OBEYING AND PRAYING
- 1. One of the most significant verses in the
Bible on prayer is 1 John 3:22. John says, "And whatsoever we ask,
we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those
things that are pleasing in His sight."
- What an astounding statement! John says in so
many words, that everything he asked for he got. How many of us
can say this: "Whatsoever I ask I receive"? But John explains why
this was so, "Because we keep His commandments, and do those
things that are pleasing in His sight." In other words, the one
who expects God to do as he asks Him, must on his part DO WHATEVER
GOD BIDS HIM. If we give a listening ear to all God's commands to
us, He will give a listening ear to all our petitions to Him. If,
on the other hand, we turn a deaf ear to His precepts, He will be
likely to turn a deaf ear to our prayers. Here we find the secret
of much unanswered prayer. We are not listening to God's Word, and
therefore He is not listening to our petitions.
I was once speaking to a woman who had been a professed Christian,
but had given it all up. I asked her why she was not a Christian
still. She replied, because she did not believe the Bible. I asked
her why she did not believe the Bible.
"Because I have tried its promises and found them untrue."
"The promises about prayer."
"Which promises about prayer?"
"Does it not say in the Bible, 'Whatsoever ye ask believing ye
"It says something nearly like that."
"Well, I asked fully expecting to get and did not receive, so the
"Was the promise made to you?"
"Why, certainly, it is made to all Christians, is it not?"
"No, God carefully defines who the 'ye's' are, whose believing
prayers He agrees to answer."
I then turned her to 1_John 3:22, and read the description of
those whose prayers had power with God.
"Now," I said, "were you keeping His commandments and doing those
things which are pleasing in His sight?"
She frankly confessed that she was not, and soon came to see that
the real difficulty was not with God's promises, but with herself.
That is the difficulty with many an unanswered prayer to-day: the
one who offers it is not obedient.
If we would have power in prayer, we must be earnest students of
His Word to find out what His will regarding us is, and then
having found it, do it. One unconfessed act of disobedience on our
part will shut the ear of God against many petitions.
- 2. But this verse goes beyond the mere keeping
of God's commandments. John tells us that we must DO THOSE THINGS
THAT ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT.
- There are many things which it would be
pleasing to God for us to do which He has not specifically
commanded us. A true child is not content with merely doing those
things which his father specifically commands him to do. He
studies to know his father's will, and if he thinks that there is
any thing that he can do that would please his father, he does it
gladly, though his father has never given him any specific order
to do it. So it is with the true child of God. He does not ask
merely whether certain things are commanded or certain things
forbidden. He studies to know his Father's will in all things.
There are many Christians to-day who are doing things that are not
pleasing to God, and leaving undone things which would be pleasing
to God. When you speak to them about these things they will
confront you at once with the question, "Is there any command in
the Bible not to do this thing?" And if you cannot show them some
verse in which the matter in question is plainly forbidden, they
think they are under no obligation whatever to give it up; but a
true child of God does not demand a specific command. If we make
it our study to find out and to do the things which are pleasing
to God, He will make His study to do the things which are pleasing
to us. Here again we find the explanation of much unanswered
prayer: We are not making it the study of our lives to know what
would please our Father, and so our prayers are not answered.
Take as an illustration of questions that are constantly coming
up, the matter of theater going, dancing and the use of tobacco.
Many who are indulging in these things will ask you triumphantly
if you speak against them, "Does the Bible say, 'Thou shalt not go
to the theater'?" "Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not dance'?"
"Does the Bible say,'Thou shalt not smoke'?" That is not the
question. The question is, Is our heavenly Father well pleased
when He sees one of His children in the theater, at the dance, or
smoking? That is a question for each to decide for himself,
prayerfully, seeking light from the Holy Spirit. "Where is the
harm in these things?" many ask. It is aside from our purpose to
go into the general question, but beyond a doubt there is this
great harm in many a case; they rob our prayers of power.
- 3. Psalm 145:18 throws a great deal of light on
the question of how to pray: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that
call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth."
- That little expression "in truth" is worthy of
study. If you will take your concordance and go through the Bible,
you will find that this expression means "in reality," "in
sincerity." The prayer that God answers is the prayer that is
real, the prayer that asks for something that is sincerely
Much prayer is insincere. People ask for things which they do not
wish. Many a woman is praying for the conversion of her husband,
who does not really wish her husband to be converted. She thinks
that she does, but if she knew what would be involved in the
conversion of her husband, how it would necessitate an entire
revolution in his manner of doing business, and how consequently
it would reduce their income and make necessary an entire change
in their method of living, the real prayer of her heart would be,
if she were to be sincere with God:
"O God, do not convert my husband."
She does not wish his conversion at so great cost.
Many a church is praying for a revival that does not really desire
a revival. They think they do, for to their minds a revival means
an increase of membership, an increase of income, an increase of
reputation among the churches, but if they knew what a real
revival meant, what a searching of hearts on the part of professed
Christians would be involved, what a radical transformation of
individual, domestic and social life would be brought about, and
many other things that would come to pass if the Spirit of God was
poured out in reality and power; if all this were known, the real
cry of the church would be:
"O God, keep us from having a revival."
Many a minister is praying for the baptism with the Holy Spirit
who does not really desire it. He things he does, for the baptism
with the Spirit means to him new joy, new power in preaching the
Word, a wider reputation among men, a larger prominence in the
church of Christ. But if he understood what a baptism with the
Holy Spirit really involved, how for example it would necessarily
bring him into antagonism with the world, and with unspiritual
Christians, how it would cause his name to be "cast out as evil,"
how it might necessitate his leaving a good comfortable living and
going down to work in the slums, or even in some foreign land; if
he understood all this, his prayer quite likely would be--if he
were to express the real wish of his heart,--
"O God, save me from being baptized with the Holy Ghost."
But when we do come to the place where we really desire the
conversion of friends at any cost, really desire the outpouring of
the Holy Spirit whatever it may involve, really desire the baptism
with the Holy Ghost come what may, where we desire anything "in
truth" and then call upon God for it "in truth," God is going to