Persistent Prayer

Scripture: Luke 11:5-13, NLT

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”


The story Jesus uses is hypothetical, “suppose” you went [v.5]. Hospitality was practically demanded in ancient Eastern society and travel into late evening was very common due to the heat. Jesus hearers had seen this very story enacted before; it was not a rare occurrence in the Middle East. Bread was baked daily; they had no additives or preservatives. So the picture Jesus paints is very common. Most of the peasant population lived in one room houses where the door stayed open during the day [light]. These houses had only one window. The family slept in the same room on mats. The houses were made of stone and mortar and the doors were made of wood. Getting the family bed down for the night was a chore and when someone starts beating on your shut door, it creates a problem. The man has to get up, crawl over bodies to answer the door, then to get bread, he has to have a light and before you know it, the whole house hold is awake. For a neighbor to bang on your door after bed time was a huge inconvenience.  Yet, this surly neighbor got up and got the bread because the petitioner would not stop beating on the door.

God is not like the neighbor.  The message is in the contrast, not the likeness.



The unhappy neighbor was in the bed. In the ancient east, peasants lived in one room houses. The middle class had two at best; only the rich lived in houses with multiple rooms. These little one room house had one door and one window. The door was open during the day for added light and closed and bolted at night. The house were made of mud and stone and the doors were made of wood.

The family slept in the same room on mats. Getting the family bed down for the night was a chore and when someone starts beating on your shut door, it creates a problem. The man has to get up, crawl over bodies to answer the door, then to get bread, he has to have a light and before you know it, the whole house hold is awake. For a neighbor to bang on your door after bed time was a huge inconvenience.  Yet, this surly neighbor got up and got the bread because the petitioner would not stop beating on the door.

A shut door meant bed time: do not disturb. The neighbor had labored to get all his children down for the night. He did not want them awakened. It was not a good time for someone to beat on your door asking for bread. The bread was not the problem, it was the inconvenience of the moment.

God is never at an inconvenience, never. He never slumbers or sleeps. He doesn’t even take naps. He doesn’t need rest like you and I need rest. One of our major problems in in our thinking. How many petitions have you made to God this week. Take out a piece of paper and write down five distinct things you have asked God for this week. Then lift your hand when you get to five. Wow! There are more than 200 adults and young people in this room and we asked God for nothing this past week. You talk about a group that has it all together, that would be us. God has nothing we need.

Well, that is an hyperbole, we actually have great need but we don’t ask. The reason we don’t have is we don’t ask. One of the reasons we don’t ask is that our mind is all fouled up, we are not thinking properly. Look at me, now look at verse 9…“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Jesus said imperatively, “Ask and keep on asking.” For you and I not to ask is an act of disobedience. We are not putting our heavenly Father out by asking. It is no inconvenience for us to knock on His door anytime day our night.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to asks: He commands us to ask.



I am an earthy father and I love to give to my children. Even though I am depraved and battle sin every day of my life, I will not give my children something that will hurt them. In Jesus day, people ate eels which are considered fish but they look like a snake. You could trick a child who was asking for a fish dinner, by giving them a snake. The scorpions of the Middle East could roll up in to a ball and look like an egg but what kind of father would give a deadly scorpion to a child who was asking for an egg. If we earthly fathers love to give, think how much more the Heavenly Father loves to give.

This story is not about you and I overcoming God’s reluctance. It is this kind of thinking that has us where we are today. God loves to give. The problem is not God’s reluctance to give, it’s our reluctance to ask. A lot of people came to Jesus begging and you look at the response. Jesus responded to those who desperately begged. Whether you beg or simply ask, the main thing is that you ask. You are not trying to overcome God’s reluctance; you are asking for what you need and He wants to respond and He will, just like Jesus.



The neighbor got up and gave him bread because the man was shamelessly persistent. The man had bread to give but he could not give forgiveness, peace, joy or eternal like. We humans can give a lot including our life but we are limited in our resources, we cannot give men all they need or what they need most.

I was in two homes yesterday were families were in deep sorrow and in both cases, it was the matriarch who was on her death bed. It is tough to lose your mother. We rarely are ready to give them up although prolonged suffering does tend to make it a little easier. I prayed before I left home and I prayed as I turned into each drive. These families are hurting and what can I do? It’s not like I am Jesus or some miracle worker. I am as helpless and impotent as the next man. So why do I go? I go as an ambassador for Christ, a human representative. I am there  simply to remind them that God is present in their crisis. I am to give them a sense of God’s presence but I am not the real thing, only an envoy or a reminder. If God sent me, they will know and understand that He cares.

Ministry forces all of us to face our limitation. We are not what people need and we can’t fix their problems. We can only point them to Jesus



The man in Jesus illustration got up and gave but he didn’t want to, his heart was not in it. He gave begrudgingly. He wanted the man to go away and leave him a lone. His logic was simple: If I don’t get up and give him the bread, he will wake up the entire house. He gave to get rid of him.

I have to admit, a lot of my giving is for the wrong reason. I have given before when my heart was not in it. I have given under compulsion, begrudgingly and to get rid of people. God is not like this neighbor and He is not like me. You cannot hoodwink God. He knows exactly what your intentions are. You can’t pressure Him to give. God gives when he chooses to, when it is wise to and always because He wants to…God loves to give.

There are things right now, as I speak, that God wills to give you if you would only ask. What things you ask? Look at verse 13… “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”


  1. Have you ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit today? [be honest]
  2. What’s the problem? God’s reluctance or yours?
  3. Do you think that a person who refuses to pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit should be a leader in the body of Christ? What is the opposite of being filled with the Spirit? To be filled with self.

Today, I am going to challenge you, especially leaders to come to the altar and

  1. Repent for your inconsistency in prayer. Make an apology to God for not taking Him as His word. He commands us to ask. Tell Him you are sorry for not trusting Him, taking Him at His word.
  2. Ask Him [not me] to fill you with His Spirit. His Spirit will give us the wisdom we need to follow His will.




The Power Of Prayer

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.


Tonight our aim is to deal with verses 14-15 but I pasted them all so you could see that the subject of this section is PRAYER. Randolph Tasker said: “There is no situation in the life of faith in which the believer cannot resort to prayer.”

  • In verse 13–James mentions “Hardships.” In times of difficulty, we can pray.
  • In verse 14–James mentions “Sickness.” When we are sick, we can resort to prayer.
  • The Greek word in verse 14 {astheneō} means more than sick. It means to be weak, impotent, diseased, feeble, needy and helpless. Granted, sickness induces most of the above: sickness can make one weak, impotent, diseased, feeble, needy and yes helpless. But we could become weak, helpless, feeble, impotent and needy with the passing of time or the lack of resources.

This text has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by our Catholic friends and our Pentecostal friends. From this text the Roman Catholic get the doctrine of EXTREME UNCTION or last rites. When a person is no longer conscious to make confession and get absolution, the priest does it for him/her.

Our Pentecostal brothers take this text as a formula for healing all manner of sickness. This is not some magic formula for healing the sick and it gives no basis for Extreme Unction.



  • Acts 1:14–They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
  • Acts 2:42–All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals and to prayer.
  • Acts 3:1–Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.
  • Acts 4:31–After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.

It is well documented, the NT church was a praying church.


  1. Do you know anyone that is enduring a difficult time? I’ve had three people approach me this week with broken hearts; two of them are drug related. In our tiny church we have families that do not eat together or get together over the holidays. Families torn a part by jealousy and envy. There are families divided over the settling of estates, perceived favoritism, jealousy, drugs, divorce. I cannot think of one family is this church who does not have problems. PRAY FOR THOSE ENDURING HARDSHIP.
  2. Do you know anyone who lives alone. Loneliness is a form of sickness. Could you make some time for those who live a lone. Go visit them and have prayer with them. They will love it.
  3. Do you know anyone that is sick? Visit them, have prayer with them. They will be thrilled.
  4. Do you know anyone who is weak, feeble, powerless, hurt, heart broken, needy or helpless? The helpless need your help–the heart broken need to know that someone cares.

I’ve tried to form the habit in my later days of asking a waitress after she takes the order…”We are about to pray over our food, is there anything we could pray for you?” I’ve had a few to be taken back and hesitate for a moment but I have not had one to say, “I’m good, just pray for yourself.”

Our son has a the wonderful gift of expression compassion while interceding in prayer. When we are visiting together in the hospitals, I call on him to pray. He visits our Senior Adults every month or so and has prayer with them. They love him. Pray is a ministry. My heart breaks that we cannot see this wonderful truth. You don’t have to be gifted; so long as you care.


I know that a prayer ministry is available to you: I don’t have one doubt but we must pray in faith. Verse 15… The prayer offered in faith will heal the sick…

You do not go into a home and say, “I know you are hurting and I want to pray with you but I do not believe that God hears and answers prayer. I hope you enjoy the sound of my voice but as far as this prayer making a difference in your life…I don’t believe it will.”

If you cannot pray in faith, you don’t have a ministry.


The thing that distinguishes Elijah was his faith.  Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Elijah believed that every prayer counted: he believed that every word counted. I write most of my prayers. It helps me concentrate and incorporate scripture into my prayers. I still have copies of prayers I prayed 30 years ago. There are in note books, boxes, every where. Every time I put a prayer in my prayer box or chest, I do it as an act of faith.

I have seen three mountains fall into the sea this week. I am no Elijah by any stretch but I believe in prayer. I believe every prayer is heard, every prayer is answered and every prayer counts.




 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.

~James 5:23, NLT


James uses two words that are rare in the N.T. The only other writer to use them is Paul. The first is kakopatheō, to suffer hardship or affliction. It can refer to physical suffering but not necessarily. It can refer to difficult circumstances.

Paul uses this same word twice in 2 Timothy. In 2:9, Paul said, “Because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained.” Then again in 4:5, You should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. I love the Good News Translation of this verse…But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God.

The Second key word in verse 13 is euthymeō, to make cheerful, to gladden, to be  joyful and of good courage. You can tell by looking that his is the root word for enthusiasm. We will deal with it next week, LORD willing.

Tonight we are going to focus on James 5:13a,  Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray.

James has spoken previously about the sins of the tongue and over reacting to adversity. When we, believers, encounter hardship, we should pray, not curse, no blame or judge but pray. Prayer should be our first response not our last resort.



Prayer for the believer should be as natural as breathing. We should pray until prayer becomes a habit. This is a distinguishing mark between the believer and the world. It is natural for the world to blame, to point fingers, to make excuses, to curse, swear, pitch fits when things don’t go their way but Christian should immediately turn to God in prayer. Prayer should become such a habit that we do it without thinking about options.

  • Sometimes we try to fix the problem ourselves.
  • Sometimes we turn to the world.
  • Sometimes we throw money at the problem.
  • Sometimes we rely on education–books, tapes, etc.

God is the last resort for the world: they will pray but its only we they feel like they have no other options. We pray when we experience a 9/11. There are no atheist in a fox hole. In John’s revelation of Jesus Christ, in the last days, the rebellious, the unrepentant will prayer: they will pray for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them. They will pray but only as a last resort.

Looking at several translations, I have put together a montage that is very encouraging–In any among you are in trouble, afflicted, suffering, enduring hardship, sorrowful, hurting, sick, or sad let him pray. The bible is an amazing book: none of these translations are wrong: the Greek literally means to endure hardships of all kinds. So when TROUBLE, SICKNESS, SORROW, HEARTACHE, HARDSHIP, AFFLICTION or ADVERISTY of any sort come…PRAY!


Do I have an open door to the Governor or to the White House? No! I am totally blocked. I can’t even talk to my local congressman. They will not personally respond to my mail. There are people who have an open door. They are not peers. They are lobbyist or billionaires: either way, they represent big money. Money talks to politicians which is why all of them leave Washington rich. They are there to serve us supposedly, but they serve themselves.

What I am saying is you could get access to congress or the White House if you had enough money. This open access that we are talking about comes with a very high price tag. I am fairly certain that the president would open his door to you if you made a 50 million dollar contribution to his library. Of course none of us have that kind of money and we will never have access. The point is, access is costly.

Have you considered the price that Jesus paid so that we could have access to the Throne of Grace. Jesus opened the way for us by suffering a humiliating and agonizing death in our behalf on the cross. The price He paid was His blood.

What kind of change would come over us if we could grasp this one truth. You can talk to your Heavenly Father 24/7/365 because Jesus opened the way by His death on the cross. This makes Joseph Scriven’s hymn come to life….

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

The natural man does not have this privilege. The question is: to we appreciate this privilege or do we abuse this privilege?


I confess that prayer has many purposes just as there are many kinds of prayers. But I want to talk about the one alluded to here in James. When you practice prayer as a discipline, it becomes a habit–then over time, it becomes a passion. A passion is something you do from your heart, something you love.

There are not many but there are a few in every generation: people who are passionate about prayer…people who love to prayer. They don’t have to discipline themselves to do it, they are drawn to it. Does an Auburn or Alabama fan have to discipline themselves to see the game on Saturday? No sir, they are drawn by a mysterious power to a TV set or stadium somewhere.

We all do what we love and we do it with enthusiasm, same word used in James 5:13, Are any of you enthusiastic? You should sing praises.

We will say more about enthusiasm next week but do you see the sequence. We discipline ourselves to pray, maybe a minute a day or five minutes. Then prayer becomes habit…then it becomes a passion and we feel drawn to prayer…we want to pray…we love to pray. Then prayer becomes or knee jerk reaction to everything. In good times we pray, in difficult time we pray because that is what we do, it is what we love. Then we become enthusiastic and cheerful, even in difficult times.

Someone came up to me after a COLS recently and said, “I want to thank you for all you did,” and then I said something stupid, “I really didn’t do anything other than pray.” Dr. Jack Taylor quote on prayer changed my life. Dr. Taylor said, “We Baptist want to pray and get on with the business: we don’t understand that prayer is the business.”


Paul had some type of mysterious ailment, no one can’t identify this thorn in the flesh but whatever it was, Paul wanted to be rid of it. Paul, the great Apostle, Missionary and Prayer warrior prayed three times and ask God to remove the thorn. Each time, God said no! Paul was praying for his circumstances to change but God had something else in mind, He wanted to change Paul. God put the circumstance in place that would help Paul grow spiritually and bear much fruit.

You are probably familiar with the cute little adage: God answers every prayer: yes, no, and you must be kidding. I like the adage and I believe it bears some truth but there is a deeper truth. No prayer or prayer time is a waste: God indeed answers every prayer…

  1. After it is interpreted by the two Priest–the Holy Spirit in our life and Jesus in Heaven…in other words after deciphered by the Holy Trinity.
  2. Thus God’s answer rarely matches our expectations. What we ask for could be bad for us or even good but not necessarily the best. Sometimes God’s withholds so He can give us something better.
  3. Time in prayer is never a waste of time. You insult the Father with such thoughts. I don’t do commercials so my wife records the Hallmark Christmas movies and then we watch them together. It is a special hour that we look forward to what if she heard me tell some one that an hour with her is a waste of time. Do you think she would be hurt?

Answered Prayer

TEXT: Matthew 7:7-11, NLT

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.


I want to talk to you about God answering prayer but qualify what I am going to say with a story and an explanation. When June and I were in Seminary, we attended the Wednesday Chapel service on campus. It was a good gathering made up of students who pastored churches out of town or in some cases had no church to pastor. There was this one particular guy. He was a brilliant student with flashy type personality. When he entered a room, you were going to notice him. Every week he gave a testimony of how God had answered a prayer about some particular need. After a while, June and I dreaded going and hearing his radiant “God is so good to me” testimony. We were struggling. We were not getting money in the mail each week. All these wonderful things that were happening to him were not happening to us. We felt slighted, unblessed. Of course we were young and there was a lot we did not understand. I have tried to remember since those days to remember when things are going well for me, they may be going bad for someone else. We do not want our praise to be a subtle form of bragging which is what it becomes much of the time. As I speak we have a 47 year old in UAB who needs a miracle. She is a sweet lady who has a good attitude and a lot of faith. Nothing would please me more than for the LORD to do a miracle in her life.
The first thing that I want you to notice about our very familiar text is the word “Everyone.” Jesus shows no partiality. He did not say the rich, the poor, the young or the old, He said everyone.
I love to hear children pray. They can say the cutest things. Mylee our granddaughter was about 3 years old and she had heard too much country music. When she got down to say her night time prayers she prayed, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” At least she got two of the three right. If I love to hear them pray, how much more does our heavenly father love to hear them pray. Children have such tremendous faith and they are so sincere. One little girl had prayed for her granddaddy who had suffered a heart attack. He was in the hospital for days but when he came home, she came to see him. He was glad to see her and they had a delightful visit. Before she left, she said, “Granddaddy, do you know why you are better?” He said, “No, why?” She said, “Because I prayed for you.” She had more faith than 90% of adults. I believe that God hears all prayers. It is his universe and He inhabits it. He transcends it but also inhabits it and it is not possible for you to even think a thought without His knowledge let a lone speak a word. I believe that God delights in the prayers of children.
I believe he answers the prayers of the elderly and the infirmed. One of the ladies that I use to visit in the nursing home prayed all the time. I think it will be our last exercise. She was flat of her back the last five years of her life but she prayed. One of the greatest honors I have experienced in my life was have Clyde Dotson stay in our home. At mid-night every night, he would slide out of bed and get on his knees and pray. He formed this habit while he was a missionary in South Africa. After all his children were grown and back in the States and his second wife had been promoted: the loneliness eat at him so badly that he got in the habit of sliding out of bed in the middle of the night and praying. I was driving him to an engagement one day and he said, “Pastor, could you pull off to the side of the road, I think we should stop and pray.” I’ve known some good men in my time but I was never around anyone that prayed like this man.
Secondly, I believe in prayer. I am no Clyde Dotson or Elijah but I pray. Prayer is a life-line for me. I don’t think I could survive without praying. I think prayers are like rain drops, every one counts, everyone makes a difference. Jesus is my priest and I confess daily. I have a need to pray. At the same time, I must confess that I am not satisfied with my prayer life. Two things need to drastically improve in my life and one of them is prayer. I think my greatest weakness is the manner in which I pray. I am so direct and self-centered. Pray can be worshipful if we can remove ourselves from the picture. I am like the disciples and the blind man in Matthew 20, I go to Jesus with my needs. I get aggravated with myself for just diving into request after request without spending time in adoration, thanksgiving and praise. June and I use to have a Sunday night prayer time where we did nothing but give thanks. We didn’t allow ourselves to ask for anything. Asking had to wait until Monday. You would be surprised at how selfish are praying can become.
Worshipful praying is probably the highest form: just standing before God, praising Him, adoring Him, honoring Him with no thought of yourself. Second to that would be intercession. Worshipful prayer is hard and so is intercession. I read a story the other day that highlights the unselfishness of intercession. A couple had only one son. He was the love of their life. He grew up and go married. They fell in love with his wife. They were such a happy couple. The young wife adored their son and this made them very happy. They enjoyed each other’s company on holidays, weekends and special occasions. In time their daughter-in-law became like a daughter and then their son got sick and died. The parents were crushed but they had each other. Their precious daughter-in-law was devastated and on the verse of despair. She was unable to accept the untimely death of her husband. After a year, she was no better and the in-laws were very concerned. As much as it hurt, they decided to pray for her to met a man who would love her and help her get over their son. They agreed this was the only way to help her and so they began praying every day. Within months God brought a young man who had never been married into her life and gradually she pulled out of the dive. That is some tall intercession.
The third and final thing I want to say on the subject of prayer is the resolution to accept and be happy with God’s will. God does not always heal the body. He does not always let the barren give birth. Many have become bitter because they could not have a baby. Others grow bitter because a love one died with cancer. Naomi was bitter about the deaths of her sons and husband. It can happen. I might add that it is easier to accept God’s will for your life than to accept it for your children or grandchildren. I struggled with my call to preach but I struggled much more with my son’s. One thing is sure, we will never have much power in prayer until we lose our agenda. The power is in being selfless. I don’t understand prayer but I believe it works. I don’t understand electricity. I do know this, God created electricity and put it in our atmosphere. We simply discovered this power and learned how to use it. The key to capturing divine electricity is to be selfless, to pray “Not my will but Thine be done.”

Rejoice In Hope, Be Patient and Keep On Praying

Ruth 1:11-13

But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

The Message

But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. God has dealt me a hard blow.”


A very successful pastor of the last century got a letter in the mail from a woman who was having a ‘Naomi’ type day. The letter read… “Please tell me how to gain confidence in tomorrow and to be able to face the future with calmness. I realize that there isn’t much I can do about the past; I know I can work with the present but when I think of the future, I feel helpless and afraid.” When I read this woman’s comments, I neither laughed nor brushed it aside. I think this woman hit the nail on the head and my assumption would be that she had the courage to articulate what a lot of us are feeling but afraid to express.

Naomi is your classic pessimist. The name Naomi means ‘pleasant’ but the years had left Naomi anything but pleasant. She told the ladies in Bethlehem, “Don’t call me Naomi [pleasant] again, I have changed my name to Mara [bitter] because the Almighty has made my life bitter. What we see here is a classic example of hopelessness and despair. Naomi had given up; she had thrown in the towel. She basically says to her daughter in-laws: “I am bad luck. My life is jinxed. Let’s face it, I am a loser and I have no future and you will not have one either if you tag along with me.” Naomi had no confidence in the future. She wanted to withdraw from life, to be alone. Despair will always drive us to seclusion. Thank God, Ruth intervened. She was a God send, a blessing from above. You and I know the rest of the story and we know how Yahweh gave an Naomi a hope and a future when it did not appear to be possible. We must keep in mind that nothing is impossible with God. Naomi was convinced, she had no doubt, her life was over and she had no future. But Naomi was wrong. Her feelings betrayed her.


The first step to recovering your hope is to realize that God has a master plan and that in the end, all things are going to work for your good and His glory. King David said, “Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Note: David did not say, “Although I live in the valley of the shadow of death.” I like Winston Churchill who once said, “If you going through hell, keep going.” The devil will do everything in his power to undermine our confidence in God’s goodness. If we get to doubting God’s goodness and benevolence, we are going to give way to despair and the world will become a cruel place where we feel helpless and afraid. Naomi believed in God. She had not lost her faith in Him but she blamed Him for the misfortune that she had experienced. She did not question His existence, she was questioning His goodness, especially as it related to herself.

Life is composed of both joy and sorrow, success and failure, victory and defeat. Remember the words of Job, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” We live in a sin cursed fallen world where bad things happen to good people; sometimes to innocent people. Naomi was dwelling on the past and on her misfortune and grief. She refused to turn her back on the past and move on.

There is a Greek legend about a woman who came to the River Styx to be carried across to the next life. Charon, the man who ran the ferry, reminded her that she could drink of the waters of Lethe, and thus forget the life she was leaving. Eagerly she said, “I will drink and forget my sorrow.” But said he, “You will also forget your joys.” But said she, “I will forget all my failures.” Yes, said he, “And you will forget all your victories.” Yes, said she, but “I will forget how I have been hated.” “Tis true madam, but you will also forget how much you have been loved.” The story ends with the woman deciding that retaining her memory is a greater blessing than losing it all together. We all have some bad memories but do we really want to lose them or should we seek to learn from them. When you look back over your life, you will see that you learned the most during the most difficult times.

What happens to a child that is pampered and protected? They become spoiled and they are not ready for the real world. We learn from hardship and suffering. Adversity creates the heat that tempers our character. Corrie Tin Boon could have never been the Corrie we knew had she not suffered. So, number one, we have to reach that point where we agree with the great Apostle who said,  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.


We cannot live without hope: we could exist possibly but not live. Naomi was returning to Bethlehem to die. She had lost all hope happiness on this earth. I am convinced she was going home to live out the rest of her miserable days. We all need hope. Victkor Frankl was a German born Jew. He was a PhD. in medicine and psychiatry. The Nazi’s separated he and his wife putting them into two different death camps. He never heard from her again but he survived two camps himself. As he saw men die on a daily basis, he observed that only the strong and hopeful survived: he noted that once a man gave up, he was as good as dead.

Frankl was right: man must have hope to survive and the is especially true when things get difficult. Everyone needs something to look forward to: everyone! I talked to a friend the other night who has a hunting trip planned for Canada and his eyes light up when he talks about it. He has something to look forward to. Our secretaries here at the church have one thing in common: they love vacations and especially trips to the beach. I endure the heat of Summer because I know that Fall is coming. I also look forward to THANKSGIVING and CHRISTMAS. We all need things to look forward to.


Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

We started this sermon series by using Dr. Charles Allen’s book, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH PRAYER as our guide. I must confess a major weakness in my prayer life and life in general–I have a huge lack of faith. I know what you are thinking: how can a preacher be lacking in faith? Hey, I asked myself that same question. My natural tendency is to be like Naomi. I have had a lot of friends die with cancer and the ones that hurt me most were those that were younger, some as young as my children. I admit, I’ve seen some miracles but I have seen cancer win the battle more times than not. It wears on you. I prayed for all of these people and on a couple of occasions, I firmly believed that God was going to heal but I was disappointed time after time.

Perhaps my ignorance is the problem: God is doing something that I don’t have the intellect to understand. I may be like the kid who prayed for God to help him pass a test. The kid prayed, committed it to the LORD and then failed the test. He concluded that it did no good to pray, so he stopped praying and went to studying. As a result, his grades got better, much better. It took him a few years to figure it out but finally he realized: God allowed him fail to teach him the value of study. The boy grew up to be a successful man but he understood that he would not have prospered in college or in his business had he not learned to study. God answered his prayer by not answering his prayer.

My friends were believers so they are with Jesus. If they are with Him, they are better off than being here, right! We do not give up hope. We rather rejoice in hope and keep on praying. If we stop praying, we are no different from the men in the concentration camps who stopped hoping. Dr. Allen gives us four confidence builders when it comes to praying with hope–

  1. God has already blessed us with the intellect, the abilities, the means and the resources to do many of the things that we are asking Him to do for us. We are like the kid who did not want to study–we want God to supernaturally help us pass the test without us putting forth any effort. So we have to ask ourselves the question: What am I not doing that I could be doing to be a part of the answer to my prayer?
  2. God is working at a higher level. We don’t have enough sense for His sense to make sense. Isaiah 55:8-9 comes to mind…“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Job was a good man, better than any living today in my opinion. Job had an argument with God and he was totally convinced that he was right and God was wrong but then Job saw God…“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” [Job 42:5-6, NKJV] Once Job saw God, he dropped his argument and confessed that he had argued without full knowledge. God knows what He is doing: the problem is that we don’t know what He is doing.
  3. God has many prayer to answer other than yours or mine. What if my prayer request puts a hardship on someone else? A preacher was sitting in an airport hoping to get a seat on a plane that was already filled. He began praying earnestly for God to open up a seat then the LORD spoke to him, “Who would you like me to remove so that you can have a seat?” A lot of our praying is selfish and it does not need to be answered. Matter of fact, I am alarmed at how much of my praying is selfish. I love to hear my son pray because he begins his prayers with a litany of praise and it is edifying to hear him pray. I find myself wading right in asking for this or that: it is because I have a selfish nature and I want things and often times want them now. God is God, he is not our cosmic butler. There are times when He is going to make us wait to show who is who.
  4. We can never really pray with any kind of effectuality confidence until we have a surrendered will. Until we are willing to prayer, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done,” we are going to ineffective in prayer. I close with the words of Paul…Rejoice in confident hope–Be patient– and keep on praying.

Removing Your Mountains

Mark 11:20-25, ERV

The next morning Jesus was walking with his followers. They saw the fig tree that he spoke to the day before. The tree was dry and dead, even the roots. 21 Peter remembered the tree and said to Jesus, “Teacher, look! Yesterday, you told that fig tree to die. Now it is dry and dead!” 22 Jesus answered, “Have faith in God. 23 The truth is, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, mountain, fall into the sea.’ And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, then God will do it for you. 24 So I tell you to ask for what you want in prayer. And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours. 25 When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.”


Every normal person wants to feel a sense of control over the circumstances in their life. No one wants to feel weak and defeated.

~Charles Allen


In Charles Allen’s book ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH PRAYER, he begins chapter 11 with the above quote. When I read that quote, I took it very personal. No person wants to feel defeated but yet at times most of us do. Our own personal weaknesses and flaws plus circumstances that are far beyond our control render us powerless and sometimes lead to thoughts of despair and hopelessness. Dr. Allen had a friend who was a Psychologist and he made it a habit to study people as they sat in the worship service. He concluded that those who do not sing and are constantly observing others are judgmental, unhappy, skeptical and sometime cynical. They may be feeling defeated, hopeless or even despair. Jesus had a remedy….”Have faith in God. “The AV translates verse 23 like this…For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”  I like that phrase, “Be thou removed” and we will get to it in a moment but first…


  1. The OBJECT of our Faith….Have faith IN God. Jesus did not say, “Have faith in yourself….Have faith in mankind….Have faith in religion.” The object of our faith is critical: Jesus said have faith in God. An evangelist from the South went into Canada to do a revival and it was in the dead of winter. The pastor carried the evangelist visiting and their prospect was fishing in the middle of a frozen lake. The pastor parked the car, got out and started across the ice. “Wait just a minute,” said the evangelist, “How do you know that the ice will support your weight?” The pastor laughed and assured him that it would support the entire car if he had a mind to drive it on the ice. The evangelist was a doubting Thomas and he refused to follow. The pastor told him to get in the car and that he would return shortly. He went to the center of the lake, visited with his friend and returned to the car. The evangelist was ashamed and embarrassed…he said, “I wish that I had the faith to walk on that ice.” The pastor cheerfully replied: “It was not my faith that held me up, it was the ice. I don’t have great faith. I knew the ice would support me.” Jesus said “have faith in God.” He did not say “Have faith in your faith.” It is not our faith that sustains us; it is the object of our faith that sustains us.
  2. The OPPORTUNITY for faith…Whosoever. Anyone can put their faith in God. You do not have to be a Jew or of any particular race or origin. It is a wide open invitationwhosoever shall say unto this mountain. As the old gospel song says, “Whosoever surely meaneth me.” The great thing about this invitation is that it does not exclude anyone. No one can stop you from putting your faith in God. You have the same opportunity to believe as anyone else. This open invitation to faith is what makes the gospel the gospel.
  3. The OBSTACLES to faith…Mountains…Mountains are big and majestic. They symbolize things that are big, huge, overwhelming and unmovable. Obviously, God put the mountains where He wanted them so there is no real need for moving mountains literally. I think Jesus is talking about our huge, insurmountable problems. I think He is speaking of those things that simply overwhelm us. They are so big that they seem impossible to move or remove. Do you have any mountains in your life now? I do, I confess that I have some problems that are overwhelming: I look at them and say to my soul, “There is no way.” Unfortunately, I am like the evangelist in the story above. I am by nature a doubting Thomas. I am like the father in the N.T. who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe but help my unbelief.” He was confessing, “I have some faith but it’s not perfect because I also have some doubt.” We really run into a problem when our doubt becomes greater than our faith. My faith is so fragile that I constantly feed my faith and make every attempt to starve my doubt. Zig Ziggler use to poll his audiences. He would ask them if they believed everything in the news paper then if they believed everything in the bible. No one believed the news paper was accurate and everyone in his audiences believed the bible. He would ask them how much time they spent reading the news paper and it was usually an hour or more. Then he would ask them how much time they spent reading the bible and it would be far less than the time they spent on the news paper. He would say, “Let me get this right, you spend more time reading something you do not believe than you do something you believe.” Don’t fed your doubts. Fed your faith and starve your doubts.
  4. The OBJECTIVE of our faith…shall not doubt. Our objective is to have perfect faith with no doubt. If we can remove doubt and pray in perfect faith, our prayers will move heaven and earth. Jesus made it clear that mountain moving faith has no doubt just as the pastor who went on to the frozen lake had no doubt. I have to confess here. Trust, I wish I could preach but I would be dishonest if I did, I struggle with having this doubt free faith. I know several lay people who have much more faith than I do. Three of our young men had a bad automobile accident about 3 years ago. One of them was severely injured and they transported him by med-flight to HH. Everyone I talked to gave me a bad report but his father said, “He is going to make it and not only is he going to make it, he will be out of this hospital in less than 30 days.” First of all, I didn’t think he would make and secondly, getting out of the hospital in less than 30 days was impossible. This father never prays out loud at church. He is not a big talker. He is a very quiet and gentle man but he was bold at the hospital. He told his wife, he told me, he told everyone, “Our son is going to be OK” and he was right on both counts. His son survived and was out of the hospital in less than 30 days. I have never seen anything like it.


Dr. Allen said there are three kinds of people when it comes to faith….

  1. Those who do not believe, period. I doubt that you fit this group. If you did, you would not be reading this sermon.
  2. Those who do not believe completely but they want to believe. These are they who struggle with faith. They believe in God and in Jesus His son but they realize that they faith is anemic and weak. They believe but they want to believe more. [Mark 9:24,
    And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.]
  3. Those who have incredible faith like the Roman Centurion who told Jesus not to bother coming to his home, “Just speak the word,” he told Jesus and “My servant will be healed.” In my personal opinion, I am stuck somewhere in number 2 and desperately want to get to number 3.

Why Don’t We Pray?


Matthew 7:7-11

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. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!


Hugh Price Hughes (9 February 1847 – 17 November 1902), a Welsh Christian theologian wrote this short story called The City of Everywhere  which leaves us with a thought-provoking question, “Why don’t we?”

This is a tale of a man who might have been me, for I dreamed one time of journeying to the City Of Everywhere.  I arrived early one morning.  It was cold; there were flurries of snow on the ground.  As I stepped from the train to the platform I noticed that the baggage man and the red cap [Porter] were warmly attired in heavy coats and gloves, but oddly enough, they wore no shoes.

My initial impulse was to ask the reason for this odd practice, but repressing it I passed into station and inquired the way to the hotel.  My curiosity, however, was immediately enhanced by the discovery that no one in the station wore any shoes.  Boarding the streetcar, I saw that my fellow travelers were likewise barefoot, and upon arriving at the hotel I found the bellhop, the clerk and the inhabitants of the place were all devoid of shoes.

Unable to restrain myself longer, I asked the ingratiating manager what the practice meant. “What practice?” said he. “Why,” I said, pointing to his bare feet, “Why don’t you wear any shoes in this town?” “Ah,” said he, “That is just it.  Why don’t we?”

“But what is the matter?  Don’t you believe in shoes?” “Believe in shoes, my friend!  I should say we do.  That is the first article of our creed — shoes.  They are indispensable to the well-being of humanity.  Such chilblains, cuts, sores, suffering, as shoes prevent!  It is wonderful!” “Well, then, why don’t you wear them?”  I asked, bewildered. “Ah, said he, “That is just it.  Why don’t we?”

Though considerably nonplussed, I checked in, secured my room and went directly to the coffee shop and deliberately sat down by an amiable-looking gentleman who likewise conformed to the conventions of his fellow citizens.  He wore no shoes.  Friendly enough, he suggested after we had eaten that we look about the city.  The first thing we noticed upon emerging from the hotel was a huge brick structure of impressive proportions.  To this he pointed with pride.  “You see that?” said he.  “That is one of our outstanding shoe manufacturing establishments.” “A what?”  I asked in amazement.  “You mean you make shoes there?” “Well, not exactly, said he a bit abashed, “we talk about making shoes there, and believe me, we have one of the most brilliant young fellows you ever heard.  He talks most thrillingly and convincingly every week on this great subject of shoes.  He has a most persuasive and appealing way.  Just yesterday he moved the people profoundly with his exposition on the necessity of shoe-wearing.  Many broke down and wept.  It was wonderful.”

“But why don’t they wear them?” said I, insistently. “Ah,” said he, putting his hand upon my arm and looking wistfully into my eyes, “that is just it.  Why don’t we?”

Just then, as we turned down a side street, I saw through a cellar window a cobbler actually making a pair of shoes.  Excusing myself from my friend, I burst into the little shop and asked the shoemaker how it happened that his shop was not overrun with customers.  Said he, “Nobody wants my shoes.  They just talk about them.” “Give me what pairs you have already,” said I eagerly, and paid him three times the amount he modestly asked.  Hurriedly, I returned to my friend and proffered them to him, saying, “Here my friend, some one of these pairs will surely fit you.  Take them, put them on.  They will save you untold suffering.” But he looked embarrassed; in fact, he was well-nigh overcome with chagrin.  “Ah, thank you,” he said politely, “but you don’t understand.  It just isn’t being done.” “But why don’t you wear them?” said I, dumbfounded. “Ah,” said he, smiling, with his accustomed ingratiating touch of practical wisdom.  “That is just it.  Why don’t we?”

And coming out of the “City of Everywhere” into “Here,” over and over and over that query rang in my ears:  “Why don’t we?  Why don’t we?  Why don’t we?”

A most fascinating story that brings us to our subject, WHY DON’T WE PRAY? In tonight’s message, I propose to answer this question. Not perfectly or completely, as I am not capable but to give you some things to ponder.

  1. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…because we have a spirit of disobedience. This may not be the number one reason that we do not pray but if not it is very close to the top. We are not committed to obeying Christ. Jesus commanded us to ask. Matthew 7:7 is an imperative…Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Looking at each of the verbs here we see that ask, seek, and knock are each in the present active imperative. We will talk more about the verb tense as we go but for now, I want you to note that this is a command issued in the imperative voice.The point I wish to make here is that Jesus is giving a command in the imperative voice. He is not saying, “I wish you guys would consider asking Me for things.” He is not making a suggestion: He is issuing a command. Jesus said in John 14, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
  2. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…because we do not believe it is effective. We lack faith to put prayer to the test. Jesus said in Mark 11, And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” I know that we must discuss time because many of us get so busy that we do not take time to pray but a greater problem lies in our faith, we believe that prayer is a waste of time or else we would make time. This leads me to the next point…
  3. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we do not understand that prayer is a spiritual law. Jesus gave us a command to pray and a promise if we do pray: thus Jesus make prayer a law and the law of prayer is to ASK. Do you believe in the law of gravity? I know you do and so do I. The law of prayer is as real as the law of gravity. The law of gravity says that any weight of matter released with proceed earthward, or down. If I jump from the Empire State Building I will go down. Ninety-nine people could follow me and 100% would go down: no one would go up. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive”. Do you see the law? Jump and you go down–ask and you receive. The law of prayer is just as real and viable as the law of gravity. I made some plans for this past Labor Day. I got up, did my devotions, took my shower, dressed and was about to go out the door. My wife said, “Where are you going?” I said, “Lowes.” “Well” she snorted, “I guess I will get dressed and go see what I can move.” Our daughter was moving but she had not ask me to help. We had lunch together on Sunday and she did not say a word. All she had to do was say, “Daddy, we are moving tomorrow and we need your help.” She has a lot of pride and she will not ask so I was going to work in the yard. I scoffed at the idea of my wife moving anything and started for the door but before I could get to the truck, she chased me down and handed me the house phone, “somebody wants to talk to you,” she said. I took the phone and it was Lexi our granddaughter, she said in a sweet kind voice, “Granddaddy, we really need your help.” I said, “I will be there as soon as I get the trailer hooked up.” This call came at a little after 9:00 am and I got done that LABOR DAY night at 10:00 pm. I don’t want you to think that I am comparing myself to the Heavenly Father but the principle is the same, “You ask and you receive…You don’t ask and you don’t receive.” The problem is–we don’t understand that prayer is a law. There are no wasted prayers; not if they are prayed in Jesus name. In Lloyd Douglas’ novel, The Big Fisherman, a Roman officer prays for Peter’s life. Peter is about to be executed and the sentence is being carried out in spite of the Officer’s prayer. The Officer apologetically says to Peter, “I prayed for you but it has done no good.” Peter replies, “Sure it has for I am not afraid.” Whenever we ask in Jesus name, there is going to be receiving of some sort, it is a law.
  4. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we are too easily satisfied. We ask not because we want not. Does your soul hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do your spirit long for and languish for lack of revival. Are you burdened for lost souls? Are there goals in life that you yearn to accomplish? Most Baptist I know would answer all these questions with a NO! They are satisfied to draw a breath and a pay check or retirement check. Most folks are like the Israelites in the wilderness, they stopped living when they stopped believing. More or less, they are just waiting to die. Don’t stop living before you stop breathing. If you are not asking God for anything it is because you don’t have any God sized goals. What are some things you want that only God can give? Ask Him for those things!
  5. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because we are afraid that God will require us to do something in relationship to our request. Like the man who prayed for gold and the Lord said, “OK, start digging.” We will not pray for the lost because we fear God may want us to go witness to them. We don’t pray for Missions because we fear that God might expect us to go or give. Understand, I am talking about real prayer. I’m not talking about passive ritual where pray is a part of an act. I am not talking about hypocritical praying; where we seek to be heard by men: that kind of praying does not get past the ceiling. I have no confidence in the halo-wearing, conference-going, super-spiritual crowd. When you ask them to do something, they always come back with “I will pray about it.” Let me tell you what that means, “They are not going to do what you ask.” Prayer is their spiritual cop-out.
  6. WHY DON’T WE PRAY?…Because prayer is hard work. Prayer is not easy; if it were, more folks would do it. Prayer is a spiritual challenge and it takes great persistence. As we mentioned above, as you look at the verbs askseek, and knock: they are each in the present active imperative.  Understand that the present active implies forming a habit of continual asking, seeking and knocking–In other words: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. One day Jesus told His disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” [Luke 18:1-5] Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy. She was born into a very wealthy English aristocratic family. The family was living in Italy for business reasons and moved back to England soon after Florence was born. She lived in a mansion and had everything that money could buy. In spite of her mother’s opposition, she took a great interest in helping others and was especially interested in medicine. To pacify her mother, she remained at home until age 30. She reached a point where despite the family’s opposition to someone of their class stooping to help others, she volunteered as a nurse in the Crimean War. During the war she earned the nick name as the Lady with the Lamp. She made rounds during the night. You know the rest of the story. The woman is not the patron saint of nursing. She is honored at every graduation of student nurses. She did not try once and give up. She refused to give up. In spite of the constant discouragement that came from her family, she pursued her dream and became the  most famous of all the Nightingales. Prayer is not something you try once. We ask and keep on asking. Our success is determined by our persistence.


In verse 7, the verbs ask, seek and knock have a point of progression. Each succeeding verb demands more energy. Here is a little formula that may help you understand more clearly.

[Ask=Faith] + [Seeking=Effort] + [Knocking = Persistence]

or simply Faith plus effort and persistence equals success


Prayer And Peace


Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.


The New Living Translation reads…YOU will keep in perfect peace all who trust in YOU, all whose thoughts are fixed on YOU. The Easy to read version reads…God, You give true peace to people who depend on YOU, those who trust in YOU. I love Isaiah 26:3, my father in the ministry [Calvin C. Inman] quoted this verse often. I heard him quote it so often that I learned the verse by listening to him. It is a wonderful promise.

Have you noticed that little children rest more peacefully than we adults. It seems like the older I get, the harder it is for me to sleep soundly. Little children seem to have a higher quality of rest. I think this can be attributed to three things: [1] They have young bodies and do not have the aches and pains of a Senior Adult. [2] They are innocent. They do not understand sin. They have never contemplated death. They do not know what it is like to feel guilty. Can you remember the innocence of childhood? It did not last long, did it? [3] Children are not usually worried about the many things that we worry about. We have to worry about paying our taxes. It is a major headache for those who are self-employed. We worry about paying our bills. We worry about our health and whether or not it will hold up until we can retire. We worry about retirement. I have a dear friend in another State who calls me from time to time and we exchange worries. I was her pastor for only 18 months but she has the confidence to confide in me as I do her. She probably afraid to confess to anyone inside the community.  The last time we talked she had a list of concerns that were really troubling her. Not everyone is as honest  as my friend but I can tell by experience and the expression on their face that they are worried. If you are concerned, it is hard not to worry.

Jesus basically said that worry is a sin. He said in Matthew 6...” Don’t worry about your life; what you are going to eat or wear”…then He said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.” The question is: How do we live worry free? How do we move toward the “Perfect Peace” that Isaiah mentions?


The bible speaks to this concern in I Peter 5:7…Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Recently I was preaching a revival in a church and they sang a song that I loved. It has a Jewish beat and it speaks to this issue of God loving and caring for us.

Jehovah Jireh, My provider,  His grace is sufficient
For me, for me,  for me!
 Jehovah Jireh,  My provider, His grace is sufficient for  me

My God shall supply all my needs– According to his riches in glory
He will give His angels charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me, for me, for me– Jehovah Jireh cares for me!

Charles Allen tells the story of a man who was a chronic worrier and he brought his anxieties home with him every day. He never enjoyed supper with the family or his time with them in the evening because he was worried about his work. His worry so consumed him that he decided something had to be done. One evening as he was about to climb the steps into his home, he said to himself, “I’m going to leave my worries on the porch and I will pick them up in the morning on my way to work.” So he did just that…in his mind, he sat his worries on the porch and then entered the house worry free. His family noticed the change and he had a delightful evening himself. The next morning when he picked his worries up, they did not seem as heavy. Some of the things he had been worrying about were gone. Joseph Scriven had this principle in mind when he wrote his mother this poem. The poem has been a comfort to many.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

I remember the words of another hymn that says, “Take your burdens to the LORD and leave them there.”


This promise is conditional. “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on Me,” that is the promise. There is no question that peace of mind is conditioned on our thinking. Paul encouraged the Philippians to discipline their minds by thinking good thoughts… Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Our peace is determined in large part by what we have our minds set on. To the Romans, Paul said… For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Sometimes our focus is on the wrong thing:

  • We focus on obstacles instead of opportunities
  • We focus on our problems instead of His power
  • We focus on our fears instead of feeding our faith
  • We focus on sin and Satan instead of our sovereign Savior
  • We focus on all that is going wrong instead of thanking God for what has went right

A manager held up a piece of white poster board on which he had put one tiny black dot in the middle, amidst the huge sea of white. He said to his sales team, “What do you see?” Everyone said the same thing, “We see a blot dot.” None of them said we see a white poster board. He said, “This is why sales are down, you are seeing the one tiny dot, that person who is not interested in our product but you are seeing all this white area that represents those who are interested.”

It is human nature for us to see the black dot. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful,” but we don’t believe Him. We see the black dot instead of the white harvest. Every now and then someone will compliment me on a message and its like a grain of salt. One of the hardest lesson I had to learn as a preacher is to be gracious when people praise you but then you step on it and kill it. You don’t even take it home. Mild praise which is all I get doesn’t phase me but you like one unhappy Pharisee complain and I can’t get it off my mind. I have spent entire Sunday evenings struggling to come back to the pulpit because of something negative and sometimes tacky that was said to me.

When it comes to focus: sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and start counting your blessings. Make a list! You are going to be surprised at all God has already done for you. I have never met a complainer who was not extremely introverted and selfish. All they think about is their own needs and wants. No wonder they are miserable. Stop thinking about yourself and your problems. Find someone who has a greater problem and help them: that will help you.


Stinking thinking is an everyday battle. In that respect, it is like pride; you have to deal with it everyday but disciplines help. I can tell you one thing you do not need to do all the time and that is watch TV. There is a lot of stinking thinking on TV. I know that some of you watch Nature shows and reality stuff and not all of TV is bad but the Network stuff stinks to high heaven. It is laced with Relativism and Secular Humanism. The left has made TV their number one brain washing implement. My suggestion and I am for from perfect on the subject of positive thinking, is that you read the bible a lot. I have a long way to go and a short time to get there but bible reading helps me as much as anything. I have to be careful about TV. Many TV programs are border line porn to me. That may be because I am an old man, I don’t know, but I do know that it is better for me not to see certain things. Once the wrong image gets in my mind, it may take me weeks to get it out.

Not only do you need good reading material to win the battle of the mind, you need good clean wholesome recreation. I pick at hunters a lot but really I envy them. They have a passion for what they do and its far better for them to be chasing deers than dears. Everyone needs some good healthy recreation. Some like to fish which could become a passion for me if I would make the time. We all need a venue where we can relax and enjoy God’s wonderful creation. For some it is a trip to the beach or if you are a fundamentalist, a trip to the coast or for some to the lakes and mountains. If you get involved in the wrong kind of rec or entertainment, it can corrupt your mind.

The New American Standard translates Isaiah 26:3 as follows…“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Steadfastness is the key to victory when it comes to the mind. We have to establish and maintain the right habits. You cannot allow your mind to wonder; it will inevitably go in the wrong direction. There is an old adage, “An idle mind is the devils work shop.” If you have to, memorize the list in Philippians 4…practice thinking on…

  • Things that are true
  • Things that are honorable
  • Things that are right
  • Things that are pure
  • Things that are lovely
  • Things that you admire
  • Things that are excellent
  • Things that are worthy of praise

Prayer and Joy


   Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.


Have you considered the connection between joy, peace and prayer. As you study the text above, you can see that the three are connected. Many people falsely assume that Jesus was a wet blanket when in fact Jesus was a happy person, filled with joy and peace. Yes, He was a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief. He did not laugh about sin or the cross that sin produced but He possessed a deep inter joy that was complete. Dante summed it up when he said, “In His will is our peace.” Jesus remained in the Father’s will. He never, one time, got outside His Father’s will. He lived a life of perfect obedience and herein lies the JOY. Jesus referred to this in John 15 as abiding…“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

What happens when we abide in His will?

1. Abiding in Christ Gives Us A Sense of Security Or An Absence of Fear

When we abide in Christ, we do not fear getting lost. We have a peace and a sense of security that we could not have a part from our relationship with Christ. Freedom is one thing but security is another. Dr. Charles Allen tells the story of a friend who offered to fly him home after a meeting in his little two-seater cub. The plane had no instruments and you navigated by visual landmarks, highways, rivers, etc. Somehow they managed to get off course and although they could see land, they didn’t see anything they recognized and there was no place to land. Suddenly, both men realized their were lost and running low of fuel. They did not have a radio so there was no way they could even signal for help. Dr. Allen does not finish the story but we know he survived. I hate if when a preacher does not finish a story; I want to know what happened.

A few months later Dr. Allen was flying in a commercial liner and the pilot allowed him to come into the cockpit. This was back in the 60’s, there is no way this would happen today. They were flying in the clouds and visibility was about 30 feet. Dr. Allen ask him how they stayed on course since they could no see any landmarks. The pilot assured him that landmarks were not necessary and then he put his headset on Dr. Allen…”Do you hear that noise?” said the pilot, “That is a radio beam and it will guide us to our destination.” I suppose it a kin to the lasers that Engineers, surveyors, and builders use today. When you get the grade exact, the beep become one solid sound.

When you look at the natural world, it is absolutely amazing how God guides the birds who migrate thousands of miles. Can you imagine setting sail from San Francisco and headed for the Hawaiian Islands. Let me tell you, in relationship to the Pacific Ocean, those islands are tiny. The Pacific Golden Plover, a migratory bird that is born in Alaska and Siberia, makes a two thousand mile flight over the Pacific and in spite of wind and other factors, they fly straight to the Hawaiian Islands.

When it comes to you and I following Jesus, we have a radio beam: He is called the Holy Spirit and when we get off course, the sounds we hear in our spirit are not in harmony. We are don’t get a clear signal because we are off course. Obviously God gave the birds and the animals instincts that He did not give us but He has given us His word as a compass and His Spirit as a guide. As Dante said, If we stay on course, stay in his will, there is going to be that one clear sound and herein lies our joy and peace. No one who chooses to live outside the will of God will have peace. No one who lives in rebellion of God’s will can experience joy. They may display a fake happiness but they do not possess joy.

If you will study your fears, you will discover that you are not worried about the past even though in my class, it is littered with mistakes. Neither are you terribly worried about the present. What we tend to worry about is the future. We do exactly what Jesus told us not to do, “We worry about tomorrow.” Paul said in the text above, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” The rule I try to follow is: if something creates anxiety, it’s time to pray. Prayer is the great stress reliever. When we by faith put ourselves into the hand of Christ acknowledging that He is responsible for us as long as we are in His care, it brings peace to our minds. A troubled mind is hard to live with. Living by faith does not mean we see the near or distant future, it means that we walk daily in the light that He gives us. When you travel at night by car, you don’t see your destination as soon as you pull out of the driveway, you see a hundred yards or so depending on the lights of your car and your eyesight. To reach your destination, you travel mile by mile following the light that you have and eventually the light will illuminate your final destination.

There is one thing that all believers in Christ need to keep in mind, we don’t need to make any final judgments until we have seen the final destination. I admit, things look bad now. There is more hatred for Christ in this world than I ever imagined. Church after church is struggling. We are baptizing very few people. The churches that are growing are growing off of other churches. We desperately need a spiritual awakening. We have a hundred and forty million people in America who are dependent on Government instead of God and that is not good. As a nation, our future is very uncertain but as believers our future is secure.

2. Abiding In Christ Will Banish The Conflict

Do you remember the headache commercial that use to run on TV that pictured tension as a rope stretched to the point that it was breaking a strand at a time. That is what the word tension means, to be stretched to tight, strained to the point of breaking. We often refer to a tense person as being “Up tight”. One of the things that causes anxiety, worry, and tension is to be pulled in many different directions. Paul knew the secret, he said, “This one thing I do.” I don’t have a choice, I do not think I could function any other way. I do one thing at a time. When Teddy called about the REVIVAL, my focus was on the revival. The five days I was in Mobile, I was focused on one thing. I did not worry one second about the BLOCK PARTY. As soon as we got home Thursday, I started worrying about the block party. Then for the next three days, it was all BLOCK PARTY. We did have a promotion in the church family but other than that, it was Block Party. I got home late Saturday night and I turned my attention to Sunday a.m. message. Did I have some anxiety over all three? Yes, but I did take them one at a time: it is the only way I can function at age 64.

When we filled pulled in two direction, it creates tension and conflict. Where there is tension and conflict, there is no peace; It is that simple. I will not lie, for years I had my own agenda. I don’t think that I was aware of it but my will and God’s will were not the same. The results is a lack of peace. A few years ago I sensed a work of grace in my life as I began to feel my will abating and my desire to do God’s will growing. I would not go back for any amount of money. There is no substitute for the PEACE of God, it passes all understanding. Huck Finn said, “Conscience takes up more room than all the rest of the fellow’s insides.” Huck had a point, there is not better feeling than the approval of a good conscience.

3. Abiding In Christ Will Produce The Fruit of JOY

I think every child wants to please their father. I think it is inherent; it is something that is in us, something we cannot explain but neither deny. I grew up on a 40 acre cocklebur farm in Limestone County. From day one, I loved tractors. I could not wait for daddy to let me drive the tractor and I remember the first time he left me alone in the field on the tractor [C-Allis Chamber]. I was breaking land and was in hog heaven. It was in the fall when the days are warm but the nights are cool and I was wearing a shirt but that is another story. I never made that mistake a again. I had a good daddy but there are two things I never heard: one was “I love you son” and the other was “good job son, I am proud of you.” When we become a child of God, there is something in us that longs to please our heavenly Father. Like an earthly father, the heavenly Father loves respect and obedience.

Several years ago, I learned a critical lesson in life, one that I regret not learning earlier. We had a FAITH team that got inside a house and was presenting the gospel. The presenter that night was a trainee named Nancy. She was a tiny and sweet girl. She may have been 5’4″ but she didn’t weight a 100 pounds. She had a beautiful smile and a sweet disposition. Nancy was sharing with a man who was seated on the couch and right in the middle of her presentation, his wife [whom they did not know was around] burst out of the bedroom and drove the entire team out of the house. When this team got back to the campus for the report hour, I was worried that Nancy would be discouraged but she had the spirit of Peter and John in Acts 5 where they had been beaten by order of the Sanhedrin; the bible said they left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. Nancy was not the least bit discouraged. After she shared her story, the entire group erupted in praise. Nancy did not lead the man to Christ, so why the joy and celebration. It did happen, I was there and I was a part of the celebration. It was real and generated by the Holy Spirit. This put me to thinking, “Why did we have joy when we had no success?” Then the answer came from heaven like a bolt of lightening…it’s our obedience, not our success that brings joy.

Every time you met an unhappy Christian, you have met a person living in disobedience. Years ago I was preaching a revival meeting and one night a man came to me after the service weeping. I asked him what was wrong and he could not get enough composure to respond so I waited…finally he said, “You are doing what I am supposed to be doing.” I said, “You mean preaching. Has God called you to preach?” He then shared his story and I urged him to surrender but he walked away saying, “It’s too late.” Folks, it’s not too late to repent and to obey and there is no peace when the flesh is on the throne of your life. Remember the story of Jehu riding toward Jezreel and Jehoram sends out a rider to see if Jehu is coming in peace. The rider goes out to met Jehu and says, “Is your mission peace?” I love Jehu’s response, “How can there be peace with Jezebel on the throne?”

How Big Is Your God?

Mark 11:22-24, NLT

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.  I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 


Charles Allen in his book, All Things Are Possible Through Prayer, tells of a shop keeper who lived in New York City. He opened his shop and got married at the age of 20. His shop and his apartment were several block a part so he rode the subway each morning to go to his business. He was very devoted to his business; he opened at 9:00 and closed at 6:00 Monday through Saturday. He always fixed his lunch and ate in the shop. He stayed inside his apartment all day on Sunday and usually in bed resting because he was a frail man and he was always exhausted when Sunday came. He had a daily routine that you could set your watch on. He got up the same time every morning, went through the same routine getting ready, ate the same breakfast, left his apartment at the same time, rode the subway, opened his shop, closed his shop, rode the subway, ate summer went to bed and then all over again the next day. He did this for 50 consecutive years before he died. He never once ventured from his daily routine. He never took a day off or a vacation. He lived his entire life in New York City and yet he had never walked down 5th avenue or seen a Broadway play. He never visited Time Square or Lady Liberty. Not once did he ride to the top of the Empire State Building are visit the Metropolitan Museum. When this man referred to New York City as being his city, he was actually referring to a very small part, the part that he knew and experienced but there was oh so much more that he never knew.

He concept and perception of the city, which was based on his experience was very small. How do you think of God? Do you see Him as an unhappy God with lots of problems or do you see Him as the awesome Creator of all things, who is in all and above all. He is not unhappy and He has no problems. He is the eternal ONE, the infinite ONE. There is no limit to his love, mercy, grace, power or resources. The more He gives the more He has to give. He is the God who can supply all your needs no matter how great those needs are.

When I first read Allen’s story about the shop keeper, I thought, it’s just a simple story and perhaps not worthy of the book but the more I thought about the story, the more I saw the truth that it conveys. What all are we missing due to our stubborn pride and lack of faith. We get locked into a mundane routine and we miss the abundant life.

I am a reader and in my reading, I kept coming across this name and then his books and so out of curiosity, I purchased a Dallas Willard book, the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and read it. Then I bought RENOVATION OF THE HEART and now I am reading his classic THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY. I have read a lot of C.S. Lewis and many other brilliant writers but Willard opened my understanding in new ways that shocked me. I’m thinking, I should have known this years ago. Honestly, I feel overwhelmed by my ignorance. Keep in mind that I am speaking of a fellow human being. I do praise God that He can create such brilliant minds as C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard but I do realize that they too were limited just as I. This leads to the question: How much of God do we know? Are we not like the Shop Keeper? I have given it a lot of thought and I am afraid that I am he.


We need the faith of the Hebrew children…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” They had faith in a big God. They said, “The God we serve is able,” amen! They had faith; do we have faith in God, a big God, a mountain moving God?

Faith is the currency of heaven. There is no need to go to the bank before you pray. All the money in the world will not move God but faith will. Jesus responded to faith. Matter of fact, Jesus loved faith. Faith got Jesus excited. I am about to preach Matthew chapter 9 and three times in that chapter the bible records Jesus responding to faith.

  1. Matthew 9:2 is the story of the friends bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Matthew records, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”
  2. Matthew 9:22…the woman with the issue of blood…Jesus said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.”
  3. Matthew 9:29…Jesus heals the blind man…Jesus touched his eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

I am telling you that faith moved Jesus and faith moves heaven. Prayer without faith is like a boat without water, sails without wind, a car without a motor…we must pray in faith. God is offended by our unbelief.

To illustrate my point, I want to tell some stories. My kids tell me that my stories are the best parts of the sermon and trust me, they do not compliment my sermons or preaching often.

John Bisagno is Pastor Emeritus of the 22000-member Houston’s First Baptist Church. You can see him on Facebook. I heard him tell this story when he was a young man. John had two daughters and at the time they were pre-school and were at home during the day. John had his study at home and he didn’t like to be disturbed once he had entered his study. One day, his girls came into his study and interrupted with this question, “Daddy, will you build us a play house in the back yard?” He barely recognized their presence and said without a lot of thought, “Sure girls, daddy will build you a doll house. Now you girls run a long because Daddy has got to study.” He showed the out and returned to his studies. Later that day, he glanced out the window and saw this strange sight. His girls were moving things to the back yard. He called his wife and questioned her, “What are they doing?” His wife said, “They are moving their doll things out side because they said you said that you would build them a doll house.” “I didn’t mean today” he said, “Well, you better explain that to them because they believe everything you say and you did say you were building them a play house,” said his wife. John said, “I shut my books and went to the lumber yard to get the material to build them a play house.”

When our son Joe David was five and about to be six, he was telling everyone that he was getting a trampoline for his birthday. That constituted a huge problem for June and myself; we had no money to get a trampoline. They were higher then than they are now. Back then they cost $350 and we didn’t have $3.50. We tried everything. We even told him point blank, “Son, you are not getting a trampoline; we don’t have the money.” He was not discouraged, he continued to believe that he was getting a trampoline. A day or two before his birthday, I said, “June, what are we going to do?” She suggested I look for a trampoline. We had an old Chevy Station Wagon, three seater with wood grained paneling on the outside, a real beauty in the day. We all loaded up [6] and headed for Decatur. Vernon Lange ran a sporting goods store at the time and so I went in and explained my problem. He said, “Preacher, I have just what you need if you can come up with $100.” I told him that I thought I could manage $100 but no more. He showed me a trampoline, already assembled but it had a bent frame. He said, “Preacher, if you can find just the right place in your yard, this trampoline will work but no one wants to pay full price for one that is bent.” We bought it and carried it home. We turned it upside down and put it on the top of the station wagon. The kid believed and he received.

I have five beautiful granddaughters and I love each and every one but they are all different. The oldest is Lara. Lara has faith in her granddaddy, too much faith. She thinks that I have a gold mine in my back yard. She will ask for anything. She doesn’t ask once, she will keep on asking. She believes that if she keeps asking that she will get me to do what she wants which is usually a new dress or pair of shoes, etc. The only thing that keeps her from bankrupting me is her Big Mama and her Mother. When they find out what she is up to, they cut her off at the pass. If I being an evil earthly father want to give good gifts to my granddaughters, how much more does the heavenly Father want to give to those who ask Him?