What do you want from God? I suppose that’s a very personal question, right? Well, prayer itself is personal, right? Our fellowship with God is personal. So, what you and I pray for would certainly be different because you and I are different. Over the past month, I have been focusing on prayer in my series of sermons – When God Speaks. I want to try to bring this series of sermons to a conclusion today and I feel that there are still some things that I need to say about praying to the Lord.
You should know: You can watch this sermon! Scroll to the bottom!
The Genie, God
In the text for my sermon today (1 Kings 3:4-15), we will see a conversation between the Lord and Solomon. David had passed away and now a young Solomon is the king of Israel. In this passage of scripture, we will see God ask Solomon, “what shall I give you (1 Kings 3:5)?” Imagine God saying to you, “what shall I give you?”
If you believe that to be an amazing thought, then you should know that God has actually made this same offer to all of His children. Don’t know what I mean by that? Jesus said to us that if we ask, it will be given (Matt. 7:7) – that’s an offer to ask of God for something. To back up this statement, Jesus, God in the flesh, also said, “anything that we ask the Father in His name, will be given to us (John 15:16; John 16:23).” So, what do you want from God?
God’s offer mocked
How do you view this offer from the Lord? What do you think of it? You would think that we would treat such an offer with care. Yet, I find that many of us simply mock this offer just as we seem to do with everything else dealing with the Lord.
Me and my brother were recently discussing a meme meant for jokes and laughs that, in my opinion, mocked God and faith in Him. It spoke to how many millennials resent church because our parents were good at church but “not good at life”. The general sense being that ‘church’, therefore God, did nothing for our parents. Now, just consider that thought for a moment.
My dad and his siblings lost both his parents before he was a teenager. They grew up in the country picking peaches, cotton, etc. and didn’t have much outside of each other. Yet, by the end of his life, he and my mom had put a roof over me and my brother’s head; had given us the opportunity to get an education and make it. I believe he would tell you that God was good to him and that he was “good at life”.
You see, that’s the problem with my generation – we’re too hung up on the world! We are so hung up on the world that we don’t truly understand what it means to be blessed. We think we know but our idea of what it means to be blessed and highly favored is so far off from scripture. We believe we know everything and yet we know nothing! Everything is a joke to us and we take very little seriously – especially God.
Misunderstanding God’s offer
Because we lack understanding of God’s offer, we also do not approach it properly. We know that Christ told us, “ask and it will be given” and we begin to approach God as if He is like Genie off of Aladdin or Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. What I mean by this is, we think of prayer and God as magic – this isn’t a magic show.
On Family Feud the other night there was a puzzle that was about what we pray for and, of course, it turned into jokes. The answers, as you would expect, ended up being on the board. What we want from God: money, house, cars, clothes — to be ‘good’ at life. Someone even once suggested, maybe jokingly, that I should pray for one of the sports teams here to finally win the big one! Have you ever wondered, what does the Lord think when we want such things?
Prayer is very serious to me. No, I don’t pray for teams to win games! I pray according to my needs and to the needs of others. I believe that all of us should consider that God has personally offered to give us what we ask Him. When we pray, we are personally talking to the Lord and I just don’t believe He’s one I want to joke around with!
Let’s take a moment to look at this conversation between God and Solomon. As you look at this conversation, I want you to note the seriousness that Solomon took God’s offer (1 Kings 3:6-9). He first acknowledges, honors, praises, and glorifies what God had done for David (v.6). We then see Solomon humble himself and acknowledge that he was certainly in need of God’s help (v.7).
Then we see Solomon’s supplication to the Lord. Solomon then asks for an understanding heart to judge Your people (v.9). He wanted to be able to discern between good and evil so that he could better help those within the kingdom. In other words, Solomon’s prayer was really about helping others. How often do you ask that of God? Is that something that you could ever want from God?
No, what Solomon asks the Lord to give him doesn’t sound like anything we would ask for, does it? Solomon was not being selfish or greedy in his prayer. Certainly doesn’t seem what Solomon wanted from God was for God to make him “good at life”. (What does that even mean to be good at life anyway?) What did Solomon want from God? He simply wanted to be able to help his neighbor as best as he possibly could.
God’s response to Solomon’s request
Now, I want us to pay very close attention to God’s response to Solomon’s request (1 Kings 3:10-12). I believe there is much that we can learn from God’s response to Solomon. We are told that Solomon’s speech (his request) pleased God (v.10). I wonder, what was it about his request that pleased God so much? Well, scripture actually tells us.
God says that because Solomon had not asked for a long life for himself, or for riches for himself, or for the life of his enemies – this pleased God and He granted Solomon his request. I want you to notice that those things that God mentions (long life for himself, riches for himself, and death of enemies) are essentially desires of the flesh and world – selfish ambitions (Gal. 5:19-21).
Solomon did not treat God’s offer like an offer from a genie and ask for the girl and money. Neither was Solomon selfish in his request. Most importantly, Solomon was not seeking the world (didn’t pray for worldly and sinful things). Imagine praying to the Lord for something sinful and believing that God, who has no parts with sin, would provide you with such! In fact, if you notice it, it would seem that God has a checklist for what He will give and will not give according to His divine will.
What Should We want from God
I can’t tell anybody what to pray for. Again, prayer is personal. What I pray for, you may not pray for and what you pray for, I may not pray for; we all have different needs and requests of God. Because our prayers are often so different, this creates much confusion on what is the right way to pray and the wrong way to pray.
To help all of you out the best that I can, I am going to turn to scripture. Scripture is filled with details from the Lord about prayer and how and what we should pray for. Jesus, when He taught the model prayer, specifically confirmed that prayer is personal and should be private. Yes, there is nothing wrong with prayer in a group but Jesus did tell us not to be as the hypocrites who pray to be seen by others (Matt. 6:5). He said that when we wanted to talk to the Lord personally, to go get in a room and shut the door (Matt. 6:6).
Whatever your heart desire
Jesus then said not to use vain repetitions as the heathens do – don’t be pleading and begging repeatedly (Matt. 6:7). Again, the Lord said, “whatever things we ask in prayer, believing, we will receive (Matt. 21:22; Mark 11:24).” In other words, Jesus was telling you that you can ask your heart desire to God and He will give it. (To which Paul said we should be anxious for nothing in prayer – Phil. 4:6).
Jesus specifically said in John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Pay close attention to the “what you desire” part of His statement.
Now, I want you to understand something – the desires that the Lord fulfill are not going to be your lusts and what you covet! Prayer should be without lusts and covetousness! Again, the Lord is not going to fulfill your worldly desires (the works of the flesh – sin) – get that out of your head and heart! Selfishness – greedy selfishness – is not something of the Lord.
Pray with the utmost seriousness
On that note, our prayers should also include others – we should pray for others. Jesus taught that we should pray for those who hate us and spitefully use us (Matt. 5:44) and that we should also pray for the forgiveness of others (Matt. 6:14-15). I tell you that prayer should be done with the utmost of seriousness and not done in a joking manner. If you pray in a joking manner, I tell you that the joke is going to be on you!
There are many people who groan and complain today that God never hears their prayer when they talk to Him. Well, consider all that I have said here today and reflect on these things. Some of us have never learned how to truly pray, but we do still have time to grow in our prayer life. Consider what you are praying for and why you are praying. Also, consider your heart when you pray – we must pray with a serious heart and an unselfish greedy heart as well.