In 1907, the great preacher E.M. Bounds wrote these powerful words which are still challenging the hearts of God’s people to this day.

God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men…What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use–men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men–men of prayer. (Preacher and Prayer, E.M. Bounds, 1907, p. 5,7)

In the past several weeks Almighty God has been continuously probing my heart concerning prayer; the time that I spend with Him resting in His arms, listening to His voice, and heeding His call upon my life. I have to admit to you that it has been one of the most challenging times I have experienced in a long time. I, like most of you, have convinced myself that I am too busy to spend extended times in prayer, or doing “nothing” as some of us would say. I have things to do, people to see, places to go…you know the line. I have rationalized and justified my busyness by seeking to convince myself that if the sermon doesn’t get written then I could be in big trouble. If the articles don’t get written for the newsletter then we will publish blank sheets of paper. If I don’t make myself available to every single person who needs to talk then I will be talked about in negative terms. God has shown me in recent weeks that the problem with all of the above concerns is “I.” I have made myself the focus, the creator of all that flows from me, and I have been wrong. John Wesley once said, “I have an especially busy schedule before me today, therefore I will need to spend an extra hour in prayer.”

God has shown me that He wants me, humbled and still before His presence more than He wants the sermons I write, the classes I teach, the counsel I offer, or the people I lead to His Son. God wants me and you to come before Him seeking nothing more than to come to know His heart, to be still so that we can hear His precious voice calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.

I am learning that it is in these quiet moments of seeking the heart of God in prayer that He unleashes the power for walking in His Spirit and living as He has called us to live. I want to encourage you this morning to unleash the power God has supplied for living victoriously in our day-to-day lives. For our study this morning we will focus on Ephesians 1:15-23. Take a look at our Scripture for this morning.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, {16} I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. {17} I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. {18} I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, {19} and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, {20} which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, {21} far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. {22} And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, {23} which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph 1:15-23 NIV)

This is Paul’s prayer for those he loves. This is also my prayer for you, those I love and pray for continuously. Because of what I do the Lord allows me to have an insight on the most intimate details of people’s lives. I have arrived at some conclusions that burden my heart.

I am convinced that most of the followers of Jesus are beaten down and living defeated from day-to-day. Satan is beating up on the Body of Christ one-by-one. He has convinced scores of believers that they are losers, inept, and ineffective in their Christian walk. As a result they have taken a seat on the sidelines of life in exchange for the satisfaction of knowing that if they do nothing then they won’t have to face failure ever again. Those who have suffered the break-up of their marriage vow to never go through “that” again. Those who volunteered to work in a ministry and were hurt or discouraged back away from the vision God placed in their heart and vow to never make themselves vulnerable again. Those who once shared a deep friendship only to have their heart ripped out vow to never get that close to another person again. Those who tried to start a business that would give glory to God only to have the responsibilities of leadership lead them into sleepless nights promise themselves that they will quit as soon as they can find someone to take over. Those who decided to attend a Bible class only to find they have gotten behind in their lessons decide that they just can’t do it and never go back again. Those who committed to daily prayer miss a day or two or a month and give up prayer altogether.

Satan is having a field day with the foot soldiers of the Kingdom! God’s desire for you and for me is that we would unleash the power He has provided for us in order that we might live each day to His glory and honor. God’s desire for each of us is that we might live in the fullness of His presence and come to understand the unmeasurable grace and power that He has for us as we seek His heart.

One of the greatest barriers that prevent us from unleashing God’s power for our lives is our misunderstanding of prayer. Far too many believers today understand prayer to be some kind of “heavenly 911.” I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t want us to cry out to Him when we are in the throes of despair and needing help, but if that is our primary understanding of prayer then we are in trouble.

Imagine with me for a moment. Think of your very best friend in all the world. If you only heard from your buddy when he or she was in trouble how would that impact your friendship? Would that change the way you felt about your friend? Of course if would.

There is a friend of mine I will call Joey who calls periodically to talk to me. He hasn’t been to church in several years. He never stops by to say, “Hi.” When he calls, he calls collect. Whenever my secretary says, “Mike, Joey is on the phone. Will you accept a collect call?” I always say “Yes,” because I know that Joey is in jail again and needing me to pray for him or come to visit him downtown. I love Joey. That is why I always accept his calls. I will continue to accept Joey’s calls and I will continue to pray that the Lord will break through to Joey some day, but I do not share the deep intimacy with Joey that I desire. Joey sees me as some kind of “Get out of jail free” card to be called upon whenever he gets in trouble.

What I desire for Joey and me is that we might be able to sit down and talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives. I wish that we could pray together and give God thanks for what He is doing. I would love for us to be able to come to know each other’s hearts in a deep way.

As it is with Joey and me so it is with God and you, and God and me. The Father wants us to call upon Him when we are in trouble, but more than that He wants us simply to come into His presence. Jesus said,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30 NIV)

We need a correct understanding of prayer. Prayer is not going to God to get what we want. Prayer is going to God so that we can gain a better understanding of His heart and what He wants for us.

There is a great story told by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. In the book, Ivan endures all the horrors of a Soviet prison camp. One day he is praying with his eyes closed when a fellow prisoner notices him and says with ridicule, “Prayers won’t help you get out of here any faster.” Opening his eyes, Ivan answers, “I do not pray to get out of prison but to do the will of God.” (Our Daily Bread, December 29, 1993)

That my friend is the heart of prayer! That is the heart of God for you and for me. Not that we simply pray to get out of whatever we have gotten into, but that we do the will of God each day of our lives.

In the time we have left, I want us to focus on three keys to unleashing the power of God in our lives through prayer. You need to know something as we begin. If you pray simply to have power you will miss it and find yourself powerless. That leads us to our first lesson.

Pray seeking intimacy. When we humble ourselves before God we should seek first and foremost to come to know the Father in a deeper way. If our prayer time is full of our words then our prayers are merely full of us. If I want to get to know you then I need to be quiet and listen to you share your heart with me. J.I. Packer wrote in his book, Your Father Loves You,

The aim of prayer is not to force God’s hand or make him do our will against his own, but to deepen our knowledge of him and our fellowship with him through contemplating his glory, confessing our dependence and need, and consciously embracing his goals. (James Packer, Your Father Loves You. Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.)

I have learned a few lessons about myself and about marriage in general during the years that I have been married to Connie. When we were first married I was very insecure. You would think that after having dated and committing ourselves to spending the rest of our lives together that I would be secure in our relationship. Not so. I wondered when I would do something so bone-headed that she would leave. I was not secure in my position as Connie’s husband. I knew that legally I was her husband, but you and I both know that there is much more to staying married than legal documents signed and sealed.

Something wonderful has taken place. I no longer suffer from insecurity in my relationship with Connie. You may wonder why? The reason is because I have come to know her heart. I have watched her act in my life, and I rest in the security of the deep intimacy of knowing her heart for me.

When we come to know God in a deep, personal way, the same sense of security will permeate our being and we will be able to live free in His grace. Intimacy with the Father will lead us to a desire to know Him more and more in a deeper way than we’ve ever experienced before.

Secondly, we need to pray seeking a greater dependence. When we pray we need to confess our dependence upon Almighty God. No matter who you are, there are things in your life that eat away at your soul. You know in your heart that it is building a wall between you and a deeper walk with God. You are embarrassed. You are discouraged. You wish you could do something to alleviate your predicament, but you seem powerless to do so.

For some it may be a fiery temper that causes you to fly off the handle and hurt those that you love. Some may harbor hate-filled feelings in their heart for people of another race or may look down on those who do not have the financial means that you do. For others it may be a dependence on drugs or alcohol to help you escape your problems. Some here may lack discipline and your lack of discipline causes you to make promises that you rarely keep. The list goes on and on.

God never intended for us to become enslaved by the things that plague us. What He does intend is for us to throw up our hands in surrender to His holy power; power that is able to deliver us from the shackles of sin’s slavery.

God wants us to know in our hearts that we are completely dependent upon Him for everything – the air we breath, our ability to get out of bed in the morning, the continued blessing of our relationships, our material possessions and the ability to make a living, and most importantly, our salvation. Jesus said in John’s Gospel,

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. {5} “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 NIV)

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” That is a revolutionary idea that will totally change our lives if we will not simply “say” the words, but actually live their truth. Our problem is that we see dependence as weakness. God sees those who confess their powerlessness and frailty to Him as a sign of strength, an opportunity for Him to pour His immeasurable power into us. Let me give you a few examples from God’s Word.

You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty. (Psa 18:27 NIV)

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. (Psa 25:9 NIV)

For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. (Psa 149:4 NIV)

Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 29:19 NIV)

This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? {2} Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isa 66:1-2 NIV)

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. (Dan 10:12 NIV)

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zep 2:3 NIV)

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. (Luke 1:52 NIV)

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” {6} Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Pet 5:5-6 NIV)

When we recognize that Jesus was right when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” and we turn our eyes to the Father in total and complete dependence, then He will do through us far beyond what we ever imagined.

On February 7, 1997, Dr. Ben Carson stood up to address the 45th Annual National Prayer Breakfast. When Vice President Al Gore’s young son, Albert III, nearly died of injuries sustained when he was struck by a car in 1989, one of the consulting physicians was Dr. Ben Carson, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Dr. Carson was guest speaker for the 45th Annual National Prayer Breakfast. Among the overflow crowd of 4,000 elected officials and guests from 170 countries, including President and Mrs. Clinton, were Mr. and Mrs. Gore, who took the opportunity to thank Dr. Carson for helping save their son’s life.

Achieving such acclaim hasn’t been easy for Dr. Carson. Growing up without a father in inner-city Detroit, the doctor told a hushed audience Thursday how he once tore open the forehead of a fellow classmate while clutching a metal lock in his fist; how he tried to stab a youngster in the abdomen with a knife; and how he went after his own mother wielding a hammer.

When he was young his temper was out of control. Dr. Carson finally reached the end of his rope and after one outburst he ran into the bathroom of his house where he said, “I got on my knees and prayed.”

Ben Carson learned as a young boy that he was totally and completely dependent upon Almighty God. He knew that he couldn’t even control his temper without God’s help much less achieve any of his dreams.

As Ben Carson concluded his speech to the audience at the prayer breakfast he credited his incredible turnaround so many years ago to his mother and God, whom he called his heavenly and earthly Father.

The God who has been at work in Ben Carson’s life also wants to work in your life and mine if we will but let Him. We need to realize that we are dependent upon Almighty God and confess that to Him continuously.

Thirdly, we need to pray seeking understanding. As we walk with God we need for Him to give us understanding or we will become disillusioned and end up walking away or spending all of our time frustrated. God has said,

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. {7} Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. {8} “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. {9} “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:6-9 NIV)

There is a marked difference between my thoughts and God’s thoughts. A situation can take place in my life and I can give you my opinion in a heartbeat. I am learning that my opinions and judgments are oftentimes wrong. What I need is understanding, and understanding concerning life begins and ends at the throne of God.

It doesn’t matter the situation, if we do not have God’s understanding then our walk with Him can be devastated by our erroneous conclusions. Mrs. Hanover can testify to what I am saying.

Mrs. Hanover had been praying for her husband to come to know Christ for years when he was suddenly killed in an automobile accident. She became so angry with God for not answering her prayers that she stopped serving him for more than five years. Her conclusion was wrong, God had answered her prayers, but she didn’t know it.

What Mrs. Hanover didn’t know was that on May 7th, a young man named Roger Simms was hitchhiking his way home after getting out of the army. His heavy suitcase made Roger tired. He was anxious to take off his army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sigh to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. “Going home for keeps?” “Sure am,” Roger responded. “Well, you’re in luck if you’re going to Chicago.” “Not quite that far. Do you live in Chicago?” “I have a business there. My name is Hanover.”

After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness to this fiftyish, apparently successful businessman about Christ. But he kept putting it off until he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never. So, Roger cleared his throat, “Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior. To Roger’s astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger. “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him five years before. In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises. A receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover. A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself in the presence of a lovely woman in her fifties. She extended her hand. “You knew my husband?” Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war. “Can you tell me when that was?” “It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army.” “Anything special about that day?” Roger hesitated. Roger wondered if he should tell her about sharing Christ with her husband, but since he had come so far, he decided that he might as well take the plunge. “Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day.”

Explosive sobs shook her body. Getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, “I had prayed for my husband’s salvation for years. I believed God would save him.” “And,” said Roger, “Where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?” “He’s dead,” she wept, struggling with words. “He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see–I thought God had not kept His promise.” Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, “I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!” (Why Christians Sin, J.Kirk Johnston, Discovery House, 1992, p. 39-41)

We need understanding or we, like Mrs. Hanover, will become disillusioned with God and walk away.

When we come to God not asking for a handout, but with hands lifted up in dependence and adoration of His glory and majesty, then something awesome takes place. God changes us from powerless people content with sitting on the sidelines to powerful people who will be used to bring Him honor and glory.

We have trusted in all kinds of things to help us make it through this life – none of them have or will worked except for humbly submitting ourselves to our King and Lord. We can trust in whom we know or what we have or what we know, but eventually they will prove themselves as lacking what we need. A.C. Dixon once said,

When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. Nor am I disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place, but when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.” (A.C. Dixon, in Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 108)

God is stirring within me a serious call to prayer. I want to invite you to unleash His power in your life by turning to Him in prayer. Don’t pray seeking power, pray seeking the face of God and in turn, without you ever recognizing what is going on, He will empower you with His power – power that cannot be overcome. Mary, Queen of Scotland, once said of the great preacher John Knox, “I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.”

By far the greatest, most powerful prayer that anyone can pray is the prayer of salvation. With one simple prayer God will rescue you from eternal separation from His presence, He will open your eyes to His glory, and He will place His Spirit within you to enable you to overcome the world! I pray that today you will humble yourself before God and ask Him to come into your heart, forgive you of your sin, and begin to unleash His power in your life! Ask Him in.

Unleash The Power
Ephesians 1:15-23