We heard a wonderful message at church this morning and I just have to share some of it here – partly for anyone who missed it, and partly for myself to come back and be reminded.
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:5-13, KJV
There are books and videos and preachers out there, telling us they have the secret to “more successful” prayer. “More effective” prayer. There is this screwed-up understanding of what an effective prayer really is. Is a prayer only “effective” if you get what you selfishly want from God?
God has not called us to be successful as defined by the world. Instead we are called to be faithful.
We have come to expect a very narrow definition of what is “good” from God. We expect that if we pray for health and wealth and worldly success, we’ll get it. We forget that we’re already healthier, wealthier, and far more fortunate, than millions of other people around the globe. Does that mean we are more loved? Does that mean that North Americans are better pray-ers? Hardly! We need to change our attitudes and expectations about prayer.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33, ESV
We just don’t get it. How many of us think that if we “seek first the kingdom,” we then have gained license to pursue whatever it is we really want from God. If we really understood what it means to seek first the kingdom… we’d be trying to love what (and who) God loves. Value what He values. We’d be trying to follow His will for our lives. If you are truly seeking the kingdom, then that bit about “all other things [being] added”? That won’t be the things you want to be added, the things you think you need to make your life really awesome or fulfilled or successful or exciting. No. Those other things being added? Those will be the things – the people, the places, the circumstances, the gifts, the challenges, the opportunities, the resources – that God knows you need. And what’s better? You come to accept them. And you come to see their Source.
I usually say God has three answers to prayer, “Yes,” “No,” and “Not yet.” If the request is wrong, God says “No.” If the timing is wrong, God says “Slow.” If you are wrong, God says “Grow.” But if the request is right, the timing is right, and you are right, God says, “Go!” -Bill Hybels, Too Busy Not To Pray
The speaker in church today challenged us to look for the fruits of our prayers. He reminded us that fruitful prayer is aimed at something specific.
If you hired a new babysitter to watch your children, would you say to her on your way out the door, “Okay, now Becky, please just be with my children in a special way tonight.” NO WAY! You would give her specific requests and directions, like “Becky, please give the kids a snack before their bathtime, and have them in bed by 8:00. And make sure they finish their homework before they play any games.”
Now, he wasn’t trying to imply that God needs our feeble little human directions to know what to do. He pointed out that he believes that God is going to do, what God is going to do. The point for us in praying specifically is that it allows US to see and recognize what God is doing in our lives or in the lives of others – making us better able to see Him and trust Him in the future, making us more in tune with His will, and making us able to point to God for the glory in all circumstances.
So all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children – calling him ‘Father, dear Father.’ For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.
Romans 8:14-16, NLT