Saturday, February 07, 2009

Getting answers to prayer (4)

There is a third condition to answered prayer. It is obedience.

The Bible says in Psa 66:18: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear."

On the other hand, it says in 1 John 3:21, 22: "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence towards God. And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."

This doesn't mean to say that we have to be perfect. If it did, there wouldn't be many people seeing answers to prayer. What it does mean is that if we are looking for answers to prayer, we shouldn't have any contentions with the Lord. If we have any known sin, it should be repented of. Ask God to forgive you on the basis of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. When it's under Christ's blood, it's washed away, forgiven, forgotten.

(The Bible says some interesting things about prayer. Take for instance 1 Pet 3:7. "Husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." Did you know that the way you treat your wife can hinder the answers to your prayers?)

Psa 37:3, 4 says "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart." God is faithful. He will fulfil His promise there. But if we want God to fulfil the last bit, we need to fulfil the first bit. A continued walk of obedience is the key to continued blessings - and it's a key to answered prayer.

Jesus put it like this: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." To abide in Him is to live in Him, to dwell in Him, to remain in Him, to stay within the boundaries His love has set for you. But notice the result. "You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you."

Some years ago, I was living in two rooms in a small house in a foreign land with no telephone, no television and plenty of time to pray. I used to pray in general terms: "Lord, bless him," "Lord, bless her." We do that because we are afraid that if we prayed in specific terms, God wouldn't answer.

One day I said "Lord, I'm tired of praying in general terms. I want to pray specific prayers and get specific answers. If I don't know how to do that, I want you to show me. And if I'm not in the right place for that, I want you to bring me to that place." There were no sudden flashes of lightning or voices from heaven, but I reckon you can't pray prayers like that and have them go unnoticed.

A couple of weeks later I was reading Isaiah 58. "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer," it said. "You shall cry, and he will say, Here I am." That's it, I said. That's what I want. I looked at the conditions listed in those verses. "Share your bread with the hungry. . . bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him." I can do that, I said. But I still didn't have it.

Then one morning, as I was thinking about it, it suddenly hit me. The things that God was speaking about there were the things that He wanted those people to do at that time. What God was wanting me to do might be something different. What God was talking about here was obedience.

God had begun to teach me the conditions for answered prayer.