Promise and Prayer
This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Gen 25:19-21)
God reestablished with Issac the promise (covenant) He made with Abraham. Thus Isaac also longed for everything that was promised to be given to Abraham. Just as God said to Abraham, “You will have many descendants; I will lead them into the land of Canaan; and be their God”, God gave the same promises to Isaac, and he wished for them. What Isaac truly longed for was for God to be with him and his descendants. That promise had to be fulfilled, yet this promise was not Isaac’s own idea but the promise which God first gave. The promise was obtained by Abraham through his faith and God said He would surely fulfill it.
In order to become a great nation, the most urgent matter for Isaac was to have children. This was fundamental in the fulfillment of God’s promise. Hence he needed to have children and of course he would later come to have children because God is interested in this matter. However, Isaac had no children for twenty years even after getting married late. If God’s promise was being fulfilled in him, how is it that he had no children for so long? He is supposed to have children. This was crucial for Isaac. Why didn’t he have children? Was God’s promise not valid anymore? But in verse 21 it says, “Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
When he earnestly prayed, the Lord heard him and granted his plea. Though it was definitely what God wanted, planned and promised, it was not happening. But finally, when Isaac prayed for it, God heard his prayer and granted what he asked for. God surely keeps the promise He makes, nevertheless, we must still pray for it. If God promised, then He will surely give us what He promised because it is an agreement between Him and us. Even so, we cannot be idling and take for granted that God will give us what He promised. What we have to do for that which God promised is pray. In order words, prayer is about praying for what God promised us. We don’t have the rights to pray for what God didn’t promise us. And it will be futile even if we pray for those things. So the Lord said, “if my words abide in you and you abide in me, you can ask what you desire and it will be done for you”. Being able to ask for what we wish when abide in His words, that is, in His will means we must ask for what He promised. It is all about praying according to His promise; if we ask according to the desires of our flesh, it will be in vain. Thus it is written, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures”. Therefore we ought to pray, asking for what which God promised.
However, people misunderstand what prayer is, and they fall into temptation when their prayers are not answered when they prayed for what God did not promise. ‘If God is living, why doesn’t He help me?’ Recently I received a letter from a person who said something like this. So I said, “Just because God is living, why does He have to help you? It is strange that you say that. On what grounds do you say that God doesn’t exist simply because He didn’t help you? I didn’t know you until now and never gave any help to you. But does that mean I don’t exist? In the same way, isn’t it bizarre for you to say that God doesn’t exist because He doesn’t help you?” Who is he that he can make conclusions on God’s existence based on his standard? And then if God helps him, he would probably say that God does exists. This is tolerable for a person with elementary faith. However, if a person continued this way, he is badly mistaken.
Even if we were to pray, we must pray in accordance with God’s word. And even if it’s God’s will, we cannot receive it unless we pray. Some people think that if it’s God’s will, we don’t need to pray. They think that they have reached a certain stage where they don’t need to pray and everything will still go well. I do understand where those people are coming from but they must be cautious. Otherwise, they could become heretical. So was it because it was not God’s will that Jesus prayed so much? Jesus prayed all day and all night. He also prayed at dawn, worked hard during the day and then prayed all night while others were tired and resting. And when morning came, he met with people and drove out demons. His life was a continuity of prayer.
So does that mean He prayed in order to persuade God because what He was doing was not God’s will? No. Instead, He is the One who came according to God’s will, and it is unquestionable that everything He did was God’s will. They were the works which certainly had to be fulfilled and would be fulfilled. Nevertheless, He prayed. Because He had come in the flesh, He knew He couldn’t do anything without prayer, even if they might be God’s will. Even though He was God’s Son, He still prayed. So how can a mere man dare say that he does not need to pray because something is God’s will or that which God commanded? For a man to think such a thing is satanic. Anyone who says he can do it on his own is Satan. Believers overlook God’s word when such arrogant thoughts arise in them. But if we take after what Jesus did, we can quickly detect these things.
In our prayers, we shouldn’t be praying to figure out what would happen, such as what might happen to us. Being led by the Holy Spirit is not about asking to find out my predestined future. Rather, having the guidance of the Holy Spirit for me to draw closer to God’s will that He is pleased with and is going to do. It’s for my heart and body to be led towards God’s will. For example, if you are sick and you are praying to find out if you’re going to live or die, that is no different to seeking a fortuneteller. That’s what the people of old did who disappointed God. Once a king asked God, “Will my son survive or die?” So God said, “The moment you return to your house and step inside, your son will die”. And the king’s son died. Another king fell from his bed and therefore asked whether or not he would die from his injury. But God said, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are inquiring of another god?” Samuel also asked about what might happen to him. In this way, people ask to find out what might happen to them. If they have time to ask that, they should pray. Pray to God to save them according to God’s will. If you are dying, if you are in fear, pray to God to save you. Don’t ask if you are going to live or die, for then you will die.
Even if Jesus said with His own lips, “You will die”, when a person replies, “But even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the owner’s table”, in other words, “I still want to live. Please save me!” He saved them. Thus person asked in accordance with God’s will because God wants men to live. So this person was after God’s heart. Hence although those words came out of Jesus’ lips, the person didn’t accept them as their fate, but instead longed to be saved. On the other hand, there are people that still ask, “What’s going to happen to me?” despite the promise that God will save. Such people will die. So don’t ask God what will become of you. Instead of spending time asking that, pray to Him to save you. Don’t ask, “O God, am I going to hell? Is something bad happening to me?” Rather pray that you may draw nearer to God’s will. If you have the time to say doubtful words, spend that time instead to pray in order to have greater faith. Instead of asking, “Will I die in this way?” pray to Him to save you.
Therefore, prayer is done by those who know God’s will not by those that do not know. And we must not expect that something will be done simply because it is God’s will; we have to pray and receive God’s answer. Only then will God’s glory be displayed. Jesus’ name was given for us to use. Hence we have a calling. To have a calling means we know very well why we have to work. We understand that it is in accordance with God’s will. However they will not be fulfilled on their own unless we pray. We have to pray in order to fulfill them. As our ministry and our work are so important, let us pray so that we would continue to pray for them and receive answers. Let us pray that the Lord will give us power, strength and prosperity in order to fulfill our calling that God gave us.
God our Father, since we have come to know the Lord’s will and the Picture of God’s will, help us to be those who earnestly pray for this. Help us to be the ones that pray and receive answers. Also, may we not rely upon fate but pioneer through life by following the Lord’s word. Help us to be those that fight and conquer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center