Learning To Pray The Bible Way

Do you ever wonder if you are praying the right way or praying for the right things? This six-tape audio series teaches you how to pray the Bible way, so that you may have confidence in prayers. Learn a pattern for prayer, and the significance of praying in Jesus' name. Dr. Stanley imparts practical understanding to prayer, a vital element in every believer's life. Deepen your relationship with your Heavenly Father as you grow in your prayer life.

[This is a transcript of the first tape in Dr. Charles Stanley's six tape audio cassette series "Learning To Pray The Bible Way." The entire six cassettes will help you build into your congregation a strong knowledge of what effective prayer is and how to pray effectively. The six tape audio cassette series is available for $33.00, online at: http://www.intouch.org or mail your order to: InTouch Ministries, P.O. Box 7900, Atlanta, Georgia, 30357-9979.]

"When you pray, do you do so with confidence and an assurance that God is going to hear and answer your prayer? Or rather are you harassed by such thoughts as "I'm so unworthy." "I feel so guilty for the past. Could God ever answer my prayer?"--full of doubts, full of anxiety, sense of unworthiness, frustration, and often times get up and walk away thinking "Well, what's the use of praying anyway?" In fact, on the scale of one to ten, how would you rate your prayer life as far as specific answers to prayer? And could you say that your prayers are specific or are sort of general?--"Lord, would you bless my mother, would you bless my husband, bless my children"--or do you ask for specific things, that when God answers them, you can say "God did that, he answered this prayer, and he's answered this one." And would you say that your prayer life is fruitful, is it satisfying, do you see God doing some unusual things in your life? Or would you say that your prayer life is really rather a sort of a haphazard response to needs and desires, rather than the nourishing of the life of Christ within you? Let me ask you that again. Would you say that your life, your prayer life, is rather a haphazard response to needs and desires, or is it the nourishing of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ within you. Because, you see, when you gave your life to Jesus Christ, he came into your life to live [cf. John 14, read it]. And it is in prayer that we nourish our relationship with him. And some of you are struggling in your prayer life. You ask, and nothing seems to happen much. In fact, you sort of wonder if God's even listening anymore. In fact, you really wonder if he even cares, because you've brought this to him and this, and this, and somehow nothing's really happened. You don't see anything going on and surely if God's the God he says he is, why doesn't he do something? Well, all of us have struggled at one point or the other in prayer, and I believe if you listen carefully today you're going to find a simple message that's going to help you in your faith in talking to God. The title of this message is "Learning To Pray The Bible Way". I want you to turn, if you will, to Matthew chapter 7, verses 7-11. One of the simplest passages on prayer in all the Bible, found in the Sermon on the Mount. I remember, it is the first passage on prayer that I ever memorized. I still know it by heart just like you know your favorite ones, and in the midst of the sermon on the mount Jesus said, beginning in verse 7, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened." Then he asks a question. "Or what man is there among you when his son shall ask him for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone. Or if he shall ask for a fish will he not give him a snake, will he? If ye being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him?" Now there are three aspects of this passage that I want us to look at. It's a very simple passage, but it is profound in the fact that this is the Lord's teaching as to how to pray. And if I should ask you if you know how to pray, most of you would probably say "Why sure I do." Then if you looked at your score card on answers to prayer, then you would begin to say, "Well, I think I do." Because often times we spend a lot of time talking into the air, or talking to God without getting much result. And what you see in this passage is simply this, first of all, and that is, the requests that you and I have to make. He says, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." Now prayer is more than simply asking and receiving. It is indeed more, but it is that. It is not only asking and receiving, but it's thanking the Lord God, it is adoring him, it is praising him. But if you'll notice in the chapter before what Jesus had been just talking about, in verse 25 of the 6th chapter, he begins to deal with a problem that all of us have at some time in our life, and that is anxiety. He says in verse 25, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you should eat or what you shall drink, nor for your bodies for what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing?" and that sounds all very simple and really unimportant to us because most of us have enough clothes to wear and enough food to eat and a place to live. But in those days, these were the crucial problems they had to face. You and I today face situations that are far more crucial to us in our life. But having simply dealt with these things that were on their mind, he said to them, 'Don't be anxious, don't be worried about these things. Your Father already knows your needs before you know them, and he's already beginning to take care of them before you even realize the needs are there.' And then he says, 'Here's the way you deal with them.' Verse 7 of chapter 7, 'You ask, and it shall be given you, you seek and you shall find, you knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.' Very simply, Jesus is teaching his followers here that here's the way you pray. You ask. You seek. You knock. That is the first three steps. Anything that a child could understand. And I would say to these students that are here today, especially, don't leave home until you have learned to pray. Because you will not take anything with you apart from the person of Jesus Christ that is a greater asset in your knowledge than having learned to talk to God--and to listen to him and to relate to him and to receive your needs and your desires in answer to your prayers to him.

Now what he's simply saying in this passage is that prayer is more than giving and receiving, but it is indeed that. And why did Jesus put the emphasis there? Because he knows that not only in that day, but in this day--and if we took a little survey right here, probably most people who pray spend the majority of that time doing what?--asking God for things for themselves or for other people. And so that's why he says here, when you ask, ask. He says seek and then he says knock. Now I want us to look at these three words, because he says it twice in a different sort of fashion. And they're all commands. He says "Ask, seek, knock" when you pray. That is, he says, 'I'm giving you directions as to how to pray.' You don't sort of wabble and just say, "Now Lord, you know I've got some needs, and want you to bless him and her and Lord the Bible says you already know what I have need of before I ask, so I'm gonna just trust you and just sort of, you know"--and we just sort of mosey along and we don't get down to business in prayer. Now one of the reasons Jesus has made this very clear and very specific in these steps he's given us, is because that prayer is not really all that simple when you begin to evaluate it, on the one hand. Secondly, prayer isn't just talking to God, prayer becomes work. And prayer demands diligence. And when he says "Ask, seek, knock" Jesus is saying there's a sequence of events. And there's something going on here more than just something verbal. Now why did he put it in that fashion? And why did he not simply say, "Pray, and you will receive"--period, and let that be it? Because he wants us to understand the true nature of prayer, that it is more than asking. Because there are times when you and I ask and we don't get exactly what we ask for. There are times when we ask when we don't get what we ask for. There are times when we ask and there's a delay. And so Jesus is teaching us here the very vital steps in an effective prayer life.

There's a second thing he's in the process of teaching us here when he says "Ask, seek and knock" and that is that there are two responsibilities in prayer, God's responsibility and our responsibility. That is, there is a human side in praying, but there is also a Divine side. And you cannot have one without the other, it isn't all Divine and it isn't all human. It is both human and Divine. I have a responsibility, God has a responsibility. Then there is a 3rd primary reason that I think Jesus took the time to explain to them the simple step of prayer, and that is this. That one of the most vital ingredients in prayer, and the one that most of us probably overlook and leave out above all the rest--and one of those that is probably the primary reason for the emptiness of our praying--and for the few specific answers that we receive--and one of the primary reasons that we see God doing so little--is that we leave out one vital ingredient in our prayer. And that vital ingredient is mentioned here, which we'll cover in just a moment. Now I want you to notice the intensity of the progression here. Now look at what he says. He didn't just say "Pray". He says, "Ask", then he says "Seek", and then he said "Knock." And what he's saying is that sometimes when you and I come to him there will be times when the only thing there is for us to do is to "ask him." We're helpless to do anything else. Let's say that some great tragedy strikes in some other nation, and there are many people who are suffering, and you and I sense a need to pray for them. That's the only thing we can do for them is to pray. On the other hand, there are times when that's all God wants us to do, be quiet, be still, pray and don't make any move. But these two are the exceptions to the rule. The times when the only thing we can do is pray is an exception. And the only times that God wants us to do nothing but pray is an exception. The general rule for prayer is you ask, you seek, and you knock. Now listen to how he puts it. He says, sometimes you ask God for something. And you and I know that's not sufficient. We're to become involved in the answer. Then we're to seek out the answer. And oftentimes in the seeking we will have to rap on the door of opportunity, or rap on the door that oftentimes looks, not like opportunity, but is a clear direction from God "knock on this door, walk in this direction--seek out the answer here." And so there is a progression. All of us would like to think that all prayer is, is just asking God--get on your knees, say, "Lord, this is what I need. Thank you, in Jesus name, Amen" and walk off. But you and I know that that's not the truth, that there's sometimes a struggle to know the will of God. And sometimes we're not sure exactly what to ask the Lord about certain things. And all of us have asked him for things...maybe in our ignorance at the time, all of us have asked for things that it's good God didn't give us. So we simply say, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened" and that we're to become involved in the answer.

Now let's say, there is one of our High School students, and they're looking to know the Lord's will where they ought to go to college. And so...well, it's like next December, and Dad is saying "Son, are you or are you not going to college?" "Why sure I'm going." "Where are you going?" "Well, I'm just waiting on God." "I'm just waiting for God to give me an answer." Well, in finding out where you ought to go, you always begin with prayer. In fact, every request, every desire of our heart, and every need should begin with prayer. That's where it all begins--asking God for permission. "Is this good for me, before I ask him for my desire?"--seeking to know his will about that need in my life. But that's the beginning of prayer. Prayer's not passive, prayer is an active involvement of the person in their relationship with God. And because Jesus Christ has come into our life, and because he's now become our life, we have this relationship with him, we have the right and the authority to come to him and make a request. But the request is only the first step. And so here's the student desiring to make the right choice about college. And so what does he do? Now not only does he ask the Lord to give him direction, but he orders some catalogs, he talks to some counselors, and then he begins to apply to two or three, knocking on the door to see if he can get in--to see if his grades are good enough. That's what prayer involves. For example, someone says, "Well, what I want is a deeper knowledge of the Word of God--I want a deeper understanding of the Word of God." And so you lay your Bible down and you start praying, "Lord, give me a deep understanding of the Scriptures. God, I want to understand your Word." Well my friend, you can pray all you want to pray. The only way you're going to get a deeper understanding of this Word is not only to ask, but to seek by getting into the Word of God, and that's not enough--you're going to have to knock on the doors of some Scriptures that are going to be very difficult to understand. And so all of us who've been in the Word at all know that you ask for the Lord's wisdom and directions and understanding. You seek, the understanding of that passage by comparing passage with passage, and you knock on the door--"good, what does this mean?" And you begin to read and you begin to study and you seek to listen to others and so you're asking and you're seeking and you're knocking. And so this is the process we're to go through. Now he says the requests we're to make, we're to make it by asking, seeking, knocking. He says now, here is the response you can expect. And what he's doing in this passage is really simply assuring us that our heavenly Father desires to answer our prayer, and will answer our prayer.

So I want to ask you again about your own prayer life, and if you had to rate your score one to ten, how would you come out on real genuine specific answers from God? One, one and a half, what about two?--three?--four?--seven?--eight? Nobody can say ten. That is, God does not answer every single thing the day we expect. (I'm going to come back to that in a few moments.) Though it's interesting, as best I read the gospels, nowhere in the gospels does Jesus ever discuss unanswered prayer. It's always answered prayer--"Ask and ye shall receive--if you should ask anything in my name I will do it."--"Ye shall ask anything in my name." And so Jesus in discussing prayer always alluded to answered prayer, because that is what he desires to do. And what he is teaching us here is this, the heavenly Father is ready to answer your prayer. And it's all very, very positive. You say, "Well, wait a minute. Is this a blank check that the Lord has given me, and simply said, 'Now all you have to do is ask--fill it in, and I'm going to answer it'--when he says "ask and it shall be given"? No, that's not what it means. But I want you to notice what he says here. What is the response you and I can expect? Notice that in both of these verses, he underscores the assurance of an answer. Now look, "Ask, and it shall be given you." That's a promise of Christ. "Seek, ye shall find." "Knock, it shall be opened to you." Then he turns right around in verse 8 and in a different fashion--all through those words in the first verse, are all commands in the imperative. In the 8th verse all participles, that is, he says, "Everyone who is asking is receiving, and seeking finding and to him who is knocking it is being opened. That is, God is in the process of answering prayer. That is his purpose. That's what all of this is about, to assure us that he will indeed answer our prayer. Now when he says "everyone" someone says "Well, what about every one?" Does that mean that anybody and everybody can ask, seek, knock and find? No. Because the whole entire Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the believers and followers of Christ. What he said about fasting and praying and meeting your brother at the altar and not being anxious and being happy about persecution, no unbeliever's going to understand that. That's totally oblivious to their whole way of life. That's totally foreign to their thinking. He's talking about his own children. And what he's simply saying is that when you and I ask, what happens? Something begins to happen when we ask and seek and knock. That is, there is a vital element in prayer that most people overlook. And what is that element? What he says in that 8th verse, he says (really the 7th verse likewise) "Ask, and keep on asking. Seek, and keep on seeking. Knock, and keep on knocking." That is, there is a continuation, there is a persistence, there is an endurance here. Now we don't just ask, and because things look difficult we stop and hang it up and we lay it down and we say, "Well Lord, I've asked you, you don't seem to be very interested, you don't seem to be listening, you don't seem to care. I've asked you for a whole month, nothing's going on, why should I keep on praying.?" That's why he puts it in these terms 'Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.' He is talking about steadfastness in prayer. And if you and I were honest today, more than likely, most of us would have to admit it is very difficult to bring something before the Lord that you believe that he wants you to do or he wants you to have, or some need, and you ask, and God is silent. And you ask, and look around and you don't see anything happen. This goes on for days, then it gets in for weeks, then it goes on for months. You say, "Why in the world would anybody want to keep on talking to God about something when you've asked him day after day, week after week, month after month and nothing has happened? Now, let's put it this way. You may not see anything happening. But Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you." "Seek and ye shall find." "Knock and it shall be opened to you." Either Jesus Christ tells the truth or he doesn't. And you and I know that he does. And just because there is a lapse of time, a delay in time of our asking and our receiving does not mean that God isn't doing something or that he's not answering our prayer. So what you and I may ask is this. Why this emphasis on perseverance? Why does he say 'Ask and keep on asking?' 'Seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking'? Why this emphasis on perseverance here? Well, because God has built in, he has designed delays in the answer. So, because there is the delay in your receiving the answer you're looking for doesn't mean that God's up there scratching his head trying to figure out what to do. Nor does God sense some reluctance, that is, God isn't reluctant to answer prayer. 'Ask and keep on asking?' 'Seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking'? Why this emphasis on perseverance here? Well, because God has built in, he has designed delays in the answer. So, because there is the delay in your receiving the answer you're looking for doesn't mean that God's up there scratching his head trying to figure out what to do. Nor does God sense some reluctance, that is, God isn't reluctant to answer prayer, God desires to answer prayer! What does he say, "Ask, Seek, Knock." He says, "it will be given to you." "You will find it." "It will be opened to you. Just keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, don't give up, don't stop, don't lay it down because the going gets rough, and your friends say to you 'Well, look, if God were going to answer your prayers he should have answered them by now--must not be his will.'" Now all of us have had to face that. We pray for a season, we don't see anything happening, so our conclusion is--must not be God's will. My friend, often times it is God's will, but there are built-in delays. Now why does God delay? One of the reasons he delays in answer to our prayers, something that would be evident to all of us, and that is--if God sees within us attitudes, if he sees in our lifestyle habits, if he sees within us those attitudes of disobedience, the spirit of rebellion or bitterness or unforgiveness or whatever it might be--what does God do? Does he just shut it all down? No. But he delays the answer for a certain while, because he's a good God and he knows that in order for you to become the person he wants you to be, you may need exactly what you're asking for. He may alredy have it on the rail, ready to send your way, but he cannot and he will not, until you are in a position spiritually to receive it. So one of the reasons he causes a delay is in order to get us to surface things in our life that are not right, to deal with them so that you and I can enjoy what God wants to give us. There are some things that I believe all of us ask for in life that God delays because he knows if he gave them at that specific time in our frame of mind, we would make the biggest mess of things imaginable, so he delays.

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.