Prayer Support

  • Prayer Support
  • Exodus 17:8-16
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • November 11, 2018
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11-11-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Here’s a question for you. How satisfied are you with your prayer life?  On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel about where you are as a person of prayer right now?

 

Give yourself a ten if you can say with integrity that you find yourself consistently living in God’s presence. You long to be alone with Him and hunger for times away with God. You often carve times out of your schedule to be in prayer and you are fed by these times.

 

When you have a problem, your first instinct is to pray and ask for wisdom. You regularly intercede for others. You are concerned not just locally, but for the whole world, and you lift your concerns in ongoing prayer.

 

If the truth is known, prayer has become like a precious gift to you. You treasure it as one of the greatest privileges in your life. If this describes you, mark a ten on your prayer scale.

 

Give yourself a one if you find yourself mostly prayerless. When you have a problem, your first instinct is to worry and become anxious. Patterns of sin and unforgiveness block your prayer life.

 

You become so busy that the idea of time in prayer does not even enter into how you look at your day. If the truth is known, thinking of prayer does not excite you but feels more like a burden. If this describes you, Mark a one on the prayer scale.

 

Where would you put yourself right now on this prayer scale? There is a scale on the screen if that helps you. Take a moment and make a mental note of where you would place your prayer life on the scale.

 

Now think about the longing of your heart in relationship to prayer. Where would you like to be one year from now? Look at the scale again and make a mark or mental note about that.

 

Prayer is an urgent issue for those of us who consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus. We must commit ourselves to grow as people of prayer. We need to long to have a deeper experience of God in prayer. Day by day, week by week, and year by year we need to go deeper in prayer. Prayer must become the top priority in all of our lives.

 

One universal problem when it comes to prayer is that our minds can wander. We try to focus, but so many things can distract us. Henri Nouwen uses a beautiful image about the difficulty of staying focused in prayer and solitude. He says, “The problem when I go to prayer is, my mind is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.”

 

We all face this. Countless thoughts are jumping all around, and it is tough to focus and keep our attention on the things of God.

 

So how do we deal with this?  One option is to journal and write out our prayers. Journaling can be a very helpful and practical way to keep focused. Another option is to put an empty chair across from us and let it remind us that Jesus is there with us. It becomes a physical reminder of the spiritual reality that we are not alone. Another way to deal with a wandering mind is to take a few minutes before prayer to quiet our minds, slow down, and be quiet before God.

 

This morning we are continuing in our series entitled, “Compass,” as we study the Old Testament book of Exodus and look at what it means for us to allow God to be the One who guides and directs our lives. We see this played out in the story of Moses’ life and find principles to help us follow God’s call.

 

Today we look at how this relates to the issue of prayer. We need to recognize our utter dependence on the power of God through prayer. Moses discovered, and so must we that the prevailing power of God flows through those who pray.

 

Imagine this strange sight: the people of Israel are armed and ready for battle, but Moses is not with them. Where is he? Where is their leader?

Moses is not on the battlefield, but upon the mountain, praying. As Moses lifted his hands to God, he prayed. While his hands were raised in prayer, Israel’s army prevailed and began defeating the Amalekites.

 

But when he lowered his hands and stopped praying the tide of the battle would turn, and the Amalekites would begin defeating the Israelites.

The battle was not won in the valley where hands were lifted in violence. It was won up on the hillside where hands were raised high in prayer. When those hands were too tired, it was won by other hands that came alongside and helped in prayer.

 

Prayer was not a preparation for the battle, and it was not an aide in the battle, it was the battle. Because the prevailing power of God flows through those who pray.

 

Let’s take a look at our story. The scripture passage comes to us from Exodus 17:8-16:

 

8 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. 9Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”

10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

14 After the victory, the LORD instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”). 16 He said, “They have raised their fist against the LORD’s throne, so now the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.”

 

As Moses stood on the hillside praying and lifting his hands toward heaven, he realized that the prevailing power of God was flowing through his prayers. God allowed Moses, through prayer, to be an intercessor – a channel of divine power in human affairs. An intercessor is someone who makes himself or herself available to God to be used as a channel of divine power in the lives of people.

 

From all outward appearances, Joshua would go down in the record books as the winner of this battle. He was the visible commander and the one who directed the troops to victory. We must be clear to say that his role was important and needed.

 

Both Joshua and Moses knew the truth. The people of Israel were utterly dependent on the power of God to win the battle. It was the mighty power of God channeled through the prayers of three guys tucked away on the hillside that won the day.

 

Simply put, God’s prevailing power flows through those who pray.

  • We might wonder how many lives have been changed, battles won, and miracles experienced because someone prevailed in prayer?
  • How many people on unseen hillsides have persevered in prayer and changed the world?

 

Praying with frequency gives us the readiness to pray again as needed from moment to moment. The more we pray, the more we think to pray and as we see the results of prayer – the responses of our Father to our requests – our confidence in God’s power spills over into other areas of our life.

However, prayer as a discipline has its greatest force in strengthening the spiritual life only as we learn to pray without ceasing. We can train ourselves to invoke God’s presence in every action we perform.

 

This is an experiential fact that has been proven in the lives of many disciples of Jesus, ancient and modern. God will meet us in love and love will keep our minds directed towards Him as a magnet pulls the needle of the compass. Habit will be confirmed in gracious interaction, and our whole lives will be bathed in the presence of God.

 

We must intentionally devote our time to prayer. This might seem almost remedial and simple, but it needs to be said and heard. If we are going to grow in prayer, we must spend time doing it. We must be deeply committed to spending time with God.

 

We must take out our calendar for the coming week and ask this question: “When will I pray? When will I make an appointment to meet with God?” Then we will need to say, “This is the most important appointment in my day. There is no way I will miss this.”

 

It is important to notice that Moses was not in the battle but up on the hill praying. If he were like most people, he would have gone to the battle and prayed while he was fighting.

 

But Moses was not going to squeeze prayer into the cracks of his day. He would sacrifice doing some important things for the sake of doing the most important thing – being available to pray.

 

Moses wasn’t strong enough to keep his hands in the air all by himself. When his hands began to fall, and his prayers faltered, the consequences were drastic. So two friends came alongside Moses and helped him keep his hands in the air (prevail in prayer).

 

The story says that Moses’ hands were “firmness itself” once Aaron and Hur were at his side. There they sat and prayed until sunset. The people of God were victorious.

 

Maybe one way that we could increase the power and intention of prayer would be to get together with others to pray. In the same way that Moses’ prayers were strengthened by the acts of Aaron and Hur. We can help strengthen each other’s prayers as well.

 

I know that when I pray with other people, it impacts my prayers. Other people will say something in a way that I wouldn’t think to say it. Other people’s prayers will prod my thinking. The prayers of others help me focus as I listen and then pray in agreement with them.

 

One of the greatest barriers to prayer is our pathological pursuit of production. Too often we believe that productivity is only about achieving visible stuff. We tend to divide our time into two categories: productive and non-productive. The problem is, too often, we don’t see prayer as a productive use of time.

 

Many followers of Christ see prayer as a waste of time, and that is the exact reason they spend so little time doing it.

 

We need to change our whole view of prayer. Our world can tend to set our agenda as to what is seen as productive. Guess what, this world system does not see prayer as producing anything of value.

 

When we commit to be a person of prayer, we must be ready to shift our lives to a different value system. A system that says: Everything of true and lasting value is born in prayer.

 

Prayer is about partnering with God in His word in the world. There is not a moment you spend in prayer that is ever wasted. There is not a word spoken in prayer that is not valuable.

 

We need to find some creative aids to help us grow in our prayer lives. First, we need to find aids that will help us remember who we are praying for.

This could mean keeping a prayer list with names and needs. It could be sitting down at the end of a day and reviewing your day – what you did and who you saw, and then letting the Holy Spirit guide you to pray for people and situations as needed.

 

You could do “flash prayers.” These are quick prayers you lift up as you go through the day. You see people every day who need prayer. There are some people you might pass on the street that have never had someone pray for them. You could be the first person to ever lift them up in prayer. Secretly pray for every person you see in the day.

 

You can use the newspaper or evening news as a springboard to pray for local, national and world needs. All of these can be reminders to pray.

 

You can even learn to stop right in the middle of a conversation to pray for someone. Most of us have talked with someone who tells us about a need and we sincerely say, “I will pray for you.” But we forget. Later we realize we never prayed for an important situation.

 

Why not stop right where you are talking with the person and pray for them when the need is expressed? This is not an effort to make yourself look spiritual or to put the other person on the spot. It is simply a way to remember to pray.