Psalm 116:1-2 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Nothing draws forth prayer like experiencing answers to prayer. However, an amazing number of people either never pray at all, or only pray rote prayers that are so generalized that it’s almost impossible to determine if something happens as an answer to them. Some of that comes from failing to recognize answers they do receive, which of course reinforces the tendency not to pray in the first place. Then again there are James’ famous words on the subject. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3) God isn’t going to answer prayer for infidelity to go undetected, if anyone were so foolish as to pray that in the first place! The other side of that coin is perceived unanswered prayer. Some people abandon faith because specific prayers aren’t answered. That’s when we especially need to follow Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed so earnestly that he sweat blood (which is a real medical condition), but He also did that in full submission to the Father. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He was completely past the point of “I’ll pray if you’ll grant my requests.” Prayer springs from two things: recognizing our own inability to meet needs, either for ourselves or for someone else, and a simple desire for fellowship with God. Too many people pray to get things, with no real desire for fellowship. It is when we are in closest fellowship with Him that our prayers are most likely to be answered affirmatively! Jesus called that “remaining in Him.” We quote John 15:7 with no real idea of what Jesus was talking about. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” If we want our prayers to be answered, we need to get close to the One who can answer them.
As I am frequently reminded, I was raised in a home where prayer was as natural as breathing. That was because my parents talked with God on the basis of their relationship with Him. As a pastor I am sometimes distraught over how believers won’t develop a consistent prayer life, but that stems from their lack of fellowship with the Father in the first place. I try to teach prayer as one facet, though a very important one, of an intimate relationship with the God who loves us enough to die for us. (The other facets are taking in His Word to learn to listen to Him, and a commitment to obedience to whatever we hear Him say to us.) Tragically, many people just can’t be bothered with developing such a relationship, even though they claim saving faith. I am not to give up on anyone, because God didn’t give up on me. I am to speak the truth in love, as often and for as long as necessary, letting that truth cut through the lies of the enemy to set people free for the intimacy with God for which they were created, for their infinite blessing and His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me package this truth as You intend so that it will be received by my hearers. There are many applicable Scriptures; help me use only the ones You want me to, so that people won’t be overloaded. May all who hear me gain both a hunger for real intimacy with You and a Hope that by Your grace it is possible, so that together we may become all that You want us to be, causing Your name to be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom to come as Your will is done in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!