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Monday, December 27, 2010

Prayer 101: How to Pray when You Don't Know How

Jesus gave us the greatest example of prayer (Luke 11: 2-4; Matthew 6: 9-13). This is what we call the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew 6: 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Luke 11: 1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from evil.”

If you don’t know how to pray, use this prayer as an example/ template.
1. Say the Lord’s prayer all the way through once, listening as you speak, talking to God like He’s a real person (cause He is).
2. Go through each phrase and make it personal. Be specific; name names.
3. Say the Lord’s prayer all the way through again. Add whatever else is in your heart.
4. Spend at least a few minutes in silence. Listen to/for God. Overtime, you learn to hear/ recognize His voice
5. Before and/or after you pray, read the Bible. A good place to start is the book of John, followed by the book of Proverbs

We talked about this in depth in our Wednesday Bible study. We are studying prayer and the very first lesson dealt with praying the Lord’s prayer.
Consider the points below:

a. Our Father who is in Heaven
- Talk to God like He’s really there, because He really is.
- Start by stating your relationship to Him. Like every good father, God likes to hear his children say, “Daddy, I love you.”

b. Hallowed (holy) be Thy name
- Remember and say that God is holy. You don’t have to use the word “holy.” The point is to acknowledge up front that God is perfect & righteous so He isn’t going to tell you wrong or lie to you or even break His own rules.

c. Thy kingdom come
- “Thy kingdom come” is the first request in the Lord’s prayer. God promises repeatedly that He will establish His kingdom on Earth.
- Before you ask for things for yourself, ask God to fulfill the promises He has made in His Word/ the Bible.
- As you study God’s Word you learn the many promises God has made. Pray these promises. (You don’t have to go through them all.)

d. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
- The 1st request is about God’s stated promises. The 2nd is about His will.
- When you know God’s will, ask for it to happen in this world/ in your life.
- For example, you know that it is God’s desire that people be saved. If you know people who aren’t saved, pray for their salvation.
- You can also pray for big situations/ things that affect the larger Earth. For example, praying for government officials, for missionary work overseas, for social problems, for the military, for needs in a disasters situation.
- The beginning phrases in the Lord’s prayer have you focus on God not on yourself.
- The idea is to make sure you approach God the right way, not in a selfish way. God is not Santa Claus. He is not a genie who grants wishes. He is not a spirit you can control by using the right words or wording. He. Is. God.
- Prayer is a conversation with God Himself. Before you ask anything for yourself you need to be submitted to His will & direction.

e. Give us this day (day by day) our daily bread
- Ask for what you need.
- You have real physical needs. Don’t be afraid to lay them out before God. Ask Him.
- Remember that you‘re needs are not just physical. (Read Job 32: 8.)
- We get stressed and equate our stress with our stuff. The reality often is that we’re stressed about money, health, & relationships because we’re living sinfully in the way we handle our money, health, & relationships.
- Ask for what you need.
- Ask for what your family needs.
- Ask for what your church needs. (not necessarily in that order.)
- Yes, you can ask for wants, too. however, you have to keep in mind whom you’re talking to. don’t ask God to do something/ give something that contradicts who He is.
   o He’s our Father in Heaven: He wont’ give us what will do more harm than good. He sees all from above & knows in advance when we’re trying to hustle.
   o He’s holy: He won’t be an “enabler” for our sin. We can ask for mercy when we get ourselves into trouble. But, God will sometimes let us deal with the bad consequences of our bad decisions because we won’t change any other way.
   o His will is more important than ours: When what we want contradicts what God wants for us, we should submit to God’s will. Why? Because He knows better than we do.—There’s the whole trust in the Lord thing. (Proverbs 3: 5-8)

f. And forgive us our debts/ sins/ trespasses
- Confess your sins, repent, & ask God to forgive you.
- Tell God directly that you’ve been wrong. Tell God specifically how you’ve been wrong.
- Yeah, I mean give Him the list.
- Yeah, I know He knows. Again, He’s our Father. As a father, I know when my kids have messed up, but I still ask, “What did you do?” because I want them to be honest with me.
- Tell God Himself for yourself.
- You can confess to another person, but say you confess all your sins to me.  I am a pastor but I can only forgive you for what you’ve done to me and to mine. I cannot absolve you of the sin debt you owe God. No man on Earth can do that—doesn’t matter what his title is.
- If you cannot/ will not admit where you’re wrong, it means that you don’t really want to do right. If you don’t want to do right, why should God listen to your prayer. Ultimately, God wants you to be holy and in heaven. Your physical/ financial stuff is really secondary.

g. As we forgive everyone who is indebted to us/ As we forgive our debtors
- Here is a fact we don’t deal with. Jesus said in Luke 11 & in Matthew 6 that if we are not willing to forgive people who have done us wrong, then God will not forgive us for the wrong we’ve done.
- … Let that one soak in …
- The grudges you hold are holding you back.
- Forgive them so you can be forgiven. When you pray, speak forgiveness . Name names to God and really genuinely let it go.
- You may have to do this repeatedly, daily over time until you have really forgiven them. You’ll know when you can pray for them with the same enthusiasm you pray for people you like, when you are genuinely happy to hear that good things have happened to them.

h. Lead us not into temptation
- You know the things that tempt you. You know the stuff that’s hardest for you to resist.
- Name those things and ask God to keep you away from them and to keep them away from you.
- Also, note: We should ask God to keep us away from temptation, but sometimes God will choose to allow temptation in our lives. The Holy Spirit personally led Jesus Himself into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted (Mark 1: 9-13).

i. But deliver us from evil/ sin/ the evil one
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God won’t let you be in a temptation that’s too much for you. Everytime you’re tempted, He will give you a way out. Now, we don’t always take the out, but there’ll always be one.
- Even when temptation and trouble come, if you want to be delivered, ask God & He will make a way out for you.
- When you pray, ask for a way out of the sin in your life. God will make a way. Taking the out is up to you.

j. For thine is the kingdom
- Ending your prayer, you acknowledge why you’ve asked all this of God.
- Because God is the ruler of everything. He deserves your submission.

k. And the power
- You ask God because He has the power to make it happen.

l. And the glory
- You pray to God because He is entitled to credit/ glory for all the good things that have, do, & will happen in your life.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


A man walks into work one morning with a bag of donuts in one hand, powdered sugar stains on his shirt, glaze glistening on one corner of his mouth.

As he clocks in, his friend say, “Jimmy, I thought your doctor put you on a diet. Man, you promised that you were going to give up the sweets.”

“Leave me alone, man,” says Jimmy. “I prayed about these donuts.”

“You what?”

“Look,” Jimmy answers, “You know my favorite donut shop is on the way to work. Well, instead of going another way to avoid the donuts, I drove past this morning. As I was passing by I prayed, ‘Lord, I’m going to go around the block, and if You want me to have some donuts, make a space free right in front of the door.’ Well, man, you know how bad parking is downtown; but sure enough after I went around the block the 12th time, there was an empty space right in front of the door.”

Jesus said in Matthew 7: 7, 8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

This applies not only to the good things of God, but to the bad things, too. If we keep asking for what we don’t need, if we keep looking/seeking in places we shouldn’t look, if we persist in knocking on doors for opportunities to do wrong—we will get what we’re after.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 18, the kings of Israel & Judah have decided to go to war against a certain enemy. They’ve already decided, but they ask God for “confirmation.” They consult a string of false prophets who all declare prosperity and favor. The one sincere prophet around at the time is Micaiah. The kings’ messenger pressures Micaiah to say what the kings want to hear (v. 12), and at first he does.

However, the king of Israel replies: (v. 15)“How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”

This reply shows that he knows that “Yes” isn’t the true answer. He already knew that God doesn’t want them to go into this battle.

Micaiah explains: The Lord had actually declared that if the kings go do what they want to do, they are going to lose—badly. But, since they kept asking the question even though they obviously knew the right answer to begin with; God let someone else answer them.

2 Chronicles 18: 18-21…: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left.
And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.
Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’
[The spirit] said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’

Then most commonly denied thing about our sin is that we generally enjoy it. Because we like our sin, but we don’t like thinking of ourselves as sinners, we try to get God to tell us “It’s O.K.”

He won’t.

Because it isn’t.

But we keep asking. Like little children begging for another piece of candy.

“Daddy, can I have it.”


“Can I have it now?”


“Please, what about now?”…

God answers us clearly. We usually know when He answers —just like the king in 2 Chronicles 18 knew that God hadn’t really told Micaiah to prophecy prosperity on their war.

But, if we don’t like the answer, we pretend we didn’t hear/understand & we keep asking. God won’t lie. We won’t listen when God speaks truth, so God sends somebody else to answer us.

Enter the lying spirits.

Jimmy asked God for a parking space at the donut shop. Eleven times, God told Jimmy, “No.” Eleven times God offered Jimmy a chance to get out of there.

The 12th time it wasn’t God who answered. It was a lying spirit.

1 Corinthians 10: 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

At times we really are unsure, confused, overwhelmed and we need to hear from God. If we ask we’ll receive an answer.

You can keep asking/seeking/knocking if you want to. But when the answer changes, when you find the trouble you were looking for, when the door to sin opens to your persistent knock, remember—It ain’t Jesus answering.

When Jimmy finishes his donuts, goes into sugar-shock followed by a diabetic coma, no one should blame God for telling him it was O.K. to go where he went.

God didn’t.

It wasn’t.

If we receive the lie instead of the truth, we place ourselves in the hands of a lying spirit. Spirits speak directly to our spirit, and the lying spirit won’t just lie to you about the initial sin. The lies will continue & spread into more & more corners of your life.

One day, you’ll look up and wonder how in crap you got so far from the path God had shown you, why after all this time you still haven’t accomplished the task for which you were anointed.

You get what you ask for.

Monday, December 20, 2010

CENTERED (A Christmas Sermon)

The prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus was delivered hundreds of years before it happened, and it was delivered to one of the most evil kings in Judah's history. Why? What is the connection and the lesson that links Isaiah chapter 7 and Matthew chapters 1 & 2? It's all about finding your center. Listen & learn. A different kind of Chrismas message from Pastor Anderson T. Graves II, Hall Memorial CME Church:

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The magi (the wise men) visited the young Jesus. But, they went to Jerusalem. Jesus was in Bethlehem. If they were so "wise," why'd they go to the wrong place? The reason adds another layer of meaning to the story of the first ChrIstmas and prompts each of us to ask ourselves the question: What Really Makes a Wise Man Wise?

Friday, December 10, 2010

WHEN GOD IS SO GOOD, IT'S SCARY (A Christmas Message)

Sometimes the calling or blessing we sense from God is more than we bargained for. The people who were part of the drama that was the birth of Jesus dealt with this too. The Lord showed me the connections between the John the Baptist's parents, Mary, Joseph, & even Herod in a new way. Their stories reveal important lessons for us. Listen & learn what happens "When God is so Good, It's Scary."