The Lord’s Prayer 4:
Thy Kingdom Come
Sermon by Pastor Eric Chang, November 28, 1976
Today we continue in the Word of God as we study the Sermon on the Mount. We will look at the words in Mt. 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” But, we will look at this verse together with v8. In v8, it says: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” We will look at these two verses together. What is God’s will in prayer? Since God knows what our needs are, why do we still need to prayer? Why does God need our prayers?
Now, regarding the question, first, whether God needs our prayer, what do you think? Do you think God needs our prayers? In what way would He need our prayers, if He does need our prayers at all? I was reading a book on prayer not so long ago, and in it was quoted the statement of a certain theologian, who says this: “It is not that God needs our prayers, but that God wants our prayers.” What exactly is being said there? God does not need our prayers, but He wants our prayers. The more I ponder that statement, the less profound I find that statement to be, and the less meaningful that statement appears to me. To say that God does not need our prayers, but that He wants our prayers, what exactly are we to understand by this? Are we to understand it somewhat like this: we need food, but we do not actually need the vegetable to go with the food. I mean, we do not need to have soy sauce, we do not need to have salt, sugar, vinegar and the like - to make the food taste nicer - but do you need those things? Could you not live and survive very well without all of those things, i.e., the flavoring agents?
Now, when you say we do not need a thing, but we want it, it seems to me that that is rather like the icing on the cake, that we can have the cake, but we do not really need the icing. I find this kind of a statement exceedingly unsatisfactory. To say that God wants our prayers, but He does not need it, is like saying, “Well, He does not need the icing on the cake. He may want the cake, but He can do very well without the rest of it”, so that whether we pray or not seems to be a matter of indifference to God. It is rather nice to have it, but it does not really matter whether we pray or not. It does not matter very much. Now, this kind of statement is objectionable because it is not Scriptural, and I think it is not surprising to you by now, that theologians are very good at making non-Scriptural statements. And I do not suppose [that] maybe the theologian meant it in this way, but whatever way he meant it, that is all there is of his statement that we have.
Does God Need Our Prayers? If So, Why?
When we look and examine this teaching, this statement, I think it represents the thinking of so many Christians and that is why I am quoting it. I think that so many Christians really do feel that prayer is not very essential as far as God is concerned, that if we did not pray, God would not have missed anything anyway, i.e., nothing of any importance anyway. It is like the extra sweet that if you got it, it is fine; if you did not get, it does not really matter. Now, is this how we should regard prayer? I find that what this theologian has said, perhaps represents not what the Bible says, but perhaps represents what the Christian thinks. It is because if we felt that God really wanted - in the sense of really needed - our prayers, in some special sense of need, then we would see to it that He got the prayers that He so required of us. But seeing that God does not really need our prayers, then we feel that God does not miss anything if we did not pray. Is that not how you feel? Well, surely if you did not pray, God did not miss anything. It does not matter. He is not going to miss your prayer. My prayer is so weak and feeble and disorganized and lacking in grammatical niceties. I mean, it is not like an essay by Milton or anybody like this. So, I mean, if Milton did not offer up his prayer, his beautiful statements that he makes, God might miss it. But my prayers - what difference does it make to God? Now, if you think like this, then clearly you have really no incentive to pray. And that is why I want to get at the root of this question. If God is not going to miss my prayers, then it does not really matter whether I pray or not. Is that not what you think? And is that not what that theologian has said? Well, I want to show you that both this statement of the theologian and our thinking are false. It matters very much to God whether we pray or not. And I would like that realization to sink deep into our mind. It matters to God! He does miss our prayer. It is not just a question of having an extra sweet, i.e., one more or one less, it does not matter. It matters very much to God whether we pray. This is the point I would like you to deeply bear in mind.
Now, when we look at this saying, I want to show it to be false in the light of Scriptural teaching. I am going to show it false. First, what do we mean by ‘need’? When we say that God does not ‘need’ it, what exactly do we mean by ‘need’? If we mean that God depends for His existence upon our prayers, then clearly He does not need our prayers in that particular sense. But that is not the only sense of the word ‘need’. You see, we need a lot more than just appears for the physical or survival in any sense of that word. Let us ask the question: Does a husband need the love of his wife? Does the wife need the love of her husband? Now, if you mean, in the sense, whether she or he would survive physically without that love, obviously, he does not or she does not need that love. I mean, if your husband stopped loving you, or if he died, then he could no more love you, you are not going to die tomorrow. Or if your wife dies, or she ceased loving you because of death or for any other reason, you are not going to die tomorrow either. Physically, you will continue to survive; at least in most cases, you will.
So, in that sense for physical survival, you do not need that love. Do the parents need the love of the children? Do the children need the love of the parents? There are parents who look after their children without loving them. Do the parents need that love? Many children are brought up in homes with no love. Do the children need that love? Well, they do not need that love if we are talking in terms of physical survival. So long as they have food, they can exist. But is life mere existence? So, to speak about ‘need’, we have first to define what we mean by ‘need’. It is wrong of any theologian or anybody else to say that God does not need our prayers because that kind of a statement is meaningless, unless you have defined ‘need’. The point here is this: just as I very much need the love of others, in the sense not that I cannot survive physically without it, but that life would not be life without that kind of love, then I need love in a very real sense. I need love! Everybody needs love. Everybody requires love in order not merely to survive physically, but to make life rich and meaningful and purposeful. Life is not just eating and sleeping. The person locked up in solitary confinement in a jail also gets a certain amount of food to keep him alive. But is being confined in solitary confinement life? Of course not! Life is not just having bread and water.
In that sense, human beings need much more than just food and clothing. “Man does not live by bread alone,” the Scripture told us. [Mt. 4:4] We need more than that. Now, if this is so, does not the Scripture make it clear to us that God loves us and that He wants our love? But when we say ‘wants’ our love, why should He want it, if He had no need for it? Why should I want love from anybody if I do not really need it? Is not even the word ‘want’ needing to be defined? There are things that we want because we need them. What we do not desperately need, we do not really want, i.e., we do not really feel an inclination to have. I do not need that extra sweet. So, I do not really want it. If you give it to me, I will take it. If you do not give it to me, I do not mind, because I do not really want it. Why do I not really want it? It is because I do not really see a need for it. I have no particular need for that sweet.
God Needs and Wants Our Love
Now, you can see that when we speak in spiritual things, we have to be very careful of our language, to define our words clearly and fully. In a very real sense, the Scripture tells us that God wants our love and He needs our prayer, not because His existence depends upon it, any more than my existence depends on my wife’s love for me. But that does not mean that because I can still survive without that love, that I do not really need that love. That is not correct. Even any more than a child can live on bread and water, he does not need his parents to love him to survive physically; but in a very real sense, he needs that love. He needs that love. Whether we can understand it or not, the Scripture tells us that God wants and needs our love in that sense that I have defined, in the same sense as the son needs the father’s love and the father needs the son’s love.
That is maybe a revolutionary thought to us that God needs anything at all. But if He did not need anything at all, did He create us just for the fun of it? Is it just that He thinks it is great fun to have us around? Now, I suspect that in many Christians’ mind, they think exactly like that. God does not need us; why does He want us? But He created us because, well, maybe it is good fun to create some more beings around. After all, it is great fun. If you think of God in those terms, clearly you do not see the point why He created anything at all. He is perfectly self-sufficient in Himself, why create anything? Just for the fun of it? Just because it happens to be that He likes to create? In this case, of course, whether we exist or not does not really matter. It just happens to be that God may have some fun creating us. Now, if that is all there is to it, then I do not find that teaching in Scripture. As we press on, we are going to see: whether it matters to God whether we exist or not, whether we love Him or not, whether we pray or not. That is the question.
Our Prayers Matter to God Because He Loves Us
So, the question is this: Does our prayer matter to God? Does it matter to God whether we love Him or not? Are we then just created because God decided that since it is very boring sitting in heaven, having nothing to do, He decided to create some human beings and enjoy Himself. [It was just to] have a bit of fun because He did not really need us, any more than if we had a dog at home, we do not really need that dog, but we have it there for fun. Is this the concept of man (that we should have on the basis of God’s Word) that, after all, it does not matter whether we even exist or not, let alone whether we prayed or not? Now, I want to tell you on the basis of Scripture. And I want all pious statements aside. I am not interested in any kind of pious statements, which say that God is perfect in Himself; He does not need anybody. Of course, we do not need anybody; I can live without anybody. I can go out there and live on bread and water. In that sense, we do not need anybody either. Why do you need me? Why do we need each other? But to think in this kind of way is to miss the whole point. We do not glorify God by saying this kind of thing whatsoever. In fact, we have only degraded God. It is not so glorious to be able to say that God really does not need anything and anybody, and therefore, the only reason we can think of why He created us was just for the sheer fun of it, since He does not really need us at all.
There is a definite sense in which God needs us, and I am not afraid to say this on the basis of God’s Word, because the Bible tells us that it matters to God. You see, if He does not need us, it does not matter to Him whether we pray or do not pray, isn’t it? If He does not need us, why does it matter if we pray or do not pray? What does it matter to Him if we love Him or do not love Him? He does not need us anyway. He has no loss. If I do not pray, He has lost nothing. If I do not love Him, He has lost nothing. So, why should it matter to Him whether we pray or not? The Bible tells us that it matters to Him very, very much. It is not for His survival, not that His existence depends on it, but that it matters to Him because God is, in His nature, love. And love does not make fun of other people. It does not make fools of other people. Love does not say to others, “Well, I do not really need you. You do not matter to me.” Love cares and love is concerned about others, and therefore, that concern means that you matter to God. It is in the nature of God that we matter to Him. Now that is something that we need to take some thinking about. When we deeply realize that we do matter to God, [it makes a difference]. As God said to Israel, “He that touches you touches the apple of My eye.” Inside the eyeball is what is called the apple of the eye. “He that touches you touches the apple of My eye.” [Zech. 2:8] You know how sensitive the apple of the eye is. That means to say, “You matter to me so much that if anyone hurts you in the slightest, it is like touching the inside of My eye. I am concerned about this.” You see, we are not just toys that God wants to play around with. We are very precious to God. We matter as much to Him as the apple of our eye matters to us.
That is the Biblical teaching. Whether we can understand it or not does not matter. What matters is that God reveals to us how much He cares for us, how much we matter to Him. Now, if Israel, for example, if human beings did not matter to God, what difference does it make, i.e., why should God get angry if Israel does not listen to Him? He will say, “OK, who cares? I’ll sweep you all into the sea. Be done with it! Finish! Wipe them all out! Wipe the slate clean.” Now, human beings could do that, yes. I am not surprised if human beings would do that, [as if to say,] “If you all are a nuisance to me, you are as much trouble to me as dead bugs. I just pour boiling water over you and be done with it! Finish! Wipe them all out!” That is human thinking. That is how the Nazis thought. The Jews are a pestilence in the world, so we put them all in the gas chambers. That is very much how human beings think: “You do not matter to me. You are a nuisance to me, so I am going to wipe you all out.” Sometimes we wonder why God did not wipe men out. In fact, I have been often asked the question: When human beings sinned, why did God not just wipe them out? I say, “Isn’t that typical? That is how human beings think.” They offend you, they annoy you, so you just wipe them out. Thanks be to God that God is not like that! Remember what we said last week? “Hallowed be thy name.” God is holy; He is different from any human being. He does not think as we do. As Isaiah says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts. My thoughts are higher above your thoughts. As the heaven is above the earth, so are My thoughts above your thoughts.” [Is. 55:9] They are completely different.
Do not try to reason, as I said and warned you last week, from human thinking to God’s thinking because you are going to draw the wrong conclusion. That is exactly what this theologian did. He thinks, “Well, God does not need man, so whether we prayed or not, [it does not matter]. He wants it. I do not know why He wants it, since He does not need it anyway. It is like that extra sweet. It makes my mouth feel better.” No, no! The Scriptural teaching is not like this, brothers and sisters. Bear deeply in mind this point from this day forth: that whether we pray or not matters to God because we matter to Him. And we matter to Him because He loves us. Why He loves us, I do not understand, but the Bible tells us that it is in the nature of God, “God as to His very nature is love.” [1 Jn. 4:8,16] I do not understand it because my nature is not love, but His nature is love. And I know that one day, when He changes my nature completely into His nature, I will understand.
I shared the other day the fact that human nature is such that they do not really want - we do not really care about - other people. As I was talking with my dear friend, the physicist, that I have mentioned to some of you before, he shared with me once, and said, “My problem in the Christian life is I can’t feel any sense of concern for other people.” But thanks be to God that God is changing him! This last letter that I received from him showed a complete difference of attitude. His concern for others really astonished me. This was the same person who said to me a few years ago, “I do not feel any concern for other people,” but God has been changing him. And now he begins to have a concern for other people that really astonishes me. You see, God changes us! One day, we are going to fully understand why God loves us. Right now, we do not fully understand because we do not see anything very lovely about human beings, including ourselves. Why should anybody love me? That is a mystery! It is a mystery; you do not understand it. I do not see anything very lovely about me; I do not see anything very lovely about others. But God loves us! And one day, when we are changed, we will understand. So, let us be extremely clear about the reality of God’s concern for us that we do matter to God. And because we matter to God, it matters to Him whether we pray or not.
If you love a person, you want to hear from that person. You long for a letter to come. You want a telephone call to come. While you do not get that letter, you will be chewing all your nails, wondering, “Why? Why? What is the matter? Has the post office broken down? Has he hurt his hand? Has he hurt himself or has she hurt herself?” And so, you are worrying. It matters to you. And so, in the same way, it matters to God whether we pray or not. Try and get this into your mind, no matter how hard you find it to understand, because your character and my character is not yet like God’s. But may God help us to understand! It matters to Him because He loves us. And He loves us to the extent in which He was prepared to lay down His life for us. If you want proof that He cares about us, just think about that: He laid down His life for us! Do you find that hard to understand? Sure! Paul says, “Who can understand the love of God that He would do something like that for us? We would hardly die for a righteous man, let alone for a sinner.” [Rom. 5:7-8] But that is how God’s nature is. We must get a completely different concept of God’s nature. That is what the Sermon on the Mount is helping us to have.
Do We Know Our Need?
But let us press on to another question. It is this: we have just seen that God, in Mt. 6:8, already knows our needs. “OK,” you say, “granted that we matter to God, granted that He wants to loves us, and that He does love us, and that we matter very much to Him, but being God, He already knows what we need. So, why should I pray? OK, I accept that you say that I matter to God. I marvel about this. I appreciate this. I really thank God for this: that I matter to Him. But seeing that He already knows what I need, what does it matter if I pray or not? He already knows before I open my mouth. The Bible says, ‘Before even the words were formed on your lips, He knows what your need is.’ Does it not make it unnecessary for me to talk?”
Now, here we need to answer in two ways. First of these, the question is not whether He knows, but whether we know what we need. You see the point is not whether God knows what we need; the question is whether we know what we need. Half the time it is we who do not know what we need, and it is essential to God that we come to realize what we need.
The question then, in this sense, is this: When a man is drowning, the point is not whether it is important for the people on the shore to hear him calling. The question is whether it is important to himself whether he calls or not. Now, if he does not cry out, “Help! I am drowning!” and the people did not hear him call, now does it matter to the person on the shore whether he heard him or not? It does not matter, because I mean, it is no skin off his nose; he is not drowning. So, whether you call or not, the person on the shore does not lose anything. Now if you are drowning, it is not that that person needs to hear your call, you need that he should hear your call. Do you see the point? That is what the important thing is.
First, you have got to realize your own need. When we are being lost, the point is not whether God knows whether we are lost. The point is whether we know we are being lost. This is something that is very important. But now, certainly, for the human point of view, that is where the illustration ceases. The illustration means that the man on the shore has got to know whether you are being lost, so that he can come and help you. God already knows that. But the question is this: Do you know what your need is? Now, not until you are actually sinking do you realize, “Ah! I am in need of salvation. I am in need for someone to help me.” So, the first point to bear in mind is this: though God may know, He must wait till you know whether you need something or not, whether you need salvation or not. We are going to see why this is so. You see, it follows in this way: that whether we know something or not is going to make a difference to us. I hope I can put this across clearly enough and simply enough that everyone can follow. You see, first of all, unless we know our own need, we are not prepared to do anything about it, such as crying out for help that I have just mentioned. You have got first to know your own need; otherwise, you would not do anything about it. But the second point is this: though you may know your need and want to do something about it, it does not necessarily follow that you will call on God to meet that need. You may just try, for example, though you are sinking in the water, you may just beat your hands, bash around in the water and hope for the best. You do not yell for help at all.
I have shared with some of you that it is so curious in my case, that many years ago when I first went to Switzerland as a little boy, when my father went to the United Nations in Geneva, I went to Switzerland and stayed there for about a year. One day I was in a hotel. I looked out of the window and I saw this beautiful swimming pool. I said, “Oh, so beautiful!” I saw some grown-ups and some young boys, about my age, swimming in there. So, I said to my mother, “I’d like to go to the swimming pool.” She said, “But you do not know how to swim!” I said, “Well, it does not matter. I can still go and play in the water.” She said, “OK, OK, if you want to go to the swimming pool, you go.” So I went to the swimming pool. There I stood by the pool, looking around. And then I saw a little boy there, just about my age, my size - a Swiss boy - and whiz, he jumped into the water and he paddled across there. I said, “That is too easy! Who can’t do that? Ridiculous! All you do is jump in the water and you move your two hands.” I mean, I know how to move my hands. I also know how to jump. It is quite simple. So there I go. I jump - dive - into the water. Well, I start going down. “Hey! Something’s gone wrong here.” And what was going to be a nice easy stroke, like this fellow’s, is turned into a wild smashing job.
To make things worse, having never been to a swimming pool, I did not know there was a deep end and a shallow end. And of all things, of course, I had dived at the deep end. So, by now, you can imagine that there was a terrific splashing and beating and smashing around in the water. Nobody came to my help because, of course, I had jumped in at the deep end, and everybody thought I must be a swimmer who had jumped in the deep end and that this smashing up of the water was just like most boys do. They do the foolish things. They are just enjoying themselves, smashing the water up. So, all that happened was that everybody was looking very amusedly at me, while I was smashing, trying to save my life in the water.
You see, the point was this: up till then, I did not know there was any need for me to learn to swim. I thought, “Who needs to learn to swim? Anybody knows how to move their hands, jump in there - it is simple. You do not need to waste time going to learn to swim if that is all there is to swimming. That is easy. Not until I began to sink that it dawned on me, I had the need - I need to learn to swim - and that it was not as simple as it looks. You see, I did not know my need. I had to go through this experience to cause me to realize my need. If I had not dived in that day, if somebody said, “Do you know how to swim?” I would have said, “Sure! It is simple. I saw that boy jump in. He just dived in there and moved his two hands. I can do that! Sure, I know how to swim!” But wait till I tried it, then I discovered my real need.
The question then is not whether God knows my need. My mother knew my need, but I did not know my need. She told me, “You do not know how to swim”, but I did not believe it. I said, “Sure! This is simple.” So, she knew my need, but I did not know my need. Here is the first thing then: that before somebody can be helped, he has got to know his own need, if he is going to be properly helped. He must be brought to realize his need. But once I know my own need, I may not call on God to help, any more than I did not call out for help at all. In fact, I could not very well call out for help; the water was pouring into my mouth. But nobody came to my help, and I did not jump or make any attempt to scream out for help. I still battled on until finally, I grabbed - very exhaustedly - the side of the pool and hung on. I had managed, somehow, to get onto the side of the pool.
Will We Turn to God for Help in Our Need?
Now, in those cases, we can still manage somehow to save ourselves. But, you see, here then [is the situation]: once I know my need, I may not turn to God for my help. And God is going to wait. It is because if we think we can do something for ourselves, we are not going to need God to do it for us. So, there are two things we need to know in this connection. First, whether we know our need, and secondly, whether we will turn to God to meet that need, or whether we will turn to ourselves to try and solve the problem. Now, in many things, we can solve the problem ourselves, but if so, then we do not need God, of course. So, the question is whether we need God and we realize our need for God, and that is essential in prayer. If there is something I can do myself, what is the point of my calling on God to do it for me? That is clear.
So, here we see this very important fact: why God wants us to pray. It is not whether He knows our needs, but whether we know our needs, and when we have known our needs, whether we will call on Him to meet our needs. Now, this has practical bearings on prayer, which is very obvious. If I do not sense a need, I will, of course, not ask God for that particular thing, because I do not sense my need for it. Secondly, that if I sense a need, but I feel that I can meet that need myself, then I will also not pray to God for that particular thing. That is also obvious. But then somebody may ask, “Why should God wait till you know your need? Why does He not just meet your need first before you ask?” Now, I have had that question put to me as well. Some people have said, “Why should I ask? God knows my need, and why should He not just meet my need without waiting for me to realize my need? He can still meet it.” Now, what do you think about that, as a possibility? Suppose that every time you have a need, God just quietly meets your need without your knowing that you even had that need, and since He has already met it, you never have a need.
Now, do you not see that the important thing is: if God did things in this way, we would never consciously turn to God at all, because we never have a need? We are never conscious of any need. Do we not see that God uses the need to draw us to Himself, that we may find the answer of our need in Him? We see that need as a burden, but in fact, it is a spiritual opportunity. Do not pray that God will take away all your need; pray rather that God will meet your need. Do not pray that you will never have any need, but rather pray that in every need, you may see the love and goodness of God. Suppose you have a friend, [but] you will never see why you really need that friend. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” [says a famous proverb]. But if you never have a need, how will you ever know that that friend is a friend indeed, isn’t it? In the same way, is it not true in the spiritual life? Is it not true that if God just quietly met all our needs, we will in fact be damaged spiritually because we will never see the need for knowing God at all? Since all our needs have already been met, why do we need to know God? And in this way, we will lose eternal life, since eternal life depends upon our knowing God. But if we have no need, we would never come to God. If we never have come to God, where is our opportunity of knowing Him? We must come to God if we want to know God. But we would not come to Him if we have no need? Isn’t that perfectly obvious? So, how can we say, “Why did God not meet our needs in this way?” He would be destroying us if He did that. Human beings are very good, sometimes out of good intentions, at destroying other people. They have good intentions, like good parents who love their children so much that they spoil their children and ruin their children. Love must be wise.
And to ask the question “Why does God not just meet our need before the need arises?” is to show the lack of wisdom that is another characteristic of human beings. That is why there are children who grow up who do not ever love their parents. And their parents do not understand it, “We have loved him all our life. We have loved her all our life. And now, he or she grows up without loving me.” Do not blame the child; blame yourself for your own foolishness and lack of wisdom. If you always give the child what he wants or what she wants before he or she ever asks for it, you are doing something exceedingly foolish because the child will never become aware of any need for you. Why do they need you? And because they do not become aware of the need for you, they will never see the need to draw near to you. And because they do not have a need for you, the result is they never come to know you, and that results in what is called the ‘generation gap’. The generation gap comes either from the lack of love or too much human love. One of these two reasons always lies behind it. A spoiled child ends up being a child who does not love the parents. You say, “Well, I gave that child everything he wanted or everything she wanted.” You are foolish, my friend. Learn from God! You must show the child that he or she needs you. Only so will you bring him to the consciousness of his need. Otherwise, he is never aware that he needs anything. He is self-sufficient, he is proud, he is arrogant - as spoiled children always are. They are badly-behaved, arrogant children. They do not feel they need anything. They are inflated with a false sense of their own importance. You see, God is so wise, isn’t He?
You may know that child’s needs. That does not mean that you have to stuff them up with everything in advance. Let the child become aware of their need. Let the child realize their need. It is to help that child. And they will grow up appreciating you, loving you, thanking you, grateful for all you have done for them. Teach them to become grateful. Teach them to realize their need. But they will never become grateful if they do not know their need, and that you met their need. You see how God is so wise and how foolish human beings are. So, remember this: you can ruin a person either by not loving that person at all, or by loving that person in a foolish and unwise way, by giving that person everything that person wants before they even ask for it. So, they have no sense of need and have a sense of their own sufficiency, which is in fact utterly unreal. Oh, that we would learn from the wisdom of God to live our life! God’s ways are so perfect and the only reason we do not understand His ways is because we are so foolish.
So, when a child has a need, do not keep stuffing the child. For example, maybe he is hungry now, then [you] stuff some food down his mouth. You say, “You want a banana now? Are you sure you are not hungry? No? Now have a banana. Otherwise, you are going to be hungry.” What is so terrible for the child to feel some hunger and they say, “Mummy” or “Daddy, can I have something to eat?” You give it to them and they are so grateful. This banana tastes so delicious because they are so hungry. But you keep stuffing the food down their throat, they are fed up with it: “Why are you always asking me whether I want a banana?” Oh yes, we do not understand the ways of God because we do not have His wisdom. Wait till the child needs something. They ask for it, and ask for it properly and nicely, saying, “I really need this thing.” Then you give it to them. Oh, they appreciate it so much, “Oh, it is so good. My Daddy and Mummy, they are so nice to me, so good to me!” And then they understand. Now they understand.
You see, that is the way God deals with us as children, as a father deals wisely with his child. He waits till we ask, and when we have asked, as we realize our need, and we realize that only He can meet our need, then we are filled with gratitude, “Oh, God is so good to me. He is so kind to me.” But how would we ever come to realize this if God has been stuffing us with bananas and with cakes all the time. We do not need Him. We say, “Don’t keep stuffing me! I am already a Peking duck the way you are stuffing me now. Some children are spoiled just because of this. They almost resent their parents. They are fed up with their parents. [They say,] “Always pampering me, and getting after me, and nagging me! You drive me nuts.” But God does not deal with us in this way. Oh, so wise is God in His dealings with us. He is so perfect in His wisdom. It really causes me to marvel and to praise Him and to worship Him.
Prayer Is Exercising the Will
Another point, which we must come to now as the concluding point since our time is going, and you see how important it is for us clearly to understand this, is the importance of prayer. The other point is this: it is a matter of the will. What is the matter of the will? It is this: unless we ask of God in prayer, and come to God and ask from ourselves, then we have not exercised our will in asking anything. So, it is this: first, we must understand our need. And having understood our need, we exercise our will in a specific direction. Now, need is something that exercises the will most specifically. You see, if you have no need, you have to make no decision. You have nothing in which you have to exercise your will to say, “What am I going to do about this need?” You have no particular need for you to exercise your mind and your will on. And it is very important that God wants us to exercise our will. You see, when I have a need, it is I who have asked for it. It is I who have made the decision to ask. My decision is involved. But you see, that is why we said just now, if parents continue to give to their children things that they have not asked for, they have made no decision on their part. They have been robbed of the opportunity to make a decision for themselves, to exercise their will in wanting this particular thing. You give them something they did not want, because they did not ask for it. You wait till they want it, then they will want that thing, and therefore they will exercise [their will]. They will say, “I want this. I need this thing. Please give it to me.” Then that is your decision. It is a decision that you have made in relation to a particular thing.
Now, why is it important? It is important precisely in this way, because God does not treat us as robots or tape recorders, but as people capable of making their own choice. And the need is something that faces us with the need to make a choice. You take away the need and the necessity for choice is gone. Choice is always made in the face of a need, in the face of having to confront a decision and to deal with it. And so, if you, as a parent, take away the opportunity of your children to make decisions, by simply if, before they have even a chance to make a decision, you have already made the decision for them, then you are going to bring up children who are quite incapable of facing life. That is why so many children who come from well-to-do homes and pampered homes are unable to face life. They have not had the opportunity of struggling with needs, fighting with needs. You will find children from poorer homes are often far superior, because all their life they have struggled with needs and problems and difficulties. They have become strong and tough through the facing of needs. But the children from well-to-do homes are often rather like jellyfish. They are incapable in standing on their own feet. They have an inflated sense of their own importance, but in the face of a test, they collapse every time because they were never given a chance to fight and wrestle and struggle with difficulties and with needs.
It is the responsibility of a parent to provide the children with certain needs that they have to wrestle and struggle with, by which they become strong and able to make their own decisions. And so, in the same way, God wants us to make decisions, to realize our need and to struggle with that need until we say, “God, here is my need. Will You meet my need?” We have made the decision to ask Him. We have come to realize [our need]. First, of course, He lets us struggle for a time. We find that there is no way. Often He wants us to be convinced that there is no one else who can meet that need but Him. This is the reason why often in prayer, you will find a delay. He does not answer right away, and you say, “Why not? Why not?” Why? It is because He wants you to struggle with that need until you realize there is nobody else who can meet that need but God. You see, if He meets your need before you realize that only He can meet that need, first, your will has not been exercised, you have not wrestled with the matter. Notice He did not bless Jacob as soon as Jacob said, “Bless me.” No, He did not bless him. He let Jacob wrestle all night, until the morning, before He blessed him. [That was] when Jacob was weary, exhausted, having wrestled through all night. You see, God lets us wrestle. He does not spoil us. He lets us wrestle until we realize, “I have tried this; I have tried that; I have tried everything; and I am utterly exhausted. Lord, I can’t find an answer to this.” Then God answers your need. Then you say, “O God, You are just so wonderful.” Then you appreciate the wisdom and power of God. Why should He do for you what you can do for yourself? Why should He do for you what other people can do for you? He is not going to do it. But when you realize there is nowhere else to turn, you have exhausted your possibilities, you have exhausted every other possibility, now only God can answer. You see, that is the way He strengthens us. He makes us strong spiritually. You never have to be afraid. God never spoils us. He is not going to turn us into robots. He is not going to deprive us of the opportunity of exercising our will, and exercising it to the limit.
So, realize this, brothers and sisters: becoming a Christian never means that you will be de-personalized. No! Never! God wants you to exercise your will, and to exercise it to the limit. He is going to wait when, with your own will, you will say, “Your will be done on earth - and in my life - as in heaven.” He is going to wait for you to say that. He is not going to take His will and cram it down your throat. Oh no! It is too good to do that. He is going to wait until you realize that there is no other way to meet your need but the will of God, that there is no other solution to the problem but the will of God. So long as you think there is another solution to the problem, He is not going to move. Nothing will happen until that day you say, “Lord, Your will be done. Your will be done on earth! Your will be done in my life, as in heaven.” Before that, He will not move until your will is prepared to realize that it is only His will that can answer your problem. Until that day, you will find that God does not impose His will on you at all. He is not going to turn you into a robot. He is not going to say, “You do not have to exercise your will; I’ll do it for you.” Never!
Sin Is a Violation of Another Person’s Will
This brings us to another point that is exceedingly interesting. And it is this: that sin is precisely that thing which is a violation of another person’s will. Did you realize that? Sin is the violation or the removal or the cancellation of somebody’s will - somebody else’s will - and God will never do that to us. Think about it. What is robbery? Robbery or stealing is to remove from you something that you did not want to give away. A robber comes to you, points a gun at you, and says, “Let’s have the money.” Whether you want to or not, it does not interest him in the slightest. Whether your will is functioning or not, he wants to take it against your will. He is going to crush your will by sticking his gun at you. That is why the gun is pointing at you, so that you cannot exercise your will. He wants to turn you into a robot that he can exploit. He is going to take that thing away. Think of any sin you like and you will see that sin is always the attempt to destroy the will of the other person or to act contrary to his will. The same is true of murder, of course, in which you actually destroy the other person. You wipe out the possibility of him to use his will at all. You neutralize the person, as it is said euphemistically. Or take anything. Sexual violence is the same way. When a person is assaulted against her will, she is violated against her will. You do not treat that person as ‘person’; you treat that person as ‘thing’. Sin always treats the other person as a thing, not as a person. And the way you treat another person as a thing is to remove or disrespect or violate that person’s will. Did you realize then that sin is always contrary to another person’s will, as well as contrary to the will of God?
Now, when you realize that sin, never treats another person as ‘person’. It follows then that when you turn it around, it means that righteousness always treats another person as ‘person’. It always respects the other person as ‘person’. It never violates another person’s will. It never tramples on another person. It never reduces another person to a thing. This also means that God never acts in that way. He never tramples us underfoot. He does not reduce us to a thing, but He always treats us as a person. Human beings may treat us as a thing, but God never. If you go into a government office, you seem to be de-personalized. You become just a number. “Number 523!” You say, “Oh, that’s me, 523.” You come forward. You are not a person; you are just a number on a card. They stuff you through a computer and you will come out number so and so, Case #53, and you turn out to be Case #53. So, you are just reduced always to ‘thing’, for convenience’s sake, or for any other sake; it does not matter. You are just a thing. It is very interesting how human beings are always trying to reduce others to things.
Have you ever noticed that almost every policeman looks like the other policeman? Funny! They all look alike. Why? It is because they have all purposely been de-personalized. If a policeman in England tried to grow a mustache, he runs into a row with the authority because he is trying to become personal again. You are not supposed to grow any mustache. You must look like every other guy. Every guy is clean-shaven in this way, hair cut at this level, everybody the hat in the same position, everybody the same uniform. The only difference is the difference in number - to distinguish one thing from the other thing. And so, the world wants to de-personalize you. When you go into the army, they treat you as a thing. You are shouted at, you are told, “Line up! Go here! Go there!” You do not talk; you do not answer; you just say ‘yes’. Your will does not count - only the will of your commanding officer. In the end, his will does not count either. It is only the supreme commander’s will that count. So, everything is aimed at de-personalizing you. Interesting, isn’t it? It is very curious. That is how the world operates. But God never does that. He wants you to be you.
Spirit-Filled Christians Do Exercise Their Will in Fellowship with the Holy Spirit
This has a very serious implication for the whole question of guidance, as well as into every other department of the Christian life, that we have no time to develop now, which I leave you to think through. You see, we are so brainwashed in being de-personalized that we think it is the normal thing to do, that the best kind of a Christian is the de-personalized Christian, who behaves in a robot-like, tape recorder fashion; that is the finest Christian. He is called the Spirit-controlled Christian. He never makes up his mind to do anything; he only waits on God to do everything. He never says ‘yes’ until God says ‘yes’. The question is: When does God say ‘yes’?
You see, I have a dear friend and I invite him to come to my place and he would say, “Yes. Yes. Sure, when the Lord allows me to come. That’s right.” And the thing is this: he never is going to tell you whether he is coming or not. You say, “Why?” It is because he is waiting on the Lord’s leading. And the Lord’s leading in his case seems to me that he only knows 5 minutes before he comes. This makes arrangements for him to preach virtually impossible. I have got to stand by ready with a message, if any time I invite this dear brother to preach, because, for all you know, 5 minutes before the meeting, he does not turn up. Why? It is because, well, as far as he knows, the Lord wanted him to stay back, and what else [can you do]? This is most exasperating. But mostly, of course, he does turn up. But you always have to be sure that in 10% of the instances, he might not turn up. So, you have got to be sure there is somebody else ready. Now, you imagine inviting somebody like this to come to a conference, because he is not going to tell you whether he is coming to the conference or not. If you invite him eight months’ ahead, he would say, “Oh, no, no. I won’t know until 5 minutes before the conference.”
Many people think that that is the idea of a Christian: he never makes up his own mind; he never makes any decisions; he never knows whether he is going to go through a meal or not, whether he is going to go through a meeting or not. My, oh my, if you call that a Spirit-guided Christian, you have really missed the point. Sometimes you try to help this people, but they feel that they are far so super-spiritual that they are so completely Spirit-controlled that, well, they have ceased to exercise their own will at all.
Now, you see, they mean well, but they are ignorant of the Word of God. The Word of God does not tell us that super-Christians are Christians who have ceased to exercise their will, that having died to self does not mean that you have no more will. It means dying to sin, to the old way of life. Your whole mind, you whole will is renewed, regenerated. Oh, there are so many things to understand in the Christian life and every misunderstanding is like stepping on a minefield. It will destroy you spiritually. So here, then, we must understand the importance of all this for prayer, that God wants us to exercise our will in prayer.
It must be my desire for this particular thing and not that I am so spiritual, so-called, that now I have no desire whatsoever. In this case, of course, I do not need to pray for anything. I am so spiritual now that whatever God wants to give me is fine; I do not need to pray for anything. That means to say you become so Spirit-filled that you do not have to pray anymore because you have no need, you do not care if you have any needs or not, and that is it. I do not mind if I starve to death, for that matter, or if my family starve to death, or my children starve to death. It just does not matter anymore because God knows my need; He will meet my need. If He does not meet my need, then it is His will that I should starve to death. It is pathetic, but it is so true sometimes in the Christian life when you see the wrong conclusions that people come to.
In the Bible, I do not read about the control of the Spirit. I ask you to show me one verse in the Bible, just one verse please, that says that we are controlled by the Spirit of God in the sense that we have ceased to exercise our will. Show me please one verse - anywhere you can quote. But I do read in the Bible about the fellowship of the Spirit. Oh, yes! I read a lot about the fellowship of the Spirit. “The love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit” [2 Cor. 13:14] - what does it mean? You can only have fellowship if two people have a communion and fellowship of will. If I ceased to be a person, you cannot have fellowship with me. I have no will. I have nothing with which to response with. Anything you say, [the answer] is: “Yes.” “OK.” “Fine.” “Good.” How do you have fellowship with a person like that? You say, “Do you want to go out?” “I do not mind.” “Do you want to eat now?” “It’s OK.” After a little while of this, you will be so fed up. How are you going to have fellowship? [You would say,] “I mean, tell me. I am asking you because I like to know, you see. I would like to know, do you want to have a walk?” “Oh,” you say, “it does not matter to me.” So, next time, all you do is just take him by the hand and just gladly walk out. Push him back to eat and he eats. You cannot have fellowship with a person like this. Fellowship means that that is a person; you do not have fellowship with a thing. I do not have fellowship with a car. I mean, it goes where I want it to go; it does not ask any question. I only have fellowship with a person when he exercises his will. I say, “Would you like to eat?” “Oh, I’d like that.” Ah! That is an answer; not to say, “I do not mind.” [But if he says:] “I would like that.” “I enjoy that.” “Oh, sure!” Then we have a great time together. But why do we think that God wants robots? When God says, “Do you want to go out today and go to that place?” [do you say,] “I do not mind. OK”? [Or do you say,] “Oh, I’d enjoy it, Lord! Sure! You want me to go? Amen! Here I go! That’s great! I’d really love to do it.” That is something different from saying, “I do not mind”, isn’t it, because one has exercised the will; the other one has exercised no will. That is the big difference. Our time has far gone and there are still much riches in here, but we must stop here for today.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church