TEXT: Matthew 7:7-11, NLT“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
INTRODUCTIONI want to talk to you about God answering prayer but qualify what I am going to say with a story and an explanation. When June and I were in Seminary, we attended the Wednesday Chapel service on campus. It was a good gathering made up of students who pastored churches out of town or in some cases had no church to pastor. There was this one particular guy. He was a brilliant student with flashy type personality. When he entered a room, you were going to notice him. Every week he gave a testimony of how God had answered a prayer about some particular need. After a while, June and I dreaded going and hearing his radiant “God is so good to me” testimony. We were struggling. We were not getting money in the mail each week. All these wonderful things that were happening to him were not happening to us. We felt slighted, unblessed. Of course we were young and there was a lot we did not understand. I have tried to remember since those days to remember when things are going well for me, they may be going bad for someone else. We do not want our praise to be a subtle form of bragging which is what it becomes much of the time. As I speak we have a 47 year old in UAB who needs a miracle. She is a sweet lady who has a good attitude and a lot of faith. Nothing would please me more than for the LORD to do a miracle in her life. The first thing that I want you to notice about our very familiar text is the word “Everyone.” Jesus shows no partiality. He did not say the rich, the poor, the young or the old, He said everyone. I love to hear children pray. They can say the cutest things. Mylee our granddaughter was about 3 years old and she had heard too much country music. When she got down to say her night time prayers she prayed, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” At least she got two of the three right. If I love to hear them pray, how much more does our heavenly father love to hear them pray. Children have such tremendous faith and they are so sincere. One little girl had prayed for her granddaddy who had suffered a heart attack. He was in the hospital for days but when he came home, she came to see him. He was glad to see her and they had a delightful visit. Before she left, she said, “Granddaddy, do you know why you are better?” He said, “No, why?” She said, “Because I prayed for you.” She had more faith than 90% of adults. I believe that God hears all prayers. It is his universe and He inhabits it. He transcends it but also inhabits it and it is not possible for you to even think a thought without His knowledge let a lone speak a word. I believe that God delights in the prayers of children. I believe he answers the prayers of the elderly and the infirmed. One of the ladies that I use to visit in the nursing home prayed all the time. I think it will be our last exercise. She was flat of her back the last five years of her life but she prayed. One of the greatest honors I have experienced in my life was have Clyde Dotson stay in our home. At mid-night every night, he would slide out of bed and get on his knees and pray. He formed this habit while he was a missionary in South Africa. After all his children were grown and back in the States and his second wife had been promoted: the loneliness eat at him so badly that he got in the habit of sliding out of bed in the middle of the night and praying. I was driving him to an engagement one day and he said, “Pastor, could you pull off to the side of the road, I think we should stop and pray.” I’ve known some good men in my time but I was never around anyone that prayed like this man. Secondly, I believe in prayer. I am no Clyde Dotson or Elijah but I pray. Prayer is a life-line for me. I don’t think I could survive without praying. I think prayers are like rain drops, every one counts, everyone makes a difference. Jesus is my priest and I confess daily. I have a need to pray. At the same time, I must confess that I am not satisfied with my prayer life. Two things need to drastically improve in my life and one of them is prayer. I think my greatest weakness is the manner in which I pray. I am so direct and self-centered. Pray can be worshipful if we can remove ourselves from the picture. I am like the disciples and the blind man in Matthew 20, I go to Jesus with my needs. I get aggravated with myself for just diving into request after request without spending time in adoration, thanksgiving and praise. June and I use to have a Sunday night prayer time where we did nothing but give thanks. We didn’t allow ourselves to ask for anything. Asking had to wait until Monday. You would be surprised at how selfish are praying can become. Worshipful praying is probably the highest form: just standing before God, praising Him, adoring Him, honoring Him with no thought of yourself. Second to that would be intercession. Worshipful prayer is hard and so is intercession. I read a story the other day that highlights the unselfishness of intercession. A couple had only one son. He was the love of their life. He grew up and go married. They fell in love with his wife. They were such a happy couple. The young wife adored their son and this made them very happy. They enjoyed each other’s company on holidays, weekends and special occasions. In time their daughter-in-law became like a daughter and then their son got sick and died. The parents were crushed but they had each other. Their precious daughter-in-law was devastated and on the verse of despair. She was unable to accept the untimely death of her husband. After a year, she was no better and the in-laws were very concerned. As much as it hurt, they decided to pray for her to met a man who would love her and help her get over their son. They agreed this was the only way to help her and so they began praying every day. Within months God brought a young man who had never been married into her life and gradually she pulled out of the dive. That is some tall intercession. The third and final thing I want to say on the subject of prayer is the resolution to accept and be happy with God’s will. God does not always heal the body. He does not always let the barren give birth. Many have become bitter because they could not have a baby. Others grow bitter because a love one died with cancer. Naomi was bitter about the deaths of her sons and husband. It can happen. I might add that it is easier to accept God’s will for your life than to accept it for your children or grandchildren. I struggled with my call to preach but I struggled much more with my son’s. One thing is sure, we will never have much power in prayer until we lose our agenda. The power is in being selfless. I don’t understand prayer but I believe it works. I don’t understand electricity. I do know this, God created electricity and put it in our atmosphere. We simply discovered this power and learned how to use it. The key to capturing divine electricity is to be selfless, to pray “Not my will but Thine be done.”