Here is an excerpt from day 15 of When God Speaks, being featured on Lisa Lickel's blog
ANSWERS TO PRAYER
Today’s verse is one that most people, who have walked through a church door know, but don’t necessarily understand.
Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find: knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew7:7
Some people think of God as the divine Santa Claus granting their wishes. They come to Him with a long list of their wants—a nice car, a big house, a new job, a better salary and so on. Others don’t believe God is interested in their lives and they shouldn’t bother to ask Him for anything except when they’re in trouble or when someone dies. Both extremes miss the idea of what prayer is about. God wants us to pray in this manner
Ask—according to His will, not ours. “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”(1 John 5:14). But how can we, in our limited understanding know the will of God? As we spend time with Him in prayer and read His word, we will come to know the heart of God and His will. How do we ask? Jesus tells us, “Ask in my name” John 16:23. What do we ask for? We can ask for God’s protection, His provision, guidance, strength and wisdom. But asking is only the first step. Next we are directed to:
Seek—to discover. Be actively involved in searching the topic of prayer. In the New Testament, Jesus gave us guidelines when He prayed the “Our Father.” Each phrase represents a certain topic. The prayer begins with praise to the Father, then moves to petition for our daily needs, to confession of sins, to forgiveness of others, and affirmation of God’s position on the throne. If we use this as our guideline when we pray, we will receive a fuller understanding of the role of prayer as communication. We also need to search the scriptures for the many verses about prayer and use them during our quiet time with God. Another way to gain insights is to read books about prayer that broaden your understanding. However, seeking is not enough, we also need to:
Knock—on God’s door. When a person goes to a friend’s home, they first need the right address. When they get there, they knock (beginning of change) on the door, believing their friend will answer if she is home. The same goes for prayer. Knocking gets God’s attention. When He hears it, He draws near to heaven’s gate. Now, we need to knock in such a way that God will answer. Have faith. He is always home, so keep on knocking. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Sometimes God asks us to persist in prayer and not give up. I’ve prayed for many years about my marriage and my career, and it has paid off.
The first year my husband and I moved to Vermont, I had a good job teaching art. Then I got pregnant and gave up my position to stay home with my precious son. For years I wanted to get back into teaching art, but we moved to an area where there were many artists looking for jobs. I decided to work in a Christian school as a resource room teacher and taught art on the side. I then worked at a college and several public schools, but I continued to pray for a job teaching art. One day I got a call from a director asking me to interview for an art teacher position with special needs children. I went and was hired. God opened the door after many years of my knocking.
But in order to know the right door to knock on, we need to listen to God. Prayer is communication between God and man, so we need to be willing to listen. God speaks to us in His still small voice, through His Word and in the circumstances of our lives. It’s important to listen after we pray and read the Word. Then we will be able to hear God’s answer.
Answer—God always answers our prayers, but we don’t always recognize it. Sometimes He says, “yes,” other times “no,” and more often “wait, it’s not time yet” as in the example above. Now and then His answers come wrapped in a different package than we expected. For years I thought God wanted my husband and I to have a ministry helping people with troubled marriages. While living in Vermont, we thought we would start a retreat center, but that never happened. Instead, we learned a lot about overcoming problems in our own marriage through experience! I hadn’t bargained on that. Now I am able to minister to women in difficult marriages in a different way than I originally thought. God is creative in the way He answers our prayers.
Whether you’ve had a thousand prayers answered or not, I encourage you to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Timothy 5:17). Keep your heart and mind lifted heavenward in all you do. Your answer is awaiting you on the other side of the door or just beyond the gate. Just remember, it might look a little more unusual than you originally thought.
Praise Your name, O Lord. You are indeed Almighty and on the throne in all situations. Teach me how to pray according to Your will. Let me have Your mind in my prayer life, and not just a list of what I want. At the same time, help me not to shy away from approaching You with my needs. Keep me in touch with your heart and listen to the cry of my heart. Thank You for hearing me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Keeping a prayer journal is a great idea to encourage your prayer time. On each day, write down one thing to pray about. For example, Monday pray for family needs, marriage, children etc. Track whether you have received an answer—remember there are three choices: yes, no or wait. Add prayers to your list, as you feel appropriate.
Night Time Reflection
He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel, shall neither slumber or sleep. Psalm 121: 3-4
Do you sometimes feel like your prayers are bouncing off heaven’s gates, posted with a “Do Not Disturb” sign? If so, be reassured that God is watchful of everything, but like a parent He doesn’t always interfere. There are lessons we need to learn without God directly intervening. However, He is watching. Like a Father, He cheers for us on the sidelines.