We are starting the second session of the Hudson Valley School of Prayer by talking about asking.
A number of years ago I was daydreaming about some things I would have liked to get or see happen. My wish list was long and my dream list was exciting and adventurous, when God interrupted me. He pressed a thought into the middle of my reverie. It was, “I don’t answer wishes or dreams. I answer prayers.”
God has not promised to answer a prayer that wasn’t prayed.
In Matt 6:7‑8, Jesus tells us not to “use meaningless repetition” when we talk to Him. But He tells us that “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” God knows what you need before you ask, but His command is to ask Him for it anyway. Jesus said “Ask and you shall receive.” (Matt. 7:7, Luke 11:9) and “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) and “ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:24)
One of the things we know about our God is that He delights to give us things. He is our Father, a perfect, loving, all knowing Father. Jesus asked His disciples: “what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 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 what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9 to 11)
According to these verses, who does God give these good gifts to? To those who ask. God can’t answer a prayer never prayed!
I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon:
“Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom. “Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24). It is a rule that never will be altered in anybody’s case. God [the Father] has not even relaxed the rule for His own Son, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the nations as thy inheritance” (Ps. 2:8). If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempt from the rule of asking, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor. Why should it be?
“God will bless Elijah and send rain on Israel, but he must pray for it. If the chosen nation is to prosper, Samuel must plead for it. If the Jews are to be delivered, Daniel must intercede. God will bless Paul, and the nations will be converted through him, but Paul must pray without ceasing.
“If you may have everything by asking, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is, and I beseech you to abound in it.”
Americans have been taught to love our independence. We want to do it ourselves. We hate to ask for help. We don’t want to owe anyone anything. God has set up a world where we cannot make it on our own. We cannot have our sins forgiven without humbly asking. We cannot become part of God’s family without asking. We have need after need, situation after situation that is out of our control. Yet we refuse to ask.
We say we want to be useful in God’s kingdom. We want our lives to count for something, to be more than people just existing. We want to make a difference.
God will make all that happen. But it is contingent upon our asking.
Remember, God has the resources to meet any need you place before Him. And God’s answers to our asking are often more remarkable than we ever expected or even could imagine.
He has the resources, the power and the desire to lavish us with the kind of gifts we truly need: grace, mercy, and second chances! But His gifts aren’t limited to these “spiritual” items. He gives and gives and gives to us. And He doesn’t just give boring gifts! Or in boring ways!
We prayed for money for a car, and He had someone we’d never met walk up to us and ask us our name. They then told us that God told them to give us something and they handed us the exact amount of money we were praying for!
Another time we prayed for a car and someone offered to sell us their car for $1. Twice that happened! Once my niece told her dad she would pray that we would be able to buy a car for 28 cents. He told her you can’t buy cars for 28 cents. So she said she would pray that we could buy one for $1. He knew that 2 times God had given us cars for $1 so he said “Okay, you can pray for that.” Well, someone gave us a car and I asked them if we could buy for it from them for 28 cents. I called my niece and told her she can ask God to do anything, even the impossible. Our 28 cent car was proof!
We have prayed about big things. Twice God answered with free trips to Europe. God provided a way for us to get property that had a guest house so we could host people and so my parents could live their final years there.
He has answered with things from books, to pocket knives, to well…you get the picture.
When God gives things to us, it is just what we need, not boring gifts that He bought on sale at a garage sale or off the end-of-the-year clearance rack at Marshal’s! God delights to give us things.
And even our asking does not need to be boring. I have cut pictures out of magazines and placed them on the fridge so every time I see them I can say, “God, see. This is what I am asking of You.” And one by one, all those pictures turned into answers.
God’s answering is contingent upon our asking.
I want to go back the first Scripture I mentioned, Matthew 6:7-8. We had a speaker in Oregon, Donna Parlow, who had this to say about prayer.
“We don’t really believe prayer counts for much of anything. We’re babbling like a bunch of pagans. We’re gambling like a man buying a lottery ticket. We don’t really believe prayer works, but hey, what have we got to lose? May as well throw some prayer out there and see if it sticks. We reason that someone’s got to win and someone’s got to get the occasional answer to prayer. That’s what babbling like a pagan is all about; they believe in luck. People keep throwing the dice just like many of us keep throwing up prayers.
The fact is, our prayers truly make a difference; they actually count in God’s spiritual economy. There’s a spiritual battle being waged on this planet and there are rules of engagement that God has chosen to honor. For reasons we may never understand, it’s almost like He said, “Okay, Satan, you want to have it out with me over planet earth? Let’s get to it. Not only am I going to beat you, I’m going to beat you with one hand tied behind my back. You know those creatures you despise more than anything else I have created—human beings? I’m going to beat you using only what I can accomplish through their prayers.” And when God pulls it off—and we know He will in the end—it will be the ultimate humiliation for Satan.”
So pray. Ask God to do the impossible in your life. Ask Him for the daily needs you have. Even ask Him what He wants you to ask of Him. Ask—Seek—Knock and the answers will come.
Video for this Lesson
Study Guide for this Lesson
Suggested Growth Activities
Activity #1: Biblical Words for “Prayer”
Read these two articles and write a summary paragraph highlighting the nuances in the words for prayer used in the original language of the Bible:
Example of a summary paragraph (this is a more exhaustive list than you might want to create 😊):
Activity #2: Prayer Types
Identify the three specific types of prayer in your own life.
When and how have you given thanks? …supplicated (with feeling)? …interceded?
Considering the Scriptures listed in your study guide under each type, please study one and record your observations and applications to your own prayer life.
Activity #3: Prayer Posture
How important is prayer posture in your praying?
What is your normal posture for prayer?
What might change in how you pray when you are discourage? …afraid? …especially burdened for a friend or family member?
The following scriptures are provided for your further study, should you so desire…
Sitting (1 Chronicles 17:16-27); Standing (Genesis 24:42-43, Nehemiah 9:5, Mark 11:25, Luke 18:13); Walking (2 Kings 4:35); Bowing (Exodus 34:8, Nehemiah 8:6); Prostrate / Falling face down (Deuteronomy 9:25, Joshua 7:6, Ezra 10:1, Psalms 72:11, Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:35, Acts 9:4); Kneeling (2 Chronicles 6:12-13, Daniel 6:10; Ezra 9:5, Luke 22:41); Lifting or spreading hands (Psalms 63:4, 134:2, Lamentations 2:19, 3:41, Isaiah 1:15, 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Kings 8:54); Singing (Exodus 15:1-3, Judges 5:1-4, 2 Samuel 22:1-4, 47-51, 2 Chronicles 5, 2 Chronicles 20:21-23, Ephesians 5:18-21)
Activity #4: Find a Rhythm in Prayer
What space does prayer occupy in my daily routines?
Navigators Prayer Resources (Navigators HIGHLY recommended by the Ewerts)