Summary: Lesson 15 in a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I revisited the topic of prayer as we came to Jesus’s words about asking, seeking, and knocking.
Fix Your Prayers (part 2)
It is quite possible that no aspect of the Christian life is as mysterious as prayer. What should I pray for and how should I pray? How come it seems like nothing happens when I pray? Do you ever think you’re just talking to the wall when you pray? Why pray? God already knows what will happen. What can my prayer do to change the will of God? We talked already about the Lord’s Prayer and studied what Jesus had to say about our prayer lives and specifically what we should pray for. Now Jesus tells us how to pray. We will look at fixing our prayers, part 2. What should be my attitude when I pray? Should I come to God and make specific requests or should I pray seeking to change only me, not God? Jesus seems to tell us that the answer is both. I pray to change situations and to change me. Jesus is finishing his Sermon on the Mount and now he talks about how we should come to God. Let’s read Matthew 7:7-11
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
When we discussed the Lord’s Prayer, we talked about how prayer changes me. You may remember the example we gave of being in a boat and casting a boat hook onto the shore and then pulling on the rope. Just as doing that would not pull the shore closer to us, but us closer to the shore, so prayer does not change God nearly as much as it changes me.
But that could lead to a faulty idea of prayer. Prayer changes me, but does it change God? What do I do in times of trouble? I pray for God to act. I pray that He will heal my loved one or that He will help me get out of my hard time. And while I certainly add, thy will be done to my prayers, it is my HOPE that the situation changes, not that he changes me. I don’t want to learn to accept this illness or hardship. I want it to go away. That is what Jesus prayed in the garden. I don’t want to go through all this. I want it to go away. But if it won’t, your will be done. That is our prayer, too. Lord don’t change me, change the situation. But if not, then help me submit to your will.
This morning I want us to look at prayers for God to change the situation. I think that we have heard so often that we should pray for God’s will to be done that we have lost the idea that our prayers matter much. Sure they may change me, but they may not make much difference in the situation. If you ask how someone in the hospital is doing and the doctor says, all we can do now is pray, what does that mean? In typical medical talk, that is not a good report. If you really think about it, all most of us can do is pray from the very beginning. And what does it say about our view of prayer if we see it as a last resort?
Two deacons were discussing the financial woes of the congregation and one of them said, I guess we could pray about it. The other one replied, Has it really come to that, then? I didn’t know we were that bad! Too many times we pray to the Almighty Creator of the Universe and we forget that we are instructed to call him father. An old Scottish lady got tired of her preacher’s long prayers and she decided to set him straight. Her advice for a good prayer was this. “Just call him Father and ask for something.”
I want you to know that God is a powerful God who still moves and acts and does amazing things because His people pray. Jesus says for us to ask and it will be given to us. Before we get into this, I need to tell you that I still believe firmly in the sovereignty of God. God alone rules this universe and there is nothing I can do in prayer to make him do what I want Him to do if He doesn’t want to do it. But, I believe that there is some freedom in the will of God, too. Jesus told us what God’s will is. In John 6:40 he says that God’s will is “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life” Peter tells us that the will of God is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. Beyond that, there is quite a bit of room.