Summary: We can pray confidently. God loves to answer our prayers and can because Jesus Christ opens the Throne Room to us.
If I did a survey of the people in this room today about the way you pray, I would most likely discover some common things --
– the majority of you wish you knew how to pray more effectively, and
– many of you would admit to praying hardly at all.
I was well into my adult life before prayer became a part of my Christian life that was really meaningful, in which I had the sense that I was really touching Heaven! In the message today, we will be taking a closer look at a passage that most Believers know well, with which they are very familiar.
TEXT - Matthew 7:7-12
Let me caution you about raising barriers to the Word today. You may be tempted to tune me out thinking, “I’ve heard this before!” Or, your mind may throw in a question and/or objection, saying - “But.... but, what about....?”
I encourage you to hear the Word and believe it! IF we really believed what Jesus says about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, it would turn our prayers upside down and inside out!
I preached from a passage a couple of weeks ago in which Jesus emphasized that prayer should be primarily private, simple and straight forward, and filled with faith.
...when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father...when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.... do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:6, 7, 31, 33
Let read the text for today.
Our English translations of the Bible do not capture the emphasis of the original text. The verbs translated "ask, seek, and knocking" are in the present tense, in a rising scale of intensity. A more true reading is,
"Keep on asking, and it will be given; persistent in seeking and you will make your discovery; keep knocking and the door will open."
Asking is a simple response to awareness of need - much as a child who is hungry says, “Give me something to eat, please.”
Seeking is an activity of pursuit. It carries the previous response into the realm of choice, where a person desires to know what God’s will is, to know how God will provide.
Knocking is sustained and enduring, when we keep on going back to God for that need that remains with us, to see an answer in this world!
That theme is developed in a parable told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 18. "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." His story is about a woman, a widow with no clout or influence, who wanted a judge to hear her case. He refused and would not be moved. Everyday she went and petitioned him until finally he took the case; not because he was a just judge who wanted justice for this poor woman but because she was persistent!
Why must our prayers be persistent?
The Devil wishes us to believe that we struggle, that life is hard, that our prayers seem to be unanswered because God is uncaring! The enemy of God argues against His goodness and has done so since the beginning of human history.
∙ The Genesis story of Eve and Adam becoming sinful centers around the question of God’s goodness! The Tempter implies that God is withholding something desirable from those He created! "The serpent told the Woman, "You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil." (Genesis 3:4-5, The Message)
With variations on that theme, the deceiver works at getting you and me to doubt God’s benevolence.
But, go with me once again to our text – read v.9-11
Jesus argues from a generally accepted fact, to something even more important. He points out the love that moves humans parents, even though they are a part of the evil world. Parents delight to provide for the desires and needs of their children. And they do this despite being sinners, despite their own fallen nature! We are capable of love and we delight in providing good things to our kids! “If that is true,” Jesus says, “then know that God, your Father, also delights in providing for His children. He is good!”
Do you believe that it is true that God is good?
If we believe that God is capricious, or uncaring, or remote, or cruel - our prayers will be tentative or fearful; or they will cease altogether! A child who is raised by abusive parents quickly learns not to trust. The child whose parent is unstable, or addicted, or an alcoholic is confused by the caring parent that turns into someone cruel or abusive. But, the child who has good, selfless, steady parents develops an ability to relate well, to function without fear!