There was a couple, a husband and wife, taking a walk in the woods when they chanced upon a well. Above the well was a sign which said, “Wishing Well”. On a whim, the wife decided to make a wish. She leaned over, threw a coin in the well, and silently made a wish. The husband, not wanting to be left out, decided to make a wish as well. But as he leaned over to toss in a coin, he accidentally slipped, fell into the well and drowned. The wife was shocked, but after a while, a smile spread over her face and she said, “Wow, this wishing well really works!”
This morning, I would like to talk about prayer. We do it very often in this college. Some of us believe in God and therefore in prayer. Some of us may take it like a wishing well, no harm in trying. I’d like to share some perspectives about prayer today.
The first thing about prayer is simply ask. The gospel of Matthew 7:7-11 says this, “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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Recently, I chanced upon a photo that was taken in 2012. It was during a family vacation to Japan, and we were in Tokyo Disneysea. While we were there, my daughter, Samantha, saw many teenage girls carrying this teddy bear (Shelly May) that was theme park specific (you could only find it there). She really wanted it. So we popped into one of the shops. I took a look at the price. And I baulked! It was really expensive. So I decided to get her a Shelly May keychain instead; that she could hang on her bag. When she received it, you could see the hint of disappointment on her face. For the rest of the day, while we were going to the rides, she would look wistfully at those who were carrying the large teddy bears. So towards the evening, I couldn’t take it, my heart went out to her and I decided to burn a hole in my wallet and get her the medium sized teddy bear. I think it was worth it; check out the smile on her face. She was positively beaming!
What am I trying to teach you about prayer? That God will give you whatever you wish? No! But I do want to tell you about God’s heart towards you. It is that of a Father who loves you and delights in your joy. Sometimes we have the wrong picture of God who sits up in heaven, folds His arms and is stern. My friends, God’s heart is for you. A note of caution: God is not a cosmic dispensing machine – insert prayer, receive request. Which leads me to the second point, trust.
The last verse of that which I previously read, Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Several evenings ago, when we were doing our family devotions before we put our children to bed, I asked my children a question, “Does God always answer our prayers?” – It was sort of a trick question – Without hesitation, they replied, “NO!” I said to them, “God ALWAYS answers our prayers – He does it in one of 3 ways…” Then they remembered and said, “Oh yah! He can say yes, He can say no, He can say later.”
God can say yes, this is good for you, this will meet your need. God can say no, I know this will harm you. God can say later, I know your need, you are not ready for it yet – “God, I pray for a boyfriend/girlfriend”! So trust in God. He knows best. He will provide what’s good for us as we pray to Him. And finally, my third point is share.
The epistle of James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
The implication is if our requests are selfish, God may not answer our prayers. The reverse is true. He delights in prayers that are not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others. If we are honest, we generally are well off, well provided for, secure. But there may be some in our midst who are in need. In our nation, and in the nations beyond our shores, there are great needs. And God may want to bless us, in order that we might in turn be a blessing and provide for the needs of others. So by all means ask God for wisdom, good grades, a good job. But that may be a platform by which God intends for you to do good and share.
Our recent short-lived cold weather meant that people who lived out on the streets were particularly affected. That sprung individuals such as Mr. Francis Ng (a restaurant owner who was highlighted in the Straits Times) and churches such as Aldersgate Methodist Church to provide blankets and warm clothings for them. It is in prayer that we ask of God for provision, not merely for our own needs, but that we might also provide for the needy in our society and our world.
Finally, I want you to imagine if Samantha, my daughter, only came to me when she wanted something from me. That wouldn’t be a proper relationship right? Sometimes, we treat God like that, only praying to Him when we have needs. But it delights me when Samantha comes to me and talks with me; it is when we spend time together that our relationship deepens. Similarly, prayer is a means by which we converse with God. He speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. Ultimately, that is what prayer is about.
[Let’s pray]: Heavenly Father, thank You that You know our needs before we do. Thank You that You are more than willing to give us what is good. Help us to come to You, trust in You and pray to You. Forgive us for only praying in times of need. We ask that we may know You better in prayer. In Jesus name, amen.