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As we come to look in God’s word there’s a principle of Bible study that I remind my heart and I remind yours that’s absolutely indispensable, and that is total reliance on the Holy Spirit. God has given us this book, the Bible, and only God can show us the Lord Jesus in this book. If all we get are the academics, and all we get is the human side, we are going to sadly miss the Lord. The Bible, like our Lord Jesus, is human and divine. It has a divine side, and only God can give us that side. He longs and wants to do it.
I’m going to share this verse before we go to prayer. Isaiah 65:24, “It will also come to pass that before they call I will answer, and while they are still speaking I will hear.” Let’s bow before the Lord and commit our time to Him.
Our Father, we do thank You for all that You’ve revealed to our hearts about the Lord Jesus. We thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit who will turn our heart unto the Lord Jesus again. We want to see Him and want to behold the Lord Jesus. So, we commit our little meditation unto You and we ask that You would use this to prepare our heart for the entire weekend. You know our needs, and our hearts and our capacities. We pray for a full revelation of the Lord Jesus, according to our capacity. We thank You in advance that You are doing it and are going to continue to do it in an ever rising tide of blessing. We commit it unto You in the matchless name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
I don’t know but I’m assuming all of you know the theme I’m going to follow. Anyway, one of the disciples, an unnamed disciple (we don’t know which one it was) made a request of the Lord Jesus, and it’s in Luke 11:1, “It happened while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of his disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” I don’t read that la, la, la and I hope you don’t look at that la, la, la. This is something you have to answer in your own heart before the Lord. That request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” do you honestly desire, not to learn things about prayer, but that the Lord teach us to pray? Is that your real heart? That’s what we’re going to be looking at.
There’s much written about prayer, and an awful lot of what’s written about prayer is prayer-centered and not Christ-centered. It’s not wrong, it’s not heresy, it’s not false doctrine, it’s not false teaching; it’s just off centered. Because it’s off centered it’s superstructural, and much of it has no foundation, or at least no reliable foundation. This weekend we haven’t gathered to condemn what has been said or written about prayer, with the exception, of course, of what’s been said based on human wisdom. The truth of God is always at a controversy with human wisdom. It’s my heart’s desire to in some way to take that body of truth, superstructural truth, about prayer and jack it up and put a foundation under it. That’s where my heart is. We want a foundation, and we’re going to look at prayer, and perhaps in a way that we haven’t seen it before. We’re going to bedrock. We want to look at prayer from God’s point of view. I want to be Christ-centered to our approach to this. The Christ-centered approach, as I said, is not going to necessarily contradict with what other Godly men and Godly women have said and written about prayer. It’s just that we’ll set it on a firm foundation. We need to have certainty.
I have actually found little written about prayer that is Christ-centered. I’ve seen a lot of prayer-centered things about prayer. The more you focus on the Lord Jesus, the more foundational everything becomes, in not only this topic but every topic. If you have your eyes on the Lord, it’s amazing how everything else will fall into place. I want us to see God’s revelation concerning Christ-centered prayer, because if you have God’s revelation, you’re going to have a revelation of God’s heart, and that’s what we really want to see.
Before I begin to unpack what I believe the Lord has laid on my heart, I want to give a short personal testimony about my own life in regard to this topic of prayer. I so desired to be a man of God and I wanted to be a man of prayer, and I didn’t know where to begin, where to start. So, I thought God would teach me from what others had written about prayer. I started collecting books on prayer. I have probably fifty books on prayer, and I’ve read every one of them from cover to cover. I didn’t learn much, but I read all those books. I’m just going to name some names and you might be familiar with some of these names: Bounds, Hyde, Muller, Chambers, Ironside, McConkey, Andrew Murray, Robertson McQuilkin, Bickersteth, A. T. Pearson, A. B. Simpson, Alexander Whyte, Stephen Kaung, and Watchman Nee.
There’s a lot of books that have been written about prayer. Where I was in my heart with the Lord, a lot of that just confused me, and what confused me the most was not what they said about prayer, but their personal testimony. Charles Simeon prayed four to eight hours a day. John Wesley prayed two hours a day. Luther prayed two to three hours a day. Samuel Rutherford got up at three a.m. and prayed until the sun came up. McShane prayed four to six hours a day. John Welsh prayed at least six hours a day. Bishop Andrews prayed five hours a day. Adoniram Judson prayed seven times a day, every three hours.
Are you kidding me? I feel like a hypocrite when I sing “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” one hour. I looked at all of that, and I said, “I don’t think I’m ever going to be a man of prayer. I’ve been to all-night prayer meetings. Have any of you been to an all-night prayer meeting? Great day, we prayed ourselves in and out of faith so many times during that night. I went to two, and one I sort of enjoyed, but not really. So, I said, “Well, these guys aren’t helping me, so I’m going to the Bible. That was worse. Honestly, it was worse. I actually went through and saw all the prayers I could find that had answers. I wanted to see who prayed and what the answer was. I’ve got a list with one hundred and eighty-five prayers in the Bible with their answers.
Where do you begin? Well, I said, “The prayer life of Jesus, the prison prayers that the apostles prayed, the imprecatory prayers (prayers against things). Should I start with all of the conditions for answered prayer, and then what kind of prayer? There’s worship, confession, intercession, prayer and fasting, public prayer, petition, ejaculatory praying, private prayer. Where do I start?” I want to be a man of prayer and I went into the Bible to find out where do I pray? Peter prayed on the housetop, Jonah prayed on the sea, Isaac was in the field when he prayed, the disciples were in the Upper Room, Nehemiah was in a palace when he prayed, Paul prayed from prison, Jesus prayed in the wilderness, and in the garden and on a mountain and at a graveside and on the cross and at His baptism and at the Transfiguration. Then you read a verse like 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” So, I’m going to be this great man of prayer because I did all of this studying.
I don’t know where you are, but I hope you can see where I was and why I was frustrated, because I was serious with the Lord. I wanted to be a man of prayer. I sought the Lord to be a man of prayer. If anyone could say that they didn’t know how to prayer, I’d be the first; pray for the government, pray for those in authority, pray for those who persecute you, pray for fellow Christians, pray for the sick, pray the Lord of the harvest that He sends forth laborers into the harvest, pray for missions. Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication..” In everything, I’ve got to pray all the time? Philippians 1:3, “I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.” The more I studied, the more overwhelmed I became, and the more frustrated I became, and that’s one reason I don’t want to pass that onto you this weekend. You should thank the Lord for that, by the way.
The Jews had special hours for prayer. They would pray three times a day. I wanted to pray. Psalm 32:6, “Let everyone who is Godly pray in a time when you may be found.” How long should our prayers be, or short? Solomon had a long prayer, so did Nehemiah, so did Daniel, actually. Jesus prayed all night. “Go to your closet and pray.” Is that literal? Or is that just saying, “Be away from distraction.” Can a garden be a closet? Can a mountainside be a closet, just to get away from other people watching?
Now I’m going to tell you what is on my heart for this weekend. We’re going to focus on two verses, Romans 8:26&27, “In the same way the Spirit helps our weakness, we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Those two verses contain two great big points, though, and everything this weekend will be focused on those two things.
#1, I’m not going to beat around the bush; I’ll tell you right up front, so if you fall asleep you’ll at least have it now, the first truth is this – I do not know how to pray as I should. And I can be quite sure that you do not know how to pray as you should. That’s the first truth. The second truth is that I don’t know how to pray, but He does, and He lives in my heart, and He said that He’s interceding for us. Around those two thoughts all of our weekend is going to be focused. #1 Is it possible that the One who lives in my heart, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, wants to pray through me, and what does that mean? It’s not only possible, but that’s the case. That’s the whole point, and that’s what I’m trusting God will unfold for us. What does it mean to have the Lord praying in me, for me, through me and instead of me? That’s what we’re going to look at, since we don’t know how to pray and never will. By the way, if you ever learn to know how to pray, you better get a scissors, because you’ve got to cut that verse out of your Bible, because that’s a Bible verse and it will always be true, that we don’t know how to pray. If you learn how to pray, you don’t need that verse anymore.
It might sound confusing in this introduction lesson, but as we go through this weekend, I pray God will dive down into our heart; this is the foundation I want to put under all of that superstructure on prayer. We’re going to look at prayer, and this is bedrock; this is the foundation, and may God help us to see it!
We don’t know how to pray, but as very soon as you get saved, as soon as you trusted Christ, in that moment you had a desire to pray. The number one enemy of the Lord Jesus was the Apostle Paul and he got saved. God spoke to Ananias in Acts 9:11, “And the Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Julius, for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.” I like that KJV, “Behold, he’s praying.” Prayer is intuitive for every child of God. When you get saved, you want to talk to the Lord, but you don’t know how. Galatians 4:6, “Because you’re sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying, ‘Abba, Father!’” The new life must beat this way. When you get saved you have a holy desire to contact the Lord, to touch Him and reach out to the Lord. It’s built in, and that’s the pulse of a Christian. When you get saved, “Behold, he prays,” but he doesn’t know how. Somebody prayed earlier that we don’t know our needs. We also don’t know how to pray.
It’s common accepted chronology that the Apostle Paul got saved about 36 AD. That’s when he started to pray, I mean really pray. It’s also commonly accepted chronology that the Holy Spirit led Paul to write the book where our verses are in Romans in maybe 58 or 59 A.D., in other words twenty-two or twenty-three years later, after he got saved. He’d already been caught up in the third heaven, and he’d already had three missionary journeys, and he had already written the two letters to the Thessalonians, and he had already finished writing both Corinthians letters, and he already wrote Galatians, and after all that experience with the Lord, he says, “I don’t know how to pray.” Imagine that! That’s the Apostle Paul. As I said, if you ever learn to pray, you’d have to remove that verse from your Bible.
Quite apart from your present prayer life, and I’m not prying (I don’t care if it’s good or bad, well, I care but I don’t want to know whether it’s good or bad), but quite apart from that have you ever considered the indwelling Christ praying through you, for you, in you and instead of you? It sounds like that what I’m saying in this gathering on pray is, “Don’t pray; he’s going to pray.” Well, He’s going to pray, but He’s going to pray through you.
Here’s my approach to this introduction lesson. I’m going to set aside all those books that I read and all that I haven’t been familiar with. We don’t know how to pray. I find a need to pray, and I find a desire to pray. I want to. I find an impulse in my heart to pray. I’m not going to present a bunch of rules for praying. We’re not going to look at all the conditions for answered prayer. We’re not going to look at the negative, what prayer is not. Some people think prayer is just a way to high pressure God to do something. We’re not going to look at all that. I’m not even going to study examples of prevailing prayer. I want to scan through Bible history, the balance of scripture. In an introduction lesson it’s not just ten verses; we’re everywhere. I want to scan the Bible and note what God when He looked down said when He said, “That’s prayer.” What did God say is prayer? Do you see what I’m doing? We’re going to go through verses and see how the Lord looks at prayer, and this is the foundation. Once we see, not a definition of what prayer is, but it is a super description of what prayer is. How does God see it, and how does He respond to it?
I don’t want to abuse your patience, brothers, but I’m going to ask you to be patient with me as I do a little donkey work and move through the scriptures. Why is there such a thing as prayer in the first place? Why did God inaugurate, institute prayer, why did He give it? It’s such a wonderful privilege. To answer that question, I want to begin with, if I’m going to look at God and His viewpoint as He looks down, and says, “That’s prayer, that’s prayer, that’s prayer…,” if I’m going to see that, I first need to see Him. So, I want to begin with Acts 17:24&25, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He’s Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in a temple made with hands, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” The look I want us to take at the Lord is that He has no needs. He doesn’t have any needs, as though He needed anything. He’s 100% self-sufficient.
I read recently that some believe that the reason God created you, created man in His image was that He needed fellowship. That’s nonsense. He didn’t need you or me; He didn’t need people in His image. He desired it because He wanted to pour His light into them and express His own image through them. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and those that dwell in it.” I always have to smile when I read Psalm 50:10-12, “Every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountain and everything that moves in the field is mine.” That’s insects, too. This part, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that it contains.” So, that’s our beginning. God is in heaven, self-existent, self-sufficient, and totally other separated from His creation, free from every need, He’s perfectly satisfied in Himself. God the Father pours into God the Son, and God the Son pours into God the Father, and the Holy Spirit pours into the Father and the Son, and they all pour into Him. He is very satisfied. He didn’t need us.
What about fallen man, no needs? Anybody here without a need? It’s the exact opposite of God. He’s all supply, and we are all need, 100% need. We’re so needy we don’t even know our needs, and don’t even have an idea. Do you realize this, brothers, you are never going to trust the Lord unless you must. Of course, you always must, but you don’t always realize that. You always need to trust the Lord, but you are never going to do it until you have to do it, and then you’ll trust the Lord. He’s so sensitive. Remember that woman that reached out and touched the hem? Mark 2:17 talks of the sick who need a physician, but you need to know that you have needs. Many people are like the Laodiceans, lukewarm. You see, cold is knowing I have needs, but I’m running everywhere to have those needs met. Hot is knowing I have needs, and I’m running to Jesus. Lukewarm, you can read it in Revelation 3:17, “Because you say, ‘I’m rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing,” that was lukewarm. They didn’t have needs. Where did that put Jesus. Verse 20, “He’s outside knocking at the door.” I need to know that I have needs.
You might be one who has, by God’s grace, been able to see that you are needy. In fact, you might be one that says, “I’m very needy; I’m broken.” The problem is because you see yourself as very needy and broken, you might think the brother next to you is not broken. Let me tell you, we’re all broken, and we’re all needy, and you might feel like, “I don’t fit in because I’m not normal.” I’ll tell you, broken is normal, needy. The faster you see that you are nothing but needs and that’s all we are, a bundle of needs, because you aren’t going to understand prayer unless the One who has no needs is able to pour into the one that has nothing but needs, God has made a way for His fullness and His life to flow into that needy one.
This is clear; God has no needs and man has all needs, and that’s getting close to prayer. You might say, “It’s not prayer that brings a sinful man to a holy God; it’s the blood of Jesus that brings a man to a relationship with God. That’s true, but those that call upon the Lord shall be saved. It’s prayer. It’s very important that God has provided this means. We’re going to get back into the atonement because one of the lessons is basic. There’s no intercession without the atonement.
We want to look at how God sees prayer. There’s an infinite distance between Him who is enthroned in heaven and has no needs, and we poor sinners who are nothing but needs. With that as preparation, I’m going to return to what I suggested would be my approach. Rather than trying to define prayer or to have another program on how to pray, I want to show you how through scripture, when God looks down from His high heaven, and He sees certain things, He says, “That’s prayer, that’s prayer, that’s prayer, that’s prayer.” I want to look at those things and we’ll bring them all together and have a description from God’s point of view what is prayer. It’s so different than you read in so many books. Let’s begin.
Psalm 86:1, “Incline your ear, oh Lord, and answer me. I’m afflicted and needy.” I tried to show you how sensitive He was. I referred to the woman that touched His hem. Can you imagine that touch of hem, and He felt it? That’s how sensitive He is. Psalm 139:17, “How precious are Your thoughts to me, oh God, and how vast is the sum of them. If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.” Is that a hyperbole? Is that literal? Does God think about you more than the sands that are on the earth? That’s not just the beaches. That’s the deserts, too.
I’m a proud man. If you’ve got a thimble and you fill it with sand, and then you say, “Take out one grain at a time, and with each grain say something about yourself.” I couldn’t even, as proud as I am, couldn’t have enough thoughts about me, even though I’m proud and self-centered, couldn’t even do the thimble. Brothers, pull out the stops and believe this with all of your heart; the Lord thinks about you individually more than the sands that are on the earth. You can’t take that in; it’s too much.
Let me just read these verses from Psalm 139, “Oh Lord, You’ve searched me and known me, and You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You understand my thoughts from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down. You are intimately acquainted with all of my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold oh Lord, You know it all. You’ve enclosed me behind and before, and You’ve laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, and too high. I cannot attain it.” The Lord is not only acquainted with you; He’s intimately acquainted with all of your ways, and knows when you sit down and when you get up and when you lay down. If you’ve got a thought right now, He already knows what it is. If you are alive in ten years at this hour, you might be thinking something else. He already knows what it is. He knows your thoughts afar off. It’s breath taking to see the Lord who is without any needs, so intimately removed from man, being so attentive and so interested and so intimately acquainted. Psalm 40:17, “I’m afflicted and needy, yet the Lord is mindful of me.” This is an amazing truth.
Let’s dip into mostly the prayer book of the Bible, the book of Psalms. It’s a hymnal and it’s a prayer book, as well. Let’s see what He who has no needs sees when He looks down from His holy heaven to man who is only needs. Hosea 14:1&2, “Return, oh Israel, to the Lord your God. You’ve stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord.” That sounds like prayer, “Take words with you.” How simple is that? Everybody has words. I might not have anything else to give the Lord. I’ve got words. Is that prayer? Is that the foundation? Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given unto you.” That’s part of it, but that doesn’t describe what prayer is. I’m not going to do it now, but I could show you how many times in the Bible He did use words and talking and speaking and vocabulary, a friend talking to a friend, a lover talking to a lover, a parent talking to a child, a spouse talking to another spouse, somebody guilty talking to a judge. “Bring words,” but having said that, then you keep reading and he qualifies it, “Bring words with you, not any words.” Matthew 6:7, “When you’re praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the gentiles do. They think they’ll be heard for their many words.” Bring words but not vain words, not repetition. Luke 18:11, “The pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself.” He wasn’t even praying to the Lord; he’s praying to himself.
Jesus quotes Isaiah 29 and Matthew 15, “The people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” So, prayer can’t be words, because you can have words without prayer. They need to be from a right motive. James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive; you ask with the wrong motives.” So, it’s words, but not vain words, and not many words, not words with the wrong motive. Sometimes, when my need is great, words are all that I have. I read a poem, I love poetry, and I read a poem by a guy named John Burton. I have no clue who he is.
“I often say my prayers but do I really pray?
And do the wishes of my heart go with the words I say?
I may as well kneel down and worship gods of stone
That offer to the living God, a prayer of words alone.
For words without the heart the Lord will never hear,
Nor will He to the lips attend when prayers are not sincere.”
So, it’s deeper than words. As God who has no needs looks down from heaven at his needy people, He sees His servant Asap, Psalm 77:4, “You have held my eyelid opened. I’m so troubled I cannot speak.” If you go through that Psalm you see that God showed him his needs, and he called it “the day of my trouble,” and he felt like he was rejected by the Lord, a needy man. Did you notice verse 4? “So troubled that I can’t speak.” No words. So, is he left out and does that mean he can’t pray because he doesn’t have words? See, God is intimately acquainted with those who are so troubled that they can’t speak. If prayer was just words, that guy would be in trouble.
There’s good news because if you don’t have words, there’s another man of God mentioned in Psalm 102. When you go through the Psalm, he calls this, “his day of distress.” God opened his eyes to his needs. Psalm 102:19, “He looked down from his holy height from heaven and the Lord gazed upon the earth to hear,” that’s listening to prayer, “the groaning of the prisoner.” See, God looks down and he said, “Words, that’s prayer.” He said, “Well, I don’t have words.” “Oh, I hear your groaning.” That’s prayer. Groaning is prayer. Right or wrong, often those in terrible circumstances groan, and those who groan are actually feeling in there hearts, “I’m disqualified to pray. I can’t pray. All I can do is groan. I’m ashamed of my life and I don’t have words.” Let me tell you, brothers, God listens to groans and He calls that prayer.
We saw that in Exodus when God was delivering His people. Exodus 2:23&24, “Their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.” They didn’t pray; they just groaned, but to God that was prayer. I can’t stress enough, brothers, and may God help us see it, that God is in heaven observing earth, God without needs is seeing men who have nothing but needs, and He’s engineering their life so that their faced with need, because when they are faced with need, they begin to desire to call out. God’s vision is very penetrating; He goes deep. He sees those who have words, He sees those who don’t have words, He sees those who groan.
Let me ask you this, what if you’re in a situation and you can’t even groan? Psalm 38, one of David’s poems, his song of confession of sin, he calls it an “unbearable burden”, and he saw his need, “Lord, all my desire is before You. My sighing is not hidden from You.” Who doesn’t know how to sigh? Sighing is nothing more than taking a deep breath, that’s all, but God looks down and He says, “I saw that sigh, and that’s prayer.” In this connection I love Lamentations 3:56, “Thou hast heard my voice. Hide not Thy ear at my breathing at my cry.” How intimately acquainted with you is the Lord; you just go “whew” and God says that’s prayer. You’ve heard the expression, “When it rains, it pours.” Sometime or another something comes into you life, the kids and the finances and some reversal and some failing health and some unexpected thing, an accident or a closed door of opportunity, Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfall.”
I used to live at the ocean, and I was foolish. Every time there was a tail end of a hurricane I would go swimming because I liked to surf, but I got one time into the surf and I couldn’t get up. I got hit with a wave and when I tried to get up, another one would come, and I was gasping for breath trying to get up. Deep calls unto deep. It’s like one wave hits you and calls to the other one, “Alright, come on,” and that one comes and hits you. When my heart is so heavy, all I can do is sigh. I just breathe heavy and shake my head and go “whew”. I didn’t know I was praying. I didn’t know God looked down and said, “I heard that; I heard that sigh.” If I don’t know how to pray, I promise you that I know how to groan and I know how to sigh.
God is not limited to a voice and words and a vocabulary. He goes deep. Other things have a voice besides a tongue and vocal cords. God hears things deeper than words. Psalm 6:9, David is under chastening in this Psalm, and he is certain he’s going to die, that God is going to take him home because of his sin, “The Lord has heard,” look at this verse, “the voice of my weeping.” Did you know that your tears have a voice, and the Lord hears it? The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
My Lillian had some kind of insight as we were growing up. The babies would cry. We had six of them. They would cry, and she was able to discern, “They’re hungry, they need to be changed, they’re just being fussy, they want to be held.” I said, “How do you know. It sounds the same to me; a cry is a cry is a cry.” But God hears your tears. You take what Lillian was able to do, and multiply it by infinity, and you have a passing glance at how intimately acquainted God is with all of your ways. 2 Kings 20:5, “Turn again and tell Hezekiah, the captain of my people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David, I’ve heard thy prayer and I’ve seen thy tears.” The tears were a prayer! Psalm 56:8, “Thou tellest my wanderings, put my tears into Thy bottle. Are they not in Thy book?”
Do you see the point I’m trying to make, brothers? We try to make prayer a theology, and we try to define prayer as some kind of a creedal statement. We analyze the life out of it and say, “Here’s how to pray and here’s when to pray and how you gather to prayer,” and all of that kind of stuff. I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I know this, every tear that you’ve ever shed in the will of God has been bottled up and kept as perfume, sweet perfume to the Lord. He hears you words, He hears your groans, He responds to your sighs, and your tears have a voice. You say, “I don’t know how to pray.” You might be closer to real prayer than you think. We’ve all been through stuff, and we didn’t even know we were praying; we thought we couldn’t pray. We thought God was distant and far away, and all the time the One without needs was leaning over heaven, intimately acquainted with all our ways, looking at our heart and looking at our tears and looking at our sighs.
So, how does God view prayer? The more I see my needs, the deeper is my response, my cry… What if you cried your eyes out and you can’t cry anymore, and you’ve been that burdened. Some have been that burdened. Psalm 69:3, “I’m weary of my crying; my throat is dried. My eyes fail while I wait for God.” This is a graphic description. In this Psalm he gives two descriptions, one is quick sand, sinking in the mire, and the other is a Tsunami, a flood coming to wipe him out. Literally, the Hebrew says, “My eyes fail from looking upward.” God invites us, if we can’t sigh, just to look. Remember those that were snake bitten in the wilderness? Numbers 21:9, “Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard. It came about when a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived. Look and live.” That idea of looking is what brought Spurgeon to Christ. Isaiah 45:22, “Look unto Me and be saved. In all the ends of the earth I am God and there is none else.” It’s interesting to read his testimony with his own words, “I looked and I looked and I looked until I was saved.” Just look.
What if you can’t look? Luke 18:13, that tax collector, it says, “Standing at some distance he was even unwilling to lift up his eyes.” Brothers, if prayer can’t come out of my mouth as words, if it can’t come out of my belly as some kind of a groan, if it can’t come out my nostrils as just a sigh, if it can’t come out of my eyes as a tear, if I can’t even look, can I pray? These truths are precious. Don’t read them la, la, la because God is intimately concerned with you and with me. Psalm 10:7, in this Psalm the Psalmist is oppressed by the wicked, “Oh Lord, you’ve heard the desire of the humble.” He hears desires. You have a desire in your heart, just a longing, “I wish I could have victory over sin. I wish I could have a closer fellowship with God. I wish I could have some peace. I wish I could get some rest. I’m in agony. I wish I wasn’t afraid. I wish I wasn’t so anxious. I wish I wasn’t discouraged. I wish I wasn’t like I am. I have wishes for my family. I have wishes for my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. Psalm 38:9, “Lord, all my desires before You and my sighing is not hid from you. My heart throbs and my strength fails me.”
Let me ask the question that we began with, “What does God see, the God who has no needs? What does He see when He looks down?” He sees sincere words, but if you don’t have that, He sees a groan, and if you don’t have that, a sigh will do, and if you don’t have that, maybe you brought the tears or you just look or maybe you can’t even look anymore, and you just have a desire in your heart. From God’s viewpoint, all of that is prayer. We don’t think of that when we say, “We’re going to have a study on prayer. This is prayer.
I want to look at one more passage as we get ready to close, and I think that this is the end and it brings it to a climax, and we’ll give a definition, a description of prayer. Psalm 109:4, “In return for my love they act as my accusers,” and the ASB says, “but I am in prayer,” and the “in” is in italics. NIV, “In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.” KJV, “For my love they are my adversaries, but I give myself unto prayer.” I’m not asking you to scrap your understanding of prayer at this point, but in this Psalm there is no end to the needs. This guy, everything is needy. I want you to know with conviction that God looks at the needy.
The Hebrew here says, “I am prayer.” It doesn’t say, “I’m praying,” and it doesn’t say, “I’m crying,” or, “I’m groaning,” or, “I’m sighing,” or, “I’m looking,” or “I’m yearning or desiring.” He says, “I AM prayer.” We’re going to start there; that’s the foundation. We’ve got a long way to go, but that’s the foundation. Do you want to know what prayer is? It’s you being poured out to the God who wants to fill you with His life and meet all of your needs. You ARE prayer; I AM prayer, and no prayer meeting will ever take the place of the fact that God looks down and sees you as you are, so needy, so indigent, so helpless, and He responds. He’s intimately acquainted, and when you come to the place where you say, “I’m just going to pour out, not my tears, not my groaning, but I’m going to pour out me,” God says, “You prayed.” That’s what prayer is. I am prayer. He responds to you. He’s going to meet your needs, but He’s really not responding to your needs. He loves you, when you use words and when you can’t find words to use, when you groan or when you sigh or when you cry or when you look or when you can’t look or when you just desire, He says, “That’s prayer.”
I want to return to Romans 8:26&27, “In the same way the Spirit helps our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the heart knows what the mind of Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Before we can take in that breath-taking truth, that the Lord, the One who lives in your heart, the One who indwells you, He wants to pray in you, for you, through you, and instead of you. Until we see, “I am prayer,” that’s what God responds to. He wants you. How can one so transcendent and so distant and so high and holy who inhabits eternity, how can He humble Himself and stoop so low that He wants to answer every need of my heart? Paul sometimes leads us in a worship song. I hadn’t heard it until he introduced it, “This is our God; that’s just the way it is.” Zachariah 12:10, “I’ll pour out the spirit of grace and supplication.” It’s a gift; He pours it out. He spans that distance. It’s God’s provision, so that the altogether needy can be united in some way to the One who has no needs.
That’s pretty far as far as I want to go in this lesson. Psalm 62:8 summarizes it, “Trust in Him at all times, oh people, pour out your heart before Him.” God is a refuge for us. That’s what prayer is; pour out your heart before Him. If you enter into that, you’ll know what it means to pray without ceasing. We are incurable doers. God created us to be receivers, but when man fell into sin, he suddenly wasn’t a receiver anymore, and now he’s a giver. God created us to be dependent, but once we fell into sin, we want to be independent.
I don’t know what you had in mind when you came to this weekend. Probably you thought you are going to learn something about how to pray. Not primarily so; prayer is not something you do. It’s who you are. It’s not something I do. It’s who I am. It’s bigger than realizing we have some need and we’ll bring that need to the Lord. It’s the revelation that you are all need and He’s all supply, and He wants to pour His life into you and me. If you really want to enter into prayer, that’s basically all it is; it’s pouring out all you are into all He is, and it’s Him pouring all He is into all you are. God loves it when a needy person just stretches toward Him, and it doesn’t matter how. It’s just the idea, “I need the Lord.”
That’s where we’ll begin, and until God shows you this, until God shows me this, we’ll be hopping from one failing prayer meeting to another. May God open our eyes! We don’t know how to pray, but He does, and He’s made a solution, “Let Me, let Me be the One to pray.” You give something and you say, “The Lord gave it through my hands.” You teach and you say, “The Lord used my lips to teach,” why can’t He pray through you? That’s what He wants to do.
We’re going to look at some of the most tremendous scriptures on what is happening, and how is the Lord who lives in me praying in me, for me, through and instead of me?
Our Father, only You can work these things in our heart. Thank You for the great truth of what You see as prayer. We would have never guessed, if we didn’t have Your inspired word to show us. How observant You are, and how sensitive to our needs, and how much You desire to pour Yourself into us. Lord, as we go through this weekend we pray that increasingly You would open our hearts and eyes so that we might know what it means to have an indwelling intercessor. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.