Below is a sample chapter of my new book, Spirit-Filled Truth. You can preorder your copy today!

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“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

Our world is broken; and its fractured state is evident to us all. Almost everyday, through different news outlets and social media posts, we can see the world continue to fall more and more apart. In all this brokenness it can become very easy to doubt if God is hearing any of our prayers. We hear of the Newtown elementary school shooting, the Aurora movie theater massacre, or destructive forces of tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunami’s throughout the world, and think, “God, are you out there? Why would you let this happen? Are you even listening when we pray?”

How many of us have been praying for our family members to become Christians or our church splits to be healed, but it seems like God is doing nothing?

Knowing your luck, during church this past Sunday, you probably heard a testimony of someone who prayed for a new job, house, and some extra money to go on a missions trip to Africa, and God miraculously provided them with everything they needed. And now they are teaching your Sunday School class about prayer and God’s faithfulness.

My goodness, if that’s not the last thing you need to hear I don’t know what is, right?

If you are anything like me, there are times when I am sitting at my breakfast table doing my morning devotions and when I begin to pray I feel like the only thing that can hear me is my bowl of cereal. I close my eyes and begin to talk to God, but I am not sure if what I am feeling is the presence of the Holy Spirit or the dinner I ate the night before. After about two minutes I realize that I prayed for almost everyone I can think of, so I begin to ask God for some different things; but because I am asking for things, I feel selfish. I know that Jesus taught his disciples to ask and they shall receive, but that seems way too much like a prosperity gospel message. So I will usually repent of my selfishness and idolatry, even though I don’t think I’m struggling with those sins, and eventually my prayer settles down and there comes a point when I’m not quite sure what else to pray for. So I slowly transition to thanking God for everything he has done in my life and finish with an uncertain, “Amen.”

Does this sound familiar? 

Doubt and Fear

There is a spirit of doubt creeping into our churches today faster than we could imagine. We’ve believed the lie from Satan that God either doesn’t want to listen to our prayers or that he can’t hear them in the first place. We have fallen into the trap of believing that if we ask for something and it doesn’t happen, God is denying us. Or, we have convinced ourselves that we are not worthy enough for God to hear our prayers—that our prayers are falling on def ears because we are not righteous enough.

It’s one of Satan’s greatest goals to convince the children of God that our Father wants nothing to do with us. He want’s us to believe the lie that we are unworthy of our Father’s time and energy. But this isn’t true.

Charles Spurgeon, once wrote:

“Jesus hears your thoughts and attends to all your needs in the same moment. There is no need to press to get at Him because the crowd is large, for he is as near to me as He is to you, and as near to you as to believers all over the world. He is present everywhere, and all His beloved may talk with Him. You can tell Him at this moment the sorrows that you dare not open up to anyone else. In declaring them to Him, you will feel that you have hardly breathed them into the air before He has heard you.”

How many of us believe this? Personally, it is almost a daily struggle to remind myself that I am worthy, that God is listening, and that he cares.

Divine Access

Jesus taught his followers that the access he had to the Father is the same access we have to him. Let me say that again, just in case you missed it.

The access that Jesus Christ, the son of God, had to God the Father is the same access we have to him—no matter what!

When Jesus spoke, God was listening. When Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray, his heavenly Father heard his prayers. When Jesus left his disciples early in the morning so he could be alone and pray, his Father would hear his prayers and meet him where he was at. When Jesus sweat like drops of blood in while praying in the garden of Gethsemane, his Father was right by his side.

This type of intimate relationship and access to God the Father has also been given to us. We can confidently know that God hears our prayers because he heard the prayers of our Savior. As the famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “The child asks of the Father whom he knows. Thus, the essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”

How many of us live and pray as if we have that type of access to the Father? How many of us approach prayer as a requirement rather than a wonderful opportunity? How many of us are too scared to pray for the things that matter most to us because we are afraid that God will reject them, or say no to them, or give up on praying for something only after a few times because we don’t think we are getting anywhere with God?

“Teach Us How to Pray”

In Luke 11:1-5, Jesus just finished spending a few minutes away from the craziness of life and his ministry. He needed some time alone to pray and think by himself, which was a common occurrence throughout his life. After a little while, when he finished praying, one of his disciples approached him and asked him a simple yet honest question:

“Can you teach us how to pray like you, Lord?”

This young disciple was eager to pray like Jesus. He knew there was something different about how Jesus prayed and he wanted to be a part of it. So Jesus taught him what has been famously named “The Lord’s Prayer,” which is theologically rich outline of how God has designed for us to pray to him.

After Jesus teaches this young man and the rest of his disciples how to pray, he does something very interesting. He tells a quick parable about the importance of persistence in prayer. He tells a story of a man who needed the help and support of a close friend and through the persistence of the man in need, his friend obliges and gives him what he desires.

We can read this parable here:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:5-8; NIV)

After telling this story, Jesus continues to teach:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

Why does Jesus say this? Why does he go to the effort of teaching his disciples about the necessity for persistence in prayer after he teaches them how to pray?

Because he knew they needed to hear it.

Jesus knew that it wouldn’t be long before doubt would creep into their minds on whether or not God was listening to their prayers. Many of his disciples would eventually be placed into difficult and hard circumstances. Some of them would be murdered for their belief in Jesus, while others would be disowned by those closest to them. Some would go through financial struggles and imprisonment, while others would lose their friends and family. And in all of their struggles and pain, Jesus knew they would need something to hold on to. They would need to know and be reminded that their heavenly Father would be listening to their prayers. They needed to be comforted by the truth that God would never cease to hear them when they cried out to him, even when their circumstances in life were terrible. Jesus taught them this truth because when push came to shove, his followers needed to trust in the fact that God would hear their prayers no matter what.

We Need Encouragement, Too.

We are just like disciples who followed Jesus in that we need to be reminded that God is always listening to our prayers. We need to be reminded over and over again that God is sovereign, knows everything, and hears us when we pray to him. He has orchestrated a way for us to communicate with him through the power of his Holy Spirit and he wants us to confidently believe that he is always listening.

In verse 9 of the above passage, Jesus encourages his disciples to ask, seek, and knock. If we were to look at these three verbs in the Greek language (the language the New Testament was written in), we would see two key points. First, these three verbs are imperative commands, which means that Jesus is not merely suggesting that we ask, seek, and knock, but he is graciously commanding us to do so. He is not suggesting that we talk about praying and think about doing it. But he is commanding us with authority and love. Second, these are present verbs, meaning, Jesus is teaching his followers that they need to presently and constantly ask, seek, and knock upon the heart of God.

Therefore, a more correct translation of these verbs could be that we should constantly and persistently be asking, be seeking, and be knocking. This means that we should be asking our Father for what we desire, constantly. We should be seeking our Father’s will, constantly. And we should be knocking on the door to his presence, constantly.

Much like in the “Parable of the Persistent Widow” in Luke 18, Jesus teaches his followers to constantly petition the Lord for the things they desire. He wants to teach the children of God to petition and plead with him on a daily basis, no matter the circumstances that arise.

J.I. Packer writes, “The Father is always accessible to His children, and is never too preoccupied to listen to what they have to say. This is the basis of Christian prayer.”

Don’t believe the lie from Satan that God doesn’t want hear your prayers. Don’t fall into the trap of praying small prayers with a small faith because you believe God has his earplugs in. That’s not true at all.

In his fantastic book Too Busy Not to Pray, Bill Hybels discusses how Christians should confidently approach God in prayer. He says, “We are God’s adopted sons and daughters, Jesus’ brothers and sisters. We are in God’s family, and we matter to him. So don’t tiptoe into God’s presence, trying to find the secret of attracting his attention. Just say, ‘Hello, Father,’ and know that he loves to hear your voice.”

No prayer is too big or too small for him to hear. No child is ever ignored by a good and loving father. God’s answers to our prayers may not always be what we desire, but we can confidently know that he is always listening and is sympathetic to what we pray.

Conclusion

Be asking, be seeking, be knocking and don’t ever stop until God says so. I want to encourage you. Spend some time away from the busyness of you day, block out 15 minutes, and walk into the presence of our Father. Go into your bedroom, closet, office, car, or wherever you can and say, “Hello, Father.” Petition him. Ask him. Cry out for him. He is waiting to hear your voice.