Summary: Prayer matters. Real prayer is worth whatever effort it takes to make it the source of power in our lives. In our text, John reveals the secret of effective praying. Note the three keys that can unlock prayer’s power for you.
Prayer Isn’t for Sissies!
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Prayer isn’t for sissies! A lot of people think otherwise, perhaps some in this room Some think it is a cop-out. They say, “praying is an attempt to find an easy way out. It is asking God to do the heavy lifting for you.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would insist that praying—really praying, hard and long—is one of the hardest things you will ever do.
Remember Jesus’ disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked them to watch and pray with him for one hour. They sleep. Most of us wouldn’t fare any better. We can do most anything easier than we could pray for an hour.
Prayer is hard because the devil knows better than we how powerful it is. In C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, Screwtape, a demon commander, gives instructions to an underling (Wormwood) who has been assigned to harass a new believer. At one point Screwtape writes, “Interfere at any price in any fashion when people start to pray for real prayer is lethal to our cause.”
As pioneer radio evangelist Paul Rader used to say, “If you can beat the devil in the matter of regular daily prayer, you can beat him anywhere. If he can beat you there, he possibly beat you anywhere!”
Prayer matters. Real prayer is worth whatever effort it takes to make it the source of power in our lives. In our text, John reveals the secret of effective praying. Note the three keys that can unlock prayer’s power for you.
First, effective prayer requires confidence. The word confidence is sometimes translated boldness. The Greek word literally means “all words.” It refers to freedom of speaking, an openness that enables you to say what’s on your mind as opposed to fear that you might say the wrong thing or not be accepted. Bold praying is honest praying.
Children are good at praying honestly, maybe too honestly sometimes. A mother invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn’t know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother answered. The little girl bowed her head and with sincerity in her voice said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
Our text isn’t the place in the Bible which speaks of confidence. Listen to Hebrews 4:14-16. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Where does such boldness come from? It comes from knowing who we are praying to. That’s the heart of faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
Confidence comes from believing that God hears. Confidence comes from believing that God is more willing to respond to our prayers than we are to call upon him. Confidence comes from believing that God is able to respond.
Effective praying starts with confidence. The next essential ingredient is asking. Prayer comes in many forms. Prayer isn’t just about asking, but asking is part of confident, bold praying. Mark Gellman, a rabbi who often appears on the Today Show and writes periodically for Newsweek says there are four kinds of prayer: Gimme, Thanks, Oops, and Wow! Thanks is obvious. Oops means confessing our sins. Wow is when we overflow in praise for who God is, not just for what he’s done for us lately.
We do have a human tendency to distort that first element of prayer. We can turn asking into “Gimmie.” James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
Note the promise of the text, “whatever you ask.” There are no limits to bold praying. We can ask anything. We know he is there and he listens.
For some, this injects a note of fear into prayer. What if we ask for the wrong thing? What if we ask for something that would harm us? Here is our confidence. We can ask anything. God will hear anything. He won’t scold us for asking. But he is still God. Prayer doesn’t force him. God is not our personal genie in the bottle. Prayer doesn’t automatically result in what we ask for. That’s a good thing. Imagine the what our world would be like if we could make God do what we wanted. Our heavenly Father is a lot smarter than some parents. He knows giving us everything we want doesn’t make us happy. It destroys us.