Preparing to Cry Out

Sept. 23, 2016 Stephen Kendrick

Session Transcript

[Stephen Kendrick picks up his session following a video on his mom, who helped inspire the praying older woman in the film War Room.]

Good afternoon. I praise the Lord for my mother! How many of you already love her!? (applause)

I was getting ready for this, and she said, “Stephen! You need to tell them how to vote in the next election!” (laughter)

I said, “Mom, this is not a political event.”

She said, “It’s so important that they hear it!”

I said, “I’m not going to mention any candidates or any party.”

She said, “Well, tell them to get their Bible, and go read all the party platforms, and compare them to the Scriptures, and to vote according to what God’s Word says.” (applause) 

So, in honor of my mother, I’ve told you.

I have a friend who came to me and said, “Stephen, the closer I get to the Lord, the less impressed I am with you!” (laughter) 

And I said, “Okay, I can receive that.”

He said, “You keep talking about how God can do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine. You didn’t make that up. That’s in the Bible! I found that in the Bible.”

I said, “I never said I made that up. Where’d you get that?”

Some of the people who work with us, they come and they say, “Okay, tell us how you produce these movies.” We’ve had many filmmakers come down to Albany. They sit across the table from us, and they say, “Okay, what’s the ‘secret sauce’?”

We say, “Look, we don’t know what we’re doing, but we are trusting an Almighty God; and so, we’re praying through every aspect of the filmmaking. We’re asking the Lord to guide.”

One of my friends came and worked with us on War Room, and when he was done, he said, “They’re telling the truth. They don’t know what they’re doing, and they do pray about every decision.”

So, I want you to know that. If you were to spend a lot of time with us, the less impressed you would be with us, and the more impressed you would be with the God that we serve.” (applause)

I want to show you a picture up on the screen (it was on the video). This is of my mom and dad getting married. On the right side of the screen, my dad’s dad—my grandfather—was seven feet tall! So, I hugged his knees when I was a kid.

He was an alcoholic for a good portion of my father’s life, but he married a woman who became a praying woman—and our dad had a praying mom who had a big impact on his life. My grandfather—my mom’s mom (as you heard in the story) was a praying woman as well.

She is impacting the nations, you could say, through prayers that she prayed many years ago. And, as you saw on this video, I’ve got a praying mom at home. Now, I want to show you a picture of my family. This is my wife Jill and I and our six kids.

I’ve got behind me a very supportive wife, who prays for me and supports me. Engraved on the inside of my wedding ring (so it’s with me everywhere I go) it says “1 Samuel 14:7: ‘You do what you’ve set in your heart to do, and I will come support you with my heart and soul.’”

So some of you, like my wife, may be in a situation where you’re thinking, I’ve got girlfriends who are out working in these jobs, and they’re making the new iPhone, and they’re making a lot of money over here, and they’re beating out the men, and they’re becoming the CEOs and presidents of companies . . . and I’m just a mom.

I want you to know, God has you exactly where He wants you. You, whether you know it or not, are likely the most influential person in your husband’s life, and your prayers for him . . . God has given women this ability to discern how the marriage is going (a whole lot better than the man), how the kids are doing (a whole lot better than the man). He reveals those things to you so you can intercede on behalf of your husband and your children like nobody else on the face of the earth. You are likely, in these formative years—if your kids are little, like my kids are—the most influential person in your kids’ lives.

John Wesley—a man who was a catalyst for one of the great awakenings—said, “My mother taught me more theology when I was little than I’ve learned in all the other books and the training that I’ve had over the years.”

I heard a story about St. Paul’s cathedral being built: A man walks up and sees these two workers working. One man is laying bricks, and he’s grumbling and complaining, and he’s working slow. Another guy is over here laying bricks, whistling. He’s working hard; he’s keeping a good attitude.

The man walks up to the man who’s complaining and asks, “What are you doing?”

The man replies, “I’m laying bricks—what does it look like I’m doing?”

He walks over to the man who has a good attitude and is whistling, and he asks, “What are you doing?”

He replies, “I’m building a great cathedral!”

Both of them were doing the same thing, but one of them saw it from a bigger perspective!

The enemy wants to tell you, “You’re washing dishes . . . you’re folding another load of laundry—didn’t you just wash these clothes yesterday?” You’re changing diapers. With six kids, we’ve added it up—it’s into the tens of thousands of diapers that my wife has changed!

I’ve told her, “Sweetheart, you’re not changing diapers—you’re raising world-changers. You’re not preparing meals—you’re training up leaders of the next generation. You’re not stopping our kids from fighting and just spanking the one that’s the cause of the problem—you’re raising up people who will help take the gospel to the ends of the earth. You’re building a great cathedral!”

So I just want to affirm you. The enemy wants to step in and tell you that what you’re doing doesn’t matter. But God has strategically positioned you, wherever you are, for His glory—for such a time as this! We’re going to be looking at Nehemiah chapter 1 this afternoon. If you have your Bible, I want to encourage you to turn there.

Here’s a guy who is a layman. He’s a nobody. He’s in a foreign land. He feels like, “What am I doing here? I’m away from my people; I’m away from my country. Do I have any value? Do I have any importance?”

We’re going to talk about how Nehemiah prayed. It’s exciting for me to see what the Lord is doing through prayer around the world. If you look in Scripture, prayer is always a priority of the mighty men and women of God.

Look at the great people in the Old Testament—they were always prayer warriors. You look at Jesus’ life. In all of His busyness, He would either get up early to pray or stay up late to pray or send the crowd away to pray. You’re not busier than Jesus was, But He would make sure that prayer was a priority. It was the only thing His disciples asked Him to teach them how to do—it was to pray.

If you look at the Sermon on the Mount, He’s training them on how to pray. He’s saying, “God wants you to pray. He answers prayer. He’s commanding you to pray. Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The analogy, in Scripture, of prayer is not an employer to an employee, or even a master to a servant. It’s of a father to his children. Every time Jesus would talk about prayer, He would say, “I want you to think of God as your Father: a loving, good Father who cares about you and wants to give you good things.”

He says, “I want you to ask for good things, because your Father in heaven wants to give you those good things.” So Jesus is challenging His disciples, “Prioritize prayer. Pray instead of fainting.” He goes into the temple: “You’re making the temple about things other than prayer. My house shall be called ‘a house of prayer!’”

If you look in the New Testament, the church prioritized prayer. The Holy Spirit came, and Scripture says, “They devoted themselves to prayer,” as a New Testament church. As a result of prayer, everything else took on more power to it.

The preaching is powerful when there’s a praying church behind the pastor praying for him. The programs of the church are effective when there’s a praying people behind the programs. The promotional efforts . . . Everything you’re doing in your church, prayer is the wind in the sails of those things. If you can prioritize prayer—first—like the Scriptures say, everything else in your church will reap the benefits of that.

What do we see in 1 Timothy 2:1? “First of all, let there be prayers, petitions, supplication, thanksgiving for all men.” Let that be first in priority.

What did the apostles say (Acts 6)? “Okay, we have these women who are upset, complaining, over here—these widows who are being neglected. Let’s set up some people to serve them and meet their needs, but let us keep prioritizing prayer and the ministry of the Word.”

You read in Romans 12:12, spoken to us as believers, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” Colossians 4: 2, “Devote yourselves to prayer.” So it’s this constant message throughout Scripture, throughout Christian history. The greatest missionaries always devoted themselves to prayer.

Before the Great Awakenings, the Lord would stir up His Church. They would become burdened about the toxic condition of the culture, and the lukewarmness that was in the church, and they would be so burdened that God would call them to their knees and they would begin to pray.

It wasn’t just a sermon series over a weekend. The Lord would call them to long-term devotion to prayer. He would say, “Let’s prioritize God Himself, and prayer, above any of the works of men.” I believe He’s doing that right now in our country, and I believe He’s doing that in the body of Christ all over the world!

We saw with War Room—now that the movie has gone international—we’re hearing stories of other countries. In Mexico there were twelve elderly women who went to see the movie, and then they started a twenty-four-hour prayer network in their city.

In Argentina, there are churches that have been meeting, and they’ve been praying. Pastors across America have been preaching on the priority of prayer. Seventy-one churches in Ohio recently met together for a prayer “boot camp,” saying, “We need to train our people in prayer.”

There’s a Texas prison that has focused in on prayer, and in this one unit in the prison . . . By the way, across America the recidivism rate for prisoners is about seventy percent. (That means that, when they get out, about seventy percent end up back in prison.)

But in this one unit in Texas, prisoners have begun to pray for one another, and the recidivism in that specific unit has dropped down to seven percent! Ninety-three percent are staying out of prison because they’re praying for one another! (applause)

E. M. Bounds said, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” It can accomplish what God can accomplish. There is no greater privilege for you and I—anyone—to be able to personally talk to God—and speak into the ears of the Almighty. It’s a beautiful, mysterious, jaw-dropping opportunity that we have every day. 

Then we think of what God did to enable us to do it—that Jesus died and tore the veil from top to bottom. He opened up the way so that you and I—through His blood—can approach the Holy of Holies of God—to come before a loving, good heavenly Father who’s ready and able to meet any of our needs at any time.

So I wanted to talk with you today about preparing to pray tonight. [The Cry Out! prayer simulcast would take place later in the evening, where women would cry out to God in prayer together for three hours—not only from the Indianapolis Convention Center, but also from around the world in various places and groups.]

I want to challenge you: Ask the Lord to make you a prayer warrior, that you would begin to pray for your children. I want to share with you a little bit about how our Mom prays for us, and I want to share with you how Scripture challenges us to pray for other people.

The first thing is, prayer begins by being in Christ—definitely knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Knowing Christ is the secret to answered prayer. When He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV), He wasn’t being prideful—He was being truthful!

There is one Mediator between us and God, someone who’s equal to God and equal to man who can come between and bring us together, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy says. Ephesians 3 says we have boldness and access through faith in Him.

So if you have religion but you don’t have a relationship with God, God is not obligated to answer your prayers. In fact, Scripture communicates God is not obligated. He can answer the prayer of a lost person if He wants to, but the Bible says the unrighteous—their prayers are not pleasing to the Lord.

So lost people praying to God—if they don’t have a relationship with Him—is basically them talking to a stranger—someone who is not obligated to answer their prayers. So prayer begins with a relationship with Jesus.

When I was talking with Nancy about this conference, I asked, “How many people here are believers?” She said, “Well, I don’t know. Many of them, I believe, are believers.” But it’s been interesting to me . . . Billy Graham says a large percentage of the church is made up of people who think they’re saved, but they’re not.

We’re so many denominations, and different denominations emphasize different aspects of the gospel. But if we’re not careful, we can think that because we prayed a prayer, or we joined a church, or we’re christened as a baby, or we’re baptized at some point in our life, or we cried while we were at summer camp—that now we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

In the year 2000, I went through a personal crisis. I was serving in ministry. I was doing youth ministry, and the Lord took that year to humble me and “grind me to powder” in a lot of ways. Even though I’d led many people to Christ, I began to question my own salvation.

I discovered something in the Bible that just blew my mind. Did you know that God has given us a book in the Bible that can help us know and discern if we’re really saved or not? Does anybody know what that book is? There’s a book in the Bible that God has given us, and it is the litmus test for salvation.

Last week, I was meeting with a guy who is going into ministry—going into youth ministry—and we were talking about his relationship with the Lord. He struggled with pornography, and I said, “Let me ask you a question: Are you sure you’re saved?”

He said, “I think so, yeah, you know . . .”

I asked, “Do you ever doubt your salvation?”

And he said, “Actually, yes I do.”

And if you ask people, “Hey, do you know Christ? Are you a hundred percent sure?” A lot of people, we have that pat, ready answer.

Well, in the year 2000, I was ready with that pat answer, but the Lord began to open my eyes and ask me the question: “You need to put on the helmet of salvation, because you’re a hundred percent sure you’re saved.”

Romans 6 says, if you know you’re saved, then you can reckon yourself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ. If you’re going to fight the enemy, you’ve got to put on that helmet of salvation as part of the armor, and you’re standing in your identity in Christ.

If you’re doubting your salvation—if there’s still a little bit of a doubt in the back of your mind—then you’re not believing who you are in Jesus Christ, and who your Father is. If you’re doubting your salvation, you’re not going to be sharing your faith with other people.

You’re not going to be living in the joy of your salvation, and you’re going to be struggling. And so, whether it be sin in your life—and you’re a believer—that’s causing you to doubt . . . Whether it be that you made a commitment to Christ but you never followed that up with obedience in baptism . . . or you’ve never been discipled . . .I don’t know.

But I want to share with you right now. We’re just going to pause in this message for a minute, and we’re going to take just a moment. I’m going to give you a gift that God gave me in the year 2000, and that gift is, the book of 1 John.

The book of 1 John gives us seven tests of our salvation, and I’m going to give them to you this afternoon, because you’re not going to be able to pray effectively tonight if Jesus Christ is not your Lord and Savior. And so, I want to give you this gift.

Many of you are like, “Man, I’m sure. I know where I am—I’m good. I love the Lord, this is a good thing.” I want to give you these seven things so that you can share them with other people who are struggling with their salvation.

But for some of you, as a result of this . . . When I shared this with this young man, he began to cry at the end of reading through those verses in 1 John. He said, “I’m saved! I know the Lord, and He knows me!”

I said, “It wasn’t me that revealed it to you. It wasn’t you who convinced yourself. It was the Word of God that said very clearly to you, ‘You know the Lord, and He knows you. You’ve got sin in your life, but you know the Lord, and He knows you.’”

When I discovered these passages of Scripture, it was like the lightbulb went on for me. I began to cry. I was like, “I know the Lord, and He knows me!” But I believe many people would discover that they don’t know the Lord. So, let me give you these things.

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” He warned the Pharisees, “You think that you know God, but you don’t!” He said, “Many people will say to me, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name?’ and I will announce to them, ‘Depart from me; I never knew you!’” (Matthew 7:22–23).

The apostle Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you’re in the faith. Examine yourselves—or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus is in you? Unless, indeed, you fail the test!”

So, if you think you’re going to heaven and you have a relationship with God because you’re a good person or you walked an aisle or you prayed a prayer or you were baptized or christened, and if your faith is in those things, then you should be very concerned, according to 1 John, because 1 John never mentions a ritual, or a summer camp, tearful—anything like that. It talks about proofs of salvation that show up when Christ changes your life. If you were to be put on trial for being a Christian, would the evidence of your life—compared to the Word of God—reveal that you know Christ . . . or you don’t?

Genuine salvation is like a wedding: it’s a commitment that results in a loving relationship. It’s like planting a vineyard—a lot of fruit shows up afterwards.

Do you remember those Polaroid cameras that we used to play with back when we were teenagers? You take the picture, and then this little white picture pops out, and if you look at it it’s just gray—there’s nothing there. You wait about sixty seconds later, and then the image that it took begins to show up.

Well, the Bible communicates that salvation. When you believe in Jesus, Ephesians 1 says, He seals you with the Holy Spirit of promise. You were dead and He makes you alive; you were buried with Christ and you’re raised with Christ. He saves you when you place your faith in Him.

Sometimes we don’t feel any different in that moment, but if it’s true salvation, the image of Christ starts showing up in your life over time. The fruit begins to be undeniable. You cannot make God your Father, and Jesus your Lord, and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and it not change you!

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, [they’re] a new creation. The old has [gone]; behold, the new has come” (ESV). So, from 1 John, I’m going to give you seven evidences of salvation—true salvation—that the Bible gives us. I want you to test your salvation with these. My hope is that for some of you, the lightbulb will go on and you will say, “I know the Lord, and He knows me! I’m never going to doubt again, and I’m going to pray within my identity in Christ. I’m going to start acting like who I am in Jesus, and I’m going to put on the helmet of salvation!”

Some of you, when you hear these things, you may say, “When I look at this, I realize I don’t know the Lord. I have religion, but not a relationship.” And I’ve got good news for you! Today is the day of your salvation. You can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

Evidence #1: Obedience. And really, it’s a lifestyle of obedience. Christians make mistakes, yes, but the direction and habits of a true believer change towards obeying Jesus. Now, obedience is not the root of salvation, but it is the fruit of salvation.

In 1 John 2:3–6, Scripture says this (listen to this): “by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same [manner] in which he walked” (ESV).

Before we know Christ, we’re walking in a direction away from God. We’re living in perpetual sin, and every once in a while, we’ll stumble and we’ll do the right thing. But after we repent and we place our faith in Jesus, He doesn’t change us from rules on the outside—religion externalized. He transforms us from the inside, and He changes our nature.

So there’s this new desire to obey God that the Holy Spirit brings. Let me ask you a question. When it comes to, not any specific moment (because you can look at your life and say, “Well, I didn’t obey God there, and I didn’t obey God that time, and I didn’t obey God here”), but if you look at the 50,000 foot view of your life, after you made a decision for Christ, did you see a result in increasing obedience to the commands of God? When you hear the Word of God, is there in your heart, “I need to obey that; I want to obey that; Lord, help me to obey that”? Then you begin to see more obedience—not that you get it always right. 

James 3:2 says, “We stumble in many ways.” Believers stumble in many ways, but you have a heart that wants to obey God. That’s the first evidence Scripture gives of your salvation. A lost person does not obey the Lord; they have no desire to, really. But a believer—their nature has changed from the inside out. And 1 John says, “This is how we know him”—obedience.

Evidence #2: A confession of Jesus as God’s Son is the second evidence of salvation. Now, the world believes that Jesus is a good teacher, He’s a prophet, He’s a good example. Cults may even communicate that Jesus is a prophet or a good example, but the Bible communicates that a believer believes He’s more than just a man or a good example . . . He is God’s Son! He is God in the flesh. 

Watch this: 1 John 2:22: “Who is the liar but [the one] who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, [the one] who denies the Father and the Son. [Whoever] denies the Son [does not have] the Father. The one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (ESV). Jesus said, “Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before the Father.”

So, who do you say Jesus is? Because if you say, “He is God in the flesh; He is the Son of God,” that is an evidence of your salvation, because it takes the Holy Spirit to reveal that truth to your heart.

Evidence #3: Repentance of sin; ongoing repentance of sin. How does a Christian respond to the commands of Christ? Obedience. How does a Christian respond to sin? Repentance. Listen to this verse: Jesus said, “I tell you . . . unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” That’s Luke 13:3 (ESV).

When it comes to sin, true believers will turn away from sin, but false believers will not. First John 3:9: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him” (ESV). He cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. Again, it’s a 50,000 foot view.

A lost person may feel guilty in their conscience for some of the things that they do, but when it comes to sin, there’s not a perpetual turning away from it, repenting of it. When I sin, the Holy Spirit is convicting me. I don’t like it in my life.

There are some sins we can repent of quickly. Some kind of hang on, you know, that we’re struggling with throughout our lives. That's part of that sanctification process, but a true Christian is turning away from sin. First John says, “That’s how we know . . .” One of the evidences that you truly know Christ is that ongoing repentance of sin: “I need to get it out of my life!”

Evidence #4: The discipline of God your Father. First John 3:1: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath given us, that we should be called children of God” (ESV). Hebrews 12:6 says, “God deals with you as sons, for what son is there whom the Father does not discipline? But, if you are without discipline (of which all have become partakers), then you’re illegitimate children and you’re not sons.”

When my kids invite their friends over, if they do something wrong, I may spank my kids and send their friends home. Now, why I don’t I discipline the other kid? Well, he’s not my kid; he’s not my son.

God says that when it comes to His children, when you get out of line and you’re living in sin, He loves you, and so He begins to discipline you. There’s evidence of that. He says, one of the ways you can know if you’re a believer is, the discipline of the Father shows up in your life when you get out of line.

Evidence #5: Genuine love for other believers. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer. You know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14).

One of the things the Holy Spirit does when He comes into your heart, Romans 5 says He pours out the agape love of God into your heart. And God begins to give you the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, and peace—and His Spirit gives you a love for other believers . . . even your enemies!

That’s one of the evidences—that agape love that comes from God is an evidence of your salvation. So let me ask you a question: When it comes to other believers, are you always just not wanting to be around them? Is church a burden for you? Or has God given you this love for other believers? Because 1 John says that is one of the evidences of your salvation.

Evidence #6: The presence of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 3:24: “This is how we know that He lives in us; we know it by the Spirit He gave us.” If you’re a true believer, then God’s Spirit will testify with your spirit that you’re a child of God, Romans 8 says.

What does God’s Spirit do? Well, John 16 says He’s going to convict you of sin. He will also, John 14 says, reveal to you the Word of God. So when you’re reading the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is helping you to understand what you’re reading.

And then there’s the fruit of the Spirit—the love and joy and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit is showing up in your life. So is the Holy Spirit evidenced in your heart and in your life? That’s not something you can fake.

Is the Holy Spirit saying, “You know the Lord”? Is the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin? Is the Holy Spirit revealing the Word of God? If you don’t know Christ, then you’re not that convicted when you sin. The Bible’s a mystery to you. It’s hard for you to grasp or read it, because it’s like there’s a veil over your eyes when you’re reading it. And then, the love and joy and peace of Christ are not really flowing in and through your life.

Evidence #7: Trust in Jesus alone for salvation. This is not about the identity in Christ. This is about what you’re trusting for salvation. If your faith is in your church, if your faith is in your goodness, if your faith is in a ritual that you made, you’re the only person really mentioned there—your faith is in you.

The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3, “I had a better spiritual resume than anyone, but when I saw what Jesus could do for me and I saw how His death on the cross could pay for my sin, and I saw that rather than my own righteousness (me trying to earn my way into heaven)—I saw that Christ could give me God’s righteousness and prepare me for heaven.”

The apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, said, “I have let go of trusting in myself, and my faith is totally in Jesus alone for salvation. Now I have a righteousness that comes from God, not from myself. I am found in Him.”

First John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Seven things—these are signs of a changed life. They’re litmus tests we can take. All these things are not really normal, and they’re almost impossible to fake long-term. The world, the flesh, and the devil are against us having these things in our lives. They are pushing us in the opposite direction.

But, if you look at your life over the past few months and years from a 50,000 foot view: 

  • Do you see genuine love for other believers?
  • Do you see repentance from sin?
  • Do you see obedience to God?
  • Do you see the discipline of the Father?
  • Do you see the evidence of the Holy Spirit?
  • Do you see a confession, openly, of Christ as God and as Lord—a genuine trust in His death on the cross for salvation?

Because if these things are in you, then I’ve got really good news for you. You know Jesus, and He knows you! (applause) But, if you look at these things and you say, “I don’t see the evidence of the Holy Spirit; I don’t have a genuine love for other believers. I am not repenting of sin; there is no obedience in my heart. There is no trust, fully, in Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for salvation. Then I’ve got good news for you, too . . . really good news. The Lord is offering you something far better than what you’re trusting. He is inviting you to turn from your sin and to call upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and trust Him alone for salvation!

The Bible says whosever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Scripture says if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you can be saved.

And right where you’re sitting right now, you can say, “Lord, I’m no longer trusting my religion, my ability, my church, my rituals. I’m trusting in Christ.” And right where you are, you can believe in Jesus—and He will change you from the inside out. And after that moment, you will see these fruits showing up in your life in the days to come.

At the end of this session, in the back of the room, there are prayer rooms, and there are women who are back there, ready to pray with anyone who would like for someone to walk with them and pray with them through that decision.

With that in mind, I want to talk about getting our hearts ready for praying. In Nehemiah, chapter 1:1–3:

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity. . .” So, you find that the walls of Jerusalem are broken down, they’re burned with fire.

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before . . . God . . . [I’m blown away by Nehemiah’s response—the tenderness of his heart in this moment. And so he begins to pray.] 

And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, You keeps Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night [he’s not giving up; he’s laying hold of the Lord], for the children of Israel Your servants, and [I] confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house [and he makes it personal] and I have sinned.

"We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. [So, he confesses.] Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying [now, he’s quoting Deuteronomy 28 right here], ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; [now he shifts to Deuteronomy 30] but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’

[So, Nehemiah lays hold of the Word of God. Then he says] “Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king’s cupbearer (vv. 1–11 NKJV).

Now, the king, Artaxerxes, is the same king who had turned Ezra down and shut down the rebuilding of the wall. A few years later, Nehemiah is approaching that same king—in brokenness. He’s praying strategically.

And, as you know the rest of the book, that king not only gives him permission to leave, but gives him all the resources to go back, and he rebuilds the wall. They restore Jerusalem, revival breaks out, and God restores a nation through one man who was willing to humble himself before God, and pray, and obey the Lord.

As we talk about prayer . . . you know, the movie War Room talks about prayer. But one thing that consistently you will see in Scripture is that prayer is always bookended by two things: repentance before we pray (because we’re not ready to pray effectively if we don’t repent first). Then, when we do pray, we pray in faith, we claim the Word of God, we base it upon the character of God. Then, when we are done praying, we obey whatever the Lord tells us to do. Repentance, pray, obey.

I did a study one time of the New Testament, and I was like, “What does the Bible say about what makes our prayers more effective, or what hinders our prayers from being effective?” One thing is, whether or not you know Christ.

But a second one was, even as a believer, there are a few things that will hinder you from being able to pray effectively. Let me share with you a few of those:

  • One of them is, sin that you refuse to repent of. David said, “If I cherish sin in my heart, God will not hear my prayers.” So, let me ask you—is there anything in your life that you refuse to repent of and give over to the Lord—because that is hindering your prayers from being effective.
  • Secondly, bitterness in your heart. Jesus repeatedly says, when He talks about forgiveness, “If you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you.” And in Mark 11:25, He said this: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, go ahead and forgive them, right now! And then, pray in faith, believing that God will answer your prayers." So, Jesus pointed out, “Don’t wait for them to repent; go ahead and forgive them.”

You know, we live in a world of sinners—and we are sinners. We are going to have people sin against us our whole lives. If there’s anyone who has sinned against you and hurt you—and we’ve all experienced that—and you have chosen not to forgive them . . . if tonight when we pray, you still have not forgiven them, you may want to just sit in the back and watch everyone else pray, because it will hinder your prayers from being effective before God.

The Bible says—and Jesus said it—if you have anything against anyone, go ahead and forgive them. Why do you forgive them? Because God is their judge! Why do you forgive them? Because bitterness only hurts you—it does not hurt the person you’re angry with.

Why do you forgive them? Because it gives place to the devil [if you don’t]. Scripture says in Ephesian 4. Our unforgiveness gives the devil permission into our minds, and he begins to accuse other people in our minds, and we get angry.

If you have bitterness in your life, that is one of the key reasons why your spirit is a desert right now, why worship is not a joy, why you’re not getting anything out of the Word of God, why your prayer life feels like it’s just bouncing off the ceiling.

Bitterness dries up your spiritual life—so if you want to pray effectively, the Bible communicates: know Christ; forgive, if you have anything against anyone; and then, any hidden sin that’s in your life. “Lord, I want to get it right with You.”

But, secondly, Scriptures communicate that if you are right with the Lord—no unconfessed sin, no bitterness in your life—then you can begin to pray strategically, effectively. And I want to give you four things, real quick, on how to pray:

Pray offensively. It’s when you’re asking for all the good stuff. When you pray, don’t hold back. Ask for the moon. When we’re praying for the movies, we’re praying over the cinematography and the lighting and the story: “Lord, give us characters that are funny, and give us touching scenes, and give us truths that will change lives, and, Lord, take the movies to the ends of the earth!”

When we’re praying for our kids: “Lord, raise up our children to be mighty warriors for you. Surround them with godly friends, and keep them away from the wrong friends. Lord, would You give them good books and good teachers and good mentors—and good spouses, one day?”

And we just ask and ask and ask and keep on asking! God is not intimidated by any request! He can do more than we can ask or imagine—and I can imagine a lot!

Did you know, God wants you to ask daring, bold, good prayers? So, when you’re praying for your family and your pastor and your church and the election and yourself and whatever—go ahead and ask. Some people are like, “Well, I don’t know if it’s God’s will or not. . .” He can figure that out!

You hit the ball in His court, and let Him answer the way He wants to. Many times, the Lord may say, “Yes, but I’m going to answer that in a week or a month or a year.” You just keep on praying and hit it in His court. “Lord, nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done. But I don’t want it to be because I didn’t ask!”

James 4 says you don’t have because you don’t ask. I think God is in heaven—and Scripture communicates this—and He’s got so many good things. He doesn’t want to withhold any good thing from you, and He says, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Ask me! Ask me!”

Now, what if Jesus showed up in a dream tonight—to you personally—and He said, “Here’s a pad of paper; here’s a pen. Everything you ask me for, I’m going to say ‘yes’ to.” Would you pray any differently than you do right now? Because how much you pray really reveals how much you’re trusting God in your circumstances.

If you knew that He was going to say “yes,” would you just say, “Ah—just bless me, Lord—no prayer requests”? Kind of like we say in Sunday school or small group . . . “Nothin’, I’m good!” (laughter)

Or, would you be flippin’ it out like I would, saying: “Here’s how I’m going to pray for my church and my pastor. Here’s how I’m going to pray for my community. Here’s how I’m going to pray for my marriage. Here’s how I’m going to pray for my children.” I’m just flippin’ pages, and I’m just gonna go until I wear that out, and say, “You got any more notepads I can fill up?”

That’s how God wants you to pray! Don’t let it be because you didn’t ask. Ask for good things. You have a good, good God! He can handle any request. If He looks through it and says, “Well, that’s a selfish request.” Okay, He can handle that.

So when we’re praying tonight, if you know Jesus, you can pray in His Name, which means, you’re not praying based upon your identity—you’re praying based on His identity. You’re not praying based upon your authority—you’re praying based on His authority. You’re not praying based upon what you have done or your righteousness—you’re praying based upon what He has done and His righteousness. If your heart is right with the Lord and you’ve confessed your sins and you’ve forgiven other people, then get busy praying and ask for the moon.

Get specific and don’t hold back, and leave that with the Lord—and let those prayers be in His hands. You will see in Scripture, sometimes God answers a prayer immediately. Sometimes, He’ll answer a prayer the next day, the next week. Sometimes, His perfect timing is to wait for years. He’s got that all figured out.

But don’t let delays discourage you from praying. Don’t let yesterday’s seemingly unanswered prayers stop you from praying in faith today. If you’re struggling with praying and trusting God in faith, if you’re like, “When I’m praying, I have a hard time really believing that God will answer . . .” then Philippians 4 says you need to spend some time in thanksgiving before you do the supplication.

Because here’s what happens: if you’ll spend time with thanksgiving, you’re looking in the rearview mirror of your life, and you’re seeing nothing but the faithfulness of God in your past. And you begin to say, “Lord, thank You that You carried me here, and thank You that You brought good out of that, and thank You that You worked here, and thank You that You provided here, and thank You for this, and thank You for that.” Spend some time thanking the Lord.

It will give you that running head start to then look at the future with the requests that you have. Pray in faith, believing that God can do the same thing in the days ahead! 

So, with that in mind, let’s pray together right now. Let’s ask the Lord to prepare our hearts, in unity—like Nehemiah—to have tender hearts before the Lord, to repent of any sin, to pray in faith. And lastly, when we leave this place, we need to obey whatever God tells us to do!

Because you might be who God uses to answer the requests that you’re praying. You might be the Nehemiah; you might be the Esther who is told, “Pray for three days, and then you approach the king.” You might be the one.

So, we need to repent, we pray in faith asking the Lord for whatever’s on our hearts. Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in You, ask for your heart’s desire, and it will be done for you.” Not just for what you need. 

John 15:7 says, “If you get right with the Lord, ask for your heart’s desire.” That blows my mind, that He would even say that! And then, when we leave, we’re going to obey what God tells us to do.

This world would never be the same, if women—just in this room and who are watching over the Internet—would get right with the Lord, pray in faith, and then obey what God tells them to do. Let’s ask Him for it right now!

Father, in Jesus’ Name, Lord, we pray that You would reveal to each person whether they know You, truly, or not. Secondly, Lord, I pray that You would search us, oh God, and know our hearts. We don’t want there to be anything that displeases You, that grieves Your Spirit, that hinders us from praying effectively to a holy God. Lord, search our hearts and then grant us repentance.

Forgive us, Lord! Forgive our nation, Lord, for our wickedness. Lord, I pray that You—by Your Holy Spirit—would inspire each of us to pray in faith tonight . . . in unity . . . tens of thousands of women all around the world, praying at the same time by faith—approaching a willing, loving heavenly Father.

And then, Lord, I pray that You would reveal how You want us to obey You, and that You would give us the grace and the strength by Your Holy Spirit—when we go home—every day, to walk in faith and obey. And we ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ, the strong Son of God—Amen!

All Scripture is paraphrased unless otherwise noted.