Archive for November, 2011

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A Few Biblical thoughts on Unanswered Prayer..

November 30, 2011

I thought I would do something far simpler this week. Partly because I think it will be helpful and partly because it is very difficult to come up with blog ideas on a weekly basis.

We’ve been looking at the topic of prayer for a couples of weeks now. Specifically, we have discussed the pernicious problem of unanswered petitionary prayer. We have worked from the understanding that God is a perfect father and He may respond to our requests by answering ‘yes, no or wait’. Scripture however provides a more nuanced, deeper understand of why some prayer goes unanswered.

Here are some barriers that prevent us from praying effectively (this should be read in light of the four other posts on prayer)…

“5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 (James 1:5-8)

Lack of faith can be a barrier to affective prayer and receiving what we request from God.

“You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

Sometimes we don’t have because we don’t ask God. I imagine that sometimes God wants us to ask so that when we receive we will know it is from his hand. Sometimes we don’t receive because we ask with wrong motives. A selfish, self serving attitude can be a barrier to answered prayer in our lives.

“17 I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; 19 but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer” (Psalm 66:17-19).

Cherishing sin in our hearts can block God’s answer to our prayer and plug his ears. In those moments what God desires is a prayer of confession and repentance.

Here is another interesting story from the book of Daniel. In this narrative Daniel has been fasting and praying. Finally an angel appears before him in a vision. This is what the angel says,

“A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (Daniel 10:12-15).

So from the above text it seems like spiritual warfare can be a barrier to answered prayer.

What are we to do?

Most of the barriers towards unanswered prayer lie within us according to the scripture. It is our lack of faith, our unwillingness to ask, our wrong motives, and our sinful hearts that prevent us from experiencing greater success in prayer.

Unfortunately, I can’t conjure up faith. I can’t make myself believe more. I can, however, say to the Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief’. I can pray as the disciples did, ‘increase my faith’.

Also, before coming to intercessory, or petitionary prayer I can ask the Lord to cleanse my heart and motives; to reveal any sin in me that would hinder my prayers. If I take these two simple steps and keep working at prayer I will experience greater effectiveness in my prayer for other people. God’s word promises it.

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Time Flies…

November 9, 2011

Do fish wonder about the wetness of water? I doubt it. If a fish could think rationally I doubt the concept ‘water is wet’ would make sense. The fish wouldn’t be shocked at the wetness of water because the fish has no experience of dry land. The fish lives in water- water is the air the fish breathes.

People live in time. We are born into a historical stream of linear time that began before we got here and will likely march steadily onward after we’re gone. Time is all we know yet we are shocked at how quick it passes us by. We are like a fish being shocked at the wetness of water. We frequently ask questions like, ‘where did the time go?’ or, ‘I can’t believe it is that time all ready!’

This summer my wife and I went to a family reunion and I saw cousins who I’ve known since they were born. They are now graduating from high school. Time flies. I will wake up tomorrow and be 40. Not literally of course…

Yesterday we celebrated our son’s 1 year old birthday. Again, we were forced to consider the question, ‘where has the time gone’? ‘One already’! He is growing into a beautiful boy. We love him very much. Big head and all. Seriously, his head is like a tomato on a tooth pick. It is throwing off his center of gravity making walking more difficult then it needs to be but we’re confident he’ll grow into it.

My son is getting even more enjoyable as the months pass by but it is easy to miss those times when he would fall asleep on my chest while I watched hockey. Now he is more likely to head butt me in the nose. I also find myself looking forward to hearing him form actual sentences by communicating verbally.

I’m realizing that I have to be very careful about wishing away this season with my son.

In the 17th century Blaise Pascal wrote this,

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think about the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts….Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholy concerned with the past or the future…The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.”

That paragraph is worth reading again. I can’t change the past and I can’t control the future, why live in either. The only time that belongs to me is the present. Think about that in the context of parenting.

I need to enjoy this present moment with my son, this day, this season because he will change so rapidly. It will be his second birthday before we know it. Right now he can’t get enough of me. He loves to be with me. He is a daddy’s boy. It won’t always be that way. I better not wish away this season for a vague future or a nostalgic past.

We are shocked by time because we were meant for eternity. But time is still a gift and the present moment is when time and eternity intersect.

Lord, help me to enjoy this time, this moment, as a gift. Help me enjoy you, my family and my friends today, because today is the only day I’ve got. If tomorrow comes I welcome it as a gift of grace as well.

Thank you. Amen.