Who, Not How

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Prayer is a conversation – it’s who we’re talking to that really matters, not how we’re praying.

Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Online. I am so glad that you are here with us today. And wherever you are in the world, I want to ask you to just for a moment, as a sign of faith and a sign of connection, will you just give a big welcome to everybody who’s joining us all around the world?

Come on, wherever you are right now, give a clap, give a cheer, give a holler, and let’s welcome each other together. And I know you may think that feels silly doing that in your house, but it’s a sign of faith that reminds us that none of us is on our own, that we’re in this thing together, that we’re on a journey with one another. And if this is your first time with us, a whole bunch of people all around the region just gave a big cheer and a celebration to welcome you in because we want you to know that hope is here, everyone is welcome and Jesus changes everything.

You see, we are one church that is currently meeting online, that carries the hope of Jesus to thousands of locations, a movement of hope for the city and beyond. And I love what God is doing in the midst of this hard season. You see, God is taking things that Satan intended for harm and is using them for good.

And you just saw that video of our Next Steps Center, Hope on the Move Food Relief. Because of you and your generosity, we’ve been able to feed more than a thousand families with a weeks’ worth of groceries. Come on. In the midst of this season, we still get to be used by God to bring hope to the lost, lonely and broken people in our region. And I am so grateful for how you’re responding, for how you’re generosity is blessing the people around us. To be a movement of hope for the city and beyond means we actually have to move to bring hope to those around us and that’s what we are doing as a church.

You see, I know this hasn’t been the easiest season for so many of us in so many different ways. And now things feel like they’re changing again. And the government is starting to allow things to open up slowly but surely. And I know that’s going to create a whole lot of different emotions in a lot of us.

And so I want to say the same thing to you today that I said on the very first weekend this whole thing started. And it’s simply this, let’s be people of honor. No matter what is happening, no matter what the government is allowing or what restrictions are there, let’s be people of honor. We set on that first weekend that you got people on a spectrum. You’re going to have people over here that have a lot of anxiety and don’t want to see anything open back up. And you’re going to have people all the way over here with a lot of anger that are like, let’s open everything up. And you’re going to have people in the spectrum all in between.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re over here or if you’re over here or somewhere in the middle, let’s be people of honor in this season. I mean I love this verse. It says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Come on, in this season, let’s be people of honor. Let’s understand that not everybody has your perspective of your opinion.

That there are some people who are going to want things to open faster than you. And there’s going to be some people who want things to open slower than you. That there’s going to be a spectrum of how we all view this world, that there’s stories in all of our lives that we know nothing about. And so we can choose to be people of honor in this season. You see, honor is the culture of the kingdom. And we honor people not because they deserve it, but because we are honorable, because we are a people of honor that choose to honor that they have been made in the image and likeness of God, that we choose to honor the gifts in their lives, the destiny upon them, the calling that God is giving them.

And this is a season where we can honor one another even though we may be a little bit anxious about things opening up or a little bit angry that things aren’t opening faster. In fact, I love this next verse that says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Come on, this is a good verse for this season. Submit to one another as a way of honoring Jesus.

And you know what that means? That means some things are going to be different than you want them to be. They might be a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit inconvenient. Maybe your gym might not do things the way you want them to. Maybe the schools aren’t doing things the way you want them to. Maybe even the businesses that you’re a part of, maybe even our church is not going to do things exactly the way that you want them to be done, as things start opening up, too fast, too slow, restrictions, now all that — okay, let’s just submit to one another and choose to extend a lot of grace in this season, knowing that everybody’s trying.

Come on, I love what Jesus tells us in this next verse. He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another.” In this season, maybe we can choose to set aside our opinions and our preferences to love each other. Because if you think about what love does, love is patient, love is kind. Love is not self-seeking, love keeps no record of wrongs. Love is not angry and love always perseveres.

Come on, everybody in this season is trying. So if something’s going away that you don’t like, too fast or too slow, you don’t need to jump online and tell everybody how disappointed or upset you are. You know what you need to do? You need to pray for them. And you need to bless them in Jesus’ name. And you need to submit and say, hey, you know what, I’m just grateful that I have a school that my kids can go. Hey, you know what, I’m just grateful that there are businesses in this town. Hey, you know what, I’m grateful that there are things to do and places to go. And I submit and honor them in Jesus’ name.

Come on, this is a really, really big deal. We can’t do what we’ve done for the last few weeks. And then all of a sudden, get really grumpy because things are going faster or slower than we want them to. So are you with me on that? Oh, come on, are you with me on that? Because if we’re going to be a movement of hope for the city and beyond, we got to choose to be people of honor. You see, I know this hasn’t been an easy season.

And I know we’ve all talked a lot about a lot of different stuff with this whole coronavirus. We’ve talked to each other. We’ve talked to our family. We’ve talked to our friends. We’ve talked to strangers on the internet. We’ve talked to ourselves even along the way. And yet, the one person we should talk to the most is maybe the person we’ve talked to the least. You see, in seasons like this, we need to talk to God. We need to pray and converse and have conversation with him. That’s how we keep a healthy heart and get through these hard seasons.

In fact, I think if you just think of Jesus for a moment, a lot of us when we think of Jesus, we think he kind of had it kind of easy until the cross. Like I mean he’s the Son of God. He’s got supernatural power, the Spirit of the living God upon him. He can do signs and wonders and miracles. We’re like, ah, it was pretty easy for him. But actually, that’s not true, man. His disciples betrayed him.

His family thought he was crazy. The crowd wanted to use him. The Pharisees wanted to kill him. It wasn’t all that easy for Jesus along the way. And look what he did, I love it, it says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus would pull away from everything often and he would pray. He would talk to God. He would share his heart and then listen to the heart of the Father. And that gave him the courage and the strength to keep walking forward, to be a man of integrity and honor.

And what I think is so cool about this is if you think about you, you are a beloved son or daughter in whom the Father is well pleased in Jesus. You have the Spirit of the living God inside you, the same one that Jesus has. You’ve been supernatural powers. So the same life that Jesus had in a lot of ways you now have in him. And if he had to withdraw often to pray, how much more do you and me? And in a sense, what’s happened in this season is a whole lot of things have been removed that have forced us to lonely places, shelter in place.

And the invitation has been to talk to God. Or how about the apostle Paul? The guy who writes a lot of the New Testament. And Paul had a rough go to, man, he was stoned, shipwrecked, persecuted, beaten, hated, they tried to kill him and yet look at this next verse, Paul had a thorn in his flesh. We don’t know what that is, probably some kind of sickness, maybe like the coronavirus in his life. And look what it says, it says, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord. I prayed and I asked God to take it away from me, to heal me from this sickness, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power if made perfect in weakness.’”

I love this, when Paul has a difficulty or a challenge in his life, what does he do? He prays. And when he prays, what happens? He hears God’s voice, he receives God’s grace and God’s power shows up in his weakness.

When you and I choose to pray in hard seasons, just talk to God, we hear his voice, we receive fresh grace. And his power shows up in our weakness. And I don’t know about you, but I could use a little bit of that in this season. Like I could use some wisdom, I could use some perspective, I could use some patience and some peace and some power. And so all we got to do is talk to God.

And yet if we’re honest, we often don’t. Did you ever wonder why? Like why is it when it feels like everything around us, we don’t go right and talk to God. Well, I think the reality is I think if we’re honest, we just don’t know how. I think it’s in our heart. I think we want to. I think we actually believe that God can do some amazing things. I just think we don’t know how. And so we’re kind of afraid and intimidated. So we don’t really lean into that space. And you know what, the disciplines didn’t know how to either.

And so they watched Jesus have this amazing prayer life. And then finally one day, they said, Jesus, teach us how to pray. And Jesus says, okay. And he gives them the Lord’s Prayer, which maybe you’re familiar with and he gives them this kind of this paradigm, this perspective, this isn’t the exact words you have to use, he’s just given them handles like this is how you pray. You say, “Our Father in heaven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we also forgive — forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Maybe you’ve heard that before and as you read that and you see that, it might feel like a lot of big words. And you’re like I don’t know that that really helps me how to pray all that much. Okay, let me just put it in a modern paraphrase for you. And it would simply go something like this. Here’s how Jesus says how to pray. He says you just pray like this.

Hey dad, you’re a really good dad. And you have a great perspective on life. And I’m so grateful you’re my dad because you’re kind and compassionate and loving and generous. And I know you have great plans for my life. And so I don’t want my plans for my life, I want your plans for my life. I want your kingdom to come into my world. And I know because you love me, you’re going to meet all my needs. And I know that when I mess up, I can go right to you because you’re going to forgive me.

And as you forgive me, you teach me how to forgive those who have hurt me. And I know you are going to protect me and give me victory. Dad, you’re a great dad. It’s really a lot easier than we think. And so what I want to do is I just want to walk through this with you really quick. I want to just break it down into these simple principles so you can apply this to your life because this is a season to talk to God.

And so this is real fast. And then I want to actually do it with you in a moment. So see if you can just grab this with me. Let me break it down for you. The first thing is just “Our Father in heaven”. Now, when the disciples would have hear the words “Our Father”, that would have been mind-blowing to them. You and I are used to hearing this prayer this way, it maybe is familiar to us. The disciples, they never saw God as a father. They saw him as this distant creator, the almighty, the powerful judge. And all of a sudden, Jesus says, hey, when you pray, say “Our Father” and it would have opened up their mind to a whole new reality that God was their father. And they were beloved sons and daughters.

You see, when Jesus uses the word “Our”, who is the our? The our is you and me and Jesus. In other words, what Jesus is saying is he’s saying, hey, the same way I talk to the father you now can talk to the father. Because of what I have done, I have brought you into the family.

You now can go right to God. You don’t need somebody else to translate it for you. You’re not a servant. You’re not a slave. You’re a beloved son or daughter in whom the father is well pleased. And just like my kids can come running into my office any time they want, we can go right into the throne room of heaven and talk to our good father.

You see, the key to the entire Lord’s Prayer, the key to prayer in general is understanding who you’re talking to is more important than how you pray. Who you are praying to, your father is more important than how you pray. Because when you understand he’s your father and you’re a beloved son or daughter, you know you don’t have to use all these perfect words. You don’t have to get it right. Why? Because the Father just wants to listen to your heart.

And He now hears us on behalf of — or He hears us the same way that He hears Jesus has done. It’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has done.

Our Father in heaven. In heaven, not somewhere way far out because Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is within us. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Our Father in heaven. In other words, heaven. A healthier perspective, a higher way of thinking, a higher sense of wisdom that allows us to have a better picture of our life. Our Father in heaven.

Go to the next one. Hallowed be your name. Hallowed be your name, in other words, worships, gratitude, thanksgiving. Jesus says, start by acknowledging He’s your Father. He has a great perspective. And then just thank Him. Tell Him who He is. Tell Him what He has done. Tell Him that you’re grateful for His kindness, and His patience, and His love, and His provision. In other words, just worship God and be grateful. Because when you start worshiping God, what starts happening is the atmosphere around you and in you starts changing. When you start worshiping you stop focusing on what’s wrong with you and you start focusing on what’s right with God.

You stop looking at what’s happening to you and you start looking at what God has done for you. And what worship does is it lifts up the name of Jesus over your life. And then faith, hope and love, righteousness, peace and joy begin to rain down. You see, worship allows us to rest from our worry. Worship. When we give thanks to God, it allows us to rest from the worry, and the anxiety, and the fear, and the doubt, and the depression. Why? Because when you’re worshiping God, you can’t worry, and you can’t be anxious, and you can’t be depressed at the same time. So it’s an invitation for us to be free and to build our faith. So we give thanks and we worship.

And then it goes to “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When you get that He’s a good Father and you start thanking Him for who He is, all of a sudden you have a boldness and a faith to take the authority that God has given you and it’s this, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In other words, Jesus is telling us, we have the authority to invite God’s kingdom into this world, to invite God’s will into our life, to invite heaven to earth. This is about submitting and surrendering to the lordship of Jesus, allowing him to rule and reign over every area of our lives. And when we get we’re beloved sons and daughters, we’re saying, it’s our Father’s kingdom and He has empowered us to bring His kingdom, His will and heaven into the circumstances around us.

We have been empowered by God to bring down His grace and His truth, His power, and His peace, and His provision. And so we want His will and His kingdom in heaven to come into our marriage, and our homes, and our business, and our finances, and our bodies.

And we’ve been empowered to do that in Jesus’ name.

And then he says, go on and say, “Give us today our daily bread.” Like it’s okay to ask God for stuff. He says, hey, when you get it’s your Father and you thank Him for who He is and you start declaring the kingdom and inviting his lordship, it’s okay. He wants you to ask Him. Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. He already knows what you need before you even ask Him.

And I love that it says, “today our daily bread.” In other words, this is daily dependence upon God, not asking Him for something once every 10 years, like every day, God, would you meet my needs today? Everything that’s going on in my life, would you meet what I need that I might have all that I need in your name? And I love the daily bread. Who is the bread of life? It’s Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life. So what he’s really saying is, why don’t you ask for a fresh revelation of Jesus?

For a fresh encounter with Jesus. Because in Jesus, all of our needs had been provided for.

And then if you go to the next one, he says, and then say, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, because He’s your good Father, you can go right to Him with your mistakes and your failures. You could confess and repent. And as we acknowledge the areas where we’ve messed up in our lives, we’re reminded of the finished work of Jesus, that in Jesus there’s no condemnation. There’s no fear. There’s no striving. We have been fully forgiven as far as the east is from the west. We’re a new creation in Christ Jesus. And as we start understanding how much he has forgiven us, it gives us the strength to go ahead and forgive the people who have hurt us in our lives.

And then he says, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” In other words, say, God, there are some real challenges and temptations and difficulties in my life.

Would you give me victory over those things? Prayer reminds us that victory is where we start from, not what we have to fight for because of what Jesus has done. And we say, would you be the one to deliver us, to protect us, to keep us safe in this broken and lost and dying world? Come on. It’s not about using those exact words, it’s about understanding the heart of who our Father is and what we get to do. Come on. Hey dad, you’re a good dad. And you have a great perspective on life.

And I’m so grateful you’re my dad because you’re kind and compassionate and loving. And I am so thankful for you. And I want your will in my life, your plans and your purposes. And I know you’re going to meet all of my needs because you’re a good dad and you take care of me. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me the grace to forgive others. And I know you’re going to help me find victory and breakthrough and that you will be the one to protect me.

You’re a great dad. And I’m so grateful for you, in Jesus’ name.

You see, what I think is so interesting about prayer is prayer is really two things. It’s intimacy, and it’s authority. It’s intimacy because the whole thing is having a conversation and a relationship with God. “Our Father”, and our Father wants to hear our hearts. And He wants to speak to us. So it’s about intimacy and it’s about authority. It’s about stepping into the authority that we’ve been given as followers of Jesus that God has literally empowered us as citizens of heaven, as representers of His kingdom and who He is, as hope carriers in this world. That he has given us, His children, the authority to pray down His kingdom and His will and His heaven into the world around us to bring all things into the submission and the surrender of the lordship of Jesus to bring all things into the alignment with the finished work of what Jesus has done.

You see, prayer is not about getting what you want, it’s about getting what you need. And you know what you and I need? We need to be reminded that we’re beloved sons and daughters, that He’s a good Father, that we live in His kingdom, and that He is with us and for us, and is taking care of us.

And so what I want to do today is I want to invite you to wherever you are, to just pray through this with me really quick. You see, what I love about this whole coronavirus season is what it’s allowing us to do is integrate our faith into our daily life. I think so many of us, we think our faith is at the church building. And when we leave the church building we kind of leave our faith there. But no, no, our faith is meant to go into our homes. And maybe you’ve never prayed before, that’s okay.

Maybe you’ve never prayed in your home before, that’s okay. Maybe you’re a student and you think, I don’t know how to do this. That’s okay. Let’s just do it together, and invite the presence of Jesus into our homes, into our world, and into our life right where we are right now. Because I know this has been a difficult and challenging for all of us. And God is inviting us to pray. And Jesus showed us how to do it. So let’s just do it together.

So you do this with me, will you just close your eyes, wherever you are, just close your eyes and let’s just have a moment together. And if you’re like listening and you’re like, I don’t even believe in this stuff. That’s okay. Why not just give this a try? What could that hurt? Close your eyes and position yourself. And maybe for a moment, can we just — let’s walk through each one of these. One Father in heaven. Can you just start by just acknowledging, and maybe just talking to God saying, “You’re my Father.”

You’re my Father. And if you are my Father, that means I’m your beloved son or daughter. And as you acknowledge Him as Father, can you just become aware of His presence? That right now, the good Father is with you in whatever room or wherever place you are. See, He’s the dad that you always wanted. He’s not like your dad growing up. No, no, no. He’s exactly what Jesus is like because Jesus came to show us the heart of the Father. So maybe you just say, dad, Father, thank you that I am your beloved son or daughter, and you are well pleased in me because of Jesus.

Our Father in heaven, maybe you just say, God, I want your wisdom and your perspective in my life in this season. And then as Jesus tells, hallowed be your name, maybe can you just start giving Him thanks. Just give Him thanks for who He is, for what He has done. Take a moment and just worship Him, just focus in on your Father. Just tell Him who He is.

Maybe you thank Him for your family. Maybe you thank Him for your finances. Maybe you thank Him for your health, or this church , or your life, or His goodness and His grace. I don’t know. What are you grateful for? Come on, just start giving Him thanks. Give Him praise. Lift up His name. Tell Him who He is to you and what He has done on your behalf. Let that gratitude start changing you.

And as you give Him thanks, what it does is it starts to build your faith because you know He’s good. And so now let’s pray that His kingdom, that His will would be done, that heaven would come to our earth. And so where do you need His kingdom to come? Where do you want His will in your life? Maybe you even say right now, God, I invite your will into my marriage. I invite your kingdom into my finances. I invite your heaven into my home. I invite your breakthrough into my body.

Come on, where do you need to submit and surrender to the lordship of Jesus? Where do you need to invite his authority and his love, and the kingdom of heaven into your world? And then he says to go ahead and ask him for our needs. So come on, right now, what do you need? Tell Him.

Ask Him. Come on, I know you need something, so ask Him. Maybe you need a breakthrough. Maybe you need a job. Maybe you need a healing in your body or a miracle. Maybe you just need a friend or some compassion and some mercy and some forgiveness. I don’t know. What do you need? Come on, He wants to hear from you. And he says whatever we ask for in prayer in Jesus’ name, we shall receive. Don’t be afraid to ask your good Father. Come on, ask Him. What do you need?

And then he says to ask for forgiveness and offer it to others. So maybe right now what’s been in the dark that you need to bring out of the darkness into the light? Where do you need to say, Lord, would you forgive me for this? I confess and repent for my attitude, for this action, for the way I’ve been treating people during this quarantine season or for the lack of faith that I’ve had, as I’m just — I’ve been so full of doubt.

I don’t know, what do you need? You just say, Jesus, would you just forgive me for that? And then feel the cleansing, forgiveness of Jesus, washing over you. And in Jesus’ name it has been paid in full. And when we become aware of that forgiveness, we can forgive others. So who’s one person in your life right now that you’re offended at? One person you’ve been holding a grudge against. One person that even as I say that, that name pops so fast in your mind, that’s the person in Jesus’ name.

And if you feel like you can’t do it, even ask Him, God, please give me the courage to forgive them because I’m not ready to. Jesus, we choose to forgive. Would you help us bless, cancel the debt and credit the count the way you’ve done for us?

Come on, let him remove those rocks out of your heart. And then the last thing he says is pray for protection. So right now, would you just ask the lord to protect you? To protect you and your family, and your life in this season, to give you victory in Jesus’ name. Come on, have a little bit of faith that rises up to say, I’m not fighting for victory, I’m fighting from victory because of the finished work of Jesus. So just ask him, come on, right now, Lord, would you bring your protection? Would you bring your victory? Would you bring the security and the safety that I crave in this season? Would you bring that into my life, into my home, and into my family in Jesus’ name?

Come on, He’s a good dad. And He loves to hear from His children.

And He wants to move on our behalf. So thank you Father that you’re teaching us how to pray; how in broken and desperate and hard seasons, we’re able to cry out to you, and you come with compassion and love and grace. Thank you that because of Jesus, you hear us today. So we rise up in relationship and intimacy with you and authority to say, Your kingdom come. Your will be done in our homes, in our lives, in our church, in our city, in our region. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Come on, you can do that in Jesus’ name. And if you say, is that really what we wanted to take the whole day to do today? The answer is yes. Because I want to equip and empower you to do this in your own life. And so my challenge for you this week is take that little template and do it every day this week. Monday through Friday, come on, we’ll put some stuff on our social media to encourage you along the way.

We’ll give you that little paraphrased version out there. But come on, this week, every day, just take some time to just acknowledge your good dad. Give Him some gratitude and some thanks. Invite Him into your life. Ask Him to provide for your needs. You’d be amazed at what God will do, as we start turning our heart and our attention — as we stop talking to everybody else and just talking to Him in Jesus’ name.

Hey, if you are here and you want somebody to join you in anything that you’re praying and need in your life, if you go to our website and fill out the prayer request thing, we would love to join you in those prayers. For those of you that want to give, you can give online at valleycreek.org. Giving is just part of acknowledge that God is the provider of our lives, that we don’t provide for ourselves. He’s our provider. And we want His kingdom to come and His will to be done in every area of our lives including our finances.

In a moment, there’s going to be some response questions.

I would encourage you as a family or whoever you’re watching with this, your friends, or even by yourself, take some and go through those questions. It’s one of the best parts of online service. But I pray that you go this week knowing that God is good, that Jesus has forgiven you, that you are loved, and everything is possible in Jesus’ name.

I love you. We’ll see you next week.

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