"So, Ask Already!"#83-35
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 1, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:No Answers to Prayer?)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: John 16:22-33
(Jesus to His Disciples)...."So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia.
You heard Jesus say it in John 16, "Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24).
Let's be clear today; Jesus wants you to ask, to make your requests known to God!
But, what is Jesus talking about here? Does He mean asking for things you need? Well, yes, Jesus wants you to make requests for those things needed. But He also means much more. He wants you to ask Him your questions about things in your heart and soul. He wants you to ask for direction and clarity. He wants you to ask Him everything.
Now, how do you feel about that?
If you're like a lot of people, you are very hesitant to ask anything, especially if you have real needs. You're too embarrassed to ask for help. You don't want to seem weak or incompetent, so you don't ask questions. You're shy or scared so you don't ask about medical or financial trouble. You don't want to be that needy person and you certainly don't want to owe someone a favor in return.
M. Nora Klaver, the author of May Day! Asking for Help in Times of Need, noted that sometimes we don't ask because we haven't been taught how to do it. So, do you need some asking lessons today?
I feel like a lot of wives are pointing at their husbands right now. But I also know that a lot of good number of you, men and women, are suffering in silence, are tortured about important questions, and are paralyzed because you feel alone with no one to help you. And you feel like you can't ask for anything.
Chase Gipson was in sixth grade when Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College in Alabama, came to speak to his class about the importance of attending college. During her talk she asked how many students planned to graduate high school and attend college. Hardly any hands went up. Vicki coaxed them a bit more to get a better response, but the students didn't seem intent on completing their education. So Vicki offered them a special incentive. Guess what it was. Well, I'll get to that. But in the classroom that day, Chase Gipson listened closely. And six years later, Chase showed up at a college day to see that president from Wallace State.
Chase approached her and said, "Ma'am, you spoke to my sixth grade class a few years ago, didn't you?"
President Karolewics replied, "Yes, I did."
Chase went on. "Do you remember what you said that day?"
Karolewics said, "Yes, do you remember what I said that day?"
Gipson looked her in the eyes and said, "You told us that if we would remind you that you promised a scholarship if we would go to college, that you would give us one."
The president of Wallace State didn't flinch. She replied, "I did, thank you for remembering that."
Chase paused and spoke up again. "Is it going to be a full ride?" he asked.
Karolewics answered, "Yes it is."
That year, Chase Gipson received a presidential scholarship to Wallace State Community College; ultimately, not due to his efforts, but solely because it was offered and he asked for it.
What do you need to ask for these days? What do you need to ask; not because you have your life together, not because you're really smart, not because you can handle things on your own, not because you've even worked hard and deserve it? What do you need to ask for because you're weary and you're weak, because you are tired of being stubborn, because life is too confusing, because there are things even beyond your best efforts and talents and you know that you can't do it all by yourself, because you need help? What do you need to ask for now?
My prayer for you today, my friend, is that you realize that even if you don't fully understand what to ask for, you have a merciful, benevolent Savior Who is really ready to listen; even more eager to answer your requests than a generous college president. Jesus said in John 16 that you can ask God the Father anything-you can go straight to Him because "the Father Himself loves you" (John 16:27). God loves you. He wants to hear from you. You can ask!
You may have some tough questions. Why did your loved one suffer so much? Why does it seem like bad things are happening to you? Is there hope for your life? Will you ever be happy again? Is God ignoring you?
Instead of keeping these questions to yourself; go ahead and ask God. Put the questions before Him. King David experienced struggle after struggle in his life. But he didn't keep quiet about those difficulties. He put everything before God-every question, every doubt, and every request. He said in Psalm 5:3, "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation" (Psalms 5:3 NIV). King David asked. Then he waited and he watched for answers.
That's a key part of asking. Sometimes you and I forget that we need to give God a chance to answer. We need to take time to watch and listen. We need to be ready to accept the answers and insights He gives us. But instead of being alone in your struggles and needs, Jesus invites you to put them before God. "Ask, and you will receive," Jesus said, "that your joy may be full." Go ahead and ask.
In addition to your questions, you may have some serious needs. You may need healing. You may need money. You may need peace. You may need comfort. You may need someone who loves you. You may need help.
But, instead of trying to figure out how to solve all the problems you face, instead of laboring over your own plans and strategies, instead of letting worries and possible solutions course through your mind constantly keeping you awake at night and tying your stomach up in knots during the day, ask God. Lay it all before Him. Let Him know that you have no idea how any of this can come together, but because He is God, He can take care of it. Then see what He does. Listen to His leadership. Wait even upon His rescue.
James, the brother of Jesus, said, "You do not have, because you do not ask" (James 4:2). Sometimes you think you need to tell God how to solve your problem or answer your question before you ask Him. You don't need to do that. Bring Him your puzzled look, your unsolvable issue, and your outlandish request. Let Him figure it out.
God wants you to ask! My favorite passage about all this is Psalm 50:15, "Call upon me in the day of trouble;" the Psalmist said, "I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" (Psalms 50:15). Just ask!
And here's the even better news. Ask. Why, because God likes to share. When Jesus said, "Ask, seek and knock..." in Matthew, chapter 7, He compared God to a father who likes to do good things for his children. He said: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him" (Matthew 7:9-12).
God likes, no, God loves to share. He is generous. He loves you. He wants you to ask. After all, He shared His one and only Son, didn't He? He gave up Jesus as a solution to your separation from Him, as a gracious answer to your sin, as an eternal healing for all of your hurts. This is significant, friend. Listen carefully. God has already given you the most precious gift, the most important help, and the greatest answer to your greatest need. He sent Jesus to die for you and to rise from the dead so that your sins would be paid for, so that you can live a new life-now and forever. The Apostle Paul summed up the impact of this amazing answer when he said, "He, God, who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) God loves to share. He is intent on sharing eternal life with you! You can ask Him about anything.
You can also ask because, until Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead, there are times when we might feel alone. True, you have the beautiful Word of God to sustain you. Yes, you have the presence of Jesus in His Supper to strengthen you. But we're looking forward to seeing Jesus, eager to have everything in this world, in our hearts ultimately made right again.
That's one of the reasons that Jesus spoke the words He did in John 16. He was getting ready to go to the cross. His disciples would see Him die and be placed in a tomb. They would feel alone and abandoned. So, Jesus said, "Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you...Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24). You might remember the disciples were very frightened after Jesus' death and they were confused after Jesus ascended into heaven. What did the disciples do during those times? The Bible tells us. In Acts, chapter one, we hear: "All these were with one accord devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers" (Acts 1:14). They were asking.
You ask because God loves to share His love and grace. You ask because sometimes you feel alone and confused. You're also invited to ask God everything because He really, really hears you.
A song of praise to God in Psalm 66 sums it up well when it says, "God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" (Psalms 66:19-20 NIV). God really hears you.
Will everything in your life go your way? Will every request be answered "Yes"? Will every question be solved completely? No. But God is walking with you and no matter what His answer, it will be the best for you and He listens to you. You can count on that because of all that Jesus has done for you. So, will you ask already?
Are you silently stewing over your challenges and questions? Are you giving up and considering leaving life to chance? Are you thinking about pushing all help aside and doing life yourself-handling everything on your own? Don't go to those lonely and hopeless places. Hear Jesus' invitation today. Give Him a chance. Go ahead and ask. Ask Him anything and everything. Go ahead and ask!
At the beginning of this message I quoted M. Nora Klaver, the author of May Day! Asking for Help in Times of Need. She said that maybe people don't ask because they don't know how. Maybe people need asking lessons. So let's close out this message with some asking lessons. Are you ready? We'll look at four helpful hints for asking. Here it goes.
Asking Lesson #1: Get to know Who you're asking. That's right, before you put together a proposal, organize a request and a craft a petition, get to know the One Who delights in listening to you. Listen to God's Word to hear how He is the One Who created you; He is the One Who loves you; He is the One Who can do the impossible; He is the One Who is just; He is the One Who is merciful; He is the One Who pays close attention to the lonely and disenfranchised; He is the One Who welcomes His children. And that is what you are: a precious child of the Most High God. Get to know Him and ask Him boldly because you know Him deeply.
Asking Lesson #2: Be yourself. Yes, you heard me: there's no need to put on airs, to use fancy "prayer language," or to pretend you have your act together. Just be yourself. When a distraught father of an afflicted child asked Jesus for help in Mark, chapter nine, the dad was totally honest with Jesus. He said, "I believe Lord; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) He didn't pretend to know how everything was going to work out and he didn't act like his faith in Jesus was flawless. Even the tax collector mentioned by Jesus in Luke 18 couldn't look up to heaven even as he asked for help. All he could do was say, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). No pretense, no pride, and no illusion of perfection. God doesn't want a show; He wants you. Be yourself.
Asking Lesson #3: Bring it all. Bring it all; don't hold back. Your toughest questions, bring it. Your deepest hurt, bring it. Your most outlandish request, bring it. The little things that may seem so insignificant to God, bring them all. The Apostle Paul said, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). Open the floodgates! Pour out your heart and mind! Lay it all before the Lord the Lord of all. Bring it all.
Get to know God, be yourself, bring it all, and finally, Asking Lesson #4: Keep talking. I love the Apostle Paul's advice in 1 Thessalonians 5, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Just keep talking. Ask God everything at all times in all places. Let your prayer not be reserved for formal times and gatherings alone; let your prayer be the ongoing talk with God that you have out loud, in your heart, and in your mind. Just keep talking in faith. Ask, ask, ask!
Jim Steinbrink learned the power of asking. For two long years he admired Mary Alice Turley from afar. She was beautiful. But he was afraid. She had to be too good for him, too out of reach. How could he ever ask her on a date? It seemed impossible. But he couldn't shake his attraction and compulsion. He needed to ask. It was the winter of 1944 in a small Kansas farming community.
Jim labored over his fear and hesitance. He fought with his own lack of confidence. He tried to keep the voice of impending failure and embarrassment out of his head. What would his family say? How could he ever provide a future for such a wonderful girl? He had every reason not to ask. But if he didn't, life may never be what he hoped it would be.
So, after two years, he decided to ask. He wasn't going to call her on the phone. The neighbor ladies liked to listen in on the party line too much. He would not risk rejection in public. So he drove to her family's farm and knocked on the door. Mary Alice's mom answered.
Jim quickly blurted out, "Would Mary Alice like to go out to a movie?"
Her mom smiled and said to Jim, "You'll have to ask her."
She brought Mary Alice to the door and Jim asked. He asked! And Mary Alice said... "Yes!"
Life hasn't been the same since for them. They were married five years after their first date. They've been together now for more than seventy years. Yes, I said seventy.
Life changed completely because of a simple ask. It's time, dear friend, to trust the Savior Who loves you-Who gave His life for you!-and ask. Your life, now and forever, will never be the same.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for May 1, 2016
Topic: NO ANSWERS TO PRAYER?
ANNOUNCER: Now Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Today a listener says he believes God hears his prayers, he thinks that he prays in faith, but he's asking for things that he doesn't receive; so what's going on?
SELTZ: Mark, that's bold, and I like it. I think that God enjoys such a direct conversation too. But the key to remember is that prayed in faith means we're willing to accept God's answers which can be "Yes," like we've talked about before; "No," or other times, "Not yet."
ANNOUNCER: Another variation on that is, "Yes, no, or I've got something even better in mind for you."
SELTZ: Yeah, I really like that, but here's another thing too. At other times, God simply allows us to decide between two or more godly options and promises to bless either way. That's even a freedom that we have in Christ!
ANNOUNCER: Could you cite some examples of how God answered prayer in history with His people, things that we might read about in the Bible?
SELTZ: That's always a good place to start and finish the discussion, in the Scripture. Prayer is about asking for things, that's for sure....but more importantly, like I've said, it's about exercising your faith relationship with God....and that's what we see throughout the Bible. We can see God answer "Yes," all over the place. In James, chapter five, we hear James talk about Elijah. He says, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours; he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it didn't. Then he prayed again that heaven would give rain, and the earth bore its fruit" because of the rain (James 5:17-18 ESV). In that case, God said "yes" to Elijah's prayers.
ANNOUNCER: Another example would be Daniel praying to survive being in that den of lions. In that case, God's answer also was "yes" and, because of that, Daniel survived and the whole world heard about the true Savior.
SELTZ: Incredibly, and then there are times, though, when God says, "No." Remember how the Apostle Paul asked that his thorn in the flesh be taken away. That's what he called a very unique struggle he had in his life.
ANNOUNCER: We don't really know what that was, but it was a source of ongoing irritation for him.
SELTZ: It was. In 2 Corinthians 12 said, "Three times," Paul says, "I pleaded with the Lord about this," take it away from me. But he said, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 ESV). God said "no" to Paul about removing this struggle, again for a greater reason.
ANNOUNCER: It's sobering, also, to realize that God the Father even said "no" to His own Son as Jesus prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed three times that His suffering could be taken away from Him. But the Father said, "No," but He gave strength to Jesus so that He could endure the cross for the good of our salvation!
SELTZ: Isn't that incredible? So, sometimes God says "yes," sometimes God says "no." But, in all things, and this is key, He calls us to trust in Him for knowing what is best for us!
ANNOUNCER: And that's why sometimes God does ask us to wait, doesn't He?
SELTZ: I like your phrase, "I've got something much better planned." I like that. We see that take place in the Scriptures, as well. When Joseph, the son of Jacob, was imprisoned unjustly in Egypt, he really wanted to be released. He yearned for vindication and freedom. But God didn't free him right away-even when it looked like the Pharaoh's cupbearer might his ticket out of prison. Joseph had to wait two more years before God finally delivered him from prison.
ANNOUNCER: And then, instead of simply being released, Joseph rose to become the second in command in Egypt. He helped the nation through a terrible famine, and he also was able to protect and provide for his own people. So this was all part of God's amazing plan.
SELTZ: Yeah, and it was an amazing plan too. Here's a thought, ready? Time is always on your side when you're waiting on God. That's why He can even promise that all things will work together for good for those who trust Him.
ANNOUNCER: To sum this up, how can our listener then, be attentive to and understand God's answers to prayer?
SELTZ: First, it is important to understand that God hears and answers every prayer. He is a caring Father. He hears His children, and by faith, we need to keep watching and waiting for His answers, to listen to Him patiently and attentively, and always to realize that such prayer always exercises our power to trust Him. We can't always understand His ways, but we need to trust that He loves us, is in control, and will bring us through every challenge. Just look at the cross and resurrection for that kind of confidence!
ANNOUNCER: So that even when all seems lost, in faith we trust that God's grace will prevail.
ANNOUNCER: This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Action in Ministry for May 1, 2016
Guest: Rev. Dr. Ardon Albrecht
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is the part of the program we call Action in Ministry.
SELTZ: Mark, that's right and I'm excited because in today's segment, we're going to take a trip back into the archives of Lutheran television.
ANNOUNCER: It was back in 1952 when the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod began producing a TV series called, This Is The Life, and that series ran for nearly four decades.
ANNOUNCER: And we're blessed to have with us in the studio today Dr. Ardon Albrecht. He produced 250 episodes of This Is The Life and during that time the program received eight national Emmys and numerous other awards. Dr. Albrecht, what a privilege and pleasure it is to have you with us today.
ALBRECHT: Thank you for having me.
SELTZ: Dr. Albrecht, you've got quite a fascinating history yourself. You graduated from Concordia Seminary, served as a pastor, a missionary in Taiwan prior to getting into television production. From Taiwan to Hollywood? Did you ever expect that to be your life journey?
ALBRECHT: Never. Never. God vetoed the plans I had for my life time after time. When God vetoes your plans and replaces them with His marching orders...a previous Lutheran Hour Speaker once said, "The only proper response is to salute and say 'Yes, Sir!'"
ANNOUNCER: Let's up the context for This Is The Life. It was 1952; we're in the post-World War II era, the Baby Boom is underway, the Civil Rights Movement is just around the corner; but there was also international tension and conflict from the Cold War. Families, for the most part, were strong and the economy was thriving.
SELTZ: So Ardon, how did this This Is The Life project; how did it get started and how was it received?
ALBRECHT: Dr. Herman Gockel, one of our pastors who was an exceptionally talented writer, was chosen to brainstorm with Family Films, that was a studio in Hollywood, and with its professional script writers; and they came up with the idea of a continuing series with an all-American family called the Fisher Family; with Grandpa Fisher as the bearer of the Gospel message in program after program. They chose as the title of the show, This Is The Life. The series premiered in 1952 and became easily the most-watched religious show on the air. The Saturday Evening Post did a feature story on it calling it "TV's most amazing hit." And three years later, the series changed from the Fisher Family to anthology drama and continued on the air in that format, for, as you said, Mark, nearly four decades. By the time it ceased production, it was the longest-running dramatic series in world TV history.
ANNOUNCER: The budget for This Is The Life was nowhere near that of other Hollywood productions and yet both cast and crew had major star power. How was the program able to maintain such a high level of production quality and could you tell us who were some of the well-known names and faces that appeared on the program?
ALBRECHT: We did our filming when the major TV productions were on hiatus. Since actors, directors, and crew members had time on their hands, we could approach some of the biggest names about doing our show. We paid all of our directors and actors scale, which is guild minimum. That obviously kept the budget low. Some name actors who worked for me were: David Ogden Stiers, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, Buddy Ebsen, and Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Dean Jagger.
SELTZ: Ardon, as society changed, though, during the '60s and '70s, how did This Is The Life respond?
ALBRECHT: Well, our Gospel message didn't change but we focused on many new topics as our society began to wrestle with new issues, issues like abortion, how we should react to homosexuality, single mothers, absentee fathers, and the like.
ANNOUNCER: Let's fast forward now to the present time. How do you think This Is The Life would be received today?
ALBRECHT: Much has changed and yet the core issues of life remain the same. Christ is still the Answer.
SELTZ: He's always the Answer. A number of these classic episodes have been remastered, then, and they'll soon be available again on DVD and Blu-Ray. What's your hope for this series as it enters homes once again?
ALBRECHT: My hope for each episode was always, and it is now, that it will bring every viewer a step closer to Christ.
ANNOUNCER: Dr. Ardon Albrecht, thanks for being with us today and we wish you God's continued blessings.
ALBRECHT: And I wish God's continued blessings on the two of you and the vital ministry of The Lutheran Hour.
SELTZ: Thank you so much and that's our Action in Ministry segment for today to bless, to empower, and strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: And you can watch one of these classic episodes at no cost. Go to our website: lutheranhour.org. For more information on the DVD release of
"Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Come, My Soul, with Every Care" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)