PRAYER: THE PRIVILEGE AND
POWER OF BELIEF
I. GOD HEARS THE PRAYERS OF HIS CHILDREN WHEN THEY DO HIS WILL. 1 John 3:22
A. Verse 22 tell us that God answers the prayers or requests of His Children because they are His children who are "keeping His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
This verse places a condition of answered prayer. It says God answers the prayer of those who are keeping His commandments. The opposite of living by God's standards and being pleasing in His sight is to live in sin. David said in Psalm 18:41, "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me."
John 9:31 adds, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: (meaning the lost) but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him will he heareth." Note here also is the condition that one must worship God and also do His will. A person can in fact physically and emotionally worship God, and yet not have his prayers answered because he is not doing the will of God!
B. Hindrances to Prayer. God is not obligated to answer our prayers simply because we pray. We may be serious and sincere in asking, but we must come to the Lord with purity of heart and life. The Bible gives a number of reasons that our prayers are not answered.
1. Our prayers are not answered if we do not pray in faith. James 1:6-8 says, "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."
The passage is not putting a degree on the amount of faith one has but rather that one is praying in faith. In other words one is trusting in God for the answer. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus said that the disciples could not cast the demon out of the boy because of their UNBELIEF! They apparently were going through the motions of praying and casting out the demon but in their hearts they did not believe God could or would. Jesus then said to them "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall be removed."
Verse 17, Jesus who knew their hearts calls them a faithless and perverse generation. The word faithless is "unbelieving." Perverse means "having been perverted." It refers to living by false teaching. That is what perverted means, they were mislead. In Verse 21 Jesus says that this the act of casting out demons was done only by prayer and fasting.
Prayer and fasting, are not acts of a degree of faith, BUT of dedication and righteous living.
Prayer means being in communion and fellowship with the Lord, That only comes when one is living in an attitude of submission to Christ and of confession of sin. Fasting means personal sacrifice or self denial. This is the heart of the matter,Jesus is saying that one needs to dedicated to the point one will even deny one's own wants and desires to see the that one has an effective personal ministry. Many Christians do not face the vital truth of what it means to be a Christian: Mainly that each person has a personal ministry and gifts given by God to carry out His will for them. The true believer must be committed in every way to accomplishing his task and be willing to do whatever is needed accomplish it. This will involve personal sacrifice and putting aside personal desires and ambition for Christ.
2. BUT THE ONLY WAY A PERSON WILL HAVE A MINISTRY THAT IS DIRECTED AND AUTHORED BY GOD IS THAT THEY PERSONALLY DEDICATE THEMSELVES TO THAT TASK.
Lots of people want the position of being elected to a job in the church, but are not really dedicated to doing the job. Many want to teach, but they are not faithful in attendance. Many want to sing yet they miss choir practice. Many want to be on a committee, yet when elected don't do the job. Many want a strong effective soul winning church, yet they are not personally witnessing themselves. Everyone wants the blessing of God, but often are not willing to live faithful godly lives. Many want to know about the Bible and yet, they neglect to personally read their Bible and miss Bible Study and Sunday School.
3. Is there a degree to faith? A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds and many conclude that Jesus was placing a degree on the amount of faith. However, Jesus was not saying you have to have faith to a certain degree to achieve a certain reaction. Jesus was using and expression to convey the thought. Have you heard the expression, "If his brains were dynamite he couldn't blown his nose!" The statement is comparing dynamite to brains. The statement does assume that the person being addressed had some degree of brains.
4. The con artists who masquerade on the TV as faith healers are shown to be false teachers because of that they teach. They say if a person has "enough" faith then God will heal them. That friend is not in Scripture! The whole assumption, that God honors faith by degrees is a misunderstanding of the Bible.
The truth is God that honors faith when it is present! And it is not present if it does not cause some type of action on the part of those that believe. One says, "I believe in the Lord Jesus", then their belief will be evident in their lives. They will faithfully strive to do the Lord's Will in their lives. That is the action of their faith and the proof that faith is present. Another says, "I believe in the Lord Jesus." But they live like the world lives. That then that is proof that their profession of faith is false, if they truly believed in Jesus Christ they lives would show it. Their actions would not bring shame and reproach on the Lord Jesus. They belief in who the Lord Jesus is would surely affect them in their not wanting to dishonor their Savior. What they do, where the go, how they speak will reflect if they really believe in Jesus or not.
I believe in George Washington that he was a real man. But believing in Jesus is more that a belief in the existence of the historical person of Jesus. He was god and He said that there is a literal burning hell. He said if one believed on him he would have eternal life. He said, "Why do you call be lord, lord and keep not my commandments."
5. God does answer prayer and will heal, or help in any situation the child of God finds himself. That God's promise! But the criteria or condition is always stated that He answers in response to faith....not a degree of faith but based on the presence of faith. Faith is either present in one's life or not. It is like a woman having a child. She cannot be a little bit pregnant.
Let us look at this vital matter closer:
1st: A person must in truth be a child of God and that only comes from accepting Jesus Christ in faith. What greater act can God do than to save a sinner. How much faith is required?
ANSWER:Faith as a child (Matt. 18:3). If a person can exercise faith to a degree that God will save him, then that amount of faith is all sufficient. Saving faith is not a matter of degree, it is rather a matter of acceptance what God has said. How can a person believe part of the Gospel and not all of it? That is why the grace plus works heresy is bad. It supposedly combines works and grace for salvation. One is only partly trusting in Christ as their Savior. He is also trusting in his good works to be saved. This is not true faith. If one believes in Jesus Christ and has saving faith it is faith that puts its whole trust in Christ alone. It either exists or does not exist and there is no middle road.
2nd: What about a person who says to the mountain "Move" believing it will but it stays in its place? Why did the mountain not move?
The answer is was what was asked within the will of God or was it "pleasing in God's sight." Note in Verse 22 the condition God placed on answered prayer. He said if one is obeying God and doing the things that are pleasing in His sight He answers their prayers. God is righteous meaning He will always do what is right. What He does must be what is right for us. He will not answer foolish prayers, yet he will answer prayers that require His supernatural intervention.
ILLUS: There was a church in the mountains of North Carolina that was given a piece of property to build a new church building they desperately needed. The church was constructed on the property, but the building inspector of the county said they needed more parking spaces before they could move into the building. It was quite a dilemma. They had enough land behind the church but it was on a steep hill. The pastor on Sunday called the congregation together and on the property they prayed that God would move the mountain so they could have a parking lot. It was a seemingly impossible prayer to answer. On Monday morning the pastor received a call from a construction company and the foreman came to the pastor's office. The foreman said they needed a great amount of fill dirt for a shopping center they were building nearby, but couldn't find anywhere to get it. He said if the church would let them have the hill they would pay them for it, level it and put in a paved parking lot! It was God's will to move that mountain and pleasing in His sight.
C. What are some specific hindrances to answered prayer?
1. James 4:3 "Ye ask, and receive not because ye ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts." God does not answer prayers that are motivated by lust or a carving or obsession for material things. Some years ago there was popular song titled, "Oh, Lord give me a Mercedes-Benz." It may be that you need a car and it is proper to ask God for one, but we should leave the make and model up to the Lord. God will provide for us what we need, but only when we are living trusting in Him. I have many stories to tell of God's providing for us. God really blessed us after we left our first work here in Utah.
ILLUS: In 1992, after I resigned the first church the Lord let us establish here in Beaver, Utah, Carolyn and needed to return East to visit our parents and begin deputation to raise enough money to return and start our next church planting work. Our support had been inadequate for the six years we were in Beaver, but the Lord always provided and we never went without what we needed.
God sold our mobile home we were living in, in Beaver the day after we listed it! That shocked a lot of people who told us, including the real estate person, it would not sell at that time of year and we would have to wait at least maybe six months. By the way, our first home in North Carolina, which was on a lake, was sold in just four hours after it was put on the market. We needed to sell it and needed the money for me to go to Bible college.
Now, we had no place to live and knew it might take at least nine months to a year to raise the support we needed. We decided the best course of action was to purchase a travel trailer and live in it. We could live in it and do our deputation work. To pull a travel trailer we needed a truck. I about fainted when I saw the prices. The new trucks equipped to pull trailers were around $25,000.00. We hardly had enough to live on and there was no way we could afford a new truck.
Well, we prayed about it and started looking at used one's. Most of the trucks we saw saw in our price range were worn out with high miles. We kept praying. I admit I was getting a little discouraged, but I prayed for patience and we both kept trusting the Lord. After church the next to our last Sunday, I decided to take Carolyn out to a nice restaurant for lunch, which was something we rarely ever did. We rode fifty miles to Cedar City, Utah to the restaurant(The Sizzler our favorite place). As we rode by the Dodge dealer Carolyn suggested we look at the trucks they had again. We had already looked eariler in the week. I said it was a waste of time because we had been there a few day ago and they had nothing we could afford or use.
Well, guess what? Carolyn insisted so I pulled in. I started looking at the old worn out one's again. Setting off by itself was a new looking Dodge truck. Carolyn went over to look at it and then called me over to look at it too. She thought it was pretty. I replied again...it is a waste of time to look at it. A truck that looks that new and that good will cost to much. Well, I obeyed my wife....so I went and looked at it. It was great truck with only 14,950 miles. To make a long story short, I called them the next day and found out it was a leased truck, two years old and in perfect condition. The previous owner had ordered it fully equipped to pull heavy trailers and his lease was up. I made them a ridiculously low offer on the truck and they accepted it! Isn't that amazing! I had basically a new truck for less than half the cost of a new one. I drove the truck until 2000 and put over 170,000 miles on it. It never gave us any trouble. God answered our impossible prayer. I would have been satisfied with a plain truck, but this one was beautiful and loaded with all the extras. God has always been too good to us.
2. Husbands who do not honor their wives cannot expect their prayers to be answered, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7).
When there is strive in one's marriage it does not honor the Lord. It makes for a poor testimony and show the couple is not living according to God's word. What ever comes between a husband and wife can be resolved if they trust in the Lord and commit themselves to Him. Too often unfaithfulness to the Lord leads to the failure of a Christian home. God will not bless the home that is not living for him.
This is a serious problem because it put the mother and father in the position of being outside God's blessings. They cannot have their prayers for their family and children answered when the parents are at odds with each other. The proper action is to get down their knees together confess their sins one to the other and then to God asking forgiveness.
3. Our prayer will be hindered if we have an unforgiving spirit. Mark 11:25 says, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
Again, the principle is that one who is not forgiving others and showing the love of God to those around them, including those who offend or hurt is outside God's will. We need not think that God will bless us when we are showing forth an unloving spirit towards others. Christ forgave us our great sin debt and we are obligated out of love for Him to let Him show His love for the world through us.
4. Our text which is 1 John. 3:22, says being is the will of God or doing that which is pleasing to God is necessary to have our prayers answered.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).
I wonder it there is someone here today, who only has a head knowledge of Jesus Christ, but not a heart that believes. God says:
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10).
Is your believe is true it will come from the heart. If it is present then it will effect what you do and will cause you to want to publicly declare that Christ is your Savior. Your new found faith will make you unafraid.
No one should be under the delusion that belief without action saves. Saving faith will change a person's life at 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
The answer is simple. Put for faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus on that Old Rugged Cross. Ask Him in faith to forgive your sins and make you a child of God. He promises He will.
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