Why should we pray? Does God even hear us? What does ‘ask and you shall receive’ actually mean? These are questions that many of us have wondered about as Christians.
Pastor Jeff Vines wants us to take a closer look at Matthew Chapter 7 and the importance of prayer. Jeff wants to give us a fresh look at these verses, and the significance they hold for us in being able to talk openly and honestly with Jesus.
Jeff says that our prayers reveal a lot about us, and it’s important that we remember what Jesus had to say about prayer. If we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, then God himself is speaking to us about prayer. And prayer is a mysterious, powerful and frustrating thing.
“Most of us have a lot of questions about prayer, like why do some get answered and some not?” says Jeff. “And why is it that God allows some pretty atrocious things to happen on planet Earth while His people are praying for the alternative? Sometimes when we’re praying, it’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home. That’s what pastors never want to talk about.”
Jeff believes that prayers are a beautiful, powerful thing. But when God speaks to us about prayer there is some unresolved tension in the text. In Matthew 7, we’re asked to imagine what would happen if our neighbour didn’t respond when we were in need. What would we do? We need help, but our neighbour doesn’t even turn the light on.
“If you keep knocking and you keep persisting,” Jeff says, “your neighbour is going to get up and give you what you want. Not because he likes you, and not because you’re his friend. Sheer persistence will wear him down.”
So the tension is this, is God like a cranky neighbour? Do we go to His door of heaven and knock and He acts like he’s asleep? Is that what God is like? Jeff says to understand what’s happening in the text, we need to compare our human actions against what God would do.
“What Jesus is saying is, if you go to your neighbour in the middle of the night, everything’s against you,” says Jeff. “Yet in our human experience, if we want something badly enough, we go and persistently ask. If we would do that with our neighbour, what would we do with God?”
But some of us have been persisting for a long time and things don’t seem to be changing. That’s when we have to start listening for all the things God has already done. However there are just as many times we pour our heart out in prayer and it seems to go unanswered. Sometimes the miracle comes down. Other times we wonder, are you listening God?
“Jesus says to ask and keep on asking,” says Jeff. “But why do we have to keep asking? I mean, does God just want me us squirm? We persist because we cannot see what will happen in the days to come.”
If you have ever felt the joy of giving, purge it of all selfishness, intensify it a thousand times and extend it through all eternity. Only then will you get a glimmer of the self-giving, joy-filled love of the Father. More than you want your prayers answered, God longs to give wonderful things to His children.
“Whatever you do, don’t stop praying,” says Jeff. “God is not reluctant to give you good things. The tension is that He often seems reluctant. The resolution? You have to start seeing God as your father.”