“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 he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matt. 7:7,8
I have it laid on my heart to throw out some hints with reference to prayer. The first thing that I would observe is this: our heavenly Father knows how we are situated whilst passing through this present evil world. All the trials, the difficulties, the perplexing circumstances, and the temptations to which we are exposed, He is intimately acquainted with; and for that very reason His word is full of promises, so that we should be encouraged to roll our burdens on Him. For it is not His will that we should carry them in our own strength, but speak to Him about everything, walk with Him continually, and so roll all our burdens on Him. He not merely invites us to do this, but He advises us, He exhorts us, to do so; yea, I may say, He commands us to do so, in order that we may find ease and comfort in our trials and difficulties. And it is because we do not make a good use of our God that we so frequently find a trying state of things in this world. Were we habitually to roll our burdens on the Lord, our position would be a hundred times better than it is.
Dear brethren and sisters, are you in the habit of rolling all your burdens on the Lord? Just as trials come, do you bring them back to your heavenly Father? This is the reason why He lays them on you. And if you make the attempt to carry them in your own strength you will oblige your heavenly Father to increase the trial and burden, so that by the weight you may be at last forced to come to Him, and leave it with Him.
Then again, our precious Lord Jesus Christ has passed through this vale of tears, and “was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." All His temptations were from without, none from within, because He was the spotless One. Nevertheless Christ was abundantly tried, difficulties befalling Him without number or measure. And He knew how it would fare with us who would be left in this world, and thus His love led Him to make this provision for us, that by prayer we should bring the burden back to Him.
Now let me affectionately ask you, my beloved brethren and sisters. Do you take the advice of our precious Lord Jesus Christ? And do you believe what He says when He speaks, as in these verses, "Ask, and it shall be given you .... and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Oh, let us take it to our hearts! I believe He means us to understand literally what these words convey to us. “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
But wide, and broad, and deep though these promises be, they must be taken in connection with other portions of Scripture. We must compare Scripture with Scripture, because again and again we find that one part supplies another with what is wanting.
For instance, let us turn to 1 John 5:13-15. Here is the first condition to be attended to. If we desire our petitions to be answered, we have to ask God for the things which are according to His will. We have no warrant to expect an answer contrary to His will. And should we be little acquainted with the will of God about any matter, the first thing is to ask Him to teach us and instruct us. We may also ask the help of our elder brethren. But this point must be attended to, that we ask for things according to the will of God; for He loves us with an infinitely wise love, and not like foolish parents who give to their children all they ask for. He desires the true, real happiness and blessing for His children, and therefore only gives what would be for their blessing and profit.
But while this is one condition, it is not the only one. The Lord Jesus said we should ask in His name if we wish our petitions to be granted. (John. 14:13,14.)
Beloved elder brethren here all know what it means to ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, but, for the sake of the young believers present, I will say that it means this—we have to ask in union with Christ, as members of the body of which He is the Head. We stand before God in the righteousness of Christ; we are justified by faith in His name, and therefore we come before God as those who are one with Him. We—so to speak—put Christ forward, and ourselves we put in the background. We are in ourselves entirely unworthy of receiving one blessing of the hand of God. I do not question whether brethren agree with me in this or not; but I repeat, Ask God to show you that all you deserve is hell and torment. This is the one only thing that we have merited. Nothing else do we deserve; and therefore all we receive (out of hell) must come in the name of Christ.
And now this makes the matter so precious, that we are not only permitted, but commanded, to come in the name of Christ. I have been made clean by the power of the blood of Christ. I myself deserve nothing but punishment; but the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy to receive the choicest of the blessings which God has to give. Therefore, if I put myself in the background, and put Christ forward, and in His name ask the choicest of God's blessings, they are granted to me.
It is deeply important that we understand this. Do we habitually plead the worthiness of Christ when we come before God with our petitions?
But these two are not the only conditions that we need to remember in order that our petitions may be granted. There is another point, and that is, that we exercise faith in the power of God and in His willingness to hear us. (Mark 11:24.) We have therefore to exercise faith in the power of God, and in the love and willingness of God to grant us our requests. And this is made a condition in this passage. We must be looking out for the answer. There are few children of God who doubt His ability to give, but many doubt His willingness, forgetting that large word of the apostle, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things"? It was in the way of grace that He gave His Son for me; so is He, in the way of grace, willing to give me with Him everything that will be for my good. What more can we have than this?
Now suppose those three things are found in us with regard to prayer, and suppose there be another added, which is an important one, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." That is, if we walk in the fear of God, and do not allow anything contrary to the will of God in us, then there remains one thing more—that we continue to wait on God till the answer comes. But we so frequently break down. We begin well, but we do not go on. If month after month, and year after year, we have been praying, and if our petitions have not been granted, the thought comes, will God answer? Many break down because the petition is not granted as quickly as they expected. Parents pray for their children. They begin to do so; but we should never forget that what we have to do is just to continue, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, until the answer comes. For God knows the best time for us, and He will in His own time give us our requests. It may be for the trial of our faith, or of our patience, or to see if we are in earnest, that He waits. For these and other reasons the petitions may not be answered so quickly as we desire.
Young evangelists ask God for the conversion of many souls. They go on praying and preaching, but do not get the answers. It may be that they are not prepared for the blessing. If their petitions were granted, it might be an injury to their souls. Therefore He waits till they are prepared to receive the blessing. So with those who teach our children in our churches. They ask God for good things for their children, yet do not receive the answer. Now let us go on, and patiently, quietly, wait on the Lord. The blessing most assuredly will come.
Now are we all in the habit of thus going on patiently, perseveringly, month after month, and year after year, waiting on God? Then let us set out afresh with renewed earnestness and faith. To all our petitions, as they have been according to the will of God, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, and believing in the willingness of God to give what we have asked, the answers must come. I have myself had to wait for a long time to get certain blessings. In many instances the answer has come instantaneously, or in the same hour, or the same day; yet other times I have had to wait years—ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, and upwards—yet invariably at the last the answer has come. And I say it to encourage my brethren and sisters in Christ, Go on waiting, waiting, waiting. Begin afresh to bring your petitions before God. He will hear you. For one thing I have been praying for thirty-nine years and nine months, and the answer has not yet come. Last evening I prayed for it, and the evening before last I prayed again. When traveling in India and in America, year after year I have been praying, and I am sure that in the end the answer will come. I have received tens of thousands of answers to prayer; but in this particular I have to wait. Many of you remember our departed brother Ricards. For his parents I prayed that they might be converted. At last the answer came, when the father was between eighty and ninety years old. This very individual had cast off his son entirely; for years he did not allow him to come into his presence. At last he sent for him, and then would scarcely allow him to go out of his hands; yet for twenty years I had to pray for his conversion. So with the mother. She had lived a very moral life outwardly, very pharisaically; but at last she saw that nothing but Christ would do for her, and she was saved.
Therefore, beloved younger brethren and sisters, begin afresh with greater earnestness than ever, and you will receive the answers at the last. The Lord delights to bless His children, to give them everything that is for their blessing and comfort; and especially does He delight to bless parents in praying for their children. But if we have set them a bad example, should we have let them go on in a self-willed course? Then the first thing is to make honest confession of our sin and failure, that we deserve all these things that come upon us; and let us humble ourselves in the dust before God, yet pleading the merits of Jesus, and we shall find that God is ever ready in His pity and compassion to forgive us. Then with renewed earnestness let us begin to pray.
My universal remedy for every difficulty, for every trial, is prayer and faith. And in this way for fifty-five years I have been going on. For three and a half years after my conversion I did not do so, but for fifty-five years I have been walking in this way, and I desire on this very ground to encourage my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ who have not tried this universal remedy, and they will find, as I have, that it suits every difficulty and trial.
An Address by George Müller at the Wednesday evening meeting of the Leominster Conference, August 20th, 1884.