In addition to describing God as Creator, Comforter, and King, the Bible also calls him “the Hearer of Prayer.” This is one of the sweetest yet least known descriptions of the Lord in Scripture: “O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.” Or, more literally, “Hearer of Prayer, to you all men will come” (Psalm 65:2).
If God did not hear our cries and prayers, wouldn’t our world be incredibly lonely and depressing? Fortunately, the Lord is not some distant Creator who set the world in motion and then proceeded to ignore it. He is the “Hearer of Prayer” who made costly provision that his people might “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).
God loves to answer our prayers, but the Bible speaks of definite principles that govern a successful approach to him. Just as God created an ordered universe with physical laws governing it, so it is with prayer. Prayer is not some haphazard, accidental undertaking.
The great reformer Martin Luther boldly declared that God does nothing but in answer to prayer. That is probably very close to the truth that Scripture affirms. Over and again, as God deals with his people, we see this cycle:
Purpose – Promise – Prayer
The Psalmist asserts that the Lord’s deliverance is at hand because “the appointed time has come” and then he quickly adds that God “will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea” (Psalm 102:13, 17).
We need to realize that the promises that overflow our Bibles will overflow into our own lives only as we appropriate them through prayer. God wants us to feel secure regarding our relationship with him. He wants us to know with certainty that we possess eternal life as part of his family. Because we are his children, then, we can bring our needs to him with certainty in prayer. We can have the same confidence in asking for things as we have about our salvation.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
God has determined to accomplish his goals here on earth through mere men. One of the most encouraging scriptures in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” Then Paul goes on to describe those earthen vessels — dying men, troubled on every side, perplexed, persecuted, cast down.
God never uses the high and mighty but, instead, he uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty … that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
The weakness God speaks about is our human inability to obey his commandments in our own strength. The Word records a long list of men who loved God and were greatly used by him, but were almost driven to the ground by their weaknesses:
Have you failed? Let your heart accept all the promises of victory in Jesus. Then let your faith tell your heart, “I may not be what I want to be yet, but God is at work in me and I will come forth as pure gold. I commit everything to him who is able to keep me from falling and present me faultless before the throne of God — with exceeding great joy!”
For all the talk in the church about forgiveness, restitution, and healing, very little seems to be truly demonstrated by Christians. We all like to think of ourselves as peacemakers, lifters up of the fallen, always forgiving and forgetting. But even the most deeply spiritual are guilty of not showing a spirit of forgiveness.
We find it hard to forgive those who have injured our pride; or someone who is ungrateful; or anyone who deceives us. And the majority of Christians do not know the first thing about handling criticism. We employ all kinds of methods to hide our resentment, becoming adept at couching our defensiveness in masterful eloquence. Yes, wounded pride is a terrible thing.
Often, before we can forgive others, we must learn to forgive God. Although God has never sinned against anyone, that does not stop us from holding a grudge against him. We come into his presence to pray but we are harboring negative feelings toward him because we think he has not done what we thought he should. A prayer may have gone unanswered for weeks, months — even years. Or an unexpected illness occurs or tragedy claims a loved one — and faith begins to waver.
Remember, the Word of God makes it very clear that a wavering person will never receive anything from God: “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8, KJV).
Jesus understood this tendency in his children to hold grudges against heaven when mountains are not moved on schedule. He warned Peter not to ask anything when standing in God’s presence unless he was forgiving. “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).
If you have a secret grudge in your heart against another person or against heaven, let the Spirit of forgiveness flow through you. God is faithful!
“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The apostle Paul grew weak because of troubles and distresses but when he was cast down, he did not despair. He rejoiced in the process of being made weak because it was the secret to his power with Christ, and out of that weakness he became strong.
Some may have an unfulfilling job, an illness, a state of deep loneliness or divorce. Those things are valid reasons to be discouraged but the one thing that constantly hinders God’s work in our lives is simply self. When Jesus said we are to take up his cross and follow him, he was asking us to deny ourselves (see Luke 9:23). Our pride says, “I can do this myself.” But Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Jesus looks upon this world, filled with confused children going about trying to establish their own righteousness, trying to please him in their own way, and he calls for crosses. The cross is meant to break us and drain us of all human effort. He cannot take over until we give up and cry out to him, “Father, I can’t go another step! My strength is gone! Help!”
Beloved, do not think of your trial as judgment from God and do not condemn yourself. Actually, what you are going through is an evidence of his love toward you, bringing you into ultimate victory and maturity. You are in Christ’s own school of discipleship, so rejoice that as you become weak and submit to him, you will experience his overpowering strength!
It is very true that Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). But Jesus fell under the load of his cross, weary, exhausted, and unable to carry it another step. John said, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called … Golgotha” (John 19:17). The Bible does not tell us how far Jesus carried his cross, but we do know that Simon, the Cyrene, was compelled to pick it up and carry it to the place of crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32).
Jesus had reached the end of his endurance; after all, there is only so much one person can take before they come to a breaking point and Jesus’ cross had become too heavy to bear. So, what does this mean to us? Would our Lord make us do something he could not do?
Jesus knows exactly what he is saying when he calls us to “take up our cross and follow him.” He understands the agony, the helplessness, the burden that crosses create. He remembers his own cross and he knows we cannot carry our cross all the way in our own strength.
There is a hidden truth here that is so powerful and edifying, it could change the way we look at all our troubles and hurts. And even though it sounds almost sacrilegious to suggest that Jesus did not carry his own cross, that is the truth. What this means to us today is that Jesus, who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities, experienced what it is to be weak, discouraged and unable to go on without help. He was in all points tempted just as we are.
The temptation for us is not in failing, not in laying down the cross because of weakness; the real temptation is in trying to pick up that cross and carry it in our own strength. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).