Summary: God always answers our prayers. But He may not answer them the way that we desire. This sermon examines some reasons for God’s response to us.
September 23, 2001 John 11
“God’s three answers to prayer”
1. God says “yes” to some requests.
We like that. We respond well to that. In the passage that we looked at last week, Acts 4, the disciples received exactly what they asked for. They asked for boldness to continue to speak for God in spite of the opposition, and that is exactly what they received.
2. God says “wait” to some requests.
a) …because He wants us to focus on Him.
One of the things that we must do is keep a proper perspective on prayer. What is its purpose? It is not the bat phone that you reach for in times of trouble. Prayer is our means of communication with God. It is one of the means that we use to get to know Him. It develops our relationship with Him.
Oftentimes though, we view prayer as our hotline to the Almighty, but the only thing that we bring to Him is our grocery list of needs. There’s nothing wrong with praying for your needs, but it’s not the primary purpose of prayer. Prayer is time to intentionally focus on God.
There’s the temptation to replace God with needs. When this happens, things become our focus. In a real sense, needs and concerns become the object of our worship. This is called idolatry, and the Bible warns against it. “Do not worship any gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:3, NLT)
What would it be like in your relationship with your spouse if the only conversation that went on between you was requests for one thing or another. “What’s for dinner?”; “Have you seen my new tie?”; “The grass needs mowing.” Those are servant questions. That’s the kind of questions that kids ask. They ask for things all day long. But adults take time to get to know one another. “How was your day today, dear?” “How did you feel about what happened?“ “What are your dreams for the future?” Those are relationship questions. Do you want God to be your servant or your Father?
A preacher named Peter Lord once said, “Seek God’s hand and not his face, and you’ll get neither. Seek His face and not his hand and you’ll get both.” Jesus said it this way: “But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33, NIV)
b) …because He wants us to trust in Him.
God has seen fit to give Tammy and me two control freaks for children. Every time that we get in the car to go somewhere, the first noise out of their mouths is, “Where are we going?” Then it’s “What are we going to do when we get there?” Followed by “How long are we going to be there?” Which leads to “Where are we going after that?” And the cycle repeats itself. Or at least it would if we didn’t nip it in the bud at that first question with a statement that goes something like this: “You guys do not need to know everything. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Momma and Daddy are in control. Trust us.”
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths [or make your paths straight]” (Prov 3:5,6)
When I was growing up, I used to love to put models together. I’d do model cars, boats, airplanes – whatever I could find. With each model that I received, there came along a totally unnecessary thing called instructions. And in those instructions were multiple steps that were supposed to be done in a certain order. But being the wonderful mechanic that I was, I didn’t need instructions. I would just start to take the parts out of the box and put them together. Sometimes, I would get those snap-together models. EASY!! Snap, snap, and snap. All together. Oops, there’s an extra piece on the ground. It’s the clear plastic pieces that were supposed to be the headlights. But now I can’t put them in because my model is one of those kind that once you snap it together, you can’t take it apart. I guess I should have read the instructions and done things in their proper order.
God knows the order for our lives too. He’s got a plan for us. What I am asking for today may be a part of His plan for my life – eventually, but not right now. There are a few more steps in my life that I have to go through in order for that thing that I desire to fit just right. I must be willing to trust the one who created me to do things in just the right order even if it means that I must wait.