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ACHSAH’S REQUEST — PRACTICAL LESSONS ABOUT PRAYER

Judges 1:12 - 15

And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

1. A Domestic Picture with a Spiritual Meaning

In domestic life we often meet with pictures of spiritual life in the House of God. We are allowed to find them there. Jesus said, “If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” God is a Father and He likens Himself to us as fathers. And we who are Believers are God’s children and we are permitted to compare ourselves to children; just as our children come to us and make requests of us and also just as we deal with them—so we may deal with God as Father and expect God to deal with us as His children!

This short and sweet story of a daughter and her father is recorded twice in the Bible. You will find it in the 15th chapter of the Book of Joshua, as well as in this first chapter of the Book of Judges. It is not recorded twice without good reasons; it’s a good story and has lessons in it. In this teaching we will notice the way in which this woman went to her father and the way in which her father treated her. It will teach us how to go to our Father who is in Heaven—and what to expect from Him. Achsah is a kind of model or parable. She was the daughter of Caleb and is a picture of a true and successful petitioner with our Father in Heaven. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.”

2. Achsah’s Positive Attitude, Deliberate Intention and Specific Prayer

Achsah went to her father. She was recently-married and had an estate to go with her to her husband. She naturally wished that her husband should find in that estate something convenient and profitable. And looking it all over like a Proverbs 31 businessperson wife, she saw what was needed. Before you pray, know what you need. The person, who thoughtlessly or carelessly goes down on his or her knees, with no specific prayer in mind, will blunder up, again, and get nothing for his or her pain. When Achsah went to her father to ask for something, she knew what she was going to ask. She did not open her mouth until first her heart had been filled with knowledge as to what she required. She saw that the land her father gave her would be of very little use to the newlyweds because it had no water. So she went to her father with a very definite request, “Give me, also, springs of water.”

Do you always, before you pray, think of what you are going to ask for? “Oh!” you may say, “I can always say some good words.” Does God need your words? Think what you are going to ask for before you begin to pray and then pray like a serious businessperson. This woman does not say to her father, “Father, listen to me,” and then utter some pretty little oration about nothing. No, she knew what she was going to ask for and why. She saw her need and prized the blessing she was about to request. Observe, if you spend a lot of time in prayer, that you don’t rush to the lofty and holy exercise “as the horse rushes into the battle”—that you do not venture out upon the sea of prayer without knowing in your heart a little about the port in which you seek to harbor. God will surely make you think of many more things while you are in prayer. The Spirit will help you in your weaknesses and suggest other petitions—but before a word escapes your lips, do what Achsah did—know what you really need as far as your mental abilities allow.

3. Achsah Sought the Support of a Partner—She did not have an Independent Spirit.

This perceptive woman, before she went to her father with her petition, asked her husband’s help. “One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field.” According to Judges 2, Othniel was a brave and courageous man upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came, a Judge in Israel who delivered Israel from Cushan-Rishathaim, an oppressive Canaanite king. Yet this brave leader was hesitant, perhaps bashful, when it came to asking his uncle for anything more than the bride and property he had already received. He was possibly afraid it would look like grasping. He had received a wife and land from him, and he seemed to say, “No, my good wife, it is all very well for you to put me up to this, but I do not feel like asking for anything more for myself.” He did not accompany her, whether reluctant or busy we don’t know.

Still, learn this lesson, good wives—prompt your husbands to pray with you. Brothers, ask your wives to pray with you. Ask your brothers to pray with you. Sisters, don’t be satisfied to approach the Throne of Grace, alone, but ask your sister to pray with you. It is often a great help in prayer for two of you to agree touching the thing that concerns Christ’s Kingdom. A group or just a pair of praying souls around the Throne of Grace will be sure to prevail. God help us to be willing to admit our need in prayer to get the help of others!

Any Christian worker would like to receive many miscellaneous as well as specific answers and benefits of prayer. Whenever any of you get stuck in the mud, pray for me! It will do you good and others will get a blessing too. Remember how it was written of Job, “The Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.” While he prayed for himself, he remained a captive, but when he prayed for those unkind and critical friends, the Lord smiled upon him and loosed his captivity. So it is a good thing, in prayer, to imitate Achsah. Know what you need and then ask others to join with you in prayer.

Wife, especially ask your husband. Husband, especially ask your wife. There is no sweeter praying on earth than the praying of a husband and a wife together when they plead for their children, invoke a blessing upon each other and upon the work of the Lord. It is good to ask others to pray with you and for you, but if they don’t, or don’t as much as you would like, don’t depend solely on others’ prayers. God has no grandchildren. You are His child; you pray, if you must pray alone, then pray alone.

4. Achsah went Alone when that Seemed Necessary.

Achsah thought of this, that she was going to present her request to her father. She may not have gone to ask of anybody else except her husband, Othniel, but she said to herself, “My father is my father. The gift I am going to ask is not of a stranger who does not know me, but of my father, in whose care I have grown up since birth.” This thought ought to help us in prayer. It will help us when we remember that we do not go to ask of an enemy, nor to plead with a stranger, but we say, “Our Father, which is in Heaven.” Do we understand or mean or think about the words when we say them? Do we really believe that God is our Father? Do you feel the Spirit of sonship in your heart? If so, this ought to help us to pray with a believing trust. Our Father will give us whatever we need! She may have thought, if there was anything I need and I should ask it of him, I expect that my dear father, old and feeble as he is, would give it to me if he were able. And surely, our great and glorious Father, with whom we have lived ever since we were newborn, has favored us so much that we ought to ask confidently, boldly and with a childlike familiarity, resting assured that our Father will never be upset with us because we ask these things! Yes, He knows what things we have need of before we ask Him! So this good woman, Achsah, feeling that it was her father of whom she was going to ask, and seeing that her husband hesitated to join her in her request, made the best of her way to go and request alone.

“Well, well, Othniel, I would have liked you to have gone with me, but as you will not, I am going alone.” So she got on the donkey and rode off to see her father. The grand old man saw his daughter coming and, by the very look of her, he knew that she was coming on business. There must have been something about her eyes that told him she is coming with a request. This was not the first time that she had asked something of him. He knew her usual look when she was about to petition him, so he went to meet her, and she got off the donkey as a token of great and deep respect—just as Rebecca did when she saw Isaac and dismounted her camel. She wished to show how deeply she reverenced that grand man, of whom it was an honor to be a child. Caleb, like Joshua, survived the wilderness years and still, in his old age, went out to fight the Canaanites and conquered Hebron, which the Lord had given him. Achsah paid reverence to her father, Caleb, but yet she was very hearty in what she is going to say to him.

Let’s, learn again from Achsah how to pray! She went humbly, yet eagerly. If others will not pray with you, go alone—but when you go, go reverently. It is a shameful thing that there should ever be an irreverent prayer. You are on earth and God is in Heaven—don’t multiply your words as though you were talking to your equal. Do not speak to God as though you could order Him around and have your will with Him; as though he were a servant of yours. Bow low before the Most High! Acknowledge yourself unworthy to approach Him, speaking as one who is pleading for that which must be a gift of great charity. Then you will draw near to God with the right attitude. But while you are humble, have desire in your heart reflected in your eyes—expectation written all over your face. Pray as one who means to have what he asks.

Plead on if you know that what you are asking for is right. Be like the importunate widow—come again, and again, and again! Be like the Prophet’s servant, “Go again seven times.” You will, at last, prevail! Achsah did not need to use importunity—long persuasion. The look of her facial expression showed that she needed something and, therefore, her father said, “What can I do for you?” Even at the outset of this lesson, we have learned something that ought to help us in prayer. If you put just this into practice, though no more were said, you might go away blessed by it. God grant us to know our need, to be anxious to have the help of our fellow Believers, but to remember that, as we go to our Father, even if nobody will go with us, we may go alone, through Yeshua ha Messiah, our Lord, and plead our case with our Father in Heaven!

5. Her Father Encouraged Her—“When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

"Oh!” you might say, “I could ask anything if my father said to me, ‘What can I do for you?’” This is precisely what your great Father says to you—“What can I do for you?” With all the magnanimity of His great heart, God reveals Himself to the praying man or pleading woman, and He says, “What can I do for you? What is your petition and what is your request?” What do I gather from that question? Just as you ought to know what you need, you are to ask for it. God’s way of giving is through our asking. He does that in order that He may give twice over, for a prayer is, itself, a blessing as well as its answer! Perhaps it sometimes does us as much good to pray for a blessing as to get the blessing. This is God’s way, “Ask, and you shall receive.” He puts even His own Son, our Savior, under this rule, for He says, even to Him, “Ask of Me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.” It is a rule, then, that you can pray more confidently when you know what you need, and you are to ask for it. Will you do this while the Lord says to you, “What can I do for you?”

When Caleb said, “What can I do for you?” wasn’t that as good as to say to Achsah, “You may have what you ask for”? Today is a fine day for praying! I do not know a day when it is not a fine day for prayer, but yesterday is past, tomorrow is not here yet and today is a delightful day for prayer. You shall have what you ask for—a promise given in a ministry setting. We don’t ask for any old foolish thing, but ministry-related, valid requests. “All things whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Desires written in your heart by the Holy Spirit will be fulfilled! Think of these three things—you must know what you need, you must ask for what you need and you may have the confidence that you will have what you need! Your Father says to you, as Caleb said to Achsah, “What can I do for you?”

And, once more, it shall be a pleasure to your Father to see her open that mouth that is so dear to him! He loves to listen to the music of her voice! The father delights to hear his child tell him what she needs and it shall be no displeasure to your God to hear you pray, today! It will be a joy to Him to have your petition spread before Him. Many fathers would quite as soon that their children did not tell them all their needs—in fact, the fewer their needs, the better pleased will their parents be! But our Father in Heaven feels great pleasure in giving to us all we need, for giving does not impoverish Him, and withholding does not enrich Him. He as much delights to give as the sun delights to shine! It is the very element of God to be scattering bounties! Come, then, and pray to Him—you will please Him more than you will please yourself! I wish I could say something today, that would enable every child of God here to say, “Ron is talking to me. He means that I have to pray and that God will hear me, and bless me!” Yes, that is precisely my meaning. Receive my suggestion, prove it to yourself, today, and see if it is not true, that God takes delight in your poor, feeble, broken prayer and grants your humble petition! So we have now seen Achsah’s consideration before requesting and her encouragement from her father to ask.

6. She spoke Boldly, Confidently, Directly and to the Point.

As soon as she found that she had a favorable audience with her father, she said to him, “Do me a special favor.” That was a good petition—it was a good beginning—“Do me a special favor.” May the Holy Spirit put that prayer into every believing mouth here, today, “Do me a special favor. Whatever You do not give me, give me a blessing! Whatever else You give me, do not fail to give me a blessing.” A father’s blessing is an inheritance to a loving child. “Give me a blessing.”

What is the blessing of God? If He says, “You are blessed,” you may defy the devil to make you cursed! If the Lord calls you blessed, you are blessed! Though covered with boils, as Job was, you are blessed. Though near death, like Lazarus, with the dogs licking his sores, you are blessed! If you should be dying, like Stephen, beneath the stones of murderous enemies, if God blesses you, what more can you wish for? No, Lord, put me anywhere that You will, as long as I get Your blessing. Deny me what You will, only give me Your blessing. I am rich in poverty if You bless me! So Achsah said to her father, “Give me a blessing.” I wish that prayer might be prayed by everybody. Workers, retirees, teachers, students and government employees, pray for this, even if you have not prayed it before, “Lord, give me a blessing.” Soldiers, tax collectors, pray your gracious God to give you a blessing! Young men and women, old men and fathers, take this prayer of Achsah’s into your hearts now, “Give me a blessing.” Why, if the Lord would hear that prayer from everybody, how blessed we will be! And we would go our way to be a blessing to this communities beyond what we have ever been before!

7. Achsah, with Thanksgiving, Connected her past Blessings with her Present Petition.

Notice next, in Achsah’s prayer, how she mingled gratitude with her petition—“Give me a blessing: for you have given me a south land.” When people ask anything of us, we like to hear them say, “You did help me, you know, Sir, a month ago.” But if they seem to come to you and having forgotten that you ever helped them, and never thanked you, never said a word about it, but come begging again and again, you say to yourself, “Why, I helped that fellow a month ago! He never said a word about that.” “Ah,” you say to yourself, “he will get no more out of me. He is not grateful for what he has already been given.” Ingratitude seals up the springs of blessing. When we do not praise God for what we have received from Him, it seems He should say, “I am not going to cast My pearls before swine again. I’ll not give My precious things to those who attach no value to them.” When you are praying, praise also—you will gather strength by it! When a man has to take a long jump, you have seen him go back a good distance and then run forward to use he momentum to jump further. Go back in grateful praise to God for what He has done for you in days gone by, and then get a spring for your leap to a future blessing, or a present blessing! Mingle gratitude with all your prayers!

Our heavenly Father completes what He begins. We can use His consistency to advantage when we pray. What He has done for us and given to us could be a hint of the kinds of things He will do for us and what He will give us. Achsah made the connection. I want to learn to do this.

There was not only gratitude in this woman’s prayer, but she used former gifts as a plea for more—“You have given me a south land; give me also.” Oh, yes, that is good logical argument with God—“You have given me, therefore, give me some more.” You cannot always use this argument with humans, for if you remind them that they have given you so much, they say, “Well, now, I think that somebody else must have a turn. Could you not go next door?” But it is never that way with God. There is no argument with Him like this, “Lord, You have done such and such for me. You are always the same. Your All-Sufficiency is not abated, therefore, do again what You have done!”

Make every gift that God gives you a basis for a plea for another gift! And when you have that other gift, make it a plea for yet another gift—He loves you to do this. Every blessing given contains the seeds of other blessings within it. You must take the blessing and find the flowers and let them bloom by your earnestness—and you will eventually have a whole bouquet of blessings springing out of a single one! This clever woman used this plea in a particular way—she said, “You have given me a south land; give me also springs of water.” This was as much as to say, “Though you have given me the south land and I thank you for it, it is no good to me unless I have water for it. It is a very hot bit of ground, this south land—it needs irrigation. My husband and I cannot get a living from it unless you give us springs of water.” Do you see the way you are to pray? “Lord, You have given me so much, but it will all be good for nothing if You do not give me more. If You do not finish, it is a pity that You ever began. You have given me very many mercies, but if I do not have many more, all Your generosity will be lost. You do not begin to build unless you mean to finish and so I come to You to say, ‘You have given me a south land, but it is dry. Give me, also, springs of water to make it of real value to me.” In this prayer of Achsah’s there is a particularity and a specialty—“Give me also springs of water.” She knew what she was praying for and that is the way to pray! When you ask of God, ask distinctly—“Give me springs of water.” You may say, “Give me my daily bread.” You may cry, “Give me a sense of pardoned sin.” You may distinctly ask for anything which God has promised to give, but remember that, like this woman, you are to be distinct and plain in what you ask of God—“Give me springs of water.”

8. She Succeeded—“Caleb gave her the Upper Springs and the Lower Springs.”

Observe, her father gave her what she asked for. She asked for springs, He gave her springs. “If a son asks for bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” God gives us what we ask for when it is wise to do so. Sometimes we make mistakes and ask for the wrong thing—and then He is often kind enough to cross out the petition and write another word into the prayer—and answer the amended prayer rather than the first foolish edition of it! We may need to learn to ask Him to amend our prayers. But this time she asked correctly; Caleb gave Achsah what she asked.

9. Achsah Knew that Springs of Water Give Life to Dry Ground.

If I could pray that prayer, “Give me springs of water.” ‘Lord, you have given me a south land—all the opportunities to conduct Leadership Empowerment Conferences in many places in Africa and India but, Lord, how can I teach them if You do not give me springs of water? ‘All my fresh springs are in You.’ What is the use of the hearers if there is not the power of the Holy Spirit going with the Word to bless them? Give me springs of water.

Oh, that, out of myself, out of my very soul, might flow rivers of Living Water for my dear scholars and that I might have the power of Your Holy Spirit with all my teaching! Give me springs of water.” I can imagine a Christian parent here saying, “Lord, I thank You for my wife and my children. I thank You that You have given me friends and neighbors over whom I have influence. I thank You for all these, but what is the use of my being the head of a family unless You give me springs of Divine Grace that, like David, I may bless my household and see my children grow up in Your fear? Give me springs of water.” The point of this petition is this, “O Lord, what You have given me is of little good to me unless you complete the project. If God has given you money, pray that He will give you Grace to use it the right way, or else, if you hoard it up or spend it, it may, in either case, prove a curse to you! Pray, “Give me springs of water! Give me Grace to use my wealth correctly.” Some have many talents. Riches in the brain are among the best of riches. Be thankful to God for your talents, but cry, “Lord, give me of Your Grace, that I may use my talents for Your Glory. Give me springs of water, or else my talents will be a dry and thirsty land, yielding no fruit to You. Give me springs of water.” The prayer is not merely for water, but for springs of water. “Give me a perpetual, eternal, always-flowing fountain. Give me Grace that shall never fail, but shall flow, and flow on, and flow forever! Give me a constant supply—“Give me springs of water.” This woman’s prayer is highly commendable. Oh, that we might all have Grace to copy her!

10. Caleb gave Her more than she asked for.

Next, he gave her in large measure. She asked for springs of water and he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. The Lord “is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask, or imagine.” Some use that passage in prayer and misquote it, “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” That is not in the Bible, because you can ask or imagine anything you like. But it is, “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.” Our asking or our thinking falls short, but God’s answers never do! Caleb was able to think of and give more than Achsah could ask or imagine.

11. Caleb did not Criticize her.

Her father gave her this without a word of upbraiding He did not say, “Ah, Achsah, you are always begging of me!” He did not say, “Now that I have given you to your husband, it is too bad of him to let you come and ask for more from me, when I have already given you plenty.” There are some gruff old fathers who would speak like that to their daughters, and say, “No, no, no! Come, come, I cannot stand this—you already have a good portion, my girl—and I have others to think of as well as you.” No, Caleb gave her the upper and the lower springs and never said a word by way of blaming her. We may venture to say that he smiled on her, as he said, “Take the upper and the lower springs, and may you and your husband enjoy the whole! You have only asked, after all, what my heart delights to give you.”

Now, may the Lord grant to us, today, to ask of Him in wisdom, and may He not have to upbraid us, but give us all manner of blessings both of the upper and the lower springs, both of Heaven and earth, both of ete eternity and time, and give them freely, and not say, even, a single word by way of upbraiding us!

Why is it that, today, some of us have a very parched and dried-up inheritance? The grass and corn will not grow. Nothing good seems to grow. You have been plowing and turning the plot up, and sowing, and weeding—and yet nothing comes of it. You are a Believer, and you have an inheritance, but you are not very much given to song, not very cheery, not very happy. And you are sitting here singing, to the tune of Job— “Lord, what a wretched land is this, that yields us no supply!” Well, why is that? There is no need for it. Your heavenly Father does not want you to be in that miserable condition.

There is something you may have that will lift you out of that state and change your tone altogether. May every child of God go to his Father, just like Achsah went to Caleb! Pour out your heart before the Lord, with all the simple ease and naturalness of a trustful, loving child. Do you say, “Oh, I could not do that”? Then I would have to ask, “Are we truly the children of God if we never feel towards Him any of that holy boldness?” Don’t you think that every child must feel a measure of that confidence towards his or her father? If there is a son in the world who says, “No, I-I-I really could not speak to my father,” it would seem that there is something wrong at his home—there is something not right either with the father or with the boy! Wherever there is a loving home, you never hear the son or daughter say, “You know, I-I-I could not ask my father.” Let us hope that none has sunken into that condition with regard to our earthly fathers! And, for sure, let none of us be in that condition with regard to our heavenly Father— “My soul, ask what you will, you cannot be too bold, since He gave His own blood for you, what else would He withhold?”

We will not make our requests to our heavenly Father with confidence until we understand that He is our Heavenly Father. The story of Achsah and her father, Caleb, teaches us this.

Adapted from a Sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon