Willis Propp - Prayer - Buttonwillow II - 1981

I want to share a study with you. In Luke 18:1 we read "Men ought always to pray and not to faint." We have within our reach one of the strongest forces to help us in this race and in this fight. I would have to admit that while the force may be so strong at our disposal or within our reach, perhaps I have used it the least of any in this meeting. I don't say that for you to say that I've used it more than I think. You don't know the secret life of any person. People have used it in ages past and God has heard the prayers of His people.

When I was standing on the streets of Rome, the thought came to my mind, could a decree from an emperor who lived in this city have affected people as far away as Palestine, and changed the course of history and affected people then and lives through the centuries and even you and me today? The emperor decided to have a census taken and every person was to go to their father's city. That is what brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem instead of Nazareth. What brought this about were the prayers of God's people. When Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, He told the people what to do in the event it would take place. "Pray your flight will not be in the winter or on the Sabbath." We go to history and find it did not happen in the winter or on the Sabbath day. It didn't happen because God's people prayed. In my own experience, the confusion in my mind was a struggle and I didn't know where God wanted my life. Some offered suggestions and others offered temptations. I will never forget flinging myself on the bed and crying in desperation that God would show me. And He showed me.

I remember going to a place fully intending to open a series of meetings in the only city in the field. My companion followed, as a young companion does. We prayed. We went to that city and unloaded our batching equipment. We were not there two hours before God made it very clear that it was not the place we should be. God hears the prayers of people when they earnestly pray. Six weeks later we were at the end of that field because God moved us to go there. He opened the way so clearly. In that six weeks' time, a man and his wife began in the way of God. Their older son now fills his place and they have an open home in that city where we couldn't go because God didn't want us there.

Prayer life is the important life. Often those who lose out admit it is because they first of all failed to pray. There were three young girls who came to Saskatoon to study for their occupation. They took an apartment together. They were from faithful homes and they were faithful. Within a year they were not professing. Willie went to them and asked them what had happened. They said, "We stopped praying. We continued coming to meetings but we quit praying in the secret place." One of those girls is back in fellowship today carrying a burden and bearing a cross that wouldn't have been necessary. In His mercy, God gives grace and she is doing what she can in a divided home. Her little boy has to go with his father who has no thought of God or truth, and the mother is doing her part to bring the little girl with her. This was a burden because at a time in her experience, she had stopped praying. The other two are still outside.

I would like that we would pray. There was trouble in a church and two brothers were in that church around which the trouble centered. One of God's servants went to the one and said, "When was the last time you bowed your knees beside your bed and prayed?" He answered, "Fourteen years ago." The servant went to the other with the same question and he said, "I have never bowed myself to pray." A life without prayer is a life without direction. You can find the reference to that in Moses' experience when he asked God for His presence to go with him. "If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence." It is a life without direction and without strength. Jesus is the example when He prayed in the garden those three times and the sweat was like drops of blood. He got the victory in His secret life and the angel came and strengthened Him. A life without prayer is a life without Godly wisdom that we need so much in order that our lives might be lived successfully and not in vain. Wisdom is the principal thing therefore, in all thy getting, get wisdom. James tells us how to get it. Without wisdom and without prayer we will die as one of the foolish people.

There are five sets of five things in connection with prayer. This is by no means an exhaustive study. It doesn't mean that there aren't other things as important but it has been an encouragement to me.

I. Positions of prayer.

II. Approach in prayer.

III. Causes of failure in prayer.

IV. Conditions for success in prayer.

V. Some examples of answered prayers.

I. Positions of prayer: It was because of necessity that we looked into the Bible for positions of prayer. It is very interesting to me to understand that men didn't always kneel to pray. We read of them bowing the head and worshipping God. We read this of Abraham's servant and when Moses spoke to the people. At the Passover, they were told when the children asked why they kept the Passover they were to tell the story of the first Passover when they "bowed their head." God honors people when they bow their head. We read of kneeling in the Psalms and kneeling at the dedication of the temple. Pray looking up is in order. I had a companion who would kneel praying and then as he was finishing, he would lift his head and look up and pray. If God could hear my companion on his knees with his head raised to God, perhaps he could hear me also. Stephen looked up and saw heaven open. Paul prayed beside the seashore as he knelt on his knees. People knelt on their knees with their face to the ground. In the Orient, often that is the position. Elijah was in that position when he was praying at the time the rain came. It was the effectual fervent prayer on his knees with his face to the ground. Jesus, in Mark 11, spoke of standing to pray. "When ye stand praying, forgive…" We are satisfied that when you stand to pray, God hears your prayers. Many are the helpful moments of prayer in a convention and special meeting when we stand to pray. Head bowed; kneeling with the head raised; kneeling with the head bowed; standing; and the fifth is when David had that experience and Nathan said, "The little child shall die." David lay on the ground all night in prayer begging God would not take the child. God heard and answered, but he answered in the negative because the message from the prophet was, "The child shall die."

II. Approach in prayer: Rather than position, approach would be the important thing. We could be in a commendable position, but if the approach is wrong, God couldn't hear our prayer. There are five things for a reverent approach:

(1) Ask believing. Those are Jesus' words in Matthew 21:22.

(2) Ask the Father. I wonder when you pray, do you pray to the Father? We have been in churches where they pray to Jesus and sometimes the influence of the religious world effects us. The scripture is VERY clear that we should pray to God the Father and ask the other. In every recorded prayer of Jesus, He opened the prayer addressing our Father. When Jesus gave the sample prayer He used "Thou" and "Thy" and "Thine" as He addressed His Father instead of "you" and "your." I believe from the bottom of my heart that "Thou" and "Thy" and "Thine" are more reverent. In other languages like German and Korean etc., there are separate words when you address someone superior to you or below you, or on your level. They would never use one of the other terms for one of respect and honor—"Our Father, Thy name." We can practice a habit. It would be a help to practice the reverent approach to God our Father, the highest authority in the universe.

(3) Ask in Jesus' name. In Italy, they understand that if you get on the best side of the mother you can get her son to do anything. That is the approach the Catholic people use. Don't ask in the mother's name or any other name, but ask in Jesus' name. Ask the Father and ask in Jesus' name. These things were mentioned in the last meeting that Jesus had with His disciples. You would tell people important things if you knew it was the last time. In John 16, we read "Father" and in John 14, "In His name." He opened the throne of grace to us by the sacrifice of His precious blood and testimony. The veil of the temple tore in two that afternoon. It was a tremendous thing. I don't have authority for this except by word of mouth. The scripture teaches us that it tore from top to bottom and history says the Jewish people, who couldn't believe that Jesus was the Christ, patched the veil and continued with their services in the temple until the temple was destroyed.

(4) Ask abiding. In John 15, Jesus said, "If ye abide in me and I in you." Ask abiding or keep connected and be sincere in our service to God. If we are not connected, it won't be much of an approach. If we ask while we abide in Him, God WILL hear.

(5) Ask according to His will. I John 5—there are five people who asked and it wasn't God's will for their prayers to be answered positively and the answer was "no." No is the answer. When we pray—pray according to the will of God. "If it be Thy will" is a wonderful approach. Have you ever felt that your prayers were not noticed and that God didn't hear your prayers and that there may not be much reason to pray because you feel "I don't get answers to my prayers?" If you are real honest with yourself this morning, you might have to admit to yourself and to God, and no one else, that there may be reasons for feeling this way that are within your power to change.

III. Causes of failure in prayer:

(1) Disobedience to what you know is God's will. Saul of the Old Testament is the prime example of this. God ceased to hear his prayer. At the time the children of Israel were about to be taken into captivity, the reason was their disobedience. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 20, we see God could not hear their prayer. Could anyone say, "I have always been obedient?" Some of my prayers were not only unanswered, but unheard because of my disobedience. For one and one half years of my life after hearing so clear an answer of where God wanted me, I said I wasn't ready to go. I said it for one year into the next year. I was hiding behind disobedience and trying to suggest there were other reasons not to go just now. The real reason was just disobedience and there was no peace. An older brother wrote to me after a year saying, "I hope you are enjoying the peace of God in your heart as any child knows within His will."

(2) Secret sin. The psalmist said if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord won't hear me. Iniquity is giving vent to what we are by nature. If we regard something in our heart and say, "as long as the workers don't find out or others of the church," that is one thing that will hinder our prayers, regarding iniquity in our heart. Isaiah 59:2 and Micah 4:3. The very reason for unanswered prayers and maybe unheard prayers is because we are practicing secret sin thinking if no one else knows it, it will be all right. There are secret sins that we are not conscious of. But the secret sin is something you know is wrong and you are practicing in secret. From this morning, stop it! Among the young, some things have been practiced in secret and we are thankful that they can be stopped. They are wrong, very wrong. We hate to use the words. Uncleanness, fornication, and adultery are listed. I hope that from this morning you can stop them.

(3) Indifference. A school teacher asked the class what apathy was and Johnny said, "I don't know and I could care less." That was the meaning of the word in his attitude. If we would get that way, our prayers would remain unheard. God said, "Because when I called, they wouldn't hear. Now when they call, I won't hear." Just sheer indifference. We come to convention but we don't think that we will respond to God's voice.

(4) A double-minded person. Don't think that man will ever have any thing from God. Unstable in all his ways. No true purpose.

(5) Selfish motive. This is also in James. James 4: "You ask amiss to consume it on your own lusts." If your prayers are not being heard, just check this list.

IV. Conditions for success in prayer: This is not listed in the order of importance:

(1) A spirit of true humility and repentance. This verse - memorize it. It is II Chronicles 7:14. "Humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn." The spirit of true humility will lend success to your prayers.

(2) Being whole-hearted. If you are sincerely honest and whole-hearted in your service to God, it will lend toward success to your prayers.

(3) Ask in faith. Often faith figured in prayer. Faith and believing; prayer and healing; they are almost inseparable. Jesus said to the centurion, "Do you believe?" and he said "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief." It would be wonderful to have faith in prayer as we sought to be guided by some of these conditions. Jesus said, "Nevertheless shall he find faith on the earth" in connection with prayer.

(4) Righteous living—"the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man," etc. This is my relationship with God and the Son of God and others. In the verses connecting that statement it says, "confess your faults." If something happens between you and another, be the first to admit your error and get the right relationship again and the Lord will hear your prayer.

(5) Obedience. This is the opposite to the first one in the other list. I John 3:22, "Because we keep His commandments and do these things that are pleasing in His sight."

V. Some examples of answered prayers: There were five people who prayed and it wasn't because they didn't have the right approach or that they were not living right that the answer was "no." They accepted the answer.

(1) Moses wanted to go into the Promised Land. He prayed to go in. The Lord finally said, "Speak to me no more of this matter, you are not going in." Moses was a type of the law and the law could never bring people into the fullness of the promises of God. It took Joshua, the type to Christ, to lead them all the way.

(2) Elijah prayed he might die. We could have missed a lot if Elijah had died. It wasn't God's will that he die. Instead of answering his prayers in the positive, He just fed him. Elijah went on that strength for forty days.

(3) David prayed that the child might live and God said, "No."

(4) Then Saul of Tarsus in II Corinthians 12:8. I don't know what it was but it was a thorn in his flesh. I have one. I have prayed more than three times that it be removed, but God says "no." The reason it was left in Paul's life was because he might have been exalted. The Lord left it there to keep him humble. The plague of our heart may keep our feet on the ground and keep us lowly. It may be the way God has of teaching us humility. He said, "No."

(5) Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him. The flesh was weak and the spirit was willing and the answer was "no." If the answer had not been no, what would have happened? A sister saint stood in a convention and said about the prayer experience of Jesus in the garden, "What if He hadn't been willing or cared if the scripture be fulfilled or if He had prayed and the Lord would have sent the twelve legions of angels, none of us could be here and none of us would have any hope."

Look up the short prayers that God answered. It wasn't so much the position as it was the attitude. Peter didn't think of getting on his knees when he was sinking in the water. One prayed "Lord hear me." One said, "Lord, help me." One said, "Lord, save me." One said, "Lord, remember me."

I hope as we have sought to bring these things to your attention that you will go out with a deeper gratitude for the privilege of prayer.