Tuesday May 5, 2020
Matthew 18:19 19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
John 15:5-8 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Philippians 4:6-9 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
One of the best and yet most confusing promises Jesus made to us was that he would answer earnest prayers from believers.
This is one of the best because we keep encountering difficulties that have us stumped. Prayer offers us a way out when we don’t see any other way. Examples … “Help us beat the coronavirus.” “Please may the chemo work.” “Let them offer me the job.” “Help my relationship with (this difficult person) improve.” These situations are often out of our control. But we know that God is in control of everything. So we pray to God for help.
It is also confusing because many prayers are not answered in the ways we ask. The coronavirus keeps spreading. Chemo often works, but not always. Our job applications are turned down. Our difficult person stays difficult. So, what are we to believe?
Here are some things to think about. Please respond with your insights as well.
As a start, I believe that heart-felt praying is almost always good. (Don’t shut your eyes while driving or carving a turkey.) Whether or not the prayer achieves what we ask for, God always says, “Thank you for asking. Thank you for turning to me and honoring me and trusting me. I love that about you.”
But what about prayers that are not answered as we ask?
It may have to do with what are we asking for. Some prayers, however earnest, are not in keeping with God’s will.
Prayers that ask God to change laws of creation are very rarely answered as we ask. The drunk driver is not often made miraculously sober just long enough to avoid an accident. A worn-out body may not be miraculously cured. (Nevertheless, James encourages us to pray for the sick.) Disasters sometimes happen even when many pray that they won’t. Don’t give up praying; just realize that it may not succeed in the way we ask.
Prayers that are basically selfish and would simply put us at an advantage over someone else are probably not in God’s will to answer. Praying to beat someone else in a contest would be an example. Unselfish prayers for others (think enemies) are much more encouraged by Jesus than prayers for ourselves.
Prayers for things that we humans are supposed to do, but aren’t doing, rarely succeed. “Please make me stop smoking.” “Please keep me healthy, while I don’t socially distance or wash my hands.” “Please help the poor in Quakertown.”
Sometimes it is said that what we pray is good but how we pray is bad.
This is a slippery slope. Jesus warned that praying loudly in public to show we are holy does not get God’s approval. He said that saying the same prayer fifty times in a row is not better than saying it once. But most complaints about how we pray are usually false and self-defeating.
An example is to think, “I didn’t pray hard enough.” Jesus’ specific instructions for how to pray tended to be very short and to the point. The conclusion that I didn’t pray “hard enough” either says, “I failed and I’m guilty.” or says, “God withholds action unless I do enough the right way.” This is false on both counts. Even when we don’t have words, God knows exactly what we need. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26).”
Finally, there may be an issue of time. Paul advised, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).” Do not quit praying when an answer does not appear immediately. Jesus told a parable about a woman who wore down a judge by repeatedly asking for justice (Luke 18:1-8) The beginning of this passage is, “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” We have all heard testimonies of mothers who prayed for decades that their child would take a better path and then they did.
Prayer is what we are asked to do as part of our relationship with God. Many prayers succeed. If the prayer conversation is heartfelt and humble, we should do it whether or not we get the answer we are requesting. Our goals are to rejoice in the conversation and to trust in God’s love, whatever the outcome.
Pastor Doug Donigian
Stay in touch. Share your needs. Let us help. Amen.