Faithlife Sermons

God Listens

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If communication is key for a relationship, then relationship will be the result of communication.
- may be different types of relationship based on the different types of communication.
- I speak to Christine differently than I do any other woman. There is a depth of communication that I share with her that I do not share with anyone else.
*Prayer is grounded in, motivated by, and results in your relationship with God.*
1 John 5:13–15 (ESV) — 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 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 Prerequisites to Prayer:

True Relationship

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, (Jesus) that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence. . .
Obviously, John is writing to believers.
Previous writing - Gospel - John was writing so that people would believe.
This letter John is writing to those who already believe - giving them assurance.
AND - connects John’s discussion about prayer to the purpose of his writing to believers.
So, first prerequisite is a relationship with God through Jesus — you who believe in the name of the Son of God.
Does this mean that God does NOT hear the prayer of the unbeliever? Yes and No
God is omniscient and therefore “hears” their prayerJesus taught to pray, “Our Father. . .”
If you are not God’s child, there is no relationship motivating the prayer.
If prayer was a communication that was simply transactional, then being a child of God or not being a child of God would make no difference. (Store clerk does not ask about my relationship, they simply take money and give goods)
ILLUST - Child randomly comes up to me and asks me to buy him new sneakers. We are going to assume that we know this child is not in real need of and without ability to have proper footwear. He asks for something he wants. What do I tell him? Go find your parents and ask them — IOW, Go find the one you are looking to to provide for you and ask them. (For the unbeliever God does the same). However, if this child is an orphan looks to me and asks to be my son or my daughter, then now the game has changed. I am compelled by me relationship to hear and answer. That first prayer establishes the relationship that precedes all other prayer.
If God answers the prayer of the unbeliever it is his grace to woo them into a relationship with him.
(Gospel Call) If you are here today and you cannot confidently say you are God’s child than the rest of what we have to talk about is not for you. But God wants it to be for YOU!

Proper Motivation

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
God is not obligated to answer any request I may possibly ask any more than I am obligated to give my child everything they could possibly ask for.
John often heard Jesus explain that this was his motivation and speak about doing the Father’s will:
John 6:38 (ESV) — 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
This is not referring to God’s secret will. Rather, it is speaking about God’s revealed will — those things we know it is in the heart to do.
When we pray for things in accordance with God’s will we can have confidence it will happen.
I imagine someone may say, “You are simply ‘hedging your prayer bets’ when you say God will only answer prayer according to his will so that if God should not answer my prayer, I can relegate it to not being a part of his will.”
Rather than claiming that we are somehow narrowing the scope of prayers God is able to answer, let me question the assumptions underlying the statement.
What I will do for a relationship is always determined by the bounds of what is good for the relationship.
ILLUST — Suppose I were to ask Christine to help me purchase a classic car that I could spend every evening and weekend working on. Despite the wise investment I may believe that to be, it would not be healthy for our relationship and I should not be surprised when my wife does not seem willing to do so.
Or if I ask Christine to take off with me to somewhere tropical where we will live for the next three years just the two of us. While I may think that is a marvelous idea, my wife, who is an excellent mother, would not be willing because my request would damage the relationship we have with our children.
I must understand the same thing when praying according to God’s will. He will do what is right and good for my relationship with him, and he will NOT do those things which will injure our relationship or the relationship of God to his children.
Hindrances to prayer:
God has stated he will not answer the prayers of those:
1) Who have personal and selfish motives.
James 4:3— 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
2) Who cherish iniquity in their hearts.
Psalm 66:18 (ESV) — 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
3) Who remain in sin.
Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) — 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
4) Who purposefully walk away from God.
Jeremiah 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.”
5) Who want nothing to do with God’s instruction.
Zechariah 7:11–13 (ESV) — 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. 13 “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts,
6) Who choose to ignore the poor.
Proverbs 21:13 (ESV) — 13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
7) Who are hypocritically religious.
Isaiah 1:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
8) Who worship idols.
God will not listen to the prayers of these people *listen* so long as they remain in that condition.
Maybe you feel as though God is not listening and answering your prayers and you find yourself in one of these categories.
As soon as you humble yourself, turn and repent of your sin, God will hear you.

The Purposes of Prayer:

To be heard by God

- Perhaps second only to the great truth that God Speaks is the truth that God Listens — this is a relationship!!!
“True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the throne of God. . . True prayer is not a mere mental exercise, nor a vocal performance, but it is deeper far than that—it is spiritual commerce with the Creator of heaven and earth.”
— Spurgeon, Charles. The Power of Prayer (p. 64). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.
not to inform God - he already knows
- “Your Father knows before you ask”
We don’t pray in order to inform God; we pray to be heard by God.
Do you need to be heard?
Story of Hagar the voiceless
Foreigner - Egyptian - looked different - accent
Futureless - given to Abraham to bear a child whether she wanted to or not.
A child born to a slave-girl could be regarded as the wife’s own child, if she had no children of her own.
Mistreated by the one in charge of her
Her “husband” doesn’t protect her
Genesis 16:6–11 (ESV) — 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction. . .
Genesis 16:13 (ESV) — 13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

To receive from God

James 4:2 (ESV) — 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
One of the purposes of prayer is to receive and so we should ask in faith that God can and will answer everything according to his will.
But, do we ask truly believe God can and will?
James 1:5–8 (ESV) — 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
God doesn’t mock us with His promises to answer prayer. C. H. 
Spurgeon said, 
“I cannot imagine any one of you tantalizing your child by exciting in him a desire that you did not intend to gratify. It were a very ungenerous thing to offer alms to the poor, and then when they hold out their hand for it, to mock their poverty with a denial. It were a cruel addition to the miseries of the sick if they were taken to the hospital and there left to die untended and uncared for. Where God leads you to pray, He means you to receive.”

The Results of Prayer:

An answer received

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.
There is certainly a confidence in this statement.
“We have” — this is a definitive statement of current possession. It’s not wishful thinking, i.e., “We know he hears us in whatever we ask, so we hope to receive the requests we have asked of him.”
How many believe God has answered a prayer for you?
How many have felt God did not answer your prayer?
The question is not, “Did God answer my prayer?”, but “How did God answer my prayer?”
Three options:
We praise God.
We believe it is evidence God is good.
Here’s the thing — The delivering of my desires does not establish the existence of God or His goodness.
“No” is just as legitimate of a response from a good God as “Yes” is.
What is usually our response when we believe God has not answered our prayer the way we wanted:
- He didn’t hear
- He doesn’t care
- He can’t change anything.
What do we end up doing?
- asking if we have sinned
- Giving up
- Begin bargaining (If I do this, God will do that)
Andrew Murray comments boldly, but I think rightly, on Christ’s pledge: 
“‘Ask and you shall receive; everyone that asks, receives.’ This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer. Hold on; let the Word and Spirit teach you to pray aright, but do not let go the confidence He seeks to waken: Everyone who asks receives. . . . Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore take the Master’s word in all simplicity. . . . Let us be- ware of weakening the Word with our human wisdom.”

A growing faith

that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask
There is both the confidence and the question, IF.
As we pray and see God’s answers, we grow in our faith that he will answer.
The first words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), acknowledge our dependence on God as a loving and wise Father and also recognize that he rules over all from his heavenly throne.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
In prayer our heart is tuned to the heart of God through both the “Yesses” and the “Nos”
- The proof of prayer is found in the practice of prayer.
An answer to prayer is a call to pray.
The Goal of Prayer:
- God’s glory
Do our prayers move the hand of God? Recognize this:
Prayer is less about moving the hand of God to obtain your desires and more about moving your heart so that God might BE your desire.
Psalm 116:1–2 (ESV) — 1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
Give testimony during last song (remember, some of you raised your hands that God had answered your prayers — Testify!)
Psalm 118:21–24 (ESV) — 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 22:22–24 (ESV) — 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
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