Summary: There are five Biblical conditions necessary for God to answer our prayers.
You have probably seen the Television commercial where an overweight yet eager gentleman is about to start exercising. He is in the gym and has his sweats on and his cassette player with headsets and just before he begins his exercise routine he weighs himself. He weighs in at 257 pounds. Then he runs around the room once and comes back to weigh himself again, only this time he is a little winded. Much to his dismay, he still weighs in at 257 pounds. Then, a little upset that he hasn’t had a dramatic result to his “exhaustive” workout, he slaps the side of the scale expecting it to read a lower weight. What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that to get any results from exercising that he will have to put in a lot more effort?
All too often we approach prayer the same way. We think that if we just occasionally make a tiny effort at praying that we too will yield big results. And then, when we don’t, we get upset at God and say, “See! Prayer doesn’t work!”
The Bible tells us that prayer works when we work with God. Prayer that gets results takes more effort than an occasional run around the prayer room! Prayer that works is done in cooperation with God according to His workout routine.
This message is the second in our Prayer Can Change Your Life series that we started last week. Last week we talked about the Four Purposes of Prayer. Hopefully, we saw that God loves it when we pray and He loves to meet our needs through prayer. God has given us this gift mostly to draw us closer to Him.
This week, again following Rick Warren’s sermon outline, we are looking at the five conditions for answered prayer. Does God answer all prayers? The answer is “Yes,” and “No.” For those who are in a relationship with Him he answers every prayer either, “No (if request is wrong), Slow (timing is wrong), Grow (you are wrong) or Go (all are right)!” (Source: ”Too Busy Not to Pray,” by Bill Hybels) But, to those who don’t have a relationship with Him, except for their prayers leading them to salvation, He does not answer!
1. This leads us to the 1st Condition of Answered Prayer: You Must Have an HONEST RELATIONSHIP with God.
a. In John 15:1-8 Jesus uses the image of a fruitful vine as a metaphor of the Church. Jesus is the Vine, the Source of Life; God the Father is the Gardener watching over His church because He wants it to be very fruitful for His purposes, so He prunes it and waters it, and so on. We are the Branches that actually produce the fruit of the vine so as long as we are connected to Jesus and His nourishing Life, His Holy Spirit, flows through us unhindered.
This past week has been a beautiful week. The temperatures were awesome and everything that has life is blooming. You should see my wife, Sheila’s Tulips! The point is that if we are going to bear fruit for Jesus we must first be connected to Jesus; grafted into His Vine through a personal relationship with Him. We must be “alive!” And, according to verse 7, if we are, we can pray to Him and He will hear us. But, if we are not alive, if we are still lost, still dead in our sins, then there is no connection there!
It reminds me of the French Resistance during the second World War. Their job was to cut the German lines of communication. That is what our sin does, it severs our relationship with God. But, when we rece3ive Jesus, He repairs these lines.
For the Christian, sin causes static on these lines. We are still connected, but the Holy Spirit is grieved, separated from us, so our prayers are hindered.
Imagine that you are in a close relationship with someone. Maybe you are engaged or married or best friends. Then this special person has an affair or hurts you somehow and a separation in the relationship occurs. There is a loss of closeness, a loss of trust. You are sad and grieved! In Ephesians 4:30 the Bible says, “Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.” (MSG)
The Psalmist says in 66:18, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” Also, Isaiah says in 59, “1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.” Ask yourself, “Do I have an honest relationship w/God?