August 6

Forgiveness is an easy thing to get but much harder to give.  On Sunday, we talked about the need to forgive- to relinquish resentment toward others and the need to love other as God loves us.  If we cannot or will not our prayers will be soiled and our relationship with God will be tarnished.

One parable of Jesus the I did not include in my sermon (mainly because of time), but perfectly illustrates how God view forgiveness and unforgiveness is found in Matt 18:21-35, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
  “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
  “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
  “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
  “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
  “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
  “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.   Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
  “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 18:21–35). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 
In his book that I have been using on prayer, MacArthur sums up what we have learned in the last two messages.  “What have we learned? We have an ongoing problem: sin. It interrupts our fellowship and usefulness to Him. God’s provision for that sin is continual forgiveness. We receive it by confessing our sin. And the prerequisite is that we forgive others. An unforgiving Christian is a proud, selfish person who has forgotten that his sins have been washed away. Learn to confess, and before you confess, learn to forgive. Then we can confidently seek God in the solitude of our hearts and ask Him to forgive us each day.”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 110). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


July 30

We had another good service on Sunday.  I did not use much from John MacArthur’s book Alone with God, because I went in another direction than he did.  Some of his thoughts on forgiveness may appear in later messages.  However, he did have much to say on our daily prayer which was what I preached on last week.
“Jesus’ earthly ministry was remarkably brief, barely three years long. Yet in those three years, as must have been true in His earlier life, He spent a great amount of time in prayer. The Gospels report that Jesus habitually rose early in the morning, often before daybreak, to commune with His Father. In the evening He would frequently go to the Mount of Olives or some other quiet spot to pray, usually alone. Prayer was the spiritual air that Jesus breathed every day of His life. He practiced an unending communion between Himself and the Father.
He urged His disciples to do the same. He said, “Keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place” (Luke 21:36).
The early church learned that lesson and carried on Christ’s commitment to continual, unceasing prayer. Even before the Day of Pentecost, the 12 disciples gathered in the Upper Room “with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). That didn’t change even when 3,000 were added to their number on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:42). When the apostles were led to structure the church so that ministry could be accomplished effectively, they said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (6:4).
Throughout his life, the Apostle Paul exemplified this commitment to prayer. Read the benedictions to many of his epistles and you’ll discover that praying for his fellow believers was his daily practice. To the Roman believers he said, “God … is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request” (Rom. 1:9–10; cf. 1 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 5:20; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:3; 1 Thes. 1:2; 2 Thes. 1:3, 11; Phile. 4). His prayers for believers often occupied him both “night and day” (1 Thes. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:3).
Because he prayed for them so continually, Paul was able to exhort his readers to pray that way as well. He urged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). He commanded the Philippians to stop being anxious and instead, “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). He encouraged the Colossians to “devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2; cf. Rom. 12:12). And to help the Ephesians arm themselves to combat the spiritual darkness in the world around them, he said, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). Unceasing, incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of a believer’s relationship to the Lord and his ability to function in the world.
A Way of Life
As a child I used to wonder how anyone could pray without ceasing. I pictured Christians walking around with hands folded, heads bowed, and eyes closed, bumping into everything. While certain postures and specific times set aside for prayer have an important bearing on our communication with God, to “pray at all times” obviously does not mean we are to pray in formal or noticeable ways every waking moment. And it does not mean we are to devote ourselves to reciting ritualistic patterns and forms of prayer.
To “pray without ceasing” basically refers to recurring prayer, not nonstop talking. Thus it is to be our way of life—we’re to be continually in an attitude of prayer.
Famous nineteenth-century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon offers this vivid picture of what praying at all times means:
Like the old knights, always in warfare, not always on their steeds dashing forward with their lances in rest to unhorse an adversary, but always wearing their weapons where they could readily reach them, and always ready to encounter wounds or death for the sake of the cause which they championed. Those grim warriors often slept in their armour; so even when we sleep, we are still to be in the spirit of prayer, so that if perchance we wake in the night we may still be with God. Our soul, having received the divine centripetal influence which makes it seek its heavenly centre, should be evermore naturally rising towards God himself. Our heart is to be like those beacons and watchtowers which were prepared along the coast of England when the invasion of the Armada was hourly expected, not always blazing, but with the wood always dry, and the match always there, the whole pile being ready to blaze up at the appointed moment. Our souls should be in such a condition that ejaculatory prayer should be very frequent with us. No need to pause in business and leave the counter, and fall down upon the knees; the spirit should send up its silent, short, swift petitions to the throne of grace …
A Christian should carry the weapon of all-prayer like a drawn sword in his hand. We should never sheathe our supplications. Never may our hearts be like an unlimbered gun, with everything to be done to it before it can thunder on the foe, but it should be like a piece of cannon, loaded and primed, only requiring the fire that it may be discharged. The soul should be not always in the exercise of prayer, but always in the energy of prayer; not always actually praying, but always intentionally praying (The Parables of Our Lord [Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint 1979], 434–35).”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 14–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


July 23

This week’s additional quotes from John MacArthur’s book that I have used in my sermons includes one that I read for you during the message.  Prayer is not something you do once a day or at a specific time of day, but a 24/7 time with God.  Here is what I read and you can feel free to look up the scripture reference.  If you do not have a Bible app, you can download a great one by clicking on the links icon in the main menu.
“At a pastors’ conference I attended some years ago, one man preached on the subject of morning prayer. To support his point, he read various passages that show people praying in the morning. As he did, I looked up all the Scriptures that show people praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10), in the evening (1 Kings 18:36), before meals (Matt. 14:19), after meals (Deut. 8:10), at the ninth hour (3 P.M.; Acts 3:1), at bedtime (Ps. 4:4), at midnight (Acts 16:25), day and night (Luke 2:37; 18:7), often (Luke 5:33), when they’re young (Jer. 3:4), when they’re old (Dan. 9:2–19), when they’re in trouble (2 Kings 19:3–4), every day (Ps. 86:3), and always (Luke 18:1; 1 Thes. 5:17).
Prayer is fitting at any time, in any posture, in any place, under any circumstance, and in any attire. It is to be a total way of life—an open and continual communion with God. After having embraced all the infinite resources that are yours in Christ, don’t ever think you’re no longer dependent on the moment by moment power of God.”MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 19–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 
Here is another quote I like about what our daily bread is and more importantly, where it comes from.
“Our life, breath, health, possessions, talents, and opportunities all originate from resources God has created and made available to man. Everything we have is from God: It is He who brings the rain to make things grow, causes the seasons to change, produces the minerals that make the soil fertile, provides the natural resources we use to propel ourselves around, and provides the animals and plants from which we make our clothing and food. Our daily bread—the necessities of physical life—are all from God.”
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (p. 91). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 
Think about these things this week and come next Sunday to hear part 4 of the Mystery of Unanswered Prayer.


Devotionals

I have been reading the book Alone with God by John MacArthur Jr. for my sermons on Sunday.  But there is much more in this book than I can fit into the sermon each week.  Plus there is a lot of material that does not fit my focus on “Unanswered prayers.”  So I thought that I would add some additional quotes from his book about prayer.
 
This last weekend I spoke on God’s will verses our will.
“Prayer begins and ends not with the needs of man but with the glory of God (John 14:13). It should be concerned primarily with who God is, what He wants, and how He can be glorified. Those who teach otherwise are not preoccupied with the extension of Christ’s kingdom or the glory of God’s name but with the enlargement of their own empire and the fulfillment of their own selfish desires. Such teaching attacks the heart of Christian truth—the very character of God. (MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (pp. 43–44). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
 
We have been using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to understanding unanswered prayer.  MacArthur says this about the Lord’s prayer that is always useful when teaching about it.
“This prayer, often called the “Lord’s Prayer,” when it could more accurately be titled the “Disciples’ Prayer,” is not a set group of words to repeat. When Christ said to “pray, then, in this way,” He didn’t mean pray with these exact words. His intention was to give them a pattern for the structure of their own prayers, especially since He had just warned them of the dangers of meaningless repetition. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recite it, as we do with so many passages in Scripture. Memorizing it is actually helpful so you can meditate on its truths as you formulate your own thoughts. The prayer is mainly a model we can use to give direction to our own praise, adoration, and petitions. It is not a substitute for our own prayers but a guide for them. (Ibid p. 45).
 
Think about these things this next week and join us next Sunday for part 3 of the Mystery of Unanswered Prayer.  You can join us live at Groveland Missionary Church or download the message on our website http://www.grovelandmc.org/media