1 John 5:14-15

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

May 27, 1998

Introduction

Tonightís study is all about prayer. Christians are always talking about prayer, but seldom doing it. We all seem to believe in prayer, yet how much time do we really spend in it?

Two pastors' wives sat mending their husbands' pants. One of them said to the other, "My poor John, he is so discouraged in his church work. He said just the other day he was considering resigning. It seems nothing goes right for him." The other replied, "Why, my husband was saying just the opposite. He is so enthused, it seems like the Lord is closer to him than ever before." A hushed silence fell as they continued to mend the trousers; one patching the seat and the other the knees. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 356.

Things that hinder our prayers

1. Not asking.

James 4:1-2 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Sometimes we tell people that we're praying for something to happen, but how often are we really taking time to get away and really seek God in prayer?

Talking about prayer, and praying are two different things.

Quote: The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer. -- F.B. Meyer

2. Wrong motives.

James goes on to say:

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Example:

"Lord, help Calvary Fullerton grow!" That sounds like a good prayer, but what if my reasons for praying that are so that I can brag to my friends about what a big church I go to.

Example:

"Lord, save my husband!" That sounds good, but are you praying that because you don't want your husband to go to hell, or is it because you just don't want him giving you a hard time for being a Christian, or is it so you don't have to come to church by yourself?

3. Sin Ė

(Isa 59:1-2 KJV) Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: {2} But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

(Psa 66:18 KJV) If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Sin is like a big hairball in the pipes that connect us to heaven. Itís like cutting the electrical cord.

We see this in the life of King Saul Ė

Towards the end of his life, he was troubled with demonic spirits, intensely jealous over Davidís success, tried killing David numerous times, had disobeyed Godís direct commands several times, even trying to play priest himself and performing sacrifices on his own. He had numerous problems and sins.

(1 Sam 28:3-7 KJV) Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. {4} And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. {5} And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. {6} And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. {7} Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.

God didnít answer him because he never dealt with his sins.

David wrote,

(Psa 32:1-7 KJV) A Psalm of David, Maschil. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. {2} Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. {3} When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. {4} For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. {5} I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. {6} For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. {7} Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Once we confess our sins, then the lines of communication can flow freely between us and God.

4. Stinginess Ė

(Prov 21:13 KJV) Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

No, Iím not going to take an offering. Stinginess is a lot broader than just offerings.

"George Mueller Ö was a mighty man of prayer because he was a mighty giver. What he received from God never stuck to his fingers; he immediately passed it on to others. He was constantly receiving because he was constantly giving." (R.A. Torry, How to Pray, pg.73)

George Mueller in his lifetime (1805-1898) founded several orphanages in England. In his lifetime he handled over $8 million, yet when he died, his own worldly possessions were valued at just about $800 at his death.

Mueller writes himself about Godís faithfulness to answer his prayers: (Answers to Prayer, pg.98-99)

"1. Should anyone suppose, on account of its having been stated in the previous pages that we were repeatedly brought low as to means, that the Orphans have not had all that was needful for them; we reply that never, since the work has been in existence, has there a mealtime come, but the Orphans have had good nourishing food in sufficient quantity: and never have they needed clothes, but I have had the means to provide them with all they required.

"2. Never since the Orphan work has been in existence have I asked one single human being for any help for this work; and yet, unasked for, simply in answer to prayer, from so many parts of the world, as has been stated, the donations have come in, and that very frequently at a time of the greatest need."

Illustration

In an article on China in Eternity Magazine, the writer records a story of Christian love and kindness. "A Chinese cook was put into prison one night. It was bitterly cold. About 26 degrees below zero. He had on his padded clothes and a big fur coat. But a heathen man who was later thrown in with him had no wraps at all. The Christian man began to pray that God would get him out of prison. While he was praying, it seemed God spoke to him. 'I won't hear your prayer until you've taken off your fur coat and given it to this man who had none.' 'But if I do that, I'll be frozen to death by morning,' the man thought. 'Well, if you don't,' he seemed to hear God's reply, 'this man will be dead before morning.' So he took off his fur coat and gave it to the man and his life was saved. Later on at a Christian gathering in Communist China, the heathen man who had received the coat got up and gave his testimony. "I am here today because a man shared his coat with me in prison."

5. Marriage problems Ė

(1 Pet 3:7 KJV) Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Keeping things happy at home are actually quite good for you!

Illustration

BONN, Germany -- A German group of psychologists, physicians and insurance companies who cooperated on a research project, designed to find the secret to long life and success, made a surprising discovery. The secret? Kiss your wife each morning when you leave for work! The meticulous German researchers discovered that men who kiss their wives every morning have fewer automobile accidents on their way to work than men who omit the morning kiss. The good-morning kissers miss less work because of sickness and earn 20 to 30 percent more money than non-kissers. How do they explain their findings? According to West Germany's Dr. Arthur Szabo, "A husband who kisses his wife every morning begins the day with a positive attitude."

The reality of how we live at home reflects just how deep our walk with the Lord really is.

Illustration

"If I wanted to find out whether a man was a Christian, I wouldn't go to his minister. I would go and ask his wife. If a man doesn't treat his wife right, I don't want to hear him talk about Christianity. What is the use of his talking about salvation for the next life if he has no salvation for this? We want a Christianity that goes into our homes and everyday lives." -- Dwight L. Moody

6. Unforgiveness Ė

If weíre trying to get the sin clog out of the way of our unanswered prayers, weíre going to need to receive Godís forgiveness.

Thereís one thing that can hinder receiving Godís forgiveness, and thatís when we refuse to forgive others.

After teaching the "Lordís Prayer", Jesus said,

(Mat 6:14-15 KJV) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

7. Spiritual warfare Ė

Daniel 10 Ė Daniel had been mourning, fasting, and praying for 3 weeks. Suddenly he has a vision of a messenger dressed in white linen with a golden belt.

(Dan 10:12-13 KJV) 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.

Iím not sure I fully understand just what is going on here, but it seems that when Daniel had started to pray, this messenger had been sent to help him, yet it took him 21 days (three weeks) until he was able to break through the resistance from the "prince Ö of Persia".

What can we do about this?

Recognize weíre in the midst of a spiritual battleground. Keep your armor on. Keep in touch with the general. Keep praying.

Things that help our prayers

1. Godís Word

(John 15:7 KJV) If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The more of Godís Word we get into us, the stronger our prayers will be.

Illustration

"George Mueller, one of the mightiest men of prayer of the present generation, when the hour for prayer came would begin by reading and meditating upon Godís Word until out of the study of the Word a prayer began to form itself in his heart."

- R.A. Torrey (How to Pray, pg.60)

George Mueller said this about God's word: "The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts. I solemnly state this from the experience of 54 years. The first 3 years after conversion I neglected the word of God. Since I began to search it diligently the blessing has been wonderful. Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the word of God."

2. Faith

Jesus promised:

Mt 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

But be careful here. Itís not just closing your eyes, grunting, and believing for all youíve got. Keep all the other things weíve mentioned in balance.

Jesusí disciples had problems casting a demon out of a little boy.

(Mat 17:19-21 KJV) Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? {20} And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. {21} Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

It doesnít take a lot of faith. Yet faith is very powerful. A lack of faith can hinder an answer to prayer.

Faith is learning to trust God, even when you donít see how itís going to work.

(Heb 11:1 KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is important because it is so pleasing to the Lord:

(Heb 11:6 KJV) But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

How do I know when to keep believing and when to quit?

Iím not sure I have all that figured out yet. Sometimes you just know deep down inside you. Sometimes you have to struggle.

Iím confident that prayer isnít something youíre going to figure out in two weeks. It takes a lifetime of growing and learning.

3. Patience.

Sometimes the answer isnít really a "no", but just a "not yet".

Jesus tells this story about persistence in prayer:

(Luke 11:5-9 NLT) Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this illustration: "Suppose you went to a friend's house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You would say to him, {6} 'A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.' {7} He would call out from his bedroom, 'Don't bother me. The door is locked for the night, and we are all in bed. I can't help you this time.' {8} But I tell you this--though he won't do it as a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won't be damaged. {9} "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.

It was because the man kept at the knocking and asking that his request was answered.

The old saints often write about "praying through" to an answer.

You keep praying until you get an answer, one way or another.

Sometimes I kind of wonder if maybe God wants to see just how bad I think I need this thing.

R.A. Torrey writes, "George Mueller prayed for two men daily for upwards of sixty years. One of these men was converted shortly before his death, I think at the last service thet George Mueller held; the other was converted within a year after his death. One of the great needs of the present day is men and women who will not only start out to pray for things but pray on and on and on until they obtain that which they seek from the Lord." (How to Pray, pg.55)

4. Praying according to Godís Will Ė

1John 5:14-15 Ė

:14-15 Confidence in prayer

:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him

confidence Ė parrhesia Ė 1) freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment; without ambiguity or circumlocution; without the use of figures and comparisons; 2) free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance

in Him Ė pros Ė to, towards, with, with regard to

It could be taken two slightly different ways:

1) We have this ability to speak freely and unreservedly with God because Ö

2) We have this attitude of boldness toward God Ö

Illustration

Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly. Others give but an occasional pluck at the rope. But he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously, with all his might. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

:14 that, if we ask any thing according to his will he heareth us

we ask Ė aiteo Ė to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require; it denotes a request of the will. It signifies to ask for something to be given, not done; itís focus is more on the thing asked for rather than on the person being asked of.

His will Ė thelema Ė what one wishes or has determined shall be done; will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure.

There seems to be an aspect of Godís will in which God desires for something to happen, but it may not happen. For example Ė

1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Will all men actually be saved? No. Does God want all men to be saved? Yes.

Some people claim this is a cop-out. They claim this is a lack of faith. But even Jesus prayed this way Ė

(Mat 6:9-13 KJV) After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. {10} Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. {11} Give us this day our daily bread. {12} And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. {13} And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

(Mat 26:39 KJV) And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Itís learning to ask for things that will bring pleasure to God. Itís learning to ask for things that He has a desire for, that He has an inclination for.

It means we learn to delight in what God delights in.

(Psa 37:4 KJV) Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Itís all about learning to think like Jesus. Itís learning to ask for the things that Heíd ask for.

Thatís what it means to "ask in His name". It means asking in His place, to ask for what Heíd ask for if He was here. It means asking according to the same nature and heart that Jesus would be asking with.

(John 14:13-14 KJV) And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him

know Ė eido Ė to see, to perceive with the eyes; to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive. Perfect tense (done in the past, results continue on to the present).

ask Ö petitions Ö desired Ė These are all actually forms of the same word in the Greek. We could translate it this way to get the idea, "and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we should ask, we know that we have the asked-for-things that we asked from Him."

Illustration

A Soldier's Prayer

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for- but got everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all people, most richly blessed.

~ Unknown Confederate Soldier