Summary: If we come not just asking, but really seeking, we will receive God’s best. We can be encouraged to pray because God wants us to, and He desires to give us much more than the request that started the conversation.
Prayer Changes Things
A Sermon on Matthew 7:7-11
The story is told of a young boy who wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for a long time, but nothing happened. Undaunted by the lack of response, he wrote a letter to God presenting his request once again.
When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to “God, USA,” not knowing what else to do, they decided to deliver it to the President. Mr. President was interested in the letter enough to instruct his secretary to send the little boy $5. He thought this amount might be enough to encourage such a young boy.
And indeed, the little boy was delighted with the $5 bill. He sat down immediately to write a thank-you note to God. This too was forwarded to the President. It read:
Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington DC and those guys deducted $95 in taxes!”
While I can’t claim that this story is true, you have to give the little boy credit for persistence in putting his prayers before God, and his faithfulness in believing that it was man, and not God, who had messed up the answer.
This morning I am concluding our Extreme Makeover Christian Edition series with a sermon on prayer. Our prayer lives have a tendency to cycle. Sometimes we are good at praying, laying our requests at God’s throne and listening and waiting for His answers. At other times, it is more the case that our prayer lives are dead or dying. We don’t pray with the faith or persistence of that little boy, and we don’t have his faith that God will answer.
For some of us that is because we’ve never really come before God in honest prayer. For others, it is because our prayer garden needs some weeding and watering to remove the complacency and nourish our souls. If we can turn our prayer life around, I believe we will see that prayer changes things.
Whatever your current situation is, Jesus has some words of encouragement for you today.
If you have your Bibles with you, why don’t you take them out and turn to the seventh chapter of the Matthew’s Gospel. We’ll begin at verse 7.
Go Ahead – Ask
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)
This section of scripture is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Earlier, in chapter 6, He taught His disciples how to pray. He told them it was an activity that was between them and God. They were to keep their words simple and not worry about the jargon. And He gave them an example of prayer, which we today call the Lord’s prayer.
And here in chapter seven, He returns again to the topic of prayer. And it is interesting that there are no qualifiers in His statement. There is no how-to explanation. It is simply: Ask and receive; seek and find; knock and it will be opened. There is no indication of a possibility of failure. Prayer does change things.
But when we pray, is that our experience? Can what Jesus says really be true? I imagine we have all asked for something of God that we didn’t receive.
I remember well the day I overslept for my Driver’s Education class one summer. The class allowed a total of 5 days that could be missed without having to start again from the beginning. I was certain I would not miss, so I chose to take the first five days off to go on a mission trip with my church.
Then one day, three-fourths of way through the class, I woke up at the exact moment when the class was ending for the day. I prayed very fervently for a way to work things out so I wouldn’t have to repeat everything. After all, I was almost done. But no matter how much I sought the Lord and petitioned the school board, it was not to be.
Ask and you will receive. Well, not that time. We probably all have similar stories.
So what does Jesus mean when He says, “ask and you will receive?” God isn’t just a big genie – when you rub the lamp He has to grant your wish – or a big vending machine in the sky – you put in your tithe and you get a blessing.
But God does want us to come to Him with our needs and our wants. He wants us to not be afraid to ask. Yes, our God is a holy God, but He is also a God before Whose throne we are welcome when we come in the Name of His Son.