Why will God certainly answer our prayer, and how can we know those things that are pleasing in his sight?
The bible text affirms that "whatsoever we ask we receive of him because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Now we might perhaps understand this to assign our obedience as the reason of God's giving the blessing sought in prayer. But if we should, we should be mistaken.
The fundamental reason always of God's bestowing blessings is his goodness - his love. Let this be never forgotten. All good flows down from the great fountain of infinite goodness. Our obedience is only the condition of God's bestowing it - never the fundamental reason or ground of its bestowment.
It is very common for us in rather loose and popular language to speak of a condition as being a cause or fundamental reason. But on a point like the present, we ought to use language with more precision. The true meaning on this point undoubtedly is that obedience is the condition. This being fulfilled on our part, the Lord can let his infinite benevolence flow out upon us without restraint. Obedience takes away the obstacle; and then the mighty gushings of divine love break forth. Obedience removes the obstacles; and never merits, or draws down the blessing.
If God were to give blessings upon any other condition, it would deceive multitudes, either respecting ourselves or himself. If he were to answer our prayers, we being in a wrong state of mind, it would deceive others very probably; for if they did not know us well, they would presume that we were in a right state, and might be led to consider those things in us right which are in fact wrong.
Or, if they knew that we were wrong, and yet knew that God answered our prayers, what must they think of God? They could not avoid the conclusion that He patronizes wrong doing, and lifts up the smiles of his love upon iniquity; and how grievous must be the influence of such conclusions!
It should be borne in mind that God has a character to maintain. His reputation is a good to himself, and he must maintain it as an indispensable means of sustaining his moral government over other creatures. It could not be benevolent for Him to take a course which would peril his own reputation as a holy God and as a patron and friend of holiness and not of sin.
God is well pleased when we remove the obstacles out of the way of his benevolence. He is infinitely good, and lives to do good and for no other purpose, for no other end whatever except to pour forth blessings upon his creatures wherever He can without peril to the well-being of other creatures under his care and love. He exists for ever in a state of entire consecration to this end. Such benevolence as this is infinitely right in God, and nothing less than this could be right for him.
Now, if it is his delight and his life to do good, how greatly must he rejoice when we remove all obstacles out of the way! How does his heart exult when another and yet another opportunity is afforded him of pouring out blessings in large and rich measure.
Think of it, sinner, for it applies to you! Marvellous as you may think it, and most strange as it may seem judged of by human rules and human examples, yet of God it cannot fail of being always true that He delights supremely in doing you good, and only waits till you remove the obstacles; then would his vast love break forth and pour its ocean tides of mercy and of grace all around about you.
Go and bow before your injured Sovereign in deep submission and real penitence, with faith also in Jesus for pardon, and thus put this matter to a trial! See if you do not find that his mercies are high above the heavens! See if anything is too great for his love to do for you!
And let each Christian make a similar proof of this amazing love. Place yourself where mercy can reach you without violating the glorious principles of Jehovah's moral government; and then wait and see if you do not experience the most overwhelming demonstrations of his love! How greatly does your Father above delight to pour out his mighty tides of blessings! O, He is never so well pleased as when he finds the channel open and free for these great currents of blessings to flow forth upon his dear people!
A day or two since I received a letter from the man in whose behalf you will recollect that I requested your prayers at a late church prayer meeting. This letter was full of precious interest. The writer has long been a stranger to the blessedness of the gospel; but now he writes me - "I am sure you are praying for me, for within a week I have experienced a peace of mind that is new to me."
I mention this now as another proof of the wonderful readiness of our Father in heaven to hear and answer prayer. O what love is this! To what shall I compare it, and how shall I give you any adequate view of its amazing fullness and strength? Think of a vast body of water, pent up and suspended high above our heads, pressing and pressing at every crevice to find an outlet where it may gush forth.
Suppose the bottom of the vast Pacific should heave and pour its ocean tides over all the continents of the earth. This might illustrate the vast overflowings of the love of God; how grace and love are mounting up far and infinitely above all the mountains of your sins.
Yes, let the deep, broad Pacific ocean be elevated on high and there pent up, and then conceive of its pressure. How it would force its way and pour out its gushing floods wherever the least channel might be opened! And you would not need to fear that your little wants would drain it dry! O, No! you would understand how there might be enough and to spare,- how it might be said - "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it;"
How the promises might read - "Bring ye all the tithes into my store house, and prove me now herewith, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out blessings till there be not room enough to receive them." The great oceans of divine love are never drained dry. Let Christians but bring in their tithes and make ready their vessels to receive, and then, having fulfilled the conditions, they may "stand still and see the salvation of God.
" O how those mountain floods of mercy run over and pour themselves all abroad till every capacity of the soul is filled! O how your little vessels will run over and run over - as in the case of the prophet when the widow's vessels were all full and he cried out - O hasten, hasten - "is there not another vessel?" Still the oil flows on - is there not another vessel? No more, she says; all are full; then and only then was the flowing oil stayed.
How often have I thought of this in seasons of great revival, when Christians really get into a praying frame, and God seems to give them everything they ask for; until at length the prophet cries out - Is there not yet another vessel? O bring more vessels, more vessels yet, for still the oil is flowing and still runs over; but ah, the church has reached the limit of her expectation and she has provided no more vessels; and the heavenly current is stayed. Infinite love can bless no more; for faith is lacking to prepare for, and receive it.