Summary: Pretty much everyone under the right circumstances prays. The key question is are you praying to the right person in a way that they will hear you and respond? Learn some important key ingredients to powerful prayer.
Last time we talked about not condemning people—because we don’t know their eternal state, nor are we qualified to make a decision about someone’s position with God. We talked about how God is the only one qualified to know the heart, and He is capable of making a fair and just decision.
A lot of times when we think about God, in fact, we picture a very angry man who sits on high and can’t wait to throw lightning bolts at anyone who messes up. God as judge does not usually bring fuzzy warm feelings to our minds.
In a way, we picture God as a stern father—one of those “children should be seen and not heard” kind of parents that if you actually dared ask them for something you got a mouthful of angry words. One picture that comes to mind is the Wizard of Oz. Remember the scene when Dorothy and the lion, tin man, and scarecrow come before Oz? They ask for his help and there is this big “How dare you!” booming voice and they all shake in their boots.
So when it comes to asking God for things—we are reluctant at best. Often times we figure we are blessed just to be in God’s family and going to heaven, but ask God for things? That’s taking your life into your hands!
In reality that just isn’t so. The first thing we have to keep in mind is that God has made Himself deaf to humans, or more specifically, we have made it so God cannot hear us when we pray:
Isa 59:1-2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
But there is one communication that God always hears, and that is the one from a repentant heart asking for salvation through Jesus Christ. Once that prayer goes up to God, then He hears everything and I mean everything.
John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Notice the “in my name” phrase? It’s part of the two reasons we are here on earth—to bring glory to God by being transformed into His image and to become an active part of sharing His love with the world (1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Anything we ask that falls in line with these two things God is ready, able, and willing to perform.
So let’s take a look at Matthew 7:7-11
The verbs are in the present—meaning a continuous action: “keep asking…” How often in prayer do we say it once and figure if God can hear it then He’s heard it and it is enough. And, in fact, Jesus told us not to repeat our prayers over and over with “empty phrases” thinking if we say it enough or just the right way it’ll be like “open sesame” and our prayer is answered.
The idea is to be persistent and sincere in our prayers.
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
God is not stingy. We saw that in chapter 6. Jesus told us not to over-worry for our needs here on earth because God will provide. Jesus showed the character of God as a giver as He freely healed and loved and gave—up to the point of giving His own life voluntarily to take the blame for our mistakes. But again, the point is, what does God give?
9 – 10
We are evil – Jesus acknowledges this almost in passing
But if we who are evil wouldn’t think of giving something horrible to our children, why would God, who is infinitely more holy, give something bad to us?
Notice this, though, God is not held hostage to our requests any more than a parent is to his/her children. That’s why He says “good things.” If a child asks for a serpent, no parent would give it, just as God will not answer a prayer that won’t lead to a redemptive purpose.
God doesn’t give us a blank check, but when we write it for the things He wants, God’s bank account is limitless.
What are the “good things”? Luke clarifies it a little bit for us:
Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"