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A Pattern For Prayer

by Jake Roberts

Sermon Title & Scriptural Text:

A Pattern for Prayer (Genesis 24)

COC LECOMPTE – Sunday Morning Worship Service – July 9, 2023

 

Sermon Outline:

  1. The Servant’s Prayer was Plainspoken
  2. The Servant’s Prayer was Personal

III. The Servant’s Prayer was Petitionary

  1. The Servant’s Prayer was Particular

 

Lecompte AM 7/9/23____________________________________________________________________________________

Introduction – It has been my observation that the simplest things in life can become the most complicated. I’ve found the inverse to be frequently true also. Things that seem to be the most complicated can be the simplest. The same dichotomy can be described in our faith.

     A one of the most influential thinkers and theologians of the early 20th century was a German named Karl Barth. Barth had spent his life studying scripture and the things of God. He was critical thinker and prolific writer who explored the interrelation of faith, theology and culture.

      In 1962, he toured the United States making several presentations. The story is told of how one night after lecturing at a seminary, someone asked him, “What in your judgment is the essence of the Christian faith?” Let’s stop for a moment and appreciate the gravity and depth of that question. Remember, a moment ago, I said things that are simplest are often most complicated, and things that are most complicated are often the simplest. How would you answer that question? What IS the essence of the Christian faith?

      After pausing for a brief moment, Barth replied, “Yes, I can summarize in a few words my understanding of the Christian faith. Let me put it this way: ‘Jesus loves me, this I Know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

 

    You see, it really isn’t all that complicated. God LOVES you, and this book says as much! This morning, I want to simplify a facet of our faith that is so often overcomplicated: prayer. Turn with me, in your Bibles to Genesis 24, as the scripture there will bear out for us A Pattern for Prayer.

    In my opinion, prayer is something we cannot do enough of, study enough of, or speak enough of. Yet, far too many Christians are guilty of treating prayer as an afterthought. Or, there only exercise in communion with God consists of, “Lord, thank you for this food we are about to receive.”

    Have you ever been very busy, and stopped to pray because of it? Martin Luther once said he had so much to do one day, he couldn’t hope to accomplish it all without at least three hours in prayer! How about that? Do you have that kind of prayer life?

    Another question in that vein was put forward by the Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom: “Is prayer your spare tire, or your steering wheel?”

ILLUST: Prayer time versus Phone time

In May 2023, during a The National Day of Prayer Study—adults aged 18-64 were surveyed about ways they connect with God. Among its findings: while Americans have varied definitions and methods of prayer, those who pray spend an average of 18 minutes praying daily, with nearly half saying they pray on a regular basis.

      While we apparently spend less than 20 minutes a day in prayer, compare it with another study. According to recent data, the average person spends 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone each day. And 1 in 5 smartphone users spends upwards of 4.5 hours on average on their phones every day.

      Perhaps surprisingly, weekdays average more smartphone use than weekends. On average, people check their phones 58 times per day. And almost 52% of phone checks (30 per day) occur during work hours.

 

    How sad is it, that we spend more time on our phones than we do communing with God?! In our passage of Genesis, today, I believe that the Bible bears out for you a way of praying that most never think about. This story is not about a biblical figure you’ve heard of. In fact, the central prayer in this passage isn’t even named – he’s an unnamed servant of Abraham!

    In this portion of the Biblical narrative, father Abraham is sending out his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. You see, it will be through Isaac that the Abrahamic Covenant will continue. Remember it? God promised Abraham to give him a large portion of land, to make his descendants as numerous as the stars (turning Abraham’s line into a great nation), and – most importantly – God promised to bless all the world through the line of Abraham.

     We know, now, that God was speaking of sending his own Son into human flesh through the family and nation of Abraham. Through Abraham and his line came Christ Jesus. Through Abraham and his line came the law and the prophets and the scriptures. In order for those promises to come to fruition, the blessing had to pass from Abraham to Isaac, and Isaac needed a wife!

 

   Now, you might be wondering, “Jake, I’m following you here, but what’s this got to do with prayer?” Let me explain. In Genesis 24, Abraham sends out one of his servants to go and find a wife for Isaac. When this unnamed servant seeks to accomplish this task, he illustrates for you a powerful pattern for prayer. This morning, I wish to study through some of things he prayed in Genesis 24, as he was seeking to find Isaac’s wife.

 

     Before we begin reading this text, let me preface it with one more fact. I suppose you know that (obviously) God DID provide a wife for Isaac. Her name was Rebekah. The fact that leapt off the page when I read this story with my own wife at home is this: Isaac was able to steer clear of certain sins that his father Abraham committed, and that his own sons and grandsons committed. I’m referring specifically to the fact that Isaac had ONE wife, Rebekah. Many in his family, both his father and his sons, were guilty of the sin of polygamy.

 

    This is important. You ought to know that one of the biggest arguments against the Bible is the prevalence of polygamy. In the beginning, as we read (and as Jesus affirms in Matthew 19) God created marriage for ONE man and ONE woman. YET, in scripture, there are dozens and dozens of examples of men marrying or bedding multiple women or wives

     The lost of the world use this to decry, denounce, and dismiss the Bible. They say, “AHA! You see, your God said ‘One man and woman,’ yet, here we see boatloads of people going against him, etc.” Those who make that argument are not wrong in seeing the failures of man! There ARE many, MANY examples of polygamy in the Bible:

      Abraham (Isaac’s father) was guilty of having multiple women. Jacob (Isaac’s son) was guilty of polygamy. Isaac’s descendants (through Jacob) also fell into it. Two of the most prominent examples have to be King David and his son, King Solomon. David had multiple wives, Solomon set the record.  According to the Bible (I Kings 11) Solomon had had 700 wives and 300 concubines (essentially wives of a lower status).

 

     Now, I stand by this: God never intended this for marriage. There is a marked difference between approval and allowance. God allowed this, the reasons for which can be saved for another time. Because this morning, as said, I want to speak to you about prayer.

    But I bring this to your attention, even before we read this passage because this servant prayed that he might find a wife for Isaac…Of all the instances of polygamy and sin in scripture, ISAAC NEVER HAD MORE THAN ONE BRIDE. Isaac married Rebekah, and that’s IT!

    Now, I know God is sovereign and his will is what is ultimately accomplished in this world. However, I believe, the reason Isaac was able to escape this sin and others was (largely) because of PRAYER…

 

    Abraham’s servant PRAYED to find Isaac a wife, and God answered. Folks, God answers prayer! C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets his people to pray.”

    I’m no Isaac, despite sharing the name of his younger son. But I say to you, that I’m convinced I met Ariel when I did and married her when I did is largely because of prayer. When I was still in diapers, my father prayed that God would give me a Christlike wife, who loved God more than me and who would lead me into God’s will – AND HE HAS.

    Now, without further ado, notice this incredible story that is so often overlooked. Again, this isn’t a story of David killing a giant or Daniel surviving the lion den. This would be considered a trivial text by casual readers of scripture! Yet, there is a perfect pattern for prayer here!

Genesis 24:10-14 ESV

10Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. 11And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. 12And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

 

    If you read this chapter in its entirety, or if you skimmed the first few verses while I was speaking a moment ago, you see that Abraham even made this servant VOW in accepting this task. That’s a subject for another time, interesting though it is. I want you to see the pattern for prayer laid down in this story…far too many of us today don’t pray or don’t know how to pray as we ought!

ILLUST:  According to a Lifeway Research Poll, Americans have some rather interesting things they’ve prayed for. While the unnamed servant in Genesis 24 was praying to find a daughter-in-law for his master, get this:

 

 

     The Bible is given to us for many things, one of which to help us in our weakness and arrogance. God does not wish for you to be so divided in your prayers…His own Holy Spirit is said to intercede for us and help us in our poor attempts at praying:

Romans 8:26-27 ESV

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

    This morning, I ask you to consider some things with me about this servant’s prayer, I believe it shows us such a great pattern for prayer. There are four things I pray God’s Holy Spirit would inscribe on your heart and mind today. Consider firstly that:

 

  1. THE SERVANT’S PRAYER WAS PLAINSPOKEN

    Let me not mince words here…what I am saying is that this man’s prayer was not loaded with spiritual jargon, gobbled-gook, or emptiness. For one thing, I choose to believe that he prayed out loud.

Genesis 24:12a ESV And he said…

 

    There’s something special about praying out loud. Let me say there’s nothing wrong with praying silently. In fact, there are many examples in scripture of people praying to God nonverbally – and God heard them. The most prominent, in my mind, was the mother of Samuel, Hannah. She stood outside the Lord’s Tabernacle and prayed so seriously in her heart, and didn’t speak aloud, the priest there thought her drunk:

I Samuel 1:12-13 ESV

12As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 

 

     Be sure, God hears our silent prayers. In fact, later in this chapter, Abraham’s servant said that he was speaking “In his heart” (Gen. 24:45). Yet, I bring up this point about praying aloud for a reason. According to a survey done by the Barna Group, the overwhelming majority of people pray in two ways: by themselves and silently.

 

    There’s nothing wrong with that. You can pray silently. However, let me encourage you to pray aloud more often – preferably with your family or your spouse. Do you know how much more real, how much more intimate that can make the prayer life of your family and your marriage?

    Ariel and I didn’t always pray aloud together, for a long time it may have just been me doing the talking. But husbands, wives, I urge you to go and try this. Get to a quiet, desolate place. Then, just the two of you, talk to God. Pour your heart out to him. You don’t have to be worried.

     As Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “We don’t pray to inform God – he knows everything already. We don’t pray to impress God, he hates pride! We pray to INVITE God.” God HAS to be the center of your life, your marriage, and your family if you seek to prosper the way Christ would have you to.

    Try it! Pray aloud together…there are instances in scripture, just as with nonverbal prayer, of people talking to God in a way that exercised their vocal chords! Yet we’re highlighting the fact that the servant’s prayer was plainspoken. He did not address God in some sort of hollow, over-the-top way.

    A typical Jewish mode of prayer addresses God as “Lord” and “King of the Universe.” And, make no mistake, God most certainly IS Lord and King of the Universe. However, Jesus taught us to pray plainly. Look in your Bibles with me to Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:5-8 ESV

5“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

 

    The first take-away I see in this passages is that the servant’s prayer was plainspoken. Jesus taught his followers to do the same, to pray plainspokenly to God. Yet, Jesus went on in that Great Sermon on the Mount. As with what Jesus then taught, I show you (secondly):

 

  1. THE SERVANT’S PRAYER WAS PERSONAL

Genesis 24:12 ESV And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.

 

     This is the same impetus that Jesus taught us to pray with, our prayers are not to be hollow and professional – but sincere and personal. Notice again from Matthew 6. Again, the typical Jewish mode of addressing God is very formal, very lofty. Notice how Jesus taught us to pray though:

Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread, 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (or the evil one)

 

    Of course, some manuscripts include For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen. Yet, I tell you Jesus was teaching you to pray to God intimately, personally. God as “Almighty, celestial being that rules heaven and earth…” Jesus, instead, taught us to call GOD, “Father.” “Abba,” in the original translation better translates as “Da-da” or “Daddy,” rather than just “father.”

      This is why the Bible says:

Romans 8:15 ESV For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!

 

     This is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer, famed German theologian who was eventually killed by the Nazis, once said, “The right way to pray is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.” We pray to God as a father, he is always available and approachable as such.

ILLUST: I once heard of a little boy in New York City. He went into a large and bustling metropolitan bank that was flooded with people. When the child walked in, to every onlooker’s astonishment, he walked right past the door security. He walked right past the front desk, past every teller and clerk, past every policeman there, and even walked through the hall and passed up the office of the bank’s vice president.

     The little boy then casually walked through the door of the bank president, which had a sign reading, “No admittance.” You see, the boy was able to march straight in because he was the SON of the bank president!

 

Galatians 4:4-6 ESV

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

 

      So far we have noted that the servant’s prayer of Genesis 24 was plainspoken and personal. See thirdly:

 

III. THE SERVANT’S PRAYER WAS PETITIONARY

    This man vows to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham does not want his son to marry into one of the wicked Canaanite tribes. He sends his servant back to where Abraham originally came from. The servant arrives and his prayer is by no means vague. He is specifically petitioning God to find his master’s daughter-in-law.

Genesis 24:12-14 ESV

12And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

 

    Again, this perfectly parallels the way Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer – as we read a moment ago.     Those of us who are conscientious of our own sinfulness, or perhaps those of us who are aware of how good God has been to us, often hesitate in asking for certain things. We feel like spiritual-spoiled brats, when we ask God for something sometimes, at least I do.

    Yet, hear me, the Model Prayer is nothing if not a petitionary prayer. Throughout this prayer, Jesus is teaching us to simply ASK God. Notice the second half of it:

Matthew 6:11-13 ESV

11Give us this day our daily bread, 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

 

     I can confidently tell you: God wants you to ask.

Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If 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 him!

 

      Thomas Watson is to have once said, “Prayer delights God's ear; it melts His heart; and opens His hand. God cannot deny a praying soul.” So ASK God, dear friend. The problem in America today is not the problem of unanswered prayer, but more likely it is unoffered or un-asked prayer! What does the Bible say?

James 4:2-3 ESV 2You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 

 

      As a child should not be afraid to ask of his/her parents, we should not be afraid to ask God for things, things we want and things we need. You know God knows our needs, but we should not be afraid to ask for wants either…I pray that Selah is smart, that God gives her a Christ-like and Christ-centered husband, should he tarry.

 

    I hope you have witnessed the power of this man’s prayer so far. We said his prayer was plainspoken, personal, petitionary, and see lastly:

 

  1. THE SERVANT’S PRAYER WAS PARTICULAR

    What we mean by “particular,” is that he was praying for a specific, particular thing: to find Isaac’s wife. And he did so. I highlight for you because too often I believe we are not praying specifically and particularly. In example, you’ll note that our church prayer list has our schools and teachers on there.

    It’s one thing to pray for “Schools.” It’s another thing entirely to specifically say something like, “Lord, I pray schools this coming semester have the staff they need and funds they require to operate successfully.” Or, “Father, please help our school children be safe today, keep them from worldly influences and Satanic forces.”

     Some people have a hard time in prayer because they don’t know what to pray! Don’t be afraid to be specific and particular!

ILLUST: Francois Fenelon was 17th century Archbishop in France. In regard to how particular (and personal) one can be in praying, he wrote:

“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them: show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability… Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

     If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God!”

 

    That’s a totally different type of prayer, is it not? I think of prayer in this regard with something I’ve shared with you before.

ILLUST: In the Vietnam War, our military was fighting a very evasive and elusive enemy. The North Vietnamese Army and the Vietcong went to extraordinary lengths to conceal their movements and use hit-and-run tactics. So, in an effort to take the fight to them, we began carpet bombing campaigns that laid waste to the land.

    We didn’t know exactly where they were at times, so we bombed large portions of territory indiscriminately. Fast forward a few decades to the Gulf War. By the time the American Military was engaging in another part of the world, fighting forces inspired by the same evil of the world that led Ho Chi Minh decades before, we had a newer and more deliberate mode of bombing. The Gulf War saw the use of smart, guided-missiles that could be used to strike specific, intended, exact targets – contrary to the carpet-bombing technique of previous wars.

 

    For some people, their prayer lives are like carpet-bombing. They aren’t all that specific, they don’t know all the details, and so they launch broad, wide prayers that don’t specifically aim at anything. These aren’t bad, by the way. When you see a family struggling at the grocery store, how can you know all the details of their life to pray about? Sometimes, carpet-bomb prayers are all we can do.

    For serious prayer warriors, though, their prayers are like guided rockets. They are very deliberate, very specific, and very clear in what they are supplicating God about. Using that same family of strangers at the grocery store, the particular prayer would say, “Lord, help them with their groceries, it looks like they are struggling.” Or, “Father, that family looks like their upset with one another, please calm their hearts and soak them in your Spirit so they come to you.”

 

    See the difference? The prayer of Abraham’s servant was particular. He had gone out to find Isaac a wife. So he prayed about that specifically.

 

Conclusion

In this story of an unnamed servant I hope you have seen the pattern for prayer that is there. His prayer was plainspoken, personal, petitionary, and particular. Folks, prayer IS a powerful thing. Need I point out that God DID give Isaac a wife? You know what else? I believe this pattern for prayer was carried on by Isaac and Rebekah. Look at the end of the chapter…

Genesis 24:63, 66-67 ESV

63And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. 

 

66And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

    Isaac learned what prayer can do that day, and he kept it up. He and his wife, like his parents before him, struggled with infertility at one point. They were promised the same thing as Abraham, yet they had no children for a long time. Abraham and Sara, when confronted with that problem tried to fix it on their own.

    Isaac, on the other hand, engaged in a plainspoken, personal, petitionary, and particular prayer. Notice one chapter over:

Genesis 25:21 ESV And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

 

      Prayer is powerful.  Yet, as a spiritual discipline and stand-alone ministry, has fallen by the wayside in the hearts of many Christians today. It is sad that many church congregations today spend hours, upon hours every week, dedicated to the ministry of the word and outreach – and they simultaneously spend only minutes per week, dedicated to the ministry of prayer. 

      John Piper called prayer the great “hole” in our church culture today – we’ve become more informed than ever, more connected than ever, more advanced than ever – and less dependent on prayer than ever.  In fact, many would seem to try and run a church without it!  Many have an prayerless faith:

     If you disagree with the idea that you could be a “successful” church or a thriving Christian apart from prayer, think again.  Only look to churches like those where lying televangelists preach, churches where the almighty dollar is glorified, and God is only welcome in name.  There is a danger people; a danger of doing God’s ministry apart from God’s spirit and prayer.

    May that never be said of us here, or of YOU.




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8