When prayers are answered:
Yesterday, our pastor, Mark Marshall, preached the most challenging sermon I have heard in a long time, based on the passage from Luke 7:1-9. While listening I developed my outline while listening to his.
The story happened in Capernaum,
a city that may be the centerpiece of most of Jesus ministry. I went there a couple of years ago. Locals pronounce it differently, Caper-Ney-Um. It is near the sea of Galilee on the side of a mountain. A large statue of the Apostle Peter is near the entrance. It was his hometown. Jesus healed Peter's mother here.
There was a prayer request.
Jewish elders had the request for a centurion's servant who was about to die. The need was amplified by the fact these Jewish leaders bring the request, not for themselves, but for another. (Note: When our prayer is for others it is big enough.)
They "pleaded earnestly." He helped build our synagogue (yes, I saw the ruins of it) and he cares for our nation. This request is extremely important! This plea is the SECRET to successful prayer!!
I often take the prayer request from our church home each week. Once the length of them got the best of me. Some of the request were to simplistic to me, then my wife, Janet, pointed something out to me, "the real prayer request are on the back page!" Sure enough, there they were. The homeless we help with had heartfelt needy prayers, "I need food to eat, I need a job, I need a place to live. Father, forgive me how I have failed you." After reading those request, I suddenly realized something about prayer that was the most important lesson I have ever learned. !!
A True Prayer is From the Heart and TO THE POINT !
This thought changed my prayer life. I describe it to my classes by having them place their hand over their heart and then pointing a finger toward the sky. Try it! "From the heart to the point."
The "pleading earnestly" from the heart (We care very much for this centurion, he has done so much for us, we plead earnestly from our heart to heal his servant.) Jesus, hearing the request and need says, "Let's Go!"
Often someone asks for prayer and I think, "What's the point?" I have even asked that question to the person requesting prayer. This requires extensive thought on our part, what are we really praying for?
Why prayer for a broken arm?
It takes on a whole new dimension if it is a professional baseball player and his whole career is on the line. The prayer, "Lord, we love him, may this be the point in his life when your ultimate direction for his life is revealed." See the difference?
Sure your prayer is heartfelt, but WHAT IS THE REAL POINT?
Jesus was so amazed that he said, "I have not found such great faith even in Israel."
Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. Are we surprised? Gee, this prayer really works.
In my Kindle downloads are the answered prayers of George Muller, a prayer giant of another era. I read the prayers to try to understand what he was really praying for or what is the point. His secret is the same HEARTFELT TO THE POINT.
As our pastor closed he asks one of the most important questions ever asked to a Christian that has been hanging on to me like a wet cloth and one I want you to struggle with also:
DOES MY FAITH AMAZE JESUS?
Think about that. If not, why not? Thanks Mark.