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God Knows Your Needs

Lisa Barry: All this week in recognition of the National Day of Prayer, Elisabeth Elliot has been doing a special series on prayer. So far, we have learned that answered prayer doesn't always mean "yes" and that if we want to make prayer a priority, we need to make it a habit. There are many specific things that God wants us to pray about, but did you know that there are things He doesn't want us to pray about? Elisabeth reveals what those things are on this Wednesday edition of Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says, "and underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend, Elisabeth Elliot, talking again today about "The Power of Prayer."

I want to read to you from Luke chapter 11, verses 9 to 13. "I say to you: 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 asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

Verse ten says, "everyone who asks receives," but let's remember that we don't always receive what we thought we needed. God gives you what God knows you need. He who seeks, finds. To him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Our Heavenly Father's ear is always open. But we can't necessarily feel Him, can we? I can remember our parents trying to explain to us that we can't see God and we can't feel God, but we know that He's there. He is always there with us. And if you feel as though God is a million miles away and you are no longer in touch with Him, just remember that He is closer to you than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.

Elizabeth Goudge's definition of prayer is, "The ceaseless offering up of the whole personality--every thought, every word, every action as a sacrifice."

In the Book of Daniel chapter 9, verse 18 we read, "We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy." Daniel is speaking directly to God there. "We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy." And the Lord certainly has great mercy and compassion for all of us.

The Bible tells us that He remembers that we dust and we can come to Him in spite of all our fears and all our worries and we don't need to prepare ourselves greatly in advance. In fact there have been many times in my life when I have sent up to God an insistent prayer, an instant prayer. "O Lord, help me." "Lord help me to answer this question." "Lord, help me to find my way in the jungle." "Lord, show me how to raise my little daughter, Valerie."

Now, there are some things that we ought not to pray about. We come to the Lord of the Universe. He is our Maker. As one of the great hymns of the faith says, "Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise."

He is my Father, and so we are to come unto Him as a child--utterly dependent, ignorant, expecting, not knowing what the answer is going to be. We should certainly be willing to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done." His kingdom and His will make not look like what we really were praying for, but our petitions have to start where we are. God already knows what we are going to ask and He tells us, nevertheless, to ask.

In confession, which is a part of prayer, we need to pray "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We need to confess and to be forgiven as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

And that word intercession, what does it mean? The laying down of one's life for another. We do not know what to ask. It is interesting that in the Old Testament Aaron bore the names of the people on his breastplate. Intercession is not a game or sport. There are no experts in prayer. Prayer is work. It's concentration. It's even at times very irksome. And as C.S. Lewis says, "We are reluctant to begin and delighted to finish."

Reluctant to begin and delighted to finish. How easily can you be distracted from a novel or a TV? Not very easily. But from prayer, very easily indeed. C.S. Lewis quotes from someone, unknown author, "Many a Christian prays faintly lest God might really hear him, which he never intended." I love that, that's so much like us, isn't it? "Many a Christian prays faintly lest God might really hear him, which he never intended."

Many things which ought to be a delight, such as prayer, have to be duties. Love your neighbor. Do those things for which we were created. Behave as if you loved God and your neighbor.

What are the impediments to prayer? Well, obviously sin, evil in ourselves, a lack of love. And someone has said, "The worse one is praying, the longer one's prayers take. But we are still only at school."

Now, I just wanted to put in here something about what not to pray about. One of them is moods. Because I do believe that we have control over our moods. We don't need to blame it on God if we are moody and feeling down in the dumps. We can simply choose to be grateful, to be thoughtful, to be kind. And when it comes to matters of unequivocal obedience, we don't need to pray about those--we just need to do them.

Now, I don't know what your list is, the raw material from which God wants to produce in you the fruits of the Spirit. God knows exactly what each one of us needs and I would say all of us would probably think of love as the very beginning. Love versus unlove, joy, patience, peace.

God loves to hear us pray. He wants us like little children to come to His knee and ask. But we don't by any means necessarily get the thing that we wanted. But we are allowed and we are encouraged to pray and to make requests.

Sometimes those requests are granted and sometimes they are not. We might, for example, ask for a neighbor to feed our cat. A kind neighbor may be very happy to do that, another one may not. We might ask for a raise in pay. You may get it, you may not. A man may be agonizing right now about a woman that he should marry. Ask God. Don't hesitate to ask Him.

In C.S. Lewis' Letters to Malcolm, he writes this about the state of the mind, "which desperate desire working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in a Christian sense." I'll read that again. "The state of mind which desperate desire, working on a strong imagination can manufacture is not faith in a Christian sense. It is a feat of psychological gymnastics."

He must refer to a degree or kind of faith which most believers never experience. A far inferior degree is, "I hope, acceptable to God." I love C.S. Lewis. He's so clear, so blunt at times and he opens up vistas of things that most of us have never even thought about.

Now, I have a little list of "Why does God say, 'No'?" You may have a much longer list or a shorter list. A similar one perhaps:

  1. God says no for the sake of other people. Christ prayed that the cup might pass from Him, but for the sake of you and me, God said no.
  2. Paul asked for the removal of the thorn which was bothering him and God's answer was no. When God's glory was among His people, Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan.
  3. Another reason why God may say no is that He has something better. An egg instead of a scorpion. You can look that up in Luke 11:12.
  4. Another reason why God says no is because we are harboring sin. We need to get that cleared up.
  5. We are not asking in His name; we are thinking about our own glory and nothing to do with God's will or God's glory.
  6. And let's remember that frequently God says no for reasons of His own which we need not know.

Will you trust Him? Even when He says no? God bless you.

Lisa Barry: We've all heard people say, "She just won't take no for an answer." And while that may be commended in certain situations, it's not advisable when it comes to God's guidance. If there is a situation in your life where you've been unwilling to take no for an answer, I pray you'll find the strength to lay that on the altar before God.

After you have done that, then I'd like to recommend that you read a book Elisabeth has written called God's Guidance. It's a book that will help you get the big picture for what God's plans are for you and the rest of the world. This is a book that will help you put your life and your circumstances in the proper eternal perspective and that's half the battle.

We are making God's Guidance available today for a suggested donation of $10.00 when you contact us and request it. Our toll-free number 1-800-759-4JOY. You can call anytime, day or night. We also have today's program available on tape. It's part of a series called "The Power of Prayer." Ask about it when you call 1-800-759-4569. If you prefer to write, our postal address is:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, NE 68501. We'd also like to invite you to dial up our Web site at gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible and is supported by the generous gifts of people like you. Thank you for the investment you are making in the spiritual maturity of the women in your area.

Tomorrow, Elisabeth will have a very special guest in the studio to talk about prayer. It's Shirley Dobson. So make it a point to join us next time for another Gateway To Joy.

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