This sermon is number 2 in a series of 4
A Short Series On Prayer - Part 2
"Answers And Prayer"
by David Legge | Copyright © 1999 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're turning to Luke chapter 11, Luke chapter 11, and you'll remember that last Sunday morning we began a study - leading up to the week of prayer that we will be having in the first full week of September - and we were thinking on this subject of prayer. Last Sunday morning, you'll remember, we thought of 'The Lord and Prayer', and this morning we're going to think of the subject: 'Answers and Prayer', and next Sunday morning - hopefully, God willing - we will be thinking on the subject of 'Fasting and Prayer'. And then possibly, if we have time and if time permits, we will think of the subject of 'Revival and Prayer'.
Now, I said a wee prayer there because I'd lost my notes, but I've now found them and we're turning to Luke chapter 11 and verse 1: "And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples". And you'll remember that's the verse that we thought about last Sunday morning - it was the fact that they saw Jesus praying, it was after they saw Him rise from prayer that they asked Him to teach them to pray, because they saw the way in which He prayed.
Verse 2: "And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened".
Let's come before the Lord, just as we come to His word, and ask His help in a word of prayer: Our dear Father, we come to Thee, as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray, and we ask of Thee help, this morning. We seek the power of God to be in this place, we knock upon the door of God and ask that it may be opened unto us, and Lord, dear God, You would grace us with Thy presence. Help me I pray today, fill me I pray with the blessed Spirit of the living God. For Christ's sake. Amen.
'The atomic bomb will never go off, and I speak as an explosive expert'. That is what Admiral Leahey (sp?) said in 1945 - and we all know that the atomic bomb did go off. An aviation expert, Octave Channet (sp?), predicted these words, and I quote: 'Aeroplanes will eventually go fast, they will be used for sport, but they are not to be thought of as commercial vehicles'. And we know what happens today is that thousands of people weekly, daily even, are shuttled across our world by large jumbo jets. Perhaps more significant, one man, Lieutenant Joseph Ives (sp?) in 1861, after his exploration of the Grand Canyon in the US of A, he stated abruptly: 'The Grand Canyon is of no value at all, it is altogether useless', he went on to say, 'Ours has been the first and, indeed, doubtless the last party of white people to visit this profitless location'. You all know this morning that the Grand Canyon brings in more tourists in the United States than any other scene there. But what was this? Three seemingly experts that dictated negatively about something that has been proven today to be absolutely positive. There is, as we read their statements, a spirit of negativism. In their predictions, in what they have said, it resounds [through] it all - they think of something and they say it will never, ever happen. But if you turn with me, not just to the passage that we read together this morning, but to Mark's Gospel and chapter 11 and verse 24, we read similar words to the words that we read earlier. The Lord Jesus Christ said in chapter 11 and verse 24: 'Therefore I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them'.
I want to relate to you a personal story from my own life. On one occasion I preached within a church, and I preached on this verse that I've just read in Mark chapter 11. And after it, I was imploring and exhorting and encouraging the people of God to ask God for their desires according to His will, to claim His promises, to put their faith in God and His word. And after it I was pulled over by a senior gentleman in the church, and he began to go into all sorts of spiritual and theological contortions in order to show me that that verse of Scripture is not for today. Is it? Or is it not?
We read in church history of a man called George Mueller, and this man in the last century was a man who - personally speaking - he moved the obstacle of unbelief in his own life. He testified of himself that, 'God has never failed me yet'. And in seventy years of looking after young children and orphans he testified that God - as 9500 orphans had gone through his hands - God had provided every single meal for them. In his seventy years of life he testified - and remember it's last century we're talking about - that he received $7,500,000 - that was last century! He declared that he had no committees, he had no collectors, there was no voting, there was no endowment or envelopes, all he had was faith in God. It was God answering to believing prayer.
One of the incidents that is written in his biography, is about when this man - George Mueller, this man of prayer and intercession and faith - was going on a journey to Canada, to preach in the city of Toronto. We read within the story that something awful happened on his journey, that a very dense fog fell upon the ship and the whole of the ocean. Suddenly, to the captain's door there was a great knocking. And there, as the captain opened the door, was George Mueller standing there. He said to the captain: 'Sir, I must be in Toronto to preach tomorrow'. The captain stared right into his face and he said, 'Well sir, there is simply nothing I can do about this, because I am not moving from where I am for fear of colliding with another vessel - and you will have to wait until the weather makes that possible'. George Mueller looked at him and said, 'In forty years of serving God I have never missed an appointment yet, and I will be there'. And he implored the captain to drop to his knees, and both of them fell on their knees and Mueller - he did not shout, he did not cry - he simply, in simple faith, implored God that He would lift the fog and that tomorrow he would be in Toronto. Then the captain began to pray, and as soon as he had started to pray Mueller tapped his shoulder and he says, 'You don't need to pray, sir. Because you don't believe'. The man was a little irate, a little annoyed at this wasting - as he saw it - of his time and he walked immediately out of his cabin - only to be absolutely astonished, because the fog had lifted. Mueller stood with a look upon his face as if to say, 'I knew it, I knew this would happen', because Mueller was a man who knew what it was to pray to God, but not just to pray to God, but to have God answer his prayers.
Do you know what that is this morning? Do I know what that is? Not just simply to pray generally, 'Lord, if it's Your will I pray that You'll do it'. Not just to come before God and pray for all the missionaries, and to pray for all the pastors, and preachers, and all of God's people, and all of the sick - but to actually come to God with specific requests and to get from God specific answers.
There are three things that I want to leave with you this morning in relation to answers and prayer. The first thing I want to deal with is this: some of the prophets of prayer in the Old Testament. Then I want us to look at the prayer of faith within the New Testament. And then quickly if we have time I want us to look at some practical hints concerning answers to prayer.
The first thing is this: prophets of prayer. I don't know about you this morning, but my mind goes back to John chapter 3 and verse 10, where there was a man standing there in the middle of the evening, in the middle of the night - for fear of the Jews - before the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord Jesus Christ turned to him concerning the new birth and He said this to him, 'Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things?'. As I look at answers to prayer, I feel like him. Am I a person who has been saved for many years, am I perhaps a leader within the church of Jesus Christ - and could it be that many of us do not know what it is to pray to God and be sure of His answer? I must say, and I must confess that, in over ten years of being a Christian, I have never ever heard a message on the prayer of faith. Could that be one of the reasons why, today, so little prayer we think - or we believe - is answered, but if we look at the prophets of prayer in the Old Testament we see some mighty men and mighty women.
If you were to turn to Joshua chapter 10 this morning, you would see that man of God, Joshua, in the midst of a battle - and they were almost prevailing within the battle, but the night is rapidly approaching, and therefore they realize that they need a few more hours in which to prevail in which to get the Lord's victory. And Joshua, realizing the distressing situation, he drops to his bended knees, depending upon God, and cries 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, moon, on the valley of Ajalon' - and it says that in answer to his prayers God granted it, and the sun stood still.
If you were to turn to 1 Samuel chapter 1 and verses 10 to 17, you'd see a woman staggering into the temple of God and falling on her knees - she is in absolute turmoil and anguish, so much so that Eli the priest thinks she is drunk. But then he realizes that this woman can't even find words for her prayers, her heart is breaking because her womb is barren. And then as she is before God, she cries from the depths of her soul, and Eli looks on and he asks that the God of Israel may grant thee thy petition. And as we read on in that chapter what do we find? We find that God gave to that woman, Hannah, Samuel the great man of God, in answer to her prayer.
Then, almost miraculously, more so than these events that I have been describing - if you do turn with me to Judges 15, you see here another great event, in the life of Samson. Judges 15 and beginning to read at verse 14: 'And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi. And he was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? But', it says, 'God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he was revived'.
Now if you're a rationalist this morning, and you look at that, you can't make any sense out of it. If you believe in logic today, you look at that passage of scripture and you see Samson, you can't even make head nor tail out of him slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass - but the message this morning from the Lord is this: God can even use the jawbone of an ass. But more than that: Samson turns round to the God who has given him deliverance and given him victory and he says, 'I have slain all these in Thy name and now I'm going to die of thirst, what are You going to do about it?'. And God cleaves a hollow in the jawbone of that ass and gives him water to drink. My friend these are only three, three of the prophets of prayer, and simply what I want to show you quickly this morning is this: that the Old Testament saints of God knew what it was to have their prayers answered.
What was the key? This is where I want to come to the prayer of faith. What was the key? Look at Luke chapter 11 again, our passage this morning: What does the Lord Jesus say?. 'I say unto you' - now let me say this, when the Lord Jesus Christ says, 'I say unto you', that means there is no argument about it. If He said it, it is true, because it is the blessed Lord Jesus Christ speaking. And let me say, in reference to the man who asked me whether this passage of Scripture was for today and for the church of Jesus Christ today: was the Lord Jesus Christ truthful? Or was He a liar? When He said, 'When you ask, you receive what you ask for', was He true? Or did He not mean what He said? He said it, 'I say unto you', what does He say? 'Ask', that is: vocally ask with your mouth. Ask God, cry unto the God your Maker for what you need, for what is your want, for what is your heart's desire. 'Ask', and then it says 'Seek', that is not from your mouth, but that is from your heart - and you don't even need to speak to pray, you don't even need to get on your knees, you can be walking, you can be talking, you can be singing, you can be driving, but you can be seeking, you can be desiring after something in your heart, and God will answer. 'Knock', that is a loud asking, a loud imploring, where you implore God that He must, in answer to your prayers, give you what you ask. He has promised, 'I say unto you'. It is a promise, it cannot fail, he has promised, 'Ask and you shall receive', and it is heard - it is heard in heaven.
You know it's possible for Christians to ask too little, but it is impossible for the Christian to ask too much. Let me say this, this morning: that often the reason why we receive so little is because we ask for so little - and most Christians want so little today, because they are satisfied with so little. We need to learn what the prayer of faith is. There are four things that I want us to learn this morning. The prayer of faith is the prayer that God answered. And the first thing that you need within the prayer of faith is this: perseverance. You see it doesn't matter how good a pray-er you are, it doesn't matter how good a preacher you are, in fact Hoover Hodge said this: 'I am even now convinced that the difference between the saints like Wesley, Fletcher, Edwards, Brainerd, Bramwell and ourselves is energy, perseverance and the invincible determination to exceed, or die, in the attempt to get your heart's desires'.
It's not someone with great talents that God needs, it's not someone with great preaching ability or great learning that God needs, but it is men great in holiness, men great in faith, men great in fidelity, men great for God. What do we read in Luke chapter 18 and verse 7 with regards to perseverance and prayer? The Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke and said, 'Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him?' God has to answer! God will answer! There must be perseverance, but we dealt with that last week and I don't want to go on too much about it. But you see effective prayer and effectual prayer doesn't depend on the power of the pray-er. This is the key - if you want to have your prayers answered today, tomorrow and the rest of the week remember these three things: you must claim His promises, His prophecies and His providences. His promises, His prophecies and His providences.
In James chapter 1 and verse 6 we read: 'Let him ask', let the believer, the man of God ask, 'in faith, with never a doubt'. But what is faith? What does it mean to pray in faith? I believe that many Christians today, and much of the church of Jesus Christ, has this idea that faith is something that they muster up within themselves, and they go over and over again in their mind: 'I must believe, I will believe, God will do it' - until they try to convince themselves psychologically and emotionally that God is going to answer their prayers. That is not biblical faith. What do we read in Romans and chapter 10? Verse 17 says: 'Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. And if you break that equation down a little this morning, what it says is this: faith comes by the word of God. Hearing is the medium, faith is the method. Faith comes by the word of God, this is our faith delivered to us, but it is the promises of God that we are to look upon, we are to read and inwardly digest that will cultivate, that will produce faith within the depths of our soul and our spirit. It is the word of God, we are to take the promises of God, we are to stand upon His promises that will not fail, as we have been singing. We are to take God at His word, we are to believe Him - but what are we to believe?
I believe that faith is not without evidence. What I mean is simply this: that I could go to anyone here in this gathering, and lay my hand upon you and say, 'You are to be healed'. Or I could go to you and tell you that you are going to get that job, or that you are going to do wondrous things for God, or that your life is going to be changed, I could say many things to you - but what is what I am saying based upon? You see, we can be sure that God answers our prayers, but we can only be sure when our prayers are based upon the word of God and are in accordance with His promises. You say to me, 'David, well how do I pray in faith?'. Simply this: you take the promises of God and you claim them! When was the last time you did that? That is faith! Taking God at His word and bringing His word to Him and saying 'Lord, I did not write this Book, I didn't make this up, I am not saying this! Lord, You have said it, and You must honour Your word! You must answer!'. That is how we get our prayers answered - when we pray in accordance to the promises of God, taking God at His word. We must believe, that when we pray to Him, that He will hear us. As the Lord Jesus Christ said, if we ask bread, will He give us a stone? And when we ask God, if we ask in faith, if we ask based upon His promises, God will give us our hearts desire - because when we ask according to His promises we are giving Him, in prayer, His desires - for God works His desires through you and through I.
What kind of promises are there? Well, there are specific promises. In other words, you don't flick through the Bible and say to yourself, 'Well, is it God's will that I should be saved?'. Sure you know that it's revealed in His word that it's His will that you should be saved - therefore what do you do? You don't pray about it, you lift the word of God and say, 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved', and you believe it, and that's it! Specific promises. Then there are general promises. For instance - we haven't time to look at it this morning - but in Isaiah 65 verse 24 you have a promise there, that as soon as your mouth opens in the spirit of God, to pray to God, God hears your prayer in Heaven. That's a general promise to everyone. Then there is the desire within your heart, the providences of God, when God lays a burden upon your heart, so heavy that you are driven to your knees to pray, and implore, and cry to God for those desires. Then you can take God at His word and claim the answer.
Of course, we can pray for the Lord's return. We've talked about His promises and His providences, but we can pray for His return - why? Because it's prophesied that He will return. Remember, He reprimanded the hypocrites, the Jews, the Pharisees and the Sadducees because they were able to discern the signs of the weather, but they couldn't discern the signs of the times. We can, because we have the promises, we have the word of God.
C.H. Spurgeon has a book, and I would encourage you to get it: 'The Chequebook of the Bank of Faith' it's called - 366 promises of God for each day of your life to claim. Do you know what the promises of God are? Do you know what the word of God is? It's a chequebook from start to finish, for you to take to God, the Great Banker, and give to Him and say, 'This is what my cheque says that I ought to have as a believer, a child of God. You are implored to give it to me!'. You may think that that is forward. You may think that that is being pushy with God. You may even think that it's being cheeky with God - but do you know what God says in Malachi chapter 3 and verse 10? 'Prove Me now!' - God wants you to prove Him!
In the Isle of Lewis - you've heard me speak about it before, because it's burned upon my heart - a revival took place. And there was a prayer meeting on one occasion, and it's where it all seemed to start. And this young man got to his feet in this prayer meeting, and they had been meditating upon a verse of scripture, 'I will pour water upon him that is thirsty' - and listen to this! He rose to his feet and he said 'Lord, Your word says I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, are You not a Man of Your word?'. Would you say that to God? It says the building shook, and God moved through that little island like a fire, because one simple man brought, he cashed in, the promises of God for him.
Leonard Ravenhill, in his little book 'Why no revival?' he says this - and I've written it on the front of my Bible because I think it's astonishing. He said, 'We will sit one day in our fellowships and we will watch as some simple, newly converted soul will walk to the front and open the Book of God and simply believe it!'
This is not a book that is to be explained. It is not a book that is to be [torn] apart, and broken down, and talked about until we're sick - but it's a book that is to be believed! A book that is to be claimed! A book that is to be lived!
I've run out of time this morning, but I'd so much more to say to you all today - but just for a moment, Hebrews chapter 11 we read this, of men and women who claimed God's promises, who took them and stood upon them. It says of them: 'Who through faith they subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, they quenched the violence of fire, they escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness they were made strong, they waxed valiant in fight, they turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise'! But brethren this morning, we have received the promise - and what more can we do with it, if we claim it at the throne of grace?
In one occasion there were two bishops, Bishop Lambeth and Wainwright. And they were one of the first missionaries to China, and they had a great missionary meeting in Osaka, Japan. And on one occasion, as they were taking their meeting, there were two officials from the communist government that came in and told them that they could no longer have that meeting. And what it did was it drove those two men to their knees in prayer that evening, two of them in a little room. And the little servant girl came to call them to supper, and the power of God and the power of prayer was so great that she fell beneath it! And then his wife came up, to find out what was going on, why the little servant girl hadn't come back, and she fell underneath the power of prayer and they altogether, when they came to their senses, went to a prayer meeting in that little upper room - and through it, two of those official's sons were born again! The next day one of those officials that had came to them on a previous occasion, came and said: 'You can continue with your meetings, no one will hinder you'. Do you know what it said in the newspaper the next day? 'Last night the Christian's God visited town'.
You know that most banks close at half past three or four, but have we ever thought of the fact that the throne of grace, one day, will close? We will not pray in glory, the way we pray down here. We can not see God do the impossible in a sin sick world, see Him save multitudes, see Him change lives up in glory - it can't happen. It is a special blessing for the Christian, that can only happen down here. Therefore all the more reason why we should say: 'Lord teach us to pray, but teach us to pray to be answered'.
Our dear Father we do just that, we praise Thee for the great things that Thou hast done in the past. But Lord we acknowledge Thy word and Thy promise that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. And what has been done in the past, greater can be done still, if we would only believe our great and glorious God. Lord we pray now that Thou wilt take us to our homes in safety and part us with Your blessing. For Christ's sake. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second tape in his short series on Prayer, titled "Answers And Prayer" - Transcribed by Judith Watkins, Preach The Word.
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