Prayer, Matthew 7:7-11 King James Version
God answers prayer,
7 Ask (Pray ed.), and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye 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?
God Answers Of Yes, No And Wait
God answers every prayer. I don’t mean to be trite here. Most of us know that there are three answers to prayer: Yes, No and Wait. Those of you who didn’t know that well… now you know. But what I want to do is talk about what we do when we get a No or a Wait.
Let’s be honest here. For most of us if we don’t get a positive answer to our prayer quickly then we assume that God has not heard us or just stubbornly refused to answer us. We, like insecure children get hurt or upset and start to wonder where God is. Like spoiled children, we mope and get angry with God. Sometimes we get an answer and because it was not what we were expecting, we dismiss it as a coincidence.
But I am here today to tell you that we should act on that negative or delayed answer. Not just mope over it. Nor should we only act in faith on future answers. But act in faith on the current one.
Negative Answers Better than Being Disregarded
So long as we insist on believing that God has not answered our prayer or worse still if we dismiss answers to prayer as a coincidence we are always going to be challenged in our faith. In C S Lewis’s Letters to Malcolm (ch 10 & 11) he says, “We can cope better with negative answers than with being disregarded”
But, you say, there are occasions in scripture where we see that God has not answered prayer immediately. You would be right. For example, we see that the people of Israel whilst in Egypt cried out to God for many years before the Pharaoh released them (Ex 3:7). Within the dimensions of time and space God does appear to delay in answering prayer. But let’s look at another example of answer prayer.
10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.
11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.
We see that God answered Daniel’s prayer in the very first instance. But He told Daniel of this fact some time later. In fact, the answer to his prayer was in fact in the future. Essentially God said to Daniel, “Be encouraged your prayer has been answered. Even though you will never live to see the fulfillment”.
God has already answered your prayer before you even ask and at the same time as we ask. That is God has answered our prayer both within and outside of time and space.
C S Lewis says, “Prayer is both, cause (ask anything in my name) and not an imposition on God (what is man that God should consider….)”
God Answers Every Prayer
A negative answer or a delayed answer is still an answer and we should act on that answer.
What that response should be, is God’s challenge to you.
Apart from the learning you will gain along the journey of acting on this answer, just think of the encouragement and empowerment that you will gain because you are doing something. There is hope in doing something there is none in doing nothing.
Admittedly, sometimes the only thing to do is to pray more. But if we view that as acting on God’s answer then it too becomes an encouraging, empowering and hopeful act.
Acting But Not Drumming Up
I have often heard sermons that promote the idea that we should act on our requests to God as though we have already received what we have prayed for. This is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. Because as we have seen God does answer prayer in a way that it may be fulfilled in our future. But it is not legitimate if we are simply trying to drum up our faith.
If we drum up our faith we are no better than the spoiled child who can’t accept the answer that has been given. If our faith is not there then we should not try to psych ourselves into believing. That’s not real faith. If we are convinced of something then we have a responsibility to act on it until God shows us otherwise. If we have no conviction then that is our answer. That is what we should act on. Either by waiting on God until we have some sort of conviction or by acting on the negative answer that we have given. At least until God shows us otherwise.
Listen To The Music
Prayer is a symphony
We are both the hearers and the players
As hearers, we can respond to the music or disregard it and we are the poorer for it.
As players, we can play according to the music and conductor or in discord. If we play in accord we can expect to be rewarded by being drawn along with the music every being lifted to greater and greater heights. Becoming more and more absorbed in the creativity and beauty of life’s symphony. We can become one with the chorus of every angel and believer. Both past present and future and yet never be consumed. If we play in discord we can expect to be overwhelmed by the master composer who in his genius will incorporate and enrich his composition but we will be diminished. We will be the lesser the poorer for our discord
Thus God answers every prayer. We should act on that answer, Not just mope over negative answers,