Increase Your Expectations
The point of this exhortation is simple, I would like us to increase our expectation in prayer by remembering who we are praying to.
We are studying the psalms right now, and as Johnathan said last week, “The psalms are written with the assumption that we are praying.”
Yes, praying is difficult, but that does not mean it’s unimportant. In fact, its difficultly speaks to its importance as the really important things in life often the most difficult, and prayer is no different. But, part of the reason prayer is so difficult is that we easily forget who we are talking to, and therefore we don’t expect our prayers to do anything
God is all-powerful.
As Christians we believe God is all powerful, but that thought is not always in front of us. We don’t always remember it and, because we don’t remember God’s power, our expectations of what God will do during prayer are often low.
Tim Keller has said, “There is almost universal agreement that prayer should be started by thinking over who it is that you will be addressing.”
When we remember who it is we are talking to—the Almighty Creator of the Universe—it creates in us what John Calvin called a “joyful fear,” or what Tim Keller refers to as a “loving awe” where “our hearts are in awe before the greatness of God and before the privilege of prayer.”
It is like working on a roof. Last year I was cleaning out the gutters on my house. I was two stories high for an hour or two digging out rotten slop from my gutters. I had my headphones in because it was tedious and repetitive task, but at one point I reached to grab more slop and my foot slipped. In that moment, I grabbed tightly to the roof, I froze, and my heart dropped. I took out my headphones and thought, “I have to take this way more seriously. I’m on a roof! This isn’t a joke! I need to focus.” The gravity of what was going on just hit me.
It is the same with prayer. When we truly remember who we are talking to, our hearts drop with seriousness of what is going on.
We are talking to the God who “neither slumber[s] nor sleep[s]” (Psalm 121:4). And, “The number of his years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26).
As it says in Job 26:7, 10, 14, “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing…He created the horizon when he separated the waters: he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke…These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power” (NLT).
All creation is merely a whisper of God’s power. A whisper!
This is the God who hears us!
So, increase your expectation in prayer
The power of prayer is not in us, in our ability to pray, but in the God we are praying to.
Edmund Clowney wrote, "The bible does present an art of prayer, it presents the God of prayer."
God uses his power today.
The one we are praying to is not just all-powerful, but he actually uses his power in real life—here, right now, in Minnesota. Jesus said his Father is working until now, and he is working (John 5:17). The New Testament is filled with prayers that God would strengthen us by his power, by his might (see Eph. 3:16, 6:10; Col. 1:11; 1 Pet. 4:11). God is active today.
If you pray long enough in Jesus’ name you will experience God using his power in your life. He will answer prayers. And when you experience God answering your payers you will have that heart-drop like you almost fell off the roof again. “Whoa, I have to take this more seriously! Why don’t I pray more?”
He is the God who through his mighty hands and outstretched arm created the world, rescued Israel from slavery, raised Jesus from the dead, and still rescues people from slavery and still raises the dead.
He is not the Almighty God with all this power, who then just sits on his hands.
He sits on his throne.
Today, at this very moment, and he is working.
So Increase your expectation of what God will do when you pray.
God wants us to pray to him.
Finally, remember, this God who has all power and who uses his power, actually wants us to pray to him, in Jesus Name—in the name of his son, in no other name, but the name of his only son. God delights in our prayers because he delights in his son, and we are in his son! So, he delights to hear us!
As Jesus says in John 16, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
God delights to hear us pray in the name and authority of his son.
Revelation 5 & 8 give powerful pictures of God delighting in our prayers. They talk of our prayers—the prayers of those in Christ—as incense being gathered into bowls, and this incense is creating a pleasing aroma rising up before God. Incense is delightful aroma.
Our prayers are a delight to our Father.
He is all Powerful, he actively using his power today, and He delights to hear our prayers, so let us increase our expectation of what he will do in response prayer.
And let us do this right now as we come to him in confession.