Meanderings of a Minister

Prayer: The Great Adventure
October 19, 2010, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Articles

Courtesy of Ashburton District, Australia

Few things can bring us excitement in the Christian life quite like answered prayer.  When we pray and we know that the God of the universe has heard us and has responded, we come away encouraged and joyful; however, when we are not receiving answered prayers, we can tend to become less than excited.  In 1 John 5:13-15, John talked about prayer and its realities for the life of the Christian.  Since John began this book with the statement that he wrote these things so that our joy may be made complete, it would stand to reason that he saw answered prayer as one of those things that boosts our joy, but also wanted his hearers (for the letters would be read audibly to the intended audience) to understand both what prayer is and what it is not.

First, John tells us that the things he has written have also served the purpose of providing us with assurance of how to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we have eternal life.  Moving from this assurance, he next moves on to the confidence we have in that relationship.  Before we can talk about what that confidence is, we must understand what confidence means.  Confidence, biblically, does not mean hope or even surety.  It means unveiling or revealing yourself to someone else.  When John says we have confidence in Christ, he is saying that because of the eternal life we have in Christ, we also have the ability to unveil our true selves to God in prayer and can know He hears us and gives us what we ask for when it is accordance with His will.  More on that later.

Having considered the meaning of confidence, we next move to talk about the meaning of ask.  Αιτεω is an interesting word in Greek.  It means to ask, but it can mean to demand or it can mean to request.  Many times, we forget which version we are supposed to use when talking to the God that created and sustains our universe.  Sometimes we forget we exist to glorify and serve Him.  We slip into thinking He exists to serve us.  Nowhere is this seen in a more pronounced manner than when we begin to demand things of God instead of requesting them.  With the modern phenomenon of prosperity doctrines, we can easily become confused into thinking God is our heavenly ATM card.  We engaging Him in prayer, list our wants and He should just spit them out.  When He doesn’t, then we have a right to get angry because He is not serving His purpose, which is to make us happy.

John says our confidence before Christ is that He hears us IF WE ASK ACCORDING TO HIS WILL.  We want to change the prayer to Thy Kingdom come, my will be done.  John says it should be God’s will that reigns supreme.  A quick survey of Jesus’ comments in John 15, John 17, Jesus’ attitude in Ephesians 2 and Paul’s instructions in 2 Corinthians 5 tells us self-centered demanding of Christ is nothing more than baptized selfishness.  We must want what God wants and then we are assured of His answer.

What is God’s will?  This is a question often asked in a variety of settings, but there is actually one very simple answer.  God’s will is always that He be glorified, for this is the chief end of man and is the best for us.  This should be the overarching concern of every believer when we pray.  We are free to tell God what we would prefer.  We are even free to, like Moses, David, Abraham and others, tell God why we think this is a good idea, but we must always look to Him and His glory and His will first.  Paul has told us we can pray about anything, but we must also want what God wants.  This is the meaning of being a “little Christ” or Christian.

So, what about the times when we are not receiving answers to our prayers and we believe them to be the will of the Father?  First, we must have a relationship with Christ.  Isaiah 59:2 says if we have sin that has not been forgiven, God will not hear.  For those of us in Christ, we have been cleansed from all unrighteousness.  Second, perhaps we have a broken relationship with others.  Jesus said, if we don’t forgive, God will not forgive us.  That takes us back to unconfessed sin.  Finally, perhaps the reasons we are not experiencing answers to our prayers is simply because the only answer we will acknowledge is what we want and we are not concerned with God’s desire or that He get glory.

The good news is that each of these situations can be repented of and reconciled.  Are you experiencing the joy of answered prayer?  If not, why not?  If so, thank God and tell someone about it!


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