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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prayers, Promises, and the Role of Faith

Has God ever made a promise to you?  Well, of course He has; His Word is full of promises.  But what I really mean is, has God ever spoken a specific promise into your heart?  Do you struggle to believe it?

I can with complete certainty say that God has given me a promise I have yet to see fulfilled.  I have begged God to bring it to fulfillment, but there are times that I begin to doubt if He ever will.  But a sweet mentor momma said something to me today that gave me food for thought.  She said that she believes when we ask for something within God's will, He gives it to us immediately.  Maybe we don't accept it because we don't believe it's already ours, and we, therefore, never see it's fruition in our lives until we reach heaven.  Or maybe it has only come to us in part and we have to walk it out in faith before we can see the fullness of the promise right here on earth.  I'm sure I am not explaining this as well as she did, but the main idea is that we "can be confident He will hear our prayers if we ask for anything in line with His will; and if we know He is listening when we make our request, we can be sure He will give us what we ask for" (1 John 5:14-15).

To give some credence to my friend's argument, let's look at the King James Version:

"And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."  (emphasis mine)

Can I just pause here to tell you something?  When I went to pull out my concordance and Bible dictionary, I had to pause and pray.  And my prayer went something like this, "Lord, You know what I want this verse to mean.  Help me be open to the truth, even if it doesn't say exactly what I want it to."  I wanted this verse to say that we do, indeed, receive the answer as soon as we ask, but I wanted to be open to reading it exactly as He meant it, not the way I wanted to interpret it.

But, as I read that King James translation, I could already feel my heart beating a little faster.  It says "we have," not "we will have," or "you might someday have," but "WE HAVE."  Whatever we ask, we HAVE.  Right now, we have!  Are you getting excited with me???

Perhaps you need a little more convincing before you are ready to jump up and down, since we all know that although perfect, the exact meaning of Scripture can get a little lost in translation.  That's why I like to look up words in the original language.

First, I looked up "have" in my Strong's Concordance and found that the original Greek word is numbered 2192.  So, I then went to my handy-dandy word study dictionary and found 2192, "εχω."   Zodhiates defines it thus:  "to have, to hold, implying continued possession."  This is an active verb, something that is happening now.

But, just to be doubly safe, I looked at an on-line Greek/English interlinear Bible.  This site confirmed that the exact Greek word is εχομεν (transliterated "echoman"), which is a form of  "εχω."  "Echoman" is present active (happening now) and literally means "we are having."

"Echoman" is also an imperfect verb.  Thus, there is more to support my friend's theory that though the answer comes immediately, it might not immediately come in full.  Imperfect verbs combine past events with repeated, continuing events, such as in the sentence, "We are walking," which implies we are already walking (have been walking), and we are continuing to walk.

In the same way, when verse 15 says "we have" what we've asked for, it means we are receiving and are continuing to receive what we have asked for.  So, it certainly says we get our answer immediately, but the imperfect tense tells us that we continue receiving it over time.  Not at a later time, but over time.

For example, if we pray for an inch of rain and that is in God's will, we will receive an inch of rain.  We may not see the rain immediately because God may be creating a storm thousands of miles away that will bring our rain.  It may take days to reach us, but He began working out our answer immediately.

In the same way, if we are praying for strength or patience or salvation for a family member or any other thing in line with His will, He has already answered with a resounding, "YES!"  We may not see His work at all, but we must believe His promise that He gives us anything we ask in line with His will.  I'm not a "name it and claim it" kind of person when it comes to things that are not explicitly in God's word (prayer request for a new car, a nicer house, a spouse, another child, etc), but I am certainly a believer in claiming the promises God has spoken through His Word.

For example, He tells us he does not desire that anyone should perish but that everyone should have everlasting life.  So, we know salvation is absolutely in line with His will.  We can be confident then, if we are praying for a loved one's salvation, that He hears us and is giving us what we ask for.  Our prayer requests are immediately answered, though time may be required to see the fullness of that answer.  To remind myself of this, I will pray something like this:

"Lord, you tell me that if I ask for anything in line with your will, you will hear me.  And if I know you are listening, then I know I will have what I ask for.  I also know that it is not your will that anyone perish, but it is your will that everyone would have eternal life.  So, I know it is your will for --- to come to salvation.  Please continue to do a work in ---'s heart.  I know you are already working.  Thank you.  Help me to keep believing even when it is hard to believe.  Amen."

God has made a specific promise to me.  When I have asked, over and over, for that promise to be fulfilled, now please, He has responded with, "Yes!  It is being fulfilled.  It is becoming."  He is working out His promise and the answer to my prayer right now.  I can choose to believe it and, through faith see it, or choose to doubt and perhaps, therefore, never see its fulfillment until I stand before Him.  The promise will be fulfilled.  Will I see it?  Perhaps that is up to me.  Perhaps my vision is impacted by my hearing--will I listen to the truth of God's promises or the lies of the enemy?

The enemy whispers...
the mess is too big to ever be cleaned up,
God is disappointed with us and has given up on us,
We can never (or never again) experience the freedom and victory intended for us in Christ.

Yet God promises...
anything is possible with God,
He rejoices over us with singing,
and overwhelming victory is ours!

Who will we listen to?  Who will we believe?


In Mark 5:23, Jairus pleads with Jesus, “My daughter is dying. Please come, heal her so she will live.” He doesn’t barter with Jesus. He doesn’t negotiate. He just pleads. He asks Jesus for His help. And Jesus, who loves the honest heart, goes to give it. But before they get very far, they’re interrupted by emissaries who tell them, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no need to bother the Teacher anymore.” Get ready. Hang on to your hat. Here’s where Jesus takes control. The Bible says: “But Jesus paid no attention to what they said.” I love that line! He ignored what the people said. Why don't you do that? When falsehood, accusations, or negativism come, just ignore it. Close your ears. Walk away. Ignore the ones who say it’s too late to start over. Disregard those who say you’ll never amount to anything. Jesus said to Jairus what He says to you: “Don’t be afraid—just believe!” “Trust Me,” Jesus is pleading. “Just trust Me.” 

from He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado


Post scripts:

If you do not have a good Bible dictionary, I can not say enough about Zodhiates' The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament by Baker and Carpenter.  I would also highly recommend their compliments, The Complete Word Study Old Testament and The Complete Word Study New Testament, both by Spiros Zodhiates.  He even has The Complete Word Study: New Testament with Greek Parallel.  (I'm drooling.)

The on-line Greek Interlinear Bible was also rockin'.  Check it out here.

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