Wireless mics are lovely!
They make life a little bit easier for me since there aren’t as many cords to make the mic work. And it’s super awesome that they give whoever is on stage the freedom of movement. And for someone who speaks with his hands (insert me here), wireless mics are essential! I almost feel tongue-tied when I can’t use both my hands when speaking.
But my very first encounter installing a wireless mic wasn’t so wonderful. It was a learning experience for sure – and somewhat comical!
So it was my first year on staff. I had been tasked with putting in a couple new wireless mics for an Easter program. I figured these couldn’t be that hard to install. And truth be told, they aren’t when you know what to do. Heck, isn’t that the case with anything in life?
I had three to install. Opening the first box welcomed me with the “always helpful but never given attention to by men” Getting Started booklet. Quickly tossing it aside, I grabbed the base, mounted it in the rack, plugged the power in, and finished the installation by connecting the sound cable from the base to the soundboard.
This was easier than I thought! I’m a pro! 😉
Next was the body pack. This is the transmitter where the lapel or head-worn mic connects. I plopped two AA batteries in that sucker, plugged a mic into it, and fired it up! I expected all kinds of wonderful.
I received all kinds of nothing.
I checked to make sure the channel wasn’t muted on the soundboard. I double-checked the connections on the base. I grabbed a different mic and plugged it in, hoping that would resolve the “no sound blues” I was getting. Nothing worked.
One hour later…
After trying the same things multiple times over, I decided to grab that “always helpful but never given attention to by men”Getting Started booklet. The first page read something like this; “Base and body pack may not be set to same channel.”
I was transmitting a wireless signal from the body pack, but the base wasn’t tuned to the right frequency. It wasn’t listening for the right channel. And approximately 37 seconds later, I had sound. 😎
I’m curious…I wonder if that’s what much of our prayer life is like. Let’s face it. On the surface, prayer seems simple, right? Not too complicated. But it’s not easy in application. If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely experienced inconsistent results, feeling like a failure, like you don’t have enough faith or the right kind of faith. Maybe, like me, you feel like you’re not dedicated enough, or perhaps you’re scared of the answer or lack thereof.
It seems we can often feel as though we’re broadcasting signal out like my microphone, but nothing is picking that signal up – like we’re tuned to the wrong channel.
Jesus modeled and regularly talked about prayer
The Gospels document the life of Jesus, what He did, how He responded, and what He taught. All four were written by different authors with different perspectives and audiences. But throughout them all, you’ll find Jesus praying.
Jesus prayed regularly, alone, with people, and for people. He prayed in nature and in homes. Jesus prayed short prayers, long prayers, and prayers in between. He knew not all His prayers would be answered (see Garden of Gethsemane). Jesus wasn’t passive about prayer but believed prayer worked. He prayed before meals, before miracles, after miracles, for His disciples, and for us (He still does!). Jesus taught persistence in prayer.
With all that, the Lord’s well-known prayer, a great example, isn’t the passage we’ll use to look at prayer. Instead, we’ll look at a different model that Jesus gives and tie it into something James wrote in his letter.
Sermon on the Mount
Jesus has been preaching for a while now on what we now call the Sermon on the Mount. From Matthew 5 to the end of chapter 7, Jesus preached the Beatitudes and the Similitudes. He taught about worry, anxiety, lust, justice, divorce, fasting, judging, and how to treat people.
And in chapter 7, he turns our attention to prayer.
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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7–11 NASB
I want to stick with my swimming analogy here as well. I’ve been working on the butterfly stroke – I haven’t stopped practicing it. But I have started working on learning breaststroke. To learn it, I had to isolate parts of the stroke and kick pattern to focus on a particular movement. The goal was to build muscle memory. I needed a system to do that, and that’s part of what my coach provides. But once it’s smoother, I can start to make it my own, adding my own tweaks to be more efficient.
That’s similar to what I see here.
Jesus gives three steps or three states, or three activities of prayer. Each one is independent and needs to be practiced. But they all work together and happen at different times during prayer, much like swimming. And the more the system is practiced, the better the memory becomes and the smoother the process is. I’m not saying at all that prayer is always that systematic. Nor should it be. But Jesus here provides parts of prayer that are lived out in our everyday lives. A rhythm of prayer begins to emerge much like rhythm in a swimming stroke.
First, He says, “Ask.” And it’s just that! It’s requesting something. Begging even! The word is in the present tense, which for us means it’s not a one-and-done action, but one that is repeatedly done. We keep on asking. Asking requires we answer a clarifying question: What do we need? Sometimes it takes writing it down so we can see it. Writing things down just does something. People who commit goals to paper have much better percentages of completing or exceeding those goals. So writing down what we are praying for or needing helps us clarify. We can get specific about it and can meditate on it.
Next, Jesus says to seek. Again it’s present tense, which means we keep on seeking. It’s not a one-and-done action. Seeking means trying to obtain, striving for, searching out, and making a deliberate effort to find. The idea is that we are responsible. It’s not that we ask and then complacently sit lazily for God to drop what we’re asking for in our lap. There is a responsible part for us to play.
A great example would be getting a job. I can pray (and have prayed) for a job. But I don’t leave it at prayer. That’s the asking part. I start to seek after it. I get my resume, dust it off, and ensure my references are still good. And I start applying.
Or another example is my wife and the headaches she’s been dealing with for many years. We’ve been praying for them but don’t sit idly waiting for God. We believe God can heal! We also believe we’ve been given the gift of medicine and technology. God heals miraculously through them as well. So we’ve been on a journey seeking answers. We’ve been asking and seeking…which takes us to the last part of Jesus’ prayer system.
This one is so cool to me! It reminds me of a memory game my girls had as kids. It was a wooden game with doors covering each picture. The object was to uncover one door and try to find the match under another door. If you didn’t find a match, you’d remember (or at least try) not to open the door that wasn’t a match again so that you can try a different door in hopes of getting a match.
Each potential answer we seek and try is a knock at a door. And we keep trying until we find a door that opens. If we knock and the door doesn’t open, we don’t keep pounding on the same door! We move on. That one’s not the answer. So we start seeking and knocking again, all while asking and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead. Like we talked about last week, we listen for Him! And we keep seeking, knocking, and asking.
See each part? Just like a swimming stroke is made up of different components, they aren’t meant to be isolated for long. Once learned, each part of the swimming stroke works together with the other parts! Prayer of asking, seeking, and knocking is very much like that!
So what are the results? Jesus gives us that too!
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Notice, just like the action on our part, the result is present tense. We believe by faith God has heard and is responding to our asking, seeking, and knocking.
Here’s the convicting part
That’s all great! I love the breakdown that Jesus gives and how it all works together! But there’s one super important element that needs to be addressed, and James mentions it in his letter.
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is the source not your pleasures that wage war in your body’s parts? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures. James 4:1–3 NASB
A little explanation here might be good. I’m in NO WAY saying any of us are envious murderers lusting for what we don’t have. I included those previous verses for context, so we know what’s prompting James to write what he writes. It’s verse three that’s our focus.
You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures. James 4:3 NASB
James points out what’s common to all – wrong motives. We ask so that we may spend what we request on our own pleasures. Now, pleasures instantly give the idea of sensuality or materialism. Those are pleasures. But I’m curious…I wonder if my motives are also pleasure-driven? Take a look at this real prayer, one I’ve prayed many times.
“God I ask that you protect my kids. Heal my wife of her headaches. God continue to provide for my family. Please be with my church. Protect it and let us continue to prosper and grow. “
Seems honorable, right? I wish it were. It’s not. Why? Well, if we use the lens of James 4:3, my prayer is something much less than honorable. No, I’m not an envious murderer or lustful. But I am selfishly looking out for my pleasure. In other words, my motives are wrong. Check out what I’ve been convicted of really praying when I put my real-life motives in there.
“God I ask that you protect my kids because I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. Heal my wife of her headaches so that she can still do the things she needs to do and it’s not such an uncomfortable situation for me. Her headaches make things inconvenient for not just me but my whole family. God continue to provide for my family so that we can live comfortably. Please be with my church. Protect it and let us continue to prosper and grow so that it looks like I know what I’m doing ”
I wish I could say I made that up. I didn’t. If I’m honest, my motives are not the best. So I can have the asking, seeking, knocking thing down. But I’m not receiving because my spirit is not tuned to the right channel. I’m just plowing through the water, making the motions, but wearing myself out.
I’m asking with the wrong motives.
I know. It’s raw and honest. But here it is. I’m asking to spend on what will make me comfortable – on what will make those I love comfortable. Check out some of these examples. I pray for…
- health to be more comfortable
- for healing and longer life to continue my comfortable lifestyle
- for money to have more
- for success to be recognized
- for position to hold authority
- for the family to be blessed so that we can continue to enjoy their presence
Tell me it’s not convicting! And I’m betting I’m not alone.
So we know we are to ask, seek, and knock. And we are to do these with the right motives. What are those motives? I mean, is it wrong for me to want my wife to not have headaches? Nope! But for my own benefit? Yep!
My why is so wrong. What’s the right why? What’s the right motive? It’s a lot simpler than you’d think. But it takes a lot of thinking of ourselves less.
The right motive is always asking for the glory of God. We ask so that we can glorify God. That’s it. It’s not hard to understand. But it will take practice thinking of ourselves less to get our why’s right!
The thing is, God is always after communion and relationship with us. He’s drawing us closer to Him so we can learn more about Him. And in all of that, God is glorified. And when we want something from God, we must want it so that we can glorify Him, draw us closer to Him, and learn more about Him, His character, and His attributes. Why? This is huge right here, so it’s going on a line all by itself.
So that we can make Him better known to others! In other words, so we can brag on God.
Let’s retake my prayer.
“God I ask that you protect my kids so that you are their foundation and others find you through their example. I know that will be uncomfortable for them. Use them to glorify you. Heal my wife of her headaches so that we can testify that you guided, provided, and healed and we can share our experience with others, giving you glory. God continue to provide for my family so that we can provide for others, showing them your love. Please be with my church. Protect it and let us continue to prosper and grow so that we can continue to advance your kingdom so others will also find you and glorify you! “
The thing is, to pray means to change. It’s not just asking God to change your heart. It’s asking God to change your heart and then doing something that shows you want your heart to change. It requires action on your part. Suppose I wish God to heal my wife’s headaches. In that case, it means asking, seeking, and knocking with the why always being to glorify God, to advance His kingdom, which will always require a change in me. Our why is always there.
One item to note. This is not manipulating God to get what we want. Again, wrong motives. I will never understand exactly how or why God answers and does what He does. Receiving is not the end result. The end result is what? Glorifying God so that others will do the same. My role is to allow Him to change me in my prayer while relinquishing my rights. I’m committed to letting go of my will when it conflicts with the will of God. It’s praying as Jesus did, “…not My will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Think about it like this in closing. Why did Jesus heal? Why did Jesus answer requests while on earth? John gives us the answer to those questions.
…but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB
The answer? So that people will believe that Jesus is God’s Son. That He lived, died for, and rose again so that all who believe will have life in His name…which glorifies God!
You are loved!