The Spiritual Discipline of prayer often gets placed on the backburner until we need it. Why is it that we may not even desire prayer until we truly feel we need it? In this message on Mark 9, Pastor Mike Kelsey analyzes the lack of priority that prayer often has within our walks with Christ. God has given us direct access to His divine power. How do we take hold of this and return back to continual conversation with the God of the Universe? Pastor Mike Kelsey reminds believers of the accessibility we have through prayer, as well as the helper and intercessor who guides us into prayer- the Holy Spirit.
- Direct Access to God through Prayer
- Intercessory Prayer
- Vulnerability in Prayer
- Misconceptions and Fears of Prayer
- God’s Response to our Prayers
Why Don’t We Prioritize Prayer
It’s good to be together. Today, I want to welcome those of you who are new to our church. My name is Mike and I’m one of the pastors here in our church. I want to welcome those of you that are watching online, or from any one of our locations across the DC metro area. We’re going to be in Mark 9, so you can make your way there. But before we dive into it, I remember when I first became a devoted Christian. And I was driving with an older student, an upperclassman that was discipling me, and my car broke down.
And so we both got out of the car and we looked under the hood. I have no idea, why do we always do that? I don’t know why we do that. Like we know what to look for or we would know what to do if we did know what to look for.
But we looked under the hood and my friend who was discipling me did the only thing he could do. He laid his hands on the engine and started praying. And so I’m there and I remember being like, “Oh, this is what we’re doing? For real?” And so I closed my eyes too, and every once in a while I would just glance at him with one eye, just to be like, “We’re still going to do this?” And I didn’t want to seem uninvested, and so I just did what I heard growing up. Every once in a while I throw out a “Yes, Lord,” or something like that. And so he finishes praying. We get in the car, we put the keys in the ignition, and we look at each other, and the car started. Amen, yeah, the car started. But I remember thinking to myself, “If that had been me, if that had happened to me by myself, I would’ve never thought to pray.”
We didn’t have Uber back then, so I would’ve just walked to the nearest gas station. I would’ve called AAA on my dad’s account. I would’ve done something, but I would not have thought to pray. And even when he prayed, I found myself struggling to even believe or have enough faith that God, with everything He has going on, would actually take the time to miraculously start my broke down car.
In fact, I low-key wondered, “Did God actually answer that prayer or did we just get lucky?” I think a lot of us feel that way, or wrestle with those kinds of questions in our own prayer life. We hear the stories about these powerful, miraculous answers to prayer that we read about in the Bible or we see in other people. We see other people praying with that kind of boldness and eloquence and devotion. And we think to ourselves, “I’d love to get there, but I’m just not there. I’m just not there.”
Reading Mark Nine
We even feel that way when we read about prayer in the Bible. We look at the disciples, for example, in the Book of Acts. We see their constant, passionate, bold prayer. We see the breathtaking, miraculous answers to prayer that they got to experience. But here’s the thing: that’s not how the disciples started. In fact, the passage that we’re going to study today shows us how Jesus helped the disciples develop the kind of prayer life that so many of us want but struggle to actually experience. And so we’re going to be in Mark 9.
The Gospel of Mark is the second book of the New Testament. But we’ll also have the verses up on the screens. And today we’re actually jumping back into a series that we were in last year called Following Jesus.
We’re going to be walking passage by passage through the Gospel of Mark over these next several months. And just to catch everybody up on the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Mark is a rich historical and theological account of Jesus’ life, his ministry, death and resurrection. But it’s also an account of how Jesus prepared his disciples to live like Him and to continue his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. And so we’re going to read Mark 9:14–29. But before we jump into the story, let me catch you up also on what happens before that.
We already studied this earlier passage, but just in case you’re jumping in with us at this point, Jesus has been away on a retreat with His three core disciples, and they got to see Jesus’s divine glory revealed in an absolutely undeniable way. Now, as Mark’s original readers were reading this, they would immediately pick up the parallels between this story in Mark 9 and the Old Testament story in Exodus where Moses came down from Mount Sinai literally glowing after having experienced the glory of God.
And just like Moses came down the mountain, only to be disappointed with God’s people who had relapsed into idolatry, now, Jesus in Mark 9 is coming down the Mountain of Transfiguration only to be disappointed with the disciples who are floundering in their faith. So, Mark sets the scene in verse 14, and we’ll pick it up from there. Verse 14, it says, “And when they,” when Jesus and His core team of disciples, “When they came to the rest of the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them.” Now, pause there for a minute. Listen, if you’re new to the Bible, the scribes were a group of religious scholars that were constantly trolling Jesus.
They’re constantly stirring up controversy about Jesus’ ministry. And since Jesus wasn’t there, they seize an opportunity to try to discredit Jesus’ disciples. And the crowd start gathering to watch. But then Jesus shows up in verse 15, says, “Immediately all the crowd, when they saw Jesus, were greatly amazed. And they ran up to him and greeted him.” And Jesus asked them, “What are y’all arguing with them about?”
Now, Mark never explicitly says what the argument was about, but I think and most scholars believe that it’s most likely related to what happens next. Verse 17, someone from the crowd responds to Jesus, answered Him, saying, “Teacher, I have brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute, a spirit that causes him to be unable to speak. And whenever it seizes him it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they weren’t able.”
The Spiritual Dimension in the Bible
Now, before we continue in the story, for some of us there’s already alarm bells going off in your head as you read this. There’s a little bit of uneasiness about the way this boy’s condition is being described. Because it’s clear, and we see it here, he’s suffering from some kind of physical condition.
In fact, when you look at the symptoms, a lot of people believe that he’s suffering from severe epileptic seizures. So, we follow with that. The uneasiness comes with the fact that Mark describes this boy’s suffering as not just physical, but he says the source of his suffering is actually spiritual, like this boy is being tormented by a demon. And that’s where Mark loses us, some of us, right? Well, here’s the thing. The Bible is clear that demons are real. That there is an unseen spiritual dimension to our world.
This isn’t mythology. Demons are not symbolic characters that the author is using to personify evil in the world. The Bible teaches, Jesus himself taught, that demons are evil angels that have joined Satan in rebellion against God. And they’re constantly at work trying to deceive and distort and destroy whatever they can in God’s creation. Now, to be fair, we got to be honest, that there have been many people and even whole societies throughout history that didn’t understand certain diseases, and so they just blamed it on demons.
But here’s the thing. Listen, that’s not what we actually see in the Bible. We’ve covered this in earlier sermons, but as you read the Gospel of Mark, it’s very clear that Jesus and His followers recognize the difference between disease, demon possession and other forms of affliction. Sometimes Jesus heals people and there’s no mention of demons. Sometimes He casts out demons and there’s no mention of disease. But sometimes a person can be experiencing such dark spiritual oppression that it manifests itself in agonizing physical suffering. And so out of desperation, this father blurts out in the middle of all of this controversy, trying to get Jesus’ attention.
The Enemy Causes Division
And I want you to notice something, because I think this is so relevant to our situation today in the American church. Listen. When Jesus shows up, the disciples are caught up in controversy, while the people actually suffering from that controversy are sitting on the sidelines. They’re busy debating problems that hurting people are actually dealing with. And this is part of the devil’s work. The demons aren’t just at work to attack this young boy, they’re also working to distract the disciples, to trap them in endless insincere arguments about other people’s pain.
And the enemy is working to do the same thing in today’s church, over politics, over racial justice, over abortion, and the list goes on and on. And listen, listen. I’m all for hearing people out and being humble and gracious in the process with those who disagree. But especially when we’re talking about people suffering, there comes a point where we have to stop debating the work of Jesus and invest our energy in doing the work of Jesus, regardless of what people think.
So, this father is desperate. He’s desperate. And I love that he doesn’t allow his disappointment with the disciples of Jesus to keep him from seeking Jesus. And so he complains to Jesus that the disciples weren’t able to cast out the demon, and then Jesus responds.
Verse 19. Jesus answered them and said, “Oh, faithless generation.” He’s talking about their whole culture at that time, including the disciples. He says, “‘How long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.’ And they brought the boy to Jesus. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And the father said, ‘From childhood. And it’s often cast him into fire and into water to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'” I want you to notice how much this dad is identifying with his son. He uses the word us twice. Why? Because when your loved ones suffer, you suffer.
With anxiety, with grief, with long nights and dark days, with an agonizing sense of helplessness because it’s out of your control. And you wish you could, but you can’t do anything to fix it for them. That’s what this father feels. And his desperation drives him to Jesus, and he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion to help us.” And here’s the climax of the story, verse 23 and 24. Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for the one who believes.”
Now, that raises all kind of questions about what Jesus actually means here, and we’ll come back to that. But this is also where some of us begin to think, “Well, what if I’m struggling to fully believe?” And that’s why verse 24 is one of the most popular verses in the Bible, verse 24. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’ When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you.
Come out of him and never enter him again.’ And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out. And the boy was like a corpse so that most of them said ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he arose. And when He had entered the house, the disciples asked Him privately, ‘Jesus, why couldn’t we cast it out?'”
Which is a reasonable question because Jesus had already given them authority over demons in Mark 6:7. And on top of that, they had already cast out, Mark says, many demons, in Mark 6:13. So why weren’t they successful this time? In verse 29, Jesus said to them, because, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” And some versions say, “By anything but prayer and fasting.” Now, I don’t think Jesus is saying that stronger demons require prayer and weaker demons don’t. Because first of all, if you notice, Jesus didn’t even pray before He cast out the demon. So, I don’t think Jesus is trying to be super technical here about how to cast out different categories of demons.
And this is where some wings of the church end up getting into this crazy off stuff where they start creating all these hierarchies and categories of different kinds of demons and different kinds of intense prayer and rituals and techniques and all of that. I don’t even think the demon is the point here. I think Jesus is using this opportunity to emphasize the necessity and power of prayer. And if you read His teachings, He’s constantly challenging the disciples to be prayerful in every situation. But here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. Even when we are neglecting prayer, sometimes God will still allow us to be successful for a season until we hit a brick wall.
And brick walls have a way of stopping us in our tracks, and humbling us, and showing us how much we need God. And so in verse 29, Jesus tells the disciples, “You couldn’t cast out the demon because you went on autopilot and stopped relying on God and prayer.” And I really wish Mark had included what the conversation was like after verse 29. I wonder if they just felt stupid for overlooking such an obvious answer. “Of course. It’s prayer.” Or maybe they felt foolish for neglecting such a powerful privilege, or guilty and embarrassed for once again disappointing Jesus. We don’t know. But what we do know is that they were realizing the consequences of their own prayerlessness. And that’s one of the scariest lessons God has taught me in my relationship with him.
The Consequences to Prayerlessness
Listen to me, there are always consequences to prayerlessness, even when we don’t immediately see them. And yet there’s hope. Because you keep reading and later, after coming face to face with their inadequacy, we read in Luke 11 that they finally humbled themselves and approached Jesus. And you remember when they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The truth is we don’t often feel the desire for prayer until we feel our need for prayer. And so what is the Holy Spirit saying to us in this story? How is God trying to get our attention in this passage? Because there’s a whole lot going on in this passage. There’s controversy and demons and suffering and grief and doubt. It sounds like something you would binge-watch, right? There’s a whole lot happening in this story.
But when you zoom out and really think about it, I think the main thing the Holy Spirit is saying to us is pretty simple. And here’s my summary of the main point. Listen, here it is. God has given us direct access to His divine power, and He wants us to take hold of it in prayer. This is what the Holy Spirit is saying to you, that He’s given you direct access to God’s divine power and He wants you to take hold of that power in prayer.
I love how Tyler Staton, an author and pastor in Portland, Oregon, puts it when he writes about intercessory prayer. That’s praying for other people. Listen to what he says. He says, “When we engage in intercessory prayer, we are loving others on the basis of heaven’s resources.” He says, “Prayer is heaven’s highest security clearance. Free access to stroll right into the heavenly vault, gather up whatever we can carry and hand it out to the world.”
And this is why Jesus is so disappointed in verse 19. When He says, “Faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” He’s lamenting the fact that the disciples have been given access to the spiritual riches of God’s kingdom, and yet they are still living beneath the spiritual poverty line. And although he is disappointed here in Mark 9, what He’s doing is He’s training and preparing the disciples to have confidence in their access to God’s power even when He’s no longer physically with them.
Why Don’t We Prioritize Prayer?
Listen, this passage is an invitation for us to experience the wonder and power of God in prayer. I love how A.W. Tozer put it. I’ve quoted this before. He said, “Whatever God can do, faith can do. And whatever faith can do, prayer can do when it is offered in faith. An invitation to prayer is therefore an invitation to omnipotence, for prayer engages the omnipotent God and brings Him into our human affairs. Nothing is impossible to the man who prays in faith, just as nothing is impossible with God.” And he says, “This generation has yet to prove all that prayer can do for believing men and women.”
And that’s what I wanted to focus my sermon on this morning when I first started writing it. I was hype. I was ready to preach on revival and to preach on the supernatural power of God. But as I was reflecting and praying, it struck me that before we can even begin to experience the power of God in prayer, we first have to be honest about why we don’t prioritize prayer to begin with. Why is this such a struggle for so many of us? Why don’t we prioritize prayer?
The most obvious answer is our sense of self-sufficiency. We don’t prioritize prayer because we don’t really believe we need prayer. At least that’s what our lifestyles tend to communicate. But even if we get over that hump and we force ourselves to make prayer a priority, we’re still only halfway there. Because I’ve found that the struggle is not just getting to our knees, the biggest struggle is often what happens when we get there. To switch it up for a minute, it’s like meeting somebody online or your friend setting you up for a blind date.
Stick with me for a second. Agreeing to go on the date is one thing, but that’s actually just when the real work begins because it’s a whole nother thing to know how to keep the conversation going. It’s a whole nother thing to know how much to share or how much is TMI. It’s a whole nother thing to know whether you should play it safe and order something really neat and manageable, or you should just really get the sloppy tacos that you really want and just risk looking like a complete fool. These are real struggles. Showing up is one thing, but knowing what to expect and how to navigate the relationship is another thing.
Many of you know that we’re in 21 days of intentional prayer as a church family. And even if you’ve missed this first week, I would encourage you to go to mcleanbible.org/21days to get information about how you can grow in your prayer life. But earlier, I quoted Tyler Staton, and during these 21 days, my wife and I are reading his new book. It’s a weird title, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools.
And he makes a point that for a lot of us, prayer actually brings to the surface a lot of the anxiety we feel about our relationship with God. And I think he’s right. So, I want to press in on some of the fears that we have to face if we’re going to actually experience God in prayer the way God wants us to. And listen, every revival I’ve ever read about has started with honest, sincere confession before God.
And so I want to encourage you, even as I’m preaching, that if one of these fears actually resonates with you, I want to encourage you to even just pray while I’m preaching, to just say in the quietness of your own heart, “God, that’s me. That’s me. And God, I need your help with that.” What keeps us from prioritizing prayer? Well, listen, some of us, some of us are afraid of getting our hopes up. In my own personal life and in my work as a pastor, I’ve often found that prayer is one of the most painful parts of walking with God. And here’s why. Because there’s no praying without risking.
I remember driving my son to a soccer game. It was a critical game, as critical as a nine-year-old’s soccer game could be. It was a critical game before playoffs. And my son was so excited. And so we’re driving to his game and then it starts raining. And I have in that moment two decisions to make. Number one, am I going to pray for God to stop the rain? But then the even more challenging decision, am I going to pray out loud for God to stop the rain? Because if I pray and ask God to stop the rain and he doesn’t, then I can just deal with my existential angst on my own, right? But if I pray loud enough for my son to hear me and God doesn’t stop the rain, then I look like an idiot, or I have to answer his questions, or who knows the impact that it’ll have on what he believes about prayer?
Fear in Prayer
And listen, some of us are afraid to really pray, because if we pray really specific prayers, then we risk being disappointed or embarrassed if God doesn’t answer. We risk the pain and disillusionment that settles in after yet another unanswered prayer. And so we either stop praying or we just hedge our prayers and keep it vague enough to give God an easy out. Listen, I know that temptation. I know that pain. I’ve shared this before, that my friend’s husband died in a tragic motorcycle accident.
And I remember racing to the hospital on the Beltway, praying for God to miraculously heal him, and he still died. Many of you know that my wife has been suffering since college with painful, unbearable chills, and crippling anxiety about when the next unexpected wave of chills is going to hit. And we’ve been praying for years, sometimes literally crying out to God, asking for God to heal, and He has not healed her yet.
Then then we read lines like we read in Mark 9:23 where Jesus said, “All things are possible for him who believes,” and that’s like turning the knife that’s already been causing so much pain. We’re afraid of getting our hopes up and being disappointed. And then we’re afraid of our doubts. We read lines like we just read in verse 23, “All things are possible,” and we’re skeptical, and we have more questions than confidence because that doesn’t seem to line up with what we’ve actually experienced.
First of all, I need to clarify because that verse has been interpreted, misinterpreted, and so misused in a lot of church circles. Jesus is not saying that you can manifest whatever you want by just having enough faith. This is not the law of attraction. This is not lucky girl syndrome. You can look that up. Listen, nor is Jesus saying that the reason things aren’t working out for you is because you just don’t have enough faith. Jesus is saying, “When you face an overwhelming challenge or when you have an intimidating opportunity to do something for the glory of God, don’t make the tragic mistake of believing that my power is somehow limited by your weakness.”
Mark 9:23 is not about the strength of our faith, it’s about the strength of the one that we put our faith in. And that’s why the father’s response should be so encouraging to us. He’s so honest with Jesus and he says, “I believe, but you got to help my unbelief.” Right in the middle of the story, almost like the Holy Spirit is highlighting the father as the model that the disciples are supposed to learn from. Listen, faith is never absolute certainty. It’s trusting God enough to put your weight on what He says. And I love how New Testament scholar James Edwards puts it. He said, “The father becomes a believer, not when he amasses a sufficient quantum of faith, but when he risks everything on what little faith he has.” Listen, you haven’t really learned how to pray until you’ve learned how to keep praying in the midst of your doubts.
Fear of Silence
Others of us are afraid of silence. We’ve become so addicted to busyness and entertainment and Netflix and social media and Spotify and emails and text messages and background noise that we feel awkward and even bored just sitting alone and quiet with God. It’s the kind of awkwardness that some empty-nesters say they feel when their kids first move out and they realize, “Oh, snap, it’s just us.” Which, sorry, but I don’t fully understand. I got young kids. I’m like “When they’re gone, I’m about to be like, ‘Let’s go. It’s about to be popping,'” right? But I’m told that there’s this weird feeling when the kids are out and you realize, now it’s just the two of us.
And that’s how so many of us feel in quiet, alone with God, and so we constantly distract ourselves from the real condition of our souls. Some of us are afraid of selfish motives. Some of us are absolutely paralyzed by this. Because we have good theology. We know that our hearts are deceitful. We know that so often our desires can be impure. And so we become paralyzed by self-evaluation, sheepish about just outright asking God for what we want. And so listen, we allow one truth of scripture, that our desires can be impure sometimes, to cause us to miss what I would say is the even weightier truth of scripture, that by His very nature, God loves to give good gifts to His children.
Listen, not just the good gifts that we need, not just the good gifts that we would want if we were more mature and willing to take up our cross and just surrender fully to Him. But God loves to give the good gifts that we just plain old want. He doesn’t give us everything we want. We’re even glad we didn’t give ourselves everything we wanted in the previous season of life. But He delights in bringing us joy. And it’s okay to hold those desires loosely while still asking for them boldly. But even when our desires aren’t necessarily selfish, some of us are afraid of bothering God. We think our problems are too trivial, or that God might think we should have gotten over that or just accepted it by now.
So, imagine being that father in that crowd. Imagine him listening to these prestigious leaders talk, wondering whether to bring up his son again. But he still brings it to Jesus. And you remember how Jesus responded? Verse 21. “Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?'” And as I was studying this, I paused here, because I had never really reflected on that question before. And this is literally what I wrote down, I wrote, “Why did Jesus ask him that?” Because it’s irrelevant to whether he heals him or not. Jesus is not like a doctor asking diagnostic questions to figure out what’s wrong.
And I love lingering over details like that because it gives us a window into God’s heart toward us. Jesus is asking for information that He doesn’t need. And let me illustrate why I think He does that. You ever been in a situation where somebody is complaining to you, maybe even crying, about a problem that they’re struggling with? And they’re going on and on and on, because you asked them how they were doing, you just weren’t actually looking for a real answer. And so they’re going on and on and on. They’re processing all of their feelings.
And if you’re honest, the clock is ticking in your head and you’re thinking to yourself, “Just let me know when you’re ready to actually fix the problem.
This could have been a 12-minute conversation.” And I’ll be honest, that was me in the beginning, aka the majority of my marriage. But my wife has taught me that she doesn’t just need a solution, she needs compassion. And some of us don’t have a picture of a compassionate God when we pray. When Jesus asks, “How long has this been happening to your son?” He’s acknowledging that this is not just a problem to be fixed, this is a person to be cared for. This man doesn’t just have a demonized son, he has a devastated, broken heart. And Jesus takes the time to listen to his pain. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Tell me everything.” Listen, if it’s on your heart, it’s on God’s heart.
Why? Because He is compassionate and He cares about what you’re struggling with. So, bother Him. Bother Him. Read through the Psalms to see what it looks like to just, in an unfiltered, raw way just pour your heart out to God. I could go on and on. Some of us are afraid of missing out because we know we’d have to change how we spend our time to really invest in prayer. Some of us are afraid we don’t know how to pray right. We’re not as eloquent as other people are. So many different things.
Fear of Rejection
But here’s one last fear that I think holds a lot of us back from prioritizing the kind of prayer God wants us to experience. A lot of us are afraid of rejection. We’re afraid of rejection. It’s like when my boy gave me tickets to the Wizards game, literally front row seats. I had never experienced basketball like that before. They got a whole separate entrance when you got those kind of seats. No line, nothing. And so I show up and I’m walking up. I’m walking past the long line. Low-key feeling pretty great, you know what I mean?
And I remember approaching, thinking to myself, “What if they realize I don’t belong here walking through this entrance? What if they realize I do not have the qualifications nor the budget to actually have these seats?” And that’s how some of us feel when we come before God. We fear that our sin has disqualified us from coming into His presence. Because we know who we are and we know what we’ve done. And we fear that we don’t deserve to ask God for anything. And here’s the bad news, you’re right. You are absolutely correct. You do not deserve to talk to God at all, much less ask Him for anything, much less expect that He would do anything good for you.
But here’s the thing. Here’s the thing. None of us come before God on the basis of our own track record. There’s only one way to come before God with any ounce of confidence that He won’t immediately reject us and condemn us. The only way for us to come before God with actual confidence is on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus that He has given us by faith.
Sin Separates Us from God
And so listen. Our sin, yes, it has separated us from God. Yes, in our sin, we have chosen, chosen to throw away all of our privileges as a son or daughter of God. All the privileges of having access to God, we have thrown it all away and settled for cheaper things in this world that offend the love and the goodness and the mercy of God. And it has disqualified us. And God has every reason and every right and every intention of holding us accountable and judging us for that sin against Him.
And the good news of the gospel is that because He loves us so much, and He wants us to enjoy intimacy with Him, and He wants to delight in enjoying intimacy with us, He made a way through Jesus when He came and lived a perfectly righteous life that we have not. And when He died in our place on the cross, he took the punishment of our sin, the wrath of God for us. All of the shame associated with it, all of the alienation associated with it, He took it on the cross and paid for our sin. And then He rose from the grave and He swung the door open for us to come before the throne of grace boldly.
And you know what the scriptures say? That when He got up, the veil was torn, and the way was made open for you, somebody like you, somebody like me, to be able to come before God, in humble awe and audacious courage before Him. Listen, God wants that kind of relationship With you. And it begins with you admitting that you don’t deserve to get anything good from God and to trust what Jesus has said. Not me, but Jesus, that He’s the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Him and putting your trust in Jesus.
This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 3:11 that this was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom, in Christ, we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. And man, as I read that, I can’t help but think about Clint Clifton, who led our church planting efforts here at our church for seven years, and poured into so many of us and discipled so many of us, and tragically and suddenly passed away this week. And all toward the end of this week, I’ve just been grieving and lamenting and calling out to God for his wife Jennifer and their five kids. Calling out to God on behalf of Pillar Church that’s gathering today in worship for the first Sunday after they are grieving the loss of their founding pastor, pleading with God to give them comfort.
But here’s what I know about Clint. We were in a group together, we spent time together, we traveled together. Here’s what I know about Clint. Here’s what I absolutely know for sure. That he walked into the eternal presence of God with overwhelming wonder and gratitude, but also firm confidence that he belonged there, firm confidence that God was welcoming him as His son.
There was no doubt why, because he was not walking in on the foundation of how he had lived or how he had tried to earn his way into God’s presence. He was walking in on the firm foundation of Christ alone, cornerstone of the reality that Jesus has secured his salvation and eternal life for him. And that’s the kind of confidence that God wants you to be able to have on that day when you take your last breath. But not just on that day. He wants you and I to live with that kind of confidence before Him every day in prayer.
Honesty Before God
But before we can experience what God has for us in prayer, we first have to be honest about why we struggle with prayer to begin with. There’s no revival without honesty, without raw, sincere confession before God. We got to come clean, and we have to allow God to meet us and change us right where we are. And listen, been praying for us all week. I believe down to my bones, I believe that God wants to bring revival in your life. I believe that this season of just dryness in your relationship with Him, and this sense of distance that’s like a cloud hovering over your head, that hesitation that keeps you from praying and seeking God and hinders you from feeling like He delights to hear your voice, I believe God wants to revive you according to His word.
But It starts with you just being honest and saying, “God, I don’t like prayer. I don’t enjoy prayer. I don’t understand you in prayer. I’m struggling. But God, I want everything you have for me. And God, I’m inviting you. I’m inviting you. Please, would you meet me, and would you change me, and would you help me?” And I want to lead us to pray that way. As we close, let’s pray together.
Father, I thank you so much. I thank you for including in your scriptures the disciples’ failure, the disciples’ unbelief. I thank you that even in the midst of that, they were still walking with Jesus. And God, what a incredible encouragement. God, I pray, Lord, that you would help us to know that we don’t have to get it all right or put it all together or understand how it all works. That we can just come before you honest and just confess that we struggle. We struggle to do what we know we should do. We struggle to want what we know we should want. And God, we are inviting you, Holy Spirit, we are inviting you. Revive us according to your word.
Father, I pray. I pray for those who don’t yet know you or have this kind of relationship with you, Lord, that you would draw their hearts, that they would turn from sin, that they would throw their trust on Jesus and His sacrifice, and that you would save them. And Father, we pray. We pray for the Clifton family today. God, we pray, Father, that you would supernaturally comfort Jennifer and their kids. Father, please would you protect their family. Lord, I pray, I pray for those children, Lord, that what the enemy intended for evil, God, that you would use it for good. Lord, I pray that instead of this tragic, dark, painful experience drawing them away from you, God, I pray instead by the power of your spirit that it would deepen their faith.
And I pray, Lord God, that the fruit of their life will be triplefold what their father’s was. I pray for the Pillar Church family, and all the church planters here in the DMV and all over the world, God, that have been influenced and shaped by Clint’s life and ministry. Lord, I pray for their comfort, God, and I pray for all of us, all of us, Lord, that you would enable us to glorify you as we walk with you. Help us, Father. We believe. Help our unbelief. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.