Prayer is Who I Am
Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, and knock and it will be opened up to you.”
The Concept That Revolutionized My Prayer Life
I love to pray. Years ago my prayer life was enhanced by completing a workbook by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God. It was a tool that taught me a life changing formula in how to know God’s will. The bottom line principle in finding God’s will is that four things have to correlate with the same message. Those things are Prayer, Circumstances, Scripture, and the Church; the church meaning Christian people– not the building. Anyone of those things alone is not necessarily going to be God’s will, but if those four things are in agreement with each other, then God is revealing His answer. When the answer comes, at that time there may be a crisis of belief as to whether or not one is going to proceed and follow through. Answers can sometimes be scary; like moving your family to the mission field, when you asked God where He wants you to serve; or praying about an opportunity to witness about your love for God, and you are asked to speak in front of a group; or giving $1000 to someone who is hurting, when the only extra money you have is your small emergency fund. This is when you are at a crisis point in your faith, just like many of the Bible characters when they were asked to do something for God that had kingdom purposes. The exciting thing is that our lives will never be the same if we proceed, but if we chose to allow fear to keep us stuck from following through, then our prayer may not be answered. Facing fear with courage and taking one step at a time toward our answered prayer will always be worth the risk.
Prayer became personal to me when I repented of my sins at age 19 and asked Christ to come into our life. Now God is not out there somewhere, He is personal. Prayer is how I have an intimate relationship with Him. Because He sent the Holy Spirit at that time to live in me, like it says in John 3:1-21 about Nicodemus, I am now a new creation, as it says in II Corinthians 5:17. At that moment when I made that decision, my destiny changed. I became heaven bound with earth being my temporary dwelling place. I enjoy my life’s journey on earth most of the time, but I also have to endure some hard bumps along the way, due to the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. My life isn’t always a bed of roses now that God allowed Satan to reign in this imperfect world, but I know the end of the story. One day I get to live with Jesus. My permanent place of residence will be void of mean people, sadness, and pain. My salvation choice reversed my focus once I met Jesus Christ, who was with God in the beginning, and now lives in me because of the Father deciding to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son to come in the form of man to earth to die for my sins. My fellowship with Him in prayer is sweet. I cannot explain what happened to me that day to others who have not had this similar experience. It is impossible, because only through faith can one possibly understand this kind of experience. It is supernatural. It is unexplainable. The more I grow spiritually and get to know the personality of God, the more I realize that there isn’t any institution or any person who can do what God can do in answering prayer. That deep, personal, two way back and forth communication is the key to how I can have joy and peace that passes all understanding in the midst of any chaos that may be going on around me, as it says in Philippians 4:7. I am not perfect at achieving that perfect joy and that perfect peace like Jesus modeled while He was on earth, but at least I can look back and see how I have grown in that area of trust over time, due to my intimate prayer time with Jesus.
When we start asking God for something in prayer, like that first phrase in Matthew 7:7, Henry Blackaby says we have to make a continual habit of watching closely for how God is working. This takes discipline and a deliberate effort until our prayer is answered. After all, if we are asking God to do something we cannot do ourselves, shouldn’t we be watching with an excitement wondering HOW our prayer is going to be fulfilled? Isn’t that what faith is all about, believing that God is working behind the scenes to put things in place for that answer that we desperately need? And if we sincerely want Plan A, God’s perfect will, then we must join Him by lining up our will with His by being obedient to the goal or purpose He has in mind for us within that request.
Understanding a few reasons why our prayers may not get answered, is something we need to accept. Now that I am an older Christian, I have the hindsight to be able to look back and see why God did not always give me what I asked for. It wasn’t good for me, and he had my best interest in mind. He loved me and He wanted to protect me from harm. Can you imagine if God had given you some of the things you asked for in your past? Sometimes our spiritual immaturity asks with wrong motives, like it says in James 4:3. When we go to God, we must go with a pure heart. We can’t fool God. God resents us playing games with Him through manipulation. He also dislikes it when we ask Him for something, and then we start taking control of the situation with the scenarios at hand. He needs us to trust Him. Sometimes we mess up His plan with our interference, because we get impatient and start trying to help God along by fixing certain situations ourselves. When we do this, He may choose to back off and allow us to suffer the consequences of our actions. An example of this is when Abraham was told by God that he and Sarah were going to have a child in their old age. His wife Sarah, got impatient waiting for God’s timetable, so she took matters into her own hands by asking Abraham to have a child through their maidservant, Hagar. What were the results of this plan because they did not wait? That decision caused dissension between Sarah and Hagar AND to this day there is a division between the two sons’ nations; Isaac, who was the promised son by God and Ishmael, who was the son birthed out of selfish plan that was not of God. I know waiting is the hardest thing we do when we are waiting for answers to evolve, but we must understand He is working things out in His time, and He has it all under control.
Circumstances need to be the second thing that should be in agreement when we are finding God’s will. When we are trying to seek and find an answer to something, like it says in the second phrase in Matthew 7:7, we need to be careful that we are not expecting our circumstances to stand alone in our answer to prayer. I try to funnel my request down into one direct sentence. If I needed to find a doctor with a specific ailment, I would not ask God if I should see Dr. A or see Dr. B, this week or next week, in OKC or in another state, now or when my problem gets more severe? Instead I might ask Jesus who I should see about this specific problem? Or I might ask one sentence that would require a yes, no or wait response. Watching for God to work in this area of circumstances will bring different things to light. For example, when I was a more immature Christian, I would ask God more selfish prayer requests. He was my best friend who had answered so many of my needs, that I thought I could ask him anything, even though the answer may be no. As I was seeking answers, no was even acceptable to me as long as I felt I could say whatever was on my mind. For example, one time I was praying and asking God if I could have an all-expense paid trip outside the United States. At that time in my life, I had been noticing how many of my friends were enjoying seeing the world. I also wanted to see some of those places, since I had already vacationed to most states in my own continent. I knew this was impossible, though, due to our budget at the time. Did God answer that prayer? Yes He did, but as usual; it was not what I was expecting. He took my selfish desire and turned it into a kingdom purpose by sending me out of the country on a mission trip. A week or two after that prayer, my husband received a call to see if he would like to go to Haiti to visit the church’s TB Hospital and then come back and speak to churches in the US for the purpose of raising money for medical expenses to help the dying children. The denomination would cover his expenses. What did that have to do with my prayer request? Well, this person told my husband to ask the ladies group in our church to see if they would pay for my way to go with him. They agreed, so I got to go out of the country and I did not have to pay a cent. God shifted my heart’s desire of going to a place like Hawaii to wanting to go outside the US to Haiti. The Lord knew that this trip would be more meaningful to me as a minister’s wife, than a trip to Hawaii or a place equal to that. That trip also was used as an inspiring circumstance for me to excite the youth group I was co-leading, along with a couple of adult sponsors, to go to Haiti with me a second time on a mission trip. So at that time, we prayed and asked God to help us raise the money if we were to go to Haiti; but if that amount could not be achieved, we would then go on a local mission trip which would be less expensive. He answered and we went to Haiti, my second trip to this land. It was an enlightening trip, especially for the teens and for one of those adults, who is now very involved on going on mission trips through her church. God not only gave me two free trips to Haiti, but He also gave me a third trip outside the US to Israel as a lovely Christmas gift at our next congregation. That was an added blessing years later to that prayer request.
The Bible was the third thing Henry Blackaby says need to point to the same message. God used the Bible to confirm that mission trip to me. During that time, I happened to be reading in the Old Testament about several Bible characters, who left their familiar habitat and went to foreign land for different purposes of God. Also I was involved in reading a couple of books with lots of scripture in it that spoke to me about the way the Lord called specific people to be missionaries. God was preparing me by steering my thoughts for what was ahead. I had no clue what He was doing behind the scenes.
Another example of how God used the scriptures to guide me, was when I needed direction on which family member to move beside to help me with my dying husband. This was a hard decision, moving during a time when my husband was getting so weak. I was getting to the point where it was getting hard to lift him and I knew I might need help soon. My choices were to live near my daughter and her family in North Carolina or with my son and his family in Oklahoma. It seemed like different scriptures I was reading at that time had a theme that kept jumping out at me within the truths of the context. It was talking about places that were dry, or windy, or desert-like places. I didn’t think about it at the time because I was concentrating on the truths in the context, but after different circumstances, personal time in listening to the Lord in prayer, and the different things that would come up in church or with church people, those nudging’s kept getting my attention over and over again within the days ahead. So once I realized it, I dated those verses in my Bible and waited to see for sure if I heard God right. Was he directing me to a location that was more dry than where I had been living, which was a place surrounded my water and mountains? My daughter’s home state was also surrounded by lots of green grass and trees, water, and mountains.
As time went on, I knew for sure that it was God, who had been directing me to Oklahoma for various reasons, reasons that were later revealed to me. I know that might sound strange to some of you reading this, but listening to God through scriptures is another way God can speak to us, as long as it correlates with prayer, church and circumstances. This way was unusual, but for me; it was one of the ways God was pinpointing a direction for me personally. Over time when I knew for sure that I heard God right, instead of erasing what might have been me surmising God speaking to me, I could keep that date marked in my Bible, so I could look back at any given time to remind me of what God did for me personally. God speaks to each of us differently and in many different ways, but each of us know our Savior’s voice. Remember the scriptures talk about other ways God has spoken to people. It has been through a fire, or a donkey, or through a baby in a basket that later ends up being Moses. Life is so exciting living my days out in a personal relationship with a God who spoke to us in various ways in the Old Testament and now speaks to us in various ways through His Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for me before He even knew me.
The fourth thing Blackaby says God uses to conclude an answer to a prayer was the church. Often, God works through a Christian person or persons by saying or doing something that makes the prayer request person take note. God used a person from the church denomination, a ladies group, and a different church body to help answer my prayer request. (They were the church.) Also when I was planning my second trip to Haiti, a Christian man (the church) who I met on my first trip there, was able to help our youth group save money because he lived there and had knowledge of things that we did not know. God reminded me about this man telling me that if I ever came back or knew of a group who wanted to come back, to let him know and he would help. I had forgotten about that remark until we decided to pray about this trip. So I stirred up the courage and called him to see how he could help us with some financial breaks for our group. That last part of that verse in Matthew 7:7 says, Knock and you shall find. I knocked at this man’s heart, so to speak, to see if he could help with some of the details of our trip in this foreign land. Also, remember that other free trip to Israel in our third church? Not only was that a free gift to us, but the congregation (the church) also paid for the associate pastor and his wife to go with us.
Finding God will is an exciting adventure. You ask, seek and knock by watching God work out the answer through four ways: Prayer, Circumstances, Scripture, and Church. Next time you want to know what to do, Experience the Living and Personal God by watching how He is working things out, and then join Him. He is working all around us, but we are not paying attention to what He is doing around us. He is always doing something. Once we see what He is doing and we join Him, He will use us and give us a joy that is unexplainable. Yes, it may be tough on occasion, but it reaps great rewards on earth as well as in heaven.