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Some keys to answered prayer and the blessings of God
Isaiah 58

Sometimes we ask: Is God listening to my prayers? Why doesn't He seem to hear or answer me? Where's the blessings of God that I keep hearing and reading about?

Today we are going to look at Isaiah 58 together. Isaiah 58 addresses the questions that I just posed.

READ TEXT

SOME KEYS TO ANSWERED PRAYER AND THE BLESSINGS OF GOD

1. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us, we need to understand that God doesn't respond well to mere religious activity and attempts to manipulate Him

Note the fevered activity of the people and yet the condition of their hearts

Note the frustration of the people v.3

Note God's awareness of their trying to manipulate Him. Do we every try to bargain with God or manipulate Him?

POINT: God want's us to follow Him from our hearts

We actually learn this from the rebuke of Isaiah 29:13 "The LORD says; 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."

Follow God from your heart: A heart full of gratitude, a heart that recognizes the grace of God, the majesty of God, the wonder of God.

Worship Him in Spirit and in truth. John 4:24


2. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we must address, confess, and repent of the sin that is in our lives. v.1-2

Unconfessed, unrepented sin is always a barrier and hindrance to answered prayer and the blessings of God.

Note also what Isaiah 55:6-7 says; "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 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."

Note also James 4:8 says; "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

GREAT NEWS

By God's grace there is a provision for the forgiveness of our sins- Jesus and his redemptive and sacrificial work on the cross. Through the repentance of sin and faith in Jesus, there is total and complete forgiveness and peace with God. 1 John 1:9 says; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."


3. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we need to busy ourselves doing what is important to God. v.6-7

Here's some of what God wants us to be about doing....

a. Take up the cause of justice-- whether it be in the workplace, school, or the courts.
b. Come to the aid of the oppressed
c. Feed the hungry
d. Provide shelter for those who have none
e. Clothe those who have no clothes
f. Take care of your own family and the needs of those around you.

Such is part of what it means to live a holy life and to be righteous. This also reminds me of what Jesus declared his mission to be in Luke 4:16-21 "He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Note the blessings that God promises to those who do such things: v.8-12

James 1:27 says; "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

4. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we must not neglect fasting

In our text, the people are rebuked, not because they fasted, but because they viewed fasting as a way to manipulate God.

In Matthew 6 Jesus talks about 3 practices: Giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. Key phrase: "When you fast..." v.16

Why fast?

-As a means of drawing near to God
-As a means of worship and devotion
-To sharpen our senses that we might hear the voice of God
-Jesus did

Occasions for fasting

-guidance, as part of our repentance, preparation for ministry, a deep burden, regular worship

What's involved

-Biblically speaking it has to do with going without food for a set period of time (1 meal, a day, several days, longer --be wise and healthy!)
-Note: Some people have tried to modernize fasting (going without tv, chocolate, etc)

What to be on guard for

-Fasting can lead to irritability and temptation

Application: We need to take up the practice of fasting. If you never have: start. If you are like me and once did: restart. Such is an expected part of the Christian life

Note: If diabetic or a medical reason why you can't go without food, then don't fast from food.

5. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we need to attend to the heart of the 4th commandment

Read Isaiah 58:13-14 which is about the Sabbath

The 4th Commandment, which we do not rely on for our salvation, says; ""Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

Note what the Sabbath was for: rest, corporate worship, the honoring of the Lord
Note that it points as a type to our heavenly rest

Note the practice of the N.T church. Read Acts 2:42-27-- v.46 "Every day they met..."

Observe the purpose of the gathering of the church in Acts 2:42-27: corporate worship, prayer, instruction in the Word, service

Note also the call of Hebrews 10:25 "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."


Some qualifiers: That we might guard against legalism

Romans 14:5-6 "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord."

Colossians 2:16 "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."

Application:

Are you meeting every day with other believers for worship, prayer, service, and instruction in the Word? If not, make the effort to gather on Sunday-- in honor of Christ's resurrection and for worship, prayer, service, and instruction in the word. If you can't make it: Come Wednesday.

CONCLUSION

God answers prayer. He delights in blessing His children

Isaiah 58, while not being an exhaustive answer to all our questions about prayer and the blessings of God, tells us of some of the conditions that exist to answered prayer and the blessings of God. We will do well to attend to its message

A quick review

1. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us, we need to understand that God doesn't respond well to mere religious activity and attempts to manipulate Him
2. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we must address, confess, and repent of the sin that is in our lives. v.1-2
3. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we need to busy ourselves doing what is important to God. v.6-7
4. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we must not neglect fasting
5. If we want God to answer our prayers and to bless us we need to attend to the heart of the 4th commandment


Closing song: Today I choose