By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
The Word of God assures us that the Lord hears the prayers of His people. Christians can avoid the pains of anxiety by letting our requests be made to known to God by supplication and prayer with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7). We have the confidence that the prayers of God’s people are a delight to the Lord (Proverbs 15:8). Amazingly, the Lord knows what we need, even before we ask (Matthew 6:8)!
The Lord encourages Christians to be “watchful” in prayer (Colossians 4:2). What does this mean?
“The accompanying exhortation to “keep awake, be on the alert” (yprlyop£w) is drawn from the imagery of guard duty (Neh. 7:3; 1 Macc. 2:27; Mark 14:34, 37), but its metaphorical usage seems to be almost wholly Christian….Moreover, the link with prayer may echo the scene in the garden of Gethsemane from the passion narrative, which would no doubt be familiar in all the early Christian churches (Mark 14:38/Matt. 26:41), since there is no other obvious reason why the metaphor should be preserved here (Moule, Colossians and Philemon 132; Houlden 216; Caird 210)….At the very least the sense of an impending threat requiring constant alertness is retained, and prayer functions as the vital channel of communication with the commander in chief. The other accompanying exhortation is once again that their prayers should be made in a spirit of thanksgiving (Ev evxapi ‘ria). This repeated emphasis in Colossians makes it one of the most “thankful” documents in the New Testament (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2). Here it provides an important balance to the call for watchfulness: they are to keep alert, not in a spirit of fear or anxiety, but with the confidence and assurance that their resources (in Christ) are more than equal to the potential challenges.”. (James D.G. Dunn, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistles To The Colossians And To Philemon, 3686-3894 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
The idea seems to be linked to that of keeping a watching attitude about two things.
First, be watchful for situations that require prayer.
Second, be watchful for God’s answers to your prayers.
With this idea of “watching,” in mind, I want to tell you about a most unexpected way that God recently answered one of my prayers.
Many people know that since moving to Hazard, I have been faced with lots of difficult challenges and persecutions. I have had people threaten to burn down my house. I have had some people slit my tires. One night, someone opened fire at my old residence (shooting, I believe, above my roof). I have received threatening phone calls, had dogs set loose upon me, received threatening notes left at my home, had malicious rumors spread about me by deviant people, and have had hexes put upon me by satanists and occultists. I have nearly been robbed by people who were making plans to first “beat me up” (I believe they probably would have been surprised at the outcome of such an endeavor) and then take the money in my wallet. We have had a couple of denominational preachers threaten to “bring their sword” down upon us, and assured their followers that soon my wife and I would be dead.
We also have good reason to suspect that someone tried to burn our house down about a year or so ago.
Now, I have tried to endure all of this as a Christian and a Gospel preacher, recognizing my own sinfulness and frailties. I have tried to be faithful to the Lord and to teach and preach His Word when it is convenient and when it is not (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
But, I do not want to do anything to unnecessarily put myself, or my family and friends, in harm’s way (Ecclesiastes 7:16-17; Matthew 10:23).
Well, recently I wrote up some articles on a topic which I believed would likely get me in the proverbial hot water.
I was working on the articles inside an excellent Chinese restaurant in Corbin.
As I was typing up the last article and thinking about all of the potential consequences, I had a heart-to-heart with God.
Mark: “Lord, I’m trying to do Your will. But maybe I shouldn’t publicize these articles right now. God, you know that this could get me in hot water. If you want me to be, fine; but if not, I really don’t want to put myself in there for nothing. Please, could you let me know what to do? I’ll wait for you to show me.”
So, I waited.
I had some more Hawaiian Chicken and hot tea.
And I prayed.
Mark: Lord, could you let me know what to do?
I opened up a book on my IPhone by Robert Jordan (the Wheel of Time series), and read for a few minutes about Rand Al’Thor.
And I prayed.
Mark: Okay Lord, can you give me just an inkling?
I opened up a book on my IPad and read some interesting word studies from the Greek New Testament.
And I prayed.
Mark: Lord, this food is so good! Please, can you give me an idea about whether or not to publish those articles?
Finally, the nice Chinese lady stopped by my table with my check and a fortune cookie. As I was drinking my last bit of hot tea with some Dr. Pepper (no, not together-gross!), I popped open my fortune cookie and read my “fortune.”
Then I sat back, stunned.
I put that fortune cookie in my wallet and posted the articles on my Facebook and shared them with some friends who I believed would benefit from them.
Wanna know what that fortune cookie said?
Here it is:
“There Is No Glory Unless You Put Yourself On The Line.”
Please…stop and think about that for just a moment.
Now, I”m sure some people would say, “Mark, that is a fortune cookie and probably lots of people have gotten it!”
Yet what are the odds that I would get THAT fortune, on THAT day, in THAT restaurant, with ALL OF THOSE CUSTOMERS getting cookies, just a FEW MINUTES after I had specifically prayed to God with THAT specific concern of physical safety???
Some might say, “Mark, do you really believe that God would answer your prayers through a Chinese fortune cookie?”
Well, God worked through the pagan Magi when Christ was born, did He not (Matthew 2:1-12)? He also spoke to the people through Balaam, a false prophet, if I remember correctly (Numbers 24:1). Did God not communicate His Word (in general revelation) through pagan prophets and poets (Acts 17:26-28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12), as well as through non-inspired Jewish books (Jude 1:9, 14)?
Furthermore, if God could speak through a DONKEY (2 Peter 2:15-16), who is it so difficult for us to believe that He can answer the prayers of His people through common and everyday experiences and events?
With that all being said, let me these four considerations.
First, prayer is a blessing for God’s people, not for those who are unsaved (1 Peter 3:10-12). The Word of God teaches that the prayers of those who refuse to keep God’s Word are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 28:9). God does not “hear” sinners (John 9:31), at least not in the sense that He grants their petitions even though He knows what they are praying (Acts 10:1-4).
Many in the religious world tell non-Christians to get saved by praying a sinner’s prayer; yet Saul was a believer in Jesus who had repented of his sins (Acts 9:5-8) and was fasting and praying for three days and nights (Acts 9:9-11). If there could ever be someone saved this side of the Cross through the sinner’s prayer, it would have been him!
Yet what was he told after those three days of prayer and fasting?
Acts 22:16-And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
We cannot get saved through the sinner’s prayer beloved. The sinner’s prayer is, I personally believe, one of the greatest lies that Hell has ever unleashed upon mankind.
Second, when a Christian prays to God, he should pray while “watching.” Expect for God to hear your prayers, and to answer them in harmony with His will (1 John 5:14-15) when we ask from godly motives (Psalm 66:18).
God’s answers to our prayers can take the form of everyday occurrences, or the extraordinary. Pray in faith for Him to answer as He sees fit. Sometimes, His answers to our prayers may not take the form that we wish they would, or that we would normally expect.
Isn’t that a lesson that the Apostle Paul learned?
2 Corinthians 12:7-10-7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Third, when God answers your prayers, give Him thanks! Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the most thankful. We know that, in whatever form they arrive, our blessings come from God Himself. After all, God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). How thankful to God we should be!
Isn’t it God Who daily loads us with benefits (Psalm 68:19)?
Fourth, remember to compare anything and everything with the Word of God. Satan is the great deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:10-12; Revelation 12:7-12). He knows how to deceive people, and he can do so with great subtly.
Years ago, I was having a Bible study with a lady who desperately wanted to be forgiven of her sins. We were studying the Gospel over the Internet with a friend of mine from Tennessee, and she decided at about 12:30 A.M. that she wanted to be saved. After learning the Bible teaching that believers must repent of their sins and be baptized by the authority of Christ upon a profession of faith in Him to be forgiven (Acts 2:37-41; 8:35-e8; Romans 10:9-10), she asked us to help her find a minister who would baptize her into Christ that very day (Acts 2:41). We were blessed to find a minister who would have gladly helped her, but when we told her the good news, she explained something that had happened to her after finishing our Bible study.
The lady claimed that an angel had appeared to her and told her that she did not need to be baptized into Christ, and that God would forgive her sins right then and there if she called out to Him in prayer. Sadly, she followed the “advice” of this “angel,” and (to my knowledge) never has been baptized into Christ. (Unfortunately, she refused to heed the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-9).
It is absolutely essential that we test everything against the Word of God. This is how the Bible teaches that we learn the difference between truth and error.
1 John 4:6-We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Isaiah 8:20-To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Finally, I want to share this with you. Several times when I pray (especially before I preach or teach, or before I write an article), I say something like this to God:
“Lord, help me as I prepare this lesson. I pray that it will be a blessing to those who need it. May it convict those who are in sin, and may it bring glory to You.”
If we are focusing on bringing glory to God, then we need to “follow through” with obedience to Him.
In our world, obedience to God gets a bad rep. To the unlearned and unstable, if you talk about the need to obey God, you suddenly become a “legalist,” or maybe a person who thinks that you are somehow earning your salvation.
Now, it’s clear that we cannot perfectly keep the Law’s demands (Galatians 3:10-12), which is why we so desperately need the righteousness of Jesus (Romans 8:1-3). Yet whom does Jesus apply that righteousness?
Romans 6:17-18-17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you OBEYED from the heart that FORM OF DOCTRINE to which you were delivered.
18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
If we are seeking the glory of God, we will obey.
Isn’t it sad that the Bible tells us of some people who believed in Jesus, but refused to obey Him?
John 12:42-Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
Yet what is perhaps the saddest statement is found in the next verse:
John 12:43-for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Friends, please do not be like those Pharisees. Seek the glory of God first and foremost. It was the mercy and grace of God which led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins on the Cross of Calvary (Titus 2:11-14). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 1t5:1-8). He has promised salvation to every person who believes in Him, repents of sin, confesses Him as the Son of God, and is baptized into Him (Acts 2:37-47). When we sin as Christians, He promises forgiveness if we will repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).
When we are in Christ (i.e., in His church-Acts 2:47), we have access to all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), including prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Why not avail yourself of those blessings by turning your life to Him today?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.