Always Pray and Never Lose Hope

September/October 20162016Esmall

Promises Regarding Answers to Prayer
Always Pray and Never Lose Hope

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NASB).

Paul Lagno

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God wants us to develop faith, hope, and love, but especially love (1 Corinthians 13), in order to fulfill His will for our complete sanctification.

The process of sanctification is only possible through a vital prayer life, continual communication with God in our hearts and minds and a desire to do His will. It is a process that consumes our entire consecrated lives. “In everything give thanks — this is the will of God … even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, 4:3).  If we do His will now and are made holy (sanctified), we will be rewarded with the privilege of blessing all the families of the earth.

Our life of consecration often begins with some remarkable manifestations of God’s love and profound answers to specific prayers.

As a very young believer in the ransom and restitution promises, I was working the night shift in the Emergency and Intensive Care units at a major hospital in central New Jersey. In the middle of the night I was called to the ER for a 13 year old girl who had taken a massive overdose in an attempt to end her life. She was not breathing, had no pulse, and was being resuscitated by the paramedics when she arrived. Through cardiac shock and IV drugs, the doctors would get her heart started for a time, but she went into cardiac arrest several times in the ER and Intensive Care before my shift was over. As the respiratory therapist, it was my job to manually breathe for this beautiful little girl whenever her heart stopped and CPR was being administered. All the while, looking into her eyes, my heart was overwhelmed with compassion for her and her family. I could not help but ask God repeatedly, with all my heart, to please let her live.

After numerous near death episodes, the doctors and nurses essentially gave up any hope for survival. Her heart stopped for long periods and, no doubt, even if she survived, she would have severe brain damage. When my shift ended, she was in a coma but her heart was finally stabilized. She was breathing with the help of a tube in her lungs and a mechanical respirator.

The next day, as I entered the ICU, I was astonished to see this young girl sitting up in bed with all the tubes removed, joking with the staff as if nothing had happened the night before! All of us who tried to save her were overjoyed at such an amazing recovery. I immediately told all the doctors and nurses of my intense prayers and even boldly said she was alive because of my prayers for her. I talked to the girl and her family telling them I prayed for a miracle, and God answered my prayers.

My newfound faith was strengthened by this experience and many other direct answers to prayer. In my immaturity as a Christian, I believed God would answer my prayers in a dramatic manner, and this greatly encouraged my growth in grace and knowledge. I asked God for a miracle and He answered my prayer. The miracle was not for me, but for someone who was suffering. But the miracle also benefited me, allowing me to boldly witness my newfound faith in the resurrection for all in due time.

As a mature believer, I would now pray differently and add “if it be your will.” However, I want to always have the same care and concern that worked in my heart on that night, so many years ago. We know Jesus had a compassionate heart and performed many miracles for people, foreshadowing the greater miracles of the Gospel and Millennial Ages. He said to us, “greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14 KJV). What could be greater than healing the sick or raising the dead that we can do now? In my experience with the young girl if I could have opened the blind eyes of her understanding, or her deaf ears of faith, it would have been a much greater miracle.

The mature Christian’s prayers are rarely for miracles of physical healing, but they are no less powerful. We ask “in faith, believing,” primarily for spiritual healing, understanding, strength, and wisdom for ourselves and others to come daily into closer harmony with His will for us.

Scriptures about Asking and Receiving. How do we Ask?

There are incredible promises given to us with the condition of the tiny word “IF.” IF we are doers of His word — not just hearers who delude themselves (James 1:22), the Lord will bless our doings.

Being a doer implies taking action. If we ask (action) … we receive. If we seek (action) … we find. If we knock (action) … a door of opportunity opens (Matthew 7:7,8).

An important aspect of prayer is the word believing (Strong’s 4100). It means “to affirm, have confidence — with the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord.” We can, through prayer and action, receive all things necessary to fulfill God’s will for us.

The apostle tells us he is persuaded mainly by two facts. “For I determined to know nothing among you except (1) Jesus Christ, and (2) Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NASB).

(1) Jesus Christ tasted death for all — all will have a resurrection because of his ransom sacrifice — all will have a full opportunity to live without evil governments or satanic influences to tempt them.

(2) The great Mediator (Jesus and the Church), through the crucifixion process (we are crucified with him, Matthew 16:24, Galatians 2:20), will bless all mankind. This sacrificial work will have taken place through the antitypical Day of Atonement sin offerings provided during the Gospel Age. The blessed of mankind who meet the conditions of obedience and character growth during Christ’s kingdom will live forever on a restored earth.

These two foundation principles of ransom and restitution are a mystery hidden from all others except those who make a complete consecration to do God’s will, and perhaps some close to them. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV).

If we truly believe, affirm, and are confident of these two facts, we will have the faith to “move mountains” in our lives, now, through the power of prayer and, in due time, the actual power necessary to effect the Kingdom of God on earth (Matthew 21:21-22).

We affirm our faith with the promise: “I can do all [good] things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB), by asking, seeking, and knocking — taking action.

With Confidence, Boldness — According to His Will

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). The challenge for every Christian is to ask “according to His will.” Because of our fallen condition this is not always possible. As a result, we should be willing to change our own desires and prayers as His will becomes clear. When our hearts are in such a condition, His answers are assured.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16).

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12 NIV).

“If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:21-22 NASB). To the best of our abilities our lives should be lived in accordance with the principles of God. We cannot live openly sinful lives and expect to have our prayers answered.

Yet — With Humility

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee” (Matthew 6:6 RV). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10 NASB).

What Do We Ask For?

● Holy Spirit. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

● Wisdom. “If anyone fall short in wisdom, he should ask God for it and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither refuses nor reproaches anyone. But he must ask in faith, without a doubt in his mind” (James 1:5-6 NEB).

● Prayer for Mercy and Help. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB).

These are incredible promises full of power, able to develop the character of Christ in us. But we can also “ask amiss.” asking with selfish motives and not moved by a desire to glorify God. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3 NASB). Selfish motives will always lead to personal conflict and problems in the church. Our requests should seek hearts full of forgiveness.

● Prayer for Forgiveness … two agreeing about anything? “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 NASB).

All of us owe a debt to God that we can never repay. But Jesus paid this debt for us by his death. We are justified and released from condemnation by faith, accepting God’s forgiveness for sin. An appreciation of our own forgiveness should then develop in us the same compassion (forgiving heart) that God and Jesus exemplify. This is the lesson of Matthew 18. Unless we learn to forgive and have the humility of little children, we cannot expect forgiveness for ourselves. Also, the exercise of mercy softens the heart.

Peter understood Jesus was talking about forgiveness when Jesus said, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:19-20 NAS).

Peter immediately responded to Jesus in verse 21, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus then gave his wonderful response. “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” In other words, there is no limit to forgiveness.

But what did Jesus mean when he said that when two agree on a matter it would be done for them by God? The answer likely refers back to verse 16. There, the Lord gave instructions on how to handle differences between brethren. When the two or three witnesses have agreed on the appropriate outcome, that decision is accepted by God as a conclusion of the matter. The same principle would be true if the matter were before the entire congregation. If either party chooses not to accept the conclusion of the witnesses, that indicates that they have not forgiven the other party. This then creates an unhealthy spiritual condition. Forgiveness is an essential goal of Matthew 18.

With Love For Friends and Enemies

The Word of God gives us admonitions to strengthen our love for ALL and to pray for them. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 KJV). What sort of prayer could be offered for those who despitefully use or persecute us? Possibly a prayer for the Lord to help soften their heart condition, or for the Lord to help them understand what we are saying or doing. A prayer of forgiveness would also be appropriate, knowing that their actions are likely influenced by worldly thinking.

“Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy … And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (Philippians 1:4,9). Here is a lovely sentiment when praying for others. Pray that the increased knowledge and understanding of God would help bring greater growth in love.

“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3). “Wherefore also we pray always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

The importance of praying for others is mentioned often by the Apostle Paul. Not only can such prayers be a blessing to them, but they can bring tremendous benefits to ourselves as they expand our sympathies and help us care for them.

Pastoral Advice Regarding Answers to Prayer

“We must search the Scriptures to know the will of the Lord, to know what he has promised and what he has not promised, to know what we may ask and what we may not ask for, and ascertaining these, the fully consecrated one will not want to be, to have or to do anything except that which will be pleasing to the Lord in respect to him — ‘Thy will, not mine be done, O Lord,” is his prayer. And when this position has been reached we can readily see that whatever would be asked by one thus well informed respecting the divine promises and fully submissive to the divine will, would be things which God would be well pleased to grant in answer to his requests” (R3663).

“The answer to our prayer is not always granted immediately; but after we have made sure that our requests are in accord with the promises, those things which lie very close to our hearts become our continual prayer, associating in our minds with all of life’s duties and interests, the heart gravitating continually toward the thing we have desired of the Lord, and on suitable opportunities repeating to Him the request” (R4983).

Our prayers as mature Christians are most frequently those of thanksgiving for our blessings, expressions of confidence and trust, and the committal of our way unto the Lord, confidently realizing the magnificent promise — “ALL THINGS work together FOR GOOD.”

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