Sunday, August 14, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "About Answered Prayer"

“About Answered Prayer”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
August 14, 2011
Matthew 7:7-11

Two weeks ago, we started a very short sermon series on God’s Great and Precious Promises.

We looked together at 2 Peter 1 which says that God’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

And we talked about these great and precious promises as not being like a fire extinguisher on the wall with a “in case of need break the glass” kind of thing.

Or like a medicine that you only take once and a while.

But instead, these great and precious promises are like meat and potatoes.  Food and drink. Shelter and air for the Christians.

Basic necessities of the Christian life.

Great and precious promises!

Thank for you turning in these yellow survey sheets.

There are very many good thoughts and questions in here.

I will not have time in this series to answer them all, but I will keep them on file and return to them, especially the questions you’ve asked, as the Lord leads.

One of you turned in one with all promises from the book of John.

    John 1:12
    John 15:19
    John 14:3
    John 16:13

Do you know what those verses say?

Someone here does, and they are great and PRECIOUS to them.


Someone else turned in Psalm 33:18-22.

“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”


Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

Here’s what we are going to do for today and the next three weeks of this series.

We’re going to look a three kinds of promises that God makes in the Bible.

We could do many more than these. We could go a year with different kinds of promises that God makes.

But I’ve chosen three from what you’ve asked for and what I think we might need to hear right now in our church’s life.

This week: Answered Prayer.
Next: Heaven
Back to School Sunday: God’s Presence

Answered Prayer, Heaven, God’s Presence.

“Great and Precious Promises About Answered Prayer”

The Bible is full of these.

We could go to lots of different places for God’s promises on answered prayer.

1 John 5:14&15
    This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.

James 5
    Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

And John 14, 15, 16, the chapters one of you wrote all about on your survey.

John 14:13-14
    And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 15:7
    If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

John 16:23-24
    I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

That’s just a few of the amazing promises that God makes in His word about answered prayer.

Today, I’d like for us to go deep into Matthew 7:7-11.

It’s part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. If you have a red-letter Bible all of these words are red, the words of Jesus Christ.

Listen to what Jesus promises.  Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Those are great and precious promises.


Notice that these promises come alongside of commands.

That’s not unusual.

In fact, I’d say that most if not all of the time when there is a promise in Scripture there a command somewhere nearby.

And the promises fuel the commands.

Another way of saying that is that the commands of the Bible are promise-driven.

There are promises to help us to keep all of God’s commands.

And the command here is the commands to ask, seek, knock.

And it means just what is sounds like.

Ask God for things!

Prayer is communicating with God, and a massive part of that communication is our asking God for things.

Ask, seek, knock.
Ask, seek, knock.
Ask, seek, knock.

God WANTS US to ask Him for things.

In fact, he wants us to KEEP asking Him for things.

In Matthew 7:7, all of the verbs are active present verbs. They have a continuous sense to them.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“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.”

Ask, seek, knock.

And here’s the promise that goes with that command.

Jesus says, “God will answer.”


“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God will answer.

In the parallel passage to this one in Luke 11, Jesus adds a story to make this point.
I remember when I was a teenager, that my pastor, Malcolm Brook, asked me to do a little skit with him about this story up on the stage.

Yep, you can see where I get it!

This is what Jesus said, “‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' [That’s a huge problem in the middle East because of their emphasis on hospitality. This man is in trouble if he can’t locate some food for his guest. So, Pastor Malcolm knocked and knocked trying to wake me up. I was the sleeping guy who answered...]  'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' [I’m tired! Don’t bother me. But Pastor Malcolm kept knocking. And Jesus said,] I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

Now, who are we in that story?

We’re the needy neighbor, right?

We are the ones asking in prayer.

Who is the one who is like God in this story?

It’s the bothered neighbor, isn’t it?

Because the bothered neighbor has what the needy neighbor is asking for.

And, Jesus says, that in the end, that bothered neighbor is going to get up in the middle night and supply the need.

Why?  Because they are friends?  No, Jesus says it’s not because they are friends.

But because because of the needy neighbor’s “boldness” he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

He kept asking, kept seeking, kept knocking.

Now, catch this.

Is Jesus saying that God is bothered by our prayers?  That God sometimes answers like a grumpy sleepy old man?

No.  Jesus is arguing from the lesser to the greater.

God is not like this man. God never sleeps.  God is never bothered.

God doesn’t complain when He gives good gifts to His children.

He’s only like this man in one way–He will give the needy neighbor what He needs when He comes knocking.

He answers prayer.

God will answer.

So, go ahead and try to bother Him.

He wants to be bothered.  You can’t bother God.
Ask, Seek, Knock because God will answer.

And His answer will be good.


“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

What’s the answer to that one?

None of them.

If your kid asks for a Happy Meal, will you give him a cup of Draino?

No, we love our children, and we want to give them good things. V.11

“If you, then, though you are evil [sinners], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

God is not just a bothered sleepy neighbor.

He is a Heavenly Daddy who loves to give good gifts.

These are great and precious promises.

Is this how you think about God?

How we think about God in our heart of hearts, what we believe about Him determines our behavior.

If we believe that He is stingy, then we will not ask.

If we believe that He is non-existent, then we will not seek.

If we believe that He is mean, then we will not knock.

Do you believe these great promises?  Are they precious to you?

Here’s how you know.

Do you pray?
Do you ask?
Do you seek?
Do you knock?

God will answer.  And His answer will be good.

It will not always seem good.

Sometimes we get things that look surprisingly like stones and snakes.

And that leads the cynical person to think that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t care.

But if we believe these promises are great and precious and true and backed with the full faith and credit of the God of the universe, then we will take them to the bank.

The answers are not always what we want or when we want them but they are always good.

Of course, the answer is not always, “Yes.” Sometimes it is “No.”

But when He says no, it is still the best answer you could ever ask for!

Sometimes we are dumb children who ask for SNAKES and STONES instead of FISH and BREAD.  So He says, “No.” 

And I wouldn’t want Him to do anything else!

And sometimes we ask for good things, and He still says, “No.” Because He knows what is best.

Even the Jesus got a “No,” from God the Father to one of His prayer requests.

When Heather and I began praying for some land to build a house on, we got specific in our prayers. We had a list of 5 things we were looking for. [I’ve told you this before.]

1.  Land within 3 miles of the church campus.
    Our house is just over a mile away!
2.  Land in the West Branch School District.
    Which of course was solved by the answer to #1.
3.  At least 3 acres of land so that the kids had space to run around on.
    We got to buy 5 and 1/3 acres.
4.  We wanted a wooded lot.
    We now have lots of trees to enjoy.
5.  We wanted land that was North of Route 80.
    And we now live a few hundred yards SOUTH of Route 80.

God said yes to 4, and no to 1.  And He was right.  Not us.

Of course, North or South of 80 doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. 

What about your important prayer request that you’ve prayed for years and years and God doesn’t seem ready to answer?

God is answering. Every time you pray....Sometimes, it’s not a NO answer.  Sometimes, the answer is “wait, not now.”  Wait, my child.

Have you ever said something like that your children?

“Daddy knows what you want.  And Daddy also knows what is best for you.  And because Daddy loves you, He is going to ask you to wait for that.”

God always answers your prayers. 

But the answer is not always exactly what you want.

But it’s always good.
So ask.

In James 4, James sets out two different mistake we make about prayer.

Paul Miller, in his excellent book, A Praying Life, says that they are like cliffs on both sides of a road.

Have you ever driven a road with a cliff on both sides?

I HATE driving alongside of a cliff.

My wife loves it.

There is a this place called, “Going to the Sun Road” in Glacier National Park.

Heather thought when we were going up and down it, that she was in heaven.

I was pretty sure that I had gone to the other place!

Well, this year, on our vacation, we drove the Skyline drive on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Ever done that?

It’s gorgeous up there.

But at times, there is a cliff on this side and a cliff on that side at the same time!

You are on the skyline!

Well, listen to James 4:2&3.

“You do not have, because you do not ask.”

That’s a big cliff.  The cliff of not asking.

Jesus would say that you don’t believe His promises.


But here’s the cliff on the other side.

“When you ask, do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Paul Miller calls that “selfish asking.”

Demanding that God does my will.

That’s the cliff on the other side.

Dangerous and steep. Don’t go there.

Prayer is not magic.  It’s not twisting God’s arm.  It’s not talking Him into things by your powerful words.

Which cliff do you lean towards?  Careen towards?

I tend towards both, but I’m especially concerned when I have been prayerless.

When I’m not asking, seeking, knocking.

Because Jesus says to.

It’s a command.

How would you like it if the Bank called you and said, we’re giving away free money.

Come in and get some.

Would you?

Well, this is better than the bank and it’s bigger than money.

Ask, seek, knock.

My Dad is King of the universe!

He will answer, and it will be good.

Of course, He does have to be your Dad.

Notice it says, “Your father in heaven” gives these good gifts.

He has to be your father for you to know these promises as yours.

And He becomes our father through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross for us, paying for our sins, purchasing our forgiveness, and effecting our adoption as sons and daughters of the living God.

Have you become a son or daughter of God through trusting in Jesus Christ?

Then ask, seek, knock.

See how great this promises is and make it precious to you.

God answers prayers.

Let me read you a long passage from A Praying Life by Paul Miller.

I found this very encouraging.

He says, “As I look back on my life, Jesus’ statement ‘If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it’ makes perfect sense. Let me explain by giving you a quick tour of my prayer cards . . .  On my son John’s prayer card, I have five requests. Four of the five have clear answers to prayer. I have a separate prayer care for his work. [Do you do something like this?  I’m trying to develop a system but I haven’t had much success yet.] Several months after I began praying, God dramatically answered my requests for John., Emily’s prayer card has six requests on it. God has answered five of them. On another card I have seven prayer requests for her. God has answered all  of them. I’m puzzling over how to pray for Courney because God has answered four of my prayer requests for her, and i”m not sure what to pray for now.

At one of our prayer seminars, a man who was struggling with typical garden-variety Christian cynicism challenged me whether this wasn’t just the law of averages. That is, lots of things will happen naturally over the course of time. Maybe I was just giving God credit for what would have happened anyway.  Excellent question. I was thankful for his courage to share what many of us think.

I didn’t want to debate theory with him, so I opened up my life and started describin all the ways God had answered prayer. I said, “How do you explain all my answered prayers for my children?  It is not just averages.”  During the break he came up to me and renewed the challenge. When I started to show him one of the prayer cards for one of my children so that he could see a concrete example, he asked if he could pick out one of my prayer cards at random. He suspected that I might control the evidence by picking out a “good” prayer card. I said, “Sure.” So without looking he opened my stack of prayer cards and put his finger on a one-year-old prayer request. He could not have picked a more dramatically answered prayer. I told him the story of what God had done in response to that prayer. Included in that answer to prayer was an unsolicited gift of $50,000 to help us launch a full-time prayer ministry. He walked away sobered. Maybe God is alive.

Just yesterday, I had fine clear answers to prayer. That count is high for a typical day, but is not unusual. Three of them involved people for whom I had been praying for some aspect of Christ’s character in their lives. One was a prayer for healing for our bookkeeper, who has been struggling with severe chronic fatigue for sixteen months.  No massive healing, just a better diagnosis. The last one was this chapter. I’d been struggling to write it for several months, and it finally came together yesterday.”  (A Praying Life, 136-137).

That’s a prayer request I’m familiar with!!!!

Do you feel it?  These are great and precious promises.  The way God works in the world.

Paul Miller is not just a lucky guy that this happens to.

Paul is just like you and me, except he prays and he expects God to answer.

I’m sure if I opened up a microphone, most of us here could tell our stories of how God answered prayer.  Because He is good.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”