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Learning To Pray The Bible Way continued...

A second reason we ask, time goes by, nothing happens is--that God is in the process of testing our earnestness. That is--how badly do we want it?--and not in order for him to find out how badly we want it, because he already knows. But if someone comes to you and says, "Would you do so and so for me?" and you say "No", and they never say anything about it again, and you say, "Well, they certainly must not have been very concerned about that, because they only asked me once and sort of asked me nonchalantly." I wonder how God responds when you and I come to him and we say, "Lord, here's my need, and you know it's a desperate need Lord" and I mean on Sunday night you get down to praying. It's a desperate need. Monday, it's still pretty bad, and Tuesday, it's still there, and by Friday it has sort of gotten lost in all the rest of the week and all the rest of the things that have been going on. Do you understand why he said "Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking"?--to build into us an earnest spirit. For example, if I want to see someone saved for whom I'm praying, and I just pray a few times and stop praying, I don't want to see them saved very badly. If I did, I would keep on asking. I can name some people that I pray to God "I'm trusting you to save them, show me what to say and show me how to say it and show me how to confront them." If we're really earnest, we're not going to ask one time and give it up. And that's why he says "Pray and keep on praying and keep on asking, and keep on seeking, and keep on knocking--persevere, don't give up, endure, hang in there, though you don't see any evidence that God's gonna answer your prayer." How many testimonies have I heard, especially of wives who've said, "I prayed for my husband ten years, fifteen years, 20 years before he was saved." Suppose they said after the first week of marriage "Forget that." But in that woman's diligent pursuit of God, based on a hungering, thirsting, yearning burden to see her husband's life changed to the glory of God--not to make her marriage easier--but to save his soul--God answered her prayer. You say, "Why would God take 20 years?" Because God respects the human decision-making process in every single one of us, and our rebelliousness, though God will put tremendous pressure upon us, the final decision is ours. So there are delays. So let me ask you a question. The last time you brought something to God and it was absolutely critical and urgent, red flags flying, red lights flashing in heaven over your need, how long did you pray? Did it sort of fizzle out within two weeks? Then ask yourself the question. What degree of concern really drove me to God? Or did you just stop praying and decide "I'll work this out somehow, my way. Maybe God will sort of help me do it." He says, "Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking." He says "Because God is going to answer your prayer."

Now, there's another reason. Not only our earnestness, but he says "ask and keep on asking"--why? Because it's going to test our faith. [A beautiful book to read that is totally complementary to what is said here and throughout this sermon is "George Muller: Man of faith and miracles" by Basil Miller, available online at http://www.amazon.com ] How do you build faith? By testing it. And how do you test it--how do you test faith? You withdraw. And God builds in those delays to test our faith. So think about this for a moment. Why did he put it in this fashion "Ask, keep on asking, seek, and keep on seeking, knock, and keep on knocking"? Because, as you and I begin to ask, we begin to seek and we begin to knock, something happens to our relationship with God. Do you remember what I said in the very introduction of this message? I asked you a question about your prayer life, the lifestyle of your prayer life. Is it a haphazard response or is it, is your praying your method, your way of nourishing the life of Christ within you? You see, when you and I talk to him, what's happening? We're building a relationship. We're getting to know him. He already knows us, we're getting to know him--who he is, the way he operates. Do you realize that what God wants to give you above everything else, once you become one of his children--he wants to give you himself. That is, he wants you to know him. You see, God thinks enough about himself that he's worth knowing. Has your wife ever said to you, your husband ever said to you "I want you to know me"? "I want you to know me." And you know, to know some people is to love them more and more, they become dear and you begin to cherish them. You cherish their friendship. Why? You get to know them. You understand them. You begin to see how they think and you begin to understand their feelings and why they act the way they do. What does he do? He withholds the answer. He delays the answer, but he says "Keep on praying" because if you cease praying when God delays the answer you don't build a relationship, you've gone and done your own thing. And what happens? We miss what God has for us. The delays are built in by Divine design based on the very best.

Then it also develops patience within us. God develops patience when we wait, we endure until God's timing. And then one of the primary reasons that God delays our answers is because his timing does not always match ours. Now, there may be times in your life and mine when God will begin to burden us to pray about something that he has no intention of answering for six months. "So now, wait a minute. Why would God want to bring something to my attention that I would pray for, for six months before he knows he's going to answer it? Why doesn't he wait till the week before?" Well, I'll tell you why. Because God wasn't born in the instant age, he's not interested in instant anything. He's interested in what is best for you and me. So what does God do for six long months? Here's what he does. He builds our faith. He builds our endurance. He intensifies our earnestness. What begins as asking is now seeking and is beginning to be knocking. And we're hanging in there, we are trusting him. And God's building a relationship, he's showing us himself. He's teaching us things about himself that we would never learn any other way, and God is far more interested in our knowing him than getting from him all the things that our heart desires. So he builds within us these character qualities in that time in which he delays. And so he says, "Ask and keep on asking, seek, and keep on seeking, knock, and keep and knocking." Why? Because God has something very, very precious in mind. Now let me ask you a question. I want you to listen very carefully to this, because I want you to think about it. Why is it that you and I so easily give up when God doesn't answer our prayer right now? Now you and I understand that people don't pray because of pride. You know, we can do it ourselves. Sometimes it's ignorance. There are lots of reasons why people don't pray. But why is it that those of us who do pray, why is it when we begin and we don't get the answer we think we ought to, why do we give up? Why do we quit praying so often? And if we were honest, all of us would have to admit there are times, we get the prayer list out and we put this name down or this object of prayer, and we're gonna intercede and we're gonna pray to God and cry out to him--and somehow after awhile we just sort of pass right over that one. Why is it, in our prayer life? Now let me go one step further. Why is it not only for specific things, but our prayer life in general--would you say that prayer is a vital integral part of your daily schedule and your daily life? When we say that Jesus Christ is the center of our life there is no way for Jesus Christ to be the center of my life, the core of my life--there is no way for Jesus Christ to be my life in all practicality unless I am a praying man, there is no way. Because if Jesus Christ is my life, in a practical sort of fashion, then I'm going to get up [in the morning] talking to him. I'm going to be talking and sharing and relating with him all during the day. He's my life! Now, why is it my Christian friend, you've been saved and know you're saved. You may be a deacon, you may sing in the choir, you may be faithful, you may be a pastor, you may be a staff member on somebody's staff somewhere--why is it that you become so involved in so many other things that prayer begins to get sifted aside and laid aside over here, and you diligently go about serving the Lord in your own strength, in your own wisdom. But in your mind, you say, "I'm doing this for Jesus and God's in all of this." But when it comes to seeking the face of God, when it comes to asking specifically day after day, calling people's names and asking about this need in the church--why do you lay that aside? I want to give you an answer that every person needs to soberly listen to. The primary reason that you and I give up and we quit and we lay the praying aside so easily is because we're unwilling for God to dig with his knife, cutting into, delving into the innermost being, searching out, seeking out, desiring to surface those things in our life that need to be dealt with--we don't want him dealing with them, we don't want him messing with them, we want him to leave them alone--"this is our request, this is our need--don't bother with this." We don't like God weaving his way into the depths of our thinking and our feeling, dealing with feelings and thoughts that are secret and private to ourselves. We don't like it. Now, my friend, I know that's the truth, I know that personally, and I know it's a general attitude. There's been times when I've gotten on my knees, talked to God about something, and it's like I could see where he was heading, I knew what he was coming after. And it's like I want to say, "Well thank you Father, in Jesus name Amen!" And I want to get on my way doing my own thing, because I didn't want to deal with it. Now it's funny, and it's tragic, isn't it? We don't want God dealing with certain areas of our life, because you see, the truth is, we have them all set in a nice fashion over here, and as far as we're concerned, that's really none of God's business. I mean, we've already handled that. And so we want to go over here where we're interested in things that we're concerned about, and we don't want God tampering around with anything private. Well, my friend, one of the primary reasons we don't pray is because we're not willing for God to take his surgery knife and begin to open us up all the way down to the innermost being and deal with things we've never dealt with before in our life. So we just drop it. In fact, we're so afraid it's gonna be so painful, that we chose to give up God's very best blessing in order to avoid the pain that may be ours by having to deal with what's on the inside of us. Now you let that sink into your heart real good, because the next time you get down to praying and you get tempted to get up and let's get on with it and do something else, you need to ask yourself that question--"God, why do I quit so soon?" "Why don't I hang in there and keep talking to you?" And you know, in my own heart, I've had struggles in prayer, there have been times when I want to give up and quit. But I learned something a long time ago. And God put such a heavy burden on my heart for something I was praying for, it's like everything in me wanted to quit, just wanted to stop!--I didn't want to pray anymore about it, but it's like the Spirit of God kept saying to me "Don't quit now, don't stop now." Did you realize that one of the largest veins of gold ever discovered in America was discovered three feet from where the last miners stopped digging? Do you know the problem with us, that just beyond where we quit, just beyond where we stop is God's very choice blessing. But we don't want to deal with what God wants to deal with, and so we stop short of it and we miss it. I learned a lesson, when you want to stop, don't stop. When everything in you says, "Quit praying about it", keep on praying. Now if God says to you "This is not my will, here's what my will is." Then naturally you're gonna turn. But I mean if there's something there that you believe that God is dealing in your life about or there's some need there, don't stop. That's why he said, "Ask, keep on asking, seek, keep on seeking, knock, keep on knocking." Don't give up, persevere, hang in there no matter what, because God wants to answer that prayer. And I have learned that when I want to stop, if I'll keep on--I can think of times right now when everything in me wanted to stop. And I would just keep on praying and keep on crying out to God and sure enough it would be just like suddenly with no warning the veil lifts and there is the answer staring me right in the face. If I had quit the day before I'd had to make some foolish decision on my own. There's nowhere in the Bible that says prayer is easy. There is a struggle. And there will be times when Satan will attack you on your knees, he'll do everything in his power, he will harass you with doubt. He will send thoughts in your mind, you'd think, "God, where in the world did this come from?"--has nothing to do with what you're talking about to him. And so our natural response is, "Well I might as well get up and go, I'll come back later." Jesus said, "Ask, and keep on asking, seek, keep on seeking, knock, keep on knocking." Don't give up.

Now, listen to what he says in the last part of the passage. He gives an illustration, a simple illustration that every follower of him would have understood, and of course all of us understand. Verse 9, he said now, on the basis of that, "What man is there among you when his son shall ask him for a loaf of bread will he give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, will he not give him a snake, will he? If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him?" So that last thing Jesus says in this passage is this. Here's the reassurance, here's the reassurance that you and I can have to enjoy. What are the steps? Ask, seek, knock. He says, "Here's the reassurance that you can I need to enjoy our prayer life. You know, somebody says, "Well, I got to go pray. It's time for my prayer time, got to go talk to God."--as if it were some terrible chore. Let me ask you a question. Is it a chore to talk to Jesus?--who said "Ask, seek, knock"? The chore is not in talking to him, but in struggles that we have within ourselves. And so he says "Here's the reassurance." And he gives an illustration that anybody would understand. He says, now if a son says to you, comes in, been out playing football, scratched up, got grass all over his pants, messed up his shoes, knocked off the heel, and says "Dad, I am starving to death for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich." Dad, would you pick up a rock and say, "Son, sit down, shut up and eat this stone"? You wouldn't do that. You'd get out the peanut butter, crunchy kind, and the jelly, and probably about three slices of bread, and I mean, you'd put one big layer of peanut butter, and one big layer of jelly, and besides that, you'd add a big glass of milk and sit down and say "Tell me about it all." That's what a loving father does. Your daughter comes in and she says "Mom, I'm starving to death for a hotdog and I just can't wait any longer." "Sit down and shut up, I found this scorpion out on the steps. You eat that before we have lunch." No, you wouldn't do that. You'd get the hotdog out, put it on the grill or broil it or whatever you do, and put some mustard and ketchup and relish on it and ask "Is there anything else she wants on it?" That's what a loving father [or mother] does. Do you know what Jesus is saying in this passage? He's saying "I want to tell you, the Father loves you. He wants to answer your prayer. But you've got to ask him and keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. The answer's coming." And he simply says in this passage, "Listen, if you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much"--listen, do you see how he put it?--"How much more"--now when he says "evil", he's talking about people like us, who sin against God at times in our life. He says, "If you, who sin against the Father, know how to give good gifts to your children, and you're very imperfect, he says, "How much more will a perfect, loving, generous, kind, tender, forgiving Father who is omnipotent and omniscient, how much more will he give good things to those who ask him?" Let me ask you this. When you get on your knees before God, what kind of thoughts come into your mind? Do you bow your head because you feel unworthy? I don't mean in a spirit of humility, but just an unhealthy kind of unworthiness. Do you get on your knees, and you begin to be frustrated because you think "Oh, I hope God's listening"? That is, what do you really feel? Let me tell you what you ought to feel. If you kneel to pray, you ought to be able to get on your knees and say "Lord Jesus, I praise your name that you're my life. I thank you that I can come to you in confidence because you said "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." And Lord I'm coming. I'm coming as your child, confident that you're listening to what I'm saying. Confident that you're going to answer my prayer. I praise you, and I accept ahead of time the answers for my prayer." What a difference from getting on your knees and saying, "Oohh God, I hope you're listening." But that is exactly where most folks come from. Not with confidence and a boldness and assurance that a loving Father is listening and desirous to answer prayer. So what is he saying in this passage? Very simple, he says several things. Your heavenly Father is ready to answer your prayer. Secondly, your heavenly Father knows what your needs are before you ask him. Your heavenly Father will always respond. Listen, your heavenly Father will always respond out of pure love and infinite wisdom. That is, whatever he does is gonna be an expression of love, and it's gonna be an answer that is an answer of an all-wise God who knows exactly what you need. And he is also saying that when you pray, God's answer will always be good. It'll always be good. And he says the answer is always gonna be best suited just for you. Every answer from God is an expression of pure love and infinite wisdom. Now, we don't always like the answers God gives. He didn't say he'd just give you anything you ask. He says, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." You say, "Well, wait a minute. That sounds like a blank check to me." But notice the last verse. He says, "If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children"--listen, here's the key--"how much more will the heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?" You know what he promises? He promises that everything he gives is good for us. Now, my friend, God only can act with what is his nature. That is, if you ask for something that is a pure indulgence on your part, if you ask God to indulge your selfish whim, your selfish desire, God isn't going to do that. You know why he's not going to? Because he's made you a promise he wouldn't. Do you want God to give you something that will harm you?--Or that could ultimately destroy your life? If all of us were really honest, we'd probably say, "Well, I'd probably ask for some things like that." But do you really want God to give you anything in answer to your prayer that will harm you or destroy your life? Not really. God isn't going to answer with those things that will harm or destroy. He says, "Here's the limitation. What I give you is going to be good." And the faithfulness of God is at stake. He will never violate his faithfulness. "What I give you is going to be good."

Now, what are the simple steps to praying the Bible way? They're real simple. Asking, seeking, knocking and trusting a loving all-wise God to give you his good answer. It's not a blank check. It's better than that. It is God's faithfulness, promising to answer your needs and your desires, and when they have filtered--listen--when your requests have filtered through the all-wise mind of God and his wonderful Spirit of pure love, it always comes out for us good, perfect, and best. And if you'll simply remember that next time you get on your knees, God will begin to answer specific requests, big requests as well as little requests. And you can point to them as examples of God's specific answer to your prayer. Let me remind you of something. Don't worry about asking God for something too big. I can tell you in advance, you can't ask God for anything so big that God can't do it if God deems it good. In fact, the truth is, God is honored by big requests. If you come to the Lord and say "Father, I don't want to ask you something too big now." What you're implying is, he can't cut it. He can't handle it. God is honored by great requests, difficult requests, impossible requests, when we ask, seek, and knock and trust our loving Father to always answer for what is good. If you'll take that simple truth and apply it to your heart, God will transform your prayer life. When he transforms your prayer life, he transforms your life, your relationships, your effectiveness, the life of your family, your business and those with whom you associate. The privilege of prayer is a heritage which belongs to every single child of God--a potential that is beyond the human understanding of man, a work of God's grace, that he's given to each one of us. And it is my prayer that you will not let that heritage be wasted in your life, but that you will allow God to make you the man, the woman, the young person that he's chosen to make you, as you learn to relate to him and nourish that inner being of Christ in your prayer life and make your prayer life daily an ongoing intimate relationship in conversation with the Lord Jesus Christ."

"And Father we thank you and praise you for this simplicity of your Word. We try to make it difficult, you make it simple. You offer such profound and yet simple answers to our questions, to our needs. I pray in Jesus name that somebody who's struggling with some issue in his or her life may be willing first of all to humble themselves before you, and ask that you surface any things and all things in their heart that should not be there. Deal with them and then allow you to answer in your generosity, in your love, in your pure wisdom. I pray Father for someone who is unsaved that they might understand what they are missing by not having Christ and the privilege of prayer, that you do not answer the prayers of the lost except the prayer for forgiveness and the prayer for salvation of their sin. I pray that somebody today would give their life to Christ. That those who have made prayer an insignificant part of their life might recognize there will be no real development of a relationship until prayer becomes a priority, is my plea to you, in Jesus name. Amen."

IN TOUCH ® Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 IN TOUCH MINISTRIES ®, ITM, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, USA, used with permission. All rights reserved.

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