A. Introduction: For the last two weeks we’ve been talking about prayer as part of a larger discussion about
learning to praise and thank God continually, no matter what is happening in our lives. In this lesson, we
have more to say about prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
1. When Jesus was on earth He told a parable about a woman who went to a judge repeatedly, asking for
justice, and persevered until she got it. We aren’t going to discuss the story in detail, but note how Jesus
began the parable. He said that “men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1, KJV).
a. The Greek word that is translated always means at all times. The Greek word that is translated faint
means lose heart or give up. Jesus’ point in telling the parable was that His followers should
always pray and persevere or persist (keep at it, never give up) in prayer.
b. Paul the apostle made similar statements about prayer. Remember, Jesus personally taught Paul
the message that he preached (Gal 1:11-12). Paul wrote these words:
1. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of
God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thess 5:16-18, ESV). Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation,
be constant in prayer (Rom 12:12, ESV).
2. Without ceasing means continually. Be constant means to persevere. The Greek that word is
translated tribulation means pressure (literal or figurative), and can be translated anguish,
burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble. Notice continual prayer is mentioned in the
context of always rejoicing and enduring in tribulation.
2. These statements about prayer from Jesus and Paul can seem overwhelming because, for many if not
most of us, finding time to pray is challenging. And when we do take time to pray, we quickly run out
of things to say. So how can we possibly pray at all times and persist or persevere in prayer?
a. Prayer is more than asking God to give and do things for us things. Prayer is the means by which
we commune (communicate) with God. It’s something we’re to do continually because we are in
relationship with Him. We talk to Him because He’s our Father and we’re His sons and daughters.
b. One of the reasons we need to learn to praise and thank God continually is that thanksgiving and
praise are actually expressions of prayer to God, one of the ways we pray continually.
1. By praise I mean verbally acknowledging who God is and what He does. Thanksgiving means
expressing gratefulness to God for what He has done, is doing, and will do.
2. When we praise and thank God, we communicate (express to Him) our reverence and love for
Him, and our dependence on Him for everything. Praising and thanking God continually
helps us to pray (or talk to Him) without ceasing.
B. For most of us prayer, means telling God what we need or want or asking Him to stop our problem and fix our
situation. To pray always, we need to know that there are no easy answers or quick fixes to most of life’s
problems, and we need to understand that there are other ways to pray, such as with praise and thanksgiving.
1. Many of life’s problems can’t be easily changed. Most mountains can’t be moved. We have to go
around, climb over, or tunnel through them. In others words we have to find a way to deal with it as it is.
a. Because of lack of knowledge or poor teaching, people often ask God to give us or do for us what He
has not promised to do or give—like end our trouble now.
b. Or, we try to claim specific answers—a specific job, house, or outcome in our situation. But, God
has not promised to do our will. He does His will.
1. Because we don’t have all the facts in any circumstance or see the long range ramifications of
our circumstances, we don’t actually know what the best outcome would be in many situations.
A. Remember when Joseph (Abraham’s great-grandson) was sold into slavery by his wicked
brothers? No amount of prayer could have stopped or quickly ended what happened to
him—not because God didn’t care about Joseph, but because God doesn’t override man’s
free will or stop the effect of those choices.
B. However, God saw a way to use the situation and bring great good out of it. Joseph
eventually ended up in position to save thousands of lives during a time of famine—
including his own family (Gen 37-50; Review lesson TCC—1234, if necessary.)
2. God uses the harsh realities of life in a fallen world and causes them to serve His will and His
ultimate purpose—which is to have a family of sons and daughters who are like Jesus in
character and holiness. And He is able to bring genuine good out of genuine bad as He does
so—some now and some in the life to come. Rom8:28-30
c. Much, if not most, of the time, prayer doesn’t change your circumstances. Prayer changes you by
changing your perspective and your attitude toward your circumstances.
1. While Paul was in jail he wrote: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience
God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace
will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7, NLT).
2. According to Paul, the first effect of prayer is peace of mind, a peace that passes understanding.
Even though your circumstances haven’t changed you feel a sense of relief because you’ve
gone to Almighty God, your Father, for help. You trust Him to use the situation for good.
d. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make definite requests to God—I need a job, help, wisdom, etc.
Note that in the verse cited above, Paul did say that we should tell God what we need. But you
can’t dictate the specifics—how, when, where.
2. In the last two lessons we discussed the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave when His disciples asked Him
to teach them how to pray (Matt 6:9-13). In this prayer we find principles that apply to all prayer.
a. Jesus said: Go to Almighty God with the awareness that He is your Father. Acknowledge or
praise Him first. Above all, desire that His will be done and His kingdom come on earth. Ask
your Heavenly Father for what you need, both for material and spiritual provision. With the
awareness that troubles can’t be avoided in this world, ask Him to lead you on the best route
possible, based on all the factors involved. Ask Him to help you deal with temptation.
b. Note, none of this prayer is geared toward having a wonderful, prosperous life where all your
heart’s desires are granted and your dreams come true. It’s geared toward God’s glory and His will
coming to pass.
1. When Jesus taught about prayer He made it clear that our priorities and our perspective must be
different from those who don’t belong to God. And that difference is reflected in our prayers.
2. Jesus said: Don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing…Your heavenly
Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you
live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern (Matt 6:31-33, NLT).
3. In the same sermon where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer and told His followers to seek first God’s will
and kingdom, Jesus made another statement about prayer. He said: ask, seek, and knock. The
original Greek language has the idea of keeping on asking, seeking, and knocking.
a. Matt 7:7-8—Keep on asking for something to be given and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking,
and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who
keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving. And he who keeps on seeking,
keeps on finding. And to him who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened (Wuest).
b. Matt 7:9-11—Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he
asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to
your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask
1. Jesus’ point is that we have a Heavenly Father who will help us. Because He is a good Father
who loves us, He gives us what we need. But sometimes what we need isn’t what we want in
the moment. I may think that something is good for me, but He knows better. The Lord is
more interested in my spiritual growth than He is my material prosperity.
2. The Gospel of Luke includes an additional statement made by Jesus in this teaching: If you
then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the
heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13, ESV).
c. In other words, Jesus said that our Father will give us more of Himself to help us deal with whatever
we face. Paul himself learned this lesson by experience.
1. Paul was repeatedly harassed by a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan (fallen angel) who
stirred up wicked people against Him wherever he went to preach the gospel. Paul asked God
three times to remove it. The Lord’s answer was: My grace is all you need. II Cor 12:7-9
2. Paul’s response: So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ
(God by His Spirit in me), may work through me (II Cor 12:9, NLT).
3. Keep on asking, seeking, knocking is another way of saying, continually look to and express
your dependence on God your Father for the help you need to live this difficult life.
4. Maybe you are thinking: Doesn’t the Bible say that God will give us whatever we ask for in prayer and
that we can decree and declare what we want in the circumstances?
a. These (and related ideas) are based on verses that are taken out of context. In many circles today,
the message preached is man centered rather than God centered. It focuses on how to get your
prayers answered so you can be blessed rather than on how to pray in a way that glorifies God.
b. This message gives people the idea that if you pray and believe in a certain way you can change your
circumstances and get what you want out of life. Note these frequently misused verses.
1. Jesus said: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will
be done for you (John 15:7, ESV).
A. This isn’t a blanket statement. Jesus spoke these words to men who left all to follow Him
(His apostles). All of them will experience persecution and some will die as martyrs.
B. This statement applies to those who know God’s Word (which reveals which what He
wants) and desire that above all, God be glorified.
2. People wrongly use a phrase in Rom 4:17—God quickeneth the dead and calleth those things
that be not as though they were—to say that we should speak out what we want so it will come
to pass. This verse has nothing to do with us decreeing or calling things into existence.
A. Paul was explaining that righteousness comes to us by faith, not by works (fulfilling the
demands of the Law of Moses). Paul then gave the example of Abraham, who believed
what God told him (you’re going to have a son) and was declared righteous by God.
B. Rom 4:17—This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead
back to life and who brings into existence what didn’t exist before (NLT). This is a
description of what God Almighty does—not a reference to what we can or should do. 5.
In the last two lessons we referred to a statement that Jesus made about our Father’s care for us. Jesus
said: Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing
it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him
than a whole flock of sparrows (Matt 10:29-30, NLT).
a. Jesus said these words as He was preparing His apostles for what they would face as they preached
Him and His gospel. They would be persecuted, threatened, arrested, and hated. Matt 10:16-28
b. The fact is, life is hard in a sin damaged world and sparrows fall to the ground (die). People die and
pain and loss occurs in this life—not because God doesn’t care, but because that’s life in a fallen
world. But those losses will be reversed in the life to come, and we can thank and praise God now.
We can actually thank our Heavenly Father for victory in the face of loss and death.
1. Jesus said: In this world we will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be
of good cheer—take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted—for I have overcome the
world—I have deprived it of power to harm, have conquered it [for you] (John 16:33, Amp).
2. Jesus spoke these words the night before He went to the Cross to pay for sin, conquer death,
and open the way for those who believe on Him to be delivered from sin and death.
A. Note how this impacted Paul’s life as he faced death for preaching the gospel. In the
context of resurrection of the dead (the reuniting of those who have died with their bodies
raised from the grave), Paul wrote:
B. Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is
your sting? …How we thank God who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus
Christ our Lord (I Cor 15:55-57, NLT).
6. Let’s consider an example of how the apostles prayed once Jesus returned to Heaven. In Acts 3-4, Peter
and John healed a lame man outside the Temple at Jerusalem in the name of Jesus.
a. The religious leaders arrested them, ordered them to not speak again in the name of Jesus, threatened
and then released them. Peter and John rejoined the other believers and went to God in prayer.
b. Note how they prayed: They began by magnifying God. Next they recounted His promises and
faithfulness to keep His Word. Then they made their request: Grant that we may speak with
boldness by stretching forth your hand to heal in the name of Jesus. And God, by His Spirit,
answered their prayer. Acts 4:29-31
c. They didn’t pray: Make these men stop harassing us or decree that this ends now. They prayed
eternal priorities: Help us do your will, proclaim Jesus, and see your kingdom come.
C. Conclusion: Jesus said that we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. Paul wrote
that we are to pray without ceasing, give thanks in every circumstance, and persevere in prayer.
1. We’ve been told that if you pray more than once it’s unbelief. But, prayer is not mechanical, it’s
relational. Prayer is meant to be an expression of your trust in and dependence on God for everything.
a. We are to continually seek God for help—not begging Him to do something—but keeping our focus
on Him because we’re certain of His help, since we know who He is and what He does.
b. We trust God to work in our circumstances to bring the highest good to the greatest number of
people possible, along with the most glory to Himself. We leave the specifics and timing to Him.
2. How can you pray continually? One way is by incorporating praise and thanksgiving into every part of
your day. That’s another way of saying you need to develop a habit of praise and thanksgiving.
Remember, praise and thanksgiving are expressions of prayer.
a. As soon you wake up praise and thank God. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, praise
and thank God. If you wake up during the night, praise and thank God. During the day, if you
aren’t actively thinking about something that must be dealt with, praise and thank God.
b. This won’t happen automatically. You’ll have to put forth effort to get control of your thoughts
and your mouth. But it’s part of your duty before your Creator to glorify Him through praise and
thanksgiving. And it’s part of relationship with God our Father.
1. Through continual prayer (praise and thanksgiving) you’re expressing your trust in Him as a
good Father who will work in your situation and do what is best for His glory and your good.
2. Instead of begging God to stop all your troubles, pray like this: Lord, use this circumstance for
eternal purposes. Use it to bring people to saving knowledge of Jesus. Use it to help me to
exercise patience and grow in Christ-likeness. I praise and thank you that you are at work and
that you will bring good out of bad. And you will get me through until you get me out.
c. That’s how you pray continually and persevere in prayer. More next week!