No Asterisks

This past Christmas I was quite surprised to receive a package in the mail. It was something I ordered as a Christmas gift for my wife. 

Sort of. 

It was actually half of what I thought I ordered. I went back online and discovered some “fine print” that I hadn’t really noticed earlier. 

You’ve probably experienced that too—asterisksfine print … footnotes … hidden fees … “limits and exclusions may apply” are all so frustrating!

Unfortunately, we get so used to these things that we begin to—consciously or subconsciously—plug them into places where they don’t actually belong. So even when Jesus Himself says something that sounds wonderful like, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20), we want to insert an asterisk. 

Or when He says, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14), we think we’re supposed to ask, “What’s the catch?” 

Christians are inserting asterisks where they don’t belong and, as a result, are praying timid prayers. 

Why do we pray this way? Perhaps we are…

  1. …fearful of being too bold. But in telling us how to pray, Jesus says God rewards our bold “shameless persistence” in prayer. 

I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. (Luke 11:8-9 AMP) 

  1. …unsure that God hears us, cares for us, or even wants to answer us. But the Bible is quite clear that all of these things are true: He hears us, cares for us, and does want to give us what He has promised (1 John 5:14-15; Romans 8:32; Romans 4:20-21).  
  1. …ignorant of what/how to pray. T.M. Moore reminds us, “God has given us three great helps to assist us in our prayers. His Spirit groans for us; His Word guides us; and His Son governs and intercedes for us.” 
  1. …not looking for God’s answer. David said that after praying, he expectantly watched for God’s answer (Psalm 5:3). Indeed, the Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” 

“He is the God of limitless resources—the only limit comes from us. Our requests, our thoughts, and our prayers are too small, and our expectations are too low. God is trying to raise our vision to a higher level, call us to have greater expectations, and thereby bring us to greater appropriation. Shall we continue living in a way that mocks His will and denies His Word?” —A.B. Simpson 

Why are you hesitating to ask God for even a tiny amount when such vast resources are available? What would happen if you started to pray more boldly? What if you began to make mountain-moving requests? I dare you to try! 

Stop looking for the asterisks and start taking God at His word!

Join me next week as we continue our series on Boldly Praying, looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible.

4 Thoughts To Help Prayer Become A Daily Habit

ImportunityI have shared several strategies about prayer throughout January (you can read them here, here, here, and here). One danger in putting these steps into practice in our life in what I call one-and-done. We do it once and think we’ve done all we need to do.

Scientists tell us at a minimum it takes 21 days in a row to make a habit. Jesus went even farther than that in talking about prayer in Matthew 7:7. When we look at the three aspects of the verbs ask, seek, and knock in this verse, it would be better stated like this—

You need to keep on asking, and keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. This is not good advice or a helpful suggestion, but it is vital for your spiritual life. So after you have asked, sought, and knocked, then do it again, and again, and again.

Matthew Henry said it this way: “Here is a precept in three words to the same purport, Ask, Seek, Knock; that is, in one word, ‘Pray; pray often; pray with sincerity and seriousness; pray, and pray again; make conscience of prayer, and be constant in it; make a business of prayer, and be earnest in it.’”

In the English language the dictionary has a word for this: importunity = being urgent and persistent, sometimes annoyingly so!

I believe importunity requires these four characteristics:

  1. Trust. Remember Jesus taught us to pray Our Father. We have to come to Him again and again and again trusting that He loves us, that He alone is the Source of our help, and that He wants to help us (Matthew 6:8). We also have to trust that our Father wants to give us the very best (Matthew 7:7-11).
  2. Perseverance. I love the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-5. This determined lady kept coming back again and again. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is, that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
  3. Creativity. One of my favorite New Testament stories is about a mother who is not only as persistent as the widow in Luke 18, but she is creative in her prayer as well (Mark 7:24-30). This lady bantered with Jesus in a way that I believe caused Christ to throw back His head and laugh! This is not bargaining with God, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “Repetition in intercessory importunity is not bargaining, but the joyous insistence of prayer.”
  4. Action. Paul was looking for an open door to preach the Gospel, but he didn’t sit still while he waited for God to say “yes” (Acts 16:6-10).

Keep these in mind as you make importunity a key part of your prayer life. And check out the full video of my message on importunity in prayer here—

Importunity

Praying HandsImportunity is not a word that pops up in everyday conversation, but the concept permeates Scripture. Check out these words from Jesus—

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is a friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:8, NIV)

Boldness here in the NIV is translated IMPORTUNITY in the King James Version. It’s the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament, and it is used in context to prayer (see vv. 1-4). The English and Greek dictionaries both agree on the definition of importunity…

…urgent, shameless asking, sometimes to the point of being annoying!

This is how Jesus tells us to pray.

Notice Jesus said the friend responded not out of friendship, but because of the importunate attitude.

God responds to our importunity as well (vv. 9-10). He responds not as an annoyed friend and not even as a loving earthly father (vv. 11-12). Friends and fathers have moods and they have limits—Our God has no limit on His love nor on His supply!

He will give him as much as he needs … Ask and it will be given to you… How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (vv. 8, 9, 13).

“Our giving depends much on the state of our minds at the moment. When depressed, we have no pleasure in giving; we either refuse, or we give merely to get quit of the applicant. Darkness of mind shrivels us up, makes us selfish, neglectful of others. When full of joy, giving seems our element—our joy overflows in this way; we cannot help giving; we delight in applications; we seek opportunities of giving. So with the blessed God. Being altogether happy, His delight is to give; His perfect blessedness flows out in giving. We can never come wrongly to such an infinitely happy Being.” —Horatius Bonar (emphasis added)

May the Holy Spirit help us to be importunate in our prayer today, for you can never come wrongly—nor too often—to such a happy, loving, generous Father!

11 More Quotes From “Not Knowing Where”

Not Knowing WhereHere are even more quotes from Oswald Chambers in his book Not Knowing Where, using the life of Abraham as the basis for a great study of our lives of faith. You can read my review of this book by clicking here, and you can see other quotes by clicking here and here.

“By means of intercession we understand more and more the way God solves the problems produced in our minds by the conflict of actual facts and our real faith in God. … Repetition in intercessory importunity is not bargaining, but the joyous insistence of prayer.” 

“If I cannot see God in others, it is because He is not in me. If I get on my moral high horse and say it is they who are wrong, I become that last of all spiritual iniquities, a suspicious person, a spiritual devil dressed up as a Christian. Beware of mistaking suspicion for discernment, it is the biggest misunderstanding that ever twisted Christian humility into Pharisaism. When I see in others things that are not of God, it is because the Spirit of God has revealed to me my own meanness and badness; when I am put right with God on the basis of His Redemption and see those things in others, it is in order that God may restore them through my intercession.”

“The tendency to do instead of to devote oneself to God, is nearly always the sign of a smudged purity of relationship to God.” 

“The error is putting prudence in competition with God’s will, weighing pros and cons before God when He has spoken. Always beware when you want other people to commend the decision you have made, because it is an indication that you have trusted your wits instead of worshiping God. … We have to watch that we use our wits to assist us in worshiping God and caring out His will, not in carrying out our own will and then asking God very piously to bless the concoction. Put communion with God on the throne and then ask God to direct your common sense to choose according to His will. Worship first and wits after.”

“We have to be careful lest we blind ourselves by putting up our own standards instead of looking at the standard God puts up. If we put a saint up as a standard, we blind ourselves to ourselves; it is personal vanity makes us do it. When we put God’s standard up, viz., Himself, there is no room for personal vanity.”

“The grace of God makes us honest with ourselves.”

“Always beware when you are perfectly certain you are right, so certain that you do not dream of asking God’s counsel.”

“Sanctification is not something our Lord does in me; sanctification is Himself in me.”

“The majority of us know nothing about waiting, we don’t wait, we endure. Waiting means that we go on in the perfect certainty of God’s goodness—no dumps or fear.”

“Your anxiety proves that you do not believe in the goodness of God an atom, and it postpones the time of His performance.”

“God’s ways turn man’s thinking upside down.” 

Charles Spurgeon On Prayer

C.H. SpurgeonSome great quotes from Charles Spurgeon on prayer…

“We are not to tolerate for a minute the ghastly and grievous thought that God will not answer prayer. History, as manifested in Christ Jesus, demands it.” —Charles Spurgeon

“Be pleased to visit your Church with the Holy Spirit. Renew the day of Pentecost in our midst, and in the midst of all gatherings of Your people, may there come the downfall of the holy fire, the uprising of the heavenly wind. May matters that are now slow and dead become quick and full of life, and may the Lord Jesus Christ be exalted in the midst of His church which is His fullness—‘the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.’ May multitudes be converted; may they come flocking to Christ with holy eagerness to find in Him a refuge as the doves fly to their dovecotes.” —Charles Spurgeon

“Lord, educate us for a higher life, and let that life be begun here. May we be always in the school, always disciples, and when we are out in the world may we be trying to put into practice what we have learned at Jesus’ feet.” —Charles Spurgeon

“Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time.” —Charles Spurgeon

“If I neglect prayer for never so short a time, I lose all the spirituality to which I had attained; if I draw no fresh supplies from heaven, the old corn in my granary is soon consumed by the famine which rages in my soul.” ―Charles Spurgeon

“Sins creep from their lurking places when the darkness reigns; I must myself mount the watch-tower, and watch unto prayer.” ―Charles Spurgeon

“If you would reach to something higher than ordinary groveling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.” ―Charles Spurgeon

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