Sermon: How to Pray
Scripture: Matthew 6:5-8
In this week’s lessons, we learn three great principles of prayer, and how we can pray with confidence.
Theme: Praying with Confidence
One of the greatest verses on prayer in the Bible is 1 John 3:22, which says “And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” This is a remarkable statement and totally in keeping with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. John says that his prayers are always answered and that he has full confidence that they will always continue to be answered. It is so remarkable that we cannot help but ask, “John, how can you make such a statement? Our prayers are not always answered (or don’t seem to be answered). And yet you say that you always receive the things you are seeking.” “Well,” John says, “just read the verse more carefully. I say that I receive the things that I request, but I also say why. It is because I keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. Do you do that? If you do, then you too will receive the things you ask for.”
I have already referred to Dr. Reuben A. Torrey once in this study, but I would like to do so once more by referring to a story from his writings. During his first pastorate there was a woman who attended his church often but who was not a member. When he asked her about this fact she replied that she was not a member simply because she did not believe the Bible. Torrey said, “Why do you not believe the Bible?” She answered, “Because I have tried its promises and found them untrue.” Torrey asked her to give one promise that she had found to be untrue. She said, “The promise that says that whatever things you desire when you pray, believe that you shall receive them and you shall have them. Once my husband was very ill. I prayed for his recovery and I fully believed that God would heal him, but he died. Isn’t it true that this promise failed?”
Torrey said, “No, not at all.”
“But doesn’t it say that you shall receive whatever you ask for if you believe it?” Torrey agreed that it said something like that. (It said, “Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”) But he said, “You first have to ask yourself if you are one of the ‘ye’s.’” She didn’t know what he was talking about, so he asked again, “Are you one of the people to whom the promise is made?”
“Why,” she said, “Isn’t it made to every professing Christian?” Torrey said, “Certainly not! God defines very clearly in His Word just to whom His promises to answer prayer are made.” She said, “It does?” And when she asked to see it he then took her to this last verse we have been studying: “Whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight.” The prayers that God answers are made by those believers in Jesus Christ who keep His commandments and do those things that please Him. Torrey said, “Those are the ‘ye’s.’ Do you keep His commandments?” The woman then admitted that she did not. And she came back to God and eventually became one of the most active and useful members of his congregation.
I believe that there are thousands of Christian men and women just like this woman. It is unfortunate, but it need not be true of anyone. Are you one of the “ye’s”? Are you one who knows God’s Word, who seeks to keep His commandments and who tries to please Him? If you are, then you may pray with great confidence to God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.
According to 1 John 3:22, what is the key to praying with confidence?
In Torrey’s illustration, what mistake did the woman make about her understanding of God’s promises in Scripture?
Reflection: Is there any area in your life that is not as it ought to be? Repent of this, and begin to pray with confidence once again.
Key Point: Are you one who knows God’s Word, who seeks to keep His commandments and who tries to please Him? If you are, then you may pray with great confidence to God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit.