Summary: Martin Luther said, "Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness;" but if we want to lay hold of God’s willingness, we must keep on asking God to keep his word, expecting 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 we lay hold of God’s willingness? How do we connect with a God who is very generous and willing to share His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?
Genesis 25:19-21 This is the account of Abraham’s son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram a and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
Rebekah was barren, so Isaac prayed and she became pregnant. It’s really that simple. If we want to lay hold of God’s willingness, then we must...
We must pray like Isaac did. That means, 1st of all, we must be persistent in our prayers. We must keep on praying and not 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 we need to do if we’re going to lay a hold of God’s willingness. We must persist in prayer.
One of the world’s largest magazine fulfillment firms is in Chicago. They handle all their magazine subscription mailings by computer, which automatically sends out renewal and expiration notices.
Well, one day, the company’s computer malfunctioned and a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado, got 9,734 separate mailings informing him that his subscription to National Geographic had expired.
This got the rancher’s attention. He dropped what he was doing and traveled 10 miles to the nearest post office, where he sent in money for a renewal, along with a note that said, “I give up! Send me your magazine!” (Stand Firm, September 1999, p.19; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s the power of persistence! And that persistence works in our prayers, as well. Jesus Himself said, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9, NLT).
If we want to lay hold of God’s willingness, we must persist in prayer. Now, that’s not because God is stingy and unwilling to answer our prayers and we have to overcome his reluctance. Oh no. It’s just that God wants to do more for us than what we ask.
You see, when we go to prayer, we want God to change our circumstances. But more often than not, God wants our circumstances to change us. That’s why He often delays His answers to our prayers – not to keep something from us, but to give us more than what we could ever ask or even think.
God wants to give us things like patience and strength of character. He wants to grow our faith and increase our love as we learn to empathize with those who hurt. You see, when God delays His answers to our prayers, He is giving us something whole lot more valuable than that for which we usually ask.