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What Does God Say When People Pray? (Part 11)
James 4:2 


"You do not have, because you do not ask God."

It was a nightmare Lt. Shane Osborn couldn't wake up from. After two "fly bys" the Chinese pilot hit the number 1 propeller and sheered off the nose cone of the EP-3E surveillance plane he was flying.

Immediately, the plane rolled 130 degrees and plunged 7500 feet. The sluggish EP-3E was almost inverted at this position, a maneuver usually reserved for smaller, more nimble aircraft. The noise in the aircraft was deafening, the vibrations unnerving, but the Naval officer took control of the situation and his aircraft.

At first, he thought he'd have to ditch the aircraft into the ocean, but after he gained control of the plane, he made at least 15 "mayday" distress calls, but no one answered. With limited options, he sat the plane down on Hainan.

When asked about the radio transmission, Osborn said, "I know we were transmitting. So I can't tell you what (the Chinese) heard and what they didn't because I wasn't in their tower." 

(Fresh Illustrations

Over the past few months, we've explored the question, "What does God say when people pray?" During that time we've discovered several answers God gives and that when we pray, He hears. Though we don't always have our prayers answered the way we want, we do know that God hears our distress calls.

In our study we learned that one way God answers our prayers is by saying yes.

Like with Elijah, who boldly asked God to intervene when he was faced with impossible odds and circumstances.

When Elijah prayed, He said YES! God honored his prayers, not just once, but on countless occasions. 

Or like Rhoda, who believed God would deliver Peter from jail in answer to the church's prayers. The adults didn't quite share her faith. They didn't believe her when she came to tell them that God delivered Peter from jail. They said Rhoda was crazy. But she insisted. They explained it away by saying it was an angel. But Peter kept knocking, so finally the adults went and opened the door and sure enough, it was Peter. 

From Rhoda and her prayer meeting, we learned that God does intervene when we pray, Even when we are slow of faith.

Or like Samson when he prayed for strength to fulfill his life's mission, God said, "yes."

With his hands on the support pilars of the temple, Samson prayed this prayer: "Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes." 

"Then Samson put his hands on the center pillars of the temple and pushed against them with all his might. [30] 'Let me die with the Philistines,' he prayed. And the temple crashed down on the Philistine leaders and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime." (Judges 16:28-30 NLT) Samson prayed, and God said "yes."

Or like our Lord when he prayed: "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."Luke 23:34 

I believe God delights in saying "yes" to our prayers. James wrote, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit" (James 5: 16b-18).

Sometimes God says, "Yes, but . . ."

The morning after the King threw Daniel into the Lions' Den he ran to it to see if Daniel survived: "And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Daniel 6:20 [KJV]

He had. God shut the mouth of the lions, He answered the prayer, but Daniel still had to spend a night sleeping with deadly beasts. Sometimes God says, you have to go to the Lions' Den, but I'll be with you when you do. He doesn't always take our problems away, but we don't have to go through them alone.

In the Model Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Jesus did not instruct us to pray, "Give me this day . . ." He taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."

There is a lesson here. Even the poorest among us should be concerned with the physical needs of others. My tendency when I have a need, is to focus on it, and neglect thinking about the needs of others. Knowing the carnal nature within me, and you, Our Lord taught us to be concerned with other people's needs as much as we are our own,

Sometimes he says "yes," and then uses us to answer our own prayer.

And sometimes God says "yes" to us, but we never know it.

Ruth died, knowing that God was faithful to her and that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." What she never knew, though, was the extent of God's blessing. 

She knew God's grace through Boaz as her kinsman redeemer, but would not know that the results of that union would produce a kin that would be the Redeemer of the world.

Luke 18:7 says, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" God will answer our prayers, but it doesn't tell us when, or if we will ever know the full results of those prayers.

And sometimes God says "no."

Why didn't God remove the thorn in his flesh? I know God cared for Paul. Paul wrote: "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope," (2 Thes. 2:16 NIV)

So why didn't God, who loved Paul give him what he asked for? Because, he had something better for him than a thornless flesh His grace! 

And remember that God even said "no" to Jesus. Persistently, Jesus prayed, " . . .if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." For over an hour, He agonized in the garden, pouring out His soul to His Father.

What happened? This time God said "no," I can't take this cup from you, but "yes" My will will be done. 

Now that we've studied the question, "What does God say when people pray?" I have another question I want to ask: "What does God say when people DON'T pray?"

Much of the emphasis on prayer in our church this year has resulted from my own desire to draw nearer to God and my own acknowledgment that my prayer life was lacking. Sometimes I preach sermons because I think you need to hear them, but most of the time it is because WE need to hear them.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote this to a friend, "Need a moving sermon on prayer? I can preach it. Need me to pray for you? I can clear my pastoral throat, put my hand on your shoulder and comfort you with eloquent words. Look me in the eye and ask me, 'How's your prayer life?' I'll put my hands in my pocket, shift my weight, look away and skillfully change the subject."

A stirring within me to know God more began last year while attending the Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference. In the stillness of the retreat, I heard God call to me.

I've learned a lot over the past few months as we've studied together, and I can honestly say my prayer life is deeper and richer because we've explored the scriptures together. Don't get me wrong, I'm not ready to pose for a picture to be the poster boy for prayer. But I'm learning, and I'm drawing nearer to Him. And prayer isn't a religious activity for me any more, it is the spiritual air I breathe.

What have you learned? How has it changed you?


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