The Greatest Sermon in History Part 19
The Prayer Promises of God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 27, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 7:7-12 (NLT)

 

Let me ask you a question. There are several habits that you can implement in your life to help you grow as a Christian. What would you say are the most important?

PARTICIPATION
(Going to church, reading the Bible, Prayer)

Even children know that these habits are important to the Christian life. Even new believers understand that they must begin to practice these habits if they ever want to grow in their relationship with God. All of them are important, but if I had to identify one of these habits as standing above the rest, I would have to say prayer is the most critical. The reason I say that is because in any relationship communication is fundamental. And that’s what prayer is… it’s communication with God.

So there’s no surprise that Jesus would address prayer in the Greatest Sermon in History, the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve been working our way through these three chapters in Matthew, and we’ve already heard what Jesus had to say about how we should pray in Matthew 6. That’s where we looked at the sample prayer He gave us, the Lord’s Prayer. But now in Matthew 7, Jesus feels He needs to address the topic of prayer again. But this time, instead of teaching us how we should pray, He tells us how God will respond to our prayer. And in so doing, He makes us three promises.

So this morning, we’re going to look at these three promises and talk about how those promises affect us. Okay? And you can use the notes found in your Sunrise Update to follow along. Let’s go.

 

When You Pray God Promises…

 

1. Unlimited Blessing

Jesus promises that when we pray and ask God to supply for our needs He will respond and bless us. He said…

Matthew 7:7 (NLT)
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.”

Check out these other verses…

Psalm 50:10 (NLT)
For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.

Philippians 4:18-19 (NLT)
At the moment I have all I need—more than I need! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable to God and pleases him. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

God can and will supply all your needs. But He expects you to ask. Here’s a question… why do you need to ask? Ever wonder that? I mean, if God is God then He already knows all your needs. So why do you need to ask? Well, first of all, I believe God often does bless us in unexpected and unrecognized ways. But there are times He does expect us to ask. Why? Because it forces us to recognize that He is the source of the blessing, and it reminds us to be thankful.

So what do you need? What do you want? Ask God for it.

Why do we not ask Him? I can only think of three reasons why we wouldn’t ask God for our needs and wants:

Why do we not pray for our needs?

A. We don’t want Him involved in our lives

This is just our own pride. We don’t want to acknowledge that we need God. We don’t want to “owe” Him anything. We don’t want to be anything less than totally self-sufficient.

“We do not live in a praying age. We live in an age of hustle and bustle, of man’s efforts and man’s determination, of man’s confidence in himself and his own power to achieve things, an age of human organization, and human machinery, and human push, and human scheming, and human achievement; which in the things of God means no real achievement at all.”
~ R. A. Torrey

When you neglect to pray and ask God to meet your needs, is the message you’re sending Him that you don’t want Him in your life?
 

B. We don’t believe He’s capable of answering

But surely the God who created everything that exists… the God who is the provider of all good things… the God for whom all things are possible… is more than able to meet all of our needs. From the greatest to the least.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

So go ahead and believe that He’s more than capable of answering.
 

C. We don’t believe He wants to answer

Maybe you think He’s got better things to do. Maybe you think He’s annoyed when we ask Him for a gift. Maybe you think He wants to punish you for the wrongs you have done and therefore you’re exempt from His blessing.

Several of you are parents. How many of you have perfect children? I know some of you THINK your kids are perfect, but really are they? Do they ever do anything wrong? Sure they do. Does that mean you love them any less? No. Does it mean you ever want less than the best for them? No.

Did you catch what Jesus said?

Matthew 7:9-11 (NLT)
You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Yes, we are sinful people. We go through life and we make mistakes, we do wrong things, we hurt God and others. We strive to be as good as we can, but we inevitably mess up. At least I do. But I’m still God’s child. He still loves me. He still wants the best for me. And He still answers my prayer. Not because He has to, but because He wants to.

So why does it seem like God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers, or perhaps that He ignores them? Maybe it’s because we think the only legitimate answer He can give is “Yes.” Let me tell you something… God hears every prayer from each of His children, and He answers every one. But the answer isn’t always “Yes.”

James 4:2-3 (NLT)
You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole motive is wrong--you want only what will give you pleasure.

“So then if we ask for good things, he grants them; if we ask for things which are not good (either not good in themselves, or not good for us or for others, directly or indirectly, immediately or ultimately) he denies them; and only he knows the difference.”
~ John Stott
Essential Living: The Sermon on the Mount
(Leichester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988) p. 189


In your notes…

Remember…

If the request is wrong, God will say, “No.”

If the timing is wrong, God will say, “Slow.”

If you are wrong, God will say, “Grow.”

When all is right, God will say, “Let’s go!”

(From Bill Hybel’s The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer)

 

2. Unlimited Guidance

Life can be tough. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some kind of a manual? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to direct us and help us make decisions? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some way of knowing what’s really important in life? Well, that’s what God offers us through His Word and through prayer. Listen…

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
“Seek and you will find.”

Proverbs 3:6 (NLT)
Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

My brother is an Accountant. So anytime I have forms or reports I have to fill out for the government, or whenever I’m trying to figure out our personal finances, I’ll give him a call. And to date, he has never hung up on me. I’m sure he gets tired of me calling and I probably don’t always catch him at the best time, but he always takes the time to answer my questions and give me whatever guidance I need. Even in his busiest time of the year during March and April, he’ll take my call and walk me through whatever questions I have.

Growing up, we had plenty of disagreements. (Okay, fights.) In fact, we couldn’t stand each other for a while. I think both of us had problems and knew how to push each other’s buttons. We certainly didn’t show a lot of “brotherly love” while we were growing up. But even though we’ve had our problems in the past, he’ll help me if he can and give me whatever guidance I need.

With my luck, my brother will go on our website and read this message, but I’m just going to say it: He’s not God. As good as he is and as much as he helps me out, he’s not God. God is infinitely more patient, and kind, and loving, and wise, and caring… If I need help, if I need guidance, if I need comfort, if I need support, I can call on Him and He’ll always, always, always be there for me.

And all He asks of me is that I seek Him out. That sounds perfectly fine to me. I get annoyed when people start giving me advice and butting into my life and sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong. I have enough people who feel like they need to give me unsolicited advice. It’s nice that God’s enough of a gentleman that He’ll wait until we seek out His advice. He doesn’t resent you for seeking His advice, but He does wait until you seek it.

 

3. Unlimited Access

Shera and I went to a couple of hockey games last year when the Rocket was playing the Quebec Remparts. As some of you know, Patrick Roy is a co-owner and general manager of the Remparts. I’ve never been a big fan of Patrick Roy’s, but it was still an experience to see him at the game. We sat almost directly across the rink from where he was sitting, and I watched him sneak in after each period began, and sneak out just before it ended. He was obviously trying to avoid being swarmed by fans. Plus, he always had a couple of people around him to be a buffer between him and the crowd. I don’t think I had much of a chance to get close to him or spend any amount of time with him.

Tomorrow many of us will be casting our votes in the federal election. As a non-profit organization, we cannot endorse a specific candidate or party here at Sunrise. But I can encourage you to check out the issues, line them up against your faith and beliefs, and vote accordingly. However the election turns out, I would love to see the Christian community turn out in force to send a message in favour of protecting live at all stages, ensuring the freedom of religious expression including Christianity, and maintaining Judeo-Christian values in our society including the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

So I plan to turn out to vote tomorrow, and I hope you do, too. I believe it’s an important responsibility that we should take seriously. But whether the party I vote for wins or not, I don’t expect I’ll ever have a personal audience with the Prime Minister. I could fly to Ottawa, march to the Prime Minister’s office and demand to speak to him, but I don’t expect I’d ever get in. After all, who am I to demand an audience with the leader of our country? The best I can hope for is to express my thoughts and concerns to our local MP and hope they convey my message to the Prime Minister. But there’s no guarantee of that ever happening. I simply do not have access to the Prime Minister. But you know what? That’s okay. Why would I want to have an audience before the Prime Minister when I can go before the King of Kings? Jesus said to the people on the hillside that day…

Matthew 7:7 (NLT)
“Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.”

In other words, if you want an audience before God the Father, you’ve got it. Let me put it into context for you. In the Jewish community, the center of their faith and the center of worship was the temple in Jerusalem.

[PowerPoint] This is a map of what Jerusalem supposedly looked at this time of history. You can see by the size of the temple that it was a very important part of the Jewish community. In fact, a lot of time and money had been put into building it. The temple had originally been built by King David’s son, Solomon, around 966 B.C. It was an extremely prestigious building that was to be the visible dwelling place of God on earth and housed the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that contained the stones that Charlton Heston brought down from Mount Sinai. But that original temple was destroyed by the Babylonian Army in 586 B.C. who took the Israelites into captivity.

When the Israelites returned from captivity to Jerusalem 50 years later they tried to rebuild the temple under the leadership of a man named Zerubbabel. But this time they didn’t have the money or the people to rebuild it right, and it became quite an eyesore. Especially for the people who were old enough to compare it to the grandness of the original temple. It stood, though, for nearly 500 years before it was torn down and replaced with a magnificent structure built by Herod the Great. Herod already had a reputation for building fantastic structures, and he ordered the rebuilding of the temple in order to increase that reputation and to win favour from the Jews. He was, after all, quite an egotist and was very concerned about what people thought of him.

It was Herod’s temple that the people listening to Jesus would be familiar with. In fact, at the time the temple was still under construction. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the building project, construction began on the temple 46 years earlier and it would continue for another 30 years. Unfortunately, this temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 just seven years after it was completed. And it hasn’t been rebuilt since, although there is always talk of it.

So the temple isn’t there anymore, but we do have some idea of what it may have looked like.

POWERPOINT – LEGO TEMPLE

In reality, it probably wasn’t quite that colorful. (Sometimes it’s just scary what you can find on the Internet.) Actually, there is a scale model of Herod’s Temple that has been built and is on display in Jerusalem that looks like this. (If you look closely, you can see some people standing in the background.)

The Temple Mount covered a large area, including some open air courts, an altar, and even a fortress. But the most important section is the tall section in the middle. Only priests were allowed to enter this building. This building was the Temple proper and contained two main areas… The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. THE HOLY PLACE was in the front and it contained certain sacred objects. THE HOLY OF HOLIES was behind that and contained nothing at all. It was intended to house the Ark of the Covenant, but that was either lost or stolen centuries earlier. Of course, anyone who has watched Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark knows that the Ark is actually buried deep in some government warehouse in the States. So the Ark of the Covenant wasn’t in the Holy of Holies, but the Holy of Holies was still considered to be the visible dwelling place of God on earth. And it was separated from the rest of the temple by a huge double curtain, that was someplace between 60 and 90 feet high.

In the eyes of the Jews, this was the room where God lived. And the average person had no chance of ever entering into His presence there. In fact, the average priest would not enter His presence, either. Only one man, the High Priest, was allowed to enter this room, and then only after going through a strict ritual preparation. That High Priest represented the people before God. The people couldn’t go there themselves; the High Priest went there on their behalf. In fact, I heard that when the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies they would tie a rope to their foot just in case they dropped dead. Then the other priests would be able to pull them out of the room. That’s how strict the rule was that only the High Priest could enter into the presence of God.

But there was Jesus, standing on the hillside, saying to the people, “You don’t need no stinkin’ High Priest. You don’t have to go through any man. You can have direct access to God for yourself. Simply knock and the door will be opened.”

You need to understand, that was huge! That was revolutionary! There were probably people in the crowd that day who heard Jesus and decided then and there that Jesus needed to be silenced, even if it meant killing Him. This was blasphemy! For those of you who saw The Passion of the Christ, you can understand why the High Priest Caiaphas was so determined to do away with Jesus. For him, it was a matter of job security.

But there were others in the crowd that day who would have experienced an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement at the idea of approaching God one on One and having the freedom to access Him whenever they wanted. These people would have never expected to have an audience before the high priest, let alone God Himself. But Jesus is telling them that God wants to give them a private audience with Him.

Within three years of Jesus saying these words, Jesus was arrested, tried, and unjustly sentenced to death on a cross. And at the very moment He died, the earth shook and that huge double curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn right down the middle as a powerful reinforcement of Jesus’ message that we don’t have to go through a high priest. We can have direct access to God the Father anytime, anyplace.

Some of you may have grown up in traditions where you were taught that the only way for you to communicate with God is through another man. I hope you understand this morning that you do not need anyone to be a go-between. You can and should approach Him directly. You don’t need to go through me or anyone else.

Well, that’s not completely true. There is One who still operates as our High Priest… who represents us before God the Father. I’m talking, of course, about Jesus Christ. The difference is that Jesus doesn’t go alone before the Father on our behalf, He takes us with Him.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

 

So those are the three promises we’re given for how God will respond to our prayers… Unlimited Blessing, Unlimited Guidance, and Unlimited Access. As a child of God, you don’t need to make an appointment, you don’t need to be afraid to tell Him what’s on your mind, you don’t need to be ashamed to have questions and doubts… He wants to hear about it all. It doesn’t matter how unstructured your prayers are, doesn’t matter if they sound impressive, doesn’t matter if you use all the right words… Just be honest and open with Him, and allow Him to take joy in the fact that you, a child that He loves, has come to Him in prayer.



 

 

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