1 John 5:14,15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

     How often do we hear the sad words; “Prayer doesn’t work – it just gets worse and worse!”  Others lament; “God doesn’t care.  He isn’t there.  I pray and pray – nothing happens.”  How do you respond? People need to understand why their prayers are not answered or answered in a way that is different from what they want.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when we pray.  Thankfully, God loves us and understands our struggles.

Years ago I was asked to read a psalm in church that had this verse in it; “Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” (Psalm 3:7)  This verse ‘tickled’ me so much I stopped my reading and said to the congregation; “What a prayer – I like this verse so much I’m going to read it again!”  And I did, with gusto!  You see I was young, brash and full of myself.  Over the years God answered this prayer but not in the way I initially wanted. His Word and Grace broke the fangs of my closest enemy – me!  Today I pray for God to help me forgive my enemies and not be hateful towards those who have abused  me.

    When I was a child living on the farm, I asked my father for a gun and to teach me how to hunt.  Several years went by with no gun even though I was often brought along on hunting trips.  Why no gun I lamented to my father.  He was a quiet thoughtful man of few words and his reply was; “When you’re ready.”  Some prayers are not answered right away because we are not ready.

     Scripture tells us that sometimes we ask for the wrong reasons or underlying motives; “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. 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)  Any parent will tell you that sometimes giving children what they want is the worst possible thing you can do to them.  God doesn’t work that way.  Jesus tells us; “If you then, being 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)

     The Forerunner Commentary asks this question; “Is it true that God has given us a blank check to ask anything of Him just as one might ask a genie in a fairy tale? Some may misunderstand this to be the case, but I John 5:14 qualifies what He will grant: ‘Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.’ Real prayer is communion with God, and what is necessary for communion are common thoughts between His mind and ours.”

     Jonah’s angry prayer is a ‘best bad example’ of a prayer not in His will;  “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” (Jonah 4:2,3)  Jonah in his anger and resentment against God for His grace towards the Ninevites, asks God to do something he knows isn’t in His will.

     And what was God’s answer to Jonah’s prayer?  God ministered to Jonah.  Providing for his comfort (Jonah 4:5,6).  Teaching him a lesson about gratitude, adversity and love (Jonah 4:6-9).  God did not grant Jonah’s request. He answered Jonah’s prayer with love, grace and instruction; “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11)  How many times has God answered our prayers by not granting our requests but giving us something better?

     Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13).  Simply put, our prayers should worship God (v 9), express our yearning for His kingdom to come in our lives (v. 10), ask for our daily needs not wants ( v. 11), for forgiveness and help in forgiving others (v. 12), and for protection from evil by keeping us safe in His eternal will (v 13).  Jesus tells us that God knows our real needs; ” . . . for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8)

     Jesus stresses the need for prayer to be based on love and forgiveness; “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)   For our prayers ‘to work’ they must be honest not showy and egotistical.  Jesus tells us; “. . . you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.” (Matthew 6:5)  Jesus said we should get to the point in our prayers; “.  . . do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:8)

     Honesty before God and His church is always the best prayer policy.  Righteousness demands it.  The Bible tells us;  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)

     Let us pray.

     Come Lord Jesus!