THE PROMISES OF GOD
2 CORINTHIANS 1:20
GOD PROMISES TO ANSWER OUR PRAYERS
Are you ready to make our declaration of faith in the promises of God? Then sit up straight. Put your shoulders back. Fill your lungs w/air & your hearts w/hope as we recite our declaration together:
WE ARE BUILDING OUR LIVES ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. BECAUSE HIS WORD IS UNBREAKABLE, OUR HOPE IS UNSHAKABLE. WE DO NOT STAND ON THE PROBLEMS IN LIFE OR THE PAIN IN LIFE. WE STAND ON THE GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES OF GOD. (UNSHAKABLE HOPE BY MAX LUCADO)
Let’s pray and then we’ll look at another great & precious promise of God that we can build our lives on. PRAYER
Two young boys were spending the night at Grandma’s house just week before Christmas. Before they turned in for the night, they each knelt by their beds to say their bedtime prayers. One of boys prayed, shouting at the top of his lungs- “Dear God, I want a brand new shiny red 10 speed bike for Christmas.” His brother asked him, “Why are you shouting? God’s not deaf.” The other boy replied, “I know he isn’t. But Grandma is!”
No, God certainly is not deaf. He hears us when we pray. He listens. The promise of God that we’re standing on today is this one. GOD PROMISES TO ANSWER OUR PRAYERS.
Our verses of promise for today are found in MATTHEW 7:7-8. First of all, from these verses, we receive……..
1.AN INVITATION TO PRAY
In Mark chapter 10, we read the story of when Jesus came to the city of Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples were leaving the city, a blind man, by the name of Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that Jesus was coming by, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Many people told Bartimaeus to keep quiet. Instead, he kept on shouting. Jesus told the people, “Call him.” They told him that Jesus wanted to see him. Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and went to Jesus. Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Jesus restored sight to this blind beggar and Bartimaeus started following Jesus.
In Matthew 7, Jesus is asking us the same question he asked Bartimaeus. When Jesus says to us, “ask and you shall receive”, he is basically asking us, What do you want me to do for you? Jesus is inviting us to pray for what we need.
Ask, seek & knock are invitations to pray. God wants to hear from us. That’s because he is our Heavenly Father and we are his children. Psalm 116 says:
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” – Psalm 116:1-2
God turns his ear to us and he hears us when we pray. God delights in hearing from us. We shouldn’t be shy about going to him and praying for what we need.
The words, “pray” and “prayer” are used a minimum of 521 times in the Bible. This emphasizes that we should pray and we should ask God for what we need. James 4:2 says:
“You do not have because you do not ask God.” -James 4:2
Prayers have to be prayed in order for them to be answered. Jesus invites us to ask for what we need. Peter issued the same invitation when he wrote:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
Peter said to give ALL your cares to God. Unload all of them. Pour your heart out to God. Why? Because he cares for you. The literal translation of that phrase is: it matters to him about you. You matter to God. Therefore, what matters to you matters to God.
So ask God for what you need. Be quick to pray because your Heavenly Father loves you.
Along with this invitation to pray, Jesus lays down…..
2.AN EXPECTATION THAT WE WILL BE PERSISTENT WHEN WE PRAY
Jesus accentuates our need to keep on praying because he issues the invitation to pray 3 times. He invites us to ask, to seek and to knock on heaven’s door.
The idea here is to ask and keep on asking; to seek and keep on seeking; and to knock and keep on knocking. In other words, we need to be tenacious in our prayer life. We should never give up and throw in the towel when the answer doesn’t come right away.
But some question, is it ok to keep on praying about the same thing over and over again? Jesus did. He prayed 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane that, if it were possible, that the cup of suffering be taken away from him. He was referring to going to the cross. Paul prayed 3 times that God would heal him of a physical ailment….a disease.
So, yes, we should pray about something until God answers our prayers. Still some would suggest to keep on praying about something indicates a lack of faith. I would suggest that the opposite is true.
If you pray about something once and the answer doesn’t come right away, refusing to pray about it again indicates that you’ve given up. You look at your unanswered prayer and shrug and say, “what’s the use? God isn’t going to answer my prayer.” But, when you continue to pray about something, you’re expressing your faith that God will eventually answer your prayer.
Now, we need to make sure that we don’t get the wrong idea about God when it comes to praying time and again for the same thing. This is not suggesting that we have to try to get God’s attention. It’s not where we have to bang on heaven’s door until God finally answers. It’s not a matter of us pestering God until he finally cries, “Uncle”, and says, “I’ll answer you so you’ll quit bothering me.”
No, prayer is not a matter of trying to get God’s attention. He is the one who invites us to ask him for what we need. God isn’t uncaring, distant and aloof. And it doesn’t mean that he has forgotten about you when the answer doesn’t come right away.
Continually to pray about something is not a matter of trying to get God’s attention. Rather, the instruction about continuing to pray is a matter of God trying to get our attention. Continuing to pray about something until God answers demonstrates our continued faith, trust and dependence upon God.
Now, with this expectation that we will keep on praying until God answers, we discover something that may be missing from our prayer lives. Passion. Jesus outlined a progression of intensity when we pray.
First, we simply ask God for what we need. Then, when the answer doesn’t come right away, we get more aggressive. We keep on seeking the answer in prayer. And then, when we still haven’t heard from God, our prayers get intense. We start knocking on heaven’s door.
Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane were intense. His prayers were so intense that he started perspiring when he prayed. The Scripture says that Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. That’s intensity.
How would you describe your prayer life? Is it run-of-the-mill? Is it ho-hum? Do you easily get discouraged when the answer doesn’t come right away? Or when the answer doesn’t come right away, do your prayers get more frequent and more intense? Maybe your prayer life needs more passion. Are you passionate about prayer and are you passionate when you pray your prayers?
In the Old Testament we read where Jacob wrestled with a man. Hosea said that Jacob was wrestling with an angel. But Jacob said that in this wrestling match, that he saw God face to face. The man that Jacob was wrestling with said that Jacob had struggled with God. So, Jacob was wrestling with God.
In the course of the wrestling match, Jacob was winning. The man said to Jacob-“Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” So God blessed Jacob by changing his name to Israel.
Have you ever wrestled with God in prayer? Will you keep on praying until you get an answer from God? The answer will come. Let’s look at…..
3. THE PROMISE OF ANSWERED PRAYER
Jesus promised that God will answer our prayers. He said that “everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” James 5:16 says:
“When a believing person prays, great things happen.” – James 5:16
We ask and God answers. But does this mean that prayer is a blank check that God gives us? Will God give us everything we ask for? Some Scriptures sound like that on the surface. Verses like John 14:14 where Jesus promised:
“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” -John 14:14
Now, that sounds like Carte Blanche until you read that verse in context. Jesus was telling his disciples that they would do greater works than he would. Jesus was promising them that he would grant all their requests to do good works that would bring glory to God.
And the condition was that they had to ask in his name. There will be some things we shouldn’t ask for because it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask for those things in Jesus’ name. Things that are self-serving instead of God-honoring. Things that feed my greed instead of meeting my need.
From experience we know that God doesn’t give us everything we ask for. Sometimes we will say, God didn’t answer my prayer. What we mean when we say that is that God didn’t give me the answer I wanted. God didn’t say yes.
In order to truly understand the promise that God will answer our prayers, we need to accept that God answers our prayers in three ways. Here is the first way.
God says yes. I believe that God says ‘yes’. And I believe that he loves to say, ‘yes’ just like I took great pleasure in fulfilling some of my children’s requests when they were growing up.
God said ‘yes’ many times in the Bible. Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Baal was a false pagan god that the nation of Israel had started worshiping. So Elijah called out the prophets of Baal. It was Elijah vs the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah was outnumbered. But it was the prophets of Baal that were at a disadvantage.
Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a prayer duel. He said, “you pray to your god and I’ll pray to my God. Let’s see which one sends fire to consume the sacrifices we each have offered. The god who answers by fire is the true God.”
Elijah lets the prophets of Baal go first. Though the prophets prayed all day, nothing happened. Then it was Elijah’s turn. He prayed that the Lord God of heaven would rain down fire from heaven. God answered immediately. The fire of the Lord fell and consumed the sacrifice and the people repented and declared, ‘The Lord, he is God!’ God said yes to Elijah’s prayer.
God said ‘yes’ to Zechariah & Elizabeth’s request for a child when John the Baptist was born. God said ‘yes’ to the disciples’ 1`request when Peter had been put in jail for preaching about Jesus. An angel of the Lord sprung Peter from prison.
God has said ‘yes’ to many of my prayers over the years. And I am sure that if you were to stop and think about it, God has said ‘yes’ to many of your prayers. That’s because, as Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 7, that our Heavenly Father will give good gifts to those who ask him!
But here is the question before us. Just because God says ‘yes’ often does this mean that he will always say yes?
Sometimes God doesn’t say ‘yes’ right away. Sometimes God says ‘wait’. I think that is implied by the fact that Jesus said that we have to ask and seek and knock. We have to ask, seek and knock because the answer doesn’t always come right away.
Often times the request we make of God is right, but the timing isn’t right and so God says ‘wait’. Waiting is difficult for us. But waiting gets rewarded.
Some things are worth waiting for. The bridegroom waits for his bride to walk down the aisle. Having his bride join him at the altar was worth waiting for. I was just relieved when Dawn appeared at the back of the sanctuary! She actually showed up!
Parents wait 9 months for the birth of their baby. The moment when their child comes into the world is worth the wait.
Another thing worth waiting for is God’s ‘yes’ to our prayers. Because, again, Jesus said that God gives us good gifts. And even though we might grow impatient, when God finally says ‘yes’, it’s well worth the wait.
So we need to learn that God’s delays are not always denials from him. Sometimes God says ‘wait’. And when he does, we need to trust his timing and we keep on waiting. And while we wait, we hope. Psalm 130:5 says:
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” -Psalm 130:5
As we wait for God to answer our prayers, we need trusting his promises, especially his promise to answer our prayers.
Here is the 3rd way God answers our prayers. God doesn’t always say ‘yes’. Sometimes he says ‘no’. God said no to Moses when he wanted to enter the Promised Land. God said no to David when he wanted to build the temple. Jesus’ request about the cup of suffering passing from him did not come to pass. And God didn’t heal Paul of his illness. He reassured Paul that his grace was sufficient for Paul. If God said no to Moses, David, Paul and yes, even to Jesus, then God is going to sometimes say no to you and me.
Why does God sometimes say no to our prayers? There are 2 times when God says ‘no’. God says ‘no’ to our prayers when the request is wrong. James 4:3 says:
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” -James 4:3
Did we/do we always say ‘yes’ to our children when they asked us for something? No, we didn’t/no we don’t. The reason was we knew that what they were asking for wasn’t good for them. So we said no to them for their own good.
Our Heavenly Father will do the same thing. He only gives us good gifts. Sometimes some of the things we ask for are not good for us in the long run, so God says no. He loves us too much to indulge us. So when God says no to us we need to trust the heart of God. God will always have our best interests at heart. We need to realize that God will say ‘no’ because that is what is in our best interests.
Ultimately, we need to understand that God will always answer our prayers in ways that align with his will. The apostle John wrote:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” -1 John 5:14
God will always answer our prayers in keeping with his will. If what we ask for is outside of his will for us, then the answer will be no. And we need to have the faith to accept that answer from God. After all, as believers, we should desire that our lives line up with God’s will. Being in God’s will this the best place for us.
We should pray that God would show us his will and guide us according to his will. In his book, entitled, IF, Mark Batterson offers this simple, but powerful prayer: “Lord, I want what you want more than what I want.” Let me say that one more time: “Lord, I want what you want more than what I want.” That was Jesus’ ultimate prayer in regards to the cross. And that needs to be the ultimate prayer in our lives as well.
So, God says ‘no’ to our prayers when the request is wrong. And then God says ‘no’ when I am wrong. I John 3:22 says:
“Whatever we ask we receive from him because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.” – 1 John 3:22
Obedience to God is a pre-requisite to God saying ‘yes’ to our prayers. This doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect because no one is. But we should be striving to live a life of obedience and repent of each and every sin. Psalm 66:18 says:
“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” -Psalm 66:18
We can’t expect God will honor our requests if there is a sin that we have not dealt with. We need to confess that sin and turn away from it. That will clear the way for God to say ‘yes’ to our prayers.
God promises to answer our prayers. He does make good on that promise. He answers our prayers in one of 3 ways: yes, no or wait. In response, here is…
MY PROMISE TO GOD: I WILL MAKE PRAYER MY PRIORITY AND PASSION.
Let’s pray as we consider this promise of God:
“Lord, in Christ we have a great High Priest who has given us confidence to come before your throne to receive grace and mercy. Thank you for always listening to us.
“God, it is so easy for us to go an entire day without speaking to you. We can get caught up in our own thoughts and tasks, forgetting we have a heavenly Father who is available to talk anytime, day or night.
“Lord, let today be different. As concerns and questions come up, remind us to turn each of them over to you in prayer. Cover each worry with your peace. Help us to prioritize our lives so they align with your will and not ours.
“Heavenly Father, you have promised to answer when we call. So help us come before your throne in boldness and belief, knowing you will hear us & help us; confident in the assurance of your love and care for each and every one of us. In Jesus’ name….AND ALL GOD’S PEOPLE SAID……AMEN!
I am closing each of these messages on the promises of God by reminding us of God’s greatest promise; JOHN 3:16. God will always say ‘yes’ to the person who calls upon Him to save them.