Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Certain Answer to Prayer

(The following lesson is taken from the writings of Steve Bray- “The Faith that Prays”)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matt. 7:7-8)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss. (Jam. 4:3)

Observe how Jesus uses words that mean almost the same thing. Notice also how He repeats the promise each time so distinctly: “It will be given to you,” “you will find,” and “it will be opened to you.” We can see through this emphatic repetition how He wants to impress this one great truth deeply on our minds: We can know that we will receive answers to our prayers when we ask correctly and persistently in dependent faith.

The fact that Jesus considered it necessary to repeat the truth in so many forms is a lesson of deep importance. He knows our hearts. He is fully aware of our natural doubt and distrust. Even when we obediently respond to His command to pray, He knows how easily we give up without a real expectation of receiving definite answers.

Christ had good reason for speaking so unconditionally. Be careful not to weaken His Word with your human wisdom. Believe what He says even when He speaks to you about heavenly truths that are hard to understand. The little child does not need to understand the reasoning behind the words of his parents, he only needs to believe. Your responsibility is to trust in your heavenly Father and believe He will keep His word.

If we do not receive an immediate response, we are not to give up in resignation without further thought. There may be something preventing Him from responding. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” (Jam. 4:3)

There is a need to seek out His guidance so we may pray in His will. We must learn to pray in harmony with the Son’s Spirit before we can know the answer will always come. It is far easier to give up without an answer than to permit our heart to be searched and purified by the Spirit. We must permit Him to remove the selfish desires from our heart. Some of these things are often hidden. And so we need to permit the Spirit to shine His light into our heart as we search for these hindrances. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Yes, there will be personal needs to bring before our Father in prayer. And we are expected to ask Him to supply our needs. But we must make sure that everything we are doing is for God’s glory. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31) Only as we are truly living for His honor and glory can we expect to be in a place where He will supply our needs through our prayers. “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things {the necessities of life} shall be added to you.” (Luke 12:31)

The Father is looking for children who will live in a proper relationship with Him so He may respond to their petitions. He wants a large family of children who will live through His Son and be a means for Him to be glorified by what they do in His name. In effect, the Father intends to display His life and works through Christ’s body in this world today in the same way He displayed His life and works through the Son’s mortal body. We therefore find Jesus saying, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) We come to realize that everything originates in the Father and comes to us through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus wants to bring His disciples—the members of His body—to the place where we can say with Him, “I do nothing of Myself… The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29) Jesus continued to explain how the Father was living through Him and doing the works. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:9-10)

The Father was glorified through the Son because the Father in heaven was the true source of everything the Son was doing. Similarly, if we will learn to walk by the Spirit and permit Him to direct our steps through life, we will learn what the Father has planned to do through our lives. We can then begin to pray in harmony with the Son and expect the Father to manifest His glory through us in the same way His glory was revealed through Jesus. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

There may be times when a prayer cannot be answered because it is not in harmony with God’s will. For example, Paul asked three times to have the thorn removed from him. (2 Cor. 12:7-9) Although the request was denied, he did receive an answer. God did not leave His servant in uncertainty as to His will. The gods of the heathen world are dumb and cannot speak. In contrast, our loving Father lets His children know when His will differs from their requests.

The yielded child withdraws his petition as the Son did in Gethsemane. Both Paul the servant and Christ the Son were informed by the Spirit that their requests were not in accordance with the Father’s will. However, if the burden of our prayer is known to be in harmony with the will of God, we need to be prepared to keep asking, seeking and knocking until the answer is received.

God will reveal His will by His Word and by His Spirit and by His providence when we have honestly looked to Him for help. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5) And we can expect Him to respond to our requests when we continually come to Him in faith with a yielded spirit. “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting… (Jam. 1:6)

We will need to learn to patiently wait on God. Our faith must have time to develop. God also needs time to prepare our hearts to receive the blessing. If we will continually adjust our steps according to His will, responding to the movements of His Spirit in faith, our persevering prayer will be answered.

Although certain prayers may be extended over days or weeks or even months, we should never put the prayer away until the answer comes, one way or the other. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who {persistently} knocks it will be opened.”

How deeply our hearts must be estranged from God that we should find it so difficult to accept such promises as being true! Let us not be content until the petitions we offer are carried to heaven on Jesus’ own words: “Ask, and it shall be given you.”

Learn this lesson well! Take Jesus at His word. Here is where faith must begin its work. Do not let your human reasonings weaken the force of God’s Word. Believe it just as Jesus spoke the truth. Faith in God grows as we fully yield to increasing light. And as faith grows, it will become much easier to understand the deeper meaning of these lessons. Let us now simply believe what He has stated.

We cannot overemphasize the importance of surrendering to God’s Word. If our faith proves to be true at this point, He will lead us into a prayer-life that will truly reflect His power and glory. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Path to a Sinless Life - The Secret

by Stella Paterson

The intensity of destruction in the earth, as seen in the recent horrors the Japanese have experienced, is rivaled only by the intensity of error being promoted by numerous folks who name the name of Christ. Some may ask how anything could be worse than complete towns being destroyed by an earthquake and the ensuing tsunami; not to mention the nuclear threat that exists, with the potential to sicken and kill millions.

The simple answer would show us that the destruction of the body is of much less importance than the deception of man's soul in the eternal scheme. For those who die in Christ Jesus, having true faith in Him, they go on for ever with Him. But for those without Him, death is something to be feared.

With the increase of earthquakes in divers places, as Jesus said, and the resulting catastrophic destruction, there is a temptation to focus on those things. Jesus our Lord and Savior said, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." (Luke 21:28) At the same time, the antichrist spirit has infiltrated the "church"--the institutional as well as those who have walked away from organized religion, or spectator christianity. When we look in horror at the destructive antichrist teachings, and the resulting spiritual destruction, we must not yield to the temptation to focus on that--as grievous as it is.

You ask, "What has this to do with a path to a sinless life?" The answer is "Everything." Let me explain, by first asking once again . . . [to full article]

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Alone With God

by Steve Bray

"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matt. 6:6)

Jesus provided His first public teaching to His gathered disciples in what is now called His Sermon on the Mount. There He explained to His followers about the Kingdom of God—its laws and its way of life.

In God’s kingdom we find that He is not only the divine Ruler, but He is also our Father. Jesus is trying to help us see the necessity of living as dependent little children—children who instinctively know that their parents are the source of everything they need. If we will depend on our heavenly Father in this same way, where we recognize the necessity of receiving everything from Him, we will gain access to the infinite resources of the kingdom of heaven. Let us keep in mind, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27) Through our communion with our heavenly Father, we will learn how He wants to be the source of everything we are and do. We will begin to see Him as the source of everything we need.

The Lord began by teaching His disciples to find a secret place for prayer. Every disciple needs to have some solitary spot where he can be alone with God. That spot can be anywhere. It can even change from day to day. But this secret place must be a quiet place. The pupil needs a place where he can quiet himself and listen for the still small voice of the Spirit. It is then that he will begin to come into a closer relationship with the Father.

In His first words about prayer, we find Jesus using the name “Father” three times: “Pray to the Father”; “Your Father will reward you”; “Your Father knows the things you have need of.” The first thing we do in secret-prayer is to meet with our loving Father. Each thought or petition needs to come from a simple, childlike trust in Him.

“Pray to your Father who is in the secret place.” We must meet with God. We need to come into open fellowship with Him. But God must hide Himself to the carnal man. Those who want to pray so that others will hear them and think highly of what they are doing are living too much in the flesh to truly meet with God. Jesus said that this is what the self-exalting Pharisees did. God will not permit this flesh-life to come into His presence. As long as our worship continues to rise out of a self-centered or self-exalting nature, we will be prevented from entering into God’s presence. But to the man who is willing to become nothing in himself so that God may be his “All in All,” and then waits for Him in secret, the Father will reveal Himself.

“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Here Jesus assures us that true prayer will inevitably be fruitful. The blessings we gain from our secret prayers will become evident in our lives. When we have truly begun to live through the Spirit, others will plainly see how God is an intimate part of our life. They will begin to see how God honors those who truly walk in the light. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:21) Although the prayer is in secret, He will “reward you openly.”

Jesus also said, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” At first sight it might appear as if it is not necessary to pray. Yes, God knows what we need far better than we do. But He still wants us to come before Him in dependent faith to express our need. But that does not mean we have complete freedom to have whatever we want. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14) We are to surrender ourselves to a Spirit-directed way of life so we may share with God in His desires and seek the fulfillment of His will in our lives.

Once we are living by the Spirit and can hear our Lord’s voice, we can then begin to ask according to His will. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice…” (John 10:27) As our Shepherd, He knows what we really need. And as we begin to see how He is leading us, we will know what we need to seek through our prayers. We will then have the wonderful confidence to say, “My Father knows this is something that is needed.” If there is any delay in the answer, we will learn to hold on in quiet perseverance. He always answers the prayers of His children when they are being led by the Spirit. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

To be alone in secret with the Father should become one of the highest joys for a Christian. This promise of the Father to openly reward your secret prayers should be both your motivation to pray and an inspiration to place all your hope in Him. He wants you to look to Him to be the source of everything you need. “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19) Continue to come to His throne of grace. That is your true source of hope. There is not one mountain too large for Him to move out of the way when you live by faith in Him.

Your Father knows the plans He has for you. He wants you to enter into these plans and begin looking to Him in faith to be the source of the power that actually carries out the work. Then you will learn to come to Him in prayer. This is what enables Him to reveal to the world how He works through His children of light.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jer. 29:11-12 NIV)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)