The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Four Things We Understand About Prayer and Two Things We Don’t

Posted on: March 15, 2016

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There are things we understand about prayer and there are things we don’t understand. Here are four things we understand about prayer:

  1. God wants us to pray.
  • Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “pray without ceasing…”
  • Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer…”
  1. God will answer some prayers.
  • Matthew 7:7 says if we ask, it will be given to us.
  • Matthew 21:22 says if we believe, we will receive whatever we ask for in prayer.
  • 1 John 5:14 says that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
  1. God will not answer all prayers.

God doesn’t answer prayers if…

  • We ask with wrong motives (James 4:3)
  • We willingly tolerate sin (Psalm 66:18)
  • If a husband treats a wife badly (1 Peter 3:7)
  • If we doubt God (James 1:5-6)
  • If we reject God’s word (Proverbs 28:9)

In addition, without specific verses attached to it, it’s reasonable to conclude that some prayers go unanswered simply because they are trite or frivolous; others, because the prayers of Christians would contradict. One Christian headed to a picnic prays for sunshine on a Sunday afternoon, and a farmer prays for rain. How would God answer both?

There are some prayers that God will not answer simply because of the place we occupy in history. During the Civil War 500,000 soldiers died. However, more died from infections following the wound than from the initial wound. Wives and mothers prayed that their men would not die from infection, but they did. Years later, after antibiotics were discovered, wounded soldiers did not die, even though it may be that no one prayed for them.   Answers to such issues are hidden in the mysteries of God.

The reality is, finite humans can never know the entire will of an infinite God with absolute certainty.

Beyond that, the fact is that we would not want God to answer all of our prayers. If God answered every prayer, he would be turning the running of the world over to us, and we are not smart enough to run it. Our current election cycle is surely proof of that fact.

In addition, unbroken prosperity and success are always eventually followed by pride, laziness, and decadence, while times of pain and deprivation can bring spiritual revival.

Most of us learn over time that some prayers are better off left unanswered. Ruth Graham once said that if God had answered all her prayers, she would have married someone other than Billy several times.

Some unanswered prayer goes back to the fault of the one praying.  But some are just a mystery.

  1. God cannot answer any prayers until we pray. So, knowing that God wants us to pray, knowing that He will answer some prayers, we pray. Not to pray means that no prayers will be answered… a distinct liability.

There are two things we don’t understand about prayer.

  1. If God is sovereign and has a plan for the ages, how could our prayers change it?
  2. If He does not have an inviolable plan for the ages and responds to our prayers, how could there be a secure future?

God is sovereign. God asks us to pray. Reconciliation of the “logical conclusions” of these two truths from Scripture is mystifying. Resolving the things we don’t know about prayer is impossible. The resolution always eventually dissolves into mystery. Nevertheless, we do not let the things we don’t know keep us from the things we do. God is sovereign. God asks us to pray. Therefore, we pray!


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