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Getting What We Ask for in Prayer

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Getting What We Ask for in Prayer

1 John 5:14-15


January 21, 2007

Opening

The story of a famished voyager

A man traveling to America on a passenger ship decided to save money by not eating in the ship's dining hall. Instead he packed enough crackers and cheese in a trunk to hold him until he arrived. But on the last day of the voyage he decided to splurge and buy one good meal before disembarking. Noticing that prices were not listed for the meals, he in­quired of a waitress and was informed that the cost of the meals was included in his ticket. All he'd had to do to receive his meals was to come to the dining hall and place his order. Misunderstanding the ship's ticketing system, he had failed to receive what was rightly his.

There are many Christians today like that man—Christians who are spiritually impover­ished because they do not realize that all they have to do is ask to receive what God in-tends for them.

Scripture

In 1 John 5:14-15 God's Word encourages us to ask with confidence so that we will re­ceive what we ask of him if we ask in accord with his will:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything ac-cording to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Topic Sentence

God gives his spiritual riches to those who unceasingly ask him for them.

• We are talking here about prayer for ourselves—prayers that we usually call peti­tion—not about intercession, which is prayer for others.

 

1. The Confidence We Have in Approaching God

·          Is based on who God is

Our confidence in prayer is not based on a formula or a law of the universe. It is not simply a cause-and-effect interaction. It is not a reward system. Our confi­dence is based on the promise of a personal God, who is very wise, loving, and all-powerful. In his wisdom God knows what is best; in his love God always wants what is best; and in his power God is able to achieve for us what is best. No power in the universe will stop him from delivering on his promises.

Also, the confidence we have in approaching God is based on what God has already done (Romans 8:32 says:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? )

We know God's nature because of what he has already done. That message is particularly clear in this passage. We recognize this as an argument from the greater to the lesser. It's like saying that if a person can lift 100 pounds, they can surely lift 10 pounds. Paul is saying that if God was willing do such a major thing as to give his Son to die for our sins, surely he will do the lesser thing of giving us, along with that great gift, the spiritual blessings we need in order to live for him.

And lastly, our confidence is not only based on who God is and what He has done already but it is based on God's good-faith invitation (Heb. 4:16)

The writer of Hebrews gives us another reason to be confident that God will de-liver on his promises. Hebrews 4:16 challenges us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Our confidence is based on God's good-faith invitation to come to him. It's a throne of grace to which we come, not a throne of judgment. God's door is open. He is expecting us. He is glad that we have come, for he has much to give us—both mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and grace (giving us what we do not deserve).

Confident prayer is for all true believers—those who know God, those for whom he gave his Son, those who have a standing invitation to come into God's throne room because they know him.

2. The Conditions for Those Who Petition God

Before we get to the heart of this wonderful promise—the certainty of receiving what we ask for—we have to take note of some conditions. Some of the conditions are in the text; some are in other Bible passages.

The first condition is found in 1 John 5:14-15. Turn there with me now and follow as I read the passage:  ”This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him”.

We must ask.                                                                                                                                                                     1 John 5:14-15 is clear. Those who ask are those who receive. Other Scriptures convey the same message. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus underscores the need to ask. When speaking of the Father's willingness to give, he says, "How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" And James reminds his readers, who apparently were experiencing spiritual poverty, "You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:2). The point is simply that askers receive from God and non–askers do not receive. That is condition 1.

Condition 2 is                                                                                                                                                                        We must ask in faith.

Faith is the certainty that God always acts in accord with his character, his prom­ises, and his plan. James reminds us that we can always receive wisdom from God if we ask for it, but he goes to emphasize that we must ask in faith or we will not receive what we ask (James 1:6). In other words, askers must believe that God, true to his Word, will always deliver on his promises. The same holds true for any "good and perfect gift" you ask for and need from the Father (James 1:17).  So, we must ask and we must ask in faith. There is a third.

§     We must ask with a clean heart and an obedient spirit.

David reminds us in Psalm 66:18 that men and women who hold sin in their hearts will not receive from the Lord. John states this teaching in a positive way when he says, "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his com­mands and do what pleases him" (1 John 3:21-22).

God is always ready to help us do what pleases him. God is eager to contribute to an obedient lifestyle. He will never be an accomplice to evil. So set yourself on a path of obedience and pray boldly for the help you need from God to be His faithful, obedient servant.

·          We must ask in accord with God's will.

This is the most basic condition in the verse. This is what we spoke of extensively last Sunday. Asking in accord with God's will means asking for the very things that God wants you to have, things like "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). If you ask for wisdom, spiritual enlightenment, spiritual power, a closer walk with God, the filling of the Holy Spirit, a renewed mind, devotion to the Word, greater depth in prayer, abiding in Christ, grace upon grace, or any other spiritual blessing, you will be asking in accord with God's will. The Bible mentions hundreds of good gifts that are in accord with God's will. If, on the other hand, your asking is motivated by selfish ambition, wrong motives, or sinful desires, you should not expect to receive these from the Lord.

At times we have to be persistent in asking (As Luke 18:1-8) says, Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

·           

If we ask in accord with God's will and meet all the other conditions, we still cannot expect that we will receive what we have asked for according to our own timetable. Jesus taught two parables that illustrated the need to pray with persis­tence—the parable of the friend at midnight in Luke 11:5-8 – it reads “Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. ) and the parable of the persistent widow, which we just read in Luke 18:1-8—a reminder that even prayers that are in accord with God's will can be long delayed. When God asks us to wait as we go on pray­ing, it is usually because he is working out something in us. His temporary with-holding of the answer grows our faith and increases the clarity of our vision. God delivers on his promises according to his own timetable. If at first we don't re­ceive, then we need simply to keep on asking. If we are asking according to God’s promise for His good and perfect gifts mentioned by James in the first chapter, verse 17. Good and perfect. According to His will. Go ahead and ask!.

3. The Certainty We Have in Petitioning God

And we will end by hearing the incredible promise God makes to all who ask in accord with his will and meet the conditions of faith, heart purity, and persistence.

    Lets go back to 1 John 5:14. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. “

  

·          "We know that he hears us."

That God "hears" us does not mean simply that it registers with him, that he is tuned in to what we have asked. It means rather that God is acceding to our re-quest, that he is responding favorably. God has never made a promise he didn't keep.

This, says John, we know to be true. We can be absolutely sure that God will an­swer with a yes. When you ask in accord with God's will. try to imagine that God.on his throne, smiles as he hears your request—smiles because he likes what you have asked—then nods approvingly and confers with the Son and the Holy Spirit as to how they will go about fulfilling your request. Also let your heart be full of joy in the good gifts you are sure to receive. Then be determined to keep a lookout for the answer so you won't miss it when it comes.

                                                                                                                            

He hears and

"We know that we have what we asked of him."

We are so certain that we will receive what we ask for that we are able to say, "Thank you, God, for the gift," even before we see the reality of it. We are able to bank on the certainty of his answer when we ask rightly.

So tight is the link between asking and receiving that we receive just what we have asked for. If you ask for wisdom, the Lord does not give power; if you ask for power, the Lord does not give joy; if you ask for joy, the Lord does not give faith. He gives what we ask for.

But God's way of giving may sometimes surprise you. If you ask for faith, he may send trials in order to grow our faith. If you ask for the ability to love, he may send some unlovable people into your life to give you opportunity to practice loving un­conditionally. I will say teasingly, don’t ask for patience if you don’t want trials, because patience is built through trials.

Becky Tirabassi  relates the blessings and benefits of prayer. It is rather long, but worth hearing:

“Just to pray without ceasing for one hour seemed like a monumental achievement in mastering a difficult spiritual discipline, but my deeper walk with Christ has truly been most meaningful to me. Yes, amazing an­swers to prayer elicit whoops and hollers and persever­ing prayer teaches endurance, but spending time with Jesus—perhaps as His disciples did, laughing, crying, complaining, proposing, deliberating, submitting, con­fessing, and praising—has been the joyful part of our walk together.

She goes on to say,                                                                                                     Had people told me ten, even five years ago that I would be a prayer motivator, I would not have believed them, nor would my closest friends. I am often pre-judged as never serious, perhaps even flighty, until I open my mouth. And of all the suitable topics someone of my personality profile could begin to expound upon, prayer would—without exception—be the last one picked by others as the love of my life.

Perhaps that paradox is the greatest argument I have in my defense when others offer their reasons (or excuses) for not praying. My experience in prayer proves the point that it is not race, sex, denomination, vocation, or education that singles out a person to be an effective prayer. It is simply your decision to spend time with the Lord. How you arrive at that decision, whether it is out of crisis, great need, humiliation, or persuasion, seems immaterial. It is a matter of  time — priorities, personality, and profession all set aside and boiled down to one question: Will I make time for God?

When answered with a resounding, "Yes, no matter what the cost," then the inevitable results of a deeper walk with God occur because of prayer.

Prayer allows God's presence into all areas and as­pects of your life, beginning with simple, daily deci­sions and culminating with your life's purpose. The combination of prayer and the Word takes conjecture out of life and replaces it with certainties. And in the practice of prayer you are escorted farther and deeper into knowing and loving God.

Therefore, imagine my surprise in stopping after five years of a long journey to look back over the moun­tains and valleys, to assess progress and be in awe of the unexpected benefits of prayer. The results of dili­gent prayer appear as illustrious jewels of immeasur­able wealth, and just to read a list of them is appealing, but to experience them as personal possessions is life-changing!

On that journey of daily prayer and Bible reading Becky experienced and benefited in all areas of personal, spiritual growth, not because she is a woman in ministry, but because she is a person intent on spending time alone daily with God.

Becky discovered five ways prayer benefits:

1.   Prayer fuels faith to dream and hope and risk, Prayer "woos" us to the Word by our need to hear God's response to our requests.

2.   Prayer teaches trust in God through waiting upon His timing.

3.   Prayer reveals God's plan and purpose. It opens up to us detailed directions for both the present and the future.

4.   Prayer releases God's power to live and walk in

   the supernatural realm of the Holy Spirit.

5.   Prayer unleashes love for God—emotional, real,

and all-consuming.

Who, then, having thought through the benefits of prayer would consciously   

decide to eliminate, forget, or neglect time with God?

Conclusion

·          God has spiritual riches that he wants to give you. God is more eager to give than you are to ask….. If you really want the spiritual riches God wants you to have and you keep on asking for them, you will have them…. If, however, you care little for spiritual riches and yearn for worldly pleasures and fleshly blessings, then this incredible promise will mean little to you……

·          I assure you, on the authority of the Word of God, that he will give, if you ask—if you ask in faith, if you ask desiring to please God, if you ask persistently……

·          The rules for asking in the kingdom of God are simple: Ask nothing; receive nothing….. Ask some; receive some….. Ask much; receive much.

Let me close by reading from Andrew Murray’s book, “With Jesus in the School of Prayer (a classic book on prayer)

This is from the chapter entitled, The Certainty of the Answer to Prayer.

Matthew 7:7-8 states,
"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.”


And James 4:3, ”When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

“OUR Lord returns here in the Sermon on the Mount a second time to speak of prayer. Here He wants to teach us what in all Scripture is considered the chief thing in prayer: the assurance that prayer will be heard and answered. Observe how He uses words which mean almost the same thing, and each time repeats the promise so distinctly: 'You shall receive, you shall find, it shall be opened to you;' and then gives as ground for such assurance the law of the kingdom: 'He that asks, receives; he that seeks, finds; to him that knocks, it shall be opened.' We cannot but feel how in this repetition He wants to impress deep on our minds this one truth, that we may and must most confidently expect an answer to our prayer. Next to the revelation of the Father's love, there is, in the whole course of the school of prayer, not a more important lesson than this: Every one that asks, receives.

In the three words the Lord uses, ask, seek, knock, a difference in meaning has been sought. Asking and receiving the gift would thus lead to seeking and finding the Giver, and this again to the knocking and opening of the door of the Father's home and love. One thing is sure: the Lord does want us to count most certainly on it that asking, seeking, knocking, cannot be in vain: receiving an answer, finding God, the opened heart and home of God, are the certain fruit of prayer.

That the Lord should have thought it needful in so many forms to repeat the truth, is a lesson of deep import. It proves that He knows our heart, how doubt and distrust toward God are natural to us, and how easily we are inclined to rest in prayer as a religious work without an answer. He knows too how, even when we believe that God is the Hearer of prayer, believing prayer that lays hold of the promise, is something spiritual, too high and difficult for the half-hearted disciple. He therefore at the very outset of His instruction to those who would learn to pray, seeks to lodge this truth deep into their hearts: prayer does avail much; ask and you shall receive; every one that asks, receives. This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer. But don’t give up, hold on; let the Word and the Spirit teach you to pray aright, but do not let go the confidence He seeks to waken: Every one that asks, receives. Again, everyone that asks receives.

Let me repeat:

·          God has spiritual riches that he wants to give you. God is more eager to   give than you are to ask….. If you really want the spiritual riches God wants you to have and you keep on asking for them, you will have them…. If, however, you care little for spiritual riches and yearn for worldly pleasures and fleshly blessings, then this incredible promise will mean little to you……

·          I assure you, on the authority of the Word of God, that he will give, if you ask—if you ask in faith, if you ask desiring to please God, if you ask persistently……

·          The rules for asking in the kingdom of God are simple: Ask nothing; receive nothing….. Ask some; receive some….. Ask much; receive much.

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