Prayer was never meant to be an end in itself—not an exercise to glory in, to impress someone, or even merely for communion and enjoyment of God (though that is part of prayer). Rather, the main purpose of prayer is to glorify God when we receive from Him the things we ask for (Jn. 14:13). And that is what we should expect when we pray—that He will give us exactly what we ask for, nothing else, nothing different. Here are three reasons why we can know that we can recieve answers to prayer—taken from my book Prayer A to Z.
1. In all of Jesus’ teachings on prayer He has emphasized strongly that we can receive answers. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus instructed His disciples on asking and receiving. He told them that if they will just ask, He will give to them, if they seek they will find, and if they knock the door will be opened to them. Here it seems that asking, seeking, and knocking are all ways of asking, asking that gets more and more intense. Seeking is more intense than regular asking, and knocking is more intense than seeking.
But I think this passage is teaching more than just our intensity in prayer. I see this kind of prayer as a progression of prayer that involves us in the process. God wants us to be involved in prayer, in bringing about the answer. He doesn’t just want to hand us what we desire on a silver platter. So here Jesus I think is teaching: ask what you desire, but then when God gives you some insight into what exactly He wants to give you, go out and seek for it—put some feet on your prayers. Then next, when you think you have found what you have been praying for, knock on the door. And when the door opens, test it to see if it is what God wants you to have.
An example of this kind of prayer would be when we are praying for a job. We would begin our prayer by asking God for the kind of job we desire. But it doesn’t end there with verbal asking. We don’t just keep asking and not do anything. No. The next thing we naturally do when we desire a job is to “seek”—to look around for a job. We would look in the paper or on-line at the help wanted ads, etc. But it doesn’t end there. We would get on the phone and call places that interest us and then go and talk to the person offering the job. That’s the knocking part of prayer. So we don’t just sit on the couch and pray! We put feet to our prayers! God wants us to be involved in the process of prayer.
Notice that at each level, or at each step on the journey, Jesus tells us that God will give us an answer. He said, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
2. God has made it our nature to ask in prayer in order that we may receive. We are not speaking of the old nature here. It is not in the sinful nature to want to pray and expect answers. If you are without God you never want to pray; and when you do pray you are surprised when answers come. But when we invite the Holy Spirit to fill us and when we learn how to pray from Him, God works in us the desire to pray and expect answers. Therefore, it is the new nature in us that desires to pray and to receive answers.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16 that we are temples of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. He was of course speaking to only believers; God’s Spirit dwells in each believer. He dwells in us individually, but also corporately—in the Church (1 Pet. 2:4-5). In Matthew 21:13 Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer…” In that context He was speaking of the Jewish temple. However, I think we can also conclude that since we (individually and as a Church) are temples of God, Jesus was also speaking to us. Yes, in our new nature, we naturally want to pray and to receive answers, because He has made us a “house of prayer.” In this house of prayer, where the Spirit dwells, He will give you His heart, His desire. And when we lift that desire up to God, when we ask Him according to that desire, that is what prayer really is.
3. It is God’s nature to hear and answer prayer. It is well established in the Bible, by various declarations (especially in the Psalms) and by ample evidence, that God hears and answers prayer. In Psalms 5:3 David declares, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” Again in Psalms 65:2 David says of God, “O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come.”
In Hebrews 11:6 we find the clear teaching that God is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. This is His nature. This is who He is. He is a God who listens to our prayers and rewards us with an answer.
He answers the prayers of all His creatures who cry out to Him for mercy and for daily needs. Look out and see how God has fed and clothed the whole earth. Not even the little birds lack food and shelter (Matt. 6:26-28). He answers the prayers of Christians in particular because we are His own special people whom He died for and whom He has adopted into His family (1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 1:5-7). What a good Heavenly Father we have. He is always watching out for us. He cares for all our needs and wants because He loves us so much.
He wants to answer our little requests as well as our big requests. He cares about the little things we ask for, not because they are so important in themselves but because they are important to us. For just as a mother sees to the little things that an infant child cries out for, God cares about the little things that we ask for. Likewise, God wants to give us big things too—and a lot of things. He says to us from Psalms 81:10, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Again, from Jeremiah 33:3, He says to us, “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
If you want to read more on this subject, check out my website. I also invite your comments.