Morning service form Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from June 24th, 2012. ”Biblical Principles of Fasting.” Matthew 6:16-18.
Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church from Shawnee, OK from June 10th, 2012. ”Cross Training in Prayer: Boosters and Busters.” Psalm 37:3-8.
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the post office received the letter to “God, USA”, they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused that he instructed his assistants to send the little boy a $5 bill. The President thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5 bill, and sat down to write a thank you note to God. It read: ”Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington, D.C., and those guys deducted $95 in taxes!”
This humorous anecdote leads us to ponder the question, “How exactly does God answer our prayers?” 1 John 5:14-15 makes some strong assurances about the prayers we offer up to God- “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” How can John be so confident? Because of the qualification- “according to His will.” If we ask anything according to the will of God, God will hear and answer our prayer. So, how do we know we are praying according to the will of God?
John’s teaching on prayer in 1 John is a summary of what he heard Jesus teach about prayer, which he recorded in his gospel. One such passage is John 14:13-14- “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” There are at least four things we can discern from this passage about praying according to God’s will:
1. We must have a relationship with Christ. The “you” is directed at the disciples, not the world in general. God hears and answers prayers from followers of Christ because in Christ they have standing before God. The author of Hebrews wrote that we can come with confidence to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) only because of the work of Jesus as our high priest (Heb. 4:14-15). A person who does not have saving faith in Christ does not have the righteousness of Christ which is the basis of us coming to God in prayer.
2. I must come to God on the merits of Christ, not my own. Two different times in John 14:13-14 Jesus said we must make our requests in His name. This means more than a phrase we tack on at the end of our prayers. It is praying from the perspective that God owes me nothing. If I think God owes me something because of all of the good things I have done for Him, then I am praying in my name, not Jesus’ name. Many people operate on this basis. They think that because they have faithfully gone to church for decades, taught Sunday School, and gone on mission trips that God owes them a favor. However, my sin-tainted deeds have no claim on God. The perfect, righteous life and deeds of Christ do have claim on God. So, I pray because of who Jesus is and what He has done, not on the basis of myself.
Recently I was the camp pastor for Children’s Falls Creek. There were over 3,000 people there, most of whom were 4th-6th graders. By day two of camp I had become a celebrity. I couldn’t walk across the camp with out being mobbed by kids yelling my name and asking me to sign everything from their Bible to their shoes! For the first time in my life, I got a small taste of what it would be like to be famous- a strange experience! By the third day, I noticed something interesting. A few groups of kids on different occasions must have noticed the mob around me and decided if they wanted their picture taken with me or talk with me they would have to use a different tactic. So, they sent an adult sponsor over to me that knew me- a student of mine or a fellow pastor. These kids knew that the mob had no claim on me- there was no way I could give each of those kids the attention I wished I could give them. But when they sent an adult that had some kind of relationship with me they knew this person had a claim on me. Why? Because of my relationship with them. The same is true of our spiritual lives and prayer. On our own, we have no claim on God. He owes us nothing. Yet, through Christ, we have access to God. So, we must pray in Jesus’s name based on His merits, not our own.
3. I must have obedience to Christ. When I live my life in earnest to obey God and His Word, my desires will become God’s desires. When I live in selfishness and sin, my prayer requests will look accordingly. There are numerous references in Scripture that connect walking in holiness/obedience to prayer and God answering our prayers. For example, John 15:7 states – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” In addition, 1 John 3:21-22 states “We have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
James Boice wrote, “Prayer is not so much getting God to pay attention to our requests as it is getting our requests in line with His perfect and desirable will for us.” Obedience to Christ and His Word helps line up our desires with the Father’s will. If our lives are lived in unconfessed sin and selfishness, our prayer requests will be rooted in what we desire first and foremost, rather than what God desires.
4. I must desire the glory of God more than my request. Jesus said He will answer prayers so that the Father may be glorified. There are times when Jesus will not answer a prayer the way we wish. This is very difficult and painful. However, we must accept and understand that God is sometimes more glorified answering a prayer request in this way than in the way we hope. This is what God did in the life of Jesus. We would not wish Jesus to be treated the way He was and die the way He did. Yet, that was God’s plan for His life and through that plan He was most glorified. It was something that was incredibly difficult for Jesus and He even prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for the Lord to remove the “cup” from Him. However, Jesus’ greatest desire was for the Father to be glorified above his own comfort or desire. To pray in line with God’s will, we must do the same in our lives.
Look back through these points to make sure you are praying in accordance with God’s will. He wants us to pray, He will hear, and He will answer!
Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from June 3rd, 2012. ”Cross Training in Prayer:Praying Confidently.” 1 John 5:14-15.