Sermons

You're The Answer To Someone's Prayer

Sun, Oct 11, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull

Message text

You’re The Answer To Someone’s Prayer
2 Cor. 12: 7-10 & Luke 22:42

ILL. I heard a story recently about a missionary in Africa, named William Chalmers, who was approached by two tribal chieftains. For more than a year they had been hearing about Chalmers & his God & the changes that had occurred in the villages which had welcomed him.
Impressed by it all, they had come to invite him to their villages also. Sadly, Chalmers told them that because of commitments he had already made that he would be unable to go back with them to their villages. They then asked for any Christian teachers he could send. Once again he had to tell them that he had no one to send.
As a result, the two chieftains remained there with Chalmers for 2 weeks, observing what life was like in what was now a predominantly Christian village. They were particularly curious about his custom of daily praying to God – not as a God to be feared & whose anger had to be appeased, but as a God to be loved & thanked for His protection, for providing what is needed, & for His guidance.
Then the chieftains went home, after urging Chalmers to come as soon as he could. Nearly 2 years passed before Chalmers could arrange to go as he had promised. It was early in the morning when he arrived at the first village & found the villagers on their knees in perfect silence. They were not making a sound!
Mystified by this, Chalmers asked the chief what they were doing. "We are praying to your God," he replied. “But you’re not saying anything.”
"We do not know what to say, but for nearly two years we have met here praying & waiting for someone to come & teach us what to say."

A. Now how about us? Do we know how to pray? Well, of course we do! Or do we? For example, how do we pray for Christians who are going through difficulties in life? The natural response when we see someone who is sick, or going through tough times, or family difficulties ... is to say, "We'll pray for you."
But have you ever found yourself wondering, “What is the best thing to pray for in this situation?” Sometimes it is hard to know just what to pray. And doubts can arise when we pray earnestly, & we don’t get the answers that we want.
Sometimes we pray for people who are sick, & they don’t get better. Or we pray for a marriage to be healed, & the couple gets a divorce. Or we pray for a couple to have a healthy child, & a handicapped child is born. I can't give you any easy answers as to why this happens.

B. But what I don’t know about prayer doesn't discourage me, because the way I've seen prayers answered, & the way lives have been changed as a result of prayer, gives me so much encouragement that I'm absolutely convinced the most important thing we can do in times of difficulty is to pray.
Prayer puts us in touch with God. And it’s important for us to come to God & express our needs & the deepest longings of our hearts.

C. So with that in mind, look with me at 2 Cor. 12:7-10 where the Apostle Paul speaks about his "thorn in the flesh."
He says, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Now here is the situation: Paul had just had an amazing spiritual experience. But there is a danger in spiritual experiences. And that is of becoming conceited, of beginning to think that you’re more spiritual or important than anybody else.
So the Bible tells us that God gives Paul what he calls a "thorn in the flesh." We don't know what it was, but it was something that caused Paul physical pain & anguish. In fact, it was so bad that 3 times Paul prays for God to take it away. And 3 times God answers, "No."
Then He tells Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (or obvious) in weakness." So Paul learns the lesson & accepts the grace of God & recognizes that it is sufficient to see him through.
APPL. With Paul’s example before us, maybe the question we should be asking is, "When bad things happen, for what should we, as God's people, pray?"

I. SOME OBVIOUS ANSWERS
Of course there are some obvious answers to that question. We need to be asking for God's presence & strength in our daily lives through the Holy Spirit.
We also need to be praying that it is God's will that is done, & not ours.
And of course, our prayers should be for those around us, & the impact that our problems may be having upon them. We need to be concerned about more than just our own needs & trials.

ILL. In his book “Living Life on Purpose”, Greg Anderson shares this story: This man’s wife had left him & he was completely depressed. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, & even in God.
One rainy, gloomy morning he went to a small neighborhood diner for breakfast. Although several customers were there, no one was speaking to anyone else. This miserable man sat hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon.
In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the gloomy silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?"
The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around & said, "Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And the waitress turned & looked at the rest of the people in the diner & said, "Bow your heads."
Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, & said, "God is great, God is good, & we thank him for our food. Amen."
That prayer changed the entire atmosphere in the diner. People began talking with one another. And the waitress said, "We should do that every morning."
"All of a sudden," said the man, "my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all that I did have, & stopped dwelling on all I didn’t have. I started to choose happiness again."
And God has told us that if we don’t know exactly what to pray, the Holy Spirit will help us.

ILL. A heart-broken little girl knelt & began to pour out her heart to God. But she didn’t know what to say. As she was sobbing she remembered what her father had told her, "God knows your needs even before you pray, & He can answer when you don’t know what to ask."
So she began saying the alphabet. A lady heard her crying & knelt beside her, & hearing her saying her ABC’s, asked her what she was trying to do. The little girl told her, "I’m praying to God from my heart."
The lady replied, "It sounds to me more like you’re just saying the alphabet!" "Yes," she said, "But God knows more about what I need than I do, & He can take all those letters & arrange them in just the right way to hear & answer my prayers!"

II. IT IS ALL RIGHT TO PRAY TO ESCAPE SUFFERING
Another thing we learn from Paul is that it is all right to pray to escape suffering. Paul prayed for an end to his suffering.
And so did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
If you're sick, it's legitimate to ask God to heal you. If you're having difficulty in life, whatever it might be, it’s perfectly all right to pray that God will take it away. Sometimes He does, & sometimes He doesn’t, & we don’t always understand why.
But we’re still to trust Him. Paul did, & out of his own experience he was able to write that great passage in Romans proclaiming, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

ILL. A long time minister in a small town tells this story:
Last week I took my children to a restaurant. My 6-yr-old son asked if he could say grace. As we bowed our heads he said, “God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, & I would even thank you more if mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And Liberty & Justice for all! Amen!”
Along with the laughter from other customers nearby I heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream! Why, I never!”
Hearing this, my son burst into tears & asked me, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?” As I held him, I assured him that he had done a terrific job & God was certainly not mad at him.
An elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at my son & said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.” “Really?” my son asked. “Cross my heart.” Then in a theatrical whisper he added, “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice-cream is good for the soul sometimes.”
Naturally, after that, I bought my kids ice cream at the end of the meal. My son stared at his for a moment & then did something I will remember the rest of my life. He picked up his sundae & without a word walked over & placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes & my soul is good already.”

III. WE OUGHT ALSO TO PRAY THAT OUR SUFFERING NOT BE WASTED
A. But when we do suffer, I think we ought to pray that our suffering will not be wasted, that it will be used to bring glory to God, & that we gain the victory over it through the strength that God gives us.
I think that is what happened in this passage with Paul. Paul said, "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh." A strange gift, isn't it?
But every once in a while, God allows negative things in life for a reason. In this particular situation Paul tells us that it was to keep him humble. He didn't resign himself to it, but he accepted it as something that God had given him for a reason.

B. Paul prayed, & then he waited on a word from God. "Three times," he said, "I prayed to God, ‘Take this thorn away. Please God, heal me. Take away the hurt & pain.'" Three times heaven was silent. Three times there was no answer from God.
You've experienced that frustration, haven't you? And it is difficult to keep the level of faith you know you should have when it seems heaven is not responding.
But Paul waited, & that is exactly what the scriptures teach us to do. "Wait on God, & keep on praying."
Finally the silence was broken. God spoke to him & said, "My grace is sufficient for you." He didn't take away the thorn. He just gave Paul enough grace to be able to put up with it.
"Then," Paul said, "I suddenly realized that it's not my strength that God wants - it is me, just as I am, trusting my all to Him.” Listen again to Paul’s words:
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
Jack took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone... Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often? When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with a mirror.

The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in hand. Bob? Bob from church? Jack sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A Christian cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little anxious to get home after a long day at the office.
A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow.

Jumping out of the car, he approached a man he saw every Sunday, a man he'd never seen in uniform.

"Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this."

"Hello, Jack." No smile.
"Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids."
"Yeah, I guess." Bob seemed uncertain. Good.
"What'd you clock me at?"
"Seventy-one. Would you sit back in your car, please?"

"Now wait a minute here, Bob. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65." The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.
"Please, Jack, in the car."

Flustered, Jack hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Jack ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the door jerked his head to the left.

There was Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a bare two inches, just enough room for Bob to pass him the slip.

"Thanks." Jack could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice.

Bob returned to his car without a word.
Jack watched his retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket.

Jack began to read: "Dear Jack, Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it - a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail, and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters. All three of them. I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again. Even now... Pray for me. And be careful. My son is all I have left.
Bob"

Jack twisted around in time to see Bob's car pull away and head down the road. Jack watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he, too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

CONCL. Now let’s go back & review what we have learned today from the apostle Paul. We have learned that we need to be asking for God’s presence & strength in our daily lives, for His Holy Spirit to be working within us.
We need to be praying for God’s will to be done, & not ours. We need to be concerned about more than just our own needs & trials, but also about those who are around us.
At the same time, we also learned that it is all right to pray for God to heal us, to end our suffering, to take away our difficulties, as long as we pray like Jesus, “Not my will, but yours be done” & really mean it!
And if we do suffer, Paul teaches us that we ought to pray that our suffering will not be wasted,
that it will be used to bring glory to God, & that we will gain the victory over it through the strength that God gives us each day.

Sermon Contributor: Melvin Newland

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