PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
1 John 5:13–15
There’s a huge difference between the God of Scripture and all other so-called “gods.” When you study the ancient Eastern gods, you discover they were always angry and unable to be pleased. They are depicted as insistent and rarely benevolent. But the incomparable God of the Bible is not that way! Jesus taught that God is our Heavenly Father and He is filled with love and goodness. That is why the Lord God encourages His children to approach Him in faith and petition Him for all that we need through Christ Jesus:
Matthew 7:7‑8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
John 16:24 says, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
Jesus said in Mark 11:24, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
God wants us to petition Him. And He wants us to petition Him because, as our Heavenly Father, He wants to provide for our welfare. Never doubt that! Let me tell you something about the Bible’s promises. God offers blessing and promises, but we have to claim them. They aren’t going to leap from the golden edges of the Bible and into our lives just because we read them. We have to exercise faith and claim what God has promised. Let’s investigate this by examining the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus instructed His disciples to pray in the following manner: “Our Father, who art in Heaven . . . give us this day our daily bread.” He didn’t say, “Sell us this day our daily bread.” God’s blessings aren’t bought they’re sought. And the bread we need may be represented in many forms:
The bread you need could be literal food.
It could be physical healing. (You recall Jesus told the Canaanite woman that healing was the “children’s bread.”)
The bread you need could be a financial miracle.
Whatever it may be, our obligation is to ask that our Heavenly Father supply it.
(Transition) Since that’s true, how can we take authority to ask and receive from God? The first way is this: God grants us authority to ask when we Ask According to His will.
I. Authority to Ask is Granted as we Ask According to God’s Will
I John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (15) And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (NIV).
(Illustration) I heard about the little boy that prayed with mixed results. He said, “Dear God. Thank you for my baby brother, but what I asked for was a puppy!”
Always remember something about the Lord. He has a will about everything. That’s because He’s omniscient—He knows everything. But He’s not only omniscient, He is perfect in wisdom, and that means He knows what is best for us. And because God is good He only wants to answer prayers that work for His glory and our welfare.
Nobody on earth possesses unlimited knowledge. No human alive knows the end from the beginning. And since that’s so, we need to trust God and what His will is for us. We don’t always know what’s best for ourselves. We should be grateful that God hasn’t answered all our prayers because we haven’t always prayed with the perfect mind of God. Our lives would be catastrophic should God have granted our each and every whimsical request.
What if Jesus had answered James and John’s request to incinerate that Samaritan village? A lot of innocent people would have died! What if the early church had prayed for God to execute Saul of Tarsus while he was persecuting the Christians? A fourth of the New Testament would have been missing! You see, it’s a blessing when God disregards prayers that don’t comply with His wisdom. God didn’t design prayer as a mechanism to let us have our way. It isn’t a Genie we can rub to acquire our desires. God wants to bless, but what we think is a blessing could be disastrous!
This is why God wants us to take time in His presence before we utter hasty requests. God’s will can’t always be determined in quick a prayer meeting where we talk and He listens. There are occasions when it takes time to cleanse our heart from imperfect desires. And when you spend time in the presence of Jesus—worshiping Him and praising Him and thanking Him for His will to be done—He will purify your heart and plant His desires in you.
Listen how the Amplified Bible translates Matthew 7:7. Jesus said, “Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and the door will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking it will be opened.” God tells us to repeatedly ‘ask, seek, and knock’ because prayer is infused with a cleansing, sanctifying agent that purifies our heart from improper desires. If you have repeatedly prayed about something and don’t have peace, it’s probably because the request isn’t in God’s will. God want’s something different for you.
(Illustration) I know a pastor who wanted a new automobile, and he thought he knew exactly which one, so He started praying for it. He spent several weeks praying for that car but during the process of repeatedly seeking God, his heart and mind changed about getting that specific car. He told me that during his times of prayer the Holy Spirit showed him the vehicle he needed, so he began praying in compliance with God’s will. When he did, God blessed him with the car. Remember, repeatedly soaking your requests in the presence of God helps cleanse your heart from wrong desires and open you up to God’s will.
Guard Your Heart
How many here battle with your heart to keep it subjected to God’s will? Everybody does! Our heart can go astray at a moment’s notice. Your heart is the seat of your passions and emotions and desires. And it’s a battle to keep them bridled. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” Your heart is volatile. It’s not always tied to pragmatism and reason. That’s why we have to keep it submitted to Christ daily.
(Example) Let me illustrate it this way. Imagine yourself as a teenager. How many would admit to yourself that you thought you saw the perfect guy or girl? You saw that person and your heart jumped half way up your throat and you lost sleep and an appetite for weeks. Your thinking was so disoriented that it brought total disarray to life. The heart did that!
(Example) Have you ever looked at an automobile under the bright lights of a showroom? The sparkle of polished paint bounced off your optic nerve and dilated your pupils. Or maybe you shopped for a television and the one you liked was the 75-inch screen you couldn’t pass up. And without regard to financing or common sense, you decided it was yours! This is what the heart can do!
The heart can create instant chaos. So how do we keep our heart in check? One way is to pray as Jesus said pray. Again, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said we should pray for God’s will “to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When this phrase is read from the Greek it is rendered as a demand! It’s a forceful, commanding assertion that demands God’s will to be done. And there are times we must deal forcefully with ourselves and demand that our mind, heart, and flesh submit to Christ’s lordship.
(Transition) The next way God empowers us to petition Him with authority is, to ask with the right attitude.
II. Ask With The Right Attitude
Did you know that the Bible repeatedly connects receiving from God directly with maintaining a right attitude?
Matthew 7:9-12 (Notice: Jesus links love—“The Golden Rule”—with receiving from God.)
Mark 11:22-25 (Notice: Moving mountains and believing God for miracles is linked to forgiving others and maintaining a clean heart.)
James 4:2 says this. “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (3) When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (4) You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
Do you know why James called those people “adulterous”? Because they had joined themselves to a worldly way of thinking and acting; they were coveting, quarreling, and fighting—totally consumed with wrong attitudes. And that’s why God couldn’t answer their prayers.
I’m sure you remember the sufferings of Job. But do you remember when God turned his captivity and restored him to health? After all the accusations Job’s so-called “comforters” hurled at him, Job 42:10 says:
“The LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends, also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
The NIV puts it this way, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
The NASB version says, “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.”
God’s favor returned to Job when God saw that Job’s heart remained pure and he prayed for those that insulted him. A pure heart will empower your prayer life and attract God’s blessings. Let me show you what I mean:
(Bible Example) When you read the book of Revelation, you see John discloses some graphic pictures of Heaven. Whatever mayhem occurs on earth during the Tribulation, every portrait of Heaven discloses it as a place where there is rejoicing, peace, abundance, pleasures, and protection from all ill and evil.
The reason Heaven is a perfect place is because its citizens are completely righteous. Hearts are holy. Attitudes are right. Motives are pure. Every activity of heaven is in perfect harmony with God’s will. Revelation shows us that God rewards the “pure in heart” with eternal happiness. A pure heart attracts God’s blessings. Don’t ever forget: Prayer is inhibited and fails to secure answers when it’s uttered with bitterness and wrong attitudes.
I have a message that deals with Vanquishing of Fear. It shows how Christians can conquer the “fears” that inhibit their life. However, there are certain foes in life that we should fear: Christians should always guard against a “root of bitterness” or unforgiveness or anger that would dare to attach itself to their lives. We should maintain a “healthy” fear that would prevent any infectious and damning adversary to lodge in our soul and ruin our spiritual welfare.
God’s love should hold sway in our lives. And when it does, we are authorized to pray with power. When our heart is right we are deputized to approach God and expect answers!
(Transition) God empowers us to “Ask With Authority,” when we (1) ask in accordance with His Word and when we (2) ask with the right attitude, but (3) our “asking” is empowered with when we ask in faith. Expectation empowers your prayer!
III. Ask in Faith
Turn to Mark 11:22 and let’s read, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. (23) “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (24) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (NIV).
Always remember this about prayer: “Prayer touches the heart of God, but faith moves the hand of God.” The measure of faith we present to God when we pray makes the difference between passing and failing.
And there’s something more we should understand about the operation of faith for God’s provisions. God always has made advance provision for your need. This is why you can pray with expectation. You’re never going to catch God with a lack of resources. His supply is always limitless!
Most times, God won’t reveal the end result until we first take the step of faith. It’s like Abraham obeying God to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. There was no question in Abraham’s mind that Isaac would return from the mountain alive, even if God had to raise him from the dead. And nobody had been raised from the dead at that point in human history. Abraham had raised the knife and was ready to plunge it into Isaac when the angel interrupted the sacrifice. Abraham’s perfect faith had spared his son. And once he released his faith he turned around and saw what God had prepared in advance: It was a lamb caught in a bush! Abraham’s faith had passed the test and found the sacrificial lamb. Remember, God always has His provision for our needs prepared in advance. However, it takes faith to claim what He’s prepared. God wants us to believe Him even when there is no tangible evidence for what He has promised. And that’s just what Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The Bible says God has dealt every person here a “measure of faith.” Nobody is without it! You were given faith so you could ask with authority and receive answers to your prayer. What is it that you need today? Whatever it is, God has the answer, and you have the faith to claim that answer! You have Authority to Ask! Believe Him now.