By Dr. Harold Sala
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
“To be a Christian without prayer,” said Martin Luther, “is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Yet the fact is that, prayer remains a mystery, an unknown quantity to many people. Few Christians doubt that, on occasions, people do have prayers answered. Ask people at random if they have either prayed a prayer which was answered or known someone else who had a prayer answered, and the vast majority will answer in the affirmative, yet the fact remains that many think of prayer in the same way they think of putting a coin in a slot machine–doesn’t cost much, and you just might hit the jackpot.
I’m thinking of some of the mail which has come to us. One person wrote, “My husband had a friend, a very close friend, who had cancer. I prayed, I fasted, I had my friends pray…. Saturday Tom died. What happened?” Another wrote, “I am writing to ask a question. I never get peace of heart. It worries me. Maybe the Lord just doesn’t hear me.”
A student wrote telling how she prayed before exams and didn’t do very well. “My conclusion,” she said, “is that probably I lack something in my Christian life.”
A lot of misunderstanding arises from not knowing the fact that God doesn’t answer prayer because we are good, or not-so-good as the case may be. He answers prayer because of a relationship we have with Him as His children. It’s that simple. Paul made that clear when he said, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6).
Another misunderstanding is that prayer is just a means of getting things we want; like more money, a better job, a new car, or getting people to do what we want–like meeting a tall, dark and handsome man, or getting someone to like you.
Prayer embraces a relationship whereby we allow God, as our Father, to work His will in our lives, trusting Him for what is best; but, yet reminding Him, as He told us to do, of our temporal needs. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7). When Jesus told the disciples to pray asking for their “daily bread” He was showing us that we can and should pray for our temporal needs, day by day.
“Prayer,” said George MacDonald, “is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.” The problem, most of the time, is that we are too proud, too filled with arrogance or doubt, to bend our knees in prayer and say, “God, I need Your help. I want Your will.” That’s a humbling experience, but it’s what it takes if your prayers are to reach the throne room of the Almighty.
A final thought which comes from the Cambridge professor, C. S. Lewis: “Prayer,” he said, “in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine.”
Thinking of prayer only in terms of getting things from God, means you have not gone beyond the first week in the school of prayer. Keep praying on. There is much, much more to learn about this marvelous relationship, this means of keeping touch with the Father.
Resource reading: John 17