The Joy of Answered Prayer (Part 5 of 8)

John 16:12-24:

 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.16 Jesus went on to say, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’18 They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them,  ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 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.”

As we have seen, Jesus and joy go together.  There should be no contradiction between piety and genuine pleasure.  Holiness and happiness have a right to be together and so does righteousness and rejoicing.  We are studying sheer joy — the joy of Jesus.  His can be ours.

Reading down through the text above you will find the word “joy” mentioned more than once.  You’ll find prayer mentioned in connection with it.  If you don’t pray, you’re a practical atheist, no matter what you profess.  The purest exhibition of a life spiritually is prayer.  The newspaper carried this story a while back — a toy manufacturer was called into court and ordered to reduce the size of his boxes.  This fellow had a way of putting them out so that the little toy was masked by a carton that was three times as large as it needed to be, so that people thought they were really getting a bundle and all they got was a little scrawny thing inside.

Now the devil’s toys are always that way.  A man who is not a Christian is serving Satan, really.  The joy of a non-Christian always seems greater than it is.  Christian joy is always the other way around.  His joy is always greater than it seems.  You can tell.  How wonderful it is that God’s blessings come packed down and running over.  The Scripture records in one of the Proverbs that wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.  And in contrast to that there is written back in the wise book of Ecclesiastes “for as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.  This also is vanity.”  Sure, fools may cackle, sinners may laugh, but they are just like thorns being burned up under a pot, they cackle a little bit and then nothing is left but smoke and ashes.  Never so, though, with God’s joy which is everlasting.

Psalm 40:1-3:

  I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

People notice joy.  It gets out.  But there is always more deep down there, hidden from the eye because it is not a surface expression.  Notice again in our text, verse 24 of John 16:  “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

The ministry of prayer brings holy joy to us — a joy that is very, very unique.  The joy of answered prayer.  This ministry of prayer brings joy because of two wonderful effects that answered prayer has on us when it is answered.

First of all, when you get into prayer with God, you will come to a deeper understanding of the things of God.  An understanding that is never possible by going to Bible school — it comes through entering into prayer with God.  Once in awhile somebody will say to one of the young people from a Bible College or seminary, “Of course, you know these things, you know God because you have been to Bible School.”  My friend, you don’t get to know God through Bible School.  You enter into the secrets of God through prayer.  Formal study of many other things help but there is one thing that is a must and that is prayer.  There are people who teach in some of the Bible Schools who do not know God like some do who have never had any particular training and direction at all, but who are people of prayer.

In this text, sorrow had gripped the hearts of these people and their joy had fled because they did not know what was going on.  They were all disturbed and they didn’t dare to ask Jesus questions, they didn’t know just what was happening.  And, when you don’t know the facts about God — when you don’t enter into really knowing him — you cannot have real joy.  You’ll just be given over to the whims of moods and the disturbance of situations as they arise.

Verse 12 — Jesus said, “I’ve got a lot of these good teachings to share, but you are in no position now to receive them.”  This actually means, then, that your personal spiritual condition determines what truth you can receive.  If you are not in a proper spiritual condition, then God’s great truths are, so to speak, backed up.  They don’t come through to you.  Jesus said, “I’m going to send the Spirit of Truth and then he will guide you into truth and he will make things of me known to you,”  So this ministry will have something to do with the Holy Spirit.  Now Jesus knew they wanted to ask what he meant by his going away from them and then his later coming back, so, in verse 20 he says to them, “you will weep and lament but the world will rejoice.”  They’ll be like the thorns crackling under the pot while you are in sorrow.  But, your sorrow shall be turned into joy while they cool into gray ash.  And he says in verse 22, “you now, therefore, have sorrow but I will see you again and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man takes from you,”  Now, it might be that you’re thinking, “but we can’t see Jesus today, if we could see him and really know him in a personal way.”  That comes through prayer.  You see, he’s teaching these people.  Verse 28 says, “I’m going to leave you.  I came from the father and am come into the world.  Again, I leave the world and go to the father.”  So this scripture was given just before his crucifixion.  And, he says, “I’m leaving you and you’re not going to be able to follow me.”  They thought, perhaps, that he means, “I’m just going to be crucified.”  He meant more than that.  He was going to be raised up from the dead.  He was going to leave this world.  And now that new arrangement with Jesus there out of sight and us here on earth — if we are going to know him, how are we going to do it?  It’s going to have to be through the highway of prayer.  Prayer is the highway that connects heaven and earth — that connects us with our God.  And the Spirit of Truth as we pray to God, that ladder stretches and touches heaven’s throne and the angels of God ascend and descend on it.  There is an actual intercourse between us and God — a relationship that brings truth to us.  And, you know, apart from truth, we don’t get very far as to knowing God.

Verse 25 — “These things have I spoken to you in proverbs (parables) but the time comes when I shall no more speak to you in proverbs but I will show you plainly of the father.”  He’s talking there of that period of time after he’s raised from the dead and goes back to the father.  He said, “that’s going to be the era of prayer, where you will relate to me in asking and receiving.  And, then, I will show you plainly the things of God.”  Now if you are not growing and Jesus Christ is not more real to you, your failure is undoubtedly in the area of prayer.

One of the joys in prayer is simply that you can see more clearly and when you pray — not that everytime you pray you feel real happy — you may feel right the opposite — let down and that it’s a dull, hard routine, but don’t let all the devil’s jeering discourage you.

Psalm 40:5

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

There is a man who is in prayer and he says, “O Lord, as I am here in prayer and I started numbering my blessings and thanking you for blessing this member of the family and that member of the family and for giving this good thing to us and that good thing, and for your son.  And, when I see the glory of the heavens and these beautiful days, when I think of all these things, my heart rejoices.

Psalm 40:16-17a

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The Lord be magnified!”But I am poor and needy;
Yet the Lord thinks upon me.

When you enter in to where you know God’s thoughts, that they are toward us for good, etc., I tell you, you are getting some place.  Your heart is going to be filled with joy because you are entering into a deeper understanding of the things of God.  That comes as you get before God in prayer.  That’s what Jesus is saying, “you are going to have a joy that is going to remain.  For awhile it seems like the world is rejoicing (John 16:20).  But your sorrow shall be turned into joy.  When is that going to happen?  It is going to happen even after he left the world as he makes plain in verse 7, because the Holy Spirit would come and he would initiate this great life of prayer with God.  If you are prayerless, you are a practical atheist though you may be a believing Christian in the sense of the word.  The main purpose of Christian life is to bring us into this ministry of prayer before God.  Once we do, a deeper understanding of the things of God will result and that will bring us into this holy joy of which we speak.

About a hundred years ago, a century ago, a book was written of which I have a copy.  There lived during that period of time in the town of Plattsville, Colorado, a family by the name of Sotherland.  They had a little girl 9 years old at the time this event took place.  The father had said to her, “I want you to go with me through the woods.  We’ve lost some of our calves and we will go out and bring them back.”  They got to the calves and they’d gone further a little ways into the woods and the father said, “Honey, I think you will have to drive these on the way back home because I’ve got to go deeper and find some of the others.”  The father arrived home that night, but his little girl had never gotten in.  The calves had turned aside and she had gotten lost in the woods.  These were fierce and thick woods.  The great danger was the wolves.  The wolves in the woods had at times attacked and killed grown men, even horses.  She plowed on through the woods that night, walking 18 straight hours and arrived 25 miles further away at a man’s house the next day.  What a story she had to tell!  The wolves did come after her and people wondered if she wasn’t frightened to death — a little girl like her?  Maybe a little but not too much.  She said, “my mother told me if I would be a good girl and trust in the Lord that he would take care of me.”  That was her philosophy while she was walking in the midnight hours through the heavy woods.  And then she said, the wolves came in, right to her heels — fierce wolves came right in and got right up to her, to her heels.  But somehow they didn’t bite down and she didn’t expect them to either.  She had told of how she said, “Lord, my mother said that you would take care of me and don’t let them bite me.”  And she just kept right on walking.  Somehow, like in Daniel’s day, they did not perform their desire against her.  Prayer in a child’s life is more natural sometimes than it is with the rest of us.  But, God help us in these days to humble ourselves and to enter into it because there are wolves today and prayer is the one thing that will absolutely shut the jaws of the devil.  Many of us are groaning under burdens that only the power of prayer can lift.  And, when you see God answer prayer, it will have another affect on you.

You will enter into a deeper share of the Lord’s work personally.  There is a promise in our text:  verse 20 — “while the world is rejoicing, you are sorrowing.  But, your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”  How is this going to take place?  Through prayer.  He says very clearly that at a certain day something is going to happen.  And, when you put together verse 22 and verse 28 — he actually says, “I’m going to leave you, but this great joy which will come and will stick with you is going to be through a relationship with Christ in prayer.”  Verse 23 — In that day, which was just ahead of his crucifixion, (he’s now headed toward Gethsemane at this time) and in some hours from now these words which he has spoken, he would be slain but rise again and ascend into heaven.  He says, in that day, you shall ask me nothing, you won’t have to be begging things of me.  I won’t be with you right here so that you can be talking with me but, “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  Previously up till now, you have not been in this relationship of asking in my name.

John 14:12-13  — See how prayer here is tied to the greater works.  Jesus said,  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  There is, then, a peculiar joy that comes as we see our definite prayers being answered.  All Christian service, if it is valid, is done through prayer.  S.D. Gordon said, “After you have prayed you can do more than pray.  But until you have prayed, you cannot do anything more than pray.”  A lot of people are activists.  They want to do good things and make a mark and carry the burden but they do not pray.  Therefore, they cannot do the other with any lasting consequences.  The reason for that is because God has planned it this way — he has revealed it this way — he has offered a life of joy as we work through prayer first.  And prayer is that which binds up Satan.  It defeats the evil captain and then it lets us serve Christ with real freedom and effect.  Otherwise, we are just struggling and struggling and creating just so much dust.  But after Satan is defeated — after a person has met God in prayer and gained the answer in prayer, then their service is easier to perform and, also, they have a new desire and strength to perform.  Have you ever thought about how many limitation are on prayer?  Here is a person who says, “I’m sorry, Pastor, I just cannot make that visit, I just can’t do those things anymore.  My health is just gone.”  But that person can pray.  You go to a hospital to visit a friend and the head nurse says you can’t come in.  You see the hours are more restricted on this floor.  So you are turned away.  But, you know God doesn’t have to follow any visiting hours.  You can go home and get on your knees:  “O Lord, go in and comfort that friend.  I’m shut out but you’re not.”  Prayer can go into prison, behind locked doors.  You can go home and spend your half hour right in India supporting a missionary, doing more for them than maybe you could do if you were there in person.  Prayer has not limitations — there is no place where it cannot touch.  It is as vast in power as God’s mighty power is vast. 

If you think of a city plunged in darkness because of some calamity  —  it’s whole electrical main system is knocked out.  So, the man goes in through the auxiliary area, nobody sees him, everyone out there is struggling in the dark.  People in the subway tunnels are groaning and complaining.  All the “juice” is off.  This man goes in there and what does he do?  Just as easy as that, he throws a switch.  And, over in this part of the city the subways start running.  He throws another switch and the whole factory lights up and the wheels start turning again.  The people are working and perspiring at the bench — they are running the machines, etc.  But don’t forget that fellow who threw the switch.  That’s prayer!  You really can’t do much until you pray.  Then…..  Are you trying to work without light?  Without the new insights God can give in learning the truth, without the energy of God’s supply?  Prayer is a kind of secret service and it is the secret of all other service.  I doubt if many of us here would be able to pick out the ones who are the power supply of your church.  Don’t look just on the platform.  Don’t make that mistake!  Friend, God will use you.  You can have the joy of seeing what your pastor does as an answer to your prayer.  You can lift the burden from a teacher and then they can teach with profit.  You can comfort the sick.  You’re sick yourself?  All right, you can still minister to the sick.  You who are weak of body, you can go and do things a strong man can never do unless he waits on the Lord and renews his strength.  Those who do that will outdo the young people.  If you know you will never have time to pray  —  if you wait for time to pray, you are never going to pray.  You have to take time to pray.  You have to take time from something else.  Generally you will have to take time from important things if you would pray.  I’ve reached that conclusion.  Especially as you begin.  Are you willing to do it?

John 3:27 hit me like a hammer when I first looked at it.  “John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”  A man can take or receive to himself nothing except it be given him from heaven.  You receive your answer to prayer.  Why?  So that your joy may be full.