Why Prayer Matters

Notes from a sermon presented by Dr. Greg Sloop at the Kannapolis Church of God on Sunday, May 6, 2018 in the 10:30 am services.  For video of services, go to the church website, http://www.kcog.org, and click on the livestream link for a replay of the services.  For audio of the services, go the the website and click on the media page.

2 Chronicles 7:13–14 (NKJV)

  • 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
  • 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain (physically or spiritually), or command the locusts to devour the land (loss of blessings), or send pestilence among My people (sickness, disease),
  • 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Identification

  • 14 if My people who are called by My name…

Worship

  • …will humble themselves…

Communication

  • …and pray…

Communion

  • …and seek My face

Repentance

  • …and turn from their wicked ways…

Recognition

  • …then I will hear from heaven…

Forgiveness

  • …and will forgive their sin…

Healing

  • …and heal their land.

The Greater Sin

Ezekiel 5:1–17 (NKJV)

5:1 “And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber’s razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them. You shall also take a small number of them and bind them in the edge of your garment. Then take some of them again and throw them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire. From there a fire will go out into all the house of Israel.

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her. She has rebelled against My judgments by doing wickedness more than the nations, and against My statutes more than the countries that are all around her; for they have refused My judgments, and they have not walked in My statutes.’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have multiplied disobedience more than the nations that are all around you, have not walked in My statutes nor kept My judgments, nor even done according to the judgments of the nations that are all around you’—therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I, even I, am against you and will execute judgments in your midst in the sight of the nations. And I will do among you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again, because of all your abominations. 10 Therefore fathers shall eat their sons in your midst, and sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments among you, and all of you who remain I will scatter to all the winds.

11 ‘Therefore, as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will also diminish you; My eye will not spare, nor will I have any pity. 12 One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.

The Lord instructs Ezekiel to cut off all his hair and divide it into three piles.  One pile will be burned, a second struck by the sword, and the third scattered to the wind.  This signifies the way God will judge Israel, as described in verse 12.  They will suffer pestilence (famine), the sword (war), and scattering (dispersion).

13 ‘Thus shall My anger be spent, and I will cause My fury to rest upon them, and I will be avenged; and they shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it in My zeal, when I have spent My fury upon them. 14 Moreover I will make you a waste and a reproach among the nations that are all around you, in the sight of all who pass by.

15 ‘So it shall be a reproach, a taunt, a lesson, and an astonishment to the nations that are all around you, when I execute judgments among you in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I, the Lord, have spoken. 16 When I send against them the terrible arrows of famine which shall be for destruction, which I will send to destroy you, I will increase the famine upon you and cut off your supply of bread. 17 So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, the Lord, have spoken.’ ”

When these methods of judgment come through, Israel will be a laughingstock, a derisive name, a mockery of what once was in the nation.  They will starve and die and be taken captive and God will judge them for their sin, which is worse than that of the nations around them.  They once knew the truth and lived in it, and then denied it and trangressed it.  God will judge sinners, but the righteous who backslide will be reproved more harshly, because they have tasted the great things of God and have walked away in rebellion and disobedience.  That is the greater sin.  

Obeying God

Ezekiel 4:1–17 (NKJV)

4:1 “You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem. Lay siege against it, build a siege wall against it, and heap up a mound against it; set camps against it also, and place battering rams against it all around. Moreover take for yourself an iron plate, and set it as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.

“Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.

“Therefore you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem; your arm shall be uncovered, and you shall prophesy against it. And surely I will restrain you so that you cannot turn from one side to another till you have ended the days of your siege.

This is a command of God to be a symbol of the judgment of God upon Israel.  He would use an object lesson to show the attack against Jerusalem, and then had him lay on his side the number of days to represent the number of years that represents their iniquity.

“Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it. 10 And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it. 11 You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink. 12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”

13 Then the Lord said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”

14 So I said, “Ah, Lord God! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”

15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”

16 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, 17 that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.

Another image of Israel’s judgment is the bread Ezekiel is to make from wheat, barley, lentils, etc., symbolically cooked over human waste (although actually over cow dung).  This defiled bread represents the things they will have to eat in captivity.  

When people ignore the commands of God, the warnings of God, the pleas of God, then they will experience the judgment of God.  At the very least, they will walk in their own protection rather than the covering of God.  That walk will not lead to the perfect will of God, but rather to the chance occurrences of life that happen when you roll the dice of your own will.  Live like God’s will is the only thing worth pursuing.  Even if it requires you to lie on your side or stare at a drawing of the siege of Jerusalem, follow the instructions of the Lord and watch the blessings flow.

The Watchman

Ezekiel 3:16–27 (NKJV)

16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: watchman18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”

22 Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.”

23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24 Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25 And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. 26 I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

After the week Ezekiel spent recovering from the awesome vision of God’s throne and the living creatures, Ezekiel is addressed again by the Lord to anoint him as the watchman over Israel.  Israel has trangressed the law of God and gone into captivity, rebellious against the Lord in so many ways.  However, God drops a responsibility on Ezekiel to warn them.  If he does not fulfill this duty, he will be partly responsible for the destruction of the sinners.  If he fulfills this duty, then the sinner must suffer the consequences of his continued rebellion on his own, and Ezekiel is not guilty.  Even though Ezekiel is told that he will suffer imprisonment and isolation, he is still to speak when the opportunity arises.

Today in the United States, we are not in the violent or rebellious environment in which Ezekiel ministered.  We have freedom and a general sense of acceptance.  While the gospel is not accepted or allowed in many nations, this is not the case here.  Things may change, but for now people are amenable to the preaching of the gospel.  Our reluctance here today is not in the form of violence or imprisonment, but just simply rejection and unacceptance.  Even that form of rejection is disheartening, but we must persevere, for there may be souls who hang in the balance, facing sure destruction, that we must warn and to whom we must give hope.  We are the watchman, and the enemy is lurking near.  Tell the wonderful news of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, and save souls.  I do not want blood on my hands!  I will be…the Watchman.

The Fire of the Spirit

Ezekiel 2:1–3:15 (NKJV)

2:1 And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.

“And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.

3:1 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll.

And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.

After Ezekiel is overwhelmed by the awesome presence of the Lord, the Spirit picks him back up onto his feet and begins to share the prophetic message of the vision to him.  He warns Ezekiel that the people may not receive the word, but he must deliver it anyway.  He showed Ezekiel a scroll with judgments on it, and then told him to eat it.  When He did, it was sweet in his stomach.  This signifies the value of the Word of God.  When God speaks and you take it in, it produces blessings and sweetness to your inner being. Embrace the Word and enjoy its benefits. 

Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”

10 Moreover He said to me: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. 11 And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.”

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: “Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place!” 13 I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise. 14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me. 15 Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

God continues to instruct Ezekiel, telling him to harden himself against the resistance of the people to whom he must speak.  The Lord uses poetic language to describe the resolve He will give the prophet.  He again assigns him to the task and then lifts him up by the Spirit and takes him to the River Chebar by means of the living creatures.  He then sits among the people for seven days, astonished at the vision.  God is an awesome presence.  He overwhelms and leaves in awe those who experience Him.  Ezekiel is no exception.  This vision or appearance of God, born by living creatures riding on fiery wheels would cause anyone to melt.  However, the presence of God–fearful as it is–not only cleanses and prepares His servants, but also empowers them.  Throughout the Bible, the Spirit makes people bold and courageous, and gives them the ability to speak for God Himself.  Embrace the fire, and walk in it, for in the Spirit there is power and victory!

The Mighty Voice of God

Ezekiel 1:13–28 (NKJV)

13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. 14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.

The awesome picture of the throne and its bearers is further expanded by the appearance of torches and lightning.  The throne runs back and forth rapidly and induces awe.

15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

The throne was held up by the four living creatures, and each of them had a wheel beside them, and this description is the well-known “wheel within a wheel” passage.  This resembled a chariot in appearance.  The rims were high and awesome.  The wheels and the creatures lifted up from the earth whenever the Spirit lifted up.  The Spirit was in the wheels.  

22 The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. 23 And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. 24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.

The creatures’ wings spread out in the crystal-colored sky, and when they flew, the wind from their wings was awesome, like the noise of an army.

26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.

Above the sky above the living creatures was a throne, the color of sapphire.  Fire was all around hi, who sat on the throne.  The brightness around the throne was like a rainbow, and it was reveals that this was the Lord in all His glory.  Ezekiel, much like Isaiah in chapter 6, was overwhelmed by the appearance of the Lord and fell on his face.  Then the Lord spoke.

This amazing sight further demonstrates the powerful message about to be given by God to His servant, the prophet Ezekiel.  God’s awesome presence is overwhelming to anyone who truly experiences Him.  So, seek His presence.  Be awed by Him.  Listen for His voice.  Whatever He speaks, remember it and record it, for God’s word is powerful, liberating, healing, and delivering.

Prayer Matters

Notes from a sermon presented by Dr. Greg Sloop at the Kannapolis Church of God on Sunday, April 22 & 29, 2018 in the 10:30 am services.  For video of services, go to the church website, http://www.kcog.org, and click on the livestream link for a replay of the services.  For audio of the services, go the the website and click on the media page.

We are a church that emphasizes the spiritual disciplines of Scripture reading and prayer.  It is part of our mission statement and our spiritual DNA.

However, saying it is not enough.  We must do it. 

The prayers of the saints over the years for this church, our children, our finances, etc., have brought healing, salvation, deliverance, and provision to this church family over and over again.

Today, I want to walk through a familiar passage of Scripture which talks about prayer and take the time to break down the components in order to show how God intends for us to pray

Matthew 6:5–13 (NKJV)

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

The Private Nature of Prayer

  • Conversation between you and God
  • Personal, intimate sharing and listening

The Corporate Nature of Prayer

  • Still personal, but shared
  • Power of agreement, not the power of performance
  • Still to God, but with others

7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Not a Chant; Not a Mantra

God is not deaf; God is not dense or unable to understand; God hears the first time.

After that, it may be better to begin thanking God for His answer rather than repeating the question.

Besides, God already knows your need, He just loves to hear your voice. 

Matthew 7:7–8 (NKJV)

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

The Model of the Lord’s Prayer

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:

Identification & Worship

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 

Prayer should always begin with an understanding and recognition of Who God is.  Until we know Him, we cannot relate to or with Him.

Submission & Obedience

10 Your kingdom come.Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 

Once you understand Who God is, by worshipping and identifying Him and who you are in Him, you will be moved to submit to and obey the Lord!  When your will is submitted to His will, you will find the blessings of obedience overwhelm the pitfalls of rebellion and you will begin to live in the favor of the Lord!

Provision

11 Give us this day our daily bread. 

The asking part of prayer must never precede the worship of God.  We are not in a position to request of or petition God unless we have recognized Him for Who He is, and then submitted our lives unto His will.  But once we do, we can enter the throne room boldly and seek His help.

Psalm 37:4–6 (NKJV)

4 Delight yourself also in the Lord,

And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord,

Trust also in Him,

And He shall bring it to pass.

Provision – What we need from God

Forgiveness & Reconciliation

12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 

Forgiveness – What God wants from us, contrition, repentance, etc.

Reconciliation – What God requires of us (Verses 14 & 15 tell us that if we do not forgive others, God cannot or will not forgive us!)

Protection & Deliverance

13 And do not lead us into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one. 

Protection – God protects those who know Him and obey Him

Deliverance – God has all power, and will stop the hand of the enemy if we walk with Him.  Walking alone is unprotected.  Walking with God is the path of protection and blessing.  (Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh)

More Worship

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 

MORE WORSHIP – Begin and end your time in prayer with worship. 

Takeaway Thoughts

  • Prayer is not a pattern or a show
  • Prayer begins with worship
  • Prayer involves intercession
  • Prayer ends with worship

 

Praying for Pentecost

  • Those wishing to participate in Praying for Pentecost are asked to sign up through the form located on this page:  http://www.churchofgod.org/prayingforpentecost
  • A daily (Monday through Friday) five-minute prayer time. Starting promptly at 12:00 noon EST, church leaders will appear on the Church of God Facebook page (COGHQ) to offer a five-minute time of prayer, broadcast via Facebook Live. The live events will begin on Monday, April 23 and continue every weekday until Thursday, May 31