Welcome to Hope City, everybody! Welcome to our new series called God Box!
Today I’ve got something I want everyone to get their hands on. Go ahead, Ushers, everyone gets a gift today. You get a gift… You get a gift… You get a gift. I feel like Oprah today!
Now don’t open your box just yet.
Mary Lou Quinlan
I need to tell you a story first. This is a series on Prayer.
But the idea came from a book by a woman named Mary Lou Quinlan. She tells the story of what happened after her mother died. She was cleaning out her house and reached back into the closet—when she felt this square thing. Took out a box, opened it up… and it was filled with HUNDREDS OF TINY NOTES. She unfolded them and discovered:
“Dear God, please help my daughter Mary Lou find a husband.”
“Dear God, please help Phil and his fight with cancer.”
“Dear God, help my daughter & son-in-law conceive a child. They’re struggling with infertility.”
Note by note, she read hundreds of PRAYERS that her mother had written and put in her “God Box!” over the last few years of her life.
And it was amazing! Bc when she reached back in the closet… she found another box… and another. Until she found… TEN BOXES FULL OF PRAYERS!
And through those boxes, Mary Lou Quinlan was able to PIECE TOGETHER a spiritual history—a record of what was closest to her mom’s heart. She asked God for everything—the right flooring for their new kitchen. To provide jobs for her children. All the way to the cure for the Blood Cancer that eventually took her life. She wrote them and put them in her God Box.
I got thinking about my own PRAYER LIFE—and the things that I pray to God about.
Q: What if I died, and my children pieced together my prayers? What would it say about what’s closest to my heart? About my faith? Would there be a trail for them to piece together my trust in God?
- Go Ahead and Open your Box! You’ll see there’s a pen and 2 Post-It notes to get you started. For the next month or so, I’m going to challenge you to make your own God Box and see what God will do if you share your heart with Him!
Together as a church, we are going to come before heaven with all kinds of Petitions, Prayers, and Requests… and ask God to move powerfully on our behalf.
The theme verse for this whole series comes from Ephesians 6 which says:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18
This is a church wide, 30-Day Prayer Challenge. So let me begin by asking you a simple question:
If there was ONE SITUATION in your life (a need or crisis or worry) that you knew God could change in 30 days? What would it be? What’s Your Prayer? What would you write and put in your God Box?
Some of you know it right now. But others, I want you to think about this as we talk.
When it comes to PRAYER, I know people at our church are all over the map. We have people who are Prayer Warriors & you already have your list drawn up. Others of us have a lukewarm prayer life—let’s be honest: Maybe the most you pray is saying Grace before meals. Or a quick prayer before bed. Others of you are skeptical: “Does prayer really work at all?” I mean: Good people pray for all sorts of things. And God doesn’t always seem to answer. At least, not right away.
But listen. Prayer is Powerful—and I believe the Next 30 Days could change your Prayer Life forever. But that’s not my opinion; lemme show you what God’s Word has to say about the Power of Prayer. Take your Bible and turn to Exodus 17 (pg 51). I wanna kick-off our series with an ancient passage from the OT that reveals just how powerful prayer can be in the battles you & I face. Exodus 17:8-13 says this:
8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
In this passage, we learn 4 profound truths about the Power of Prayer. Pull out your notes this morning and follow along. And the first truth we learn is that:
- PRAYER is a PIPELINE to God’s POWER!
You have to understand the context of this story. The Amalekites were known as one of the most VICIOUS, BLOODTHIRSTY TRIBES of the ancient world. They specialized in raiding nomadic people & killed women & children for pleasure). Wicked. On the other hand, the Israelites (the People of God) were not military people. In fact, just the opposite: At this moment, they’d just been liberated from 400 years of slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh. They’d seen God send plagues, part the Red Sea, send manna from heaven… and they were lost in the desert without a compass.
Moses was their leader—and here come the Amalekites over the hill (Mercenaries of Mayhem & Murder) It’s an unfair fight: the table is set for Mass Slaughter!
It’s a bit like March Madness which begins this week! There are going to be some great games in this series. Get your brackets ready… But todays story would be a bit like if USF, The University of South Florida– with a record of 7 and 22; If they had to play Kansas- whose record is 28 and 3! They would be slaughtered on the court. It would be an act of God for USF to get into the final rounds!
But Moses has a strategy: He sends Joshua out to fight… and he goes up to the mountain!
And what does he do? Look at verse 11: Moses RAISES HIS HANDS to HEAVEN… which is a picture of intercession. He’s praying to the God of heaven to intervene on behalf of His people!
And when Moses raised his hands, God released his power!
11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
It’s amazing, but this is what happened on that Battlefield—and it demonstrates the Power of Prayer:
Q: Have you ever considered that there is a direct connection between the AMOUNT OF POWER God pours out in your life… and the FREQUENCY & FERVENCY OF YOUR PRAYERS?
Because that’s what the Scripture teaches:
- PRAYER is a PIPELINE to God’s POWER!
God’s power can change circumstances & relationships. It can give you victory in the battles you face every day. It can heal disease… fix marriages… meet financial needs. In fact, God’s Power can handle ANY kind of difficulty or dilemma. Even when the odds are overwhelming.
When we open our hands… God releases His strength!
Q: I wonder: Where do you need God’s power MOST right now in your life?
// Journal Story
12 years ago I began writing in a moleskin journal. I filled it with stories & memories, prayers, frustrations, and worries. After almost every entry I have made it a practice to switch from writing to praying. Talking to God about what I’ve written… They are no more than a page in total… But I’ve written about
– Our first born- Noah… brand new daddy…
– My Dad became terminally ill
– Job changes
– The loss of a pregnancy
– The Joy of having 2 more children
– The loss of my dad
– Moving from NJ to FL
– Starting a Church here in Sarasota… This has filled many pages! Last Easter Tiffany and I have been praying about this exact moment. We’ve been praying for you, even though we didn’t know you yet. Not only Tiffany and I, but over 200 other people around our country have been praying for Hope City Church, and for you. We believed that God was leading us to start a church that helped people take their next step in their journey of faith. Whether that was a first step or the fortieth step. We believe that no one is without hope. That every single person can find Hope and healing in Jesus and we wanted to create a place where people would experience that!
It’s incredible to look back and see God’s faithfulness to me, my family, and this church!
- So what should you pray about over the next 30 days? Answer: Anything & Everything!
Listen to what James 5 says:
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them … 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Is someone sick in your family? Pray for healing!
Healthy? Give God praise! Record your thanks too!
Is there sin in your life? Use this BOX to write a Prayer of Confession… Put in the Box & leave it with God! Remember:
- PRAYER is a PIPELINE to God’s POWER!
The second thing we learn is that:
2) GOD hears our CRIES and fights our BATTLES!
Notice the context for this story? The People of God are under ATTACK! It’s about WARFARE!
I think it surprises some Xians to learn that the context of the Christian life is not a cakewalk—it’s a BATTLEFIELD. The Bible says we face 3 Enemies: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
In other words we face enemies on multiple fronts.
Right now it’s Girl Scout Cookie season… Which means we’ve got temptation lurking around every bend… “Sir would you like to buy a box of Cookies?” I mean, have you ever seen them positioned right outside of the grocery store? With their cute little smiles, and their polite ask… Meanwhile their troop mama is behind the table, saying… “Go get him. Close HIM! SELL MORE COOKIES.”
I mean for real. I just had to walk down the entire chip aisle and say, NO. Not you. Not you. Fritos Scoops, there will be no Buffallo chicken dip for you today. NO!
And then little “Ginny the Girl-Scout” greets me on the way out peddling her Thin Mints and Samoas…
“Not TODAY SATAN! You won’t have the victory over my diet.”
But the Bible tells us that we have 3 enemies, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
Q: What hostile forces are you facing? Maybe there’s a hostile situation at work that’s got you overwhelmed? A situation at school where you’re powerless?
A Battle that’s too Big for you… but that God could get the victory?
When the Battle heats up, we can be easily overwhelmed! Feeling outgunned like the Israelites.
Where do you need God desperately? God didn’t ask you to fight your battle alone. When you put a prayer in His Box—you are letting go & calling down the power of Heaven in your life!
Prayer is a declaration of dependency. That’s why God calls us to fight on our knees with our hands raised. That’s what Moses was saying—I can’t do this on my own, Lord! If I fight this battle without you… I’m dead!
Moses sent Joshua down to fight… but he went up on the mountain to pray.
And that’s what we’re going to do as ONE CHURCH for the next 30 DAYS. Pour out our heart… ask Him to hear our cries… and seek His supernatural power!
- Q: I wonder: Where do you need God’s power MOST right now in your life?
Are you facing a battle that’s bigger than you?
Would you write it down & commit the next 30 days to waiting on the Lord for power from on high?
What could happen in 30 days? In his book “Too Busy Not to Pray,” Bill Hybels writes:
The power you receive directly from the hand of God may come in the form of wisdom—an idea you desperately need and can’t come up with yourself. It may come in the form of courage greater than you could ever muster on your own. It may come in the form of confidence or perseverance, uncommon staying power, a changed attitude toward a spouse or a child or a parent, altered circumstances, maybe even outright miracles. However it comes, God’s prevailing power is released in the lives of people who pray.”
— Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not To Pray
I want to see God’s power released… I want to see God’s power released in your life… so that you know GOD IS ABLE… He is for you… able to do exceedingly more than all we ask or imagine!
When I look back at my prayers for our church, even before it began meeting, I was praying that we would be a church that taps into the power of prayer. That what we do is based upon what we’ve prayed about.
Because a Praying Church is a Powerful Church! But guess what? The reverse is true too
3) PRAYERLESS Christians are POWERLESS Christians
Verse 11 says: “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.”
IOW: When Moses stopped praying, there was a Power Outage.
And if I may be so bold to say: I believe there is a power outage in Jesus’ Church today! Too many churches are closing, locking their doors and closing down because they’ve forgotten that the key to unlock God’s power is through prayer. Communities are worse off because Church’s have forgotten to pray!
It’s crazy! When we’re faced with adversity in our homes or jobs… we may squeak out a faithless prayer… and the moment it doesn’t come true, we give up. We lack Patience & Persistence. We throw up our hands in surrender.
“See, prayer doesn’t do anything!” We fly the white flag… and the Enemy laughs.
We see Prayer as a LAST resort; God sees it as our FIRST response!
- Jesus’ disciples were having a hard time driving a demon out of a suffering boy. They asked Jesus why were powerless against Hell? Jesus replied:
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Do you have a mountain you need God to move this Spring? Put it in the Box!
Ask Him, see what He will do! It may just grow your faith!
Watchman Nee, an amazing man of God, and a leader of the Chinese Church once asked a question, he said, “Why do so many Christians pray such tiny prayers when their God is so Big?” Because of His faith, Watchman Nee went on to be imprisoned, and persecuted for following Jesus in the face of the communist revolution.
Do you have a mountain that seems overwhelming in your life? I think we can see this change. It starts with you. Will you take the God Box challenge?
- Today, I want you to write ONE PRAYER as a start.
- But write it TWICE. Write one note, date it, and put it in your box.
- Write a SECOND NOTE, and at the end of this service, we’re going to collect it. And I’m going to commit to PRAY FOR YOU THIS SPRING. And let’s see what our God will do!
To help you out I’m going to text you every day for the next 30 days. If you text the word “Prayer” to 797-979. It’s super simple. It will collect your numbers and allow me to text you a prayer prompt each day. Just pull up your messenger app right now and text the word “Prayer” to 797-979.
And then every day: I want you to write 1-2 prayers and put it in your box. And keep this box in a PROMINENT PLACE IN YOUR HOUSE:
- Next to your bed
- On your kitchen table
- On your desk at work
- In your locker at school
And for ONE MONTH, we’re going to come before heaven and ask God for great mercy! For miracles. For things big and small. Some of you need Guidance—you’re facing a situation at work (a transition or move)… and you don’t know what to do. Write it down—ask God to direct your path.
Again, text the word “Prayer” to 797-979 and I’ll send you those prompts starting tomorrow!
Some of you need help overcoming Your Hurts, Habits & Hangups… (Smoking, Pills, Porn). Whatever. You may have tried 12-steps, but have you tried PRAYER? Ask God for freedom!!
If you have a child struggling or in need of a breakthrough. I want you to pray for them every day.
And keep at it!
Now listen: I’m not trying to overwhelm you. I’m not saying you need to spend a whole day or weeks lying on the ground— think Baby Steps.
Baby Steps: If you normally pray once a day… how about twice? If you normally pray for 5 minutes… try 10! If you pray for 15 minutes in the morning… pray for 30!
Whatever you do, double it.
Take a baby step this month: Whatever you’re doing in your prayer life, Double it for 30 days.
Record your prayers—write them out—and put them in this box. And see what God will do when you inhale a worry… and exhale a prayer.
I’m gonna encourage you to write SHORT PRAYERS—no more than a Post-It! Mary Quinlan often only wrote 2-3 sentences. That was part of her secret: When a need or crisis arose in her life, she captured it immediately. Wrote it down. Put in the Box. And handed it over to God.
In our own power, we’re power-less. But if God is for us, who can be against us?
- You know what I like about Moses’ account here in Exodus. It’s realistic about prayer. After holding his hands up to heaven, Moses’ arms got tired.
You try holding up your hands for 15 minutes… see how long you last. But the story ends with a beautiful picture. See, Moses didn’t go up on the mountain alone. He had partners. Verses 12-13 say:
When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
Isn’t that beautiful? The final thing we learn from Moses’ example is that:
4) PREVAILING PRAYER requires PARTNERS.
At some point, Moses’ hands became too heavy. Sometimes the burdens we bear inside are too much to carry alone. C.S. Lewis says, “it’s not the load that breaks us down, but it’s the way that we carry it.”
That’s why God sends partners into our lives—an Aaron, a Hur—to hold up our hands when the battle gets too much for us.
Galatians 6:2 says:
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
I’m convinced: The reason the majority of Christians give up on praying is because they do it in isolation!
They think it’s only something to do for a few minutes on your own. God never intended Prayer to be a SOLO SPORT!
This God Box Prayer campaign is designed to be done in community. And you need a partner. If you have a family, that’s an obvious choice:
- Your spouse; your kids: This is your EXCUSE to finally pray together!
(Most parents wanna pray with their kids, but don’t know how. We’re doing the same thing at Hope City Kids… they’ll get a God Box too. Put it on the Kitchen Table, and each night for a month, write out prayers together… and spend some time praying for each other!)
Husbands, this is something you can do with your wives. This is your chance to be a Spiritual Leader. I know it’s awkward sometimes… but Couples that PRAY together, STAY together!
- If you don’t have a Spouse, pray with your Connect Group! We are launching our connect Groups here at Hope City in conjunction with this series. We are asking our connect groups to turn up the volume on PRAYER this Spring and devote time in your group to pray for each other. To carry each other’s burdens, and seek God’s help. Connect Group
Connect Groups are the best way to meet friends, but the purpose is not a social club. We are “holding up” each other’s hands in a powerful way! We say around here that circles are better than rows. We want you to join a connect group. I’ve talked with our connect group leaders, and they are some amazing people. There is a group for you!
Let me tell you something. You need this! It isn’t just one more thing to fill up your schedule with. We all have plenty of ways of staying busy. This isn’t about being busy, this is about building bonds.
Tiffany and I have incredible memories of walking though life with people in our connect group. They weren’t always like us, but it was an incredible opportunity to live life with others.
Connect Group sign-ups are happening right now. Head out to the Hope City Tent after service today and we’ll help you find one! In fact, we’ve printed a groups guide for you today as well.
So understand: You are not alone in this.
4) PREVAILING PRAYER requires PARTNERS.
Just think: In 30 days, your family may have a whole new habit… a healthy one! Closer to God and one another!
// Your Challenge
So here’s your challenge:
For ONE MONTH, make PRAYER your daily PRIORITY!
- Guys, the Scriptures are clear: God is MOVED by honest, persistent, bold PRAYERS from His children. Even if prayer is not your thing… give it a chance! This month could change your life. If your prayer life has grown cold, this is the jumpstart it needs.
This is the start of something BIG. I am believing God that He is going to CRANK UP the SPIRITUAL TEMPERATURE in this church… and in all of us individually!
Did you WRITE OUT your First Prayer? If you knew, in 30 days God could release his power in this situation in your life, what would it be?
Write it down TWICE. One Post-It goes in your box… date it. Fold it over.
The other goes to us…. You can keep it anonymous. And I’m going to pray for you specifically over the next 30 days!
So I’m gonna call the Ushers forward. And they’re gonna pass the Buckets… and you drop your Prayer inside.
When you get home today:
- Make this Your Box – You can DECORATE your “God Box” to fit your style.
However you decorate it, KEEP IT VISIBLE!
By your bed. On the kitchen table. On your desk at the office.
- Pray Daily – Write out 1-2 prayers every day (no longer than a Post-It). Date and track your prayers to see how God responds!
This is just the beginning… and I pray, I pray—this church will become a Place of Prayer.