The Titanic’s bow was quickly sinking under the waves. Horns blared, wireless messages were sent, and rockets shot in the air. The ship was in desperate trouble.
As Captain E. J. Smith hurried along the main deck, a crowd of passengers yelled, “Captain? Captain?”
“Yes,” Captain Smith replied, stopping to face them.
“How does it look?” asked a gray haired man who stepped to the front of the group.
The captain shook his head. “It looks like we need to pray,” he whispered and turned, heading for the bridge.
“Oh no!” proclaimed another man. “Has it come down to that?”
Have you ever wondered why some believers get their prayers answered and others don’t? Is God partial? Does He have a lottery system whereby prayers are chosen at random to be answered by Him? Too bad if your prayers aren’t chosen, right?
Go to Amazon and type the word “prayer” on the search line for books. You will have 125,566 results to search through.
Or better yet, go to Google and type the same word on its search line. You will have 300,000,000 results.
It seems people have an interest in prayer, but why do so few people receive answers to their prayers?
Over the next few weeks, let’s study what the Bible says about prayer and look at real life experiences. Our goal is to see better results in our prayer lives.
After watching the Lord heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons for two and half years, one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
We usually skip over the disciple’s words and go straight to the Lord’s answer, but what the disciple asked was a normal question for a noted Jewish rabbi or teacher. These leaders taught their disciples special prayers to pray. The one who asked was probably familiar with John’s style of prayers, even though none of them have survived for us today.
Jesus’ answer is now known as the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 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.] (Matthew 6:9-13 KJ)
Jewish theologians look at the Lord’s Prayer and nod their heads in agreement. What Jesus prayed was basic Judaism 101 of His day. Its first words –”Our Father in heaven” (Avinu sh’baShammayim) – open many Hebrew prayers. The next two lines recall the first portion of the synagogue prayer known as the Kaddish, which says, “Magnified and sanctified (Yitgadal v’yitkaaadash) be His great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will, and may He establish His kingdom in your lifetime…” (Taken from Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H.Stern, p. 32)
In our study of prayer, it is important to keep in mind our Hebraic roots.
Donald Trump looked up from the desk as I walked into his office on the top floor of the Trump Towers. His blue eyes stared at me without really seeing me. Then he looked down at his Rolex watch. “Yes?” he asked.
I stopped in front of his desk and cleared my throat. My legs felt weak in his presence.
“Mr. Trump, I need twelve hundred dollars for my February rent and six hundred dollars for two car payments.”
“Do I know you?” he asked, leaning his broad shoulders across the desk.
“No, not really.”
“Then why should I give you eighteen hundred dollars?”
“Because you have money and I have an emergency need.”
Donald Trump smiled and pointed toward the door. “Get out and don’t come back, okay?”
The above is a ridiculous bit of fiction. It is not intended to put Donald Trump or his charity nature down in any way. Who knows? Maybe Trump would count out twenty one-hundred dollar bills and say, “Keep the change.”
Yet, I wrote it to underline an important point:
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NLT)
If we want answered prayers, we have to believe that God is more real than any human being, more accessible than any other person in the whole world, more willing to listen to us, has the power to handle all of our needs, and actually wants to help us. Why would He do this for us? Because we believe He exists and will reward us for seeking Him.
This is where the rubber meets the road for us believers. We must obey what Jesus said: “Have faith in God.”
It was a Wednesday morning in late June 1985 when I drove my rusty Vega station wagon to DeLaney’s Restaurant. A friend had invited me to meet her for coffee. My pockets were lined with lint and my billfold was empty. “Lord, I’d really like to be able to buy coffee for Anita. So could you please find a way to provide the money?” I whispered in a quick prayer.
I parked in back of the restaurant, jumped out, and for some reason, I looked down at my rear tire. There tucked neatly under it was a dollar bill.
Now, a dollar bill may not sound like much today, but thirty years ago that purchased two coffees and allowed me to leave a tip on the table for Connie, the waitress.
This small miracle opened my eyes to the reality of God being my Provider.
Okay, have all of my prayers been answered so quickly? No.
When this experience happened, I had been saved for one month. I was a baby Christian who threw his hands up in the air toward a Big Daddy. It worked on God, just like it did when my kids held their hands up toward me. I couldn’t resist my children nor could the Father resist helping me that day. You see, God loves His baby Christians.
But the Father requires His kids to grow up and mature, not being baby Christians forever.
So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. (Hebrews 6:1 NLT)
Our walk with the Lord, and especially our prayer lives, require us to keep drawing nearer and nearer to what seems like an impossible and unattainable goal: maturity — with Jesus Christ being our standard of comparison.
How can we possibly do this?
On a winter day in the early 1970s, Marian was driving to Fort Dodge, Iowa, with four older women passengers in her auto. They had just attended a Charismatic meeting in Des Moines. The weather on their early morning trip had been cold and the highways were snow covered. The afternoon sun had eventually broken through the clouds to melt the snow off the highways.
As Marian drove, she heard some terrible noises coming from the rear of her car. Oh no! She thought, I need to remove the snow chains on the back tires before they damage the car’s fenders.
She pulled the car off the highway onto the snow-covered shoulder. She got out and walked around to the rear passenger-side tire. There, she knelt down in the snow to unclamp the chain, but it was frozen. No amount of effort on her part could release the clamp.
“Father, I’m Your child. I’m cold and tired and I need Your help right now. Help me, Father, in Jesus’ name.”
The chain released itself into her hands.
She walked around to the other rear tire, knelt down, prayed the same prayer, and the frozen chain released itself into her hands.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)
We believers are privileged to come confidently to the throne of Grace in our time of needs to ask for the Father’s help. Yet, in doing so, we need to remember who He is – the Creator of the Universe – and who we are – His little children.
The above video demonstrates in just four minutes and nine seconds the single most important teaching on prayer. Just 4 minutes and 9 seconds. I repeat: just 4 minutes and 9 seconds.
…Most assuredly whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. (John 16:23)
Here’s a simple one-verse solution on how to get your prayers answered:
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
To understand how to abide in Christ Jesus and have His words do the same, we need to look at how Jewish rabbis discipled their followers in the days of Jesus and His apostles. You see, discipleship was a long established institution within the Jewish culture long before our Lord was born. Jesus even said:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
There were no Bible schools or seminaries in Jesus’ day. So, if a man wanted to learn the Torah, he apprenticed himself to a rabbi (revered one or master) and became the rabbi’s servant. The bond between the rabbi and student was often stronger than that of a son and father.
The student left everything behind to follow his master. He slept with the teacher, ate with him, even dressed in the same manner, and tried to absorb every nuance of his behavior. He wanted to be an exact copy of the teacher down to the minutest detail.
As far as teaching and learning, there were no text books. The student had to memorize the rabbi’s words verbatim through constant repetition so the words could be repeated to subsequent generations.
Not only did the student do all this, but he also learned how the teacher followed the commands of God, how he kept the Sabbath, fasted, prayed, gave to charity, and so forth.
Every part of the student’s life was immersed into his rabbi.
The next time you study the four gospels, notice how Jesus followed this same practice with His twelve apostles.
Okay, okay, okay…before we throw our hands in the air, thinking how impossible this abiding might be for us. Remember that Jesus chose us and invited us to abide in Him. Our responsibility is to agree with His word and ask, “Lord, teach me how to abide in You?”
It’s His responsibility to teach us.
My wife, Carol, waited on a customer at the Richmond Thomasville Store. The woman appeared to be in her mid-thirties and asked to see chairs for her family room. Carol showed her various leather and fabric upholstered chairs. The woman grimaced each time she sat in a chair. After the second or third time, Carol asked what was wrong with her.
The woman explained how she owned a business as a fitness trainer, but had twisted herself on one occasion causing severe back problems. Medical specialists stated she needed surgery to fuse two vertebrae together. The doctors felt she would walk okay after the operation, but would never again work as a fitness trainer.
Carol has an anointed gift of healing and always looks for opportunities to pray for people, even at work.
“Do you believe in the power of prayer?” said Carol, standing by the fabric wall in the design center.
The woman’s eyes lit up.
“Yes, I do.”
“Would you like me to pray for you?”
Carol touched the woman with her hand and quietly prayed for the woman. The woman thanked Carol for the prayer and then left.
Two months later, a smiling woman walked up to Carol at the store.
“Do you remember me?” asked the woman.
“Sort of,” said Carol, not really recognizing the vibrant woman.
“You prayed for my back.”
“Yes, I remember now. What happened?”
“After you prayed for me, I went home feeling a little better. But each day after that, I felt better and better until finally I was totally healed. No surgery! I’m working as a fitness trainer again. You prayer changed my life. Thanks.”
Carol and the woman hugged each other.
(Excerpt from The Hunt for Larry Who by Larry Nevenhoven, ©2014, Amazon eBook)
How would you like to be able to ask the Father for whatever you need and then receive it approximately 98.6% of the time? Why 98.6%, rather than 100%? Sometimes, the Father has special plans for our situations, which He does not reveal to us ahead of time.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
The answer to having 98.6% of our prayers answered is for us to bear long-lasting fruit in ourselves. I believe the fruits refer to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, righteousness, truth, and holiness.
Now, every believer has often heard about the different fruits of the Spirit, so why aren’t we walking in them?
“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19)
Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower to a large crowd by the Sea of Galilee. Most of this particular teaching fell on deaf ears, but He did explain it in depth to His disciples.
Jesus told His disciples the seed that was sown was the word. The word was sometimes sown on trampled down paths, which Satan was able to easily steal before it took root. Other times, the word was sown on rocky soil and the roots could not go deep enough into the shallow soil to support fruit.
But then, there was the thorny soil where the light was good, the moisture perfect, and the soil deep. Yet, no fruit was produced because the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of [earthly] riches, and the desires for other things [on earth] choked the word.” All of the nutrients were being used to grow thorns, and not fruit.
And to be honest, this is where most of us American Christians are stuck: in thorny soil.
For us to reach new heights in our prayer lives, we are going to have double our efforts on trusting the Lord to handle our cares, to turn away from earthly riches, and to reckon ourselves dead to any desire other than pleasing Him.
Can we achieve this?
(Conclusion for now)