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Friday, April 20, 2007

Unanswered Prayer

Did you ever talk to someone and hear them complain about God not answering their prayers? They have "been praying and praying," and "just don't understand it." I've heard some lament, "It's as if God isn't even listening to my prayers!"

Well, what is the truth of this situation? Is it possible that God doesn't answer our prayers? Is it possible that God isn't listening? Would that be the kind of God He really is? The answer most churches and preachers and even most Christians will give you is a heartfelt, "No! God always answers prayers and He always listens to our prayers! In fact, He delights in it!" Hmmm. Is that really true? Or is it possible we're making Him out to be the God we want versus the God who really is?

John 15:7 says this. "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." Well of course God answers our prayers. But He is a God of conditions. There's a condition on this on this --- remaining in Him and allowing His words to remain in me. Are we all doing that? We must be able to look ourselves in the mirror and say, "Yes, God really is in me. I can see it in my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. My choices are different. I'm different because I'm in Him and He's in me." That's the condition that must be met before He will give us the desires of our heartfelt prayers. Did you know that? Did you know that He's a God of conditions?

Let's take a look at 1 John 3:22, which says, "... whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." There it is again, God's conditions. Whatever we ask of Him, we can receive, if we keep His commandments and live a life that is pleasing to God. Are we doing that? Am I obedient in all things? Do I live my life God's way? Of so, then of course that's good news --- I have won the "prayer lottery" and will get what I ask Him for! But if not, then there is that condition. He is under no particular obligation to answer my prayers or give me the desires of my heart. How many of us know that? How many of us are conscious of that when we are giving God our wish list?

When we go to God with a request that He modify the existing situation for us, there are two conditions that we must meet: (1) We must pray in the will of God --- asking only for things that He would see as appropriate. (2) We must be on what old-fashioned Christians often call "praying ground." Both are overlooked very often in today's Christian culture. But today I am focused on the latter condition.

I must be living a life that is pleasing to God. It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes. He has already told us how He intends to handle our prayer requests.

To pray with confidence the one who prays must be certain that his request falls within the will of God for His people. But this second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way.

So the next time you're frustrated with God for not answering your prayers. Stop and ask yourself two questions:

  1. Am I asking according to the will of God?
  2. Am I living a life that is pleasing to God?

I find that the better my life is aligned with God's will, the more effective my prayers seem to be. So my belief is that, all things else being equal, our prayers are only as powerful as our lives. In the long run, we pray only as well as we live. So if I'm struggling with unanswered prayer, the first place to look is in the mirror!

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