John 14:14 - You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
"Petitionary prayer is a good thing. Jesus told us to ask Him for whatever we want" (p 25). But ...? I think this chapter answers that 'but'. :)
We're given an example of the persistent widow - you know the story that Christ told, the widow who keeps petitioning the judge until he finally gives her what she wants? And Jesus says, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? ... " But all over the world we see sincere people, people we'd describe as godly or holy, constantly pleading with God but receiving no response! Why?!
"Does praying make any real difference in what happens?" (p.28)
What's the point of asking, you may wonder, if we never seem to get a response?? Then Dr. Crabb reminds us of the words of James 1:6-8 - "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."
So how can anyone expect to receive what they ask for? Who on earth always has utter and complete confidence??
Then in Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells us that even a little amount of faith (the size of a mustard see) will move mountains! Doesn't that show that it's not about complete confidence?
"Don't many of us have at least the bare minimum? Then why are so many mountains in our lives still sitting in the same spot? It isn't that we haven't prayed, and with at least some faith." (p. 29)
We are shown one more verse, this one from the Old Testament: "How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land" (Jeremiah 3:19).
Says Dr. Crabb: "What's stopping Him? Maybe there's a problem with the way we pray. Or maybe it's the way we don't pray. Consider this: we do a lot more asking of God than relating to God. ... Here's a second thought, and it's revolutionary: maybe petitionary prayer is supposed to come after relational prayer" (p, 29).
Dr. Crabb gives a personal story of a trip to NYC with his son (who was about 8 at the time). They were playing a little game of hide-and-seek in Central Park when suddenly the boy thought he'd lost his dad forever! When he saw his dad he wanted to stay close to him and keep his eyes on him at all times. Dr. Crabb says maybe our prayers need to be like that - nestled up close to Him, our eyes always on Him. Or, as Pastor Kasey said in his sermon yesterday morning (November 8, 2015), like a small child cuddled up in His lap, content and comforted.
"The great need of people in the church today, and perhaps in your life, is to better relate to God. And the best way for all of us to do that is to find a plan for our time of prayer that draws us near to God for the sheer joy of encounter before we ask Him for a thing" (p. 31).
The sheer joy of encounter! Where has that joy gone? When did monotony and lifeless, hopeless prayer replace that joy?!
"We'll never understand petitionary prayer until we learn to practice relational prayer ..." (p. 31).
So, this is about relational prayer! Build relationship with God before you ask for things. This relationship is foundational to petition. "Unless we become as little children who approach our heavenly Papa just to be near Him, something in our hearts will keep us confused and frustrated when we ask God for what we want" (p. 31, emphasis mine).
We can restore our relationship pith God to what it should be.
Larry Crabb speaks of petitionary prayer as a privilege that comes from relationship with God.
"Relational prayer is the centre of all true prayer. The power of petitionary prayer depends on the centrality of relational prayer" (p. 32).
"If you abide in my, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." John 15:7-8 What does this mean? When you have deep relationship with God/Christ, your petitionary prayer will be effective. And how do you abide in Him and show this relationship? "Bear much fruit and so prove to be [His] disciples."
"If we share Christ's passion for His Father and dedicate ourselves at any cost to the purpose of bringing heaven's kingdom to earth by revealing the Father's character in all our relationships, then our petitions will reflect the mind of Christ - and they will be answered" (p. 33).
"Only on the ground of relationship with God, restored through redemption and nourished through relational prayer, can we properly worship, unselfishly thank God for blessings, intercede for others, and ask things for ourselves" (p. 33).
If you would like to see previous post in this series, they can be found here.