The Most Important Prayer

What is the most important prayer?  Is it a historic prayer from the Bible, like the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught his disciples?  Is it Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, forever changing the course of human kind?  Or is it the prayer for what you need in your life right now?  The answer is yes.  It’s all of these prayers at once and more and I’m going to explain why.  The most important prayer we can pray is;  “Father help me submit to your will.  Help me yield myself to you.”

God wants us to listen to him and follow his advice.  Why?  Is it so we won’t have any fun?  Of course not.  God wants us to listen to him because our lives will work smoother and we will be happier if we do things His way.  If we just follow God’s guidelines for life, we will live a life more like Jesus lived.  It’s overwhelming to wrap our heads around living like Jesus, but according to the scriptures, that’s God’s desire for us.  The plan is for us to conform to the image of Christ more and more. 

Romans 8:28-29  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  NIV

If we are the children of God, God intends for us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.  So what do we do to be more like Jesus?  We follow the example of Jesus’ life.  And Jesus, while living here on earth, followed God’s example. 

John 5:19  Jesus gave them this answer:  “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does."  NIV

Jesus submitted himself to his Father’s will in all things.  He learned the will of his Father by spending time with Him.  It was through Jesus’ time in prayer and communion with his Father, that he familiarized himself with his Father’s will.   He humbled himself to his father’s will through prayer.

John 5:30  By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.  NIV

When asked by the disciples how to pray, Jesus didn’t just show them how to fold their hands.  Jesus showed them the attitude they should have in their hearts.  Jesus passed on this example, in what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew 6:9-10  “This, then, is how you should pray:  “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  NIV

Thy will be done, by who?  Certainly Jesus intended to do the will of the Father.  But in the big picture, it is intended for us to do the Father’s will as well.  Jesus made this clear after his resurrection.  He appeared to those who believed in him, and gave them these instructions. 

Matthew 28:18-20  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  An surely I am with you always, to the very end of the Age.”  NIV

Jesus did the Father’s will.  Jesus told us to do The Father’s will.  We should be doing the Father’s will, but how are we as Believers supposed to know the will of the Father?  Much of it is obvious, do the Bible.  Live the scriptural life illustrated in the Word.  Follow the teachings and the laws set out in the writings of the Holy Spirit.  But, every bit as important as the written Word of God, is the leading of the Holy Spirit, the still small voice that speaks to us from within.  This of course must align itself with the Word and cannot contradict what the Bible has already said.  But the Bible doesn’t cover topics like; what job should I take, should I help with church set-up, do I tell my neighbor they need a relationship with The Creator?  How do we train ourselves to listen to the still small voice of God?  It begins in prayer.  “God, help me yield to your Spirit, help me submit to you.”  When we pray this most important of all prayers, we begin to learn to pray.  “Father, your will be done, in my life, as you would have it done in heaven.”  And with a humble heart, allow the Spirit of God to convict us of the things in our lives that displease our Father.  With humility, accept His leading for our lives.  Then we will begin submitting ourselves to our Father’s plan for our lives.  Then we can experience the richness and the fullness and the joy and the peace and the power of victorious living that only come through submission to God.

Yielding ourselves to God’s will is necessary for a healthy relationship with The Creator.  When we resist the Father and allow sin in our lives, we draw back from God and cut ourselves off from Him.  He is constantly calling us back to Himself, but we are ashamed to bring our sin into the presence of God.  Adam and Eve are the perfect illustration of the results of sin in our lives.  The result of sin in our lives is the same for us today as it was for them in the garden.

Genesis 3:8-10  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  NIV

We are all naked in the sight of God.  There is not an imagination of our heart that isn’t laid bare to our Father.  He knows every ugly thing about us and we can’t hide a single thing.  So, when we have sin in our lives, like Adam and Eve, we separate ourselves from our Father.  We cut off our relationship with our Father in the vain attempt to hide our sin from him.  But like Adam and Eve, we can’t hide from the Lord.  He knows where we are no matter how well we think we hide our sin from him.  We only hurt ourselves.  Life would be so much easier if we just went to our Father and said, “Dad, I’ve messed up my life.  Help me fix it.”  Even better yet, we could yield ourselves to him, and avoid the sin that separates us from him.  Much better to pray, “Father, help me yield to you,” than to pray, “Father, forgive me.”

I Samuel 15:22  But Samuel replied:  “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  NIV

To yield ourselves to the will of our Father is better than repentance for the sin we allow.  But the most compelling reason to pray that God would help us submit to his will is this: Jesus himself found it necessary to pray that his Father would help him yield to his Father’s will.

As the time approached for Jesus to give himself up for mankind, Jesus was in great turmoil.  He knew everything that lay ahead of him, all he would be asked to endure.  It was more than Jesus could handle by himself.

Matthew 26:36-44  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”  he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.  NIV

Knowing the physical torture that was ahead would have been enough to cause anyone to think twice about saving mankind, and Jesus may have been considering these things as he prayed; but he had a more terrifying trial to endure.  For you see, Jesus was about to bear the full weight of all of mankind’s sin on the cross.  The ransom for humanity would not be paid for just by his physical death, death was just the vehicle for the true work Jesus was about to accomplish.

God’s plan, since the fall of humanity, was to substitute His sinless perfect son as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Piece by piece, God fitted his plan together during the centuries of mankind’s struggles with sin.  Perfection was required for the payment for man’s imperfection, and Jesus was perfect in all his ways, unable to be convicted of wrongdoing, because disobedience didn’t abide in him.  But, by being perfect, he left no legitimate way for God to punish him in our place.  God, being the only perfect and righteous God, couldn’t illegitimately substitute a sinless, and therefore, appropriate sacrifice, as a ransom for the sinful lives of mankind, who legitimately deserved eternal separation from God.

Satan had gained dominion over all of creation and mankind by separating Adam and Eve from God through sin.  Satan held the claim on humanities souls through sin. The Devil also knew that God couldn’t legally do anything about it. God had given humanity the right to choose between serving God or themselves.  God was bound by His word and righteousness to let the chips fall where they may.  Mankind had chosen to serve Satan through sin, and God would not force them to serve righteousness.  But the Devil also knew God had a plan to redeem the rebellious humanity that was so precious to God’s heart.  In the garden, with Adam and Eve standing by watching, God pronounced His sentence on Satan, and spoke of the man who would be born who would crush the Devil’s power.

Genesis 3: 15  And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  NIV 

John the Baptist told us who the offspring of Satan was:

Matthew 3:7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them:  “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  NIV

The prophet Isaiah told us who the offspring of woman was:

Isaiah 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, (God with us).  NIV

At any cost, Satan had to subvert God’s plan to redeem mankind.    He used the nations of the Middle East to try to exterminate Israel, from whom the redeemer would come.  He used Saul to try to kill King David, from who’s seed the Christ would spring.  After Jesus was born, Satan used King Herod to try to eliminate the child while he was still young and helpless.  In all his efforts Satan failed.  But he would not give up; his very existence depended on maintaining authority on earth.

What the Devil didn’t understand was God needed Jesus as a sacrifice for us all.  God wove the sacrifice of His Son into His written word.  Since God was bound by his word, Satan would use God’s own word against him.  What Lucifer didn’t understand was, God in his ultimate wisdom, had placed the seed of mankind’s salvation in his word.  While handing down human law, God, through his servants, had given Satan the loophole he was looking for.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23  If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight.  Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.  You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.  NIV

God decreed, in his own laws for mankind, that anyone who is hanged would be accursed by God, and as cursed, would be separated from God. In the Hebrew and Greek, the root words for accursed and cursed mean to set aside, or separate with contempt.
If Satan could hang Jesus on the tree, God would be bound by his own word and righteousness to separate himself from his Son.  With Jesus separated from God and dead, the Son of God would be Satan’s captive in hell for all eternity.  God’s plan for the redemption of mankind would be ruined and the earth would remain Satan’s kingdom. 

This was all part of God’s plan however, and Jesus knew what lay before him.  He cried out to God three times to somehow change the plan and spare him from what he was to endure.  But in his prayer, Jesus also submitted to God, saying, “Nevertheless, not my will be done, but yours”.  The importance of the prayer of submission forever changed history.  Jesus was able to submit to the cross because he asked his Father to help him.

For most Christians, the cross signifies the physical death of Jesus, and the true meaning of the cross is overlooked because of the obvious.  But something happened on the cross that Jesus had never before experienced.  Jesus had been in constant communion with the Father since before the beginning of time. 

John 1:1 and 14  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who cam from the Father, full of grace and truth.  NIV

Jesus had never known a moment without the presence of God.  We hide ourselves from God when we are aware of the sin in our lives, but Jesus had never sinned and had never separated himself from God.  And God had no reason to separate himself from his sinless son.  But all this changed for Jesus that day on the cross.

Galatians 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”  NIV

According to God’s own word, Jesus became cursed simply because God’s law said he was cursed by hanging on the tree.  The result of being cursed was being separated from God.  Jesus hadn’t sinned in any aspect of his life, nor would he allow himself to sin because he was obedient to God.  Jesus couldn’t separate himself from God short of sinning and he didn’t want to be separated from God.  But God, bound by his word and his righteousness, had to separate himself from anyone who was cursed.  So, Jesus was betrayed, railroaded through the courts, and hung up on a cross to die.  As Jesus hung upon the cross in all of his physical pain, God’s plan for the redemption of mankind went into effect.

Matthew 27:46  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  NIV

God in heaven stood before his throne, and with racking sobs that shook heaven and earth, turned his back on his only begotten Son.  And Jesus, alone for the first and last time in all of eternity, separated from the presence of his Father, cried out in the agony of his galactic isolation.  In that one act of the Father, Jesus carried the full penalty of our sin, separation from his Father, so that we would never again have to endure separation from God because of our sins.

But Jesus was still the sinless, righteous Son of the Living God.  And he never lost sight of that, even in the totality of his separation from his Father.  Without sin to mar his life, Jesus would have hung on the cross for eternity, unconquered by death.

I Corinthians 15:56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law,  NIV

Jesus had to choose to die because sin had no hold over him.  Jesus had to choose to die because death had no hold over him.  He had to die to be ushered through the gates of Hell and finish the transaction for our souls.

Luke 23:46  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  When he has said this, he breathed his last.  NIV

Jesus willingly let go of this life to take the next step.  Meanwhile, everything was going far better for Satan than he could ever have imagined.  It was far too easy to kill Jesus.  A little greed, some pride, a healthy dose of lies, even God himself submitted to His own words and forsook his cursed Son on the cross.  It was all child’s play for the god of this world.  And now the Devil’s demons would usher Jesus through the gates of Hell to the eternal damnation of The Christ and all of mankind.

But Jesus hadn’t surrendered his spirit to the effects of sin and death.  Jesus hadn’t rejected the Father’s authority in his life.  On the contrary, with his last mortal breath, Jesus had given his eternal spirit into God’s care. In all his trickery, Satan had never understood Jesus was submitting to the will of God.  The Devil never realized that he hadn’t defeated Jesus, but had opened up his stronghold to the champion of the Hosts of Heaven.  In those first few moments after Jesus’ death, Satan came face to face with his worst nightmare.  It wasn’t the beaten Jesus hanging on the tree who was dragged through the gate of Hell, it was the Son of God in all his power, it was the Lion of Judah, roaring in victory, who now had legal right to kick in the portals of eternal damnation and bring salvation to those who had died holding on to the promise of the Messiah. 

Matthew 27:51-53  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split.  The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.  NIV

This was the payoff for Jesus.  This is what he and the Father had laid out so carefully throughout the history of fallen mankind.  This was what saw Jesus through his soul searing separation from his Father.

Hebrews 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  NIV

What was the joy that was set before Jesus that helped him endure the agonies of the cross?  Was it to sit at the right hand of the throne of God?  No, Jesus had been with the Father for all eternity.  No, it was us, we are the reward of Jesus’ suffering.  All he got out of the deal was us.  Our redemption is the prize, the goal, and the joy that motivated Jesus.  The joy of spending eternity with us in our Father presence drove Jesus to cross.  That joy helped him be obedient to the Father, even to his own death.

Because Jesus prayed and asked the Father to help him submit to his Father’s will, we are here today.  What is the most important prayer we can pray?  “Father, help me yield to you.”

Now, you and I haven’t been called on to sacrifice our lives to save mankind, or have we?  We aren’t sinless, our lives can’t be sacrificed as a ransom for many, or can they? 

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to his disciples,  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” NIV

If ANY man; If any PERSON; that includes EVERYONE in this room; we are all called on to deny ourselves, submit ourselves to the will of the Father, take up our cross, whatever we are called upon to sacrifice, and follow the example of Jesus.  Are we sinless?  No.  But we are the Body of Christ, we are his hands and feet.  We have to carry one his work until he comes for us again.

Romans 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in vie of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  NIV

The most important prayer you can pray today and every day of your life is this:  Father, help me submit to your will.  Help me yield to you and do what you need done.  This is our reasonable service.

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