Troubleshooting Ineffective Prayer, Part Four
What is the basis of prayer? When God answers prayer, is He just handing something to a child to keep the child quiet? Is it a question of divine whim or fantasy? Of course not. God is a God of love and grace, and indeed He desires to give us all blessings. No father and mother ever wanted to give gifts to their own children as much as God desires to bless to overflowing all of His creatures.
Multitudes will not come in by the door which He has opened in Christ Jesus. But the holiness of God will not allow men to come in by any other way. The justice, the holiness, the righteousness of God must be satisfied. Only the death of the Lord Jesus Christ can perform this work. And among those who have believed in Him there are still multitudes who do not realize that prayer is not merely a nice way to get something for nothing.
Every gift you received cost somebody something. Salvation is a gift, yet it cost God the death of Christ. Every movement of power from God on our behalf is by virtue of what He has accomplished on the cross. All that we have and are comes from God's grace. Whenever we pray and are answered, the answer comes to us purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of "in Jesus' name." To use the name of Jesus in a prayer other than this way, is as bad as forging someone's name to a check.
When we delight ourselves in the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall receive the desires of our hearts. For when we delight ourselves in Him we shall not have any desires that are apart from His will. If I realize that anything I receive from God comes to me because of the sufferings of my Lord, will I go to Him and ask for something that will not be in accordance with His will? Will I ask for that which is merely a selfish desire? Where there is surrender to the will of God, there is delight in the Person of God. Where there is delight in God, there is understanding of God, and a desire to please Him. Where there is a desire to please Him, there is a harmony with His will that brings us into the fullness of prayer power.
He Himself tells us through John, that "this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14-15). This is a major part of the great secret of answered and unanswered prayer. When we really delight ourselves in the Father and ask those things that are well pleasing unto Him, we shall receive exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
But when we are asking amiss, in order that we may consume it upon our own desires, then He will not heed. It is of His kindness and love that He does not give us all we ask for. Happy that Christian who learns that he does not know the proper things for which to pray and seeks the teaching of the Spirit of God who prays within our hearts with the groanings that cannot be uttered! The believer who is taught in the Word of God would never dare to pray for the slightest object without adding, "if it be Thy will." For it would be tragedy if we received all that we desired.
There is one last hindrance which I wish to consider with you. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel we read these words of God to the prophet, "Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces; should I let myself be inquired of at all by them?" (Ezek. 14:3).
Idols in the heart! This verse may be taken two ways. It may refer to unbelievers who have some idol in their hearts and who refuse to tear it from the throne in order that Christ may enter.
But there is also a sense in which a believer may have idols in his heart. Anything, yes, anything, which is loved more than the will of God can become an idol. And when there are idols in our hearts then the Lordship of Christ is no more a fact within our beings. Then fellowship is destroyed. And anything which destroys fellowship will at the same time destroy the basis of prayer; for every answer to prayer comes on the ground of fellowship between a Father and His child.
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7). If we are abiding in Him we shall not have the throne of our hearts occupied by idols. We shall not ask amiss for our own pleasures. We shall be in the will of God and shall know what it is to have a life of prayer power.
"Holy Spirit, Truth divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine,
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme and reign alone."
- Why does God tell us we must pray?
- What is the fundamental importance in praying?
- In what way should we approach God in prayer?
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