Sunday, July 13, 2014

How can I know my prayers are answered?

How to know

I once heard someone say, “I am absolutely sure that all my prayers are answered!” I have also heard someone say: “We have no way of knowing – all we can do is to pray. It is God who decides whether to answer or not". The one borders on presumption and the other on ignorance.

When we pray, how can we be sure our prayers are answered? To effectively answer the question, we shall consider:
I. The Rule of Prayer
II. Qualities of Acceptable Prayer
III. Qualities of Unanswered Prayers
IV. Extent of Assurance for Answered Prayers
V. Scriptural Limitations of Assurance
VI. Two Classes of Good Prayer

The Rule of Prayer

The Word of God is the rule of our prayers – we should therefore take into consideration the whole word of God not just a part of it. We have in the Word of God, instances of inspired prayer as our example, we have its promises as our warranty (assurance); we have its precepts as the measure of our petitions, and its warnings to stimulate us to pray. Prayer is a homage to God, and it is for Him to say what worship He will accept; all else not homage, but presumption. If we consider the fact that man is blind and corrupt and God is infinite, and pure, we shall never undertake to devise acts of worship of our own notion. This is what the Bible means when it states: “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God; For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Qualities of Acceptable Prayer

For a prayer to be acceptable to God, it has to pass through two tests: - motivation and content.
Prayers that are not motivated by love are like “a noisy or a clanging cymbal” (First Corinthians 13:1-2) Someone has said; “The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts. As soon as we cease to bleed, we cease to bless.  When our sympathy loses its pang we can no longer be the servants of the passion.” Without love, prayer is empty; and without prayer love is unfulfilled. A prayer that must be acceptable must therefore be sincere and hearty; it must be addressed to God with faith in Christ; it must be for objects agreeable to God’s will; it must be prompted by the Holy Spirit; it must be accompanied with genuine repentance and gratitude (Romans 8:26; Psalm 62:8; Jeremiah 29:13; John 14:6; First John 5:14-15; Philippians 4:6-7; First John 3:22; Psalm 66:18; Hebrews 11:6; John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23-24).

Qualities of Unanswered Prayers

For sound reasons in accordance with God’s Holy, loving, and wise purposes, God cannot grant every request as asked. Several hindrances to answered prayers are mentioned in Scripture:

  • Hiding iniquity in the heart – Psalm 66:18
  • Refusal to heed God’s law – Proverbs 28:9
  • An estranged heart – Isaiah 29:13
  • Sinful separation from God – Isaiah 59:2
  • Waywardness – Jeremiah 14:10-12
  • Offering unworthy sacrifices – Malachi 1:7-9
  • Praying to be seen of men – Matthew 6:5-6
  • Pride in fasting and tithing – Luke 18:11-14
  • Lack of Faith – Hebrews 11:6
  • Doubting, or double mindedness – James 1:6-7
  • Asking wrongly to spend it on selfish passion – James 4:3
  • Lack of harmony in the home -  First Peter 3:7

Speaking positively, God has promised to answer requests when His children:

  • pour themselves out for the hungry and afflicted – Isaiah 58:9-10
  • believe that they will receive what they ask – Mark 11:22-24
  • forgive others – Mark 11:25-26
  • ask in Christ’s name – John 14:13-14
  • abide in Christ and His words  – John 15:7
  • pray in the Spirit – Ephesians 6:18 
  • obey the Lord’s commandments – First John 3:22
  • ask according to His will – First John 5:14-15. 

Until a believer has properly responded to God he cannot properly make a request to God.

Although to their own knowledge, believers may have met the conditions of answered prayer, they ought never to seek to compel God to act in a certain way. Surely, Jesus met every condition of answered prayer, but in Gethsemane, He concluded His prayer “not as I will, but as You will” Matthew 26:36-44. The example of Paul is also very relevant. God did not remove his thorn in the flesh. Paul’s request was not granted but his greatest desire was answered. He was given the grace to live with his thorn in the flesh and minister effectively Second Corinthians 12:7-9. Unworthy Israel insisted and got their desires but it was not the best for them Psalm 106:15. Prayers ought never to be turned into magical compulsion, but must always remain requests to a wiser, personal Father who is God.

Extent of Assurance for Answers

To what extent can we be sure that our prayers are answered? First, it is important to state here that prayer is not a means of compelling greater powers to do our bidding. Neither magician nor scientist can manipulate the powers of the Almighty by virtue of a command. God did not intend that prayer should be the Christian’s way of twisting His hand to do what He God has not willed to do.

Having said this, I wish to look at two extreme views of Christians concerning the nature and extent of warrant which they have to expect an answer to their prayers.

Some err by defect, forming no definite view of the ground on which their faith is entitled to rest; and consequently when they approach the throne of grace, they have no lively hopes at all. This error is consequent upon ignorance of the scripture. Others, on the other hand, err by excess holding the promises in a sense God did not intend them to bear; and consequently their hopes are fanatical and superstitious. This error is predicated by wrong interpretation of Scripture.

For our faith to be firm, it must be correct and intelligent. The consequence of these erroneous views ultimately is disappointment and this may lead either to self-accusation, or skepticism. Both are fatal to our Christian life. The warrant for prayer is of course sought in the promises. Some of these promises seem so emphatic for example Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:24.

If God is to answer all prayers as we make them, He would abdicate His Omniscience in His dealings towards us, the  objects of His redeeming love, and make our often misguided, though sometimes, pious desires, the absolute rule of His conduct towards us. God would also have to set aside His rod of Chastisement for us because we would surely pray for exemption, like the Psalmist in Psalm 39:10-11. “Remove Your stroke from me; I am consumed by the blow of Your hand.”

Scriptural Limitations to Warrant

There is then, of course,  some practical limitations in those general promises. What is it? To what extent can God answer prayers? Let us look at First John 5:14: “Now, this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” All our prayers shall be specifically answered in God’s time and way, but with literal and absolute accuracy, if they are believing, and prayers offered with no concealed sins or motives, and for things according to God’s will. Now there are only two ways to find out what things are such, things according to God’s will – one is by special revelation, the other is by the Bible. I cannot over emphasize the need to read and correctly interpret the Scripture. Many Christians have made a wreck of their faith by wrongly interpreting a verse and building their doctrine and faith on the wrong interpretation and application. In few words, we can be sure our prayers will be answered if:

  • our request fits into God’s will and timing
  • we pray in faith and believe, we shall get an answer
  • we confess our sins and our motives are right

Let us never try by inference or an action to overrule the Sovereignty of God. God is no man’s debtor.

Objects of Good Prayer 

God, both by promise and example clearly holds out two classes of objects for which Christians should pray in the Scripture.

One is the class of objects naturally desirable and in themselves innocent, which yet are not essential for redemption; for example, recovery from sickness, daily bread, deliverance from persecution, conversion of particular sinners etc. It is right to pray for such things; it is even commanded; and we have ground, in the benevolence, love and power of God, and tender sympathy of the Mediator to hope for the specific answer. But the answer we receive will depend on God’s will. Most often God applies the principle of “all things work together for good to those who love Him” This should be enough to satisfy the Christian petitioner. (Compare Second Corinthians 12:8 with verse 9; Matthew 26:39 with Hebrews 5:7-8.

The other class of objects of prayer is, the benefits accompanying redemption; all the gifts which make up, in the elect, growth in grace, perseverance, pardon, sanctification, complete redemption. For these we pray with full assurance for a specific answer, because God has told us, that it is His purpose specifically to bestow them in answer to all true prayer. See Psalm 84:11; Luke 11:13; First Thessalonians 4:3; Luke 12:32 and John 15:8. So we have a warrant to pray in faith, for the grace to do the things which God’s word makes it our duty to do. God may not give it in the shape or channel we expected. He may choose to try our faith by unexpected delays, but the answer is sure, because God promised them and will give them in His own time and way. We can then say, like Habakkuk “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie, though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).

In addition to promises, our expectation of an answer to prayer is strengthened by the following precious considerations:
(a) When we pray for things agreeable to God’s will; things that will promote His glory and good pleasure
(b) When our prayers are prompted by the Holy Ghost and therefore Romans 8:27 – such prayers must be answered
(c)  Our union to Christ confirms this
(d)  Christ’s intercession, so tender and generous; so prevalent, and perpetual, presents the most glorious ground of hope. He rejects no applications made in faith out of righteous life. He ever lives to intercede. The Father hears Him always. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Remember God can answer our prayer with No, Wait and Yes. Each of them is an answer. So, dear Christian, pray without ceasing (First Thessalonians 5:17); and pray when you do not feel like praying or do not know what to pray for, please pray “Lord, teach me to pray”
God bless you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment