Summary: God always has the right answer to our requests.
There was a pastor who had a very spiritual parrot. All the parrot would say was, “Let’s pray. Let’s pray.” The pastor tried to teach him to say other things but to no avail. One day he learned that one of his deacons also owned a parrot. The deacon’s parrot was not so spiritual. It would only say, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.” So the pastor decided to invite the deacon and his parrot over for a visit. When the deacon arrived, they put the parrots together to see what would happen. The deacons’ parrot said, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.” The pastor’s parrot said, “Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.”
P = Praise: If you start your prayers with praise you will end them in peace.
R = Repent: If you want your prayers to be heard, repent so that sin’s brick wall will be knocked down.
A = Ask
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:7-11
How can an unchanging God be affected by the prayers of humans?
• “I the LORD do not change” (Mal. 3:6).
• “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Sam. 15:29; cf. Num. 23:19).
• “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused” (Hosea 11:8).
Can our prayers change the mind of God? Before you say no, consider the story of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-6).
Hezekiah, king of Judah, is ill. His physicians have told him that he might not have much time left. But death is not Hezekiah’s only concern. The Assyrians are preparing to attack Jerusalem. If he dies, who will lead his people during battle? He has no heir ready to replace him.
With these troubling thoughts swirling through his mind, in steps Isaiah the prophet. “What news from God does Isaiah bring?” Hezekiah wonders. “Maybe he will tell me that God is going to rain down fire from heaven to destroy the Assyrians. Maybe he will say that God is going to heal me.”
Isaiah clears his throat and announces, “This is what the LORD says, Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” What would you do if you were in Hezekiah’s place? God has said, “You are going to die. There is no hope for your recovery.”
Hezekiah decides to pray. Few prayers have been filled with more emotion than Hezekiah’s prayer. He cries, “Remember, O LORD, how I walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.”
“Wait a minute,” you say. “God has already said that Hezekiah will die. He’s wasting his breath. He should stop praying and start putting his house in order.”
It’s a good thing that Hezekiah believed in the power of prayer. Even before Isaiah is out of the palace, the word of the LORD comes to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life.”
What if Hezekiah had not prayed for healing? I believe he would have died. He received healing only because He pleaded to God for it.
Many Christians believe that prayer doesn’t affect God’s actions. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes us, and then we change things” (If You Will Ask, p. 13).
Can our prayers really change the mind of God? Yes and no. God allows the prayers of His people to affect His actions.
Because God’s love NEVER changes, our prayers CAN change the way God acts.
“You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). If you turn that verse around, it says, “You have, because you ask God.” God often chooses to act in response to our prayers.
But what about times when we do ask but don’t receive?
If prayer really works, why don’t I get what I ask for?
The Big Idea: God always has the RIGHT ANSWER to our requests.
1. If the REQUEST is wrong, God will say, “NO.”
We can understand God saying no to a foolish or selfish request, but why does He say no to good requests?
Example: Paul’s prayer (2 Cor. 12:7-9)
Augustine, in his Confessions, tells about his wild and ungodly youth. For many years, he ran from the Lord. He was a brilliant, immoral, and pagan young man. But his mother Monica prayed and prayed and prayed for him. They lived in North Africa, and one day Augustine decided to move to Italy. Monica was distraught but prayed earnestly that he would not go to Italy. Yet he went. But it was there that Augustine put his faith in Christ. Here is what Augustine later wrote (addressing his comments to God) about his mother’s prayers: “But You, taking Your own secret counsel and noting the real point of her desire, did not grant her what she was then asking in order to grant to her the thing that she had always been asking” (Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook: 2006 Edition, p. 162).