A retired minister needed a new lawn mower. He saw a sign advertising one for sale so he stopped- a boy came out to greet him. The mower was already running, so the minister tried it, just to make sure it worked. Satisfied, he paid the kid $25. Later that day, the boy was out riding his bike when he saw the minister trying to start the mower. The minister pulled and pulled. Finally, the kid asked, “What’s wrong?” The minister replied, “I can’t get this mower you sold me started. Do you know what I’m doing wrong?” The kid said, “Yep.” The minister said, “Well? Are you going to tell me?!” The kid smiled, “You have to cuss at it.” The minister stopped immediately. “Now you listen here, young man. I’m a minister and if I ever DID cuss…not saying I did…I’ve LONG since forgotten how!” With a wry smile, the kid replied, “Preacher, you just keep on pulling that rope…it’ll come back to ya!”
Daniel 9:16-17 O Lord, in keeping with all Your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from Jerusalem, Your city, Your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and Your people an object of scorn to all those around us. “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of Your servant. For Your sake, O Lord, look with favor on Your desolate sanctuary.
This morning, we continue our current sermon series- How Do I Pray? Each week, we focus on either a particular type of prayer of aspect of prayer. Week One, we looked at The Prayer of Faith. Last week, we focused on the great power of The Prayer of Agreement- also known as Corporate Prayer. Today, we consider another important aspect of prayer as we talk about The Prayer of Request, also known as The Prayer of Supplication.
So, supplication. Another one of those fancy seminary words that nobody actually uses in everyday speech. So, what does it mean? Well, dictionary.com (you KNEW that was coming!) says this- “an act or instance of supplicating”. Ah! Thank you! Clear as mud! I thought you weren’t supposed to use THE WORD in the definition of…the word?! But wait- there’s more! “Humble prayer, entreaty, or petition.” OK- the word”supplicate” isn’t in there…but it still doesn’t really help all that much. Let’s see- entreaty: “earnest request”. And petition? “A request made for something desired, especially a respectful or humble request, as to a superior or to one in authority.” OK, now THAT we can work with!
So when we’re talking about a Prayer of Supplication, we’re talking about asking something, in a respectful, humble manner, of the One Who is in authority…God. With that as a backdrop, let’s look at today’s main Scripture.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
After a long illness, a woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven. While she was waiting for Saint Peter to greet her, she peeked through the Gates. “This is such a wonderful place! How do I get in?” “You have to spell a word,” Saint Peter told her. “What’s the word?”, the woman asked. “Love.” “The woman, of course, correctly spelled “Love” and Saint Peter welcomed her into Heaven. About two years later, Saint Peter asked her to watch the Gates for him the day. About an hour later, her husband arrived. “I’m surprised to see you,” the woman said. “How have you been?” “Oh, I’ve been doing pretty well since you died,” her husband told her. “I married the beautiful young nurse who took care of you. And then I won the lottery! I sold that dinky house you and I lived in and bought a big mansion. My wife and I have traveled all around the world. I went water skiing today, fell, the ski hit my head, and…here I am. So, how do I get in?” “You have to spell a word.” “What’s the word?”, her husband asked. “Czechoslovakia.”
So according to today’s Scripture, we’re supposed to take our requests to God. Always. In everything we do. And because that should be our go-to response, we shouldn’t be anxious about anything. AND, if we do all that, we’ll have a peace that passes all understanding. Wow! That sounds amazing. And it IS…when we actually do it! But that’s the hard part, isn’t it?
So why is it SO hard to come to God with everything we have and everything we are and humbly and respectfully ask for what we want? I think part of the problem is exactly that- what we want. I mean, I want a fancy car. I want a vacation home on the Gulf Coast of Florida AND one in the Rockie Mountains. I want to be 6’4” and still be able to play baseball. Those are just SOME of my requests. And yet…they don’t happen. Why? Well, I think it’s hard to come to God humbly and respectfully when I’m asking for cars and houses. I HAVE a car. I’ve been provided a perfectly good house in which to live. Honestly, the other things I listed aren’t wants based on real and basic needs…they’re wants based on…me?
Pastor and Christian author Bill Hybels once wrote an article called Five Dangerous Ways of Praying. In the article, Hybels claims that the majority of prayer presented to God is me-centered. And if we’re honest…he’s absolutely right. Because of that fact, Hybels offers five words, each designed to PRECEDE the word “me” in your Prayers of Supplication, that will literally change your prayer life and your relationship with God.
The first “me” word is SEARCH me. WE so often want to lash out at other people because of their choices or their lifestyle. We want God to punish the speck in THEIR eye while ignoring the LOG in ours. Those logs rob us of our ability to continue to mature as Christians. They steal our spiritual joy. They cloud our vision. They dull our senses.
If you’re determined to follow God with all your heart, then everything in your life that is not of Him…EVERYTHING…has to go. I don’t know about you, but my experience is that the closer I get to God, the more He causes me to see the things that I have not fully surrendered to Him. The fact that we’re Christians isn’t proven by titles or degrees. It’s not based on the good works we’ve done. Ultimately, it’s the fruit that we produce. The closer we get to Him, the more He shines through us.
The second “me” word is BREAK me. And painful as it sounds…and IS…you simply can’t grow as a Christian until you’ve been broken. Why? Because there are always areas of your life that God needs to work on. We don’t want to be broken. Instead, we want to focus on “I’m OK, you’re OK”- everything is great as long as we all just do what makes us feel good and don’t bother each other. But it’s NOT OK and everything is NOT great.
We need brokenness because we sin. And let me be clear- our sin not only offends God- it breaks His heart. It damages our intimacy, creating nearly impenetrable walls between us and Him. We fill our minds and spirits so full of the WORLD from Monday to Saturday that our hearts become dull and hardened. And then we come on Sunday and try to undo all of that hardening we’ve experienced all week. But the LAST thing we should want is to find ourselves standing on the outside of faith, looking in. We should ask God to break us of our sin. It’s the only way we can come fully into His presence.
The third “me” word is STRETCH me. If you REALLY want to grow spiritually, this is a prayer you should be praying. To be stretched means to be pulled beyond your limits. And if we ever hope to be what God wants us to become, we have to be stretched beyond our limits.
What limits need to be stretched? Well, our diet has to change. Our daily bread should be the Word of God. It sustains us. We can’t build a life of Godliness without His Word as our foundation. Does that mean you have to know and be able to quote every chapter and verse? I sure HOPE not! But it DOES mean that we should be living our lives 24/7/365 around the principles His Word teaches us.
The fourth “me” word is LEAD me. But let’s be honest- asking God to do whatever He wants with your life is a risky proposition. The ONLY way it works is if we believe that His plans for us are better than ours. I don’t know about you, but I use the GPS app on my smartphone quite often. In fact, when we were in Florida, it was our tour guide. Sync the phone to the rental car, tell the app where you want to go and…VOILA…it leads you there! It even corrects you if you deviate from the course. “Make a legal u-turn.” “Make a legal u-turn!” “MAKE A LEGAL U-TURN!” “Where are you going, you idiot?!” “I quit…you’re on your own!”
One of my favorite sayings is, “If you think you’re a leader and nobody’s following you, you aren’t leading- you’re simply out for a stroll.” We’re called to be leaders, each in our own way and in our own setting. But God should be the One Who leads us. He is THE way, THE truth and THE life. Follow Him.
The fifth “me” word is USE me. In most cases, to be “used” by somebody is a bad thing. But God is not “most cases”. To be used by God is an awesome thing. When we make ourselves fully available to God…did you notice that word- “FULLY”?- then He can touch somebody else through us, just like He touched us through somebody else.
Everybody who’s been used in powerful ways by God has gone through the process of searching, breaking, stretching and leading. That process ultimately makes us usable. When we allow ourselves to be used by God, then we’re no longer just hearers of the Word. We’re doers! We’re no longer keeping Jesus confined to the four walls of the church but instead taking Him out into the community where He can do the most good.
Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times with every kind of prayer and request. Likewise, be alert with your most diligent efforts and pray for all the saints.
God is the potter and we’re the clay. If we genuinely want to serve Him, then we have to let Him mold us and shape us, slowly and methodically working out the cracks and flaws as He crafts us into His hand-made work of art. Go to God with your Prayers of Supplication. But don’t let your prayers be about the things that you want. Instead, let your Prayer of Supplication focus on “search me, break me, stretch me, lead me and use me”, because when you do that, your excitement will be so great that that you won’t be able to wait for your next assignment.
Thanks for stopping by! I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!