Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 14 — Be Definite in Your Prayers
We are constantly reminded in the Bible to pray for what we want. In Mark 11:24 we are told, "what things soever ye desire." In John 15:7, "ask what ye will." In John 14:14, "ask any thing." Psalm 37:4, "the desires of thine heart." Philippians 4:6, "in every thing by prayer, let your request be made known unto God."
This means we are supposed to be definite in our praying. Matthew 6:11, "Give us this day our daily bread." Luke 11:5, "And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves." I Samuel 1:10-13, "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken."
We are to be so definite that we are to prepare for the answer. II Kings 18:23, " Now therefore, I pray thee, give pledges to my lord the king of Assyria, and I will deliver thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them." Notice that God will provide the horses if we provide the riders.
For years the First Baptist Church of Hammond has led the way in the bus ministry. Thousands ride our buses every week to Sunday School and church on Sunday morning. I am often asked, "Where did it all start? Over 20 years ago I prayed for God to give us some buses. At that time we did not own one single bus. A fine couple in the church called me and said they had $6,000 they would like to invest in the Lord's work, but they wanted it to be invested in something that would reap souls. What a wonderful answer to prayer! We bought six buses (used ones, of course), but we also needed at least one good, new bus that we could use that was dependable. At that time Meredith Plopper (who has been with me on the staff now for 22 years) was our financial secretary. I called Meredith in and asked her to pray with me that God would give us two new buses. This would total $14,000. We prayed, and I made it a matter of prayer for several days, and I'm sure Meredith did also.
One day I was out soul winning and I went to visit a man who had visited our church the previous Sunday. He lived in an apartment house in downtown Hammond. I walked up on the front porch and saw an elderly lady sitting in an old-fashioned swing that was hanging from the ceiling. I spoke with her and found that she was the owner of the apartment house. I asked her if the gentleman whom I wanted to visit were at home. She said, "I'm sorry, but he is not." I was intrigued by the porch swing on which she sat, and I chatted with her for a few moments about it. She asked me to sit down beside her and swing, and so I did. We got to talking with each other. I asked her where she was from and if she had any children. She told me that she did, and then she went in and got the family album and brought it to the front porch, and we sat there on the swing and looked at the family album. I guess I stayed about fifteen minutes chatting with the dear lady, and then I went on my way. Some time passed. One day I got a call from St. Margaret Hospital saying it was an emergency. Someone who was a patient in the hospital needed to see me. I went to the hospital, walked in the room, and there was the elderly lady with whom I shared the swing on the front porch of the apartment house. She looked up at me and in a very stern voice said something like this, "I am the old lady that you visited. I enjoyed our visit so much that when you left I said, 'If I ever get bad sick, that's the Preacher I want to pray for me.' Now I'm bad sick—pray!"
I obeyed and asked God to heal her. (This He did.) After I had prayed she looked at me and said, "Now you have been nice to me; I want to be nice to you. Is there something that your church needs that I could buy for you as a gift?"
I thought of the usual "sacrificial" Baptistic gift—perhaps a book marker for the Bible on the communion table, but I told her I would rather not tell her of any needs that we had. If the Lord spoke to her heart concerning what she should do, then she could obey Him. She asked, "Doesn't your church run some buses?"
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
She said, "Would it be all right with you if I bought you a new bus?"
Praise the Lord! That's $7,000 for just fifteen minutes on a porch swing and one prayer!
On the way back to the office I began to rejoice, and then suddenly it dawned on me—Meredith and I had been praying for God to give us two buses! Then I felt a little saddened and embarrassed to tell Meredith about the new bus that the lady was giving us. I went to my office, sat behind the desk, picked up the phone to call Meredith, then put it down, then picked it up again, then put it down. I hated to disappoint her. While I was halting between two decisions, the phone rang. The operator said, "Long distance from Perryville, Indiana, for Pastor Jack Hyles." I received the call. A male voice on the other end of the line said, "My name is Bob Crist. I own a bus sales company in Perryville, Indiana. Are you the Preacher that the old lady in the hospital is buying a bus for?"
He said, "She called me to order the bus, and before she hung up, she said, 'By the way, Mr. Crist, make that two buses while you are at it.' "
Glory to God! praise the Lord! Amen! God had answered our prayers. Now we had been definite. We did not pray for God to provide some form of transportation; we told Him we wanted buses. We told Him what kind of buses we wanted, and we told Him how many we wanted.
In Mark 10:48 the blind man said to our Lord, "Have mercy on me."
Jesus answered in verse 51 asking exactly what it was he wanted. Now our Lord knew what the blind man wanted, but He wanted to hear Him ask. A general prayer like, "Have mercy on me," could mean any one of many things. Then the blind man told Him exactly what he wanted, and he got his answer!
Notice Matthew 20:29-34, "And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."
The Sunday school teacher should not just say, "Lord, bless my class," but rather "Lord, help Susie at school," "Keep Mary pure," "Bless Betty's home life."
Christians should not just simply say, "Lord, supply my needs." How much better it would be to say, "Lord, give us $280 for rent, and give us something to eat for supper."
The child of God should not limit his prayer to, "Lord, forgive my sins," but he should go on to say, "Forgive my jealousy, forgive the hatred in my heart, forgive my envy."
The parent should not simply say, "Lord, help Johnny to be a good boy." He should go on to pray, "Lord, help Johnny to quit his lying. Help him to make good grades in school. Help him to work hard at his job."
When I was in the army I was never taught to shoot at a crowd. I was taught to shoot at individuals. All of our practice shooting on the rifle range was at the likeness of a man.
God wants us to tell Him what we want. I like that prayer in Luke 11 when the man begged for bread because he had a friend who came at midnight and had nothing to feed him. He didn't say, "Friend, give me some food for my friend." He told him what kind of food he wanted. He asked for bread. Then he told him exactly how much bread he wanted. He wanted three loaves. Many go without their needs supplied because God wants to know what needs that we have in mind. Many go unforgiven because they do not tell God what sins they want forgiven.
There are several advantages in definite praying in addition to getting from God what you request. One is that you will enjoy the answer more if you pray for a definite thing and receive it.
Several years ago we had to have $5,000 for our ministry. Now in the early days $5,000 was a lot of money, and so I went to my secretary, who at the time was Sandra Plopper, and I said, "Sandi, join me in prayer that God will give us $5,000 by Friday afternoon at 4:30." She agreed to do so. I prayed diligently, and I'm sure she did, but the week passed and the money did not come. Just a few minutes before 4:30 on Friday I heard Sandi complaining in her office. She was saying, "Lord, that isn't fair. Brother Hyles works hard and sacrifices, and now he has a need, and You haven't given it to him." It was just a few minutes before 4:30 when the receptionist called and told me that there was an old man in the hallway who wanted to see me. I looked out in the hall and saw an old man who looked like he might be off the street. I told my secretary I was busy praying for $5,000 that I had to have in just a few minutes, and then finally I just gave up. I said, "Forget it. I'll see the man."
I called Sandi and told her that I was going to quit praying. The old man came in and told me he was from Joliet, Illinois, and that he had just lost his wife and had heard about me and thought he could come to me for comfort. I did what I could to comfort him and encourage his heart. I finished talking to him about 4:29. He walked out in the hallway, and to be quite frank, I was a little perturbed at God for not answering my prayer. The $5,000 was not for me; it was for the work. It was not for my work, it was for God's work. I couldn't understand why He wouldn't finance it. Just then the old man turned around in the hallway and said, "Oh, reverend, I forgot something. I got the settlement on my wife's insurance, and I wanted to give you this check for your work." You guessed it—the check was for $5,000. The memory of it makes me want to shout!
One day I had a need for just a small amount of money. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I think it was $54.17. There was a bill that I had to pay that was due that very day. I pleaded with God to give me the money. In the mail that day was an envelope with nothing in it but a check for $54.21. I had prayed for $54.17. I couldn't understand it. Of course, I rejoiced that God had supplied my need, but if God was going to come that close, why couldn't He have hit it right on the head? Then it dawned on me. This was a bill that must be mailed, and a postage stamp at that time cost 4 cents. Praise the Lord! I had asked God for $54.17 so I could mail in a check on a certain day. He sent me the exact amount, plus postage. Don't we have a wonderful God? If we are definite in our praying, the answer will be much more enjoyable.
Another advantage to praying definitely in addition to receiving the answer is that God will get more glory and praise for the answer. Then, of course, answered prayer also builds faith. That pleases God.
Now notice what Jesus said to the blind man in Mark 10:51, "What WILT thou?" He did not say, "What WISH thou?" He said, "What WILT thou?" I once heard a certain preacher, "You just tell God your wishes and let Him decide what is best." No, no, no! Ten thousand times, no! You tell God your will, not your wishes. Jesus was saying to the blind man, "What is it that you will have?"
The blind man said, "I WILL have my sight."
How well do I remember the story of that little lady in Texas who was dying with cancer! She had a child to rear. I anointed her with oil and prayed for God to heal her, and then she prayed. I will never forget those words. She said, "Dear Lord, my child needs me, and I'm not going to die today. I'm going to live today to rear my child. I will not die yet." She lived that day, and the next day she prayed the same prayer. "I'm not going to die today," and she didn't. And, bless God, she reared the child!
God does not want short wishes sent to Heaven. He wants constantly our wills to bombard the throne of grace. John 15:7, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Notice the words, "ask what ye WILL." Basically, that's what salvation is. When a person knows he is a sinner, knows that sinners are lost, knows that Jesus came as the virgin-born Son of God and died on the cross as his substitute and his sacrifice, and says, "I WILL have eternal life because of God's plan," then he has eternal life!
What a happy way to live—to have a God Who hears our prayers and Who loves us enough to grant our desires and enjoys giving specific answers to definite prayers!
PREVIOUS | NEXT | TABLE OF CONTENTS