When We Pray, Who Is Listening?

Examining Scriptures That Teach Us How To Pray To God.

Jeff Taylor
Sep 17, 2023    36m
Join us as we learn how to pray. As we examine scriptures that teach us how God wants us to pray, we learn what kind of relationship God wants with His people. God is our Heavenly Father, and He wants us to have a close, intimate relationship with Him. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey there. Thanks so much for checking out one of our messages here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. And we know there are two great ways you can connect with us. You can visit our website at LBF.church to learn more about all of our ministries and what we believe. And also, you can subscribe to us on YouTube to make sure that you don't miss one of our future videos.

Jeff Taylor: [00:00:22] In 1960 Vince Lombardi said, "Gentlemen, this is a football." Who did he say this to? His team, the Green Bay Packers. Okay. You know, the professional football team who not too, I mean just months earlier, had almost won the Super Bowl. And then he comes out in front of these professional athletes and says, "Gentlemen, this is a football." And I'm sure some of those guys are like, Uh, thanks, Coach. But it was necessary. Through the years, I have had people come to me and say, Jeff, teach me guitar. What do you think my first lesson is? This is a guitar, these are the strings, this is the body, and these are the tuners. Because now I'm sure that what they're actually asking is, teach me how to play the intro to Sweet Home Alabama, right? But first, it's important we understand what we're dealing with because I'm going to have to refer to things, they're going to be things that you have to understand about the guitar in order for this to work. So whether you are a professional athlete who already knows, or you're a beginner and you need to be informed, it is really important for us to come to the foundation of what it is that we're dealing with.

Jeff Taylor: [00:02:01] Now the name of this series is Lord Teach Us to Pray, which actually comes from Mark, the Book of Mark, where the disciples came to Jesus and said, Lord, teach us to pray. So he started by saying, "Our Father in Heaven." Now I'm sure that some of these guys were like, no, no, no, no, no, no, not that, skip ahead a little bit, like, teach us the stuff that's going to be impressive, teach us the big religious words, teach us the stuff that's going to really connect us to God. You know, probably like the things that we saw last week in Matthew 6, where Jesus had to warn them, same conversation, hey, don't babble on and on and on, you know, like pagans. Don't think that a bunch of words are better. Don't think that you can manipulate or coerce God. Fewer words are better. And so he starts off and says, "Our Father in heaven.", and it's 53 words, 53 words to communicate something so vital, something so foundational that communicates so much about drawing us into relationship with God, our Creator, our Heavenly Father.

Jeff Taylor: [00:03:29] And there is power in few words, right? We have other examples of this. The Gettysburg Address, 286 words. The Declaration of Independence is only 1322 words. There is power in few words if we're paying attention, if we're considering what this actually is. Now, when they asked Jesus, teach us to pray, it didn't come in a nine-part lecture series, it didn't come with him trying to address all the social topics of the day and answer all the questions, and it didn't come with a bunch of rules and regulations. The point of it was to communicate the heart of God and how we can be in union with our Heavenly Father.

Jeff Taylor: [00:04:18] Now, just as a reference that there is power in few words, the government regulations on the sale of cabbage, 26,911 words, lots of power there, I'm sure. But there is power in few words. And so they say, Jesus, teach us how to pray, and so he does. Let me just point this out, Jesus teaches them how to pray, not what to pray. So it's not just about recitation, recitation was never meant to replace visitation. We need to understand, so this isn't about going through the motions, it's not about just getting it on our minds and being able to think about it. It is meant to be, this is how we are going to connect with the heart of God, this is how we can be in union with him to understand the heart of our creator. And so when they asked Jesus, teach us to pray. He starts with, "Our Father in heaven." May your name be kept holy.

Jeff Taylor: [00:05:35] Lord God, we come to you right now and we ask you to be here in power that we would understand beyond intellect, but in our souls the power and presence that you invite us into, and that we would receive that, and we'd embrace that. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Jeff Taylor: [00:05:55] A guy named J.W. Tozer said this. "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. So as we start considering how to pray, it's important that we get this right. So thankfully, Jesus starts with that. Who are we praying to? Our Father in Heaven. May your name be kept holy. So let's start there, our Father, intimacy, relationship, personal connection, union, this is what is available to us when we pray, that we can come before God. Now our perception of Dad may be flawed, it's definitely limited, right, based on our own interactions with our earthly fathers. So it's important that we see, he says, our Father in heaven, distinguishing that we're not just talking about comparison to the people around us, but our Father in heaven. And maybe this is something for each of us to consider, that whether your dad was a great dad, or an abusive dad, or an absent dad, our Father in heaven, our Heavenly Father is everything that our dad should have been. Good dad, abusive dad, absent dad, your Heavenly Father was everything that your earthly dad should have been.

Jeff Taylor: [00:07:44] So what do we do with that? Are we willing to trust in a different way? Are we willing to receive healing in a new way? Are we willing to come before God, our Heavenly Father, in a way that brings us into a relationship? And maybe that needs to be a prayer of yours today? Heavenly Father, bring healing to my soul, bring healing to my mind, or my emotions, or my tendency to be afraid or standoffish based on this flawed relationship, no matter how good it was. Do the work in me, God, to draw me close. And for some of you, that is going to be a deep prayer that you can ask for, and you can expect miraculous work to be done. For God to bring that kind of healing because as your Heavenly Father, he's able to. Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept Holy.

Jeff Taylor: [00:08:51] This idea of a holy God is wondrous, and it's really hard for us to wrap our heads around. But here's the reality, we were hardwired to worship God. As you were created in the image of God, you are hardwired to worship God, and that worship can bring us into wonder and awe and relationship with God. When was the last time that you considered how truly big, how truly powerful, how truly impressive, how truly scary, the almighty powerful God can be? So that we can have an accurate understanding of who it is that we're praying to.

Jeff Taylor: [00:09:43] In Exodus, God reveals himself, and names himself, and describes himself. Exodus 34:5, "Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” As big as God's grace and compassion and mercy is, His justice is just as big. And this can be one of those tensions, that we're like, how can a God be all loving and all merciful and all compassionate and powerful and also just? Here's the answer, he's God. And Almighty God should be able to do both those things, and while we feel it as a tension, God is able to be all loving, all gracious, all compassionate, and fully just. In fact, his justice is part of what makes up his love, and his faithfulness, it's because he's just. He is also all loving and all faithful, but it is it is a tension for us. It is something where we go, all right, but...And we often want to, like, separate the two and be like, am I going to the gracious, kind, happy grandpa God with the little Werther's candies, or am I going to the God who's going to lay down the law? Am I going to the God who...You are going to the fully loving, gracious, just, kind, compassionate, almighty God, and we can have confidence in that. And the point of God revealing himself this way is to inspire, it's not to drive us away, it's to inspire awe and a welcome into a relationship, going, this is who you get to have a relationship with.

Jeff Taylor: [00:12:12] I grew up watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. And as I watched Andy and his son Opie interact, you see a limited perspective of this, of someone in awe and yet someone who recognizes the personal, intimate relationship one can have with somebody. There were days that Andy taught the lesson, right? That Pa laid down the law, and Pa said you need to understand this. And Opie was like, I understand Pa, tight? And he got it, and he looked up into the eyes of his dad and understood, hey, what he's telling me is important for life. And there were also the times that Opie came home in tears because he had done something wrong or life was hard, and Pa embraced him, and held him, and they got to have a relationship, they got to have a personal connection because his dad drew him close. God is able to do that with us. God longs to do that. He's not doing it because he has to, he invites us. And it's clear in so many places that we're going to look at in just a minute, there are so many places he's going, this is what I want, this is the relationship that I want, the connection that I want, and that I desire with you, my kids.

Jeff Taylor: [00:14:00] As we sing songs, and the words are up on the screen and the words are easy enough to memorize, the melody is catchy enough for us to hum along, and maybe it gets stuck in your head as you leave. But are you willing to open your heart and open your soul to go, God, I'm singing this as a truth of what I believe, come, and manifest that in my life. Come and make yourself known in this way in my life. I don't want to just sing the song. I don't want to just carry the tune. I don't want to just do the Christian karaoke and sing along because the words are on the screen. I want this to be manifested in my life. Is that the way we approach God, with that kind of confidence?

Jeff Taylor: [00:14:46] Revelation 4 tells us that the worship of God, “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” To grasp that, to understand it, not just intellectually, but at a soul level where we go, this is who I get to worship, this is who I get to pray to, this is who I get to receive love and grace and mercy and blessing from, will change your life. We see that and hear that all the time when we have baptisms. Like these are people who are like, ah, I get it, some people it took longer to get than others. Sometimes we get it as little kids, and we're like, yep, okay, and then it becomes kind of this rote thing. When God wants to awaken our hearts to the relationship that we can have, that union that we can have with him.

Jeff Taylor: [00:15:46] We will struggle with getting the holy nature of God when we make his name common. When it's just something, and we experience this in our culture, sometimes we make his name common. And we're told, foundationally, do not use the Lord's name in vain. Okay, now sometimes we see that to mean vulgar, in some culturally offensive way, somebody uses the name of God in that way. But we also take the Lord's name in vain, which, by the way, vain means empty, nothing worthless, or to no good purpose, and we do that by making his name common. Where we don't actually mean what we say, it's just an expression. We've all heard them, maybe you've used them, oh, Lord, help me, Jesus, help, oh my God, and it's just common.

Jeff Taylor: [00:16:52] Now, some of you are sitting here and you go when I say, Lord, help me, I mean it, that's serious. You're not taking the Lord's name in vain, good job. But when we make his name common, when we just sort of make it an expression and it's just sort of like eh, it's taking the Lord's name in vain, and one of the things it does is it makes it common in our soul. It makes it common, and we will struggle to step into the holiness of God, when we've just made it, eh. He wants us intimate, he wants us close, but when we make his name and his presence empty, nothing, worthless, to no good purpose, we lose out, or we will struggle to understand the holiness of God.

Jeff Taylor: [00:17:44] Now, in contrast, when we pursue him in spirit and in truth, we are certainly not misusing the name of the Lord. When we apply His word to our lives, we are not taking the Lord's name in vain. When we consider who we are and we live that out, who God has called us to be, we are not making His name common, we are lifting it up and his name is being kept holy. But the position of our heart matters for our availability to experience God. The position of our heart matters when it comes to the availability to experience God.

Jeff Taylor: [00:18:36] Paul was in prison in Rome, and he wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, and apparently, they needed to be reminded of who was actually in control because they were freaking out over Paul's in prison, and they were sad, and they were worried about him. And Paul is going, look, listen, remember who God is, remember who your Heavenly Father is, who my Heavenly Father is. Here we go, Ephesians 3, starting in verse 12, "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence." Can I get a woo? Come on, we should read that and be like, we get to come boldly and confidently into the presence of God. Whoa, whoa, okay. And sometimes we go, good to know. What if we stepped into that? Okay, all right, I could go on. "So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth." What does he pray? Glad you asked, "I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit." Is anybody here this morning, right now, it might be a particular situation, or it could just be in general in your life, but you need to be empowered in your spirit by the Almighty God. You're struggling, some of you, you're feeling like you're about to give up, you've had enough, or you're about to take over. I'll just deal with it myself, I'm tired of waiting for God's plan. Will you trust in who God promises to be? Will you trust and believe that He is your Heavenly Father who is everything that your earthly dad should have been? And will you allow him to empower you, not just with being smart enough or talented enough or good looking enough or wise enough, but will you trust that he will empower you in your spirit? That's miraculous, when that happens, that's miraculous.

Jeff Taylor: [00:21:10] "Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is." May you have the power to understand that we're supposed to experience this. We're supposed to be able to, not understand it fully, which he's saying, but that we would come to him and go, God, I want to know how big your love is. I don't want to just recite something. I don't want to just think that coming to church, sitting in a chair, and staying awake the entire time is a win. it might be an accomplishment. But do we believe that as we are empowered by God's Spirit, he's able to do this in us?

Jeff Taylor: [00:22:14] "May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." I don't know about you, but I feel like there have been times in my life that I've asked and thought of some pretty good things. I'm like, man, this is what I need to be happy. This is what I need to be less stressed. This is what I need to be successful. This is what I need to get over my emotional state. And we can stop there if we want to, but will you put your faith in a heavenly Father who promises to do and be immeasurably more then you could ask for or think? "Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen."

Jeff Taylor: [00:23:25] It turns out that A.W. Tozer has a couple of good quotes, and another one is, he said, "Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is." Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is. I think it's also true that when we forget how big God is, we get overwhelmed. Who do you trust God to be? Who are you looking and allowing God to be in your life Now for some of you, considering God, this big, omniscient, all-powerful, scary God, no problem, you've got that. You're like Jeff, I live in that every day, and it actually causes you to be like, maybe I'm not going to go to God with this. Maybe I'm just going to keep my distance, and I don't want to...And it's more of a business relationship. it's more of a performance-based kind of relationship. And so you've got it in your mind of the almighty, powerful God, but when we talk about God the Father, or a more intimate kind of relationship, we go, nah, that's too weird. Sorry, Jeff, I can't go there. Well, guess what Jesus said you can go there. And if we stand back and we go, uh, yeah, not for me. Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." He calls us friends. Why? Because he created us. Our Heavenly Father made us, and he designed us for relationships. So when it becomes about ritual, when it becomes strictly about routine and we're not open or looking for the other things, the ways that God wants to move in us and through us, we just make it technical.

Jeff Taylor: [00:25:42] In this book that we've been highlighting and encouraging you, it's like you should grab this book, this is a great book, it's called How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People. By a guy named Pete Greig, and you can get it on Amazon or wherever books are sold. And it's great, I read this in about one and a half sittings, and I'm not some impressive reader. The text is really big, it's large print, so it's fantastic. Get this book. Okay, anyway, Pete says this in his book, "Lose the sense of prayer as friendship and there'll be nothing left but theory and technique.". I grew up in church, I'm a church kid, I've been through all the services, I know a lot of the songs, I know the way things work. I'm really good, and even comfortable, at the theory and technique. Where are you at with the friendship? Lose the sense of prayer as friendship, as relationship, as intimacy, and all you're left with is theory and technique. Now we can have theory and technique, and theory and technique can be authentic, and it can be a way that we come to God. But when we do it for the sake of theory and technique, or we believe that this is all there is, it's just the theory and technique of prayer, we're going to miss the relationship of friendship.

Jeff Taylor: [00:27:13] I recently heard someone describe prayer as travailing, that we can come to God and we can travail before God, and to travail means to put in laborious effort. Now, this is not, we're not making prayer work. But what it is, is coming to God with an authentic, real, where we're at, holding nothing back, believing that this is the Heavenly Father who says, come here, and we can bring him all that we are and all that we have.

Jeff Taylor: [00:27:50] And we have so many opportunities to see people travail before their Heavenly Father, where they bring him all that they are. Hannah, who wasn't able to have children, or bear children, she travails to God in such a way that she goes to the temple and she's crying out to God and there's no sound coming out, she's just like...The priest Eli thinks she's drunk. He comes to her and he's like, really, you got loaded and came to church. What are you thinking? And she's like, I'm not drunk. What are you talking about? I'm crying out to God. I am desperate. I am burdened. I am hurting. My heart is broken. And so I'm just going to God, do you know why? He said I could. Do you feel that way? Is that your relationship with God? Bring him all that you are, and all that you have. Consider the freedom that Hannah must have experienced being able to go to God like that. I don't care what anybody thinks, I'm going to God because he invited me to. Nehemiah wept and fasted and prayed for days over Jerusalem's brokenness. Elijah on Mount Carmel, it describes him as crouched down, squatted down with his head between his knees, crying out to God. Psalm 88 a worship song, Herman wrote, "Day and night I cry out. Psalm 119, the writer wept as people ignored the things of God. In Isaiah, he said, "I'm going to give God no rest." Do you ever worry that you're bugging God? Anybody? Come on. Isaiah didn't. Why? Because Isaiah knew his Heavenly Father, he was like, I'm not bugging Dad, he wants me to, he told me I can come to him, so I'm coming to him. So until Jerusalem gets healed, until Jerusalem gets raised up, I'm not giving him any rest. I'm going to do what Jesus later said, I'm going to keep knocking, I'm going to keep asking, I'm going to keep pursuing, and I'm not giving up.

Jeff Taylor: [00:29:55] Some of you, you've given up. You're like, I don't want to bug God again with this. Or I was asking for God, but then I messed up and I did something, so he probably doesn't even want to hear from me. That is a lie from the pit of hell. Satan wants to do anything he can to get you to stop going to God. Isaiah said, I'm not giving God any rest. Don't give God rest. Jeremiah said, "Cling to God like a belt." Jesus said, "Keep asking." In Matthew 20, blind men shouted for Jesus to heal them. And everybody around was like, shut up, dude, come on, shhh. Do you know what they did? Jesus, they just got louder. Okay, all right, I love these stories, these are great.

Jeff Taylor: [00:30:39] As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he wept over the city. He healed men with leprosy who called out to him, and said, don't give up asking day and night. They prayed at Pentecost, waiting for the Holy Spirit. The early church earnestly prayed for Peter's release. Paul invited them to agonize and join with him in the struggle by praying. In Romans, Paul describes praying in the spirit and wordless groans. To the Colossians, he encouraged hey, Epaphras prays earnestly for you. In Hebrews, we're reminded that Jesus cried out with prayers, pleadings, loud cries, and tears.

Jeff Taylor: [00:31:16] Here's one of my favorite interactions that I see with Jesus, parents wanted their kids to be blessed by Jesus, so they sent them out. They're like, go, there's Jesus, go. Just go, it's okay, it's like trying to go and get your kids to see somebody that they're not sure about. They are like, go, go. So they go running up to Jesus, Jesus. The disciples seem to have forgotten why Jesus was there and who Jesus was, because they start to act like an entourage, trying to keep fans away from Beyonce. They're like, get back, get back! Jesus, this is a big deal because Jesus goes, whoa! And it says that he scolded them harshly, right? He's like, what are you doing keeping people from me? And it says that Jesus said, let the children come to me. So they came to him, and it says that he drew them close, and he blessed them. And I love this image, I think he picked him up, put him on his lap, blessed them, and whispered in their ear.

Jeff Taylor: [00:32:19] This is the heart of God. This is our Heavenly Father who says, I want you to know me, I want you to be in union with me. And some of you, you're keeping things at a distance because you don't believe that this is who I am. Or because of something you've done, you think that I'm going to treat you maybe the way your earthly father has treated you, and I'm going to shun you and that I want you now at a distance. I want you closer than ever, you screw up, get closer, and he invites us to do this. We pray to experience union with God, our Heavenly Father, this is what we are invited into.

Jeff Taylor: [00:33:09] Would you bow your heads? Not because it's the holy thing to do or gets you any closer to God, it's mostly just for my ADD. How do you need to go to God right now? How do you need to draw close? How do you need to confess some ways that you've been afraid to go to him? When we ask him to teach us to pray, are we accurately understanding who it is that we get to have a relationship with? For some, it's like grabbing a trombone and walking up to somebody and going here, teach me to play guitar. That's not a guitar. Yeah, but this is what I want it to be, this is the shape I want, this is how shiny I want it. But instead, we need to put that down and we need to invite God to come and meet us, and we need to step into that intimate relationship. How do you need to do that today?

Jeff Taylor: [00:34:33] We're going to take communion right now, and this was for the purpose of remembering what Jesus did so that we could have a relationship with our Heavenly Father. If you're going to serve communion, you can go to the back. But as we do this, as we take the bread which represents his body, that was broken for us; as we take the cup that represents a new promise that our sins can be forgiven and we can have this relationship with God. What will you do with this invitation that you have, that your Heavenly Father invites you to a closeness and a nearness that will bring you more life than any religion or ritual could ever bring you?

Jeff Taylor: [00:35:32] So, Lord God, we come to you right now, we ask you to make yourself known in supernatural ways. That you would draw us close, that you would overcome the hurts and the hesitations that we may have, and you would change the way that we think. You would change the way that we have been afraid, or we have been standoffish, and instead, you would reveal yourself in a continued way of who you truly are, and we would believe that, and we would embrace you, and we would draw close. So come and have your way now. God. Thank you for your blood, thank you for your sacrifice that makes it possible for us to have an eternal relationship. Help us to walk into that relationship in Jesus' name.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Upland, California 91786
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