Pray First 2 - How to Connect

Make time to be still, and to sit with God in daily prayer.

Doyle Jackson
Aug 12, 2018    37m
In this sermon Pastors Doyle and Jennifer Jackson teach us to make time every day to be with God in daily prayer and devotion. They say the keys to this time is to be still, be sincere in your relationship with God, be simple and believe God will answer. Actively have faith in your connection to God. Video recorded at Columbus, Ohio.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Doyle Jackson: 00:05 [Introductory and welcome recording plays]

Doyle Jackson: 00:58 Awesome. I'm excited about today. I've got a little help. Jennifer's here with me. Uh, she's gonna help me in this lesson. And so she's gonna make a little noise in between. Uh, that's okay. Um, before I get into that, get into the lesson for the day, I want to tell you about what's going to happen ahead so you can participate in a great way. Alright?

Doyle Jackson: 01:20 As we turn the corner into September and head into the fall, we always have this pattern. We want to give you a special series that will kind of energize your faith. Something that will encourage you to move forward with God because what happens is this, in that shift of season, everybody's trying to get their schedule worked out. And we try to settle into something, but we need a little boost in order to get our God relationship going the way it ought to.

Doyle Jackson: 01:50 So we're going to take five weeks and we're gonna do a series called Accelerate: Let's Ride. We're going to give you some key truths to help you accelerate your relationship with God and with His people and how to just take the next step with God. We want you to be a part of that, but I want you to do me a favor. Think of three people in your life that you want to invite to come be a part of that, and maybe think of three people that are a part of your church family that you're going to contact and say, hey, are you going to be a part of this with me? I want to be a part of it because each week we're going to have a special piece. We're going to have activities for the kids. We're going to introduce you to small groups.

Doyle Jackson: 02:29 We're going to introduce you to some things that you can apply in your life to help you grow in the Lord and know Him better. Alright? Well, right now we're doing Pray First, and this series is all about one of our core values. Here at the church we have this core value. It goes like this. Pray first, ask questions later. The reason is this, we believe if you're a Christ follower, if you're someone who's given your life to God, everybody expects you to have a prayer life, but it doesn't mean we always do. We need to learn how, and what we've learned over the years is this: God's Word is practical. God always gives us practical advice. God gives us practical instruction on how to live in relationship with Him. And so today we're taking the second piece of Pray First, and we're going to begin to unpack how do you connect with God. All right, do me a favor. Welcome everybody who's watching online. All right, would you do that? Just give me your hands together and welcome them.

Doyle Jackson: 03:34 The important part about prayer is that you have to know that you can connect with God. Several years ago, we owned a house about four miles from here. It is in Brown Township, just down the street, but we bought that house. It was before the Internet was big. We still used dial up internet. Some of you don't even know what that is. It's terrible, alright? Well we moved there. That's all we used it for was to check our email and occasional things. Well, that's when the Internet went gang busters. Okay. The problem was we lived in one postage stamp area that had no cable, had no internet, and for 12 years we couldn't get any internet. And it was like being in the third rung of hell or something from Dante's Inferno because it was so frustrating just the way that was.

Doyle Jackson: 04:40 But did you know that God designed you to connect with Him? The way you and I are designed, we were designed by God to have a relationship with Him. He gave you the ability to communicate with Him. That's why you talk. That's why you share your emotions. That's why you get your heart out through your vocal cords. He also designed you to receive from Him and others. You were designed to communicate. You have that ability to send and receive well today. What Jennifer and I want to unpack for you is: what are the keys to communicating in your relationship with God? Now we have to be honest. Jennifer and I both have had a real blessing in our life in that both Jennifer's mom and dad have a great relationship with God and they modeled that for Jennifer. To this day, her mom and dad get up every day and they pray for us. They pray for all their grandchildren. They even pray for you.

Doyle Jackson: 05:44 They spend time with God every day and they have modeled that for Jennifer all her life and me for the past 27 years. All right. My Mom and dad, they have been a great model in my life of what it means to have a relationship and how to connect with God. I still remember what it was like as a small, young man when I would go to bed at night because when I would go to bed, I would always pass their room and they would be sitting across the room on the other side of their bed. They each had a chair. There was an end table or a coffee table in between them with a lamp on it and they always sat there at night with their notebooks open and their Bibles open and they would spend time with the Lord.

Doyle Jackson: 06:33 They would share with one another. They would talk about what they were studying in the Bible, and this is what I knew. I knew every night when I went to bed that was the last image I had in my mind of mom and dad praying, of them, seeking the Lord, and their presence, and this is what it did for me. It did the same for my brothers. We knew that we could go into their room at night. The door was always open there. The light was on them sitting there. The door's always open for us to go in, and I have so many memories of laying down across that bed looking at mom and dad and saying, 'This is what's going on in my life right now, and I just really don't know what to do. Would you talk to me about it?' And they would pray with me, and it was like a holy place in our lives.

Doyle Jackson: 07:21 Now, that was a season. It changed. Later, they would have their quiet time in the office before they opened that up. I saw them change where they had that time with God, but they always modeled it. Now, right now you may be saying, yeah, but you had a mom and dad that modeled that, and I've never seen that before. I don't know how I could do that. Well, we're going to teach you the keys to that, but this is what I want you to know. Jennifer's mom and dad were the first generation to learn how to have that quiet time in their family and my mom and dad were the first generation in their family that learned how to do that. So, you could be the first generation that learns how to do that, or maybe you can be the third generation to carry that on.

Doyle Jackson: 08:07 That's why we want to have this lesson today. We want to give you practical advice on how to have a quiet connection and relationship with your Father in Heaven, the God who loves you and values you so very much that He would send His son to make the connection with you and I. So if you would open up your notes. I want you to look at this with me. We're going to read this together. I believe we were designed to connect with God. I believe we were designed to connect with God even in the darkest places of our life.

Doyle Jackson: 08:48 Psalm 142 is a Psalm that David wrote when he was hiding in a cave. You know, you shouldn't have good cell service in a cave, right? But he says, no, I knew that God would hear me even though I was in a cave.

Doyle Jackson: 09:02 You can be in a dark place today. You can be in the midst of grief. You can be in the midst of sorrow. You can be in the midst of a broken relationship. You can be in the midst of a trying physical challenge in your life. It doesn't matter what dark place you are in today. It can feel like a cave. God can hear you. What I want to invite you to do with me and with Jennifer is this. We're going to read psalm 142 aloud. Guys, how many guys do I have? Just want to make sure how many of you know that you're guys, alright? Guys, I want you to read verses one, three, and five with me. Ladies, you're going to read the even versus with Jennifer. All right? Aloud? And then we're all going to read verse seven together. All right? You understand what you're going to do. Guys, are you ready? You're with me. We're first. Let's go. God, I'm crying out to you. I lift up my voice boldly to beg for your mercy.

Jen Jackson: 10:08 I fill out my heart to you and tell you all my troubles.

Doyle Jackson: 10:13 For when I was desperate, overwhelmed, and about to give up, you were the only one there to help; you gave me a way of escape from the hidden traps of my enemies.

Jen Jackson: 10:27 I looked to my left and right to see if there is anyone who will help, but there's no one who takes notice of me. I have no hope of escape and no one cares whether I live or die.

Doyle Jackson: 10:43 So I cried out to you, Lord, my only hiding place; you're all I have, my only hope in this life, my last chance for help.

Jen Jackson: 10:54 Please listen to my heart's cry, for I am low and in desperate need of you; rescue me from all those who persecute me, for I am no match for them.

Doyle and Jen: 11:07 Bring me out of this dungeon so I can declare your praise and all your godly lovers will celebrate all the wonderful things you've done for me.

Doyle Jackson: 11:20 You know, if you can just take a Psalm like that, even a few verses of that Psalm and just say them out loud like that, sometimes it will really, really transform your soul. It'll give you new perspective in life. It'll give you hope, and that's what David is inviting you to. That's what God is inviting you to. You say, I don't have the words. Let God give you the words. But when you say it, when you come to Him, you have to pray. And when you do, expect God will listen. Just know this. It is God's nature to listen. It is God's desire to hear from you, to hear your voice, even when it's in a dark place like that. Let your heart out, give it to the Lord.

Doyle Jackson: 12:20 How do we really connect with God? Step one, Jen.

Jen Jackson: 12:24 So, when Doyle asked me to do this. I said, yay, I'm so excited! And then he, he shows me the outline. He's like, can you do 'be still'? I'm like, no, that's the worst thing! I have to admit I struggle. It's always been a challenge for me because I like to go. I'm like queen of rush. Hurry, hurry. And don't get me wrong. I think God wants us to be productive. He wants us to be fruitful, but He also wants us to take time to be still. So Psalm 46:10 says, be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. And you know, sometimes I can even know in my own body that I have overdone it and I will get [unintelligible]. Recently I got hives, and when I get hives I know there's only one solution.

Jen Jackson: 13:16 I woke up, oh dear. Because the only solution for me is to get still and get alone with the Lord and to spend that time with Him. Maybe for you, you get a headache or something like that and you know, uh oh, I haven't spent enough time with the Lord lately. And so you have to go back and spend some time with Him. So I want to give you some really simple ways for how you can be still and know. And the first thing is you have to choose, you have to choose a time and a place when you first start doing this. Choose 30 minutes of your most uninterrupted time. I don't know what time of day that is for you. I know it changed for me over the years. When I started out in my twenties, it was late at night, late, late, late at night. I love to spend time with God late at night.

Jen Jackson: 14:08 And then when my kids were so busy in sports and all of that stuff, I would have to literally go early to pick them up so I could sit in my car with my Bible and spend time alone with God. But now I just, it's how early can I get up? I get up earlier and earlier. I just want to get up as early as I can to spend time with God. What is your most uninterrupted time of day? And it's going to, at first when you start doing this, it's kind of like kale salad. You know? I made a determination that I was going to eat kale salad, and I did not like it at first, but now I can honestly say I love kale salad. I love kale salad so much that we went out to dinner on our anniversary Friday night, and I ordered kale salad and I actually liked it, and I wanted to do that. I wanted to eat that.

Jen Jackson: 14:59 That's how it's going to be. As you're going to get in a mode where you're like, I actually really want to do this like this is really good and it's gonna grow, and then you're going to want to spend more time with God. So okay, first you've got to get your time and place, and then once you have that, you have to commit to it. You have to give up something else. For me, I've always had to give up television. I've had to give up hobbies. I've had to give up. What are you willing to give up so that you can have that time?

Jen Jackson: 15:32 And once you've done that, the third thing is I want you to tell your family. I want you to tell your friends, say, this is my time, and that way they will help to hold you accountable and you've gotten it out. You said it. This is my time and you, you're maybe you're thinking they don't even have their time. Why do they have to know I'm having my time? Because you're going to show them as an example also that this is important to you and you really value this. The other thing I have to do is I have to remove all distractions. I am the worst for being distracted and if I have my phone out, God gets hardly any of the time, and so I have to literally put it in a drawer or turn it off or put it away. I have to be completely clear of distractions. Maybe set a timer and so once you've done that, get yourself a notebook. Doyle and I both have a notebook and you do a brain dump, so you're finally sitting. You're going to first start with a brain dump.

Jen Jackson: 16:32 I have to give God at least the top three things that are weighing me down, stressing me out before I can even start the be still. And so, give Him everything. If you’re verbal, just tell Him, God, these are the top three things. Or, write them out and then take the time and just quiet yourself. Be Still. Say, God, I invite your presence into this time. And just be still and you will feel the peace of God come to you. Maybe watch the clouds go by. This morning I listened to the birds sing. Just stop and be still. You know, if your only quiet space is that bed at night when it's dark, turn out the lights, go to bed early. If you need sleep, sleep. But if you need time with God, just get in there and just turn out the lights and lay there and say, God, I just want to be still in your presence. And after that you can spend the rest of your time talking to Him and praying and reading your Bible, or worshiping, or whatever you want to do. I wish I was more systematic, but I'm so relational. But I definitely think when you can start with a quiet and a still, then you begin to know He's going to take care of it. Know that He is God.

Doyle Jackson: 17:51 Jennifer compared it to Kale Salad. I would compare it to my coffee. You know, many of us say, well, I can't really start my day till I have my coffee. For me it's about I really can't get going until I've, given God some time in my life, and I've been able to get what's on my heart off, to share the struggles that I'm going through, the ideas that [unintelligible]. Because that's why....

Doyle Jackson: 18:21 Listen, we're going back to school right now. You can go to Walmart and for a quarter you can get a spiral binder and that's what I do. I just start writing in there and then I'm able to be still in my soul. Your soul is your mind, your will and your emotions and they're going like this. We live in this frantic world that's got too much information flying at us and this is a decision when you make the decision to be still, you're saying, no, I'm stepping off that crazy train and I'm going to be over here, and I'm going to go to the one that created me and designed me to have a relationship with Him that brings peace.

Doyle Jackson: 19:02 That's why you do that. Listen to what it says here, Psalm 131:1-2. It says, Lord, my heart is not proud. My eyes are not haughty. I don't concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I've calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother's milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. What does that mean when it says like a weaned child? Listen, this is the way a child that's not weaned does. They constantly go 'wah' and mama runs to them. Wah, wah, wah, wah. A weaned child has the ability to wait until Mama gives them what they need. They've learned the self-control. And so when you and I have learned to be still what it is, is we come and we know that our Father in Heaven, the Lord of life, the one who loves us will give us exactly what we need, when we need it, and He will place it before us. We're no longer in control. He is in control. God, I'm here and I'm submitting to you. So the first step is to be still.

Doyle Jackson: 20:09 The second step is to be sincere, to be sincere. Listen to Psalm 15:2. It says they are passionate, a whole hearted, always sincere, and always speaking the truth, for their hearts are trustworthy. What it means to be sincere is that you don't come to God putting on airs like you're something special. When I was in college, I was a part of a ministry called Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. It was so much fun. We saw so many young people come to know the Lord over a couple of year period. It just exploded with new believers, and what was so cool about it was all these people got into small groups. We said, hey, come be a part of a small group, and we took 300 students in the matter of a week and we got everybody into a small group, okay?

Doyle Jackson: 21:12 And I watched something happen almost immediately in their lives. They would come to small group and when they first come in, you know, they're like cussing and partying and doing all this. By week three, when it's time to pray, these people have figured out how to use holy language. You know what I'm saying? Oh Lord. If Thou. Oh God. And suddenly their language changed, and what we figured out was the guys were trying to impress the girls, and the girls were trying to impress the guys with their super spirituality, and nobody believed it.

Doyle Jackson: 21:57 See, God says to you and I be sincere. Be Yourself. Just be honest and straightforward with God. Use the language that comes most comfortable to you. There are two things. There are two things that will break your connection with God in this area. One is if you, when you're praying, you're trying to impress somebody else around you. Two, when you're trying to falsely impress God. Because, see, God knows your heart. You don't have to use special language. You don't have to keep repeating the same thing over and over and over and over again. Jesus talked about that. He said, these people that think by their many words, their repeated many words that somehow that's gonna [unintelligible], nope. What you want to do is you want to first, you're going to be still and just say, okay, I'm getting rid of all the others....

Doyle Jackson: 22:55 Then you're going to come and be sincere with God and just say, God, this is how I feel and this what's going on in my life. Listen, this is what Jesus said in Matthew 6. This is the message translation. It's a more contemporary translation just to help you think about it in the language you and I would use. And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. Here's what I want you to do. Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. Jesus goes on in that passage. He says, when you go to God, call him father. But he actually uses the common vernacular that a child would use in that day, which is Aba, which is, Hey Daddy, Daddy, I know you're in Heaven and I'm here with a world that's is crazy. Would you just help me today? You know what I need for today? My daily bread, my job, my family. Oh God, you know the temptations I face. Daddy would you help me with that? Help me not to be tempted. Help me to see it before it jumps in front of me and God, I need to forgive. I know you've forgiven me, but can you help me forgive the people around me? See, that's the way Jesus invites us to pray. He says, be still, be sincere, and then thirdly God says be simple.

Doyle Jackson: 25:01 This is what I mean by simple. Don't over complicate it. Don't look for those special words or phrases. Don't look for some unusual language or that you have to keep repeating the same thing over again. Just keep it simple. Daddy, it's me again. You know yesterday didn't go so well, or yesterday went great. I need you God. So remember this, be still, be simple, be sincere.

Jen Jackson: 25:37 And believe. So believers, what do believers do? Think about the most awesome believers in your life that you admire and you respect. Why? Because they believe. They believe God for great things. They believe God will do anything. God is incredible. He's amazing. He's mighty. He's big, and we serve this awesome God. He is incredible. And believers, that's what they do. Believers believe. Let's look at this scripture in Psalm 138:3, on the day I called, you answered me. You made me bold with strength in my soul. If you could ask Jesus to do one thing for you today, what would that be? Ask Him. Ask him for things. It's okay. Begin to ask God for big things. Be Bold. You know you can start asking for personal things. Ask Him for relational things, your health, private life, things about your job, things about your finances, or your family. That's good.

Jen Jackson: 26:42 Begin to believe Him for all of those things. What happens when you begin to believe is you watch God move. You know at The Church Next Door, we are moving people closer to God. We're moving. We're moving people. Faith is action. It's not intellectual. You can't see it. You believe it and so it grows. What happens is you start with all these personal things that you're believing God for, and then it grows and you start to believe God for a church and then you start to believe God for a city or you start to believe God for a nation. That's how faith is. It's moving, it's growing, it's actionable. And, don't worry that God's going to say no. A lot of times we don't ask God for something big because we don't want Him to say no. And you think about, you know, kids, they ask their parents for everything.

Jen Jackson: 27:37 If you have a confident child, they'll say, can we stay up late tonight? Can we have friends over tomorrow? Can we go to King's Island? Can we, you know, can I go to college out of state mom? They ask for anything, right? And yes, sometimes we get a no. Sometimes we get a yes, and sometimes we get not right now. Just hold on. I hear you. Not yet, but keep asking. Get some faith grit in you. Get some real grit and just keep believing. Keep believing. Keep asking God. He wants us to do that. He wants us to believe Him for really huge things and you're asking God of the Universe to come down and do something creative. Something unique in your situation, but it takes faith. It takes believing.

Jen Jackson: 28:23 You know, we were in the office and we have a woman that works for us. Her name is Leanne Lively. She does preschool and she works at administrative. You've probably seen her around here. The whole office was really involved in her pregnancy because we were watching every day and in on all the details. We are so excited for this family's second baby. And one day we got close to the end and she's nine months pregnant and she says, we have a problem because the baby won't flip and the baby has to be in the right position. Or, I have to have a c-section. Or, they try this really painful, try to force the baby to flip thing when you're nine months pregnant. No fun. So she's up against a wall. We're on a time crunch and we said, okay. Three of the girls, we gathered around and we said, Leanne, do you believe that God can flip the baby? Cause the baby to flip? And she said, okay, okay, here we go. And we prayed. We said, God, would you flip that baby and I want you to know the next day that baby flipped. That baby was born a week later. Yeah! And that baby is healthy and happy and we're all getting our baby fix in. So God, ask for something big today. Go for it.

Doyle Jackson: 29:46 What I really want to happen is something to flip inside of you. I want to see a switch flipped that begins to imagine that God wants to meet with you, that God desires to be with you, to hear your heart, to share with you and have a relationship with you. But in order for that to happen, something has to change inside you. And the question I have is, are you willing to stop listening to the lies? See, there's these lies that say, yeah, yeah, yeah, but that's, that's Jennifer, and that's Doyle, and they can do that. I could never do that. Or how about this one? You have no idea how busy I am and how crazy my life is. I've got kids. Listen, it will never happen until you make an appointment.

Doyle Jackson: 31:03 So you can know all day long this needs to take place. But, until you finally say, no, I'm going to make that appointment. And so my question for you is, would you like an appointment with God? I mean in my life, I can't do anything without an appointment. To get my haircut, I have to call and see if they'll take me and get it worked out. at the right time to see the doctor, to see the dentist. Anything that's important in my life, I make an appointment for it. Now, this is not because God is too busy. It's because of you. And so you have to decide, when are you going to make this appointment? When are you going to meet with God? When? What would be a good time for you?

Doyle Jackson: 31:50 Listen to this verse from Psalm 5:3. It says in the morning, Lord, you hear my voice in the morning. I lay my request before you and wait expectantly. And you need to know I don't have any designs that it has to be in the morning. Okay? It can be in the afternoon. David talked about how God heard him cry at the noon time. David says, another place you hear me throughout the day and other times he said, I'm up all night long. My tears are constantly before you, so the scripture doesn't require you to meet God at a certain time. The question is, what time would you do? What time? And I'm asking you right now, will you get out this piece of paper? In that blank right there, will you write down when you intend, when you plan to meet with God? What time of day?

Doyle Jackson: 32:56 And then I want to challenge you. Before you leave here today, share that with somebody. Maybe it's somebody you came with, but say, hey, this is when I'm going to meet with God. I'm going to start meeting at this time every day. Maybe maybe this week. When you go to small group, you're going to meet with your friends and you're all going to talk about when you're meeting and how that's going. Let me tell you this. When I became intentional about that and I began to share with other people about my desire to do that, you know, I have a friend that I go to see once a month and every time I go to see him, he's on my calendar. I make an appointment to meet with him, but every time I meet with him, he says, so tell me, how's your time with God going? Have you been meeting with Him? And that helps me stay accountable.

Doyle Jackson: 33:53 This past week, Jennifer and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast places, and when we got done, I looked across the table. I said, "You know, it's been 10 years?"

Doyle Jackson: 34:06 She said, "Yep."

Doyle Jackson: 34:09 I said, "Ten years ago we started coming here on Friday for breakfast because we decided we had to work on our just time together."

Doyle Jackson: 34:20 The guys were in high school and we realized that they needed us more in high school to be totally unified. Totally together, totally in love, just totally into it. See what I'm asking you to do? Well, you focus on a relationship with God, not religion. See, when we talk about an appointment with God, it's because it's a relationship. Religion is a checklist that I've done all the right things. No, this is about me going and saying, God, I want you to know I love you and I need you. God. I'm in this. I'm following you. See what I'm saying? When will you do that? Have you got it in your mind? Have you written it down yet? Some of you are avoiding eye contact right now. I understand.

Jen Jackson: 35:19 They have to think about it a minute.

Doyle Jackson: 35:21 If I don't ever don't ever bring it up and if I don't ask you to, I've failed and I will not fail you in this and I'm challenging you. Do not let, do not let the lies keep you from it. It will change your life. It will change your life.

Doyle Jackson: 35:46 Here's the prayer we're going to pray today. You can listen to it and decide if you want to pray it with us. David, Moses and others have expected to meet with you. I would like to do that too. Help me hear your voice in the Bible. Speak to my heart and life. I want to live the Jesus way.

Doyle Jackson: 36:09 I invite you to stand. We're going to say this together, and today I get to hold Jennifer's hand while I do this. I give you permission to hold your neighbor's hand while you do it. If they're willing, alright? Let's say it together, David and Moses and others have expected to meet with you. I would like to do that too. Help me hear your voice in the Bible. Speak to my heart and life. I want to live the Jesus way. Amen.

Doyle Jackson: 36:09 Lord, I thank you for today. I thank you for the men and the women and the young people that are here and I just pray that as we leave this place today, you would help us. You would help us to build our relationship with you to live lives where we're still before you, where we're sincere and we're simple and we believe. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. [Departure recording plays]

Recorded in Columbus, Ohio.
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