Today we’re continuing in our message series “Prayer That God Answers.” Let’s begin today by asking the question “What is prayer?” If you look up the definition online, the first definition is “a devout petition to God.” In other words, what most people think prayer is, is making requests to God. For many people, including many Christians, prayer is simply asking God for a laundry list of needs and wants that they have. The hope is that if they keep asking, God will answer at least a few of the things on their list.
What is the result for many people? For many people most requests never get answered. For them prayer becomes a frustrating experience. That is not what God intends for the believer.
In the past weeks, we’ve gone over some of the reasons that prayers aren’t answered. Today, we want to begin by looking again at one of the reasons why prayer isn’t answered.
1 John 5:14-15 (ESV) And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
The first thing these verses teach is that when we approach God in prayer with a request, He only hears us if we ask according to His will. What does it mean to ask according to His will? To ask according to God’s will is to simply ask for the things that God wants to happen. So, our prayer requests always fall into one of two categories. The first category are requests that aren’t according to God’s will, He doesn’t want them to happen. Those requests, God doesn’t even hear.
The second category of requests are those according to God’s will. He hears those requests and if He hears your request, that request will be answered in God’s time. Making requests of God in prayer is part of prayer, but it is not the main purpose of prayer.
The second definition of prayer is much closer to the main purpose of prayer, which defines prayer as “spiritual communion with God.” In other words, the Bible teaches that prayer is to be conversation with God, building a relationship with God, getting to know God and getting to know His will. Just think what your relationship with your spouse or a friend would be like if all you ever talked to them about was when you asked them for something.Wouldn’t be much of a relationship, would it. The same is true of God. To build a relationship requires two-way communication, both talking and listening.
Today, our message is entitled “How to Talk with God.” We going to learn how prayer can be a two-way conversation. When you get to know God better through conversing with Him, you get to know His will. Then your prayer requests will be according to His will and you’ll see many more answers. Jesus said in …
Revelation 3:20 (ESV) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
These words were spoken to lukewarm believers at the church of Laodicea whom Jesus was calling on to repent. It was as if they had locked Jesus out of their lives and prayers. Jesus was knocking on the door of their hearts, asking to be invited in to share a meal. A meal is a metaphor for fellowship, sharing one another’s company and conversation. Prayer is the way we invite Jesus into every area of our lives.
Today, we’re going to look at an example of conversing with God from the life of Abram. There are actually a number of other conversations of Abram and God recording in Scripture, but today, we have time for one from Genesis 15. The first principle we learn about conversing with God is that prayer begins with God speaking.
Genesis 15:1 (ESV) After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Abram had just defeated an alliance of kings who had captured his nephew Lot. God appeared and told Abram to not be afraid, for God would be both his protection and his reward. If we have ears to hear, prayer should always begin, not with our needs, but with a word from God. Either spoken directly to us by His Spirit and from the written word of God. God initiated this prayer conversation with Abram. And Abram engaged in the conversation by …
Genesis 15:2-3 (ESV) But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
Abram asks God a question, basically what are you going to give me? God had already given Abram a promise of offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth in Genesis 13. Abram was honestly expressing his doubts about what God had promised. He had no children, so how was God’s promise going to be fulfilled? Abram asked a question and then …
Genesis 15:4-5 (ESV) And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Remember that God is answering Abram’s question with regard to the promise of God. God wants you to understand His Word and His promises. He will not answer every question you may put to Him. In this case, God contradicts Abram’s statement that Eliezer would be his heir. God reiterates His promise that Abram will have a flesh and blood.
Then, God directs Abram to look at the stars and believe that his descendants would be as numerous. So, from then on, every night, when Abram would look up, he would see not just stars, but his descendants. God had answered Abram’s questions, what would Abram do? Abram chose to …
Genesis 15:6 (ESV) And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Abram chose to not disbelieve, but to believe God’s promise. If you continue to read the story in Genesis a son, Isaac, was born to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 21, when Abraham was 100 years old. Abram’s faith, it says here was credited to him as righteousness. What that means, according to Romans 4, is that Abram was saved through faith in God. Eventually, as God worked through Abram’s faith, the promise was fulfilled.
Now, let’s think about how Abram’s conversation with God can guide our prayer. It is so important to begin with God’s Word and God’s promises in our prayer life. What that does is to frame our prayers around God’s will, not our own. Remember that prayers prayed for your desires, not God’s will, are never answered.
Prayer is an opportunity to express your doubts and questions about God’s promise, so that God can answer you. As God answers and we choose to believe, our faith grows to receive the answer that God has for us.
This week, think over your prayer life and the requests that you make. Are you conversing with God or simply telling Him what you want Him to do? Are your requests based on promises in God’s Word or simply what you want? Begin to pattern your prayer life over the pattern of Abram that we’ve seen today. As you do, your requests will more and more line up with God’s will and you will see more and more answers to your prayers. Now, let’s learn some more about conversing with God from Abram.
Genesis 15:7 (ESV) And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
This is the second promise that God had made to Abram. Not only would he have a son with many descendants, these descendants would have a land in which to live. Now, there were other people living in the land, so something big would have to happen in order for Abram to take possession of the land. So, God here reiterates the promise of a land, that He had first promised to Abram in Genesis 12. Again, Abram had some doubts and needed to …
Genesis 15:8 (ESV) But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
Notice that here and in verse two of the previous conversation, Abram addressed God as Sovereign Lord. Abram understood God’s power and was definitely demonstrating the fear of the Lord. Yet, Abram wanted some proof, some evidence that the land which was inhabited by other nations, would in fact be the land of his descendants. So, Abram asked a simply question, how could he know that the land would be his. In this case, God did not immediately address Abram’s question. God gave Abram some instructions and Abram chose to …
Genesis 15:9-10 (ESV) He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.
God commanded Abram to bring Him some animals to use as a sacrifice. Abram got the animals, cut them in two in preparation to sacrifice them to the Lord in worship. So, when Abram was conversing with God in prayer, God gave him commands to carry out. Prayer is not about God obeying our requests, but of us following His directions. Even as Abram obeyed God in preparing the sacrifice, he had to …
Genesis 15:11-12 (ESV) And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.
Throughout the Bible, birds are symbolic of evil or demonic spirits. Here literal birds of prey attempted to eat the sacrifice. So, Abram had to stay vigilant and drive them away to preserve the sacrifice. At the end of the day, Abram was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. During that sleep he …
Genesis 15:17-18 (ESV) When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
The smoking firepot and blazing torch represented God, who passed between the pieces of the sacrifice to make a covenant with Abram. Generally, when two parties made a covenant in ancient times, both parties would walk between the pieces of an animal sacrifice. In so doing, they were taking a solemn oath that if they did not keep the terms of the covenant, they would perish as the dead animals had. In this case, only God passed through the pieces of the sacrifice, indicating that God Himself would make sure that Abram’s descendants would inherit the land.
Now, this inheritance would not come in Abram’s lifetime. In fact, in verses 13-16, God revealed to Abram that the nation of Israel would be in bondage as slaves in a foreign country for 400 years (Egypt) before they would come into their own land. So, God answered Abram’s doubts and questions about the land for his descendants by making a solemn covenant with Abram.
So, now let’s apply the principles from this second part of Abram’s conversation with God to our prayer life. Again, our prayers should begin with the Word of God. Practically, in your daily quiet time, you should read God’s Word and ask Him what He’s saying to you, before your time of prayer. Every time you read God’s Word, you should find a promise or something else to apply to your life as you are listening to God speak.
I might add here, that when you are Spirit baptized and regularly pray in the Spirit, your ability to hear God speak will dramatically increase. Ask God any questions you may have about what He’s said to you. Be ready for God to give you some further commands to obey. Obeying God’s direction may not be easy. You may have to battle some opposition to God’s plan for any of a variety of sources. Finally, God will be with you to fulfill His promise to you as you persevere in prayer and faith.
Today, we’ve looked at just one example from Abram’s life of conversational prayer. Prayer that consists of both listening to God and talking to God. Conversing with God is the way that you get to build your relationship with God. As you get to know God better, you will better understand His will for your life. When you understand God’s will for your life, you’ll be able to ask God for things that are according to His will. As you persevere in those prayers, God will always answer them. As He answers them, your faith will grow to believe God for even greater things.