Prayer Part One: Receiving from God (Jon Fryer)

 

INTRO

Following on from Part I then, having prayed and prayed and prayed, why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away? Why doesn't He answer? Or why after being incredibly blessed by God is it so difficult a few days later? Why does prayer go answered, and how can we receive from God more fully?

ONE

 

Firstly, and most importantly, to receive from God we have to have faith. We have to trust in God. Too often when we pray we ask God to solve a problem, but then we try to fix it ourselves anyway. We lay down our burdens at the cross and say 'Jesus, have it all', and then pick them up again and continue to worry at them. We trust God as a last resort, as an extra 'Oh, it can't do any harm to pray as well', whilst we look for our own solutions. That's not faith. That's doubting God's ability to solve anything. In James 1;5-8 it says 'If any of you lacks anything, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all he does'. Jesus himself says that if we have faith then nothing will be denied us, but if we lack faith then we have no power - Read Matt 17;14-20 and Mark 11;20-24. 'Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have already received it.'

The dictionary defines faith as 'belief or trust that does not question or ask for proof'. True faith thanks God for His answer before any result is seen. Heb 11;1 says that 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for' - faith is having now, having already, the things that we hope for in Christ Jesus, and that hope is the Greek word elpizo, which means 'a sure and certain future knowledge', and not just a doubtful wish. We should therefore give thanks for the Lord's answer even as we pray, for we have a certain knowledge that He will answer us. Phill 4;6 says 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present you requests to God. This is the way Jesus prayed - See John 11;38-44.

Part of this unquestioning trust is to not only thank God in advance for what we have asked for, but to thank Him for everything else as well, whatever the situation we find ourselves in, even the bad ones, for we know that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love Him' (Rom 8;28). In 1Thes 5;16-18 we are told to 'be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus'.

When we praise God despite the problems then God begins to remove them. Often our problems remain unsolved and our prayers go unanswered because we let the situation overcome us and we neglect to thank and glorify God. Read Job 1;6-22. Job's response allows God to ultimately bless him at the end of the book, and is a slap in the face to Satan who has staked his reputation on breaking Job's faith. Note verse 22. God deserves our praise simply for being God, and therefore to not praise Him is to sin. When we refuse to praise God 'cos our situation is grim, then we sin, and our prayers go unanswered. When we begin to thank God despite the difficulties then our praise itself becomes a prayer in faith and God begins to resolve the situation. Whatever the situation we have to 'Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your Strength' (Neh 9;5 + 8;10).

TWO

 

Read Luke 5;1-7. This follows on from faith, but to receive from God we also have to be obedient. If Simon Peter had disobeyed he would have caught no fish. If we disobey God then we miss out on His blessings. Read Gen 27;30-38. In many situations and at some times in our lives God has only one place prepared for us to be in, and there is only one blessing that will be poured out in that place at that time. If God is pouring out His blessing in one place, but you say to Him 'Well I'm not going, I like it where I am', then you miss out. Again, our own disobedience is a reason why prayer goes unanswered. Sometimes God uses us as the answers to our own prayers; for example, read Luke 10;1-3. Jesus tells them to pray for workers to save Israel, and in the very next verse he sends them out to do it themselves. If we pray to God for something, and He says 'Go' but you say 'No', then don't expect any other answer to that prayer, 'cos you've already received it, and if you obey then you receive from God, and if you disobey then you don’t - its that simple. Read James 2;14-26. Real faith isn't just belief and trust, but obedience and action as well. I think a lot of us will be surprised as to who God rewards in Heaven. In Matt 21;28-32 Jesus is talking to religious people - we have to be careful not to fall into the same trap of a dead faith not backed up by obedience.

THREE

 

Part of being obedient is learning to be flexible. God continually says in the Bible 'Behold, I am doing a new thing!' One reason we often miss out on God's blessing is because we remain caught up in what He was doing last week, or last month, or even fifty years ago.

God never changes, but His work changes from second to second. This is why we often get depressed after big successful missions or Christian holidays - rather than worry about what we should be doing today we're still living in how great God was last week. That was what God was blessing then, but we need to be looking for the right place for God to bless us now. Gal 5;25 says 'Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit' - the Christian life is a walk that goes onwards. So many churches are petrified and dead 'cos they say 'We're going to do this 'cos we've always done it this way', when God is saying that He wants to do something new. They've stopped moving, but the Spirit never stops, and so they've been left behind. Read John 3;8. Note that it is not only God's spirit that constantly moves, but everyone born of the Spirit. If we are truly being obedient to God then we shouldn't know what we will be doing from one day to the next, but simply following the Spirit where ever He goes, and walking in God's blessing.

FOUR

Again, if we want to receive from God then we have to be available and ready to hear from Him. This is what all the most powerful, and most blessed, figures of the Old Testament all had in common. It is summed up in a single Hebrew word - Hineni. It means 'Here I am, I'm listening for you, I'm ready and willing to do whatever you want me to do', and its a word frequently on the lips of the greatest men of God:

Gen 22;1-2 - 'God said to him "Abraham". Abraham replied "Hineni". God said "Take your son, whom you love, and go to Moriah. Sacrifice him there."'

Ex 3;4 - 'God called to Moses from the burning bush. "Moses! Moses!" Moses replied "Hineni". God said "Go to Pharaoh and tell him to let My people go."'

1 Sam 3;4 - God called in the night "Samuel! Samuel!" Samuel replied "Hineni - speak lord, for your servant is listening", and God prophesied against the house of the High Priest.'

Isai 6;8 - 'Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?", and I said "Hineni - send me." And God sent him to proclaim the destruction of Israel.'

You may have noticed that all of these people were told to go and do something fairly nasty, but because they were available and ready to be used by God, and because they simply obeyed, then God used them and blessed them beyond their wildest imaginings and answered their every prayer. That's because God makes a very special promise in Isai 58;6-9. If we are ready and willing to answer and obey God then in turn, once He has sent us out, then He will be there for us to say 'Hineni - I AM here for you, I'll do whatever you ask of Me.'

This is just a thought, but it is hard to be available for God if we just stay locked up tight in our own little fortresses, our own homes and comfortable churches, especially when God's work needs doing out in the real world. A very simple thing we can do to teach ourselves is to be available is to simply walk. To walk and pray allows God to use us for all sorts of things. We may be led to a place or a building to claim its use for god. We can pray healing on areas in distress. We can quietly pray for the people who live and work in that area, even as God gives us specifics to pray for. If two walk together then they can pray out loud in turn, giving the slightly less embarrassing impression of two people chatting. Often God's heart for a place comes to us under such circumstances, and He makes us aware of the needs of the people around about, and even gives practical solutions for those problems. Sometimes such a walk throws us into the path of an event, encounter or difficulty - praying does not exempt us from involvement! I may be fairly naff at doing God's will and being obedient, but if you deliberately make yourself available to anything He wants done then God can and will put you into situations in exactly the right place and the right time where its so obvious what God's will is that it is impossible to miss! Read Luke 10;25-37.

FIVE

Another thing we need to learn if we are to receive from God is to be bold and to be persistent. Read Matt 20;29-34. If those blind men had given up and not bothered to call Jesus, if they had been scared off by the crowd, then they would not have been healed. God wants to bless us, but sometimes He wants to know how serious we are first. Jesus knew those men were there, and he wanted to heal them, but first they had to show him that they wanted to be healed - God never forces Himself on us, he needs to be invited first, and sometimes He even needs to be persuaded, just to make sure we are serious - for example, see Luke 24;28-29.

Because God wants a relationship with us he leaves many things up to us - He wants an active relationship, not a dictatorship. For example, read John 20;19-22. Jesus told them to 'Receive the Holy Spirit', but that translation is not quite accurate. 'Receive’ is very passive - it implies that Jesus is actively giving, but the disciples are doing nothing but passively accepting. The Greek is much more active - a better translation would be 'Take the Holy Spirit' - Jesus is still giving, but those receiving have to reach out and take it from Him. If we want to receive from God then sometimes God will make us ask and ask just to stop us from becoming lazy. God doesn't need wishy-washy people, he needs serious, active, bold people who are going to do His work - See Matt 11;12. Sometimes God makes us ask continually for something to teach us how to be patient, but all too often we give up and say 'Oh well, couldn't have been God's will then', when we simply need to be praying harder. If something which is in God's will and God's nature is worth praying for, but no answer is given, then we just need to be praying harder and more persistently and fasting and generally showing God that we are serious - read Gen 32;22-30. Jacob said to God 'I will not let you go until you bless me', and that is not just an Old Testament thing because Jesus described prayer in the same way - see Luke 18;1-8 and Luke 11;5-10. If we really want to see God save our friends and neighbours then we need to be praying harder and longer until God says 'You win, I'll do it!'

SIX

 

learn to be empty...Again, if we want to receive from God then we need to learn to be empty. Our lives are like cups. If they are empty then they can catch God's blessing being poured out from on high, and be filled with all good things. If the cup is full of rubbish however then the blessing is splattered over the sides and wasted. When we pray, we can not expect God to answer us if our lives are full of rubbish - the Lord's Prayer says 'Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us', and Jesus repeats this over and over again - read Matt 5;23-24, Matt 6;14-15, Matt 7;I-5, Mark 11;25 and James 5;13-18. If we have unforgiveness or hatred or jealousy or envy or anger in our lives then God will not forgive us until we let it go, and it is only when we are forgiven and made perfect that we can enter God's presence to ask for anything in prayer. Until our lives are clean of such junk then we can not expect to receive any thing from God.

To truly receive from God we need to empty our lives not only of stored up sin, but even of our very selves. Usually it is our own greedy or selfish desires that hinder our prayers – if we are to be really used of God then we need to give Him our entire lives, holding anything back for yourself, even the tiniest thing, can poison your entire Christian life - we need to give Him everything so that we can receive the things He has for us without hindrance.

Some preachers say that there is a God-shaped hole in every person’s life that needs to be filled. That is total rubbish. Rather, whole people need to be God shaped! - Read Phill 2;5-9. Only when we take the limits off Gods authority in our lives can He use us fully, and therefore bless us fully.

SEVEN

Finally, to receive fully from God we need to learn how to give. Jesus gave up everything, far more than we ever could, and in return God exalted him above all creation. So often God wants to bless us but He cannot because we do not let Him. We are holding on tightly to what we have, to our rights, to our pride. Our fists are tightly clenched around what is ours.

However to receive from God our hands need to be open. Often it is only when we reach out to give with open hands that we catch what God is pouring out on us. Jesus says that we have to make a choice, we can not hold on to this world and receive from God at the same time - Read Matt 6;19-21 + 24 and 1 John 2;15-17. So often our prayers go unanswered because we are tangled up in the worlds concerns, but this is truly stupid if we miss out on God's blessings. In the NIV St. Paul uses the word 'rubbish' to describe the things of this world in Phill 3;8. That is an incredibly watered down translation. In the King James Version it uses the word 'dung', which is closer, but still too polite. The Greek word he uses is actually very crude, and the closest modern translation would be 'sh*t' (Take a wild guess!), because that is the level of disgust that Christians should feel for the things of this world compared to God's riches. God's gifts are eternal, the worlds gifts eventually get flushed down the toilet - we need to give up the latter to gain the former. Jesus promises this - see Luke 6;38. In fact, this is the only area we are actually allowed to test God in, if we want to receive from Him - See Mal 3;6-10. If we want to have our prayers answered and to fully receive from God we need to bring the full tithe to Him - not just 10%, but 100%, not just out cash, but our faith, our obedience, our time, our energy, our entire selves. Then He will bless us and others through us to such a degree that the world will not know what hit it. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and everything, absolutely everything else, will be given to you as well'. Amen.

Jesus the Man
What was Jesus like?

The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?

The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?

The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?

Obedience
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Aslan
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Stewardship
Why should we look after the world God has given us?

Stability
How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

Doorkeepers
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Air
Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

Passover
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

Life
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

Fruit
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Wait
Teaching for Christmas Eve...

Authority
What does it mean to have authority?

Tired
What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

Angels
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

Fire
A contemplative service for Pentecost

Water
A creative/contemplative baptism service

Guidance
How do we know what we should do?

Stones
A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

Abraham
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Obedience
Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

Joy
How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

Healing
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

Church
The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

Temptation
How do we resist?

Holiness
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

Prophecy
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?

Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed