God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Chapter 5
God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Testimony

God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Chapter 6

6. We have a part to play.

I missed what Jesus meant, when he said Ask and it shall be given you, because I had a wrong picture of how prayer works. I imagined prayer as a one sided transaction, kind of like, asking your boss for a raise, or a promotion. You make your request and then wait to find out what the boss’s decision is. That’s how most of us picture prayer, we make our request and then it’s completely in God’s hands, we sit back and wait for God to do His God stuff. Since we imagine that God’s “Yes,” is the only obstacle to our prayer being answered, our entire prayer effort is focused on getting God’s Yes. We dream up all manner of schemes for getting God to Yes. We try begging, or crying, or bargaining, or asking a million people to pray with us. We try asking over and over and over and over and over again, in hopes of getting God to Yes.

But it turns out that’s not how it works. Jesus has let us know what God’s answer will be, he’s already told us that when we ask it will be given to us, so prayer is not all about getting God to, Yes, God’s already on Yes, God wants to answer our prayers.

God’s not the hang up.

You can see the point a little more clearly in the Epistle of James

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)

I used to think that this scripture applied exclusively to prayers for wisdom, but then I realized that James’s proof that God will answer prayers for wisdom, is God’s nature, God’s attitude towards all of our prayers, for wisdom or anything else. We can have confidence in asking God for wisdom because of what God is like. What’s he like?

He gives generously. God loves to give. God loves answering prayers. He isn’t doling out answers to prayer with an eye dropper. He isn’t the great heavenly bookkeeper making sure everyone gets exactly what they deserve. God doesn’t give just enough, He’s a God of more than enough. He’s the God who makes your cup overflow, who multiplies the loaves and fishes till there are baskets of leftovers, who turns barrels of water into the finest wine, who almost sinks your boat with an overflow of fishes.

• He gives to all. Jesus said, everyone that asks receives. James says, He gives to all. Paul says He’s not a respecter of persons.That means you, that means me, that means Manasseh. God loves answering prayers.

Without finding fault. The King James says, ubraideth not. Eerdman's Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament suggests, He doesn’t grumble. I like that one. God doesn’t grumble that you’re asking for something. We may grumble when people ask us for things, ‘You’re kidding me, somebody else wants something?’ But God doesn’t grumble, because He likes it when we ask, He likes answering our prayers.

It will be given you. James, just like Jesus, talks like the answer to your prayer is a certainty, a sure thing.

James pretty much mirrors Jesus’s depiction of God’s attitude towards our prayers.


And then James inserts a “but.” Right after telling us that it will be given to us, because God gives generously, and gives to all, and doesn’t grumble when we ask, James inserts a but.

6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7 NIV)

Who should not expect to receive anything form the Lord? James says, the person who “doubts.”

I like the King James translation a little better.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:6-8 KJV)

But let him ask in faith nothing wavering. It’s not enough to ask in faith, but we must also keep from wavering, from doubting, from wavering in our faith. I like to think about it as two things, faith and not wavering, or we could say faith, and faithfulness, sticktoitiveness, endurance, patience, waiting on the LORD.

Now the point is this, we have a part to play. The receiving what we ask for when we pray doesn’t just depend on God’s attitude towards our prayers. The thing we asked for won’t come just because God wants it to, we have to do our part. God can say yes to our prayer, God can grant our request, and we will still fail to get the thing if we don’t do our part.

It’s not just this one verse.

The same Bible, often the same scriptures, that talk about answered prayer like it’s a sure thing, talk about the part we have to play in receiving the answer. Here’s some of the same scriptures we looked at in chapter 3, only then I wanted you to focus on the certainty of God’s answer, here I want you to look at the part we’re supposed to play, the condition we must fulfill to receive the answer:

• Matthew 21:22 (NIV) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

• Mark 11:24 (NIV) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

• John 15:7 (NIV) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

• 1 John 3:21-22 (NIV) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

I think you could divide prayer scriptures into two categories, those, like Matthew 7:7-8, which deal with God’s faithfulness in prayer, the certainty of God’s Yes to our prayers, and those like Mark 11:24 that deal with the part we must play in receiving the answer. Most prayer scriptures are a mixture of both.

Prayers, just such as God had promised not to answer.

Here’s my favorite story about the part we have to play in prayer. It’s funny and sad at the same time. Charles Finney, the Billy Graham of the first half of the 19th Century, was the leader of, what American History textbooks refer to as, The Second Great Awakening, a tremendous revival of religion in America. This story is from a book of his sermons, Power From On High, available for free online. This is from Chapter 6 of that book, Prevailing Prayer.

I do not recollect to have ever attended a prayer-meeting until after I began the study of law. Then, for the first time, I lived in a neighborhood where there was a prayer-meeting weekly. I had neither known, heard, nor seen much of religion; hence I had no settled opinions about it. Partly from curiosity and partly from an uneasiness of mind upon the subject, which I could not well define, I began to attend that prayer-meeting. About the same time I bought the first Bible that I ever owned, and began to read it. I listened to the prayers which I heard offered in those prayer-meetings, with all the attention that I could give to prayers so cold and formal. In every prayer they prayed for the gift and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Both in their prayers and in their remarks, which were occasionally interspersed, they acknowledged that they did not prevail with God. This was most evident, and had almost made me a skeptic.

Seeing me so frequently in their prayer-meeting, the leader, on one occasion, asked me if I did not wish them to pray for me. I replied: "No." I said: "I suppose that I need to be prayed for, but your prayers are not answered. You confess it yourselves." I then expressed my astonishment at this fact, in view of what the Bible said about the prevalence of prayer. Indeed, for some time my mind was much perplexed and in doubt in view of Christ's teaching on the subject of prayer and the manifest facts before me, from week to week, in this prayer-meeting. Was Christ a divine teacher? Did he actually teach what the Gospels attributed to him? Did he mean what he said? Did prayer really avail to secure blessings from God? If so, what was I to make of what I witnessed from week to week and month to month in that prayer-meeting? Were they real Christians? Was that which I heard real prayer, in the Bible sense? Was it such prayer as Christ had promised to answer? Here I found the solution.

I became convinced that they were under a delusion; that they did not prevail because they had no right to prevail. They did not comply with the conditions upon which God had promised to hear prayer. Their prayers were just such as God had promised not to answer. That they were overlooking the fact that they were in danger of praying themselves into skepticism in regard to the value of prayer, was evident.



So we have a part to play, but what is it we’re supposed to do?

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