Wish List vs. Prayer List
Are your prayers more like wishes or prayers? What does it mean to actually pray for God’s will to be done and how does one realistically do such a thing?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
(Put up MOTHER’S DAY SLIDE)
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to personally tell you about something we have coming up in just 3 weeks.
On Sunday May 8th, Mother’s Day, we’re going to be taking free family photos for everyone who’s interested after each service.
We have a number of great photographers in our church who have agreed to take your photo, with your family, for free.
And no, it’s not for a church directory.
It’s for you.
We’ll give you a digital copy
Last week, we took a sample photo of one of the families in our church, the Anderson’s, so you could see what they’ll look like.
(Show Anderson Family Photo)
For most families, this is a great gift.
We’ve got 3 little kids, I can count on one hand the number of pictures we all have together.
And so, this is a great gift to you, but I believe it’s also a great evangelistic opportunity for you to invite your family members who don’t know Jesus yet.
Maybe you have siblings who don’t Jesus whom you could invite for a sibling photo.
Maybe one of your parents doesn’t know God, but could come and be in a family photo as the grandparents?
Or maybe, you are mom, and it’s your day (it’ll be Mother’s Day afterall), and this is a great reason to invite one of your adult children (& your other ones as well) who doesn’t yet know Jesus.
Like, always, we want to give you lots of creative and easy ways to invite people to hear about Jesus, and we think this is a great one.
God is going to use this, and I believe we will see family members come to Christ on that day.
So…start praying, and start inviting.
THE SILLINESS OF A WISH LIST
(Put up Wireless SERIES slide)
This morning, we are continuing in our Wireless series on prayer, where we are not only trying to help you really rethink what prayer is all about, but hopefully helping you improve your own personal prayer life as well.
As we get started this morning, let me ask you a question: Do your prayers look more like a wish list or what the Bible describes as prayer?
Maybe you’re not even sure because you haven’t read that much of the Bible yet.
If that’s the case, that’s okay.
Let’s start to examine this question.
For a lot of us, unfortunately, our prayers do tend to look more like wishes than prayers.
We sit down every morning, or as we drive in our cars, and we rattle off a list of things we’d like to see happen:
“God, fix my health.”
“God, help me get this particular job”
“God, please help my son break up with the girl he’s dating. I don’t like her.”
“God, help us get more finances”
And the list continues.
And in some ways, it’s almost as if we only give God one option.
Like, “Hello God Almighty, here are my list of demands (for the morning), demands that I’m sure are correct, so please adhere to seeing that they are quickly corrected. Thank you…your beloved follower…David”
And you can see from the start that clearly this isn’t worship…where God is God and we are not.
For most of us, we make it look like God works for us, rather than we work for God.
And if that describes your prayer life, you might be more on the “wish list” side than the Biblical prayer list side than you thought
And here’s another problem with giving God a “wish list” every day:
We are unbelievably limited in our scope of understanding.
Think of little kids here.
If I were to give my 3-year-old twins everything they wanted, they’d be absolutely miserable over time.
They’d eat suckers for breakfast everyday.
They’d never wear a coat in the winter
They’d never take a nap (shudder) …and the list goes on
And yet, the gap of knowledge & perspective between us & God is even larger than the gap of knowledge & perspective between my 3 year olds and myself.
Parents, wouldn’t it be great, if once in a while, your kids would say:
“Mommy, what would you like me to wear today?”
“Daddy, what do you think I should eat today?”
Ahh, finally! We can EASILY lead them down the path that is actually best for them.
Without having to watch them struggle down this sideways and painful path first.
That’s full of tantrums, and timeouts, and readjustments along the way.
And your Father in heaven craves the same thing.
That we would say, “What would YOU like me to do today?”
JESUS’ PRAYER & MODEL
In fact, look at how Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, in the very famous Lord’s prayer.
(Matthew 6:9-10) – NIV
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We’re to pray, first & foremost, not for our own will (our own ideas), but for God’s will to be done in our lives.
Because, most of the time, our perspective is so limited…that we’re not truly aware of what we should really be praying for.
So we should pray for God’s will to be done.
And our hearts still cry out for certain things.
And so sometimes we pray for what we think we want, but we should add the addendum, “your will be done” to the end of it.
Did you know that this part of the Lord’s prayer (your will be done) is the only part of the Lord’s prayer that we get to see Jesus actually using in his life?
And perhaps at the most difficult time of his life.
It’s Thursday, the day before he is crucified, and he’s praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Not just praying…he’s crying out to His Father…to the point of even sweating drops of blood, he’s in so much anguish about what’s about to happen.
Here’s what happens in that moment:
(Matthew 26:39) – NIV
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
He prays, “Father, is there anyway that we can still do this, but I don’t actually have to die…taking the sins of the entire world upon me?”
Yet, if there’s not, not my will…not what I want, but your will…what you want…be done.
OUR CULTURAL RESISTANCE TO JESUS’ MODEL
Yet, that’s easier said than done.
Especially for Americans in 2016.
This is a BIG challenge to our culture.
More so than many other cultures around the world, and certainly ones from antiquity.
Many other cultures from the past were much more comfortable with things like authority, submission, respect, etc.
Us…not so much.
In fact, most Americans are entirely UNcomfortable with those things.
We think that the more free we are to decide for ourselves, the more free we are to each see our dreams come to true, and the less we have other people telling us how to live, the more happy we will be!
And then along comes Jesus and says, pray like this, “Not what I want, but what YOU want.”
“And all to us Americans who are obsessed with our own self-fulfillment, that’s kind of like nails on the chalkboard
But I’m telling you here, trust Jesus…not some trite platitude you read on some celebrity’s instagram photo about believing in yourself.
It’s hard to pray for his will, to seek his will, but there’s great relief to it when you actually do it.
When you pray off a wish list…and all you pray for is things you’d like to see happen…you’re going to end up disappointed.
And frustrated. And tired. And overly focused on yourself.
But if you pray like Jesus…
You pray from your heart, but when you’re not sure, you pray, “But not my will, your will be done”
The difference is, rather than being frustrated and self-focused, you’ll grow in your reliance on God and in your trust in His movements.
But a lot of us don’t even know where to start.
Worse yet, most of us didn’t even know that we need TO start in the first place.
I say “wish list” and you just picture those prosperity-gospel type folks who pray for God to make them rich, give them BMW’s, gold teeth, and other weird stuff.
Yet…not realizing that most of our prayers, when we get down to the bottom of it, are really just wishes for life-improvements and comfort just the same…
rather than true prayers to align ourselves with and serve God.
In fact, I want you to ask some really hard questions of yourself (This is why you come here right…to be challenged…to grow):
Have you ever stopped to think about the reasons behind your prayers?
When you’re praying for a new job…Why are you praying for it?
Is it because then you’ll have a little bit more money?
And money will help you do what exactly?
Have more stuff?
Have more comfort?
You could feel more secure? In your things? As opposed to God?
When you pray that you can just stay where you’re at (& you wouldn’t have to go through a life change) is that because then you would have more control in your life?
And that way you could rely more on yourself…and what…not have to trust a higher power?
This is a seriously difficult exercise that we basically never do, but probably should always do…
And it’s to ask the question: What’s really behind our prayers?
And is God even going to fulfill prayers like that?
Is God going to fulfill your prayers if fulfilling them just leads to you getting a stronger grip into your idols of self-reliance, comfort, and safety?
Is what you’re praying actually just a wish list?
Or are you praying to do God’s will?
See, prayer is not about getting what you want, but understanding what God wants. (2x)
But if we just pray for what we want, without even looking for God’s will, there’s a good chance those prayers that will never get answered the way we want.
THE KEY TO PRAYING WITH POWER
So how do you begin to make the shift? From wish list to prayer list?
And if you do, will you start to actually see more of your prayers answered?
I believe you will, because the Bible clearly describes a more powerful and effective way to pray.
And it’s rooted in Jesus’ prayer and his model.
Not my will, but your will be done.
It’s right there in a lot of Scriptures you may have seen before, but our selfish and individualistic, American culture has most likely just blinded you to that part of the verse.
(Psalm 37:4) – NIV - LEAVE UP.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(sarcastic) And you know what the desires of my heart are…a white picket fence w/ a walk-out basement! And the Lord is going to give it to me! (read it again)
HOW is God giving you the desires of your heart?
As your delighting yourself in Him, He’s changing your heart, and your heart becomes more aligned with His will.
And what happens when you pray according to His will?
(1 John 5:14) – NIV
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
It’s not saying, “Ask anything in the world, and God will give you a blank check!” (I’d like the Packers to go 0-16 next year)
It’s saying, when you ask according to His will, God will move!
But for a lot of us…when we dig down deep and discover what’s truly at the root of our prayers, we discover that our interests don’t truly align with God’s will, and thus our prayers don’t get fulfilled.
Jesus’ brother, James points out this exact thing
(James 4:3) – NIV
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
He’s saying, “you’re praying all right…but you’re praying a wish list.”
A list of prayers that’s only going to benefit you…or that you THINK will benefit you. J
But see, prayer, should look less like a time where we demand God serves us, and more like a time where we get refocused on serving God.
And that’s the key to finding power and effectiveness in prayer (and in your life!).
As I’ve shared with you often, the great evangelist DL Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a person fully devoted to him”
Because most of us are squandering 80% of our prayer time praying for things, that at their core, aren’t even in line with advancing the kingdom of God;
…they’re just things that would help us feel a little bit more comfortable and secure in ourselves.
But I’m telling you, you can’t even fathom what God will do with your life, if you start your day with:
“Where now God?”
“How can you use me at work today God?”
“Who do you want me to encourage today God?”
Stop setting the agenda for what God is supposed to do in your life.
Let Him set the agenda.
Trust me, it’s 10 times bigger than the puny one you were setting.
And don’t worry about everything else…
(Matthew 6:33) – NIV
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
And when you seek and discover God’s will, then guess what…you’re going to see God fulfilling a lot more of your prayers!
Because, a wish list…is like praying while running into the wind.
But true Biblical prayer…where prayer is not about getting what you want, but understanding what God wants…is like running with the wind at your back.
You and God are going the same direction now!
And when the wind is at your back…you get to see God use you.
I know a guy in our church that was selling his truck about 9 months ago.
He and his wife were praying they could sell their truck (certainly that would have been helpful to their finances)…but, in what was a surprise to them, they didn’t get hardly any interest in it.
And during this time, they got wind that Renovation’s church plant that was just about to start in Des Moines was in need of a truck to pull their trailer
And he and his wife started praying about how they could help…and as time went on…the Lord started putting on their heart…that maybe their truck hadn’t sold yet because they could just give the church plant a good price on it.
Which eventually became, just give them the truck.
And they did!
And that church is really growing!
God’s using them like crazy!
They had 250 people at Easter and saw a bunch of people come to Christ!
And that couple that gave them a truck is a big part of that.
But see, if all that was behind their prayers were self-comfort and safety (a wish list for self-improvement), then they would have just prayed for a good sale of their truck…and that only.
But when you broaden your prayers…when you admit that you really don’t have perspective at all…and you ask God for His will….
GOD IS GOING TO USE YOU!
You get to do this “faith thing” with the wind at your back.
But so many of us aren’t seeing God moving in our prayer lives…because like children…we’re praying for suckers at breakfast.
But God wants to give you real food, and nourishment, and grow you into something great.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF PRAYING FOR GOD’S WILL
And so what does that look like for us to practically pray like this?
Because this is quite different from how most of us pray.
For starters, we ought to always pray with passion and boldness when we know we’re praying for something that’s already Biblical (already in God’s will)
That could be praying for the needy, your enemies, missionaries, or for people to know Jesus…all things we’re already commanded to pray for in the Bible.
I just heard a story this week actually of a woman from our church who had been praying for people to come to Christ during our 5,000 Minutes of Prayer we did leading up to Easter.
She was praying for her neighbor to come and accept Christ
Which…is a very specific thing…but clearly in line with God’s heart!
And she prayed every day for her, but never got a chance to invite her.
And yet, her neighbor saw some of our marketing anyway, came, and stood up and gave her life to Christ…and now attends our church.
When you know you’re praying in God’s heart…pray with passion!
And if you’re not 100% sure, then add “but your will be done”
About 2 years ago, I was praying that the Lord would provide an office space for our church.
We, just like now, we’re growing fast, and adding staff every year.
It was getting difficult to work from home for everyone.
And I saw there was an office space open just over here by the gas station on Radisson and cloud dr.
So I started praying we could get in it.
Well, it didn’t happen. And I was bummed, that God didn’t answer my prayer.
I maybe even thought, “Huh, what a missed opportunity.”
And yet, a few months later, God, helped us find a space that was cheaper, with twice as many offices and a space for our youth group and summer school of theology classes as well.
The longer I’m a Christian the more I realize, “I have no idea if I’m praying for the right thing here God…I’m probably not.”
But…I think, ‘God, here’s my heart on it…if I’m wrong…please, show me your will here. That’s ultimately what I want”
Here’s the thing…let’s be real: It’s usually our wishes, our desires, that bring us to prayer in the first place.
We’re hurting…we’re sad…we’re anxious about the future, and so we pray for something to happen…something we think would solve those feelings we have.
But prayer is an opportunity to follow the pattern of Jesus.
When Jesus is in the garden, that night before he dies, it’s actually his wishes that bring him to prayer (he doesn’t want to die…he asks not to!)
But while he’s in prayer…he’s able to make the shift from his wishes to the will of God.
So it may be your wishes that bring you to prayer, but when you come to prayer, that’s the time where you begin to make the shift from it being about what you want -> to finding out what God truly wants.
That’s the shift that allowed Jesus to save the world.
This is not small stuff.
So what could this look like in your life…from a very practical perspective?
Here’s how you could shift some of your common prayers:
Instead of “God, help me get THIS job à Pray, “God, lead me to the job where I can most glorify you...and do your will.”
Instead of “God, help me get healthy à Pray, “God, help me get healthy, but teach me while I’m sick. May I glorify you while I’m sick. And ultimately, your will be done. I am a vessel to serve you; you’re not you a tool to serve me.”
Instead of, “God, help us get this house à Pray, “God, put us in a neighborhood where we can lead people to you and have influence for you…wherever that may be”
And see, you’re not just saying, “Your will be done…your will be done…your will be done” like a robot.
Your content is just changing.
And prayer is where you make the shift.
You have a PERSONAL CONVERSATION with God…and he helps you shift the focus from getting what you want to understanding what He wants.
And then we ask him for the courage and strength to carry it all out.
But maybe you’re thinking of even harder situations…
You’re thinking, “But what about the really tough ones. I pray for this person to live, but they die”
That’s why I want you to come back next week.
We’re going to continue this discussion with a message called, “When it looks like God doesn’t answer your prayer”
But…please, please don’t turn this message into some sort of fatalism, where you just give up praying, and just say, “God do what you may”
That is NOT what the Bible says AT ALL.
It tells us often to ask for things.
It just wants you to ask for the right things.
I think again of my own children.
I WANT my kids to ask me for things…if it’s the right thing.
If they say, “Can I have this new book? I love when you read to me!”
I’ll say, “Yes. You can!”
Because when I get that for them…I get to show my love…and it helps US grow closer”
I want them to ask.
Jesus puts it this way:
(Luke 11:11-13) – NIV
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
So I want you to ask God to do amazing things in your life.
But I just want you to begin from a new starting place
From this day forward, as much as possible, make prayer not about getting what you want, but about UNDERSTANDING what God wants…first and foremost.
And as you think you begin to understand what that is...
Ask Him to move mountains.
It’s okay if you get it wrong.
Don’t be nervous about it.
Even when my kids ask me for silly things, I still smile.
I like their faith.
I say, “you can have 1 m&m,” and they say, “five!!”
And I smile every time.
They’re getting 1, but I still smile.
A friend told me the other day, if children were employees, they’d all be fired.
But they’re not employees, they are our children
And you are God’s child.
And so ask with great faith…but always make the seeking of His will your greatest pursuit.
And so as you begin to see prayer differently…
As you begin to see prayer as a time where you make the shift from your wishes to his will…
I want you to know that God is going to move in your life if you can do this.
Because you will indeed be running, maybe even for the first time ever, with the wind at your back.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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