WHAT ABOUT PRAYER?
Getting Answers to our Prayers
Jerry A Collins
∑ What is it God has promised to give us when we pray?
∑ What does it mean to ask, seek and knock when we pray?
∑ What does the comparison between fathers and God mean?
Perseverance is one of those basic characteristics that often allows us to accomplish the objective we are after. For many area football teams that has meant persevering through the end of the season playoffs. Perseverance is also a characteristic of prayer. Our Lord even encourages us to persevere in our asking God for things. Now someone may be saying, I have tried that and it does not work. Well, for the sake of this person and for all of us who would like to be encouraged in our praying, Jesus is teaching us in Matthew 7:7-11, Ask and if it is a good thing, God will give it to you. Letís make a number of observations about this from this passage.
1. WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO MAKE REQUESTS TO GOD
Five times the word† ask is used in these verses. Jesus assures us with this that the Father welcomes our requests. We do not have to wonder if this thing I am praying for is worth bringing to the Father. Our Father in heaven gives you the permission to bring your requests to Him. All of your requests and any of your requests. Nothing is off limits unless of course you are praying for something sinful and out of the will of God. That would not be a good thing to give you so God will not do that. He is not a reluctant God, begrudgingly hearing us and answering us. James even tells us that if we need wisdom to make it through some terribly difficult times in our lives, that we are to ask God in faith for that who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given to him (James 1:5). God is not going to turn a blind eye to your requests. He welcomes your prayer request.
2. WE MUST BE PERSISTENT WITH OUR REQUESTS
Ask, Seek and Knock are all in the present tense and carry the idea of repeatedly bringing your request, over and over again to the Lord. This is an action that repeatedly happens. It is an action that is urged to be done. We should offer regular prayers to God and make it a habit to bring our requests to Him. This is not casual praying but that which hangs in there, over and over again. It is praying that does not give up easily. You keep coming back to the requests you are making to God. A good way to do this may be to keep a list of your requests and review them before God repeatedly. The emphasis is if you ask, and you should be asking, if your seek, and you should be seeking, and if you knock, and you should be knocking.
3. WE MUST PERSEVERE IN OUR ASKING.
Perseverance is suggested by the use of the imperatives here. There is also a progression of intensity conveyed by this usage. From simple asking to more assertive seeking, to the still more aggressive knocking. My asking, making requests to God, is characterized by seeking. The kind of seeking that takes place when we are looking for a set of lost keys that we must have before we can go. The kind of knocking that says I need your attention and I am going to knock and knock and ring the door bell again and again. It is the kind of praying that never gets winded. Unfortunately, it does not take much sometimes to stop our asking of God. Jesus encourages us to persevere in our asking.
4. †WE ARE FREE TO ASK GOD ABOUT ANYTHING†
You can pray about anything and bring your requests to God. 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. In other words, Jesus is leaving that up to you. You want to pray about a career concern, parenting, financial, physical, political, spiritual, personal, ministry then you are free make requests to God about that! I am so glad that nothing is off limits from my concerns, decisions, hopes, relationships when I bring my request before God.
5. WE ASK FOR SOMETHING WE ARE ALREADY SEEKING
The fact that our asking God is characterized by seeking and knocking indicates that we are asking for something we already† desire to have. This is not just something we are hoping to receive but we desire to have. So our desires are revealed by what we ask for as well as what we seek for. If I pray for good health I should also be seeking good health. It is senseless to requests this and ignore all of the rules of good health. If I pray for someone to come to Christ, I should also be seeking to lead them to Christ. If I am praying for stronger marriage, then I should be seeking to have a stronger marriage.††† If I pray to get out of debt, I should be seeking to get out of debt. While I am free to ask God, my requests must be consistent with my desires and my desires include not only my requests but what I am seeking after as well.
6. OUR FATHER WILL GIVE US GOOD GIFTS WHEN WE ASK
God is more ready to give good gifts to his children than we loving yet imperfect fathers are to give good gifts to our children.
A. We earthly fathers have our imperfections yet we are ready to give good gifts to our children 9-11
The most naturally selfless relationship is parents with children. We may sacrifice for them more than any other person. Yet this parental love cannot compare with Godís love for us. It is not natural for a father to deceive his son by giving him a stone instead of a loaf of bread which may have looked like a stone. Neither would a decent father harm his son or defile his son by giving him a snake instead of a fish since snakes were unclean animals not eaten by the Jews Lev 11:12. The point is even if you are evil you can still give good gifts. So the force of the story lies in a contrast than in a comparison between God and man.
B. God having no imperfections is even more ready to give good gifts to us when we ask 11
The definition of what is good is not getting what you seek but receiving what God wants you to have. God gets to define that not me. I get to ask, make requests, and the promise is that my loving Father will give me that which is good, according to His will in answer to my prayer. We know that God will only give us what is good when we ask, so come, with all of the spontaneity of a child, ask for what you want and know that you have a wise father who loves you and gives you your request if it is good.
(1) ASK GOD. Make it a lifestyle. Have a list of requests and go to them frequently.
(2) ASK GOD MORE OFTEN. You need courage to do rite thing, then ask. You need resources to help you then ask. You need an opportunity to open up, then ask. You need hope to hang onto, then ask. You need a burden lifted, then ask. You need a sinful habit removed, then ask.
(3) Thank the Lord that he answers prayer and thank him that he denies our requests too. We can thank him that granting of our needs is conditionalóupon only that which is good for us.
4. Prayer is always productive. We never waste out time when we pray. It is a responsibility that requires time but it is time that God can make up to you if you are willing to invest it in prayer. Prayer is the way he has chosen for us to express our conscious need of and dependence on him.