Why are prayers unanswered? Many people profess to pray regularly so it seems like we should hear of an abundance of prayers answered every day…but we don’t. I’ve been wondering why this is and began to study the subject.
As I read 1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don’t, your prayers will be blocked,” I thought I would start with looking for other passages that tell us why God refuses to answer our prayers as we think they should be answered.
The first thing I found was “sin” in Psalm 66:18: “Had I cherished evil thoughts, Adonai would not have listened.” In all honesty, this sounds like a no-brainer – of course God isn’t going to answer the prayer of a person who harbors evil thoughts/iniquity in his heart. We all know that. But as I meditated on why God would have to tell us something so obvious, it became clear. We do not look at ourselves objectively, without rose-colored glasses, because that is contrary to human nature.
James 1:23 For whoever hears the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror,
24 who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
25 But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.
26 Anyone who thinks he is religiously observant but does not control his tongue is deceiving himself, and his observance counts for nothing.
As I followed cross-references I didn’t find anywhere that Jesus said anything like, ‘prayer will be answered except in these circumstances.’ I found several reasons why prayer is not answered, such as sin in one’s heart, as well as doubt, selfishness, disobedience, and more. I found where we are told to be persistent with our prayers as Hannah was. Then there were the general requirements and the personal requirements of prayer…in a nutshell, we are the reason so many of our prayers go unanswered. I found what I have found many times before – we so often accept partial explanations and don’t bother to study all God says about a given subject. Therefore, scripture seems to contradict itself and divisions between believers multiply astronomically. That leads to the statement we so frequently hear, “we agree to disagree,” which should never be if we all serve the same God and read the same Bible.
The short answer to this predicament is that we must live where God lives, meaning making it our lifestyle to be in His will. The long answer will consist of many posts discussing various aspects of prayer that I learn as I pursue this vital component to my Christian walk. I hope some other folks find it interesting, too.
I know prayers are answered just as we ask sometimes, but I have experienced and heard others talk of far more prayers that are prayed and seem to go unheard by our Father. My mind immediately recalled John 14:12, having read it many times before. So, I read, prayed, meditated and read some more to accomplish that first baby step toward understanding, because I couldn’t grasp what must have been meant by this. I just don’t see anything approaching the works Jesus did like raising the dead and so on. This is what God allowed me to see.
John 14:12 (CJB)
Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever trusts in me will also do the works I do! Indeed, he will do greater ones, because I am going to the Father.
“Greater works” – greater in quality, not quantity
The context of the book of John indicates “greater works” are works of conversion by God’s grace. Christ’s purpose was to die a substitutionary death for us + salvation.
Miracles point to Christ as the true Messiah, but that is lesser than the actual bringing of sinners to Christ to whom the signs and miracles point – Spiritual rather than physical accomplishments.
“Anything done to the spirit of a person is permanent, that which is done to the flesh is merely temporary. All those whom Jesus healed or raised from the dead died again, so what is done to the spirit of a person is far greater.”
Of course, the next two verses are an extension of Jesus’ conversation with His disciples when He says:
13 In fact, whatever you ask for in my name, I will do; so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me for something in my name, I will do it.
That is where I bumped into that old, bothersome question of unanswered prayer…again! The phrase “in my name” is undoubtedly a key phrase, so it begs for exploration.
“Name” in Strong’s concordance New Testament # 3686=authority and character related to Strong’s 3685= to gratify in relation to divine pleasure or advantage (to have joy)
Since it is vital for full understanding, a look at Old Testament scripture about God’s name is necessary also.
Exodus 6:3 (KJV)
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
Strong’s concordance Old Testament #8034=defined and conspicuous position. An appellation that is a word by which one is known. A mark or memorial of individuality by implying honor, authoritive report of character.
The other part of the John 14 passage that would not let me ignore it is where it says, “so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The purpose of prayers being answered is to glorify God. I have wondered how do we really glorify God, especially if it involves Him doing what we ask of Him in prayer. It was easy to find that answer in scripture. John tells us in the very next chapter: John 15:7-8 (CJB)
7 “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you.
8 This is how my Father is glorified — in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim [disciples].”
Hmm, it glorifies God when our prayers are answered; we are to ask “in His name” which, put briefly, is His character…there are definitely some components to prayer that dictate God’s answer or lack thereof. I suspect those components are going to turn out to be character/characteristics of the one praying more so than of the prayer itself, not neglecting the pattern Christ gave us in the Lord’s Prayer.
I noticed one thing as I was studying that might not turn out to always be the case but worth considering as we pray. I found the case of Paul asking that a “thorn” be removed from his flesh, and read the testimony of a relatively young man who was diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis one day thirteen years ago and suffered with the accompanying depression, 49 pills a day, spinal taps, steroid treatments, etc. Like Paul, he prayed for cures to his illness. Neither of them was granted the taking away of whatever was afflicting them, but when focusing on their well-being and what God had for them to do, both could be considered over comers. There may be something to that principle of not asking God to take away what afflicts us.
Another thing that makes sense to me is that since the purpose for answered prayer is to glorify God, it stands to reason that He would answer prayer for those who are called by His name (Romans 8:28 “Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;”) because they have molded their lifestyle to imitate Him. How glorifying would it be if He answered all prayers of all people who asked of Him regardless of their dedication to Him? God will answer prayer when it glorifies Him, and if it does not glorify Him, it is not in His will – or character, which = His name. To pray in the name of Jesus is much more than closing our prayer with the words, “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
God doesn’t “owe” us positive replies to our prayers with nothing from us – our lives must line up with His expectations of us. I don’t think God says, “No” as often as we attribute unanswered prayer to that cause. I think it is more often that He simply does not hear prayers from those out of His will, because God calls us to be a separated people, peculiar, and a special treasure to Him. (Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2, and Deuteronomy 26:18, Titus 2:14, and 1 Peter 2:9) God’s creation is perfect, therefore, anything added to or subtracted from it causes imperfection and is sin, and where there is sin, He turns a deaf ear. Even the so-called “sinner’s prayer” is heard because the sinner is repenting, which is definitely within the will of God. But His Word tells us that after that we are responsible to live – all day every day – as He tells us, and the only way to know those things is to study His Word. Look at this:
Acts 17:26-30 (CJB)
26 “From one man he made every nation living on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the limits of their territories and the periods when they would flourish.
27 God did this so that people would look for him and perhaps reach out and find him although in fact, he is not far from each one of us,
28 ‘for in him we live and move and exist.’ Indeed, as some of the poets among you have said, ‘We are actually his children.’
29 So, since we are children of God, we shouldn’t suppose that God’s essence resembles gold, silver or stone shaped by human technique and imagination.
30 “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance; but now he is commanding all people everywhere to turn to him from their sins.”
Then, I read Isaiah 59:1-4 (CJB).
1 ADONAI’s arm is not too short to save, nor is his ear too dull to hear.
2 Rather, it is your own crimes that separate you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he doesn’t hear.
3 For your hands are stained with blood and your fingers with crime; your lips speak lies, your tongues utter wicked things.
4 No one sues with just cause, no one pleads honestly in court, they trust in empty words and say worthless things; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
Isaiah 1:15-22 (CJB)
15“When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood.
16 “Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil,
17 learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.
18 “Come now,” says ADONAI, “let’s talk this over together. Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword”; for the mouth of ADONAI has spoken.
Those scriptures, along with John 9:31 (CJB) “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone fears God and does his will, God does listen to him” make it pretty obvious that much of the result of our prayers is dependent upon us.
“Self-examination” and is necessary if I am to determine where I am missing the mark. It isn’t so much that self-examination is such an obstacle itself, the obstacle is an objectiveself-examination. Human nature severely hinders objective self-examination and as new creatures in Christ, it would be nice if human nature just disappeared when we first believe. But we have to take off the rose colored glasses that come as stock equipment straight from the ‘assembly line’ so to speak. Our self-absorbed human nature is as ungodly as it is strong.
I consulted good old Webster’s dictionary to see what it said about this “entity.” Human nature is, according to the dictionary, “the qualities common to humanity; the unique elements that form a basic part of human life and distinguish it from other animal life.” It is the makeup all humans everywhere and at every time in history share. It does not changeso we are automatically engaged in a spiritual war, raging within true believers. This fact is addressed most notably by the apostle, Paul, who was intimately acquainted with all of God’s Word, which says, “If a person will not listen to *Torah, even his prayer is an abomination.” (*Torah = instruction, teachings)
He describes it this way in Romans 7:14-24 (CJB):
14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave.
15 I don’t understand my own behavior – I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate!
16 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good.
17 But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me.
18 For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me – that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it!
19 For I don’t do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don’t want is what I do!
20 But if I am doing what “the real me” doesn’t want, it is no longer “the real me” doing it but the sin housed inside me.
21 So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse “torah,” that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me!
22 For in my inner self I completely agree with God’s Torah;
23 but in my various parts, I see a different “torah,” one that battles with the Torah in my mind and makes me a prisoner of sin’s “torah,” which is operating in my various parts.
24 What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death?
If it was this difficult for an apostle, the great apostle Paul, what makes us think we should expect an easier time?
I’ve sort of been stuck at this self-examination point. Even after forty years of being a Christian, complete objectivity still plays hide and seek with my mind sometimes. So, now that I’ve managed to lasso ‘objectivity’ for a while, I need to look at those things that prevent the desired results of my prayers. First there was the sin/evil thoughts/iniquity in man’s heart that Psalm 66:18 tells us God won’t just overlook and excuse us for. But that’s not a problem for me – I don’t harbor iniquity of any kind in my heart or mind….
Uh-oh, here comes objectivity giving me ‘that look’ and I know what that look means!
Well, yes, I do occasionally…ok, ‘sometimes’…
Oh, all right – ‘often’…I often grumble about things people do that seem brainless and/or inconsiderate.
But how bad is it if I grumble and gripe around here because our nice quiet neighborhood has been gradually invaded by people who want a dog, for some unknown reason, and insist upon letting them bark at nothing or to beg for attention from their owners, totally destroying my peace and quiet! Why have a dog if they are not going to give it the attention a pet needs?
I can’t tell which attribute is greater in these people – stupidity or inconsideration. Or those guys who wear their caps backward while they squint as the sun glares in their eyes while they’re driving down the road – why? That is so stupid! The brim on a cap is to help shield the eyes from the sun!
Oh dear! ‘Objectivity’ just threw a mirror up in front of my face! It sure didn’t take long to allow an ungodly, iniquitous attitude to slide right up to the front and center, did it?
This is so embarrassing – I’ve aired my dirty laundry for all to see, not just my family who loves me in spite of my shortcomings…and in these cases happen to agree with me (a little bit of self defense there).
I see now why human nature and objectivity are mortal enemies when it comes to self-examination.
Anyway, I have bounced back from yesterday’s embarrassing revelation and will be better today. I’ll be better because the next …flaw, shall we say, is selfishness/wrong motives and I definitely don’t have a problem with that. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but I have been told how unselfish I am, so it isn’t just my opinion. So, here we go…
The scripture to start this topic is James 4:3 (CJB) “Or you pray and don’t receive, because you pray with the wrong motive that of wanting to indulge your own desires.” Or as the KJV says it,
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
My own desires? I don’t really think so. Then God brought to mind some of the things I had asked of Him but I still didn’t see where I had asked with wrong motives – until He reminded me of those ‘bless him with a brick’ prayers of years past. We had two sons who had a tendency to ignore the good advice we gave them, especially after they turned 18. So, I admit, I sort of prayed that God would show them how right we were by allowing the calamities we warned them against to happen. Then those boys would learn to listen! Of course, we also prayed for their salvation, but that didn’t seem to be in any hurry to come around any quicker than the ‘blessing bricks’ I prayed to befall them…for their own good, of course…and it goes without saying that since I am their mother, I know what the best way to handle them is.
I really wanted my sons to straighten up, but I was forced to think about my motives as I was studying these reasons why we don’t see prayers answered anywhere near the “whatsoever you ask” level. Seriously, all parents want the things that are best for their children. I, for one also wanted them to be “good kids” so the people at church wouldn’t think I was a less than great mother. That in itself isn’t a real bad thing, but it wasn’t God’s glory I was worried about – it was my own reputation amongst my peers, and that equals wrong motive. God answers prayer in order to glorify Himself, and rightly so. It is so easy to slip into something like wrong motives even for good things and easy for those same motives to hide from a superficial self-examination.
How did things work out with our sons? The oldest one stole a car and drove to Texas where he was caught and put in prison for 13 years. He has been out now for several years and is still reaping the consequences of bad choices he’s made many years after the fact, but he is drawing nearer to God all the time. The other one died suddenly in 2004 when he was 30 years old. We found out a week or so later that he had finally turned his life over to Christ four days before he died.
“then, whatever we ask for, we receive from him; because we are obeying his commands and doing the things that please him.”
I really hate to have to admit that my concern about whether the people at church saw me as a fantastic mom was something that did not please our Heavenly Father. It didn’t occur to me that I should be thinking of how God could be glorified. And my requests to bless with MY instructions on how to do it, gave Him no glory. Instead my thoughts, with all good intent, were not in His will. When I think of all the times that I have unthinkingly prayed “amiss”, I hang my head in shame.
14 This is the confidence we have in his presence: if we ask anything that accords with his will, he hears us.
15 And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – then we know that we have what we have asked from him.
It is becoming abundantly clear why so many prayers go unanswered.
Next on the list is “doubt.” If I am to be completely honest, I would have to say that the fewer of my prayers that are answered, the more I doubt. Or at least I question in my mind whether something I have prayed about will be answered.
To be clear, yes, God answers many of my daily prayers, i.e. protection from accidents, exceptionally good health (especially for an old lady!), good harvest from the garden to supply healthy food, and ordinary things like that. But when I say I question in my own mind if a prayer will be answered, I’m meaning something like healing for someone, either physical or spiritual, or some other need, like someone who needs a job.
James 1:5-8 (CJB)
5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him.
6 But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind.
7 Indeed that person should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways.
After praying, meditating and contemplating, the conclusion of the matter of doubt is that doubt will decrease, for me anyway, as I see more “yes” answers to my prayers. And that will come about only as I learn my faults through objective self-examination, and then correct them. As my Norwegian grandparents used to say, “Uff da!” This isn’t going to be easy!
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (CJB) “Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything: fear God, and keep his mitzvoth [commandments]; this is what being human is all about.
Or as the KJV says it: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
You know, seeing myself without those rose-colored glasses has been quite humiliating. After thinking I was doing okay with first few problem areas…before old ‘objectivity’ stepped in… I will spare you the details of looking at ‘disobedience’ and ‘inhumanity’ in myself and go on to the last of the negative points on my list – pride. Although, I don’t know how I could have any left after finding the things in myself that I have in the last couple of days.
It seemed like I should be able to skip this one with the excuse, “I’ve been humbled enough for one week.” But God has other plans – this problem is too widespread amongst professing Christians to skip over. The whole lesson is summarized in this passage from Luke 18:11-14(CJB)
11 The Parush [Pharisee] stood and prayed to himself, `O God! I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, immoral, or like this tax-collector!
12 I fast twice a week, I pay tithes on my entire income, . . . ‘
13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God! Have mercy on me, sinner that I am!’
14 I tell you, this man went down to his home right with God rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Most of us are familiar with that scripture. The negative side of the example comes through loud and clear but what we are supposed to learn from it requires more of that diligent probing that uncovers so much truth.
Undoubtedly, God knows far better than we do and we can find several examples in the Bible where He waited a long time to answer prayers. We cannot argue with His timing. And along with that we see where the Bible tells us about the persistence of the woman in Luke 18:5. So, I am not saying that God never says, “Not right now” or “wait” but that we too quickly dismiss unanswered prayers to God’s refusal or better timing than ours, rather than honestly look at ourselves first. There is a serious disease going around the Christian community these days – many have succumbed to the false teaching that we have little or no obligation, responsibility, or duty and God is going to shower us with undeserved blessings unceasingly. They claim Mark 11:24 as their birthright for being born again without a thought of what else God tells us about prayer…and there are plenty of things! (Purity of heart, believing, in Christ’s name, according to God’s will, forgiving spirit, to mention just a few) God’s timing is perfect and crucial.
Of the several things mentioned in the Bible that are required for prayer, ‘humility’ is only one of them…but I dare say, the most elusive.
We, as Christians, are aware that whatever knowledge we have, or wisdom, or anything else, comes from God. It is a gift to us, whom He loves so dearly. We realize this and we know all the right words to say giving God the glory for His gifts. The problem is our sincerity. Paul wrote in Romans 12:3 that we have a tendency to lack humility and said, “For I am telling every single one of you, through the grace that has been given to me, not to have exaggerated ideas about your own importance…” (CJB)
I take that to mean amongst other people as well as before God in prayer. We all too often speak the right things to other people, saying we give God the glory for whatever blessing we might be discussing, while inwardly gloating at our own supposed knowledge, godliness, wisdom, talent, etc. It is pretty easy to pick it out in others, but ourselves – that’s another story. It happens a lot when we want to “share” some particular knowledge we have acquired concerning some topic or scripture or some song we can sing or play. We say we “just want to share this” with someone but we are actually wanting them to see how ‘sanctified’ we are because of all our knowledge or talent, and hear them say how much they admire us.
Sadly, we sometimes approach God in prayer with an attitude of something like, “I do so much for you” even though we say the right words…”in Jesus’ name” and “thank you for…” and various praise phrases. There is even an old song that says, “I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me” and “’I work so hard for Jesus’ I often boast and say.” This is human nature in action, by the way.
Here is a scripture to meditate on and I will get more of what I have learned as I’ve studied this posted as soon as possible because this is getting too long …again.
“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you.” Romans 12:1 (CJB)
So when we come before the Lord in prayer, while He is sitting on His mercy seat, are we presenting ourselves a sacrifice without blemish as commanded in the law? One might say, “If I had no blemishes, and Christ had no blemishes, there would be no reason to present myself as a living sacrifice.” That train of thought misses the entire point. The High Priest offers our sacrifice to God. The High Priest is already consecrated. “Without blemish” means without hypocrisy, in short. If we come before the Lord saying all the right words, and do that without a humble and contrite heart, God sees our blemish, and right away, He rejects our sacrifice. That’s Biblical according to…
Leviticus 22:24-25 (KJV)
24 Ye shall not offer unto the LORD that which is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut; neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land.
25 Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.
Malachi 1:13 (KJV)
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.
And any excuse to not comply – not by killing an animal on an altar – spiritually, as Romans 12:1 says, would be a “lame” excuse. Pun intended.
A New Testament counterpart to these scriptures could be Luke 3:8 (CJB) “If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it! And don’t start saying to yourselves, `Abraham is our father’!”
To paraphrase that to apply to 21st century Christians would be something like, “If you are really born again, live your life to prove it, and don’t say that just because you are born again all of your prayers should be answered just as you ask.”
We know that the purpose of God answering our prayers is to glorify himself and then we read:
John 15:7-8 (CJB) “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified — in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim [disciples]… .
and see that God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Putting two and two together it becomes clear that WE have the greatest impact on whether God answers our prayers.
Now, I am going to assume for a little while that I am free of all of the aforementioned faults, which seems like quite a stretch after what I have learned about how my human iniquity can flourish so easily and so unnoticed by me! That was embarrassing!
Taking ‘self’ out of the way, our – I say “our” because I know others have this problem – other problem is the Adversary. I did wonder as a young Christian at times if he was interfering with my prayers, but looked at it as hindering the prayers themselves. His hindering starts even before I say my first, “Dear Lord” and doesn’t stop. And I remember being told to “not think about Satan at all because that gives him more power” which was not wise teaching. I would say that wiser teaching on that would be, “know your enemy!”
“Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (CJB)
As I meditated on this thought, oodles of things came to mind. One scripture that popped right away was James 4:7 (CJB) “Therefore, submit to God. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you.” And as my husband added, “That doesn’t mean he won’t come back again in a different way.” That point is illustrated for us in scripture (Luke 4:1-13) where Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and tried different approaches against Him, so why should we think that because our intentions are good that he would leave us alone? He knew scripture and tried to use it against Christ and he knows that our effectiveness, fruitfulness, and peace within are dependent upon the time we spend in prayer. Of course he wants to prevent Christians from praying.
Something interesting also is that when Paul wrote Ephesians, and taught about putting on the full armor of God, he ended the paragraph with verse 18, talking about prayer.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (CJB)
10 Finally, grow powerful in union with the Lord, in union with his mighty strength!
11 Use all the armor and weaponry that God provides, so that you will be able to stand against the deceptive tactics of the Adversary.
12 For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.
13 So take up every piece of war equipment God provides; so that when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist; and when the battle is won, you will still be standing.
14 Therefore, stand! Have the belt of truth buckled around your waist, put on righteousness for a breastplate,
15 and wear on your feet the readiness that comes from the Good News of shalom.
16 Always carry the shield of trust, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.
17 And take the helmet of deliverance; along with the sword given by the Spirit, that is, the Word of God;
18 as you pray at all times, with all kinds of prayers and requests, in the Spirit, vigilantly and persistently, for all God’s people.
Paul said in Romans 8:26 that we don’t know how to pray, and to that I can say, AMEN! I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I don’t have to be perfect or pray beautiful sounding prayers to be heard!
Romans 8:26-28 (CJB) Similarly, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we don’t know how to pray the way we should. But the Spirit himself pleads on our behalf with groanings too deep for words;
27 and the one who searches hearts knows exactly what the Spirit is thinking, because his pleadings for God’s people accord with God’s will.
28 Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;
Have you ever had those times in your life when you tried to pray and your mind kept bopping all over the place to every other thing – except focusing on speaking meaningfully to our heavenly Father? Not that I really want to, but, I’ll admit to that. My only consolation is that even some of the greatest men of God have experienced the same thing through the centuries.
Human nature with its iniquity is hard enough to deal with, without the Adversary pushing us down the slippery slope called “scatterbrained.” I did read a small book several months ago that I downloaded to my kindle for free from Amazon.com that addressed this problem along with others that hinder our prayer life. It is called, “Confessions of a Prayer Slacker” and it is entertaining as well as helpful.
Another thing that happens a lot is that we feel like God is being silent – simply not listening or refusing to answer our prayers at all – when we have a big, important burden we are praying about. I did some research on this because I’m not exactly bubbling over with answers to this dilemma. One cause of silence from God is unconfessed sin as discussed way back at the beginning of this thread (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2)
Other reasons I found were that He is teaching us to trust Him (2 Corinthians 5:7; Psalm 138:8), to mature us, and that He wants us to persevere in prayer like Hannah, mother of Samuel did. Another reason was that a delay would bring God greater glory, such as in the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. He delayed His arrival in Bethany until after Lazarus had died rather than going there immediately and healing him so he wouldn’t die. The purpose became clear after the fact – bringing a dead man back to life – now that’s headline material! Plenty of glory for the Father in that!
He also wants to get our attention since some of us tend to ignore God or allow “grocery list prayers” and/or unfocused, cursory, mostly inattentive dialog to pass for meaningful conversation with the One who loves us more than anyone else does. And that sort of leads into the last reason on my list which is that He wants us to learn to recognize His voice, which it is a little late for when a crisis crops up if we haven’t taken the time to really communicate with God all along.
There are some very remarkable stories in the Bible that tell how prayer works, or should work, and reading them inspires me to yearn and strive for the kind of relationship those people had with God.
Look at Hannah, for instance, who became the mother of Samuel.
The name, Hannah, means ‘favored’ but she certainly didn’t feel like she was favored. She was one of Elkanah’s two wives but was unable to have children. Elkanah’s other wife Peninah had several children and was mean and hateful to Hannah. Every year Elakanah took his family up to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices to God. He gave a portion of the sacrifice to Peninah and all her children, but to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her more in spite of her inability to give him children. One year, while at Shiloh, Peninah had taunted Hannah to the point she started to cry and could not eat…again, as happened every year. Elkanah tried to comfort her and among other things said, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” He must have said something that made an impression on Hannah because when they were finished eating and drinking, she went to the temple and in deep depression, quietly prayed to God and cried. Eli, the priest, was sitting nearby and saw Hannah’s lips moving but could not hear her praying so he thought she was drunk. He asked Hannah how long she was going to stay drunk and told her to “sober up” as we would say it. She explained that she wasn’t the least bit drunk but rather was a very unhappy woman praying from the depths of her heart. Eli understood then and told her, “Go in peace. May the God of Israel grant what you have asked of Him.” After Eli’s blessing, Hannah went her way, ate, and was no longer so sad. The family got up early the next morning and headed home to Ramah.
It wasn’t long before Hannah gave birth to Samuel – which means “heard from God” – because as she said, “because I asked Adonai for him.” When the time came again for the annual trip to Shiloh, Hannah declined to go and explained to her husband, “Not til the child has been weaned. Then I will bring him, so that he can appear before Adonai and live there forever.” Every year Hannah made Samuel a little coat and took it to him when the family went to Shiloh. The result: 1 Samuel 2:20-21 (CJB)
20 ‘Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May ADONAI give you children from this woman because of the boy you have loaned to ADONAI”; then they would go home.
21 So ADONAI took notice of Hannah, and she conceived and bore three more sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Sh’mu’el grew in the presence of ADONAI.
I would like to be able to say that I could do as well as she, but in all honesty, I don’t know if I could give my child away as a very young child, and be content to make him a little coat, and take it to him every year when the family went to where he was living. But this is the dedication God rewards, and the prayer life He desires because He loves us so much. This story always humbles me when I read it, and that is good. Uncomfortable, but good.
David is the star of another story about prayer. But I’ve gotten long-winded again (it must come with old age!) so I will put that in the next post, God willing.
Hebrews 6:3 (CJB)
3 And, God willing, this is what we will do.
We consider King David a hero of the Old Testament in spite of his imperfections. It is fascinating to study about David because there is so much written about him in the Bible but as we were reading a few days ago, my husband and I ran across this story in 1 Chronicles 14.
In 1 Chronicles 14, it is confirmed to David that God has set him up as king over Israel. Israel prospers, David has lots of children, and in general, things are going well.
When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all of Israel, they determined to destroy him. I can just imagine the Philistines saying something like, “Aha! You killed our great soldier, Goliath, so now, David, we’ll fix your wagon!”
Hearing of this, David went to God and asked Him, “Should I attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” God replied, “Attack, I will hand them over to you.” And because God said it, that is what happened. David’s army whipped the Philistines so badly that they even left their gods there when they ran away. Not wanting to pass up a rare opportunity, David ordered his men to burn the Philistine gods to ashes.
As could be expected, that didn’t set well with the Philistines and they came back and raided the valley. Again, David asked God if he should attack and this time God said, “No,” and told David to turn away from the Philistines and engage in battle with them in another particular location. God told David to listen for a sound in the tops of the trees that sounded like marching, and then move out and attack the Philistines. David did exactly what God had told him to do so of course, the result was complete success.
Reading this made me think about how important it is to enquire of God for every move we make, even if it is a repeat of a prior event. If David had assumed God would grant him victory over the Philistines the second time just because He did the first time, I dare say the outcome would have been different. Just because a circumstance is the same as before, that doesn’t mean that the course of events will be the same again or even that the results would be the same.
Then after all this, chapter 16 is a lengthy psalm that David composed in praise to God, but look what happened in chapter 21. King David, the “man after God’s own heart”, is provoked by Satan, and gives in to the provocation without prayer!
I am convinced that there is so much to be learned from the characters of the Bible. I really doubt their stories are there to simply fill up space.
By Susan Budensiek
I was raised in church but always felt like I was missing something. Now the Word of God excites me! My curiosity enhances pursuance of discernment. I have often felt dismayed but not discouraged knowing that in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.