This year I plan to preach more regularly on prayer, at least monthly. Todays posting addresses my first text on prayer for this year.
Matthew 7:7-10 and James 4:2 enjoin believers to ask God for the resolution of our needs. Jesus promised us that if we ask we will receive. His half-brother, James, explained that we don’t have because we don’t ask. If we believe Jesus’ promise what often holds us back from asking? Four reasons come to mind.
1. Pride We are often ashamed to admit our own neediness. Its my experience that this is especially true of American men. Admitting we have needs we can’t meet runs counter to the self-sufficient spirit that so defines our culture. But Jesus promises reward to the poor in spirit. While we should use common sense and take care of the needs we are able to satisfy, I’m finding I need God’s providential intervention much more than expected.
2. Apathy. We may lack a clear desire of what we want Christ to do for us through answered prayer. Jesus once asked a blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51. While the blind man knew exactly what to say, I am seldom that desperate or ready with an answer. Do you know what you would ask for if Jesus posed that question to you? A second promise from the Savior is that whatever we desire when we ask we should believe and He will give it to us. Mark 11:24. This is a dangerous promise not intended for a selfish disciple. But once we identify what we are desperate for, are humble enough to ask, and believe for it, we can be sure the answer is within reach if we ask the Savior.
3. Unbelief. The larger the ask the harder the task to believe. I limit God’s work in me by failing to believe Him for the awesome changes only He can accomplish. Is there anything in my life that cannot be explained by human endeavor? Anything that I have to explain as a “God thing?” If I claim to have the supernatural gift of eternal life there ought to be something unexplainable, mysterious and, well, supernatural about it.
Herein lies the wonder and thrill of knowing Jesus! I should never become settled down in a comfortable existence without occasionally encountering something only God can do. His word to the doubter is found in Matthew 19:26 “all things are possible with God.”
4. Fear. Everyone has been disappointed by unfulfilled expectations. Afraid to hope and be disappointed, we shy away from asking God for His intervention, we learn to suck it up and tough it out. Behind this hopeless existence is the assumption that God is indifferent to our situation. But Jesus again rebukes this fear in Matthew 7:11, if you then being evil known how to give good gifts to you children how much more shall your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?”
Imagine if God really did want to answer our prayers and provide for our needs! Imagine if He was more anxious to give us what we need or even want than we are to give gifts to our children! How much easier would it be to ask Him for His blessings. The good news is it’s not necessary to imagine such a good thing. We can believe it because Jesus said our Father is perfectly good. He does not give us what we want all the time, or even what we think we need. But He always gives us what is best for us.