If you were ever going to hear just one message on the mysterious and majestic practice we call prayer, let this PODCAST be the one.
Finally we come to the crux of the matter regarding this glorious and sometimes mysterious thing we call prayer.
So much is going to become so clear in just the next few minutes: Questions about unanswered prayers. Questions about why God even designed this thing called prayer. Questions about the purpose of prayer. Questions about what we ought to pray for, and what we don’t need to pray for.
Why prayer sometimes doesn’t seem to work. Yet why every time we pray Biblically, it ALWAYS works.
So much to talk about. I am so glad you are here to share in this discussion with us. Let’s start by reading from Matthew, chapter 6:
Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
For many people, prayer has become a “faith threatening” topic. For them, it seems as though the Bible has made certain promises when it comes to prayer and God does not hold up His end of the deal.
With this in mind, I’d like to put your soul at ease, once we learn what the Bible truly has to say about prayer.
Now, in verse eight, before Jesus began what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”, he said:
“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Then later in verse 31 of the same chapter, Jesus comforts us with this promise:
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
In other words, we don’t need to beg God for stuff. We don’t even need to ask Him for stuff. Now, let me hasten to say, it is perfectly okay to ask God for stuff, with one very important caveat: It’s okay to talk to him about what we want, so long as His will is ultimately what we want for our lives.
But we don’t need to ask for stuff, because it was never God’s intention that prayer should be our asking Him for things.
Too many of us believe that prayer is us asking and receiving. Sadly, this is 180 degrees opposed to Biblical truth. Dead wrong. Now, many people counter this statement of mine with James 4:2, which says this:
“…You do not have because you do not ask God.”
Yet, when we look at the verse in context (especially the entire book of James), we see James writing several absurd statements – even sarcasm – to make his point.
So, when we look at James 4:2 in full context, we see this:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Or, as we see in The Message translation:
4 1-2 Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.
2-3 You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.
You see? The purpose of prayer was never to beg God for stuff. It’s actually only about submission – not acquisition.
Unqualified, without negotiation, without hesitation, submission.
Prayer is, first and foremost, all about submission. It’s an act – yes, an action – of bringing our wills to alignment with God’s will.
Here is how it works: you have heard me say before that the thing about God that scares me the most is that given enough time, God may give me exactly what I want. In other words, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.
Think about that for a second.
What would our children be like today if we simply gave them everything they ever asked for whenever they asked for it? What kind of a child would that produce?
Therefore, what would your life be like today if your Heavenly Father did likewise?
Maybe the prophet Jeremiah said it best in Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
This is truth. Our hearts are so deceitful that we don’t even understand it ourselves.
Therefore, it’s such a great thing that God doesn’t give us what our heart’s desire each time that we ask.
His will, His plan, His heart’s desire for us is always better.
This is what we see in Romans 12:2
“…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Imagine how amazed will be with the answers to our prayers if all we ever prayed for was God’s perfect will contrasted to the disappointment we may too often feel when instead we pray for what we want.
This battle of “our will be done” thinking versus “God’s will be done” thinking is at the core of spiritual warfare.
The good news is that prayer is the solution to this problem. Prayer for God’s will, not our will. His plans, not ours. His desires, not our desires.
When we pray as God designed it, “Your will be done”, we discover THE way for Him to bend our will to His. This being the primary purpose of prayer: not to change our circumstances, but to change us in one basic, fundamental way – to submit to His will in all things.
1 John 5:14-15 puts it oh so clearly and succinctly:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
And lest we think that Jesus didn’t practice what He preached. We read in Matthew 6 what he preached and we see in Matthew 26, just before Jesus was arrested, what He practiced when His soul was broken in sorrow:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
You see, God will always answer the prayers that go, “Lord, do what You want, not what I want.”