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If we want to eliminate hindrances to seeing prayers get answered, we want to create an atmosphere that fosters and promotes
We have already talked about the first three items in previous lessons. This lesson will explore the subject of radical obedience to God.
- Forgiveness and Unity
- Faith In God
- Boldness In Prayer
- Putting Our Finances Under God's Lordship
We know that obedience was very important to Jesus. He was committed to obey His heavenly father. He would say things like, "I love the Father and I do exactly what my Father has commanded Me" (John 14:31, NIV). And He also said, "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say" (John 12:49-50, NIV). In fact, Jesus stated in John 5:19 that He did not do anything ministry-wise out of His own initiative. Instead, He only did what God lead Him to do -- no more and no less. This is radical obedience. Jesus lived that as part of His lifestyle and He also expects His disciples to live the same way.
He made that very clear in the book of John. Let me share just three verses with you to illustrate this point. In John 14:15, Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." That is simple and clear. In John 14:21, He said, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." And in John 15:10, Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love."
So it is very clear that Jesus expects us to obey Him just like He obeyed His father. He was our role model. He lived a lifestyle of radical obedience to God. He expects us to live the same way.
In fact, He tied this obedience to prayer. We already looked at John 14:15, but let's back up a few verses to see how obedience relates to prayer. In John 14:13-14, Jesus promised us great authority in prayer. He said, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." Then He continued with verse 15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." There is a direct tie in this passage between obeying God and seeing Him answer our prayers. If you want authority in prayer, you must be committed to obey Him.
OUR MOTIVATION FOR OBEDIENCE
We don't want to obey God just so that we can ask Him for things. In fact, that won't get us very far. If we are not careful and pray from wrong motivations and lack of intimacy with God, we could end up in the same boat as the folks Jesus discussed in Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Jesus provides our motivation for obedience in the first part of that verse. He said, "If you love Me..." In other words, we obey God because we love Him. We demonstrate to God just how much we love Him by obeying Him. Our motivation is not fear of punishment for disobedience. Our motivation is not to gain authority in prayer, it is not even obedience -- our motivation is love. We obey Him because we love Him and we want to please Him. And it is out of that love relationship, out of our intimacy with God, that our authority in prayer comes.
WALKING OUT OBEDIENCE
God will often test our obedience when we petition Him for something. He will ask us to do (or to stop doing) something. Obeying this may involve dieing to self -- it might not be an easy thing that God asks us to do.
I remember one season where I was praying and crying out to God to change my heart to be after His heart. I asked Him to change my desires to line up with His desires, so I would like the things He liked and dislike the things He disliked. I prayed that prayer daily for months. In the midst of this, God began to speak to me about my reading. I was an avid reader, and I loved science fiction and fantasy, particularly Robert Heinland and Pierres Anthony. I would often read before going to bed at night, and it was not uncommon to read a whole book in one or two evenings. If the book was really good, I would sometimes stay up all night reading it. I just loved to read science fiction and fantasy books. I had an extensive library that I was quite proud of and I even had a few rare edition collectors items in there that were somewhat valuable.
As I cried out to God to change my heart and desires to line of with His, He began to tell me to stop reading these books. In fact He told me to get rid of the books so that I would not be tempted to read them later on. That was a really hard thing for me to do. I loved my books and I did not want to get rid of them. I had been asking God to change my desires and He responded by asking me to change my behaviors before my desires had changed. I thought He should deal with my books by taking away the desire for them and then I could get rid of them. But He did not choose to do it that way. Instead He commanded me to change my behavior to better line up with His desires. I knew He would eventually change my desires to go along with the change in behavior. But at the time, He was asking a very hard thing of me. He was telling me to get rid of something that I loved before He took away my love for it. (God might do that to you someday too.)
I knew what He wanted me to do. I understood clearly what He wanted, there was no doubt in my mind that this direction came from God. He even explained to me why He did not want me reading those books any more; that based on my own past experiences (I had been delivered from a spirit of fantasy) that these books would give that demon a stronghold over me, a foothold to get control of me again. Please note -- I am not saying that God wants all Christians to stop reading science fiction and fantasy books, this was a specific direction for me personally because of my past. It is strictly between you and God about whether or not you read this type of book. But I am not allowed to read them any more.
Once I knew what God wanted, I had a choice. I could obey Him and get rid of my precious library. That was a hard thing for me to do. Or I could choose to ignore His request and disobey. I did choose to obey Him. I think I cried the whole time I packed the books into boxes to give them away. There were a few books that I felt I could not give away because they were ungodly -- I had to burn those ones. (One might ask why I had ungodly books in my possession as a Christian. That is a good question, I don't have a good answer for it. But as I began to pray for God to change my heart to line up with His, He began to address that issue by telling me to get rid of them.)
About a week after I got rid of the books, I did not miss them any more. Why? Because God began to break into my prayer life and meet me in wonderful ways. He began to speak clearly to me. He began to manifest Himself to me and I even had some open visions where I was caught up into the heavenlies before His throne. He began to fill the time I had previously spent reading with His presence and He began to build a deeper intimacy with Him that I'd ever experienced before.
But there was a pivotal act of obedience that I had to perform before all of this opened up to me. God asked me to demonstrate to Him that He was more important to me than these books were. Once I obeyed and demonstrated that to Him, He began to give me more and more of Himself. In other words, He began to change my heart so I did not miss them. He also began breaking into my day, speaking more clearly to me, orchestrating divine appointments and opportunities to do real kingdom stuff with Him. I found that living in this type of relationship with Him was much more exciting and fulfilling than my science fiction and fantasy reading had ever been.
Looking back, I have never regretted obeying Him and getting rid of those books. And I assure you that you won't regret it either when you make a commitment to obey Him because you love Him.