PRAYER AND FAITH
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Baker City, OR. June 5, 1988
Prayer is the open line that God gives his children regardless of their estimate of themselves or their station in life. The Bible teaches that we were once ignorant of the life of God; that we were in sin and spiritually dead. Man in sin, is cut off from a holy God and the scriptures say that even his prayer is an abomination to God (Prov.28:9)
But in Jesus Christ our sins are remitted and we can stand clean before God - and since this is the Normal relation that we have with God, (sin being the breaking or the interruption of that relation) then the lines of communication with our creator are restored and he begins showering us with all the spiritual blessings and all the benefits that come from a personal communication with God.
In our restored relationship with God, the Christian will naturally see the need for prayer. And this morning I'd like to go over some principles that we should consider in this very personal communication with our God.
OUR PRAYERS NEED FAITH
We have all experienced, no doubt, a lack of faith at one time or another in our lives as Christians. We may not have even recognized the problem. But I'm persuaded that any personal problem in our spiritual lives that we might face, no matter what the scope or particulars, that problem can be attributed directly or indirectly to a lack of faith; which is usually born of a lack of study and meditation in God's word.
One of the more common problems I think we all experience is unanswered prayer. We usually rationalize this situation by saying that it must not have been God's will and therefore he said "No". Now, I don't deny that God will say no to some petition that we might request that is outside of his will revealed to us in his word. But is this really the problem when prayer after prayer, we just can't seem to make the contact we need - to really step within the veil and draw near to God, and our problems just seem to go on uncontrolled, and we have sorrows and disappointments, and God doesn't ever seem to step in with his help?
We should take stock of our own condition of heart; that could be the problem. Do we have the faith we need? In James 1:6-7, James said that if a man doubts or wavers in his prayer, he shouldn't expect to receive anything from the Lord. He must ask in faith nothing wavering.
BUT FAITH IN WHAT?
I already believe in God, what would I be lacking?
1.) First, maybe faith that God actually hears and is listening to us. Great power can be added to our prayers when we have the faith that we are actually talking to God our father, and that he is listening to us.
We can have the confidence that he hears us if we keep his word.
3:22 And whatever we ask, we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
This type of confidence, or faith, is the result of doing the will of God. If we are aware that we are not doing something we know that God would have us do, then we can't have that confidence. So, stand up for what you believe. Teach your neighbor the Gospel. Visit each other and encourage each other in the work of the Lord. Stop and overcome that particular sin; the one that always trips you up and keeps you from a good conscience. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. God hears the prayers of his children. If we have confidence that we are his children, we can expect God to hear our petitions. If we've done the will of God in becoming Christians and remaining Christians - then we need to come before him and take our position as his child and confidently offer up our needs, and we can be sure he's listening.
2.) Second. Maybe we don't realize the possibilities. Jesus said in
Mk.9:23, "If you believe, all things are possible to him that believes."
In our praying, we shouldn't limit God by asking only what we think is possible.
And Jesus answering says to them, "Have faith in God. For truly I say to you, That whoever shall say to this mountain, 'Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea;' and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive [them], and you shall have [them]."
The only limit here then, is in what we can believe that God will do for us. Most of our prayers barely scratch the surface of what is possible. Jesus said all things are possible. Do we believe that?
Here, also is the confidence that we can have; we can believe to the extent that we not only expect to receive that for which we've asked, but also to believe we have already received it. That's how faith receives. I'm sure there are many things God hasn't been able to give me because I didn't believe that I had received it.
3.) Third. Maybe we need faith and personal trust that God cares about our problems and needs, and is willing to help.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"
Our faith has to assume that God is looking out for us and is willing the thing that is best for us, according to his plan, and would be more than happy to fulfill a request of ours simply because we're his child and we asked. His will is what is best, both for us and everyone concerned - and it would be wrong for us to assume that he would answer something not in keeping with what is best.
God wants us to put our trust in him and yield over our cares and worries to him.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your anxiety upon him; for he cares for you. - Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls [to him] in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
God is faithful and dependable and he cares about what you're going through. The confidence that we should have, is that Christ is our High Priest and understands all our problems.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession. For we do not have a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus is always there standing before God on our behalf. He's been through it all himself.
Boldly, means with confidence.
God answers the prayer of faith. Faith lays hold of the help and loving compassion of God. We must believe that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him, (Heb.11:6) which means that our faith has a constant expectation of receiving something good from God.
Faith gives life to our prayers.
It affords an avenue by which God can really be in our life and be a very present help in time of trouble. Faith will grow as we read and meditate on God's word. We can set our goal for a stronger faith and God will help us obtain it. Our prayers to God can be a rich source of strength and assurance and communion with God, if we would but have faith.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
* Above all that we ask.
* Abundantly above all that we ask.
* Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask.
James said we don't receive, because we don't ask. If we want God's best, we have to ask - and when we ask, we have to be prepared in faith, to receive the spiritual blessings from God that are beyond what we asked, and are above what we could even imagine was possible. And that's according to the power that is working in us. I believe that power, is the presence in our hearts of the divine life of Jesus Christ that we are being brought into conformity with, and that, is by the ministry of the Holy Spirit who we received when we were immersed.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what [is] the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places],
The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power working in us, quickening us to a new life and transforming us into his likeness, spiritually, as we believe the truth.
Our ideal for an example of prayer must, of course, be Jesus in his earthly, human life. It was always Jesus' burning desire and need to be in constant prayer to his father. His desire and his devotion to God was so intense, he would go without sleep - all night in prayer to God. He would begin the day in prayer. The ever abiding hunger and need of his soul was that close contact and communion, that communication with his father.
To walk with God is the keeping of his word and walking in the light of his revealed truth. It is also a life of close communication, a living and ever active communion with him who is our life and love. As we strive to live and worship according to God's revealed word, maturing and becoming knowledgeable in the truth, let us not forget to become also close to God. "lifting up holy hands" and sincere hearts in blameless and pure devotion to our father which is in heaven.
But we must definitely begin.
We need to set our goal. The range of goals could extend from the penitent sinner's goal of simply drawing near to God (Jam.4:8-10) clear to the lofty goal of walking closer to God and being more intimately in communion with him than all that have gone before us - walking with God as Enoch walked with God.
But whatever our condition of heart or goal that we set for our desires; know this, that like Daniel of old, from the first day that we set our hearts to understand, and to chasten ourselves before our God, our words will be heard. (Dan.10:12) Drawing closer to God in secret, he will reward us openly and abundantly.
And here we can again stress the need of faith. To the Centurion who wanted his servant to be healed, Jesus said, "As you have believed, so be it done unto you." (Mat.8:13) God may very well answer our prayers in the same way. So then, how important is our faith?
There are depths in the Christian life that we haven't even begun to fathom; heights we haven't yet begun to scale.
Paul prayed in
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
What is your desire?
Is this desire of Paul's your desire too? Then let us study our Bibles diligently and fervently express our desires to God in faith. Our Lord can give us a very strong and rich understanding in his wisdom and knowledge. The spiritual understanding in his word cannot be tapped dry. David prayed, "Let my cry come near before you, O Lord: give me understanding according to your word." (Psa.119:169) The prayer of spiritual understanding, the prayer of sincere love, the prayer of confident trust, can move heaven and earth at our request. For the almighty God, our heavenly father, hears, and will mightily and abundantly answer our prayers.
Isaiah lamented that there was no one who "calls upon your name, that stirs himself up to take hold of you." (Isa.64:7)
Our time and nation is like Isaiah's. Is there anyone who really prays? The church needs devoted Christians. The church needs saints in the truest sense. Our strength and vitality as a congregation of the Lord's people is dependent on the individual holiness and devotion of each of our members. Let us, each one, make a humble and concentrated effort to come nearer to God, to take hold of him and his blessings - to know God, and speak to him in our prayers.
"Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I [will be] with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation."
~ Invitation ~