I think prayer is a stumbling block for many Christians. I know it has been an exasperating experience for myself. How is praying for you? Is prayer sometimes maddening for you? One of our problems, which makes prayer a difficult situation, is we do not discern God’s answers to them. Another problem is, we do not know how to pray from God’s point of view. If we look, at the various and plentiful verses of Scripture, we learn God wants us to pray. The underlying theme of these prayer verses is yes! Yes, God says YES, to our honest, truthful, unselfish requests.
Why else would God say His house is a house of prayer? If God’s house is a house of prayer, it is a place for people to petition Him for help. If God wants us to petition Him for help, it stands to reason His response is YES! Nevertheless, what is our problem for always feeling He is saying, NO? Well, God has the prerogative, to say no, but Scripture teaches He wants to say yes. Maybe, we have been asking in a way, which is anathema to Him. Perhaps, we are the people James describes?
“You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3 NASB
I really don’t like thinking this way of myself, but the truth is, these sins are in all of us. We may not commit them in action, but in thought and emotion. Let us think about the way we pray or ask God for help. First, God made the way to allow us to ask. The prayer to God always starts through the acknowledgment of His Son, Jesus Christ. We only have permission to pray by the grace of God through Jesus. The mistake made, is thinking God hears us because of who we are. The only prayer God allows, because of who we are, is the prayer of the unbeliever to find Him. Many of these are foxhole prayers.
The children of Israel, being in a foxhole situation, in the desert without water to drink or feed their livestock, grumble with complaining demands to God for water.
“Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Exodus 17:1-6 NASB
This history lesson invokes a tremendous tutorial. Instead of going to Moses humbly, they went to Moses demandingly. Please, Moses, ask the Lord to provide water for us and our livestock. No, they demanded water! “Give us water that we may drink!”
Moses goes to God a little exasperated. God, who is merciful, hears the foxhole cries of Israel. The nature of God is to say yes to requests. However, He teaches Moses and Israel; a sacrifice is required before He grants their request.
“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” (See above quote)
The sacrifice before prayer, for Israel to receive water is, Moses must strike a rock. Why must he strike a rock? The rock is a figure of Christ, and the striking of it is the picture of Christ crucified for our sins.
“And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4 NASB
The striking of the rock opens the door for Israel to receive answers of yes from God. They receive water to drink. God allows this foxhole prayer with striking the rock only once. The children of Israel once again find themselves dry and thirsty in the desert. Did they learn their lesson and politely go and ask God? “May we please have some water?” No, again, they demand water with grumbling complaints.
“There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, ‘If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.’ Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them; and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.’” Numbers 20:2-8 NASB
God being merciful, once again, tries to teach Israel to pray by speaking to Him through Christ with respect. “Speak to the rock,” He says to Moses. Speak to it, don’t yell at it, don’t demand from it, don’t argue with it, politely make your request to it. Well, an irritated Moses could not handle the grumbling and complaining Israelites anymore. He disobeys God and strikes the rock again.
“Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.” Numbers 20:11 NASB
God’s grace gives the answer yes to water. However, He is not pleased with Moses and Aaron. This act excludes them from the promised land.
“But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’” Numbers 20:12 NASB
Therefore, God tells Moses, “No you cannot enter the land of promise.” Why, because he asked amiss! In front of a Holy God, you do not behave like a foolish child. Your answer, from God, will be a resounding no, to any such behavior before Him.
Now a secret to us all. Moses learned his lesson and finally, centuries later, enters the promised land. Jesus meets Moses on a high mountain in Israel.
“Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” Matthew 17:1-3 NASB
Notice the difference, Moses is not angrily demanding and striking the rock, Christ. He is calmly and respectfully speaking to Him. His prayer answer of no from God, became an answer of, YES! He through Christ receives a yes to prayer. He enters the promised land. Proper respect and etiquette are necessary before a Holy God! It is very shameful, how lightly we approach Him. Jesus wants us to pray and pray with the understanding, He will answer yes, to us.
“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 NASB
Maybe, the Golden Rule should be applied by us, in the way we approach God in prayer.
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NASB
You want God to respect you and your prayer requests, then give Him the respect and honor He deserves. After all, He is God, and we are not.
“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV
The conclusion, when you pray, Respect God!
Guy Calandra – Author – The Inside Word