Title: When Answers Come
Foundational Keys to Opening the Gates of Heaven
Introduction: When your in the place of ministry, you often find yourself in that place were people expect you to pray for them. Expecting God to answer yes to their request, because you prayed, after all, your a preacher. When I was going through a tremendous trial of life, we were invited to see Pastor David Wilkerson, a preacher whom had experienced the trial of cancer five different times. His wife several times, and he had just lost his grand daughter to brain cancer.
Not long before our time to fly to New York, we received and e-mail, asking "Just what did we expect." They told us in the e-mail, "they had many visitors who later became very upset that God did not answer yes to their prayer," after all, the famous pastor, evangelist, David Wilkerson prayed for them.
We wrote back, "We respected Pastor Wilkerson, we knew that he was like us, a child of God who loved the Lord, knew God's Word and who had desire to serve the Lord, regardless of the lot in this life we were in." They wrote back, stating their relief, "We were afraid that you might think that just because pastor Wilkerson prayed for you, that God naturally will give a miraculous healing." I thought, what needs to be taught so people can understand the attributes to enjoying God's answer to prayers?
Proposition: I would propose to you that there are Biblical attributes to opening our spiritual hearts to God's response to our prayers.
Interrogative Sentence: Just what attributes open the gates of heaven? Does He have His own time frame? Does He have His own way? Does He have work in His own power? Does He have His own purpose? We need the attributes found in this message, if we are going to enjoy waiting upon the Lord to answer our prayers.
I had recently read a message which told about a little girl who wanted to write a missionary. Evidently she had been told not to expect an written response back to her letter, because missionaries are very busy people. In her letter she wrote, "Dear Mr. Missionary, we are praying for you, But we are not expecting an answer." (Rick Warren, How to Receive an Answer from God, Prayer can Changer Your Life)
I do not know about you but there are times when I pray, I do not always have the expectation I should toward His answers. There have been three seasons in my life when the trials of dealing with conjecture of man, (the church) I had lost hope in seeing God do something. I never lost excitement in prayer to God in the trial of cancer. Never have I lost hope in the trial of waiting to see God use the work I have done with Him. I have not lost hope as I see my children be overcome by this world view. However, I often lose hope in praying for the conjuncture of man (what is called the church today).
In our series, the Foundational Keys to Opening the Gates of Heaven, Jesus has words to live by, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 'Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)
Transitional Sentence: An attribute to enjoying answers from God, He has His own time frame. The Bible says, For there is a time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery." (Ecclesiastes 8:6) This means according to His schedule, His timeline. He is all knowing, He knows what is best, how long it is going to take for people's hearts to recognize His work among them. He knows just when someone will surrender their hearts over to Him.
In Luke 1:5-23 we read of God's time for the birth of John the Baptist. Zechariah, John's father, who was a priest, ask the question that everyone has ask while waiting for prayer to be answered, "How can I be sure of this?" (Luke 1:18) Zechariah and Elizabeth, John's mother were old and childless. (Luke 1:7) Safe to assume that they had been praying for a child for a long time - we do know that they had prayed for a child. (Luke 1:13) The Bible says that they were righteous in God's sight, "observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly." (Luke 1:6) The miraculous birth of John had to come at God's right time, because He was the one who will bring the people back to God (Luke 1:16; Luke 3) and point them Jesus Christ. (Luke 3:15-18)
Here's the point, even righteous people have to wait for God's timing, no matter how bad they want their prayers to be answered.
When my wife (Bonnie) died of brain cancer, I thought, "Lord this is a great time to explode my writing ministry." He didn't, there was a time that needed to reach it's fulfillment. As matter of fact the readings of my written teachings dropped to around twenty (January 29, 2011) or so per week. After the time of fulfillment, which was when I entered into a relationship with Pennie, the readings of the teachings I had done for the Lord exploded, 19,000 (May 30, 2011) readings.
We must consider times and seasons. The great prayer warrior George Muller use to say that he first would pray. If the answer did not come quickly he begin to ask questions, "'Is it the Lord's work?' Then, ''Is this the Lord's time?'" (Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1368). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.)
Transitional Sentence: Another attribute to enjoying seeing God answer prayer is, be willing to let Him answer in His own way. The Lord says, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8) God's plan and thoughts are far-reaching, more fertile than our thoughts. Therefore, it is not fruitful for us to tell God how to answers our prayers.
Ministers of the Word have set in prayer meetings and heard other minister tell God what to do. That is a prayer that never gets an answer yes to. Please note, the fastest way to see God answer a prayer is to have this heart, "Lord, I am asking for this, but if this is not the way for me to go, then open doors you want me to walk through and close doors you do not want be to walk through."
I remembering hearing of a young man who prayed to God to bless his pastorate, it made since to him. If he was blessed, other could be blessed in the local church. He worked long hours, seeing little of his prayer coming true. Then he asked the Lord to close the doors that needed closed and open the doors God wanted him to walk through. The door closed on the pastorate and a new ministry style opened up for him. As he is faithful to his new call - additional ministry opportunities arise.
I remember years ago praying for a job I applied to. It would be in town, good hours, good pay and benefits. However, it was a little out of my natural capabilities. The church I attended agreed with me in prayer. The Lord closed that door of opportunity - I was thinking, "Lord what are you doing?" After six months of waiting on God, I got a job were people respected my Christianity, they even got 100% behind me when I prepared to go to Russia to plant a church.
Lenard Ravenhill wrote, "God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him." (Rick Warren, How to Receive an Answer from God, Prayer can Changer Your Life)
Transitional Sentence: Let God answer in His time and in His way and in His own power. The Book of Genesis holds truths to what happens when His people let Him work in His own power and when people try to make His promises come about by their power.
In Genesis 17 we read of God's covenant with Abram (Genesis 17:1-2), who later the Lord named Abraham (Genesis 17:5). God's covenant, "I am God Almighty, walk before Me faithfully and be blameless." (Genesis 17:1) "I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generation to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you." (Genesis 17:6-7) It was in Genesis 15:4 the word of the Lord came to Abram, telling him that he will have a son from his own flesh and blood who will be his heir. The Lord told Abram, that his offspring would be like counting the stars in the sky, if they could be counted by him. It was at this time in Biblical history, Abraham waited and waited and waited. As time went on, Abraham finds himself eighty-six years old (Genesis 16:16) and his wife past childbearing years.
The flesh takes over and human reasoning feels God's power is taking to long - That harem mentality, that Sister Wives (modern day TV show) approach chucks the waiting on God's power. In Genesis 16 we read Sarai, Abram's wife saying, "The Lord has kept me from having children. [Abram] go sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her." (Genesis 16:2) The Bible says, "Sarai, [Abram's] wife took her Egyptian slave, Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife." (Genesis 16:3) That union birth's forth a boy, Ishmael, of which the Bible says, "He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
In Genesis 16:9 we read of an angle telling Hagar, if she walked in obedience, the Lord would increase her "descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count." (Genesis 16:10) Hagar descendants were the Hagrites. (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary; Tyndale Bible Dictionary) Ishmael, the son of Hagar, had descendants, the Ishmaelites. (Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (p. 648). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers; The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary; The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Any wild and warlike peoples of the desert around Israel, could claim to be descendants of Ishmael. (Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; Light In the Darkness: A Time of Jacob's Trouble)
The Psalmist writes this about the descendants of Hagar and Ishmael, "O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those You cherish. 'Come,' they say, 'let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.' With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against You— the tents of the Ishmaelites,... [and] the Hagrites" (Psalm 83:1-6) It is interesting, there is an ideology out there today that claim to be followers of a religious icon who claimed to be an ancestor of Ishmael. (Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; Light In the Darkness: A Time of Jacob's Trouble)
The great news is Abraham, who was once Abram decides to start living according to God's promise, that promise of descendants. In Genesis 18:10; 14, we see the Lord telling Abraham that the promised son would be born by the time He returned the following year. In Genesis 21 we read of the birth of Isaac, the boy born to Abraham when he was one hundred years old. (Genesis 21:5) By this time Sarai, named Sarah, by the power of God gave birth to Isaac, even though she was in her old age, "past the age of childbearing." (Genesis 18:11)
Abraham and Sarah experiencing Gods power in answer to prayer for descendants enjoyed a son Isaac. He was the irreplaceable physical father of the people of God coming from Abraham. In the Book of Matthew we read the genealogy of Jesus all they way back to Isaac, then to Abraham. Abraham's and Isaac's descendants, the Jews are still in existence today. As a matter of fact, according to Galatians 3:29, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
When Abraham waited for God's power to answer prayer, that attribute has a positive affected on us all for eternity, the promise of Christ, the promise of heaven that will carry on to generations to come.
Transitional Sentence: Let God answer in His time, in His way, in His own power and for His purpose. Why did God answer Elisabeth's and Zacharias's prayer for a child - God had a purpose for John the Baptist. Why did God answer Abraham's prayer for someone to be his heir? God had a purpose of having descendants that would love and serve Him for all eternity.
The Apostle Paul writes about God's purpose, "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness..." (Galatians 1:1) Christians, see God answer their prayers when they ask Him to make His purpose known and accomplished through them. To the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote, "In Him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. (Ephesians 1:11)
Mature prayer warriors ask, "Is my prayer for God's purpose?" It is natural for us to assume that success is God's purpose. His main purpose is for us to depend upon Him and on His power now. His purpose is for us to stay calm in the trials, testing's and frustrations in life. His purpose for us to praise Him for the doors of opportunity, seek Him as we endeavor to accomplish the task He has set before us, and trust Him with the results of our efforts.
Christians get answers when they ask God to show them their purpose in this life, when they ask Him for His temperament as they serve others, when they ask Him to mature their gifts and use them in their present circumstances. God has a purpose for all of us.
Changing a diaper is taking care of God's baby. Being a teacher is to be God representative in the classroom. Being an elected official is being God instrument in government. Homemaker, postal worker, store clerk, office manager, whatever God has you doing, He has a purpose for you.
In Closing: When do prayers get answered? When we let God mature us as we let Him answer prayer in His time, in His ways, under His power and for His purposes.
God’s Gracious Providence
"If we could look behind the unexpected events in our lives, we would be amazed to see God wonderfully providing for our needs. The insignificant turns in the road, the seemingly unimportant events, the often unexplained happenings—all are part of God’s loving care.
His gracious providence is also evident in the tangible provisions of life. In Bristol, England, George Mueller operated an orphanage for two thousand children. One evening he became aware that there would be no breakfast for them the next morning. Mueller called his workers together and explained the situation. Two or three prayed. 'Now that is sufficient,' he said. 'Let us rise and praise God for prayer answered!' The next morning they could not push open the front door. So they went out the back door and around the building to see what was keeping it shut. Stacked up against the front door were boxes filled with food. One of the workers later remarked, 'We know Who sent the baskets, but we do not know who brought them!'” -P.R.V. Our Daily Bread, November 30, 1985
(Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press)
Answers Come when let God do!