Prayer Ė It is Certain - 2
According to the Sermon on the Mount, it was Jesus Himself who told us to conclude our prayers with the word "amen" (Mt 6:13). In other words, it was Jesus who told us to confess, at the end of our prayers, the conviction that God will do as He has said He would do.
Truth is though, that this understanding of the word "Amen" at the end of our prayers gives us some problems. The idea of somebody speaking words of praise to God and then saying "Amen", "I believe that God is truly God," yes, thatís understandable. But our prayers are not simply thanksgiving and praise; our prayers, according to the command of Christ Himself, include also many requests. And thatís where we have a problem. What does ĎAmení mean after a number of petitions have been brought to God? Does that word at this point also give voice to our heartfelt belief that the words spoken are true and certain; God will certainly do as we have asked? No, we find that rather far-fetched; we donít feel comfortable being convinced that weíll get what we ask. In fact, in the course of our lives weíve asked so much, and certainly have not received all we requested. So weíre not so sure that the word ĎAmení at the end of our prayers is really meant to be a confession of our conviction that God hears and answersÖ.
God gives what He promised to give
Itís to be clear in our minds and hearts that the word "Amen", also in our prayers, always is and remains a profession of faith, of faith in God. That may be obvious to us about prayers of praise, but itís equally true also of prayers that are made up mostly of petitions, requests.
How so? With that word ĎAmení in the context of a prayer of request, weíre expressing our conviction that God will give us what we ask. We express the conviction that God will give what we ask because God has promised to give us what we ask. With that word ĎAmení at the end of our prayers, we are responding to Godís promise to answer our petitions. With that word ĎAmení, we are voicing our faith that God will answer our prayers as He has promised, will do it in the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Before you through aside this paper in disbelief, before you protest that God has definitely not given to you all youíve asked, allow me to remind you of Jesusí words in Luke 11. Jesus said:
"And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (vs 9f).
Jesusí language is clear: ask and we shall receive. But Ė the Lord would not have us ask for anything and everything that may fancy our sinful minds. Those words about asking and receiving were spoken in a specific context, and that context is that of vs 1: the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, to which request Jesus answered by giving the Lordís Prayer. But Jesus did more than tell His disciples which petitions they were to bring before God; Jesus also told them to pray with confidence, to pray with the conviction that God would give what His people asked. Hence that parable about the Midnight Friend (Luke 11:5-8) who will surely rise and give whatever he needs, and the lesson for the disciples: "And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you" (vs 9).
No, the disciples were not to ask for just anything and expect to get it; the disciples were to ask for the things which Jesus in the Lordís Prayer commanded them to ask. The promise of the Saviour in Luke 11 is that whatever is asked of God in accordance with the Lordís Prayer will certainly be granted; whatever falls within the framework of those petitions the Father in heaven will certainly give to His children.
So: the petitions Jesus instructs His children to pray are more than petitions; the petitions of the Lordís Prayer are also promises, promises that God will grant these specific things to those who ask Him for these. That is the notion we echo when we say "Amen" at the end of our prayers. With that word we express our hearty conviction, our faith, that God will surely grant the things He commanded us to ask. He told us to ask for daily bread, so we ask for daily bread in the conviction that God will give it. Thatís why we say ĎAmení; we confess the conviction that God will do as He has said.
God is the ĎAmení
Why might it be that we can be so convinced that God will give us what we ask, will give us what He promised to give us? That is because of who God is. Said Jesus of Himself: I am "the Amen" (Rev 3:14). And the point of that title is that every word spoken by Jesus Christ is believe-able; whatever He says Heíll do He certainly will do. It was with that very truth that Jesus worked time and again in His public ministry; repeatedly He called attention to His words by saying "truly, truly, I say to you" (cf Jn 16:23). Or, as Jesus actually said in the original: "Amen, amen, I say to you." Believe-able He was. And thatís why the words He spoke in Luke 11 are also believable; we can accept them for true and certain, we can expect to receive what we ask for simply because Jesus said that God would give what we request.
In this context we are to remember that the many promises God had made to Israel in the past, promises of blessings and promises of curses, were all ultimately fulfilled in the Son, Jesus Christ. As promised in the Old Testament, He came to pay for sin, to be rejected of God, to undergo Godís hellish wrath, to die. Though it was not easy for the Father to give up His only dearly beloved Son for the suffering of the cross, He yet gave Him up, sent Him Ėwhy?Ė because He had promised to do so. Christ Himself is ultimately the evidence that God is true (Is 65:16), that His word is believable, that He will do as He said He will do. God had promised the Christ so long ago, and did what He said Heíd do. Thatís why the apostle Paul can say of Jesus: "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen" (II Cor 1:20).
We believe that God has fulfilled His Word, has sent His Son into the world to atone for our sins, to reconcile us to God, to make us children of God. But if Ėas Paul saysĖ God "did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). Thatís the promise we have, a promise that comes from the mouth of God as certainly as that promise about children for Abram came from the mouth of God. Abram believed the Lordís word, Ďamenedí that word; it is for us to do the same, to believe His promise, to say "Amen" to those promises. Heís promised daily bread? Then we believe the promise. Weíll ask for daily bread, and as soon as weíve asked for it weíll say ĎAmení, weíll confess our conviction that we shall surely receive the daily bread we need, shall definitely receive all we need to live for God and His glory. Weíll say it because weíre convinced that God is going to keep His promise, is going to give to me what I ask. After all, He is God, my Father for Christís sake.
Have we assurance that our prayers will be heard, that God will answer? Or have our prayers of the past in fact been a waste of time? On the basis of what God has said in His Word, it will be clear that No, our time in prayer has not been wasted time; more, our prayers are heard Ė unless, of course, we ask from God things we werenít meant to ask in the first place. What we lay before the throne of God concerning our personal circumstances, what we lay before God with the request that through us in our circumstances His name be hallowed, through us in our circumstances His kingdom be made to come, through us in our circumstances His will be done; the daily bread we seek from God so that in our circumstances we may do His will to His greater glory, the forgiveness we seek for our own personal sins, the deliverance we seek in our concrete circumstances from Satanís temptations so that we may receive forgiveness and so receive daily bread, and so do Godís will, and so make His kingdom come to His greater glory Ė these many requests are always heard! For Jesusí sake our Father in heaven lends His ear to every such request, and hears and answers.
True, He may not answer our petitions in the way we would like. But Godís ways are higher than our ways, and so itís for us to believe that He hears and answers.
Yes, that gives great encouragement to continue praying. The promise of God stands firm, and so with confidence let us bring our requests to God, with confidence let us work with the promises He has given, and let us believe without a shadow of doubt that Father hears His children and definitely gives to us whatever He has promised to give.
God has promised it. And so I believe it. "Amen!"