Sunday, November 12, 2006
Prayer Is ASKing Matthew 7
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
When I was studying in theological college I had a habit that was a little unusual. Monday’s was “duties day” when all were expected to do some elements of cleaning or painting around the college. I used to work as a teacher Mondays to pay the bills, and then pick up duties Tuesday afternoons. I used to mow lawns on the ride on lawn mower, until I rolled it, twice.
Then they gave me the job of painting the carports, while the cars were in them. They should have learnt faster that I was not real good with these sort ofthings.
I returned to college one Tuesday morning and a student friend said “Steve, you should have been here yesterday.” I laughed and said “Why. What happened?” He said very sternly “No! You should have been here! Someone flew up from Canberra in a black suit and black sunglasses. A Government type. He wanted to see you! What’s it about?”
I gulped! Some one from the government wanted to see me?
Over the next two weeks each day either a lecturer or a student would ask me what it was about. Every day I grew more nervous. One day I answered the phone in the men’s block.
“Hello yes this is Steve Grose”
“I flew up from Canberra to see you. Where were you? “
“I was teaching. What did you want to see me about?”
“You received a cheque seven eyars ago that you have not yet cashed ! Do you know where it is?”
“Yes its in my wallet, but its pretty faded!”
“You must cash that cheque today!”
“But I don’t have time to cash it today!”
“Haven’t you received the letters we sent to you every three months demanding that you cash that cheque?”
“Well yes, but .. look, if you make the cheque out for more I’ll cash it today, but it will take me a half hour to walk to the bank to cash it right now, and I don’t think its worth it.”
“You must cash that cheque today!”
“Can I send you some stamps for the amount? Maybe you can take me off your mailing list”
“You have caused our accounting systems to crash every year over that unpresented cheque!”
“Really? A Cheque for seven cents can do that much damage to the Australian economy?”
I had kept a cheque for 7 cents for years because it was for such a ludicrously small amount, and I almost brought our economy to ruin! So much so that the Dept of Education in Canberra had sent a government agent to track me down and MAKE me present that cheque!”
Now isn’t that ludicrous! But hold on: you have unpresented cheques you have never cashed. And the greatest of these is the promise of answered prayer!
1. You Have A Promise to Claim
The Lord promises that if we will ask, seek, and knock, it shall be given to us. There is no substitute for prayer. You can't substitute eloquence, intellect, energy, intention or enthusiasm for prayer. Nothing can take the place of direct communication with God. Prayer is the greatest untapped resource in the universe. What fools we are to neglect it! Many Christians are powerless and in poverty because of their lack of prayer. I don't have a failure in my life but that it is a failure to pray. I don't have a sin but that prayer would have avoided it. I don't have a need that cannot be met through prayer. Christ promises power through prayer, and we ought not neglect it. Have you ever wondered why God wants us to pray?
After all He already knows our needs. Why ask God to do something He already wants to do? The reason is that prayer is an invitation. We don't inform God through our prayers, for He already knows. We don't instruct God through prayer, for He already has a will. But we invite God through our prayers, obediently surrendering ourselves to Him.
God wants us to pray because of the fellowship factor.
Janis Joplin lyrics : Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends, So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ? Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three, So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ? I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round, Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends, So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
The name it and claim it, prosperity gospel is not in Jesus’ mind.
God doesn't want just to give us things; He wants us to have fellowship with Him. John 15:4 says that He wants us to abide in Him. Prayer is the way to abide in God and allow Him to abide in you. You can't succeed in this life without the Lord. The Lord can succeed without you, but He chooses not to because He desires your fellowship. When you pray and God answers, you become a laborer together with Him. That's the fellowship factor. He works through you to accomplish His will.
God wants us to pray because of the development factor.
Nothing will help your spiritual life grow more than praying. The reason the Lord doesn't answer your prayers immediately is that He wants you to grow some more. Imagine a dirty, unkempt man asking a refined young lady for a date. She turns him down flat, but when he comes back the next week showered and shaved, his hair combed and teeth brushed, wearing a clean suit, she accepts. Sometimes we'll make a request of the Lord, but there is something He wants to have happen in our lives first. You can ask the Lord for something, and He won't answer because there is sin in your life. Until you deal with the sin, He won't deal with your prayer. Prayer is a means of developing your spiritual walk.
God wants us to pray because of the dependency factor.
We have to learn to rely on God's power. "Without me ye can do nothing," Jesus tells us in John 15:5. If He were to answer our prayers automatically, we would experience no growth. And if we never had to pray, there would be no dependency. Prayer is God's way of bonding us to Himself. So Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock, and offered us a wonderful promise to claim.
2. You Have A Process to Follow Asking, seeking, and knocking form a process.
Each is a bit more intensive than the previous word. If you ask, you will receive. If you seek, you will find. If you knock, it shall be opened to you. That's the process Christ wants us to use. They are all present
imperatives, meaning, “Go on asking, go on seeking, go on knocking, and don’t quit.” God doesn’t answer perfunctory prayers. He’s not a perfunctory person. He will not be drawn into something so far below his glory that it simply can’t connect with why he made us and what he’s doing in the world today.
When you ask, you simply express your desire. If there is something you want God to do, ask Him for it. I think the greatest problem in the spiritual life of most folks is not unanswered prayer, but unasked prayer. Many never get to the asking part. James tells us that we have not because we ask not. Samuel once said, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). Over and over the Bible invites us to pray and ask God. Jesus said that men "ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1). "Watch ye and pray," we are told in Mark 14:38, "lest ye enter into temptation." Every time you sin, it's because you fail to pray as you ought. If you are full of cares and worries right now, it's because you have not truly learned to pray. That's why in Philippians 4:6 the apostle Paul instructs us "in every thing by prayer and supplication" to ask God for the things we need. A good test for the appropriateness of something you desire is if you feel comfort- able asking God for it. We are to pray about everything. Don't divide your life into the sacred and the secular, praying about some things and neglecting the others. Jesus didn't live that way. To the Christian, all things are sacred. Every day is a holy day, every activity a sacred act. Pray about everything. Some people seem to think we should only pray about the big things, but nothing is too small to escape God's attention.
The Lord is Lord over all, both big and small. He knows your needs, whether it be a huge business deal or finding a parking space. Pray about everything. You can even pray about wrong things, since He already knows you want it. Admit to Him that you want it, and ask Him to change your desires.
John 16:24 says: Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete
Sometimes we seek the wrong thing. The facts may be lost or unknown to us, so we have to ask first, then seek. It is the will of God that we seek Him. James warned of asking for the wrong thing, and that happens because the individual has not sought the will of God. Sometimes we need to say, "Lord, is this Your will? I'm seeking Your will." We need to seek the presence of God when we pray. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Don't allow all of your prayers to be the little rote prayers at mealtime or bedtime. Pray with intention to know how God wants you to pray on a matter.
1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."
Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.
During the American Civil War, the War Between the States, confederate General Robert E. Lee went into a church and knelt to pray. When he left the church, someone asked him if he had prayed for the South to win the war. The general looked at him and said, "No, I wasn’t praying for us to win. I was praying that God’s will would be done." Now that’s the way to pray!
To knock means that we will not stop until we know that we have what we've asked of God. "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." In Luke chapter eleven, Jesus told the story of a man who had a friend arrive in the middle of the night. Needing food, he went and knocked at the baker's door, hammering away persistently until he got the loaves he required. Now, in Bible times it was unthinkable to refuse a friend the food and lodging he needed. Hospitality is of the utmost importance in the Middle East, and if you went to someone's house in the middle of the night, you woke up the whole family. They usually slept upstairs, so they would have to wake everyone up, wander downstairs, disturb the animals who slept below, open the barriers, and throw open the door. The person who would do that is certainly persistent, and that's how we are to pray about things. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Don't give up; keep on praying. God wants us to persist.
Luke 11: 5He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
Throughout the Gospels you find Jesus teaching prayer and persistence. Paul prayed three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Christ prayed several times in the Garden of Gethsemane that the bitter cup would be taken from Him. The Syro-Phonecian woman, who had a daughter that was demon possessed, came asking Jesus to help. Jesus said it was not fitting to do so, but that woman plead- ed with Him. She admitted that she came from an evil people but reminded Christ that even the mangy dogs occasionally catch a crumb from the king's plate. Jesus, admiring her faith, gave the woman what she asked. Had she not kept knocking, her daughter would not have been healed.
The prophet Elijah knew about persistence in prayer. He prayed for rain, and none came. So he prayed some more, and he kept on praying until the rain came. In faith, Elijah kept sending a servant to check on the rain clouds, though the land had not had rain in seven years. But Elijah pressed his hand against heaven, because he had learned the value of knocking.
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock. So when do we stop asking? When do we know it is time to stop knocking? Well, of course you can stop when you get what you asked for. Sometimes God directly answers prayer requests, and we need to rejoice, thank Him, and stop asking. But other times God's answers are different from what we expect. Some answers are delayed, and some requests are denied.
There have been times I have asked God for something very clear and plain, and He has provided for me in a way that cannot be explained apart from divine intervention. He absolutely offered a miraculous answer, so I thanked Him and moved on. But sometimes I will pray and the answer God gives me is, "You already have it." He answered my prayer in another way, and I was not even aware of the answer. That's when I can stop praying. Of course, there are also times God says, "No," and I might as well thank Him and just stop asking because He's given me His answer.
3. You Have A Provision to Enjoy
In Luke 11 there is a similar passage. I think the Lord Jesus went over the really important stuff with His disciples a few times in different ways, to make the message stick. 9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
“How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (verse 13). God loves it when we ask him for the Holy Spirit. It’s okay to pray for little things, like a place to park. But God has more for us than that. He gives his best gift, his very lifeblood, the Holy Spirit, to those who ask him. How dignifying. We’re no longer consumed with what we’re going to eat and drink and our bodily health and what we’re going to wear. Life is more (Matthew 6:25). God dignifies us with deeper desires. He arouses in our hearts a yearning for the Holy Spirit. The best prayer to God is a prayer for God. The Bible gets us focused on him: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land, where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). Now there’s an agenda for prayer – the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the conquest of sin and unbelief and self-righteousness and lukewarmness, more enjoyment of the Bible, more tenderness toward God, more love for others, the cleansing of our hearts from anger and envy and payback, more gentleness, more wisdom and knowledge, more power, more clarity, more real church growth, more of God. What would be the greatest answer to prayer that you could receive? What would be the greatest blessing you could ever have? Would it not be to have the nearness of the Lord Himself in each days activities?
In Matthew chapter seven, the Lord tells us why He answers prayer. It's because He loves us. What loving father, when his hungry son comes to ask for bread, offers the boy a stone? I mean, be reasonable! Even an unsaved father won't act in an evil way toward his own son, so why would our heavenly Father do so? Your prayers will be answered because God is good. He loves you and delights in answering your prayers.
Not only is He good, but God is wise. He won't give you the wrong thing, for the Lord knows exactly what you need. He is good, He is wise, and He is able. He can do anything, and that means He has the power to answer my prayers. We are fools not to pray. The best thing we can do is take our needs and desires to the Almighty God who loves us and allow Him to deal with our requests.
“God must not be thought of as a reluctant stranger who can be cajoled or bullied into bestowing his gifts, as a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks he plays, or even as an indulgent grandfather who provides everything requested of him. He is the heavenly Father, the God of the kingdom, who graciously and willingly bestows the good gifts of the kingdom in answer to prayer.”
Have you ever seen where the coal that is offloaded at our harbour goes. Much of it becomes electricity.
Long trains dump carload after carload of coal at the power plant's storage area. Bulldozers pushed it into mountains, and then funnelled it onto long conveyor belts. From there stamping mills ground it as fine as flour and injected the coal dust into huge furnaces. These furnaces are loud and hot. Their intense heat drove steam through turbines which spun at 3,600 revolutions per minute. The turbines were housed in concrete-and-steel casings 100 feet long, 10 feet tall, and 10 feet across. They generated enough electricity for the whole city of 300,000. A visitor to a power plant once asked the chief engineer, "Where do you store the electricity?" "We don't store it," the engineer replied "We just make it." When a light switch is flipped on one hundred miles, it literally places a demand on the system. That small need registers at the generating plant and prompts greater output. In the same way, God's grace and power cannot be stored. Though inexhaustible, they come in the measure required, at the moment of need. But only if you're plugged into the system.
The Greatest Power In This World Is God's People On their knees!
In the Bible, we see where prayer changes the world's values. Egypt was the greatest nation on the Earth.. But they couldn't hold their slaves. Why? Because God heard the "cries of His people.." (Ex. 3:7)
Haman had power. He was the King's right hand.. He wanted to destroy Israel.. But Esther knew the power of prayer.. R.A. Torrey said, "When the Church learns the power of prayer.. They will shake the world."
R. A. Torrey once wrote ten reasons that we should pray like Paul exhorts us to pray. We should pray in this way because:
there is a devil and prayer is the God appointed means of resisting him;
prayer is God's way for us to obtain what we need from him;
the apostles considered prayer to be the priority business in their lives;
prayer occupied a prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord;
prayer is the present ministry of our Lord, since He is now interceding for us;
prayer is the means God has appointed for our receiving mercy from Him and help in time of need;
prayer is the means of obtaining the fullness of God's joy;
prayer with thanksgiving is the means of obtaining freedom from anxiety and peace which passes understanding;
prayer is the means by which we are to keep watchful and be alert;
prayer is used by God to promote our spiritual growth, bring power into our work, lead others to faith in Christ, and bring all other blessings to Christ's church.
After reading a list like this, the question is not, "Should we pray?" but, "How can we afford not to?"!
I wonder if Reuben Torrey was especially passionate about prayer because of his own story. He never forgot that one night as an unbelieving student at Yale, overwhelmed with grief and guilt over his sinful lifestyle, he decided to take his own life. That night, in 1875, he stumbled to the wash basin in his dormitory room, looking for his razor to cut his wrists, in such guilt over his rebellious life, having rejected the gospel of his mother and father. He could not find his razor and suddenly became overwhelmed with conviction to pray. Unknown to him, his mother, at that very hour, was inwardly compelled to get on her knees and begin praying for the salvation of her son... miles away. At the same hour, Reuben knelt by his bed and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
R. A. Torrey went on to become the president of Moody Bible Institute, and later, Dean of Biola in Los Angeles. He would remain passionate about prayer his entire life.