Summary: Keep on asking God to keep His Word, counting on Him to work in unusual and unstoppable ways.
Mark Ashton, in his book, A Voice in the Wilderness, talks about a small boy who was writing a letter to God. Christmas was approaching and he wanted to ask God for certain Christmas presents he badly wanted. He began his letter with these words: “I've been good for six months now.”
But then he thought about it a little and crossed out the “six months” and wrote “three.” After a little more thought, he crossed that out and put “two weeks.” There was another pause, and he crossed that out too.
Then he got up from the table and went over to the little nativity scene that had the figures of Mary and Joseph. He picked up the figure of Mary and went back to his writing and started again: “Dear God, if ever you want to see your mother again…” (Mark Ashton, A Voice in the Wilderness, OM Publishing; www.PreachingToday.com)
We laugh at that, but sad to say, that’s the way a lot of people view prayer. They think they have to bribe a reluctant God; and if that doesn’t work, then somehow manipulate Him to give them what they want. No wonder so few people ever experience the joy of answered prayer.
Prayer is not manipulating a reluctant God to give us what we want. It is communicating with a God who wants to give us more than we could ever ask or even think. Martin Luther once said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”
So how then do you lay hold of God’s willingness? How do you connect with a God who is very generous and willing to share His riches in glory by Christ Jesus? If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 25, Genesis 25, where we see how an Old Testament couple laid a hold of God’s willingness in prayer.
Genesis 25:19-21 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (ESV)
Rebekah was barren, so Isaac prayed and she became pregnant. It’s really that simple. If you want to lay hold of God’s willingness, then…
Pray like Isaac did.
That means, 1st of all, be persistent in your prayers. Keep on praying and don’t give up until God answers.
According to verse 20, Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. But according to verse 26, he didn’t have any children until he was 60 years old. God waited 20 years to answer Isaac’s prayers, but there is no indication that Isaac ever gave up praying, no. He persisted in his prayers until God came through, and that’s what you need to do if you’re going to lay a hold of God’s willingness. You must persist in prayer.
Retired pastor Lee Eclov talks about a time when he was surprised to read a Facebook posting from a friend in South Dakota named Diane.
She wrote, “Had a nice surprise last night. At about 10:30 p.m. the phone rang. It was Governor Mike Rounds checking in with us to see how the road repair was going.” There had been a lot of flooding in the area where Diane lives, and the roads were a mess—and the governor actually called her to see how she felt about the repair progress.
When Pastor Lee wrote Diane to express his surprise, she said it wasn't the first time a governor had called her. Another time, some years ago, one of South Dakota's previous governors called about some FEMA money for the area. She told Pastor Lee that when the governor called she was in the middle of a home perm, but couldn't very well tell the governor to hold while she rinsed her hair. She added: “That frizzy hair haunted me for weeks.”
Pastor Lee found it incredible, so he asked Diane if she was in county government or something. She said she wasn't, but sensing he was blown away by her interactions with the government, she had this to say: “I have found that shaking the tree from the top gets the fastest results. When there is a problem, I usually become the ‘squeaky wheel,’ and I think they just want to get me off their case!” (Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; www.PreachingToday .com)
That reminds me of the story Jesus told in Luke 18 about the persistent widow who kept bothering an unjust judge for justice against her adversary. For a while, he refused, but after a while, he said, “I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”