You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. (John 14:13 NLT)
“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18 ESV)
“You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3 NASB)
What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words. (Proverbs 18:21 GNT)
HERE’S A QUIZ.
GOD TELLS US TO PRAY.
One of the most endearing images among the Bible’s 66 books is recorded in John, Chapter 17, when Jesus, the Christ of the living God, prays to God.
The Bible tells us the mystery of the Trinity, in which each of the three components of the one unity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — are God, yet here we have the Second Person of the Trinity praying in the Third Person of the Trinity to the First Person of the Trinity.
What does He pray about? Well, in verses 20 and 21, He prays for us!
Yes, He also prays for Himself as He’s about to be arrested, flogged, spit upon, mocked, stripped, and then nailed to a Cross for our sakes; and, yes, He prays for His disciples, those men who soon enough will begin to spread the message of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world.
But He also prays for us, those of us who were to be born more than 2,000 years later.
IN LUKE CHAPTER 11, JESUS’ DISCIPLES asked Him to teach them how to pray.
This is such an amazing request because, as we’ve seen, the disciples have watched as their Teacher finds a quiet spot to pour His heart out to the Father and to seek guidance. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NKJV)
The disciples at this point realize there is something special about Jesus, but they cannot fathom that He is God, and that when He prays, He prays to God.
There is such mystery in the Trinity!
Jesus gives them a prayer template, which we call the Lord’s Prayer, but Jesus assures them that they should pray in His name and that He will answer their prayers (John 14:13). This means that the One who kneels before us in prayer also promises to answer our prayers when we pray to Him.
Later, after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected and then returns to Heaven, his younger half-brother James, one of the new church’s pivotal leaders, picks up this theme of praying in Jesus’ name.
James says in James 4:2-3 that we do not receive answers to our prayers, in part, because we never come to God in prayer and ask … and, in part, because when we do ask, we pray with selfish motives.
IT SEEMS SO HOPELESS SOMETIMES.
How are we, as unworthy as we are, to approach the throne of the Creator of the universe and make known our petitions? What do we do when we are told that most of our prayers are self-centered?
In his best-selling book on prayer, Circle Your Prayer, Pastor Mark Batterson says that if we’re honest with ourselves, “most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory.”
That means that when we approach the throne of Grace, we treat the moment like young children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap at the Mall with our list of toy demands.
Pastor Rick Warren, in his classic book, The Purpose Driven Life, reminds us that we are made in God’s image, and that “God designed your spirit to communicate with him.” God wants us to pray to Him, Warren says, noting that “worship is your spirit responding to God’s spirit.”
DANIEL GOT PRAYER RIGHT.
Everyone remembers Daniel as the dude in the Lion’s Den. Because he refused to bow down to worship an image of the king, he was thrown into a den with several very hungry lions and lived through the night because God kept the lions at bay.
When Daniel prayed daily to God, he did not do so out of pride or entitlement or obligation, nor did he waste God’s valuable time on a grocery list of selfish wants and needs. He prayed for forgiveness of the sins of his people and for God to refresh his soul.
“We do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness,” Daniel says in one prayer, delivered on his knees in deep reference and humility, “but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18 ESV)
In other words, Daniel humbly told the LORD he was using the moment to ask for grace, not because Daniel felt he was deserving of God’s blessing but because he acknowledged that God alone is good.
SO, HOW DO WE USE OUR MOMENT?
How do we come to the Creator, who grants us access through the blood of His Son, to present our petitions, to seek forgiveness, to ask for healing, to give praises and thanks?
Pastor John Piper offers various thoughts based on Scripture, leading with these: we should pray that God would exalt His name in the world, that God would extend His kingdom in the world, that God’s holy Word would triumph in the world, and for the fullness of the Holy Spirit in each of our hearts.
That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with petitioning God for a better job, or help in marriage, or healing from affliction, or children who are better behaved, or even that God will help us find our car keys — all of those are warranted — but it does mean that somewhere in the prayer we should recognize the need for God to proclaim His glory throughout the world … and that such proclamation should start with us.
Jesus modeled that prayer, starting with “hallowed be Your name” followed quickly by “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Then, Jesus said we should ask the Creator for personal benefits.
In fact, the Bible says that God will place in our hearts the very desires He wants us to pray for, then when we pray for them, He grants them.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13 NIV) leads to “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4 ESV).
ASK YOURSELF THIS ABOUT YOUR PRAYERS: If your prayers were answered, just as you asked God to answer them, in the manner and timing you wanted, to accomplish the goals and objectives you set, would the answer benefit anyone besides you?
If not, do you (we) need to make any changes in our prayers?
Here is a prayer request offered by the apostle Paul: “This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love.” (Philippians 1:9 ERV)
The apostles Peter and John, when released from prison, led the other disciples and followers of Jesus in a prayer for continued boldness in witnessing: “Now, Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29 NIV)
When was the last time you (or I) asked God to increase our love for other people and that God would increase our knowledge and understanding along with that love? When was the last time you (or I) asked God to increase our boldness for the Gospel?
Yes, asking God to provide safety for our wife when she’s out shopping during a sudden rainstorm, or help in preparing for a new business presentation, and health and healing for an aging parent are all wonderful prayer requests — and so is seeking divine revelation to locate those car keys — but God may well be calling you (and me) to join Him in something greater.
Perhaps He is calling us to ask to be part of His glory, to play a role in His goal for our lives. Paul said this 2,000 years ago to the church in Philippi (Philippians 1:11 NCV), but the words apply equally to us today, “that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God.”
PRAYER: O LORD, our Heavenly Father, let us not hold our precious prayer time with You to be something of drudgery or something we fear. Help us to realize the incredible privilege You afford us, You, the Creator of the universe and all of life, created us in Your image and then gave us — even after we rebelled against You — the privilege of coming to You in prayer. LORD, may prayer change our lives, and may You use our changed lives to change the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen