What is the reason so few people get things from God? Christians are divided into two different classes; those who pray and really expect something to happen, and those who just pray and do not expect anything to happen. Prayer is first a means unto an end, a connecting link between human needs and divine resources, the cry of the child unto its Father with the expectation that the great Father Heart loves to give to them more than they do to receive. “For if an earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give good things to those that ask Him.”
A friend of ours rather humorously said that his whole congregation had the “gimme’s”; that they were continually asking the Lord, and yet never believing. They were continually saying “Give me, give me, give me” (“Gimme, gimme, gimme”).
Like the old janitor in the country church in the foothills of Virginia who was found standing on top of a ladder, working at something in the belfry, which opened into the prayer-meeting room. At last he sat down on top of the ladder and spoke to the group of prayer-meeting folks that had gathered about a little early for the service. “You-all know what’s the matter with that bell, that it don’t ring? That ole belfry up there is so chuck full of prayers that never went any higher than the roof of this church, that that ole bell hasn’t got room to move. Those prayers are right there, hundreds of them, stuck in there, and never gone any higher, jes’ ’cause you folks never believed ’em when you prayed ’em. Don’t you-all know that a prayer ain’t real ’cept you expect somethin’ to happen? You-all didn’t expect somethin’ to happen when you prayed mos’ all of those prayers. I tells you, real faith expects somethin’ when it prays, and if you don’t expect sometin’, that ain’t faith, that’s jes’ bosh.” There was a different prayer service in the old meeting-house that night, and how different it would be with us if there was a real expectancy when we pray. Do we just pray, or expect something? Does prayer change things for us?
Prayer is not simply a “pious reverie,” that has only a subconscious effect upon the individual, but prayer is an intensely practical thing, as real, as uniform, as genuine a means unto an end as using the telegraph or the telephone, only it is more so. The party at the other end of the line is always there, and He says to us, “Ye have not because ye ask not.”
Is it not a real heartbreak that we, as believers, are actually the cause of unbelief being born in the hearts of others, and make our Heavenly Father a laughing stock in the eyes of the unbeliever, because we do not get answers to prayer, making it seem to those that either our God is not there, is asleep, or has gone on a long journey. As in the case of Elijah, mocking the heathen, when they cried unto their god (1 Kings 18:26–30, 36–39) “Oh, Baal, hear us. But there was no voice nor any that answered. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god, either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, there was neither voice, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant. Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said The LORD, He is the God; The Lord, His is the God.”
Some years ago, in Big Cabin, Oklahoma, a father came to me, asking for prayer for his boy, who was very wicked. We prayed a good deal from day to day about the matter, and every time there were requests for prayer, he asked again for the salvation of this boy, and at last one night, the boy came down to the front in response to the invitation and gave his heart to God. The place was packed, and I found it difficult to make my way to the back of the building, where some workers had called me to pray with someone. After the prayer, I saw this father, who had prayed so long for his boy. Reaching out my hand, I grasped his arm, and said: “Brother, your son is down front, and he has been saved.” And what do you suppose he said?
“Surely not. You must be mistaken. Not my boy. It must be some boy by the same name. There is another fellow in this community by the same name.” And it took me about five minutes to persuade that man that it was his boy, and that he had really been saved.
That night, the father testified in this wise: “I have been praying for this boy of mine for twenty years, and I was never so surprised in my life as tonight when I found that he had been saved.” Think of twenty years of praying and never expecting God to do anything. There was love of God, and deep confidence in the Bible as being truly the Word of God, but so far as any actual expectancy, there was not a particle. How pitiful, and how it must grieve the heart of the Infinite, for His child to pray on and on and on, but never the least expectancy. As we have explained before in this talk, we expect God to do the giving and the taking also. We want Him, without the least effort on our part, to come right down and lay it in our laps. This latter He will do, but on His own conditions, and those conditions are, “Believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.”
He has a right to set down His own conditions, and what less could He ask than that we honor Him by believing in His Word. His Word never said that without perfection it is impossible to please God. If there is in your heart today a desire to please God, just honor His Word by believing in something that is impossible for you yourself to obtain. Just take a step of faith out on the impossible where there is not a thing in sight but His promises to cling to, expecting Him to meet you and give you what you desire. This is what pleases Him.
Some of the most exemplary Christians, in whose lives you could hardly find a flaw, nevertheless rarely get things from God simply because they fail along this very line. They lack this expectancy—they do not know the least thing about this mighty principle of faith. While on the other hand, I have known some very weak Christians—I mean weak in their oft-repeated stumbling in time of temptation, though so earnest in their desire, it would seem, to do only that which is right—I have known some of these, I say, to frequently receive the most remarkable answers to prayer, because of the simple child-like faith they have, and after every prayer, you could not help but note a genuinely expectant attitude.