There is really only one reason that God answers our prayers. Christians are easily confused about this.
Many believers think that if they have a good day, if they treat their co-workers well, if they don’t kick the dog, and if they for the most part obey God, then they can pray. The better they are, therefore, the more their prayers will be answered. But it never works this way. Never.
This thinking is commonplace: Jesus said that the Gentiles thought this way…
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 (ESV)
Maybe it wasn’t their many good deeds, but it was their many words. No matter, it’s the same thing. They thought they would be heard because they talked a lot; we think we will be heard because we do a lot. We may be saved by grace, but we get our prayers answered through works. However, the Lord teaches that there is only one reason that God answers our prayers, and that reason is the name we call God: Father.
That’s how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…'” Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
You parents, what would you think if your child thought he needed to do a number of chores to get a hug and a kiss from you? That would be awful. Terrible. The truth is that if you are normal, you want to give hugs, kisses and even stuff to your kids. It seems natural to me that we are tempted to spoil our kids. We are wise to hold back on this, of course, but it seems like the desire to bless them is the mark of a healthy parent-child relationship:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11 (ESV)
And so we see this same dynamic happening in John 16. Here Jesus is explaining that the key to having our prayers answered is knowing God as Father, and the only way we can know God in this way…is through His Son:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24 (ESV)
We have no hope of salvation apart from Christ. We have no hope of answered prayers apart from Him either, but in Him, apparently…whatever we ask, our Father will give it to us.
October 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Hey Rog. Good blog. Another home run. I]m going to send you a blog i wrote
on this subject – would be interested in your thoughts.. Scott
October 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm
Here is a related thought to your awesome blog. Of course there are other factors to mention – like praying for our own greeds (James 4) etc. but when I read about this view it truck me well! Here is a blog I wrote to explain it.
It is always fun to read the signs that fans bring to a ball game. Some express great
confidence that their team will win. Others are not so sure – “You gotta believe.” “Hope, hope, hope.” “This could be our year!” When we consider our prayer life, how is our confidence that God will answer our prayers?
5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ’Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity, he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8 NIV)
This parable divides into two sections. Vs. 5-7, which opens with the phrase, Suppose you have a friend…. Much of the travel in this part of the country is in the evening because of scorching heat, so in Jesus’ story, this traveler arrived at midnight. In the Middle East there was a very high value of hospitality to travelers, which is a community responsibility, and if someone did not find hospitality, it was scandalous. Therefore, when Jesus suggests that the friend might say Don’t bother me, the anticipated response is, “ No one would ever do such a thing. This would never happen – Horrors!”
The second section is Vs. 8, which opens, “I tell you…” Here Jesus makes a deliberate contrast. Nobody would do what he described in Vs. 5-7. Everybody would do what he is about to describe. The neighbor gives his friend the bread – all he needs. Of course. This makes perfect sense.
The message of the parable is found as we understand the motive of the neighbor who gives his friend the bread, which is described by the word in Vs. 8, translated in the NIV “boldness.” There are two ways to translate this word. First, it could describe the friend asking for the bread, in which case it would refer to persistence, referring to the way he asked. He was bold or persistent in his request. The idea of this parable then is to be persistent in prayer like this friend at midnight, and if you keep on asking, God will finally give you your answer. However, in Jesus’ story, the friend only asks once, and further, if this word is taken to mean persistence, the implication is that God is reluctant to answer prayer and we have to wrestle things from him, which does not fit the context (as we will see in the next sections) There is a second way to translate the word in Vs. 8, and it is much preferred. It could describe the neighbor who was in bed, in which case, the word would be translated shamelessness. Shamelessness refers to the reputation of the neighbor in the eyes of the community. It is a word to describe one’s character, meaning that a person would never act in such a way as to bring shame upon himself. He would always act in a way that would uphold his reputation and spread his good name. Translated this way, the idea of the parable is this – of course, the neighbor will get up and give his friend all the bread he needs because he would never allow himself to be perceived as a stingy neighbor refusing hospitality to a traveler. The neighbor will not get up and give his friend what he needs because he is a friend or because of anything this friend might do. The neighbor will get up and give his friend what he needs because of who the neighbor is and because of the neighbor’s desire to preserve, and even promote, his good reputation.
The application to answered prayer is profound. When we pray according to the way Jesus instructed us (See 11:1-4), God will most certainly never tell us, “No, I’m in bed and all my family is in bed; go away, don’t bother me.” That would be scandalous!! On the other hand, God will most certainly answer our prayers, not because of anything we do, not because we are his friends, not because we are persistent and bold. Rather, God will answer our prayers because of who God is. God loves to give to us, and giving to us is consistent with who he is. Answering our prayers spreads his reputation of being a gracious and giving God.
If God instructs us to pray for something, he will certainly give it to us because giving to us furthers his reputation – it glorifies him. God loves to give to us!! He will provide for us according to the treasure of his riches. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers.
Notice Isaiah 48:9-11. How many times does God proclaim that he is concerned with his reputation?
Read Ephesians 1:4-6. What is the conclusion in Vs. 6?
Read Ezekiel 20:14, 36:22-23. What is the motive for all of God’s activities?
Read 1 Samuel 12:20-22. Why does God remain faithful to his people? Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2015 10:06:40 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org
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November 5, 2015 at 9:25 pm
Scott, most excellent! Thanks brother! I love the idea that answering our prayers is good for God’s reputation! What do you think of this – it seems, therefore, that when we pray, “Hallowed be Thy Name…” that among other things, we are praying for Him to provide and show His gracious character! Hallelujah!