Mark 11 verses 22 to 24 - it's the same verses we read yesterday, but we're going to take a different approach to it today: "So Jesus answered and said to them, 'Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'".
Now I was given this title 'Revolutionised by Faith', which I changed to 'Mountain-Moving Faith'. We began on Monday morning talking about how the essence of faith is that it focuses on God, faith is 'Faith in God'. We saw that that is not as elementary a statement as it might seem, because sometimes our faith and confidence can be placed - if we've even got any confidence - it is placed in other things other than God and His character and personality etc. So we need to focus not on our faith, or try and work it up, but we need to focus on God and get completely overwhelmed with God in order for our faith to grow. If we focus on that, our faith will look after itself. So if you weren't here, that's the gist - these are being recorded, and I'm going to give them to the folk, so you can get that if you weren't here - but that is a vital thing, and it's probably the essence of faith. It's who are faith is in, faith per se is worthless - and the world is filled with people who have faith. Now of course, it's not saving faith, it's not faith from God, but nevertheless it is genuine belief - but it is belief in error, or it is belief in false gods.
Yesterday we saw that biblical faith that moves mountains is also 'Faith In God's Promises'. So there is God's person, but there is also what God says. I just need to clear up - because I've been talking to a few people, and they've been asking me questions - I believe that the primary way that God speaks is the Bible, through the word of God, the written word of God, the logos of God. Of course the 'Logos' is Jesus, but Jesus, by His Spirit has inspired these pages - and even when getting a 'rhema' word from God, which is what we were talking about yesterday, a word proceeding from the mouth of God to us for our particular situation now or generation, I still believe that the primary way that usually comes is through Scripture. So you're reading the Bible, but you're not reading the Bible for the sake of reading - you're not reading the Bible the way you read the newspaper, or the way you read a novel or textbook, but you're reading the Bible with your ear cupped - that is the way to read the Bible. Read the Bible with your ear cupped, listening for the voice of God to your spirit.
Now, a lot of Christians don't read the Bible like that - they do read the Bible as an exercise, or as a mental learning process, rather than listening for the voice of God. You need to know how to get a 'rhema' word from God, and I would encourage you to take up - if you haven't already done so, and I don't want to put this on you as some kind of extra burden or legalistic thing, I don't do this every day, but I do do it regularly - the practice of journalling. What I mean by that is: when there's something springs of the page to you, or something you hear when someone is preaching and a verse comes to you or a truth, that you journal that, that you record it, and that you process it and assimilate it through prayer. Pray it, declare it, but also - here's a thing that has helped me, it mightn't be everybody's cup of tea but I actually think it's a thing to do - whereby in journalling, if I read a passage of Scripture, and verses just jump out at me for my specific situation, I write them out; and then I will write them out as God speaking to me. Do you understand? I hear it as God speaking to me, because that's what is happening, isn't it? But it makes it so much more personal, and then I pray through that and so on and so forth. So that helps - but I do believe that the same Bible that is our foundation, and there is no rival to the Bible, so if we believe in the gifts of the Spirit and we believe in prophecy and things like that and that God can speak in other ways, there's nothing that is equivalent to the more sure word of prophecy of the Bible. Let me make that clear: the Bible is in a realm all of its own, and anything else that God will say through these other means - whether it's creation, whether it's conscience, or whether it's circumstances, whether it's through gifts that He communicates things - it will always be to confirm, and it will never contradict, what the Bible says.
But we do need specific things communicated to us, don't we, that the Bible doesn't speak about? So the Bible doesn't tell me where I ought to live, the Bible doesn't tell me what car I should buy, the Bible doesn't tell me what woman I should marry - OK? So we need specifics, and we need to be hearing from God in various ways. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding regarding that.
Today we're going to look at 'Faith Expressed In Praising Prayer' - alright? So 'Faith in God', 'Faith in God's Promises', 'Faith Expressed in Praising Prayer'. This is vital. There is a quote attributed to Archimedes - do you know who Archimedes was? Who knows who Archimedes was? What? Was he? I thought he was a mathematician. Did you know there are only three types of people in the world? Those who are good at maths, and those who aren't! Oh the penny has dropped over there - he's got it! Well, Archimedes said: 'Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth'. Have you heard that before? This was the concept of mathematics and physics that is of course true, that if you have a lever, and you have the right place to stand on with that influence, you can move anything. Having a firm place to put your feet on, anything is possible. Now, if our feet are on the truth of God, the word of God, and God communicating that to us in our own personal experience - and that's what matters, I mean the Bible tells us how to be saved, but if we don't get saved, what does it matter? It's not doing us any good. So the promises in the Bible have to be taken by faith, and we've got to work out what God has worked in, potentially, into our lives - but that is the firm place on which we stand. We can move mountains if we have the right vantage point, and the right leverage - and the leverage is faith. Jesus said - it's a remarkable verse, and I'm not going to dwell too much on it, I'm going to look more at verse 24 - but look at verse 23: 'Assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea', and does not doubt in his heart' - the only way that's possible is if God has told you that this mountain is going to move - 'does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says'.
We're going to home in on verse 24 here: 'Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'. One type of faith says 'God can', and that's pretty good because a lot of people are still at 'God can't' or 'God doesn't'; but another type of faith says 'God will'. Biblical faith is even better than that - did you know there was an alternative from 'God can' and 'God will'? It's this: God has. Now that's the type of faith that is spoken about here in verse 24: whatever you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. You see, true biblical faith that moves mountains doesn't say, 'I'm going to get', but it says 'I have got' - I have it! Now that might initially seem new, but if you think about it: anybody can believe that you have something after you've received it - think about that. Is it such a big thing to believe that you've got something after you've received it? Of course it's not! That is walking by sight, not by faith. Biblical faith is believing that you have something before you have it. Now I know that's a contradiction, but let's say believing that you have it in spirit, before you actually tangibly see it in the natural and the physical.
So this, really, I believe, comes to the nub of one of the problems that we have - particularly in our prayer lives - as Christians. You know prayer is a struggle, and even corporate prayer, getting people together to pray - I mean it's not the easiest thing in the world to do. But even when you do motivate people to get together, often our prayers can be unbelief in disguise; where we are begging God - now don't misunderstand me, I believe in all the parables, and we will talk about them tomorrow, the importunate widow and the neighbour asking for bread and all that - I believe that we've got to ask, seek, and knock, and persevere, but we must not do that out of the vantage point of unbelief, that must be done through the perseverance of faith. The place on which you stand, like Archimedes, will determine the leverage that you get. Are you standing on a firm foundation, confident in the promise that God has given you, or are you standing on this sinking sand of unbelief - the more you lever, the more you sink? That is often how we pray - and you can discern it almost. There can be broken prayers, there can be really strong crying and tears like Jesus, but you know that they are prayers of faith that say: 'Lord, this world is crumbling around my ears, but I believe You and I will not be refused, and I will not allow what I'm seeing in the natural to pull me down and to rob me of what You have given me confidence of'.
Now praise God for that, and I believe God hears desperate prayers - but there are other prayers that are: 'Oh, Lord, please, my back is to the wall and everything is disastrous. Lord, Lord, Lord, where are You?'. I know we can pray honestly, I'm not suggesting we don't pray honestly, but if our prayers are continually this despairing, negative, pessimistic - of that type of spirit - we're not actually entering into faith. It often is disguised unbelief. So what I'm saying today is: our pleading - even if our pleading is in faith - our pleading has to turn to praising if we're going to see mountains move. It was George Mueller, that great man of faith who fed hundreds of thousands of orphans through faith - he was a remarkable man you know, a remarkable man - I mean, you want to read his biography. The stories that are there are incredible, of his faith, believing God. God had given him a promise that God would provide, but you know his faith wasn't just putting the breakfast on the table in the morning when there was not enough bread. This was a man who was able to go out on the deck of a boat and speak to the weather - and it changed! - when there was a storm coming. Now Mueller said: 'Here are two parts of sure-to-be-answered prayer' - so you want to listen to a guy like Mueller - 'two parts of sure-to-be-answered prayer. One: prayer for the promise' - OK? So you've got a scenario, and I know that I told you about the directory that I have from the Bible of all the promises in the Word - you could look up promises that God has given you, but maybe you're wanting to really know the thing is coming from God to your heart for this specific situation. You say: 'Lord, please give me a promise, confirm to me that this is Your promise'. Like Abraham, it might be that He speaks through the Word to your heart, but He will confirm it through another means as well - a threefold cord is not easily broken - maybe He confirms it through other people, maybe He confirms it through circumstances, various ways God can do that. When you're sure that you've got the promise, you've prayed for the promise, then you praise from the promise - OK?
So if you're not sure what God's will is in a certain area, what do we do? Generally we say, 'Lord, Your will be done', and that's a copout because that gets us out of the process of waiting on God. It's easy to say 'Your will be done', but He wants us to know what His will is - and to know what His will is, we have to wait on Him and we have to seek Him. So when He then gives us the promise and He confirms it, we then stop praying for it. But what we often do is we keep praying the promise, 'Lord, You gave me this promise and I ask that You will fulfill it' - but is He a liar? If He gave you a promise, why would you ask Him to fulfill it? He promised!
So you then move, and your pleading changes to praising, and you praise from the promise. Like Spurgeon said, these promises are like cheques, and you go to the bank of Heaven. You've got this great treasury in the Scriptures, but when He takes and breathes on a promise for you, and He confirms it, you take it to the bank of Heaven and you cash it in - and you praise Him for it.
Have you ever gone to a grocery store with a coupon cut out of the newspaper? You want a bag of sugar or a bag of flour, but you've no money for it, and you give the coupon over the counter - now why do you do that? Because the coupon gives you credit equivalent to the money, isn't that right? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted toward him as righteousness, or you could say 'credited to him' as righteousness. He believed God! Now what do you call that, when you cash in a coupon? It's called 'redemption', you redeem it. What God is calling us to do is redeem the promises that He has given us in His Word, and the promises He has personally given to us in our lives - but how do we cash them in, what's the best way? Now God answers desperate prayer, I believe that, but not desperate prayer coming from unbelief - desperate prayer based upon the promise.
Now here are a few principles that might help you. We need to stop asking God to give us the assurance of what He has already promised. We need to stop saying: 'Lord, give us Your presence', the correct prayer is 'Lord, make us more aware of Your presence; Lord, intensify a sense of Your presence'. But He promises it - how many times do we hear, 'Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst', then Sunday morning in church 'Lord, please come into our midst'. There are things God has said and promised, and we're asking Him to do them - and that keeps us back, that keeps us behind because we're asking Him to do things He's already said He would do. Rather, what we need to do is claim what He promised by faith: 'Lord, You have said 'Where two or there are gathered', we claim a consciousness of Your presence, we want everything that is blocking Your presence and quenching Your presence to go, Lord. We want our eyes to be opened, our ears to be opened, we want our spiritual senses to be sensitive to Your presence'. Then, when we claim by faith what He has said, we praise Him for the answer: 'Lord, we praise You that today You're going to show us Your presence; You're going to fulfill Your promise to us' - and you praise Him for it, for the answer.
So here is a principle - maybe 'faith', because it's bandied about so much and we're so familiar with the term, doesn't really give us the full import of what we're talking about here. A term which we could use for faith is 'committal'. Let me show you this from Psalm 37. Now you're very familiar I'm sure with this Psalm, it has blessed us all at one time or another. Verse 5 - and the NIV is a wee bit different than the New King James and the other versions: 'Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass', the NIV says 'He shall act' - I think it says that. 'Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass, He shall act'.
Now let me illustrate it to you like this: how many of you were brought up in Christian homes, your parents were Christians? Stick your hand up. Right, put your hand down. How many of you got saved every night for about five years? Put your hand up - come on, be honest, you asked the Lord into your heart over and over and over again? A few of you, you know what I'm talking about. That's what I did, but there came a time, at 8 years of age, when I said: 'I can't keep asking Him for this' - and sometimes it was at the behest of other people who were well motivated and all. But I decided, after Sunday School on 3rd November 1984, 'I'm going to draw a line here today, and I'm going to ask Jesus' - went up to my bedroom, kneeled down, and I confessed my sins, trusted in Christ, and asked Him to save me. Now, I'll be honest with you, I don't know whether it happened before that - I hope it didn't happen after it - but I look to that time, because that was the time when I committed the thing, I committed it to the Lord and left it there. Now that is the essence of faith, I believe: committal - do you understand? Often we don't do that. When we're doing this pleading thing all that time, and our pleading doesn't break into praising, we haven't actually committed the thing to the Lord. You see a lot of people, even adults, ask the Lord to save them, and they don't feel a sense of assurance, they don't know that witness. It's the same with the fullness of the Spirit, they may have asked the Lord to fill them, but they couldn't tell you: 'I know that I am filled with the Spirit'. One of the reasons is: they haven't committed it, and they haven't believed that they have the things they received of the Lord because they asked according to His will.
There is a sense in which faith is committal - a brilliant illustration of it that I heard once is like this. You write a letter, you stick the stamp on, you go down to the Post Office or the postbox, and you post it. Effectively what you do is, you commit it to the postal system - and it's just as well God is more reliable than the postal system, isn't it? But that's a bit like faith, isn't it? Committal - where you have done your bit and written down or spoken out to God in faith, and you're trusting God to deal with it. I like the NIV rendering here, that if you commit it to the Lord, He will act. You remember Abraham, poor soul, 25 years waiting on this child; and then, if we take the fulfillment completely as Jesus, 1500 years; and if you're the seed of Abraham, which you are, promised as children of Abraham, you're a fulfillment of that promise as well, so another 2000 on top of that - 3500 years. The promise is still being fulfilled, and still to be fulfilled. So we're not saying there isn't a time-lapse here, and there isn't gestation and incubation of God's promises, but there can be confidence of praising Him that He has given the promise and He's going to come through, and thanking Him for it before it.
Sometimes we try to win battles over darkness that Jesus has already won, rather than claiming and appropriating the victory. You know, we are under an open heaven, we are under an open heaven now - right now. If you go to Ephesians 1, you see what you already have now. I do believe it's erroneous to teach people you've got everything when you get saved, but everything is yours in a sense when you get saved. You've to walk it out by faith, you've to work out your salvation, you've to realise out and encounter it all by faith - but it's all there for you. It's like the Promised Land. The Israelites were promised the Promised Land, but they had to walk in by faith and take it. God said: 'Every place that your foot shall tread, I will give it to you'. They still had to fight, but God had given them the promise that it was theirs. We still have to cash in what our inheritance is in Christ, but it's ours! Ephesians 1: 'We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus'. We are raised with Him, we are seated with Him in heavenly places! We are meant to be heavenly people living in a heavenly realm on earth, we are under an open heaven!
If we just got a grip of what is already ours, I think that would revolutionise our Christian experiences and our Christian communities. There is a danger sometimes in our psyche as Christians, even those who believe heavily in revival - which I do - but revival theology can be quite negative and pessimistic, and there is a sense of trying to strive and achieve when it's not about achieving, it's all about receiving. Some of you need to hear that today in Christian work: it's not about achieving, it's about receiving. Faith, as we said on Monday: grace is God giving what we need, faith is our hand receiving it. All that God requires of us as human beings is summed up in that one word: faith. The battle belongs to the Lord, and we need to rest in faith.
Let me put it this way: the strength of our prayers is not in the length of our prayers - you do know that now? I mean, I used to have a stopwatch mentality - you will laugh, you will laugh. I have a digital watch - not now, but I have one at home - I left it for the wife for the alarm, to get her up. Do you know why I bought that digital watch? Three guesses: to time me praying - isn't that sad? I thought, 'I need to ratchet up the amount of time that I'm praying here', and I would have my quiet time or whatever, but then I'd be walking down the street and it would go 'beep', and I'd pray away there 'That's another five minutes!'. Seriously! Sitting in the car, waiting on them in school, 'beep'. I was counting all these minutes up - I mean it's just crazy, that is not what it's about it all. Now I'm not suggesting that time in prayer is wasted, but we must get away from timing - it's about relationship. Imagine if you were sitting with your wife over the dinner table on Valentines, and you're going 'beep' - you're meant to be enjoying it! It's a relationship, a loving relationship that we are meant to have with the Lord, it's not meant to be an endurance. Now don't get me wrong: sometimes I feel, when I'm in prayer, that it's like holding my breath beneath the water. Sometimes that's because we don't have a strategy in prayer, and we're not doing this - promises and praise, and doing biblical prayer.
But it's not the length of our prayers, and it's not the loudness of our prayers - did you know God isn't deaf? And the devil isn't deaf either - you know, some people in deliverance situations are shouting and roaring - even the spirit of deafness isn't deaf. Now don't misunderstand me: I do believe that sometimes in the spirit, there is power and boldness sometimes when we do raise our voice - but we've got to understand that that is not how God measures the weight of prayer. Not by the length - and I have a hunch, by the way, that people that go on and on in prayer meetings, it's because they don't pray at home - that's a theory of mine, I could be wrong. It's not the language of your prayers either, it's not the language of your prayers. It's not whether it's Jacobean English, or whether it's a three-point sermon, or whether it's Cook's Tour of the World covering every missionary region that you could possibly imagine. You know, it's not the language or the content - how is the weight of our prayers measured? Three guesses: faith - that's how your prayers are measured, in faith.
Let me help you: faith expressed in praising prayer moves things on towards this mountain-moving stuff. So let me give you a bit of summary on the power of praise. The word 'praise' in our English comes from the old French origin 'preisier', which means 'to prize' - so to praise God, effectively, is to prize God, to cherish God, to value and esteem Him. You know, if we prize something we count it as precious - so when we praise God, we are estimating the worth of God. In praise we mentally, if you like, gather together what we know about God, and we put those facts into words. Now it figures, therefore, that you need a revelation of God, you need to the scriptures, you need to know what God says about Himself and what He says about us. We need to be meditating on that for that to come out. Put it like this - this is a good way for you to remember it: we need to appraise in order to praise. We need to appraise the character and the promises and the ways of God, we need to know those and be proficient in understanding and articulating those in order to praise God for what He is worth.
Now here are some of the things that, when we appraise God and His promises, and then praise Him from it, what will happen: praise accelerates answers to prayer. What are the first ten words of the Lord's prayer? 'Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...' - it's praise. Jesus is teaching us how we ought to pray, and also at the end of the Lord's prayer it's praise as well - so praise accelerates answers to prayer. So ask yourself in your own personal life, and corporately whether it's in your church prayer meeting or whether it's in your gatherings as CEF, how much percentage of the praying is praise? Is the start and is the finish praise - now you don't want to become legalistic, that you always have to start and finish with praise, that's not what I mean - but how much of the content is praise? It accelerates answers to prayer. John Livingstone many many years ago said - listen to this, this is profound: 'A line of praise is worth a leaf of prayer', so one line is worth a page of prayer, a line of praise, 'An hour's praise is worth a day fasting and mourning' - and I think he was right. Praise accelerates answers to prayer.
Secondly: it encourages the miraculous. Acts 16, Paul and Silas in jail - what are they doing? Singing praises unto God, and what happens? Our old friends the angels come and let them out! It encouraged the miraculous - and there are Old Testament examples of this as well, where praise wins battles. You remember in 2 Chronicles 20, Judah faced a huge army from across the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, and the people sought the Lord for the way ahead - you see they were looking a word from God. The Spirit spoke, and what did the Spirit say? 'The battle belongs to the Lord'. So now they had something to go with, and early the next morning the people were to go out and see what the Lord had done. At dawn they marched to the battlefield as if they were going to a festival - we would have had the SAS at the front, they put the musicians at the front and the singers, they led the way! It says God heard the people's singing and their praises, the song of faith, and the enemy turned against one another and destroyed each other. When Judah arrived on the battlefield all they had to do was collect the spoil, and it took them three days to collect all the spoils of battle. With unbounded joy they praised the Lord in singing on their return to Jerusalem. It says in 2 Chronicles that as they praised, God set ambushes for the enemy - isn't that a brilliant verse? 2 Chronicles 20:22, because praise sparks victory.
So praise accelerates prayer, are you getting this? Encourages the miraculous, and wins battles. Fourthly: praise drives the devil away - did you know that? First Samuel 16:23, do you remember Saul, a tormenting spirit came from the Lord toward King Saul. You remember he got young David to come and play the harp, and that was praise - and by the way there were no words to it, as far as we are aware, he just played the harp - but holy music basically exorcised this spirit from off him temporarily. Satan is allergic to praise. Where there is jubilant praise, Satan is paralysed. Praise is the antidote to Satanic oppression. So if you want to strengthen your immunity to the enemy's attacks on your life and on your work, you need to learn to praise as a spiritual warfare weapon.
It drives the devil away. Something else: it heals and calms the troubled spirit, praise heals and calms the troubled spirit. Elisha in 2 Kings 3 was angry at the adulterous King of Israel, and he calls a minstrel, a musician, to play for him. It says that: 'His spirit calmed and he began to prophesy'. Maybe it's only me - I don't think it is - but there are times when I need to sit down, and stick my headphones on, and I need to listen to worship to have an effect on my spirit and calm me. It's not psychology, it's spiritual, and it works - because the soul is healed and calmed through praise.
Finally: praise brings an entrance into God's presence. I'm not saying this list is exhaustive, we've got that it accelerates answers to prayer; encourages the miraculous; wins battles; drives the devil away; heals the soul and calms the troubled spirit - but this is perhaps the most important one, certainly for corporate gatherings: it brings an entrance into God's presence. One verse, Psalm 100:4 - you could quote it, who can quote Psalm 100:4? 'Enter His gifts with thanksgiving, into His courts with praise'. Now, have you ever thought about that verse, or do you just quote it or maybe sing it? Do you actually think about what it's saying? What's it talking about? It's talking about the Tabernacle, it's talking about the Temple - and where do we want to get? Where does Hebrews say we are, we can be boldly? Where? The Holy of Holies - we can be right into the immediate presence, the place that the High Priest can only go once a year - we can go in there every day. We can dwell and abide in there every moment - isn't that incredible? Through the blood of Jesus there is a new and living way. But don't you think for one moment that we can just switch it on and off like a light. It is our right in Christ, but we've got to understand that there is a progression, and the progression is very similar to the progression in the Tabernacle and the Temple. We need to be cleansed in the laver and so on. If going to have intimate communion with the Lord, we need to deal with sin and keep short accounts, the light of the world and all the rest inside the Holy Place.
But before you even get there - enter His gates with thanksgiving, and enter His courts with praise. You come in the gate and you move into the court, before you even wash in the laver - now, what gets you through the gate? Thanksgiving! What gets you into the court? Praise! So if you have not learned to thank as a practice and praise, guess what? You're not going to realise the presence of God as you ought to. So there are two degrees of access: first, through God's gates; and then into His courts. In Isaiah 60:18 God's gates are called 'praise'. This is the way into God's presence. Psalm 22 verse 3: 'God inhabits the praises of His people'. So is hymn singing - and there is a lot more praise than just singing, and there's a lot more to worship than just singing - but is singing in our gatherings, or even in our private devotions if you do that, but especially in our gatherings or in churches, is singing a sandwich filler? Is it something we do before the real important thing, getting down to the Word, is it? Is it something that we ought to endure, because sometimes that's how it looks! I love the old hymns, I love old hymns and I really love the way some of the new tunes have been put to them, some of the old hymns are timeless - but, having said that, you've got to understand that there is such a thing as the new song in the Bible, the new song. When God is doing something in people's hearts, He stirs up a new song. Every generation has felt the need to articulate praise in a language and a melody that was current to their generation. If you don't allow that, you stifle the new song, and you stifle what the work of the Holy Spirit is. So I personally find - and I love the old hymns, and I rejoice in them - but there's something about biblical, godly new praise that just does something, it just does something because of the generation that we are in. But we've got to recognise the presence of God coming in the midst of our genuine worship - you detect that, don't you? You know that that is happening. What do we put that down to? Some people would say it's emotionalism, and there are some people say 'Ach, I'm not into the singing, you know, I'm not into the singing'. Well, I'm not saying you have to be Daniel O'Donnell, does he sing? I'm in Donegal, I better be careful, the roof will fall in. Do you understand what I mean? I'm not saying you have to be a mighty musician, but it's the song from within, it's a song from within, it's praise, giving back to God.
I remember when I was preaching more in the pastoral role in the pulpit in a church, especially in Gospel meetings, you had a singer maybe - if you could class them, sometimes, in that category! But honestly, some of you will have experienced this: if they are rubbish, the preacher has an uphill climb; but if they are excellent - and when I say excellent, I don't mean in their gifting necessarily, but in spiritual gifting as well and in communicating - as a preacher I just was able to right away just come right in there, because they had set the tone. It wasn't an emotional tone, it wasn't anything like that, it was a spiritual tone - God had anointed their singing, and had come in their singing to the people. So praise - don't for one minute think it's incidental. You need to start glorying in it, you need to start welcoming it, you need to give your whole self - let all that is within me bless His holy name. I'll tell you: God loves that, God loves that, and God will come all the quicker.
Let me on a personal note, as I finish, sum all this up. Praise dispels despair and engenders joy. Who could be doing with a wee bit of joy? Joy, real joy - we could do with a good dose of that, couldn't we? The joy of the Lord is our strength - I'm not talking about 'everything is wonderful, everything is awesome', that wee song the kids are always singing - everything is not awesome! Yet we can have joy deep down within our hearts, deep down in the bowels of the boat in the midst of the storm. It's not circumstantial, it's not happenstance. But you're sitting there, and you're maybe saying: 'I don't feel like praising at the moment, and I don't feel that I have much to praise about right now'. Listen, this could be the most important thing that you will hear: we do not have to joy to praise, we do not have to rejoice to praise. Praise gets us the joy - do you receive that? If you wait until you feel like praising, just the way if you wait until you feel like praying, you're never going to do it - but, do you see if you make the choice of the will, according to the promises of God, to praise? Joy will come. The more you praise the greater will be your joy. The command in Scripture is: 'Rejoice always in the Lord, again I say rejoice'.
Here's one for you, Isaiah 61 verse 3: the Lord Jesus Christ, this is the Messiah it's speaking of now, gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Now I have preached on that, and I have a theory about it. There are many things in the New Testament, we talk about putting things off and putting things on, metaphorically speaking about clothing. So we put off the works of the flesh, and we put on Christ and the garment of light - but I have a theory, and it's only a theory, that with the spirit of the despair you have to put on the garment of praise in order to put off the spirit of despair. Do you understand? So there are times when I am as down in the dumps as you can go, and I make a conscious, determined, wilful effort to go into my study and to choose to praise God, and to choose to put praise on and join in and sing until I have no voice. I've learned that the spirit of heaviness - and it's not just the human spirit, I believe there is a demonic force called 'the spirit of heaviness', and a lot of Christian workers come under it regularly because he doesn't like you and he wants to pull you down, he wants to discourage you, he wants to give you despair - but when you choose to praise, it dispels that spirit of heaviness, and you know what else? Bonus: it brings joy!
Handel, when he was composing Handel's Messiah, do you know that he barricaded himself into his room and practically neither ate or slept as he wrote. I'm not saying Handel's Messiah is equivalent to Scripture, but it is Scripture, all of it - but there's something heavenly about that piece of music, and I think he got it from heaven to be quite honest with you. Of course the Hallelujah Chorus is the great climax to the masterpiece, and 'hallelujah', what does it mean? 'Praise the Lord'. Later he told a friend about his experience, listen, this is what he said about his experience in that room: 'It seemed as if heaven came down and filled my soul'. That's the power of praise. Now listen to me: faith is expressed in praising prayer. A little faith will take you to heaven, but great faith - faith in God, faith in God's promises, faith in praising prayer - will bring heaven to you.
Let's pray. I don't know what God is saying to you in your own personal circumstances. Maybe what He is saying to you is: you need to take time out - now I don't mean time off, in case I get into trouble there! - but you need to take time out, and maybe you do need to take time off, to wait on God for His word for this situation that you're in. Maybe you've been praying a lot about a particular thing, but you really don't know how you ought to pray. There are situations that we don't know, and the Spirit with groanings that cannot be uttered - you know, there's room for that - but this is a situation that you really could do with knowing how to pray. Why not take time, and rather than doing all the prayer somersaults and things that you try to do, just wait on God and say: 'Lord, please, I'm going to empty the trash can here in my brain of everything that I've accumulated about this, and I just want to have a clean slate, Lord, please speak to me and tell me how I ought to pray'. Do we do that in our prayer meetings? Before we even ask in praying, do we say: 'Lord, would You show us, tell us how to pray here about this' - a situation in the work, a situation in the country, in the district, a problem - 'Lord, would You teach us how we ought to pray about this', and wait on Him and listen for Him.
So maybe some of you need to wait to get that word, some of you maybe have had that word - but you've been pleading for the word over and over again even though He has given it to you. You need to move now, you need to shift from pleading to praising Him for the promise that He has given you. As that verse says: you need to consider that you have the things that you've asked of Him, and then you will get them. That seems a contradiction, but that is faith sense. Go and read Mark 11 again, those verses 22-24, especially verse 24, you need to believe that you receive the things that you've asked from Him, and then you will have them. So you come to God and you say: 'Lord, this is Your promise that, I'm asking You by faith, I'm claiming it - I thank You that You have heard me, and I praise You that I am going to see this. Whether I see it or not, it's going to happen, because You have given the word of faith and I claim it'. Maybe that's where you are now - I don't know where you are, but just in the moment before I hand over, just take a moment to talk to the Lord and to receive. Remember, it's not about achieving, receive what you need from Him. Why not make a resolution, even, from today, that praise is going to be more a part of your prayer life, thanksgiving. How do you do that? Do you know what I did once? I would do it from time to time when I feel the need. I would keep a notepad at the side of my bed and a pen for various reasons, but I took on this practice for about a month of writing down, every night before I went to sleep, three things that I could be thankful for. It wasn't always seismic things, it could have been somebody getting saved or somebody helped in prayer ministry, it could have been a nice cream bun and a cup of coffee with a friend - but it was something that blessed me, something that I could say 'Thank You, Lord' for. Three of those a day, and just thank God before you go to sleep - and do you know what you're doing? You're creating a culture of thankfulness and appreciation, and it actually shifts your mindset, and it can lift you out of the doldrums - maybe you need to do that? Maybe you need to put on more praise music, and stop listening to all the bad news? Maybe you need to fill your house with an atmosphere of praise? I don't know, whatever God is saying to you, you respond.
Father, thank You for helping us, and coming to us here today again, and for speaking right into our lives. Lord, help us to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, what the Spirit is saying to each of us as individuals, and what You're saying to CEF. Lord, forgive us for our unbelief in prayer, forgive me, forgive me for when I am incessantly negative. It's not to not be real, Lord, You want us to be real and You want us to be honest - but forgive me when I wallow in selfish pity, and look in my boots rather than looking up to You Lord. Lord, even as we sing, would You even prove to us now, would You come behind what I have said, believing it's on the authority of Your word, and would You lift off some people here this morning a spirit of heaviness, would You even deliver them of things they have been struggling with. Lord, we could spend sessions of hours with people in prayer and counselling and all, but Lord in a moment of praise, as You inhabit those praises, You could come and just mightily release them. Would You come in a very special sense of Your presence as we praise You now? Lord, we want You, we want to be gathered around Your presence and Your name, we want to encounter You and see mountains moved for Your glory. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Child Evangelism Fellowship Worker's Conference in Donegal, Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'Mountain-Moving Faith' series, entitled "Faith Expressed In Praising Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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