HOW GOD ANSWERS PRAYER (Part 1 of 3)
By Dennis Coulter
A cowboy walks into a saloon and asks the bartender, “Sir, could I please have a glass of water?” The bartender eyes him for a minute. Then reaches under the bar, pulls out a Colt 45 and proceeds to fire a shot at the intruder, barely grazing his left ear. Stunned, the cowboy stares at the bartender for a few seconds, smiles, and says, “Thanks!” He then turns toward the door and walks out.
What happened here?
The cowboy made a simple request, but the bartender, having observed the cowboy’s condition didn’t give him his request. Rather, he gave him the desire of his heart, which was to cure his hiccups.
The Bible says that “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive“(Matthew. 21:22). The power in this promise is a true heart in full assurance of faith (Hebrews10:22). The key here is to make sure that the desire behind your request is a divine viewpoint desire. The point I’m going to make here is: God doesn’t always say, “Yes” to our request. Nope, more often than not, He fulfils the desire of our heart, if that desire is in accord with His plan for our life.
God Listens To Our Heart Not Merely Our Voice
The birth of Isaac:
God promised Abraham that He would make him the father of a great nation, and through that nation, the entire world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). That nation would be Israel, through whom God would deliver our Savior. In order to generate a nation Abraham must father a child, an heir, who would be able to propagate the family line. Right? Hold on to that thought.
In addition, God told him that “a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4). That’s pretty straight forward.
Having said that, God took Abraham outside, “and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars —if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). Now keep in mind that Abraham was already in his late seventies when this conversation took place.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. What God didn’t tell Abraham was that He was going to wait until he was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was 89 before conception would occur.
“Whooooh, dude! Are you serious?”
“Oh yeah, dead serious.”
Let’s continue. Later, like twenty something years later, Abraham began to doubt God’s promise (can you imagine?). Actually, he was getting desperate as was Sarah. I’m not even going to get into the Hagar incident, but if you are into “R” rated, you can read it for yourself in Genesis 16.
Having observed Abraham’s and Sarah’s behavior, God, at this point thought it might be prudent that He should intervene. So well, God, in His matchless grace came to Abraham to reassure him that He had not altered the Plan he had for his life (Genesis 15:1-6).
Let me paint you a picture of what transpired. Back on the ranch, at the age of 99, Abraham had begun to lose his footing, so to speak. It was like he was trying to cross a creek on slippery stones.
And then, God showed up (Genesis 17). I mean right there, in the form of an angel, God and Abraham, face to face. First, God reaffirmed His promise, “Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:1-8). Then God brought up a subject, well, being a man, I’d rather not dwell upon (Genesis 17:9-14). You can read it on your own if it floats your boat.
Genesis 17:16 But then, remember when I told you to “Hold that thought?” Check it out. God said, “Sarah … I will bless her and give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Bingo! There it is. Abraham and Sarah. Not his nephew, Eliezer, not his illegitimate son, Ishmael, but a child, born through the institution of marriage. (Please don’t get me wrong here. I would never down play the value of a life born out of wedlock; it’s just that God was very specific in this case, that the heir to Abraham’s dynasty would be the son of Abraham and Sarah). And, as we shall see, the birth of Israel will be as supernatural an event as the birth of Christ.
Genesis 17:17 Now, here’s where it gets weird: “ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”
He actually said that! “God, why don’t you just go with my idea, and make my illegitimate son my heir?” At this point, God began, in His infinite patience, to get very specific with Abraham.
Genesis 17:19 “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.”
I have always thought that this part was kind of cute. After the events of Genesis 17:9-14 were over (I know you read it), Yahweh (the LORD) came back. Why? To tell Abraham that, in about nine months, Sarah was going to give birth to a bouncing baby boy. So anyway, while Yahweh was speaking, “Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him. 11
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
(Genesis 18:12). You might be wondering what Sarah meant by “shall I have pleasure.” Listen, there’s only on way to conceive, unless you’re the Virgin Mary, so, if you don’t get it by now, then you’re not old enough to be reading this article.
And so it came to be, that about nine months later, Sarah had a son, and they named him, Isaac ,which means laughter. Don’t you just love God’s sense of humor?
So there it is. What did Abraham ask for; what was his request?
First, he asked that his nephew, Eliezer be his heir. God said , “No!”
Then he asked that his illegitimate son, Ishmael, be his heir. Again, God said , “No!” Sometimes our vision is just a little bit too narrow.
I’m almost done here, but, before I go, I want to leave you with something. How about Jesus? Jesus, God incarnate, the Son of Man! He was in the garden of Gethsemane. He was desperate. He did not want to go to the cross. Yet, when He prayed to God the Father, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:41-42).
Check the last phrase of His prayer, “Not My will, but Yours.” God the Father’s answer was simply this: “Not your will, but mine.” And Our Lord, Jesus, respectfully said, “OK.”
His request was that He avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. But, His desire was to do the will of His Father, which was to purchase our salvation on the cross.
Conclusion: Request denied; desire affirmed. As I used to say to my classroom,‘
“Yes, boys and girls, it’s just that easy.”
See also Paul’s dilemma:
The Thorn in the Flesh
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).