GOD’S TOP SEVEN
"7 Principles About Prayer"
Jerry A. Collins
Do you ever question whether you should be praying about something? Is this something I should be asking God for? The Lord encourages us to pray and ask God for things. Now someone may be saying "I’ve tried that and it does not work. I do not buy it". Instead of confidently addressing God with things we become skeptics about God’s willingness to give us what it is we are asking for. It is true that not everything turns out the way we prayed for. So how can I take Jesus at His Word on this?
For the sake of this person and for all of us who would like to be encouraged in our praying, let’s take a look at what Jesus is saying about praying and asking in Matthew 7:7-11. The basic idea is to "Ask and if it is a good thing God will give it to you". So Jesus is going to teach us about prayer and asking which is what a lot of our praying is all about. There are 7 principles we can learn from this passage about our praying.
1. Prayer is communicating messages to God while he is unseen.
There is no need for me to have to come into the presence of God. The passage assumes I am already in His presence. We are always in His presence since God is omnipresent. Prayer is communicating messages to God not conversation with God. Of course I do this without any manifestation of God. I communicate messages to God all of the time. Prayer is universal. All humans pray and it is unlikely that there has ever been an adult human who has not prayed. Animals do not pray because prayer is a function of spirituality. Angels do not pray because they can communicate directly with the presence of God and have a conversation. Prayer is always initiated by us. It is something we do and we direct our praying to God. When we pray we are assuming many things about God including the fact that He exists, He is involved here, He is omnipresent, he is knowledgeable, powerful, personal, moral and spiritual. In this passage it is assumed that we will communicate messages to God and while we do so we take it by faith that He hears our prayers.
2. We are free to ask about anything Vs 7
It is praying that asks for something. We can come to Him about many things. What kind of requests fit here? Well, what kind do you have? Jesus gives no limitation as to the kind of requests or the character of the request. If you want to pray about career issues then pray. Parenting issues or financial issues are not off limits. Relational needs, physical concerns, political issues, or personal needs are not off limits. We can communicate to the Lord messages about anything we want. "Ask" Jesus tells us. We are free to pray about anything. You are free to make requests of God about anything.
3. Prayer which asks for something given in context of seeking for it.
Our asking of God is characterized Jesus tells us by ‘seeking’ and ‘knocking’. What is this kind of praying? Jesus makes the point that our Heavenly father wants to give us what we desire when our desires our good. Desires are indicated by what we ask for as well as what we seek for! For instance, if I pray for good health, I should also be seeking good health. If I pray for someone to come to Christ, I should also be seeking to lead them to Christ. If I pray to get out of debt, then I should be seeking financial responsibility. While I am free to ask God about anything, my requests must be consistent with my desires and my desires include not only my requests but also what I am seeking after in my life. This is the kind of praying that gets God’s attention. It is one thing to say I want to run on the track team and it is another to put in the practice time and determine to hone my skills as a runner. Make your desires consistent with your requests.
4. We pray recognizing the sovereignty of God
When we talk about the sovereignty of God we mean that God is the supreme ruler of the universe. He is the final and ultimate source of all power, control and authority. Nothing happens apart from His will as stated in the Word of God or His plan as what happens. God has no competition or rival including Satan. Now while God is 100% sovereign we are 100% free to pray. It is true that God is sovereign and it is true that we can pray. It is always appropriate to pray and it is always appropriate to recognize God’s sovereignty. While He has promised to hear my prayers, only God knows what he will answer, when He will answer, how He will answer and if He will answer. My praying then must always recognize His supreme control over all things including the very thing I am praying about. For instance, it is a fact that prayer offered in faith would bring about healing from God (James 5:15). This is a fact but not something true without exception. Timothy had frequent ailments. Does that mean he was not a man of faith? David prayed for his infant son to be healed, yet he died. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Was that because Paul neglected to pray for him or did not have enough faith that he be healed? Unlikely. Prayer for healing is biblical but a lack of healing may be due to many causes. God may be doing things I am unaware of that prevent the healing. Nevertheless, while I acknowledge my God’s sovereignty over my praying, prayer for healing is biblical.
5. If it is a good thing God will give it to us vs. 11
The point is that we earthly fathers have our imperfections, our limitations that are characterized as evil in the sense so much of my giving is tainted by my own sinful motives. Yet, I am not going to give my son something unreasonable or even harmful when he makes a request of me. We put a lot of time and thinking into the well being of our children wanting to ensure good things for them. We are ready to give them good things. But God, who has absolutely no imperfections whatsoever is, even more ready to give good gifts to His children. And His gifts are always appropriate and generous. If we are asking for good things and if we are desiring good things and if we are seeking after good things then God will give us good things when we ask Him for them. We can come to Him with all the spontaneity of a child asking for what we want knowing that we have a wise father who loves us and will give it to us if it is good. Only He knows the difference.
6. We should not expect God to answer our prayers.
In verse 11 we will receive our request only if it is good. Of course God is not going to give us what is not good. Love is doing the best good for the other person and God will only do what is good for us. Even when I am making a request of God I should not expect him to answer it unless it is something He has promised to do. Like claiming the promise of salvation if we ask Christ to come into our lives (John 1:12) or claiming peace of mind when I pray about a personal problem (Phil 4:6-7). God is not in the business of meeting my expectations. God is who He is not who I expect Him to be. God is doing what he is doing not what I expect Him to do. When I am praying for something that is not specifically promised to me in the Bible then I can request, want, hope for it but not expect it. When I expect God to answer these prayers then (1) my concept of God changes from biblical to personal. I begin ignoring who the Bible says God id and begin focusing on who I want Him to be. (2) My communication with God also changes from what's right to what works. I begin to think of good prayer as what gets me what I want rather than what the Bible says is good prayer. I cannot expect God to answer that which he has not promised. I am free to pray for it and desire it and seek it but not expect it. Even Jesus prayed about good things. He prayed in Matthew 26:39 for suffering to be removed because God is against suffering (Rev 22:1-3). Jesus showed us that it is good to pray for Gods will to be done and it is good to pray expressing pain over being forsaken by His Father (Matt 27:46) in this case due to our sin. It is good to desire these things and express these things to God. But it is not good to expect them. Job 30:24-26 Job confessed to God because he expected God to deliver him. God is keeping His agenda not ours.
7. We pray because God commanded us to pray.
Prayerlessness is sin. When we do not pray we are disobeying God. Psalm 145:1 David says he will not only praise God forever but he will do it every day forever. It is biblical to pray every day. Somehow the sovereignty of God and my free will are both 100% operative in my prayer life. In Isaiah 38:51-55 God clearly told Hezekiah that he would die yet changed that decree due to the prayer of the king. Somehow we have a free will that influences God without changing His plan. A sincere prayer of a good person moves the heart of God. Biblical prayer should go on without ceasing 1 Thess. 5:17. We must continually be in prayer not just regularly have prayer sessions. In the same way that I am to ‘rejoice always’ and ‘in everything to give thanks’ I am to always be expressing myself to God all day long.