A young evangelist complains to Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “I haven’t seen many people converted under my preaching.”
“Well, do you expect God to save someone every time you preach?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you have no reason to complain if God’s not giving you what you aren’t expecting.”
Pray for Others Expectantly
God wants preachers to preach with the expectancy of a child coming downstairs on Christmas Day. He’s prone to bless this kind of confidence. He wants us to pray for others expectantly, too. He wants us to pray for them with Grace-Focused Optimism, confident that he’ll act in their lives when we ask.
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God gives us three reasons to be Grace-Focused Optimists when we pray for others.
1. The first reason to be Grace-Focused Optimists when we pray for others is God’s might.
Erasmus Corning was the pre-Civil War president of the New York Central Railroad. The railroad company retained Abraham Lincoln as its lawyer. When Corning first met Lincoln he said, “I understand in Illinois you never lose a case.”
As good as having that kind of lawyer is, we have something better. We have a God who never faces a situation he can’t handle. He can make a ninety-year-old woman with a biological clock that’s ticked way past childbearing time conceive and give birth to a healthy baby boy (Genesis 17:17 & 21:1-2). He can cut a freeway through a sea, temporarily walling its waters so his people can walk through at night and get nothing but mud in their toes, then, the next morning, cause the walls to collapse and become a cemetery for a proud pagan king and his army (Exodus 14). He can rescue his beloved Son from a tomb Satan and evil men tried to make maximum-security inescapable (Matthew 27:62-28:10). And he can change Saul, his worst enemy, into Paul, his best friend (Acts 9:1-22).
This is the mighty Can-Do God we talk to when we pray for others. He can work where no one else can, help where no one else can, deliver where no one else can, sustain where no one else can, comfort where no one else can, and strengthen where no one else can. So, his might gives us reason to pray for others with Grace-Focused Optimism.
2. The second reason to be Grace-Focused Optimists when we pray for others is God’s mercy.
Martin Luther is reading Genesis 22 to his wife Katie. Before he’s finished she blurts out, “I can’t believe God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son! He wouldn’t do this with his own child!” Luther quietly says, “But Katie, he did.”
For whom did God “not spare his own Son” (Romans 8:32)? For the people for whom we pray when we pray for Christians. Why did he send him to the cross for them? So that he could adopt them as his children (Galatians 4:4-7). Why does he want them as his children? So he can shower his kindness on them (Ephesians 2:4-7)!
This is the merciful Will-Do God we talk to when we pray for others. He is their Father. Like earthly fathers, but infinitely more so, he has a Christmas Tree heart. He delights in giving to and doing for his sons and daughters (Matthew 7:11). So, his mercy gives us reason to pray for others with Grace-Focused Optimism.
3. The third reason to be Grace-Focused Optimists when we pray for others is God’s method.
The late Christian preacher R. C. Sproul tells of sitting one day in a seminary class taught by the famous theologian John Gerstner. Gerstner asked, “Gentlemen, if God’s elected some people for salvation why do we need to evangelize?” The twenty students present were seated in a semi-circle with Sproul in the desk to Gerstner’s far left. When Gerstner looked at the first student to his right Sproul thought he was safe. Someone would answer the question. No one did. Gerstner reached Sproul, “Well, Mr. Sproul, what’s your answer? Timid as a lowly private answering a tough Drill Sgt., Sproul said, “Well, Dr. Gerstner, I know this isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but one small reason we should tell people the gospel’s that Jesus commands us to.” Gerstner’s eyes became hot coals. “Ah, I see, Mr. Sproul, one small reason”—in a tone making ‘small’ seem Grand Canyon big—“one small reason is that your Savior, the Lord of Glory, the King of kings has given you a command.”
Gerstner was making his point with the force of a sledgehammer hitting a tack. Doing something because God commands it isn’t a small thing. In fact, it’s one of the best reasons for doing it.
The mighty, merciful Father of those for whom we pray commands us to “pray for one another” (James 5:16-18). He’s made asking him through prayer to work in others’ lives the method by which he unleashes his might and mercy in their behalf.
This is the Ask Me God we talk to when we pray for others. When we ask him to work in their lives we’re doing what he tells us to do if we want him to act on their behalf. So, his method of working through prayer gives us reason to pray for others with Grace-Focused Optimism.
The Can-Do and Will-Do God of might and mercy is the One who has made the Ask Me of prayer his method of working in the lives of others.
These three things about him give us reason to be Grace-Focused Optimists when we pray for others.