God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. [NLT]
Seek God first and work hard.
Some things are conditional. They just are. This may not be the most popular thing to say, but I have found it to be true in Scripture as well as in the day to day reality of life.
God’s love is unconditional, no doubt.
But what about His specific blessings and His assistance? Don’t we at least have to ask for it? Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. There’s nothing passive about asking, seeking, or knocking.
To experience God’s activity actually changing the reality in your life, I see little to no evidence of sitting around waiting for it. I see that we are to seek God first and work hard. I see obedience as being key. Not perfection, obviously, or we’re pretty screwed out of enjoying any assistance from YHWH. But obeying God in all sincerity as best we can and relying on His power for what we can’t do.
Here’s one example that impacted me greatly years ago. When I was like seventeen, I was studying for my SAT. I studied hard for about three months, all the while following God with all my heart. So I was working very diligently on my part in thoughtful study, and was also pursuing my relationship with God sincerely. I talked with Him a lot about my studying and taking the test. As the day approached, I had a convo with God, telling Him that I would like to score a 500 on the verbal and a 700 on the math. I felt with the brain He gave me I studied well enough to attain those scores, and would appreciate that blessing if it was His will. Very late the nite before the test, I got a call from my friend Joe saying his car broke down and asked for a ride. Without hesitation, I went to go get him, not telling him my SAT was in the morning. I want to say I was out close to 1am. But I trusted God. So weeks later the scores came in the mail, and I literally had to look twice as I scored a 500 on the verbal and a 700 on the math, exactly the scores I prayed for. I remember such a feeling of joy in that moment.
That may seem trivial to some, but it is not to God. It was not to me. How much does He want to bless us in these and many other ways everyday? Perhaps He is just waiting on us to ask, desiring all the while that we love, trust, and obey Him. (And I want to be clear that I was not viewing God as a genie in a bottle or some cosmic gift-giver to be bribed. I sincerely followed Him and wanted Him from my heart during this time. This was how He chose to answer in this particular case. We don’t always get exactly what we ask for, obviously.)
I’ve also experienced many answers to prayer with regard to people’s hearts. I remember praying for a friend of mine everyday faithfully for three months to follow God because she was in a dark place. I didn’t see her or hear from her the whole time I was praying, but I was praying in faith and belief. Finally I talked with her and she proceeded to tell me how much her life had changed for the better over the course of that summer and how she was getting along with her parents again. Incredible.
There’s so much out there for us to experience from our good God. We just need to focus our energy on where it needs to go–on God, His word, in obedience, in prayer–trusting in faith all the while. He wants to do good things for us. We just don’t ask or comply.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee. The eleven do go to Galilee, and Jesus appears as promised. Jesus says he has been given all authority, and then he authorizes his disciples to make disciples of all nations, which is said to involve baptizing in the trinitarian name and teaching the converts to obey all that Jesus commanded. But Jesus does far more than just authorize and empower his “learners.” He promises to be with them (Immanuel) as the divine power, presence, and wisdom of God until the close of the age. Never again will they be bereft of him. Thus, the gospel closes with a presentation of Jesus as God’s wisdom, his wise presence who dwells within the people of God and guards and guides them. As God’s people we are called to live and call others to live according to the counterorder wisdom of Jesus the sage. The Gospel for learners is also the Gospel for teachers. Ultimately, there is only one teacher, one sage, one wisdom–Jesus himself.
-from The Spiritual Formation Bible
Disciple making involves two basic tasks: baptizing and teaching. Baptizing includes the proclamation of the gospel of God’s kingdom and the call to repentance from sin and faith in Christ (Matt. 3:6, 11). Water baptism symbolizes the inward cleansing that God effects when people turn from their sins and turn in faith to God for forgiveness of their sins in Christ (3:14–15; see also Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38; 22:16;Rom. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21). “Teaching” involves instructing people to follow Jesus’ commandments concerning how God wants his people to live, commandments such as he gives in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:29; see also Rom. 6:17–18).
The order of these two elements of discipleship is important. People do not become disciples of Jesus by obeying his commandments in order to win his acceptance. They have his acceptance as a free gift, if they come to him in faith (Rom. 3:21–22, 24; 5:1–2). Jesus’ disciples joyfully do what Jesus has commanded them to do as a result of God’s transformation of their hearts through the proclamation of the gospel (Rom. 6:12–14).
-from The Gospel Transformation Bible