March 20th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

The year was 1720, the date June 21st.  The pirate, Bartholomew Roberts, was just about to sail in to the Trepassey Bay in Newfoundland, the easternmost part of the United States of America.  As he got ready to enter that bay, he noticed that there were twenty-two merchant ships lined up around the coast of the bay.  In that day, merchant ships often carried artillery because there were others, like Black Bart, sailing the open seas, ready to take them down and take them for all that they were worth.  Black Bart, or Bartholomew Roberts, was one of the pirates who came up with, what we know now to be, the “Jolly Roger” flag.  It was a way to send a message that the pirates used.  They would simply hoist up this flag and it was an invitation to any ships that could see it “hey, if you’re willing to hoist up your white flag and surrender, we’re willing to not kill you.”   They were trying to negotiate.  Bartholomew Roberts and his crew pulled into the Trepassey Bay in Newfoundland, June 21, 1720, surrounded by 22 ships in this bay and they, slowly but surely, hoisted the “Jolly Roger” flag. And every single one of the twenty-two ships in that bay, slowly but surely, hoisted up their white flag of surrender. Every single one.  The ironic part is that if you go back and read about this account, together for sure, but even independently, many of those ships that gave up without a fight had enough resources onboard to give the good pirate, Black Bart, a run for his money.  But they refused to even fight the battle.  They had enough to win and yet refused to fight.

Fast forward a few hundred years, last February, the New England Patriots were playing the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  It was a choose-your-poison Super Bowl, in my personal, correct opinion.  The New England Patriots were up by four points, but the Seattle Seahawks had the ball.  They drove down the field and they had 26 seconds left on the clock.  It was second down and they had one timeout in their back pocket.  They had one of the best quarterbacks, but they had, arguably, THE best running back in the backfield.  Russell Wilson was in the shotgun.  26 seconds left, down by four, if they score a touchdown they win.  He’s in the shotgun, receives the snap, takes one step back……does not hand it off.  Throws to a spot.  The receiver is beat to the spot by a cornerback who intercepts the pass and goes out to the four yard line and effectively ends the game.  Boo!  If only they could have tied for a lost!  After the game, Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, had one glaring question he had to answer:  Why in the world would you throw the ball on the one-and-a-half yard line when you have, what many consider to be, the BEST short-yardage running back in football??  You had everything you needed to win and yet, you gave the game away.  What were you thinking??  And Pete Carroll, to this day, hasn’t come up with a good answer!

Before we’re too hard on them, I wonder how many of us live lives of perpetual defeat with every resource we need to be victorious.  I started to wrestle with that as I thought through this passage in the Lord’s Prayer.  I started to think through this invitation from Jesus to pray “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”   I started to think of all the times I’ve fallen to temptation.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had that happen to you, but I’ll stand here as your pastor and say it’s happened more than once to me.  Welcome to the party. And I started to think through what did I miss?  Was it just that the temptation was too much or did I miss a resource that was in my backfield that I just didn’t know existed or didn’t tap into?  I started to wonder God, is there a way….I see so many people who walk in defeat.  I see so many people who walk in anxiety and stress and depression.  I see so many people who walk in broken relationships and the wake of those just haunts them time and time again.  I see so many people, followers of Jesus and non-followers of Jesus alike, who are just shackled by the chains of fear.  I just started to wonder, as I prayed this prayer and I’ve taught through this prayer, is there a better way?  Are we surrendering, are we putting up, hoisting the white flag, when we have everything we need to win and everything we need to be victorious?   So I want to talk to two types of people this morning.  I want to talk to the person who feels like life is just beating you down.  I want to invite you to imagine a new day on the horizon, because of a new resource that you acknowledge is in your corner — number one.  But number two, I want to talk to the person in this room who has weathered the storms of life and has done it beautifully.  And I want to help uncover—-maybe you know this or maybe you don’t—-what it’s been that’s allowed you to walk in victory.

Matthew 6:13.  We’ve been walking through a series on the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus is asked by his disciples—will you teach us how to pray?    We’ve noted that it’s interesting that Jesus’ disciples never asked him how to preach.  They didn’t ask him how to start a church.  They didn’t ask him…..they didn’t ask him a lot of things, but one thing they did ask him was will you teach us how to pray?  They recognized that prayer was the bedrock under which He stood to do everything that they saw Him do.  We’ve been asking through this series how do we become the type of people that have this type of heart in prayer, so we started out by saying prayer is defined, first and foremost, by whom we are interacting with and whom we’re praying to.  That God is our Father and He’s a good father and you’re loved by Him.  We said, in tension to that, that God is holy.  He’s completely different, He’s other, He’s set apart.  We also said that we want to pray God, that your kingdom would come and that your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  That’s an audacious prayer, is it not?  That’s a prayer (if you started to pray this) that’s hard to pray sitting on your hands, is it not?  You start to see ways that God might be inviting you to engage this world you’re praying for.  We went on to say that “give us this day our daily bread”…..that God wants to provide for our daily needs and indeed, for many of us in this room, He has. And not only our physical needs, but our spiritual needs and so we prayed along with Jesus “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Notice what Jesus does.  He moves from praying about or inviting us to pray for our physical needs or daily bread to pray for our spiritual needs, that we would be people who receive the forgiveness that we so desperately need because of the sin that has defined us and separated us from the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He deals with, in prayer, our past sin and then invites us to be the type of people that don’t just celebrate a victory over sin in the past, but who walk in victory over sin in the present. It’s people who have been justified (made right with God) who don’t just stop with celebrating the past, but who pray and anticipate about the day on the horizon in the future.  And so we pray:  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  

I thought, at the forefront of teaching the Lord’s Prayer, that this was going to be one of the easier stanzas to address, until I actually thought about what we were saying.    Lead us not into temptation.  Should we be afraid that God would lead us into temptation?  Is that his M.O.?  Does he often do that?  Is He a good father or is he the type of father that leads us into temptation?  What are we actually praying when we pray “lead us not into temptation?”  I’m glad you asked that because I want to address that with you and, in doing so, I actually want to invite you a little bit deeper into the fog than we already are.  James 1:12-13.  We’re going to interact with this word “temptation.”  It’s the same root Greek word for “trial.”  This passage is going to use it as trial and as temptation.  Listen to what James writes to the churches:  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  {That’s good news!  That those who cling to the cross in the midst of trial will receive the crown of life.}  Let no one say when he is tempted, {Same root word.  Trial can be great for us.  We are refined by it, matured by it.  We have more joy through it.}  “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.    We’ve got ourselves a little bit of a quandary on our hands, don’t we? Because God doesn’t tempt anyone and yet, God uses trials to shape us and make us and mold us.  What are we praying when we pray “lead us not into temptation?”  Chrysostom, the great early church father, is right when he says:  “This particular petition is the most natural appeal of human weakness.”   It’s an admittance—lead us not into temptation—that oftentimes what starts out as a trial and something that’s a difficult season in life can turn into a temptation, one where we’re at the precipice of losing our faith and the things that we hold so dear.  So to pray “lead us not into temptation” is to pray Lord, if you can spare me from this trial, do it, but if I have to go through the trial then deliver me from the evil potential that is there.  Don’t let trial turn into a temptation.    It could also be phrased Lord, don’t ever lead us into a trial which will present to us such temptation that we will not be able to resist it.  God, protect me from that space—don’t lead me to that space.  Or, Lord, stop us before Satan can turn your test into his temptation.  Or to put it succinctly and simply—Lord, don’t ever let us walk into something that we can’t handle by your grace.  Kenneth Bailey says: “The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer expresses the confidence of an earthly pilgrim traveling with a divine guide.”  God, shape us.  God, make us.  God, mold us and God, lead us.

Isn’t it fascinating how much prominence Jesus places in prayer?  Think of the temptations we’ve walked into. Think about the things that have stirred up in our soul that’s robbed us of joy.  Is it potentially possible that we could have avoided the temptations or been victorious over them if we had been more diligent in our prayers? I’ll say it another way — are we refusing to use or neglecting the greatest resource at our fingertips and in so doing, walking into defeat when Jesus has already purchased victory for us?  What Jesus teaches in the Lord’s Prayer and elsewhere is that when we, as his followers, kneel in prayer…..when the disposition of our heart and our soul is God, I’m in need and God, I don’t know how to do it and God, I’m an earthly pilgrim who needs a divine guide because if left to my own devices there’s no way I lead this life into flourishing and vitality and goodness; I need you.   When we kneel in prayer we walk in victory!  The opposite side of that coin is true, also.  When we neglect prayer we experience defeat when Jesus has already purchased for us victory.  It’s very possible and probable that many of our lives live hoisting up the flag of surrender when on the decks of our ship are everything we need, not only to fight the battle, but to win it.   But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones so aptly put it: “Everything in the Christian life is easier than prayer.”    Because I am so driven by the bottom line.  I am so driven by what works and what’s practical and what stirs up fruit in my life.  I think the reason that everything is easier than prayer is because prayer is hard to measure when it comes to its effectiveness.  Sometimes we see God explicitly and miraculously answer prayer.  {Anybody ever be a part of that?}  Sometimes we don’t see Him explicitly and miraculously answer prayer and yet, prayer is so powerful and profitable in the life of the believer.  I want to show you today, from the Scriptures, why and how.

Matthew 26:36-46.  I want to read a story from the life of Christ that illustrates the reality that when we kneel in prayer we walk in victory.  Jesus has just celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples and He is marching towards Golgotha and his death where He will atone for the sin of the world, where He will take our guilt and our shame and He will purchase for us His righteousness.  He’s going to step into the Garden of Gethsemane….this is the journey from Gethsemane to Golgotha where Jesus is going to teach his disciples about the prominence and power of prayer.   Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  {So the picture is the eight disciples are off to the side and these three are with Jesus.  These are the three that He’s built his life and his ministry into.  These are the three that he’s spent the most time with of anybody in his earthly ministry and He’s asking them to pray with him.}  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”  {So he approaches Peter and Jesus is in the moment of the most need that he’s ever been in in his earthly life.  He’s at this precipice of pain and hurt and anguish and he has one request of his disciples —- one.  Come with me and pray.  Come with me and stay awake and pray.  He comes back and finds them sleeping.  If I were Jesus, I’d be like “SERIOUSLY?!  You’re sleeping?? I’m sweating blood and you’re sleeping!?”  As soon as I say that God just sorta holds up the mirror to me and goes yeah, SERIOUSLY?!}  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.  See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”  

We’ll step away from the story a second.  As we journey towards Easter in the next week, I just want to point out some of the beauty of this gospel account of this night in Jesus’ life, in regards to an apologetic for why we believe in the Resurrection.  If you’re going to write this account of Jesus and your goal, as a follower of Christ, is to paint a picture of Jesus that would be easy to cause people to bow and worship, he’s done a terrible job. This is one of the passages that beautifully illustrates Jesus’ humanity.  We start off with Jesus being sorrowful and troubled.  His soul is just being ripped out in anguish.  He falls down on his face praying, so intensely occupied by the thought of walking to the cross for the redemption of sins.  We see him pray—if there’s another way, Father, let’s talk about that way.   If you’re trying to paint Jesus as the hero, if you’re trying to paint Jesus as somebody who beats his chest and courageously says follow me into the darkest season I’ll ever walk into, he doesn’t do a great job, does he?  It is beautiful history and terrible fiction.  If you want to create a document 30-40 years after the life of Christ that’s going to evoke worship of Him, this is not the way you go.  Especially if you just want to make it up.  Luckily for us, the gospel accounts aren’t just things people wanted to make up about Jesus.  They invite us into the humanity of the Messiah, where he says I’m sorrowful to the point of death.  I am consumed with pain thinking about what goes in front of me.  I am on my face praying, begging God, if there is another way.  If your job is to write an account about Jesus that paints Him in great light, they didn’t do all that good of a job, number one.  If their job or motive was to paint a picture of themselves in good light, they failed also, right?  These are the dudes who the people after them are called to listen to.  Peter’s the preacher, right?  Someone in the crowd could go hey, Peter, tell us more about how you fell asleep the night of the most need Jesus was ever in!  Tell us more about that!   Imbedded in the story is this invitation to victory that we often ignore.  We not only see the humanity of Jesus and we see the honesty of the gospel writers, but we also see this high place that prayer is held up to.  The high place, the prominence, that’s put on prayer in the life of the follower of Jesus.  That when we kneel in prayer, we walk in victory.

I was a junior at Colorado State University.  I always sat in the front row.  I was a front row guy because I figured that even if I was in a lecture hall of 200, if I was in the front row it would make no difference to me.  I was sitting in the front row of a lecture in Psychology.  I was opening at Starbucks in the morning and I was working with Young Life in the evenings and I was exhausted.  I was sitting in the front row of a Psychology lecture on “Sleep Deprivation!”  I can remember her putting the slide up—“Sleep Deprivation”—and going oh no, I’m going down!  It was about 15 minutes into an hour and a half long lecture and……this is back when we took notes on paper…….I woke up at the end of that lecture and the only note I had was this note—-your pen makes one straight line off the edge of the paper.  I can remember waking up going, “What did I miss?!  What did I miss?!”  The dude sitting next to me goes, “EVERYTHING!”  As I read this, I wondered Father, in the North American church how many of us are just sleeping through what you long to do??  When the antidote is so clear in front of us that we just need to recapture a vision for what it looks like to be people of prayer.  The victory’s already won and how do we step into it?  Well, we engage with our Father who’s purchased the victory.  Instead of just having our best resources sit on the bench….I don’t know, friends, I want to become the type of person that walks in the victory because I kneel in prayer.

Here’s how Jesus invites his disciples and us, as his followers, to do that.  The question becomes—how does prayer lead us to the victory that Jesus has purchased for us.  How does prayer lead us to be the type of people who are lead NOT into temptation, but delivered from evil?  Look at the way Jesus says it in Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray {That’s what he tells his disciples as he goes away to pray.  He tells them to pause, stop, watch and pray.  This word “watch,” in the Greek, means to be “conscientious” or to “be engaged” actively in the things going on around you.  It’s one of the things prayer does.  It’s one of the things we miss that prayer does.  Prayer awakens us to the spiritual battle that surrounds us.  If we are not prayerful, we are unaware.  If prayer has been a neglect in your life, I don’t want to heap guilt on you at all today because I know that doesn’t work and I know that every time we talk about prayer, you feel like you don’t pray enough, so I just want to say that there’s no guilt here today, but if we have neglected prayer, it means that we are unaware.  That’s just a reality.  When you stop to pray, two things happen—one, your pace of life slows down dramatically.  You’re able to breathe a little bit.  You’re able to think through everything that’s going on—–I’m not talking about prayer where we come with our list.  That’s great, that’s good, that’s needed.  I’m talking about prayer where we simply sit with the conviction that the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and that it is our hope of glory.  So, sitting with our Father and trying to hear his voice, we slow the pace of our lives down, number one, and we become aware.  Anybody been there?  Where you sit down to pray and just commune with the Father and immediately you have tons of thoughts flowing through your head.  So many that if you had a net out to try to catch them, there’s no way that you could do it.  Did you know that that’s not unique when you pray?  It’s not like when you pray you sit down and those things start to happen.  That’s running in the background of the operating system of your mind at all times.  Prayer is a way to simply be aware, to slow down the pace and, here’s the key word, to be present.   To be present…..with the thoughts, with the fears, with the anxieties, with the feelings and then to push them back to our Father.  It’s a way to say God, I have this deep and abiding conviction that there’s more going on in this world than I can see.  Would you open my eyes?  Think of how valuable that would have been for Peter, James and John.  Open our eyes, Lord.  Prayer sharpens one’s spiritual eyes to see what’s going on all around them.  It got me thinking what am I sleeping through?  What am I just totally unaware of?  What am I sleeping through?  Are there things going on in my life that I need to become more aware and more engaged with?  Are there patterns and rhythms of my soul that are evil and wicked that maybe in prayer I’d be able to see are simply just fear and that God, would you help me address those with the hope of the gospel.  God, are there things that I’m angry at?   We all know people who have fallen into temptation.  We all know people who have lost marriages because of temptation.  We know people who have lost jobs because of temptation.  We know people who have lost homes because of temptation.  We know a lot of people that have fallen because they weren’t awake to the battle that was raging all around them.  If you hear nothing else today, friend, know that you live in a battle zone.  But along with the evil that is present in the world and hey, deliver us from evil—there is evil to be delivered from, is there not?  Yes!   There’s also opportunity to have our eyes opened to.  On one side of the coin is the evil, on the other side is thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Open our eyes, Lord!!

He goes on.  Same verse.  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.   Jesus is challenging us through prayer to remember that we are dependent beings and when we are dependent we are more powerful than when we try to pull up our bootstraps and say that we can do it on our own.  You read through Peter’s story, even in just this passage.  In verse 35, Peter says to Jesus: Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!    Hey, how’d that turn out for him?  Not great, right? You wonder if his disposition would have been more like Jesus’—lying flat on his face, saying Father, I need you—-how it might have turned out for him.  Victory, for you and I, the victory that Jesus has purchased for us, the victory that we walk in is birthed in humility.  One of the greatest enemies of your joy is your pride.  Let me say that again — One of the greatest enemies of your joy is your pride and pride is one of the greatest enemies of prayer.  In prayer we say, you lead me, God.  It’s an admittance.  Listen, I’m completely incapable of leading myself, except off a cliff.  That I can do.  Been there, done that.  Charles Spurgeon puts beautifully the invitation: “The tail feathers of pride should be pulled out of our prayers, for our prayers need only the wing feathers of faith.”  That’s awesome.

We also give up control when we pray.  We give up the illusion that we can actually do a better job leading our lives than God can.  AND we give up the worry that so often surrounds us.  We can either release things to God in prayer or we can hold onto things in our hearts in worry, but it’s really hard to do both.  You know, if you’ve tried.  You can either pray or you can worry, but you can’t do both.  Because in prayer, we surrender to a God who says I will lead you not into temptation and when you find yourself in the midst of evil, I will provide a way out for you.  Here’s the crux of the message:  Jesus says to his disciples watch and pray…..and if you have your own Bible, circle the word “that.”  He’s going to tie a result to an initiative.  When we pray… and pray that or so that you may not enter into temptation.   Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Pray.  Pray because there’s trials coming in life.  Pray because there’s difficulties coming in life.  Pray because your God has given you, by His Holy Spirit working in you when you’re dependent on Him, everything you need to be victorious.

Prayer empowers us to overcome temptation.  If we’re falling to temptation, friends, we’re failing in prayer. Too much of the time we address the issue right in front of us instead of the issue that’s underneath all of us. What’s our relationship like with our Father?  Because God has given us everything we need to be victorious.  I just want to point out, in the Scriptures, what it looks like to be victorious.  I think John Calvin hit the nail on the head when he said: “A sure remedy is set before us, which is not far to seek, nor sought in vain.  Christ promises that people earnest in prayer, who carefully put away the idleness of their flesh, will be victorious.”  WILL BE.  So what does the victory look like?  In the Scriptures, there’s a few different ways that God says we’re victorious over temptation.  Let me give you three of them.  One is we avoid temptation.  Look at the way that Paul writes to the church at Corinth:  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. {That sounds a lot like remembering our dependence, yes?}  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  {What a great promise! There’s nothing that’s going to come at us in our life that God will not give us the resources to be victorious over! AMEN!  Then he tells you how to be victorious in this instance.}  Therefore, my beloved, FLEE from idolatry. (1 Corin. 10:12-14)    Here’s the game plan for victory in this instance:  RUN!  Flee!  Did you know it’s easier to resist and fight temptation before it gets there than when it’s at your doorstep?  It’s easier to wage the war against lust and pornography before you’re tempted by it than it is in the moment.  It’s easier to fight the war against bitterness and anger before it comes at you than when you find yourself there in the moment.  It’s easier, friends, in marriages and relationships and friendships to choose to live as a person of peace before the argument than during it.  There’s some things we just need to set up hedges around our life with the conviction that sin is crouching at our door and would love to destroy us.

So we avoid it.  Second, we resist.  The devil, your enemy, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for somebody to devour. {So Peter writes to the church…}  Resist him, firm in your faith…  (1 Peter 5:8-9)   Do you know how you resist temptation?  You feed yourself with the glories of the gospel.  That’s what you do.  To stir the heart of faith is to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, to remember that we were people in desperate need and that God made a great provision.  To remember that we stand daily under the waterfall of his grace and his mercy; that we are pure and holy and spotless and blameless and when the Enemy comes at us like a roaring lion, we need to be down on our knees like dependent children saying God, remind me who I am and who you are.  That’s how we resist.  We don’t resist by going….bring it on!  We resist by going listen, but for the grace of God….and praise God for his grace.  We stir the heart of faith.

So, we avoid, we resist and then….you know this, friends.  There’s seasons in your life when avoiding doesn’t work and resisting doesn’t work and you just simply have to endure.  You just gotta walk through it.  The valley of the shadow of death.  The Scripture never shies away from the fact that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, it only says that He will walk with us and that we will walk out the other end victorious. If you’re in the valley of the shadow of death, don’t set up camp.  Keep going.  Keep enduring.  Jesus says to his disciples: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep {protect, guard, walk with them} them from the evil one.  There are times when God delivers you from evil.  And the more you pray “deliver us from evil,” the more you start to see that God is answering that prayer.  You (God) are buoying me up.  You’re strengthening me that I don’t fall to this trial, that it doesn’t turn into a temptation.  Thank you, Lord.  The more you pray it, the more you see He answers that prayer.  There are times that God delivers us from evil, but then there are also times when God sustains us through it.  It simply means that He has something better for us than keeping us out of trial.  There’s a work he does in us through it.  So we prayerfully endure, confident that trials shape us towards maturity.

The story ends with Jesus saying to his disciples—he wakes them up:  Sleep and take your rest later on.  See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.   Here’s an interesting exercise—when you get home today, go through Matthew 26 and look at the way that prayer moves the mission of God in the heart of Jesus forward.  He begins this endeavor, this evening, on his face sorrowful to the point of death.  He prays:  Father, if you can take this cup from me. Let’s do it that way.  We’re looking for a loophole here, God.  He then prays: If there’s no other way, I’m drinking the cup.  As if to say I see in prayer that this is the journey you’re leading me on.  Finally he says alright, it’s time to walk to the cross.  This is the way that prayer works in the heart of the believer.  This is the way that we walk in victory when we kneel in prayer.  Through prayer God emboldens us to embrace His will. It’s no accident that Peter sleeps and picks up the sword and that Jesus prays and drinks the cup.  No accident. Prayer is the linchpin of us walking in the heart of our Father with the view of His kingdom and the prayer “God, would you do a great work in and through us.”  When I’m not prayerful, I’m more like Peter and I want to defend myself.  And I want revenge.  And I want the kingdom to come, but I want it to come through violence and power and coercion.  What prayer does is softens us to the way of Jesus that says no, my kingdom comes through self-sacrificial love.  Would you lay down your life for your friends in the same way that He laid down His life for you?  The hard part is that when I just have my eyes, His leading towards blessing often feels like a journey towards temptation.  It often feels like it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be difficult.  The cross—we know it didn’t look like a lot of fun to Jesus, but because of prayer He saw the joy that was set before him and he walked that road.

June 21, 1720.  Black Bart sailed in to Trepassey Bay, loaded up with cannons, but facing 22 other ships that were well stocked and ready to fight.  He hoisted up his flag inviting them to surrender and every single one of those ships decided not to engage in a battle that they could have easily won.  They decided to surrender because they didn’t know what they had.  Friends, I’m praying for a day when followers of Jesus will take His invitation to be people of prayer seriously.  When followers of Jesus would get tired….a holy exhaustion….of being beaten down by sin. That’s what I’m praying for.  That we’d just get tired of getting beat up.  Tired enough to go to our knees and say, “Father, open our eyes.  Father, teach us we can’t do it on our own, but with you we have every resource that we need.  Father, teach us how to be victorious.  What does this situation at this time demand—do I avoid, do I resist, do I endure?  How do I do that, God?”  Through our prayer, would you open our eyes and then allow us to walk in the way of your kingdom?  That doesn’t happen when we raise the white flag.  THAT happens when we are convinced that when we’re on our knees in prayer God gives us everything we need to walk in victory.  Friends, you have it!  Don’t let it sit on the sidelines.  And instead of making prayer our last resort, could we be the church that makes prayer its first priority?

Every Wednesday, we have a group that gathers here to pray at 6:30 pm — the Watchmen prayer team.  I’d invite you to join them. This Friday we’re going to have an opportunity to pray through Jesus’ time on the cross as we celebrate Good Friday.  Come and engage on a heart level.  Ask God to open your eyes to the battle that’s waging for your soul.  But more than that, more than corporate, may this be an individual movement of us seeking and hearing from the heart of the Father and then walking in the victory that He’s already purchased for us.  Let’s pray.

Take a deep breath before you go running out of here and whatever else the day holds for you.  God, in the quietness of this moment, would you stir in us the desire for more of these moments.  When we’re just quiet enough to hear you, attentive and engaged, believing that you speak.  Lord, would you remind us that there’s some battles that we’re fighting right now that we can’t conquer, we can’t win on our own, but that by your mercy and grace and your empowering and through prayer that you work and move….would you remind us of those?  For the people that are in this room right now, would you bring those to the forefront of their mind? Are there ways we’re walking in pride instead of prayer?  Lord, bring that up, stir that in us.  Father, there’s so many in this room, I’m convinced of it, there’s so many in this room who are losing the battle to things that you’ve already been victorious over.  I just pray over them right now.  In fact, if that’s you…..if you’re here today saying I’m just getting beaten down by temptation and I want God to move in my heart and my life, will you just slip up your hand right now?  I just want to pray over you.  {I see you. I see you.  All over.}  Father, for these people, I pray would you, as they seek you and as they pray, fill them with your Spirit that would allow them to walk in victory.  Teach them what that looks like, give them a taste of it today, I pray in Jesus’ name. Father, for all of us, we want to be people who live with eyes wide opened to the world that you’ve made in all of its beauty, in all of its pain, in all of its glory and in all of its need.  As we pray, would you open our eyes to the ways that you’re inviting us to live in your world?  For the glory of your name and for the joy of your people, we pray.  And all God’s people said…..Amen!