praying the scriptures. The second is the prayer of silence.

"Speak to Him then, for He hears,
And spirit with spirit can meet;
Closer is He than breathing,
And nearer than hands or feet."
-Alfred Lord Tennyson.

One way we speak to God is through praying His word. How powerful don’t you think? To quote God’s own words back to Him?

God’s words are written in gold, they are written across the universe itself, they are not of human origin, they are divine. So when we speak them, we are speaking a grand mystery beyond our understanding. Praying those timeless words, has great effect.

One of the most common scriptures to pray is Psalm 23. I encourage you to keep Psalm 23 in your back pocket as a prayer to God…

Try it like this…

Lord, you are my shepherd, I have everything I need.
You make me rest in green pastures,
You lead me, beside quiet waters,
You refresh my soul
You guide me along the right paths, for your name’s sake
Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil
For you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Amen (Psalm 23)

Sometimes it’s just praying a proverb, Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” And we pray, Lord I trust you with all my heart, I don’t lean on what I know, I submit to you in all my ways, and you make my path straight, in Jesus name, amen.”

Sometimes it’s praying a promise of God, John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The prayer then is, “Lord you gave me your peace, so I receive your peace, I am not troubled, and I am not afraid, in Jesus name, amen.”

Do you see how powerful praying the scriptures can be? Quoting God’s word back to Him is an effective prayer that can change the world in moments.

Second, we consider the prayer of silence. Here we find some specific biblical instructions from Madam Guyon. She says…

“As you come, come with a deep sense of love; come to Him very gently; come to Him with a deep sense of worship. As you come to Him, humbly acknowledge that He is everything. Confess to Him that you are nothing.” -p.16

A lot of what we do in prayer is simply engaging with God our Father in our emotions. And that’s OK. We want to love God and be loved by God, that happens in the heart.

Our hearts will overflow more and more with God’s love as we train ourselves to come to Him in prayer humbly.

Next Guyon says… “You need only believe that God dwells in you. This belief, and this belief alone, will bring you into His holy presence. Do not allow your mind to wander about but hold it in submission as much as possible. 

Once you are in the Lord's presence, be still and quiet before Him. And now, there in His presence, simply begin to repeat the Lord's Prayer. Begin with the word, "Father." As you do, let the full meaning of that word deeply touch your heart. Believe that the God who lives inside you is indeed so willing to be your Father. Pour out your heart to Him as a little child pours out his heart to his father. Never doubt your Lord's deep love for you. Never doubt His desire to hear you. Call on His name and remain before Him silently for a little while. Remain there, waiting to have His heart made known to you.” -p.17

Pour out your heart to God. Tell him about your day. Tell him what is frustrating you. Tell him why you are upset. Tell him why you are happy. Talk to him as your trusted Father who loves you. Really believe God does actually love you.

Pause after a little while, after pouring it all out, just wait, and pause, and be silent in God’s presence. This may seem awkward at first. Just embrace it. Allow it to be.

As Madam Guyon says begin praying the Lord’s prayer, but pray it very slowly. Think about the words you’re saying very closely.

When you say, “Father” to God think about it for a moment, wow, God is my father. “Who is In heaven” that’s where God dwells. “Holy is your name.” God is perfect. "Your Kingdom come, your will be done." And long in your heart that God’s kingdom would fully come in this city. See how you slowly reflect on the words and they go from mere words, to your heart cry to God. And now it’s a prayer of power. Because it’s coming from the heart. That doesn’t happen naturally, we have to train ourselves to let it go from mind to heart.

Madam Guyon next says, “ At some point in this encounter with your Lord, you will feel deep within your spirit that it is time to simply remain silent before Him. When you have such a sense, do not move on to the next word—not as long as this sense continues with you. You see, it is the Lord Himself who is holding you to silence. When that sense of waiting before Him has passed, go on again to the next words of the Lord's Prayer.” -p.17

Simply allow, at different moments in your prayer time, for God to command you to be silent. Then you be silent before Him.

But I’ve also found that at the end of my prayer time, when I’ve spoken everything I wanted to speak to God, God will inspire me to be silent. And in that silence I begin to simply enjoy God’s presence around me.

Some Christians call this practice enjoying God. Others call it the discipline of silence. Others call it God’s presence. Pentecostals call it “soaking.” But for me I simply think of it as “delighting in God’s presence.”

As it says in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

At some point in this time of prayer, worship, and eventual silence, God’s presence moves in, and we delight in Him. You can tell when this happens in prayer. Because at the beginning of the prayer time it may feel like a chore, but by the end, you find you don’t want to leave, because God is there.

So in conclusion, remember these two styles of prayer, and you can very easily combine them as well. In the early time of your prayer, pray the scriptures, the slowly move toward silence, and then delighting in God’s presence.

In Review, remember the five basic concepts we talked about…

1. Praying the Scriptures as Requests – asking for something through God’s word

2. Praying the Scriptures as Promises – prayer as reciting faithful statements of what God has promised

3. Praying the Lord’s Prayer (slowly) – praying this prayer to go from mind to heart in prayer

4. Prayer of Silence (listening) – being silent before God, listening to what he is saying, waiting on God in prayer time

5. Prayer of Delighting God (enjoying) – as God’s presence takes over, delight and enjoy God’s presence