Foundations to Prayer Part 3: Asking

By André Regnier
In these blog posts, I’m going through some basic first steps in prayer, using the acronym “PRAY”, which stands for Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield.   So far we’ve talked done the first two.  We begin prayer by worshiping God, and then the realization of who God is leads us to repentance.
The next step in my prayer is that, in my mind, I visualize that that I’ve been lifted up into the very company of God, into his throne room.   In Hebrews 4:16, it says we’ve been given access to the throne of God, and can enter “with confidence” to ask him for the things we need.
So now we’re in front of the throne of God.  What do we want to ask him?
That’s what we’re going to be talking about today: asking God for things.  But not for ourselves; that will be a later step.  First we want to ask for graces for other people, for events, for nations and peoples, for groups – it’s all directed towards others.
The first thing to keep in mind is that when we ask, we need to ask in confidence.  Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus say, “Don’t ask!”  Or, “If you ask, I’m not going to listen,” or “Don’t expect much from me.”   It’s actually the opposite.   Jesus is very, very adamant that we do ask, that we ask often, and that we ask with confidence. Throughout the Gospels he’s always saying, “Ask and you shall receive”.   Jesus is saying “Whatever you ask, you will receive.”   So be persistent in asking.
I want to share a little experience to help you understand why I believe so strongly in having confidence when we pray.
Back in 1988, I went to spend a week with my brother, and my intention was to share the Gospel with him.  One night, I started sharing my testimony, and talked to him about Jesus. On the way home he became visibly irritated, and he turned to me and said (in questionable language), “Quit talking to me.  I don’t believe in [blank] God.  Quit talking to me about Jesus.”   The next morning, while he was at work and I was at his house, I started to pray, and I opened up the Scripture to the day’s readings, and I began to reflect on our conversation the night before.  I became very discouraged and felt hopeless that my brother would ever be open to the Gospel.  I felt that I had lost him.  And just as I was feeling that, I turned my head down to the reading, which included a line about how, if we see our brother sinning, we should pray for him, and God will give him new life (see 1 John 5:15).
It was like the Lord was saying to me, “Andre, ask me, and I will give new life to your brother.”   And I was reminded of Jesus’ instruction to ask, knowing I would receive whatever I asked.   God wanted me to be confident that he heard my prayer and would answer my prayer.   God wanted me to ask for new life for my brother.
I continued praying.
Three months later, my brother and I were biking from Lake Louise to Calgary.  About halfway into the trip, my brother surprised me with the words, “Andre, I went to a retreat a couple of weeks ago, and I had an encounter with the Holy Spirit!”   And he began to share with me how he had had this profound encounter – basically, what happened is that he experienced a conversion.  That was a defining moment in his life.  For the rest of his life, my brother had no problem talking about Jesus!   God heard my cry – I put my confidence in that, and that’s how I approach God all the time now.   I put my confidence in him, that he will hear me and answer me.
1. Be specific:  What is it that you’re asking for?  You would never go up to a friend and say, “Hey, will you help me?” without telling him what you needed help for.  If we’re really asking God – who is a person – we have to be specific.  God wants us to ask him for things.  “I want my brother to know you”, “Help this person”, “Protect my family in this situation”, “Could you be present in that meeting?” or  “Heal this person of this.”  Don’t just say, “Help!”  Now, there will be times where you really don’t even know what to ask for, but we should still open our hearts to God, sharing as much as we can.  Our requests don’t have to be complicated – we don’t have to give God instructions on how to answer our prayers – it can be very simple… Pray for your brother that he’ll have peace in his exam, or that someone will have grace in a relationship.   Pray for your country, or your politicians that they’ll make right decisions.   Pray for your parish priest that God will bless him in his ministry.
2. Be persistent:  Jesus spoke about persistence in prayer in a couple of his parables.   One was about a man who needed to borrow some bread from his neighbour in the middle of the night.  Even though the man was asleep, and didn’t want to help his neighbour right then, he got up because the man wouldn’t stop knocking (see Luke 11:5-13). Jesus also told about a widow who wanted to sue a man who had wronged her – except that the judge was corrupt, and didn’t really care about justice.   But the widow kept bothering him, until the judge finally said, “Even though I don’t care about God, or about other people, I’ll make sure this widow gets what she needs, because she won’t stop bothering me!” (see Luke 18:1-8).   Unlike the reluctant neighbour or the unjust judge, God enjoys answering our prayers.
Just like I kept asking every day for my brother, be persistent in praying for the people in your life.  Being persistent means being patient, but at the same time being confident that God is actually hearing that cry.
3. Organize:  Many people have told me they have so many things and people to pray for, and they don’t know where to start.
I have a whole list of people, situations, things I’m praying for.   So what I’ve done is broken it up into a daily list.   On Monday I pray for my parents.   I have two friends I want to pray for.   I pray for Canada, I pray for any other things…   Tuesday it’s a different list.  Every day I pray for several different things.   That way I’m not overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I need to pray for.   You can write it on a piece of paper and stick it in your Bible.
You could spend at least 5-10 minutes on this aspect of prayer quite easily.   Let’s start with 5 for now.
As you spend your time in worship, repentance and now asking, remember that God hears our prayer; he wants to answer our prayer, and he has the power and the ability to do it.

 

Listen to our three podcast series to go deeper into your prayer life: The Prayer of Praise, Sailing into the depths of Prayer, and The Battle of Prayer

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