Johan Marais - Serima Zimbabwe Convention - 2006

Hymn 199 

I am sorry that I do not speak your language.  We don’t speak a common language but we do have many other things that we have in common, important things.  I would like to speak about one of those important things and that is prayer.  In Luke 11, we read that Jesus was in a certain place and He was praying.  When He finished praying, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teach us to pray."  These last days I have felt like that, that is why I want to speak about prayer.  The things that the workers speak about here are the things that they themselves need.  We all share the same battle.  We all share the same goal, even though we have different places.  Jesus shared the same things as well. Matthew 26:39, "Jesus said, 'Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me.  Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.'"  Jesus had to pray as well.  Jesus wanted to pray.  We have the need to pray.  We have a duty to pray.  We have a desire to pray.  We have a privilege to pray. 

It is not everybody that can speak to the President, but we can speak to One who is so much higher.  It is the greatest privilege to have to get the ear of God and to get an open heaven.  If you stop breathing, then the body dies.  If you stop praying, the spirit dies.  We need to keep on praying.  There is a secret to every victory.  Every failure has a cause.  The secret for victory lies in prayer.  If we don’t have the victory in secret, we cannot have it in public. 

Jesus was praying that day in the garden.  He asked the Lord two things.  The first thing, He did not give Him, but the second thing He gave Him.  The first was that He would not go to the cross, God did not give it to Him.  Often we ask God for things that God does not give us.  I have asked for many things and God did not give it, because it wasn’t His will, or He knew it would not be good for me.  Some of those things I don’t want any more, because I see I don’t need it and it won’t be good for me.  I am glad we can trust God with what He gives us.  There are many great people in the bible who asked God for things and God did not give it to them. 

Ezekiel 14:14, we read about three men.  God Himself was speaking.  He spoke about Noah, and Daniel and Job.  Those are three great men on the earth, but why did He not mention Moses and David?  It is because these three men had something in common.  Job prayed for his family, but he could not save them.  Daniel prayed for his nation, and he could not save them.  Noah would have prayed for the whole world, and he could not save them.  This did not mean that God thought less of them.  God still loved them just as much.  They asked good things of God but it wasn’t God's will.  Sometimes we ask for things and we don’t get them.  We think it is useless to pray, but it is not. 

Someone told us of the little boy, playing he hurt his finger.  He came to the mother and told her his finger was hurting.  He was crying and the mother took him in her arms.  She hugged him and she kissed the finger.  He calmed down and he went off to play again.  He was feeling different but the finger was still hurting.  Something has changed.  A beautiful relationship was established between him and his mother.  Sometimes there is something that hurts us, something that troubles us.  We go to God and we pray.  We find peace but that thing does not disappear, but there is a relationship between us and God.  That is a great treasure. 

Next time that little boy came to the mother with something else and she can do something about it, she wants to and she does.  Next time we come to God for something and He can change it and He does, we have that relationship between us and our Father, and that is very precious.  Moses wanted to enter into the new land.  God said, "No."  Moses was still the servant and friend of God.  God said nothing again.  Even if God does not answer our question or our petition, it does not mean that He does not love us any more.  Paul asked of God about the thorn in the flesh.  God said, "No," immediately.  Nowhere do we read that this thorn was a hindrance to Paul.  It did not hinder his ministry.  He was just as useful to God.  God perhaps knew he was more useful because of that. 

I tell the story of the two little boys that were talking.  The one boy told the other boy, "I asked God for a new bicycle."  His friend said, "Oh, God does not listen to you."  He says, "Yes, God always listens to me."  "Well, where is your bicycle?"  "God said, 'No.'"  We must always be willing for that answer, too.  Jesus asked His Father not to go to the cross.  God said, "No."  This changed nothing between Him and God.  He asked something else, "Let not My will be done but Yours."  When we can say those words from our hearts in our prayer, then we have great success in prayer.  God will always answer that prayer. 

Sometimes we think that Jesus did not have the same struggle as us.  Jesus had His own will, too.  We see here that His will was not the same will as His Father's will.  He wanted to do the Father's will.  We also have our own will.  There is nothing wrong with is.  It is always going to be like that.  We must leave our own will for God's will.  It is not always like that.  Our will is not always against God's will.  Many times, we want to do what God asks of us.  Many times we want to obey God.  We can walk this way of God with joy in our hearts.  It is not always suffering.  There is much more joy than sorrow.  If we have to leave off something, if we leave it, there will be a little bit of a cost.  It will always be like that, but God appreciates us following Him in spite of that. 

We read in James of a righteous man praying.  The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  It is the prayer of a righteous man that God loves to hear.  If we want to add more weight to our prayer, then we must have our lives right.  It is very simple.  God hears the sinner, as well.  That is why we are here.  He hears the child that has gone wrong, as well.  That is why we are here.  God listens to the righteous man, and his words have weight. 

Psalm 66, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."  That is something else that we need.  If we want God to listen to our prayers, we have to have a clean heart.  If we have other motives in our heart, the Lord will not hear.  When this disciple asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the Lord spoke what we know as the Lord's prayer.  In those first words, He asked nothing for Himself.  It is all for God and His kingdom.  We are part of it.  If the kingdom gets strong, then we get strong.  We say, "The kingdom of God."  It is right but it is our kingdom, too.  God has given us a part in it.  What Jesus prayed here was nothing selfish, no iniquity, no selfish motives.  God can hear such prayers. 

Jesus said, "When you pray, go to your room and shut the door."  Some of us have a room to be able to close the door.  I know many people who don’t have a room to go to where they can close the door.  That is the easy part to find a room to be able to close that door.  To close the door of our heart is another part.  When we go to pray, there are many thoughts that come.  We think about yesterday, we think of today, and tomorrow.  That is the struggle to close the door of our heart, that we can hear God.  These are things that I know will help us to pray effectively, to pray in a way that God can answer us. 

Prayer is not only asking God for things.  Prayer is to help us get in line with the will of God.  Sometimes we have to wait in the presence of God.  That time in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times.  God heard Him the first time, and the second time.  Why did He pray three times?  He was busy with something.  He was busy to subject His own will to the Lord's will.  The Lord could answer that prayer.  The Lord hears our prayers.  Often, He has to wait for us to be in the condition to receive the blessing.  A little while after this, there was darkness on the earth.  Jesus said, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"  Jesus felt that God was not hearing Him anymore.  That was because of sin, because of our sin and that separates us from God, just as it separated Jesus from His Father.  Even then God was listening to His Son when He cried out.  God heard Him, and He answered Him.  After that, He gave Him death.  What He actually did was to receive Him back into His presence. 

Even in the most difficult times, God still hears us.  Even if we feel that God does not hear, we must keep praying.  Sometimes we can pray wrong, as well.  In James, he writes, "You ask and ye ask amiss, or wrongly, to consume it in your own lusts."  They were asking for things that were not according to God's will.  God was not going to give it to them.  One sister said she wasted time praying.  I don’t know that she was right but that was how she felt.  She said she prayed for the fruit of the spirit in her life but she should have prayed for the spirit to have the fruit.  She prayed to have the spirit of God that could produce the fruit of the spirit in her life.  There are many things that we can pray for.  We can look in the Bible. 

Paul and others tell us of things to pray for.  Paul said, "Pray for us."  We can pray for one another.  Jesus said, "We must pray for Our enemies."  It is easy to love a person we pray for.  If we pray for the church, the church will be more united, because there can be more love in it.  Often our prayer is not going to change the brother but it is going to help us to love our brother, to help us work together with him.  We know we should pray for the authority of the country.  We can criticise them a lot.  That is not going to change anything.  If we pray for it, it is going to help us to fit in.  It is going to make our life easier.  We do not have to agree with them but God can still use them.  God can still give us liberty so that our souls can be fed.  We should pray for the harvest field.  We should pray that there will be labourers for the harvest. 

Jesus said, "Go to your room to pray to your Father in secret.  The Father will reward you openly."  I am getting to understand a little now what that reward is.  What kind of reward can we expect if we pray in secret?  Someone has said it is in the spirit that God will give us.  He will give us a wonderful spirit and that cannot be hid.  Sometimes we want to hide our spirit because we are ashamed of our spirit.  We cannot hide our spirit, for everyone is going to see our spirit.  A good prayer is a prayer that leaves us with something to do.  We can ask God to do a lot of things.  We can ask God to change a lot of things but, when we see our part in it all, there is a blessing.  It is a good prayer when we go from prayer to do something.  Sometimes we just have to leave everything in God's hands.  That is what we need to do. 

We need to do nothing but often we can do something.  A good meeting is when we go out to do something.  A good convention is one when we go out to do something.  Not to do many things, but to do one thing.  I heard of an old worker.  After they listened to him, every time he went out with something to do.  I believe it was like that when listening to Jesus, too.  There was something to do.  Prayer is very important. 

One day, we are not going to be judged by our prayers.  We are going to be judged according to our works.  Our prayer is going to help us to do our works.  Remember when Paul saw the light on the way to Damascus?  He was told to go into the city which he did.  God spoke to his servant, Annanias, "Go to a certain house and there you will find Saul.  Behold, he is praying."  Annanias had heard many things about this man, but the fact that he was praying helped him to go.  When we pray God will send help, it may not be immediately.  It may not be in the way that we want. 

I read of Daniel.  One time, he started to fast and to pray.  For three weeks, he fasted and prayed.  Only then did the angel come.  He said to him, "At the beginning of your prayer, I wanted to come."  There was one who resisted him, and he couldn’t come.  He was heard right from the beginning, but there were reasons why he could not come.  God does not always answer immediately but sometimes he does, as we read in the previous chapter in Daniel.  In prayer, we get a vision, a place where we can see things clearly, a place where we can get the strength to do it, a place where we get renewed. 

When Jesus was in Gethsemane, in that prayer, it was a battlefield.  He was fighting the enemy there.  He overcame the enemy in prayer.  In public, it was almost immediately, at least it was possible for Jesus to have the victory.  Prayer is the easiest battlefield.  When the battle goes beyond that, it gets more difficult.  The battle can do a lot of harm.  When there is a war between two countries, sometimes they fight in one place.  They do not want to fight in the Capital, in the main city because there will be too much damage, innocent people will die.  If this battle goes out of my heart, then others are going to get hurt.  Damage is done to the kingdom, so we need to keep the battle in the heart, for that is the place of victory, too.  When the priest had to burn incense, that altar was very close to the ark.  That was the presence of God. 

The Bible tells us that incense is like prayer.  When the priest burned incense, he was very close to the presence of God.  When we pray, we get the closest to God.  God can speak to us there.  He can reveal things to us.  He can do things for us. 

Luke 18, Jesus spoke of the parable that we should always pray without ceasing.  This woman was asking something of the judge every day.  He would not hear her, but eventually he did.  We must be careful what we pray for, too.  We can ask for wrong things.  God is not going to give it to us.  If we insist and insist, ask again and again for the same thing, eventually we are going to receive it to our own hurt.  Balaam was like that.  God told him not to go to do what the king wanted him to do.  Again, there was a present sent.  Again, he wanted to go.  Eventually, he did go but it wasn’t for his own good. 

We have this wonderful privilege that, in prayer, we can be so unselfish.  We can have power with God.  We can pray for the good of others.  May the Lord help us to learn how to pray.