Summary: If I pray hard enough, can I get whatever I want? Principles of always answered prayers...
Are there 3 types of people here this morning?
The first type... “The spiritual optimist”. When he looks at verses 7 &8 he says, "Yeah! Ask and you WILL receive – God will give me whatever I want if I have enough faith!!! If I pray hard enough! That job, that spouse, that health, that pay rise, that person who doesn’t like will like me, that problem will go away, that dream I have will come true.... all I have to do is ask long and hard enough; seek God; knock until he opens that door... He says, You can get what you want through asking, seeking, knocking."
The second type... “The spiritual pessimist”. He says, "Ask and you will receive? Yeah right! I tried that and it doesn’t work... I asked, I kept on seeking, I knocked..... It wasn’t given, I didn’t find, and the door wasn’t opened! He says, I didn’t get what I wanted. Prayer doesn’t work."
The third type of person that may be here this morning is what we’ll call “the spiritual realist”. He says, "Look at verses 9-11. Jesus doesn’t actually say that if you ask for bread you’ll get bread and if you ask for a fish you’ll get fish! He says, verse 9, if you ask for something good like bread you won’t get something useless like a stone. Verse 10, if you ask for something good like a fish you won’t get something dangerous like a snake. He says, v11 even most human parents know how to give what’s good. And being supremely more perfect than humans, your heavenly Father will always give what is good." The spiritual realist says, "I’ve got to be praying, and praying hard." The spiritual realist says, "As I pray, God will ALWAYS answer me and give what is best."
Expanding the point
Let’s just pause for a moment and think about how God might answer our prayers:
What good parent would give everything the child wanted? What kind of lazy, selfish, adult would emerge from that family?! Think of the mess that child could get into!
I smoked as a teenager. And one day I asked my mother if I could smoke herbal cigarettes (no, not ’whacky baccy’!) I thought that they weren’t so bad for you. I thought that my parents might agree if the cigarettes were herbal... Needless to say, they said No. They knew that it was harmful for me. I asked. But because they loved me they said NO!
It’s not always easy to accept a No. But when we get a No from God, it’s always exactly what we need.
A well known poem has a lot of truth in it...
I ASKED FOR STRENGTH
I asked for strength, that I might achieve,
He made me weak that I might learn
humbly to obey...
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise...
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness that I might feel
the need of God...
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I may enjoy all things...
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
Well, we probably wouldn’t say we’ve been given “nothing that we asked for”, but we can surely get the point of the poem – God always gives what it best.
Application: 5 Principles of Always Answered Prayer.
God’s Word lays down several principles for prayer that is always answered.
1. Pray asking in faith.
In James 4:2 James writes, “You do not have, because you do not ask God”. If today you feel like something’s missing in your life then we ask, are you asking, seeking and knocking? Are you praying? Have you got a problem, a need, a heartache? Then don’t complain, don’t worry, don’t bottle it up! Pour out your heart to God in prayer. Look at the promises God has made and pray that you will realise them in your life.
2. Pray persistently.
There is a progression of intensity in those words, ask... seek... knock. That’s not just a quick ’God bless me’, before bedtime. Pray daily. Pray throughout the day.
3. Pray with right motives.
James goes on to say, “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). Remember Solomon? God blessed him with much because he prayed with the right motives. He prayed for God’s best in his life, so he could do the right thing in God’s eyes. (1 Kings 3:5ff)