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THE BASICS OF PRAYER – PART II

by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, September 10, 2017

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).


We are discussing the basics of prayer. We are returning to this subject, even though you may know about prayer already. We are going back to basic training. This may seem tedious and repetitive, until you remember the dangerous time and place that you live in. Not only do you live in dangerous times, but you are a Christian in dangerous times. You are at an added danger, because in addition to everything else, you are also locked in battle with an invisible enemy. Your life is subjected to added pressures and trials and conflicts because you are not among the forces of the Devil, you are on the Lord’s side. This is a situation to take very seriously. As soon as you wake up in the morning, you are entering the spiritual battlefield. As soon as you walk on the college campus to do evangelism, or into the doors of the church, you are entering the front lines of the war with evil. This is a serious situation with eternal souls on the line. Therefore, you must never get tired of practicing the basics of prayer.

The first basic of prayer is having a heart that cares. You cannot enter into the battlefield of serious prayer without an invested heart. The second basic of prayer is preparation. If you care about something, you will subsequently prepare for that thing. If you care about what you are asking for, you must also prepare for prayer. You must prepare by watching the situation surrounding your request, by organizing your prayer, and by know what kind of prayers God answers. You know the kind of prayers that God answers by listening carefully to the sermons and by reading your Bible. Knowing the kind of prayers that God answered in the past allows you to refer to them in the future. This kind of argumentative prayer has itself been answered by God in the past. Another way of praying, is an argument by analogy.

An Argument by analogy is a powerful way to make a strong point. An analogy is a comparison between two things through structural similarities. What does that mean? When you pray for something big and miraculous, reference something that God did in the Bible that was big and miraculous. If you are praying for something that draws less attention, reference something that highlights how God is detail oriented and specific. In order to pray either kinds of prayer, it is important that you have the stories and the verses of the Bible in your mind. It is important that you prepare. All of this is only meaningful because God answers prayer. And there are many instances in the Bible where God answered serious, invested, and argued prayer.

I. First, God’s response to prayer.

Moses prayed for Israel in the wilderness. The people had turned away from God and worshipped a golden calf. God threatened to destroy them. Moses prayed for the people. The Bible says,

“Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people” (Exodus 32:11-12).

Moses was saying to God, “Lord, what will people say about you? What will they think of your great name if you destroy this people?” Then Moses reminded God of His promise:

“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever” (Exodus 32:13).

Moses reminded God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), that He would multiply their offspring and give them the land of Canaan. “If you destroy the people now, your promise will not be fulfilled.” God answered Moses’ prayer. The Bible says, “And the Lord repented of [changed His mind about] the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:14). God changed His mind. He did not destroy the people. God answered Moses’ prayer. The Bible says, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In modern English we could say, “Even if every man is a liar, God is true.” The Bible says “The Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him” (Deuteronomy 7:9). God keeps His promises. You can bring the promises of God to Him in prayer.

Another kind of prayer that God answers is the description of His people suffering without Him. We are all human. When terrible things happen, we experience those things through pain and suffering. Even Jesus wept, when Lazarus died. If a loved one came to you, and recounted the pain they were in, and used it as an appeal for help, this would be a powerful means of persuasion. God loves us more then we could ever love another person. Bring up the sorrows of your heart, of your friend’s heart, and of God’s people in your prayers.

After Jerusalem was destroyed Jeremiah prayed, “Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach” (Lamentations 5:1) After Jerusalem was destroyed, the Psalmist told God of the sufferings of His Jewish people. Then he prayed to God to defend His own reputation, His own name. He said to God, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake” (Psalm 79:9). Then he prayed, “Wherefore [why] should the heathen say, Where is their God?” (Psalm 79:10). He prayed for God to defend His own honor and name among the lost people.

Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. God did not answer the prayers of these false prophets. But Elijah prayed to God to accept his own sacrifice. Elijah said,

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God” (I Kings 18:36-37).

Elijah prayed, “Show us that you are the true God.” And God answered Elijah. God sent fire from Heaven and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice.

Years later, after Elijah was taken up into Heaven, his disciple Elisha prayed, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” (II Kings 2:14). “Where are you, God?” God showed Himself and divided the waters of the River Jordan for Elisha. God showed that He was real and still supporting His people.

Another kind of prayer is to reference what God has done in the past. Try to think of what God has done in the Bible that can apply to our present situation. Referencing the Bible is the introduction of evidence before God. It is important that you read your Bible and pay attention as you are reading it. Often, even if you cannot remember a verse word for word, you will remember an idea that you got out of the Bible, and you can apply that idea to your prayer. That may take some creativity and thinking, but that is what is often required to argue with a person, especially God. He is the same God now as He was then. David prayed, “Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Psalm 27:9).

Moses prayed, “Thou hast brought [us] forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand” (Exodus 32:11). He was saying, “O God, Thou brought us out of the land of Egypt. Thou didst not bring us out just to leave us to die in the wilderness!” What did God do for others? In Bible times? In history? In our church? For you? Think of how these arguments are an appeal to what God has done in the past.

God is the same today. The Bible says, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). The Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God is the same now as He was then. You can pray to God, and He will hear you, just as God heard when people prayed to Him then. In a court of law, attorneys will often appeal to precedent. Precedent is an earlier event that is accepted as an example to be considered in a similar situation. When you read the Bible or hear the Bible preached, remember what you read and what is said. Think about how what God has done in the past applies to what God can do today. Pay attention to what God has done in your life. Use it as a reference for what God can do in the future. Remember what God has done in the lives of people around you. Connect seemingly unrelated events through the bridge of the power of God in answered prayer. Think about how it is consistent with God’s character. Remember what God has done in the past in your prayers.

II. Second, why God answers prayer.

God is true. God is faithful. God keeps His promises. All of the Bible is true. Therefore, Anything God says in the Bible can be claimed as truth in prayer. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). He said, “The scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Claim God’s words this way:

“Thou saidst” (Genesis 32:12).
“Do as thou hast said” (II Samuel 7:25).

Because God keeps His promises, it is important that you know what He has promised.


1.  God has promised to give you good things: Jesus said, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).

2.  God has promised to give you the Holy Spirit. You can claim God’s Word to ask for His help and presence – for God to send the Holy Spirit. Christ said, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

3.  God has promised to answer prayers made in the name of Jesus. Christ promised to answer prayer made through Him, in His name. Jesus said, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Claim that promise when you pray.

4.  Jesus promised especially to hear prayer made by groups of people, in church prayer meetings or in small groups who meet for prayer. Christ said, “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven “ (Matthew 18:19). Again, Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Claim that promise when you pray.

5.  God promised to meet our needs. The Bible says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). This doesn’t mean God will make you rich if you ask for money. It means that God shall supply all your need. And He will! Claim that promise in God’s Word when you pray!

6.  God promised to give you strength to do what you have to do. The Bible says, “They that wait upon the Lord [‘wait upon the Lord’ means to pray!] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Claim that promise when you pray!

7.  God promised to hear you if you call upon Him when you are in trouble. God said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Claim that promise. Tell God what He said in His Word. Then call upon Him. “God, I’m in trouble. Please help me.”

8.  God promised to hear you even if you pray for things that you have never seen and may not believe are really possible. God said, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Do not be afraid to pray for things that seem impossible. Christ said, “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). Jeremiah said to God, “There is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17). You can pray for things that you don’t believe will happen, or can happen. A man told Christ how his son was troubled by a demon. Christ said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). The man said, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Christ delivered the boy from the evil spirit even though his father didn’t believe it would happen. God encourages you to pray even if your faith is weak, even if you don’t believe the answer will come.


God answers prayer because God keeps His promises. But God answers prayer because of the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Therefore, always speak of the sufferings, the death, the Blood, the intercessory prayer of Christ Jesus. Christ invited us to pray in His name. Jesus is our righteousness. He is the only way to God the Father. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said to the Disciples, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Someone will say that God answered those great prayers made by great men of the Bible because they were great men of the Bible, not because of the prayers themselves. Someone will think that God answered Moses and Abraham, but they could not expect an answer, because they are not Moses or Abraham. I agree, you have no righteousness of your own. You are not Moses or Abraham. In yourself you are only a sinner and you will never be anything else. But if you have trusted Christ, God looks at you with your sins pardoned, washed away by the Blood of Jesus. And you receive the righteousness of Christ. So you can pray to God in Jesus’ name and God will hear you as though you were not a sinner – in fact, as though you were Jesus Himself.

Remember that we are nothing but “dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). We have no right in ourselves to ask anything from God. But through Jesus Christ you can come “boldly before the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). In and through Christ you can come directly to the Father. If you pray in the name of Jesus, He will hear you as He hears His own Son Jesus Christ. If you have trusted Christ, through Him you are God’s son or daughter. That is not a small thought. You are beloved and accepted because of Jesus. God will hear you!

The Bible says,

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest...Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession... Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14, 16).

The Bible says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). We have no right in ourselves to stand before God, but in Christ and by His Blood we can dare to enter into directly into His presence.

Remember that God is a Person, not a machine or a force. God answers prayer, though you must be persistent and keep on asking – sometimes for many years. Dr. Hymers prayed for his mother for many years before she was saved. In teaching His Disciples how to pray, Jesus gave the Parable of the Importunate Friend. He said, “Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity [persistence, not giving up] he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Luke 11:8). You must keep praying until the answer comes.

Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). The Greek means “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” “keep on knocking.” It may take time before you get the answer. Christ said, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7). Why does it sometimes take a long time before the answer comes? Because God is a Person, not a force. If God were a machine or a force, you could pray only once and make the answer come. But God is a Person. Sometimes God waits a long time before giving the answer.

Because God is a Person, not a force, sometimes the answer is “no.” Prayer is not magic. It is not manipulating God. Prayer does not make God do things. Prayer asks God to do things. God is not a force. He is a Person. Because He is a loving and caring God, He answers prayer; not automatically as a force, but as a Person responding to another person. These are the basics of prayer. There are many, many promises in the Bible. God will honor His Word. Claim His Word in prayer. Remember that you are in a conflict. You are in a fight. The stakes are high, and the stakes are real. In this battle of the Christian life, it is the basics that will keep you alive.


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      “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (by Joseph M. Scriven, 1819-1886).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE BASICS OF PRAYER – PART II

by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments” (Job 23:3-4).

I.    First, God’s response to prayer, Exodus 32:11-12, 13, 14;
Romans 3:4; Deuteronomy 7:9; Lamentations 5:1; Psalm 79:9, 10;
I Kings 18:36-37; II Kings 2:14; Psalm 27:9; Exodus 32:11;
Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8.

II.   Second, why God answers prayer, John 17:17; 10:35;
Genesis 32:12; II Samuel 7:25; Matthew 7:9-11;
Luke 11:13; John 14:14; Matthew 18:19, 20;
Philippians 4:19; Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 50:15; Jeremiah 33:3;
Mark 10:27; Jeremiah 32:17; Mark 9:23, 24; John 14:6; 14;
Genesis 18:27; Hebrews 14:6; 4:14, 16; 10:19; Luke 11:8;
Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:7.