Charles Stanley - Your Convictions About Prayer
What convictions do you have concerning prayer? Do you believe what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, speaking of prayer, "Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; those who seek, find; those who knock, the door shall be opened,"? Do you believe what He said when He said, "In all things you ask of me in prayer, believing, ye shall receive,"? That He will answer that prayer? We're to walk away having believed in our heart that He's already done it. Or do you believe in First John, chapter five, for example? He said, "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, we know that we have the petition that we desired of Him".
So, do you believe what the Bible teaches about prayer is true? Well if so, why don't you pray more? Because there are lots and lots of promises of answered prayer in the Word. Do you have a genuine conviction about answered prayer? So, I want to say, first of all, the first decision essential to all answered prayer, first decision to all answered prayer is what? All answered prayer must follow the fact that you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You believe that His death on the cross paid your sin debt in full. Therefore, His sacrificial atoning death at the cross made it possible for you and me to come into His presence or to talk to Him.
Now you'll hear people say, "Well you know, I don't necessarily know that I believe all that". Well, I can tell you right now the Bible makes it very crystal clear that if you don't believe it, for example, in Isaiah fifty-nine, listen to what he says. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear dull that it cannot hear but," watch this, "your iniquities, your sins have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear". So when you decide, "Well I just think I'm going to pray. Well I pray about this and I pray about that". You pray about this and you pray about that.
Let me ask you a question: have you ever dealt with the sin in your life? Have you ever come to the Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing that you're a sinner separated from God by your sins and the only way that you and the Father can converse with each other is when you accept by faith His sacrificial atoning death on the cross as payment for your sins and therefore God opens the door to your relationship with Him is a result of what Jesus did at the cross. Until then, God doesn't hear. That's why Jesus came to open the door; make it possible for men to be saved. So, there's no point in even thinking about prayer until first of all you've trusted Him as your personal Savior.
Now, what should be your basic conviction concerning answered prayer in your life? What's the basic conviction you should have about answered prayer? Number one, when my request is according to His will and His desire, His plan for my life or the one for whom I may be praying. When I ask, "What is the will of the Father"? What I'm asking for, when it's God's will, watch this, when it's God's will, it means it's consistent with the character and the nature of God. That's why a lot of things people pray, God's not going to answer. They're inconsistent with who God is. He's not going to help you do anything that, that seeks of pride. Anything, for example, that's selfishness. Anything, for example, that's sinful. That is, what is consistent with the character of God. He is more than willing to answer but He's going to grant me what I ask when that is true.
And so, the first thing that I need to deal with is this. That my prayers must be according to His will, His character, what fits God's will and purpose and plan for my life. And it can be something very simple or it can be something very complex. But if I'm going to have an answer to prayer, it's got to be in keeping with His will. For example, let's say that I decided I want to buy myself a car and what I want a Rolls Royce. So, I make fifty-thousand dollars a year and I want to buy me a Rolls Royce. Do you think God would give that any attention? Well some things people ask for are just as ridiculous as that. That's not in keeping with the will of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God or the character of God. And people ask God for all kind of things that don't fit His character so when you're praying, ask yourself the question: "Is what I'm asking, does that fit the very character of God who is holy and wants what's best and does only what is right and good for me"? So, that's number one.
Number two is this: and that is when I'm asking in faith and believing and expecting God to answer my prayer. It's one thing to ask, but am I asking in faith? And so, when I think about that, I think about in James chapter one, God makes it very clear about all of these things. Listen to what He says. He says in verse five, speaking of wisdom, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him". Watch this. And this is true of every request, "But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. That man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from God".
So, you want God to answer your prayer? You find that promise for an answer. For example, "This is the confidence that I have in Him that if I ask anything according to His will, He'll hear me; and if I know that He's heard me, I know that I have my petition that I asked of Him". Do I believe that? Listen, faith says, "I accept His Word as true, period". And most people do not manifest faith. They say, "Well, I just don't feel like it". Watch this carefully, faith and feeling don't fit the same thing. I can have all kind of feelings about things. Faith, my faith is in God that He will do exactly what He says.
So, if I am going to have convictions about prayer, one of those convictions must be that if I ask what's according to His will, He's going to hear me. And the second conviction is that I am going to ask in faith. Most people don't pray with faith. I'll tell you why. And you will be able to see this in yourself, probably. First of all, a lot of people say, "I'm not worthy of it". Now think about this: here's holy God who has promised to answer our prayer to meet every single need we have and you come to Him and you ask Him for something and think, "God, now Lord, I know I don't deserve this". Has nothing to do with it. We're not talking about deserving. We're talking about you're a child of God and here's a need in your life. Then you ask Him and listen to this. Watch this carefully. Are you listening? Say, "Amen". You believe it because the Word of God says it, not because you feel it. I'm coming back to that in a moment. If I'm going to ask Him, I must believe it. I must believe that He'll do what He says He'll do.
So, I ask you a question: why wouldn't you believe it? And so, people can come up with all kind of ideas. "Well, you know, I just wasn't taught that. I just never have had much faith. I, you know, I don't deserve that". Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm. All these things that have nothing to do with the Word of God. There's a third thing that most people don't understand is: I must also ask in Jesus' name. Now, to say or ask a prayer; and if I'm asking God to "Bless so and so," or to, "Lord grant me this, in Jesus' name amen". Do you know how people use that? That's the secret word. If you tack in Jesus' name on it, He's going to do it. In Jesus' name is not some secret word we Christians have that we just say in Jesus' name then He's got to do it.
No, that's not true. Because that's not what in Jesus' name means. It's not a magic formula that we use. It's not something that we say because we think that that'll convince God and persuade Him. In Jesus' name speaks of the character and the nature of God. I'm asking this because it fits who He is. In the name of Jesus, it fits who Jesus is. It fits what Jesus teaches. It fits His will and His purpose and plan. We can ask in Jesus' name. We have believed Him for our salvation and what He did at the cross and now we come to ask for the needs in our life. And listen, if you say, "Now Lord, You know, I've been teaching Sunday School for twenty-five years". And you start telling God all the good things you've done and expect Him to answer your prayer. He's not answering your prayer except for one thing. He chooses to do so on the basis of your relationship with His Son. We, you and I will never merit, we'll never deserve what God has to do for us and what He wants to do.
If I'm going to have an answered prayer, I've got to believe that He'll do what He says and that whatever is consistent with His name, in the name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus means consistent with who He is and His will. Whatever I ask consistent with His will and purpose and plan, He's going to do it. Now, if there's something going on in my life that's not right, He's not going to do it. That's why He says what He says about sin. If I regard iniquity in my heart, He will not hear me. And I hear people say, "Well you know, I know that I'm not the kind of Christian I ought to be. But I'm sure I believe God is a God of love. Pastor, wouldn't you agree that God is a God of love"? Yes! Would you agree with this? That the God that grants you something that He knows is going to hurt you, not His will, not best, that He does not do that. Don't you think that's love also? Yes, it is.
So, we can't just bring this love deal up to God and say, "Lord, You said that, that You love me, then why don't You do this"? And God answers back, "Because I do love you. That's why I don't give you something I know will destroy you. That's why I don't give you something I know is not in My will for your life. That's why, that's why when I tell you, 'No, don't marry this guy or this gal,' it's because I love you. When I tell you, 'Don't spend your money on that because I don't want you in debt.'" All of those things are expressions of the love of God and they're answers to our prayer.
And so, if you don't understand who God is... listen, God is committed to us. But I must be committed to Him to do what He says when He says, how He says it. Because He says, "My God will supply all of your needs," listen to this, "according to His riches in glory". Watch this, to whom are His riches in glory available? Those who have been to the cross, confessed their sins, repented of their sins and acknowledged Him as their Savior. So, one of those we said there are four things primarily: according to is will, asking in faith, and in Jesus' name.
And then number four is this: when I'm asking with a pure heart. Now I've sort of said a little bit of that all along. When I'm asking with a pure heart. When you're living, watch this, think about this: you're living in sin and disobedience to Almighty God. You say, "But my sin's not as..." Mm-mm-mm-mm. You can't compare sin. Sin is disobedience to God. That disobedience can be one of a thousand things. But if I am living in disobedience to God, I have no right to expect God to hear and answer my prayer. And so, there are three mistakes we can make in prayer. And I'm, I want to make this very practical. And one of them is we want to help God. We're praying for somebody or some situation and we've just laid it before Him very clearly. He knows exactly what we're praying for. And then we want to help Him, which means we don't leave it with Him. We don't trust it with Him because you see He didn't get it done by midnight. In fact, a month's gone by and He hasn't gotten it done.
And so, we want to help Him. We're trying to make things work out and next thing you know, we've doubled our problem because we're trying to fix something that God has already determined to answer. We trusted Him but what happens? Our faith begins to waiver. And as a result, we want to fix it. Now watch this carefully. Your feeling of helplessness is fantastic. You think it's bad. Your feeling of helplessness in a given situation when you've asked God to deal with it; your feeling of helplessness is good, because what you're saying is, "God, You're it. If You don't fix it, God, it's not going to be fixed". Or you can say, "Ohhhh God, what about this? You want me to, Lord, You want me to do this? Suppose she thinks this and suppose he thinks that and is, and am I to do this"? Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm. And you know what happens? You don't have any joy in answered prayer. You're muddying up what God wants to do.
When you ask Him and you believe Him, listen to what He says: "This is the confidence that I have in Him, that if I ask anything according to His will, He'll hear me". And if I know that He's heard me, I know that I will have my petition. I don't have to ask, I don't have to try to make God work it out. Now, I've been guilty of that. You know what's made me guilty of it? I see people hurting, and as a pastor, my first response is I want to get in that and straighten things out, help it. It took me a long time to realize that wasn't God's will. If I ask Him to deal with something, I must trust Him to do it His way in His timing.
Now watch this. That requires faith. If God says He'll answer my prayer, and I ask Him and make prayer clear, then I should be willing to, to back off and say, "Okay God, here's what You said You'll do and I'm going to trust You. Lord, things look a little bleak. I don't see much going on. But here's what You said. "I'm going to trust You". Watch this, this is the acid test of faith. Am I willing to keep my hands off of it until God does it? Or, if He tells me to do something over here that has something to do with it, am I willing to do that part? Or am I think, "Oh, Lord, You want me to do all of this". No, He doesn't. And sometimes in our attempts to help God out, we bring confusion. And sometimes that's true in parents' life or marriage or whatever it might be.
So, that's one mistake we make. A second mistake is this. And think about this in your prayer. Let's say tonight you go home or this afternoon you go home. At night you get down, you start praying and, and you probably will say, "Dear God," something like that. And then you talk about the people that you met today that you want to pray for and this lady, she needs you to pray, and then you have this need, and the folks you work with are terrible, and you begin to pray for them, and you don't have enough money. And on, and on, and on you go and then finally you say, "In Jesus' name, amen". Do you know who got lost in that prayer? God got lost in that prayer. Because after you said, "Dear God," that's the end of that. And the rest of your attention is on all the things you're praying about.
So, ask yourself the question, "How many times in a prayer do you reference God or Jesus? " If I'm going to pray to God, He's going to be in the center of my prayer. Because in that prayer, I'm going to talk to Him. I'm going to address Him. It's Jesus. It's God the Father. "Thank You, dear Lord. Father, show me this. Help me, help me, Lord, over here and..." In other words, sometimes our mistake is that in our prayer we just lose Him. In other words, we become so enamored or overwhelmed by what we're asking Him that God gets lost and we, and then we tack on the end of it "In Jesus' name, amen," and the prayer doesn't get answered.
Then, there's a third thing that I think is a major issue, a major mistake we make. And I want to turn to a passage, because I think this is a major, major, major mistake. Listen to this verse. John fifteen, verse seven. Listen to this, "If you abide in Me, and My word abides in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you". Now watch this, if your prayer life's going to be effective, it's got to be combined with the Word of God. Here's what happens. When you stop reading the Word of God, I can tell you, your prayer life goes down, down, down. Your faith goes down, down, down. Your assurance, your confidence, everything begins to sink. Why? Because, listen to what Jesus said. He says, "If you abide in Me," that is, we are resting and trusting in Him, "and My word abides in you," you're believing and trusting My Word, "you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you".
And I believe the major problem with most people's prayer life is this. They began to pray at some point and the Bible's laying over here. I can tell you what'll happen, if you don't keep reading the Word of God. Your prayer life's going to get less and less and weaker and weaker, and after a while, you're just going to wonder what in the world happened to you. I'll tell you why. He, watch this, He says, "My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path". Close the book. You have no light to your path. You have no lamp to your feet and no understanding of God or no assurance of God. It's reading the Word of God and the promises of God that do what? That keep us lined up with God. Is my thinking in line with God's thinking? So, I think those are three simple mistakes that people make and wonder why their prayers are not effective.
Now listen carefully. Almighty God, the God of this universe, who is the sovereign of this universe who has all power; who is a God of awesome love desires, delights to answer your prayers, because, listen, He's our heavenly Father. Listen carefully. Your prayer should be the priority in your life. Your prayer and the Word of God together, should be the priority of your life. Listen to me, because it's that relationship to God that guides you daily. He's the one who provides your needs. He's the one who heals your body. He's the one who befriends you when you're lonely. He is exactly all that we need.
So whatever else in your life has been first, don't let it be first any longer. Your conversation with Him, obeying Him, reading His Word, absorbing His Word in your heart. I think about how many times when I've been through very difficult, difficult times in my life. I can quote a lot of scripture, probably, but I learned a long time ago. Quoting scripture is not it. I need to open the Word of God. And I need to hear Him say, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled. Don't be fearful". No! Don't be fearful. "Trust Him". Yes! When you close the Book, you have hindered your prayer life. And it is my prayer that you will daily read the Word of God.
You say, "Well I don't even understand it all". Watch this: the best way to understand the Word of God is to pray and read the Word of God; mix them together. Watch this: isn't it normal to know and to think that God wants you to understand what He says? Because He wants to bless you. But it's a choice you make. Reading the Word of God, meditating upon it. What does that mean? Thinking about it, praying over it. God, what does that mean? And here's what you're going to find. You're going to find, not every single day, but day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, what you're going to find is that as you look back over the years, God led you there. He led you in this situation. He led you in that situation. He bailed you out of that. He got you here. He did this. He did this.
And as I look back over the years, I'm grateful to God I had to trust Him. Wasn't very smart in school, had to trust Him. Wasn't very smart in college, had to trust Him. Wasn't very smart anywhere. Didn't have anything. Didn't make any difference. And you know what? I look back and think, "God, all of that taught me to trust You. And to believe You and to pray". And oftentimes we ruin our children by giving them too much. Can you name anybody in your life that you know who shouldn't know how to pray? No. We all need it because, listen, it's the Word and prayer that keeps that relationship so beautifully and wonderful. Amen? Amen.
Father, thank You for loving us. Thank You for making us helpless. Thank You for coming through in every helpless situation. And thank You that we can exalt by faith Your Son, Jesus. We know He's the key to everything. And I pray that You'll sink the truth of this message so deep in the heart of every person. Pray that You'll reach into the heart of lost people who never even thought about the relationship of being saved to prayer. Save them by the multitudes, God, is my prayer. We love You and we praise You. In Jesus' name, amen.