Charles Stanley - Praying With Confidence
Do you sometimes find yourself being a little impatient with God because you've been praying and He hasn't answered your prayer exactly when you expected it? Or do you find yourself sometimes maybe feeling even a little bit angry at God because you've been praying and making a request and He hasn't answered your prayer the way you expected Him to. In fact, maybe He hasn't even answered it at all. Or, maybe you find yourself saying, "I don't think God even cares. I'm not even sure God's even listening to what I'm praying". Because somehow you don't see any answers, you don't feel He's answering your prayer. Well, all of us have probably been at that place at some point in our life when we think, "Well Lord, somehow it doesn't seem to be working". And maybe you've been to that place in your life where you've prayed and prayed and prayed for something and you know what? God doesn't seem to be coming through so you just quit. You just told Him, "Forget it, God, I'm not gonna ask You about it anymore, not gonna talk to You anymore". Just forget it!
Now if you tell me you've never felt those things, I probably wouldn't believe it. Because all of us have had some of those feelings at some time in our life or the other. Well, let me ask you this question. What kind of effect have those experiences had on your faith in God? Ya see, prayer, it isn't something that's sort of an opportunity. Prayer is an absolute essential element in the life of every single child of God. So, I want you to turn if you will to Matthew chapter seven. And I wanna talk about confidence in our prayer: praying with confidence. How do we pray with confidence? Well, if I don't understand what God's Word says I won't pray with much confidence. And I think if you'll understand this passage of Scripture, it'll do something to your prayer life. It'll build confidence in your prayer life when you understand what Jesus really and truly is saying in Matthew chapter seven, beginning in verse seven.
Here's what He says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you, who when his son asks for a loaf, will he 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"!
Now what an awesome sense of challenge and assurance about answered prayer. He says, Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you'll find, knock and it'll be open to ya. Everyone who asks receives. He that seeks finds, to him that knock it shall be opened. That is, it couldn't be any more positive than that. And I want you to notice something about these words that He uses here. Because He says, He says the same thing really twice. The words He uses which are ask, seek, and knock, are all in the present active imperative tense which means, listen, ask, keep on askin'; seek, keep on seeking; knock, keep on knocking. And therefore, it is a continuous thing. He's not saying just ask once, seek once, knock once. But He says, "Keep on doing it". That is, it should be continuous.
And oftentimes that's the only way you and I discover the will of God about the thing we're praying about. For example, if I say to you, before I said to God, I said, "Lord, I want You to give me a better understanding of the Scripture. Help me to understand the truth of some of these passages even better". And so, I sit back and I say, "Lord, help me to understand the Scripture. Oh God, please help me to understand the Scripture". That's asking, but seeking is, listen, seeking is I open the Bible and I start reading. And I begin to seek the truth. I begin to look for the truth. I want to learn the truth, I want to listen to somebody teach me the truth. That is seeking.
So, there's asking, and then seeking is more active. And then when He says "knocking", what does that mean? I'm not only gonna ask and I'm gonna get, begin to get busy myself looking for what can I do to bring that to pass? But I'm also committed to not giving up and not quitting. I'm gonna keep on seeking and keep on knocking. I'm gonna keep on persevering until I find an answer. If my answer is that what I'm seeking is not the will of God, I've found the answer. If what I'm seeking is the will of the Father, then at some point out there all of that is going to bring fruitfulness in my life. So, when He says, "Ask," keep on asking; seek, keep on seeking; knock and keep on knocking, that is exactly what He means. So, God being so omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and all the rest, why all this plea for us to pray?
Well, I want you to jot these things down because one of the reasons that so many people's prayer life is so weak and so frail, so fruitless and so empty and so discouraging and as we said so "blah" is simply because they do not know how to pray. Didn't even know, they don't even know what it's really all about. So, I want you to remember this. The first primary reason God has in mind for encouraging you and me to pray is this. He wants to build an intimate, personal relationship with us, not just meet our needs but build a relationship with us. And that's why He's not interested in just giving me this and giving me that and doing this and doing the other. He wants to build a relationship. What does it take to build a relationship? It takes time. That means these little three-minute, five-minute instantaneous prayers won't cut it. That's not what it's all about. It takes talking, it takes listening, it takes expressing our heart. It takes transparency, it takes openness, it takes confession, it takes forgiveness. All of these things.
When you and I come to our heavenly Father in prayer, all of that should be a part of our relationship to Him. And so, His primary so listen, His primary uppermost reason for admonishing us and giving us the privilege of prayer is to build a relationship. There's a second thing and that is He certainly wants us to acknowledge that He's the source of everything because He is. He's a source of every single need that we have. He wants us to acknowledge that. Likewise, He wants us to acknowledge the fact that we're dependent upon Him. He wants us to be dependent upon Him. And think about this. In the natural world, the older we get the more independent we ought to become and not depend upon our parents.
In the Christian life as children of God, the more mature we become, what happens? The more we recognize our dependence upon God. And so, He desires that we depend upon Him, we relate to Him, we build this relationship of dependence and acknowledge that. Likewise, He wants us to begin to view Him as who He is. Many people, the reason their prayer life is a disaster is because they don't even know who God is. Oh, they say, "Well, I know God, the God of the Bible". But what do you know about Him? Do you know that He's a loving, gracious, kind, forgiving God? That He's a God who disciplines us when we get out of order. That He's a God to encourage us, overshadow us, surround us, uplift us, uphold us. That He's a God who desires to be good to us in every single aspect of our life. He's a God who has a will and a purpose and a plan for our life.
Do you see Him that way? Or do you see Him this distant somebody up yonder. Way up yonder. Way out yonder somewhere. And maybe you'll connect and maybe you won't. God wants us to view Him as the person He is. How does He get that across to us? In our prayer as we read the Scriptures, we search the Word of God. What does He desire through prayer? He desires that you and I learn to trust Him. How is one of the best ways to learn to trust God? Here's the way to trust Him. You have some need in your life and you bring it to God. You say, "Lord, here's this need. And You know, about the time and You know all about this and I need You to help me, God. I need You to answer my prayer". God gives you exactly what you ask, right on time. What does that do to you? It teaches you that God is faithful. That God can be trusted. That God answers your prayer. And what happens to your faith? Your faith begins to grow.
What I want you to see most of all is this. He desires to build a relationship with you. He desires to answer your prayers. He desires to be a part of your life, every single moment of your life He wants you thinking about Him because He's thinking about you. He's always present. Now, that's what the command says. Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to ya. Now the question comes this. What about the condition of these answered prayers? Now, I want you to notice something here because there's a word here that could be misleading. And this is one of those Scriptures that people just take out a context. Well here's what the Bible says. Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to ya. I've done all that and God hasn't answered my prayer. Because you haven't understood this passage. This passage is very important. It's the first passage of Scripture on prayer I ever memorized.
Now listen to this. Watch these words. Start with it in the first verse, verse seven, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you'll find; knock, it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened". There's one word in there that's very important. Verse eight says, "For everyone who asks receives". Now that flings the door open to the whole world. When ya first read that passage, you say, "Well, Jesus said anybody who asks, anybody who seeks, everybody, everybody who is out there knocking". What about all these people who are living a wicked life? Do not claim Jesus Christ as their Savior. They get in trouble, they wanna cry out to God. In other words, is this include everyone? Well, you say, "Haven't you said Jesus meant what He said"? I sure have. "Did He mean what He said"? Yes, but you gotta remember, you got to understand what He meant.
Now watch this. Let's go back for verse, go back to verse eight, "For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it'll be opened". Then He brings this illustration in to explain God's willingness and desire to meet our needs. But now watch what He says. He says, "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"! Here's the key. Look at this. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is where in heaven".
Now the lost person can't claim that. The lost person cannot claim that God the Father is their father. So, Jesus was speaking to people who were His followers who had accepted Him. He was speaking to people who had, who had received Him for who He was. And so, He's not, when He says "everyone", that's everyone who is a child of God. And notice this. He says, "Your Father who is in heaven". Now here's the big question. How does a person begin to relate to God in such a way that God is their Father? Well, let's begin at the very basic, remember this. Every single one of us came into this world with a bent toward sin. We have an old sin nature. Therefore, because we were helpless to save ourselves and because all of our goodness and righteousness would never be able to make it possible for us to bridge the gap that separated us from holy God.
God is holy, man is sinful, big gap between us. God, seeing our helpless hopeless position and desiring to save us and desiring to love us and desiring to have a relationship with us, sent Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, the sinless virgin-born Son of God, into this world for the purpose of dying. Dying on a cross upon which He paid our sin-debt in full, so that the entire world's sin-debt has been paid for in full. Now those who are willing to accept Jesus Christ's death on the cross as payment for their sin. Those who are willing to believe that He's the Son of God. Those who are willing to accept Him as their personal Savior, their sins are forgiven. They at that moment establish a whole new relationship to God. They are no longer His enemies which Paul defines there in that fifth chapter of Romans. No longer His enemies but now when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, the Bible says we become the children of God.
And the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter eight bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. He says He adopted us into the kingdom. We're now the sons and daughters of God. When we become sons and daughters of God, the Bible says we are joint-heirs with Jesus. That means that which He possesses and that which He owns, He says that now we can also participate in that. Part of that participation is being able, listen, to go to the Father and talk to Him as one of His children. He says now we have access to the throne of God. That's why He says we can come boldly to the throne of God. We have access to the throne and find grace and help in time of need, mercy in time of need. How is it possible for us to be able to come to God and ask and keep on asking; seek, keep on seeking; knock and keep on knocking? And expect and anticipate and view beforehand that God Almighty is gonna answer our prayer. Because we have a personal relationship with Him that is based on a relationship we have with Jesus Christ who came to make that relationship possible.
And there's no way anyone can bridge that gap except through the Son of God. Jesus said, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father. I and the Father are one". He says, listen, "No man comes to the Father but by me". And in John chapter 1, listen to what He says and you might wanna turn there for a moment because he makes it very, very clear. John is writing, and John says, "But as many as received Him, that is Jesus, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name". Listen, we have the right of access to God the Father because we're now the children of God. And that access came as a result of placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
So now, somebody says, "Well, how can I have this relationship with Him"? Through Jesus Christ, you and I develop that relationship and that relationship doesn't come any other way and listen. There's not a single verse of Scripture in the Bible that promises, that promises that God answers the prayers of the unbeliever. There's not a single promise in the Scripture. You say, "Well now does God ever answer their prayer"? Let's put it this way: you can't put God in a box. And so, let's say for example here's a lost person and they're asking God for something. God knows where they are. Would God ever under any condition, ever grant them what they want? Yes, He might. Because Paul said in Romans chapter two to the Jewish people He was speaking. He says, "Do you not know that the goodness of God is for the purpose of leading you to repentance"?
If God knows that granting the petition, the desire of someone would lead them, would be a, be, a stepping-stone in leading them to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, would He do it? He certainly could do it. But there's no promise that He answers the petitions of lost people. But can He? Yes, He could. But His goal will always be first and primary to lead them into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. So, when you think about all that, there are, for example, there are conditions, that is, we have a right relationship with Him but there are still conditions for example. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened. When will it be given? When I ask, listen, according to the Father's will. Listen to what He says. This is why this is one of those passages now mark this down if you're listening say amen.
This is one of those passages you can't just take out of the Scripture and say, "Well, He says, 'Ask and it'll be given, seek and you'll find, knock and it'll be open to everyone.' That takes it". Listen to what He says in First John chapter five and we know this is true, verse fourteen and fifteen, Now, "this is the confidence that I have in Him, that, if I ask anything according to His will, He hears me. If I know that He hears me, I know that I have the petition that I desired of Him". And it's gonna be a good thing. Now watch this. He's gonna answer my prayer. First John chapter five, verse fourteen, fifteen. He's gonna answer my prayer. Listen, when He says He's gonna give good things, it may not even be what I ask, but if He gives it, it's good. Listen, everything in the will of God is good, everything outside the will of God is not good.
So, somebody says, "Well, God didn't give me what I asked for, but here's what He gave me". You know why He gave you that instead of what you asked for? Because that's the good thing. That fits the plan and purpose and will of God for your life. And if He gives you that, you know what? That's the best thing that could happen to ya. So, we must ask according to His will. And that's what this asking and seeking and searching is all about. Sometimes to find His will.
A second thing that's important is this. And that is when you and I come to ask God for something, we must ask, listen, with the right motive. You say, "Well does that mean that I can never ask anything for myself"? No, it doesn't mean that. For example, you can ask God for most anything without being selfish if you have the right attitude. It's not that you want it just for yourself and you wanna be prideful and you wanna boast of it. You may want something for yourself because you need it. Or it may be that you want something that you've looked at and longed for or maybe you desire, and you have the opportunity and you just want it because you just want it. There's nothing wrong with wanting it.
You say, "Well, can I ask God for that"? Now watch this. This is the key question about everything. Do I have the right to ask God for this particular thing? And there are some things you have no business asking God for. And there are some things that you desire in life that you can ask Him, and you know what? That's fine. For example, let's say you're a lady and you're decorating your house and you just need a little furniture here and there and so forth, so you say, "Well then Lord, I know we're a little bit close sometimes but I'm gonna ask You to provide that". Is that being selfish? No, that's not being selfish. Remember who He is. He says, watch this. He says He has, God has stored up goodness for those who love Him and those who follow Him. God wants to be good to us, He wants to do these things.
So, we don't, we not have a bad motive just because it's something we want. It's a bad motive when it's when listen, when it's a selfish, pleasurable thing that is just pure selfishness. Then also, for example, you and I must come to Him in faith. We must come to Him and say, "Lord, since this is Your will, I think You've made it very clear". And there are some things that are very clear in the Bible. In fact, somebody says, "Well, you know I would do that if, but I don't know God's will". There are some things that are so crystal clear in the will of God for me, for example, to covet something that you have is absolutely not right. For me to steal something you have is not right. For me to want something that belongs to you is covetous. That's not right.
I don't have to ask God whether it's His will about a whole lot of things in life. And what happens is if you don't pray and read the Scriptures, and you don't fill your mind with the Word of God, you say, well you know, I just don't know how to pray about that. Get in the Word of God and I guarantee you most of the time you're gonna find somewhere in the Scripture, you're gonna find guidance to know exactly what to ask Him for. So, we have to think about it. And that is we come to Him in His will, right motive, trusting Him and listen, in the name of Jesus. He said, watch this. What an awesome promise. Listen to this. "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it". John 14:14 Oh my goodness! Well, I can just ask anything. See that's one of those passages, again, you can't take it out of context. Asking in His name.
Now here's what most people think. That means if I say, "in Jesus's name". So, we tack that on as if it's a mystery phrase. In other words, it's the magic phrase. If I ask it "in Jesus's name" I'm gonna get it. No you won't. Because here's what asking it "in His name" means. It means I'm coming in His name, that is in agreement with what He wants for my life. Secondly, by the authority that He's given me because of our relationship to Him. And with the understanding that He's gonna give me what is best for me. I'm coming in His name. You know what that does? It throws right back into the category of where it oughta be, according to His will, right motive, in faith, in His name.
Now somebody says, "Well, but now wait a minute. Okay, so I'm asking according to His will, I believe I have the will of God. He's made it very clear that what I'm asking is His will for my life". And yet, you don't get the answer. And there are some reasons God delays the answer, so you might wanna jot them down. Number one is sin. If there is sin in our life, don't expect God to ignore your sin, your disobedience and expect and anticipate God to just overlook that, ignore that and just give you exactly what you're asking for. Because that's not the way He operates. A second reason that He delays it, now watch this one, very important. Sometimes He has to arrange the circumstances.
If I ask God to do something in my life that involves other people, for example, God is not gonna immediately go over to them and say, "Here's what I want you to do so I can answer so-and-so's prayer so, so I can answer his prayer". No, He begins to work in another person's life, convince them, persuade them, move in their life and so sometimes God works the circumstances out in such a way and it takes time. So sometimes the reason He doesn't come quickly, arranging circumstances. Third thing is this. Sometimes He's got a much better plan. He has a much better plan than we have. And so, it takes time and so He delays the answer.
Another thing is this. Sometimes He has to get our attention. Once in a while you're heading in the wrong direction and you're very sincere about it. You think you're doing the right thing heading in the right direction, He has to get your attention. One of the ways God knows how to get our attention is pull the shade down on answered prayer. You have no earthly idea what God has in mind. The question is, "Do you even care to find out"? You say, "Yes, I do". If you're a child of God, then you need to make a commitment to the Lord. Lord, I'm gonna start spending time with You, listening to You, reading the Word of God and, and talking to You. And you know one of the smartest things you could do before this day is over is get on your knees somewhere by yourself and read this passage and say:
Lord, I want You to etch this into my mind and my heart and my spirit. I want to understand this passage for myself. That when I ask and I seek and I knock, I'm gonna find and I'm the door's gonna be open for me. And I know that You're gonna give me good things in my life. And God, I'm gonna know that whatever You give me in my life, I may not like it. It may not look good to me, but You said it's gonna be good and You said You cause all things to work together for my good. I'm gonna trust You for that.
Do you realize that this one passage of Scripture and this one message if you'll take it to heart can absolutely transform your life? Your prayer life which has been "blah" can all of a sudden become the most important time in your daily life if you care enough to find out just what awesome work God wants to do in your life.