“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. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11
This passage is my next stop on my red-letter journey (just reading the words of Jesus). I had committed to read only scripture and nothing else except my concordance. I do this several times a year. I love other’s words but I love The Word the most! Some days, I just hug it to my chest and cry because it’s life to me. The first time I did this was when I was pregnant with my 2nd child.
I was not able to have children. I was miraculously healed as I sat by myself with the Word in my living room. (That’s a story for another day.) After my first child was born, I had two miscarriages and I have to admit that it threw me for a loop. Didn’t God fix my body? Why was I having miscarriages? Did He renege on His promise? Did He change His mind? Did He change?
A few years later, I sat down to read my Bible. I had recently finished a book about generational curses and had seen some things in it that spoke to me which I had committed to prayer. When I opened my Bible, a promise calendar I had received in the mail fell out so I decided to read the promise for that day. It was from 2 Samuel 22:20-22.
“He also brought me forth into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
“The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
At that moment, it really didn’t mean anything to me. Later that day, I went to the doctor because I had been feeling flu-ish for a while. I was completely shocked when the doctor told me I was pregnant. Now normally, I would have been afraid because of the previous two pregnancies but instead, I felt a sweet peace and that verse echoed through my mind and I felt sure that God was promising me this child.
At about 8 weeks, I started to spot as I had the previous two pregnancies and the doctor informed me that my placenta was detaching and there was nothing they could do. I saw it on the sonogram. If it continued, I would lose the baby. Again, that verse echoed through my mind and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
At about 14 weeks, we traveled to Illinois to attend a Campus Pastor’s retreat. The second day there, I started to bleed heavily and passed a clot the size of a small saucer. My husband rushed me to the nearest medical center. They informed me that I was having a miscarriage, and transferrered me to the nearest hospital about 30 miles away. I refused to let the ambulance leave until my husband retrieved my Bible from the car where I had left it when we arrived at the emergency room. All the way to the hospital, I hugged 2 Samuel 22 to my chest and reminded God of what He had said to me. At the hospital, I received the same diagnosis from the gynecologist who saw me. There was no heartbeat and too much blood. Then something just rose up in me and I sat up on the bed, looked that doctor right in the eye, stuck my finger in his face and said, “I don’t care what you say. God promised me this baby and I’m having it when it’s due!” And then I laid back down. Well the doctor didn’t quite know what to think (and frankly, neither did I because I didn’t see that coming at all! It just came out!) He ordered an internal sonogram to take a look and prove to me that he was right in his diagnosis before committing me to the nearest mental facility. He came to my room afterwards with a puzzled look on his face. “You did not lose the baby. It’s just a really active one. It’s literally bouncing off the walls, going from side to side. That is why we couldn’t find a heartbeat. Furthermore, your placenta is perfectly attached and there is no scar tissue or any signs of bleeding. I really don’t understand this.” Needless to say, my second daughter was the only one of my four children that was born on her due date just as I had said and just as God had promised. When she was born, I sent a birth announcement and a letter with the plan of salvation to the doctor.
Not every story turns out this well though, does it? Not all of my stories have. And if you’re like me, you might ask the Lord “Why?” It seems that there is a disconnect somewhere because this scripture and many others clearly promise that if you ask, seek and knock, believe, and ask according to His will, you will receive what you’re asking, seeking and knocking for. So what is missing? Did something get missed in the translation?
This is where the rubber hits the road in the Christian life, isn’t it? When things happen that seem to us contrary to what the Word says and we have no explanation. When we pray and pray for something good and it doesn’t come to pass. Well meaning people might just tell us that God is sovereign, everything happens for a reason and He knows best, and just to trust Him. That sounds so noble and there is some truth in that, but after so many times of repeating this mantra, a subtle distrust, an underlying suspicion of God will develop. The scripture above tells me that I should be delighted when God answers my prayers but I shouldn’t be surprised. I believe God really meant what He said in the A-S-K guarantee and is just looking to show Himself strong, to show off a little, just for me. He’s looking to delight me, as a good father does.
And here lies the dilemma. Sometimes what God says doesn’t happen for me. It might happen for others, but sometimes it doesn’t happen for me. So instead of just letting it go and setting myself up for it to happen again, I want to know why. Obviously, the problem lies with me. I want to know why because I believe that God meant what He said and that He is perfectly capable and wanting to prove Himself to me, and His Word trustworthy.
To glibbly say that God is sovereign just doesn’t cut it for me. If God’s sovereignty means that God is going to do what God is going to do, then what is the purpose of prayer? Why is there so much instruction in the Word concerning prayer if our prayers are not going to make a difference? Sometimes our prayer experiences make God look more schizophrenic than like the good father mentioned in the passage above. The distrust that builds causes us to neglect prayer or to quit praying altogether. Except when we’re in church. Or someone asks us to pray. Or we are desperate. Oh, we would never admit it out loud. It sounds too blasphemous. We just let life bowl us over instead of causing us to ask hard questions in search of the truth. And God gets lost or mis-represented in the shuffle.
Asking, seeking and knocking prayer is not some form of spiritual exercise to keep us busy. It’s not just some religious thing that we do because God tells us to. And it certainly was never meant to be an exercise in taking a shot in the dark! He has purpose in it and there is power in it, if we do it His way!
God does not hear every prayer. Uh oh, I think I probably just kicked someone’s sacred cow. But it’s true. If our hearts are not right before God and others, He will not hear our prayers. If we are not born again, if we have unforgiveness towards someone, if we are mistreating others, God will not hear or listen to our prayers. This is step one. If this describes you, stop right here and make it right, whatever it is or your prayers will not be heard or answered by God.
Step 2: Remember Honi? Remember how he was criticized for putting a demand on God? Remember how God answered and even adjusted His answer to meet Honi’s demands? Could it be that Honi was not being a spoiled brat but was actually acting in great faith? Isn’t it faith that moves the heart and hand of God? Jesus couldn’t resist faith. He never denied a faith-filled request-not once. What is faith? What does it look like in prayer? Is it simply an acknowledgement that God exists or does it go much deeper than that? How are faith and prayer related? Could it be that prayer takes faith and faith puts a demand on God? Could it be that prayer is more than just asking God for something, but actually expecting that because He is good and keeps His Word that He will give us what we asked for?
We may never understand everything about how prayer works in the Kingdom of God until we are living in the age to come. Still, there is plenty that the Bible says can happen, should happen, and that happened in past history that is not happening in my life. If God is no respector of persons, then that tells me that it's possible in my life as well. It seems to me that there is alot of prayer going on in the world and very little happening that we can see. I don't believe that prayer was meant solely to be an exercise in waiting, or patience, or blind trust. I think prayer is for the purpose of seeing results, of seeing God's Kingdom on earth as it was intended when Christ brought it here. This is what turns the head of the skeptical, unbelieving sinner.
Now I know that by now, your religious alarm bells may be going off! Oh no! Not that name it-claim it, blab it-grab it faith stuff! But just hang with me! If we want to have God's power in prayer, then we better understand God’s rules of prayer. We had better understand what scripture really says about prayer. Try reading the red letters and doing them! Go ahead! Experiment. Even if it makes you step out of your comfort zone! (Swimming upstream is never easy!) Wrestle with the parts that are hard or are not your experience. Be willing to take responsibility when the fault lies with you and make adjustments. If these red letters are not a reality, ask God why? Don’t we want to have all that Jesus bled and died for us to have? Don’t we want to live in the power and blessing of the Kingdom of God that was ushered in with the coming of Christ? I don’t want one drop of His precious blood to be wasted on my ignorance. I don't want the Holy Spirit to be inactive in my prayer life. If there is power available for me to live and see God’s power in my life and the lives of others, I want it! Don't you?
Step 3: Faith-our part in the prayer process. This is our next stop on this red-letter journey.
Below: My little miracle baby today!