A young girl who once wrote a missionary, to let him know
that she was keeping him in her prayers.
She had been told not to request a response to her letter because the
missionary was very busy, so she began her letter with these
words; “Dear Mr. Missionary, I am praying for you, but don’t worry, I am not expecting an answer.”
This Kinda' shows how many Christians pray. We bring issues before the throne of God, but we don’t really expect any answers. We pray for help, and then immediately look for some way that we can fix the problem we are praying about.
It seems those prayers do not show our full reliance on God. They tend to show that we do not fully trust that He will, or can, answer prayers, don’t they?
Let's start by defining what prayer actually is. Sometimes it seems that this is one of those words that has been used so much we have all but forgotten what prayer really is.
Prayer is a very private conversation between you and God. Actually I think it is between your heart and God’s heart. And, in order for us to be able to pray properly,we must remember a few of the attitudes of prayer.
1. ALWAYS START WITH A HUMBLE HEART.
2 CHRONICLES 7:14 starts by saying, ‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray ….’
Who is He talking about when He says, “My people?” He is talking about Christians. The first thing He tells us to do is to humble ourselves. There are times we are full of pride, and God cannot hear us when we are prideful, so we must humble our hearts.
We should become submissive to God in our hearts. Perhaps the most important thing about praying – is having a submissive heart for God Almighty. If we actually get on our knees and bow our heads we are putting our bodies in a submissive position, and if our bodies are in a submissive stance, our minds and hearts will automatically follow.
2. LET GOD ANSWER PRAYERS IN HIS TIME, NOT YOURS.
Today’s society is a ‘right now’ society. We want instant everything, don’t we? At times when we pray for God’s help, we have the attitude of ‘hurry it up, God!’ It is easy to forget that God knows the perfect time and the perfect way in which He should answer our prayers, and we don’t. We shouldn't try to rush him to fit our busy schedules.
Sometimes God will answer a prayer immediately; sometimes He will just say ‘NO’, which will turn out to be the perfect answer in the long run; and sometimes, He will say, ‘NOT YET.’
In the first chapter of LUKE, we find the story of a man named Zechariah. He was a priest who was quite elderly. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were righteous and Godly people.
One day, Zechariah was sweeping the temple and burning incense and the angel Gabriel appeared to him. The angel told him that his prayers had been heard and they would be answered. He said that Elizabeth would give birth to a boy.
Now, instead of having the faith to believe his prayer had been answered, Zechariah expressed doubt. The angel said that because of his disbelief, Zechariah would lose his voice until the day the baby was born.
I can understand why Zechariah doubted. He was a very old man, and his wife was a very old woman. In the Scripture, it says he told the angel, ‘I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.’ Now, there is a man with diplomacy!
Remember, we need to let God work in His time. In verse 13, it says that the angel told Zechariah that his prayer ‘has been heard’. That is a past-tense word. God had already heard the prayers Zechariah prayed. But, it wasn’t until now that God had everything in place for the baby to be born. See, in His time, we find the perfect time.
Many times, we pray for something and then get aggravated at God, wanting Him to hurry up and do what we want. We have to understand that God wants very much to give us what we need and what we want, but because we are the sinners, He sometimes has to change us first, and that takes time. God is more interested in making you a solid Christian than He is making your life comfy and cozy.
What happens when you pray and pray and pray again, and you still see no answer in sight? What do you do then? You have faith that God is preparing the answer for you, and you just keep on praying. Pray with the knowledge that God will answer your prayers in the best way for you.
In Mark 11, we are told to pray with the belief that we have already received the answer. It is all a matter of how solid your faith in God is. And remember that when God says, ‘Not yet’, that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘No’.
3. LET GOD ANSWER IN HIS WAY, NOT YOURS.
We talked about letting God answer your prayers in His time, not yours, but we must also realize that we must let Him answer them in His way, not your way.
Sometimes, God wants to answer your prayer in a much bigger way than you prayed for. Go back to Zechariah for a moment. What would have happened if God had answered their requests for a baby immediately? They would have had a little Jewish boy or girl and they would have loved that baby dearly, but that would have been it. In this case that God had something else in mind.
He waited until the time came for Jesus Christ to be born, and then he let Zechariah and Elizabeth give birth to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. That fulfilled Old Testament prophecy saying one would come before the Messiah, exalting His name. We find by letting God do things in His way they are so much better than our ways.
It appears we may have two problems when praying. We ask for too little, and we ask for it too fast.
No matter what great things you have in your imagination, and no matter how grand you think the answer to your prayer will be, it is nothing compared to how much God can and wants to give you. So we need to pray in patience, having absolute faith of the outcome.
You know, if I think about it, if God had answered all my prayers the in the way and the time I wanted; my life would probably be an absolute mess right now.
I'm really, really trying to let God choose the time and the way He answers my prayers. After all, who am I to give direction to my Heavenly Father?
4. REALIZE GOD DOES NOT NEED YOUR HELP
Have you ever asked God for things and then immediately went to work trying to get them by yourself. God does not need our help. One of the problems we seem to have is that we encounter some kind of a problem, then we go to God in prayer and ask for His help, and as soon as we say, ‘Amen’, we start trying to figure out how to solve the problems without His help. It kinda' makes sense that if we ask God for help – we need to stand back and let Him help us!
Going back to Zechariah. God waited a very long time to answer their prayers? He waited until they were too old to have children, didn’t He? Why do you think God waited that long?
We've probably all needed and prayed for a specific type of help, and that help only came at the very last minute? Why does God wait? I think sometimes He waits so that when He gives the answer to a prayer, we will realize that it came from nobody but Him. That way he won't confuse you into thinking that you came up with the perfect solution to your problem.
Perhaps a warning is in order when we are praying for answers to problems. When we pray for God to give us the fix for a problem, do not be surprised, in fact – be prepared, for things to get worse before they get better.
Why is that? I think that when we show full and absolute faith in God’s ability and desire to help us, the devil will try his best to reduce that faith by making us start having doubts. Perhaps God allows that to a point, so that when the answer is given, it gives Him the most glory. It seems that God will let a situation get out of hand so that when the answer is finally received, it is an opportunity for us to see a miracle, which again, would help grow our faith in Him.
A perfect example of this is found in JOHN 11. It is a story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. They had a brother named Lazarus and he got sick. The sisters sent for Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother. There was a real sense of urgency in their message for Jesus to come very quickly.
Now, Jesus was only a few miles from their home, but He intentionally delayed going there for several days. By this time, their brother had died and was buried in a tomb. You can imagine how upset the sisters were, claiming that if Jesus had been there earlier, their brother would still be alive. In short, they were mad and rebuking God, weren’t they? We sometimes do the same thing when things don’t seem to go our way and He doesn’t answer in the time we want Him to answer?
When Jesus was taken to the tomb, He called Lazarus out and Lazarus awoke from the dead and came forth. If Jesus had come when He was first called, many people would have thought that Lazarus just got well, and would have doubted that Jesus had anything to do with it.
This way, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that Jesus was the supreme healer and that the answer to the prayer only came from Him. Sometimes, God will make us wait, too, so that everyone around us will know without a doubt where the answer came from.
5. LET GOD ANSWER PRAYERS FOR HIS REASONS, NOT YOURS
God will answer prayers when He knows it is best, in a way he knows best and for the reasons he knows best.
Rember Joseph in the Bible? God said to Joseph in a dream, "You're going to be the ruler of a great country someday." Then what happened? Joseph was promptly sold by his brothers into slavery.
A very important Egyptian buys Joseph and ends up putting him in charge of his entire household. Soon, his master's wife tries to seduce him, he would not give in, and so the wife had him put in jail. That's not exactly the way to build a political career. Sold into slavery and then maligned and put in jail. His whole career is on a downhill slide. But God ended up making Joseph the second in command in all of Egypt. It was all because of God’s reasoning, not Josephs.
Perhaps the greatest example of this is found in the life of Paul. Paul was willing to let God answer his prayers in His way. When Paul prayed, He immediately gave it over to God to handle from there. In reading the book of ROMANS, we find that Paul's major desire was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome.
Rome was the most significant city in the world at the time, and Paul wanted nothing more than to preach to the ‘movers and shakers’ of his day. He probably had visions of renting the Coliseum, installing a good PA system so he could reach more people, you can get a vision of him handing out flyers for a few days before the big night.
In ROMANS 15:20, he says,
‘It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.’
Paul had prayed for many years for the chance to go to Rome. Did God answer his prayers? Yes he did, but notice how he answered them.
In ACTS 28:16, It tells what happened to Paul when he finally did get to Rome.
‘When he got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier to guard him.’
House arrest! Certainly not how Paul saw his visit to Rome. Paul had prayed to go to Rome, and God answered those prayers. Paul had been arrested and gone through the Roman court system and was sent to Rome – as a prisoner, to be kept chained under house arrest.
Paul desired a pleasant journey, you can be sure as he envisioned his trip to Rome. Well, he didn’t get your typical luxury cruise, did he? He was in chains, in a shipwreck, bitten by a poisonous snake and finally ended up under house arrest in Rome.
Going to Rome was in Paul’s blood. He thought about it constantly. He prayed about it daily. How did he finally get there? It was through the Roman leaders of his day, Felix,Caesar & others. In his wildest nightmares, I doubt if he ever thought these people would be the ones to help him realize his greatest ambition.
Paul, without a doubt, had packed his bags and tried to get ready to go to Rome many times, just to hear God say “Not Yet – We'll do this in My time.” Paul was never in a huge hurry like we seem to be in today, was he?
Then, one day, for His own purpose and in His own time, God answered Paul’s prayers. Why did God now want Paul in Rome? Not to be the big preacher in the Coliseum, but to write letters. While Paul was under house arrest, he had plenty of time on his hands, so what did he do with that time? He spent most of it writing letters to different Christians all over the Mediterranean area, encouraging them in Christ, teaching them biblical principles, and getting them organized into one united body for Jesus.
Those were very important letters. When they were put together, they became much of the New Testament in our Bibles today. We got that because Paul prayed to God to be sent to Rome, but he allowed everything to be worked out by God, not by himself. And God answered in such a glorious way that the Christian church flourished, grew stronger and in a way that totally glorified God the Father.
Paul is the most widely read author in the history of the world. Paul was so much of an activist for Jesus that the only way God could get him to slow down was to put him in jail. If we could all be like Paul. He was so dedicated to the Lord’s work that you put him in jail and what does he do? He writes much of the Bible!
Paul’s great desire was to go preach in Rome, but it wasn’t because he wanted to be known as a great preacher, or that he wanted any glory. No, Paul’s entire focus in life was to make as big an impact for Jesus as he could.
God saw to it that Paul made a huge and lasting impact for Jesus, didn’t He? But He did it not in the way Paul had wanted, but in the perfect way that God knew was best.
When we pray a prayer that is not right, God will say “NO!”
When we pray a prayer and we are not right, God says “GROW.”
When we pray and the timing is not right, God will say “SLOW.”
But, when we pray a prayer and all is right, God will say, “GO.”
If we had a laptop giving us problems, we would take it to a computer geek and ask him to fix it. If he told us it would be done some time this week, and that he would call us when it was done, we would agree with him and then go about my business – knowing that when the job was done, we would get a call. We would not get mad at him, or keep calling him to tell him we were getting impatient, and we would not end up believing he could not fix my laptop.
Likewise, when we give pray to our Father with a request , we must go about our business and let Him do the work that He is really, really good at – taking care of us in the best possible way.
Oh yes, as a foot note. When the prayer is answered, when the miracle occurs. Our Heavenly Father would most likely deserves appreciates our thanks for his awesome power & glory.
Thank you Lord God,
LIMITED EDITION OF SERMON GIVEN AT FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH CONROE, TX MADE FOR HARVEY & MADELINE SCHRAEDER JULY 15, 2013 By BOB SMITH