Posts Tagged ‘unanswered prayer’

I have been despised since before I could walk or talk. Despised by my parents and by family members. I was always meant to feel like an outsider—Different from everyone else in the family…Except for my youngest sister. 

She was born on my 14th birthday and I was told that she was my birthday present. (I wanted an art set) Because I was so upset about it, my mother made me be my new baby sister’s caregiver. I was forced to feed her, changed her diapers, take her on outings…Basically, I was forced to do what a parent should do. But what was meant to be my punishment created a bond between me and my sister that no one else in my family had. And we continue to remain close to this day. 

Growing up, there were several times that I should have been killed. I was tricked into running across a street and was hit by a car—twice; my brother tried to drown me at a lake; I was malnourished and ended up in the hospital with anemia. But for whatever reason, God chose to save my life. Because of my childhood trauma brought on by emotional, physical and sexual abuse, I had many unhealthy relationships, got involved with drugs and alcohol, all the while, trying hard to be accepted; to somehow fit in. 

 I was in my early twenties when I discovered God’s love for me and surrendered as much of my life as I knew how to do. My life seemed to turn around. I was joyful in my salvation and was excited to share this good news to as many as I could. I continued to study the Bible and fellowship with other Christians. I was hungry to learn more about this Jesus who saved my soul. I developed many relationships with other Christians and finally felt accepted, loved and had a sense of belonging. I was even able to sense God’s presence. 

Then tragedy struck when my only son was killed by a drunk driver on his way to work. I spent months in seeking answers from the Bible and in prayer and weeping on my face before God. Pouring out my heart and soul to Him, repenting from any sin that I could think of that may have been hidden from me. And through that process of praying, fasting and studying God’s word, I discovered that most of what I was taught in church wasn’t even in the Bible! Thus began my journey of seeking God’s truth from His word and trying my best to obey. I since have learned that is is true that: “…For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” —1 John 5:2-3 

But I also realized that that verse, and others like it, go against everything that is taught in the church. And many Christians that I thought were my friends turned against me simply because I spoke the truth from God’s word. Many times I have cried out to God on behalf of His church; to open their hearts and minds to His truth; to send revival. But for over five years I have not seen any positive results of my prayers and I felt like God had forgotten me. I cried out to God but it felt like I was speaking to the air. Even though my faith in God remained strong, I no longer felt His presence; no longer had His joy as I did before. 

But then I read Psalm 22 and I know that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. The practice of pouring out our heart and soul to God is not new. In fact, in the Psalms, we hear David’s lament, who pulls no punches right from the beginning: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” David not only brought his pain honestly to God and poured out his frustration and hurt, but he left that hurt in God’s hands. He doesn’t try to be anything more than he is. He has been totally, authentically, human before God.  And that authenticity and honesty brought healing and a renewed faith. 

David worshipped God in the midst of His pain. And even though he was feeling abandoned enough to cry out, “Where are you God?” he wasn’t going by the way he felt, but he looked past his feelings—he relied on his faith. Faith in his relationship with God, faith in the steadfastness of God and faith in the promise of God to always be with him. 

Imagine a young boy who goes with his dad to the local department store to help pick out a gift for his mother. The boy is so happy to be with his dad and to be included in picking out the perfect gift for his mom. But as they’re walking through the store the boy gets sidetracked from all the sights and sounds around him and suddenly he realizes that he’s alone in this giant store and his dad is nowhere around. He calls out for his dad and watches as so many people walk past him. Fear grips him as he begins to whimper and continues to call out for his dad. Then he begins to panic.  “Where is he? Why did he leave me all alone? How could he forget about me?” 

If you’ve ever seen a child in that state, you know they don’t just whimper—they cry out with loud, wailing cries, in the hope that someone will hear them and help him find his dad. Several people stop and try to comfort him, but none can help. Because he isn’t crying out for just anyone, he’s are crying out for a specific person. He’s crying out for his Dad. Then suddenly, he hears a soft voice behind him say, “Buddy, where’ve you been? I’m been looking for you.” He turns around and sees—it’s Dad! And his tears of fear and panic turn into tears of joy. The child then remembers that his relationship with his dad, that he questioned earlier, holds a history of love, caring and steadfastness. And he cries out, “Daddy! I knew you would come!” In spite of his panic and confusion the little boy was confident that his daddy still loved him. That is the faith of a child that we all need.

But for many of us (myself included), it’s not always that simple. We often don’t have the ability to look past our situation when we are in so much pain and despair. Pain from the economy, from family crisis, from betrayal, from depression, from trauma and we don’t know what will happen to us next—how bad will things get?  And just like the little boy lost in the department store we begin to panic and say, “Where is God? Why did he leave me all alone? How could he forget about me?” And we can feel forsaken. It happened to Elijah. It happened to Jeremiah. It happened to Isaiah. It happened to the apostle Paul. And it happens to all of us. 

In fact, we recognize that Psalm 22 are the very words that Jesus cried out from the cross. By the time he spoke them, he had been hanging on the cross for six hours! And in his darkest hour Jesus allowed his pain to rise up amidst the scoffers and mockers, to call on the most radical part of his faith!  And there on the cross, with the sun setting, Jesus, lets out a wailing cry from deep within: “My God, My God!  Why have you forgotten me?” But by using those particular words—the words which would have been so familiar both to him and to his followers, Jesus not only cries out to his father, but he reminds everyone who can hear him, reminds himself, and reminds us, that we are in a relationship with a God that is still in control! 

Jesus’ suffering also teaches us that no matter how things may look right now, even in the middle of this wilderness of waiting—when we can’t feel God coming toward us, God is there. And it is in that agonizing place that fear and aguish can become a place of hope—a hope that remembers and affirms that God has never abandoned or forgotten us, no matter how we feel. 

We have to remember that God has come through for us in the past, and that memory is still there somewhere. So even through the tears and pain, those memories fuel our hope, until we hear that still small voice above the sounds of the scoffers and wild dogs, softly at first perhaps, but growing ever stronger as we realize that we are still in God’s tight embrace once more. In fact, we have been there all along—wrapped up in His loving arms.  And just like that scared and confused little boy, we can say, “Daddy! I knew you would come!” 

“For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Psalm 22:24)

This is part two of a three part article on how to achieve true revival. It is my prayer that God will use this to minister to His Church and encourage others to pray for revival.

Prayer
The second step in reviving God’s people is prayer. Looking back on my life I am amazed at how long it took me to understand prayer. For many years after my conversion I struggled with unanswered prayer and my inability to hear from God. My prayer life was not unlike many believers today; unaware and ignorant of the precious gift our loving Lord has given us by allowing us a way to come into the very presence of the Almighty God, Creator of the universe!

My prayers at best were shallow, selfish, self-serving, and earthly. They were almost always a one way conversation–More like giving God directions than prayers. I rarely heard God’s voice because I was too busy talking to listen to what God had to say. I’ve since learned that prayer is an intimate two way conversation between the Lord and myself.

What prayer is not

Prayer is not a giant gift shop in heaven where I simply place my order and demand the delivery of my goods by quoting a few scriptures. Nor is it a celestial complaint department, that if I whine loud and long enough, God will have no choice but to grant my request. God designed prayer as a way for us to communicate with him; and him with us–A way that we can draw closer to him and him to us.

King David: A man after God’s own heart

King David knew the importance of a two way communication with God. He was constantly in contact with God. By reading the Psalms you can see the close relationship he had with God. God considered David to be a man after his own heart. (I Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22) Why? It was because David, through his intimate two way communion with God, was able to know what was in God’s heart. Whenever David realized his sin he repented on the spot quickly because he knew that his sin separated himself from God.

God desires that kind of intimate relationship with all of His children. And what kind of child only speaks to their father to get things that they want? A selfish, self-centered child. But a child who truly loves their father desires to just spend time with him. That is the primary reason God instituted prayer for us. That we might spend time with our heavenly Father and experience the abundant love that He has for each and every one of us. For each of us, that will involve not only talking to God and sharing with him our heart, but also being still before him and allowing him to speak to us.

But what if I don’t know how to listen to God’s voice?

How do I know for certain that it’s God’s voice that I’m hearing and not my own thoughts? How do I distinguish between God’s voice, Satan, and my own thoughts? The Bible teaches us to test all things and to hold fast to what is good. (I Thess. 5:21) Our only standard by which to test all things is God’s Holy Scriptures. By using Psalms 15, Matthew 5:3-11, and I Corinthians 13:4-8, we can understand that everything that God does will promote four absolute truths that Jesus and all the apostles preached and lived by. They are: absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love. By using these four absolutes as our standard we can know for certain if a thought is from God.

Try spending 30 to 60 minutes every day silently before God and ask him to speak to you. Write down all your thoughts on paper. At the end of your quiet time compare those thoughts with scripture and the four absolutes. If the thoughts that you have written down promote absolute purity, honesty, unselfishness, and love, then you know that those thoughts are from God. If not, then you can disregard them as your own thoughts. If they are from God, then God has just spoken to you; and if God has just spoken to you, you now have the choice of obeying him. He may ask you to do something as simple as asking forgiveness from someone you were short with. Or he may ask you to do something as difficult as moving across the country, or the world, to serve him better.

Don’t think it disrespectful or a sign of a lack of faith by asking God about something several times you feel He’s already told you to do in order to be sure it’s from God. We serve a loving and merciful God who won’t force us to do anything we’re not ready for. Each of us will know in our own hearts if we’re waiting on God or if we’re being disobedient to God’s leading. But by using God’s Holy Scriptures and His four absolute truths we can know for certain what God’s will is.

That is the ministry of the Messiah in a nutshell. He prayed, he listened to the Father, and then he obeyed. Look at the results of Jesus’s prayers: After he prayed all night, the next day not only did Jesus choose his disciples, (Luke 6:12-13) but he also healed many and then preached a sermon so filled with God’s spirit that his discourse alone probably brought multitudes to believe in him. (Luke 6:17-49)

After feeding over 5,000 people Jesus went off by himself to a mountain to pray. Later he came to his disciples walking on top of the sea! (Matt.14:22-33) Today unbelievers as well as God’s own people are familiar with the story of Peter walking on water. There are many other examples of Jesus praying, listening to God, and obeying.

His greatest prayer of all was, “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Even up to the moment of his death Jesus continued to commune with his Father through prayer when he cried, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (v.4) That same spirit that allowed Jesus to perform the mighty works of God, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons, is the same spirit that works in believers today and is available to us through prayer.

But there are some requirements for answered prayer that we should be aware of:

Forgiveness – (Matt. 6:14, 18:19-20) We must come to God with a forgiving heart. If we hold unforgivingness against someone in our heart God cannot forgive us and we separate ourselves from him by our sin.

Repentance – (Luke 18:10-14) If we pray with an unrepentant heart all we do is make noise. We may impress others around us, but I guarantee that God is not the least bit impressed.

Believing – (Matt. 21:22, Mark 11:23-24) Why ask God for something if you don’t believe He’ll do what you ask? Don’t bother Him with your faithless prattle. Instead, be honest with God and tell Him that your faith is small and weak and ask Him to increase your faith and help your unbelief.

Does that mean that if I believe, God will give me a nice new car or a new home? It does if that’s God’s will for you and if you believe it will promote the four absolutes that Scripture teaches. The Bible teaches that God will supply all of our needs, but be careful to differentiate between wants and needs. I’ve known many believers who have set themselves up for failure by believing God to supply their wants rather than their needs.

In God’s will – (I John 5:14) This is where the scriptures and the four absolutes will lead you to know God’s will. The only way to know God’s will is to know God’s heart and that only comes from spending time with Him and listening to His voice.

Thanksgiving – (I Tim. 2:1-3, Phil. 4:6) Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Luke 11: 1-4 but then he gave them an example of prayer. (v.9-13) With that scripture in mind, if you being evil know how to teach your children thankfulness, how much more should you be thankful to your heavenly Father? Most of us who have children teach them from an early age to say thank-you for everything from a glass of water to an expensive birthday gift from Grandma. Should our heavenly Father expect less from us; in whom we live and breathe and have our being? The one in whom we owe our salvation, to? Yes, our very lives?

Unceasing – (I Thess. 5:17) This may seem to be a difficult task. (If not impossible) But to pray without ceasing simply means to constantly be thinking of God. If you’ve ever had a sick child you know that you can go through your day of normal routine; do work at the office, balance the check book, pay bills, etc. and still be constantly thinking of your sick child. Praying without ceasing is like that in the fact that even when going about your normal business of the day you can still constantly have your mind on God.

The most intimate way we can share our feelings with each other is by way of communication. We tell each other how we feel; what makes us happy, or sad, or angry. We bless and encourage with our speech, i.e.; our communication. I’ve met men who weren’t worth a nickel walk around like they owned the world because of an uplifting word from a loving wife. Our speech; our communication, is what connects us, attracts us, and deepens our relationships with others.

So it is with God too. He desires to have that deep relationship with all of His children and share His heart with us. He wants to not only reveal His will to us, but also His abundant love and mercy and grace that He’s patiently waiting to give to each and every one of us.

More to come…