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Monday, April 14, 2014

Revival and Reformation Pt 2: Prosperous Praying


[Audio File Here]

Prosperous Praying

Prayer: Great God, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; we pray with the sacred song writer – “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me” (Psalm 119.132-133).

The streets of our cities and the pews of our churches are crowded these days with emaciated men and plastic women. ‘There are too many limp souls.’” So wrote Eugene Peterson (“Leap Over a Wall,” 10). What do you think? Is Peterson right? Ask yourself this: How many of you Christian men feel like you’re a roaring lion for God? How many of you Christian women feel that you’re beautiful in the fear of the Lord? How many of you teenagers feel as if your faith is rock-solid and ablaze? Probably very few of you…of us. Most of us – I would venture to say – feel like ‘limp-souled’ orphans. Why is that? There are many reasons, but one that I think is true of almost all God’s people is that we have no idea how to pray well…pray with Christ-infused boldness. This evening I want to talk about Prosperous Praying.

Setting: Jabez, pops up out of nowhere. No family link mentioned other than this is in the Judah-Geneology. So, as I mentioned last week, the Spirit-inspired editors are doing editorial economizing – it is forcefully significant that Jabez is the FIRST story retold! Here is where we begin the trek of revival and reformation, and it has to do with prosperous praying!

Play on his name: Jabez and the word for pain: Ozeb

* More Honorable – What made Jabez most honorable above his brothers? {1} The only hint we have is this prayer. As Charles Spurgeon noted, in his sermon on Jabez and his prayer: “The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High.” {2} Important for those coming out of the exile – to be a kabod kind of people, they must be a God-seeking people; “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14) {3} This is how we can be more honorable than our fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, etc. A people known for their praying. A God-seeking people! There are many things that will be blazing, bumbling and blundering through your life to draw your attention away...but be a God-seeking people at all costs – and there you will find the stamina, the stability, the ability to carry on when you feel limp-souled, wounded, discouraged and discredited. 

* Called upon the God of Israel: {1} Not just any-old 5 and dime god, or a Dollar General Store Deity; but this God of Israel - the God who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeas, and promised him descendants, and then when he was 99, gave him a son to his surprise. He called upon the God who delivered Joseph from mean and ornery brothers who maliciously sold him into Egyptian slavery – he called upon the God who made prisoner Joseph prince of Egypt. The God who liberated a dirty, stinky low-born Hebrew slave-nation from the world’s super power, and brought them to this promised piece of real-estate. This promise-making, promise-keeping God. {2} And so the editors want the returning Jews to lift up their eyes and hearts to seek this God – to remember WHO is their God, to remind them HOW He keeps on being their promise-making, promise-keeping God. {3} And it’s this God alone that we’re to seek – this God who has kept another promise -> to give us his Son who came in the fullness of our humanness and died according to God’s “definite plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2.23) so that this God could unleash us from the shackles and chains of sin.

* O that You would bless me! In Hebrew it’s rather emphatic: O, with blessing you bless me!  The stress is on “you”! The origin of blessing is from the Promise-making, Promise-keeping, Prayer-answering God of Israel. To bless is to prosper, to enrich in some way. Thus Jabez is asking for enrichment, success. 2 Chron. 20.20c.

But Jabez is praying for more than material prosperity: Jabez is praying that he may have an active part of Kingdom expansion and Promise-fulfillment. The 3 “Thats”:
  • That … you would enlarge my border…Early meaning…post-exile meaning.
  • That your hand would might be with me… {Negative-Ex.9.3 Plagues; Deut. 2.15 those who died in wilderness; 1 Samuel 5.6 against the Philistine city, Ashdod. Positive-Ex. 13.9 the Exodus; 1 Kings 18.46 Elijah; 2 Chron. 30.12 unites Judah; Ps. 118.15c-16 “The right hand of the LORD…”; 1 Peter 5.6; Psalm 63.8}
  • That you would keep me from harm and causing pain.

In other words, this prayer is not too much different from the Lord’s Prayer in Matt. 6! Its main focus ends up being the exact same thing!

The editors want those returning from exile – the dispirited, disillusioned, defeated, deflated, disenfranchised people of God – to come to have the same God-filled dream! God-soaked prayer with Bible-Based Boldness! ***This is recorded in Scripture to be an encouragement to you as well. “…And if are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-27, 29). 

1 – It’s very fitting that prayer for kingdom expansion is the 1st activity recorded in 1 Chron. * Remember - before Revival was sent by Christ in Acts 2, there was Acts 1:  They waited – In prayer – for the power from on high to come!

2 – And what about this congregation? How fitting to allow this kingdom-expansion prayer to shape our prayer for this church. As PCA Pastor Harry Reeder, in his book “From Embers to a Flame” observes about this episode: “You may be in a church that seems to have everything going against it – pain and difficulty in the past, a wicked culture around you, and seemingly grim prospects for the future. But God blessed Jabez, and He is able to bless you, if you will ask him to do so through biblical and faithful prayer” (86)!

3 – What are your kingdom dimensions, your “kingdom of God” boundaries? Presently it is this little space and place in life. But I am challenging you to begin praying to be more involved in God’s kingdom-expansion. And maybe that will mean taking on a Sunday School class; jumping in to our outreach VBS; working at project 66 – NeuroResources Outreach – Little Light School – Crisis Pregnancy Center – tutoring kids at a local school – etc. But like Jabez, before we launch into these areas, we seek his face, we dive into God-saturated praying with Bible-based boldness, pursuing His Promises! John 14.12-13.

Thus, discouragement, disappointment, despair should not characterize us!  Instead, we must begin to expect, with holy anticipation, the unimaginable in our praying { Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:120-21)}. Why? Because our praying is heard, accepted and being worked out: thru Jesus Christ, because He continues ever, and has an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save to the uttermost those that come unto God through him, seeing he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:24‑25).


Emaciated? Plastic? Limp-souled? Mat it never be! Instead, prosperously pray!

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