What's the answer?

Have you  ever felt like God didn't answer your prayers?  Well, I have!  Those feelings are not accurate, though.  God answers all prayers of His children.  (Not so for those that don't belong to Him, but that's a subject for another post).

He always answers....but the answer isn't always "yes".  Sometimes He says "yes", sometimes He says "no", and sometimes He says..."wait."  But He always answers.

Let's talk for a minute about how we handle those "no" and "wait" answers.  Both of those can be difficult. 

When God is saying "wait" or "not now", it can feel like He is saying nothing.  That makes us wonder if He's not listening or doesn't care or "maybe this prayer stuff just doesn't work for me".  I understand.  In those times of not seeing God's answers, I find it so very helpful to focus on His attributes.  Like we are told in Philippians to set our minds on what is TRUE.  Not what might be true or could be true or what feels true.  What IS true. And the truth is that God is always good, always faithful, always loving, always sovereign, and always at work on our behalf in a thousand ways that we cannot see.  His Word is true-er than our circumstances.  Always.  He calls us to walk by faith, not by sight.  That means trusting in who He is, not what I can see, or especially not what I think I see!  When I am tempted to be discouraged or frustrated at the apparent lack of His answer, I remind myself to persevere.  His Word is very clear that we are to be persistent in our prayers. Keep on asking, knowing that in due time, He will answer.  There are times we need to strengthen those spiritual muscles, break out in a little prayerful sweat, and purpose not to give up.  In those times, I believe He sends His angels to encourage us, to minister to us....to infuse hope and endurance.  Just like Mary and Martha experienced when their brother Lazarus had died.  It surely felt and seemed and looked like God had ignored them.  But then Jesus showed up.  On time....even though it looked like He was four days late.  I haven't had the experience of seeing one who was dead walk out of the tomb but I can personally attest to the TRUTH that God answers prayer.  And He rewards our persistence.

If you are in a "wait" time, right now, don't give up.  Keep praying.  You very well might be just about to see God do something beyond your wildest expectations.  He's like that!

What about the times God says "no"?  Even as I type this, tears are welling up, recalling times He has said that to me or to people I love.  And the cry of "why" either screamed through every fiber of my being...or got stuck in my throat in an attempt to deny the pain.  I wish I had a 3 point message that would answer our questions and resolve the anguish.  I don't.  And I don't think there is one, in spite of what some people say.  I don't know the "why" but I do know the "Who".  And He is with us.  Supporting.  Sustaining.  Comforting. 

I know that One Day, the answers to the "whys" will be there.  Some things are explained in this life but a whole lot will be left to be revealed in Eternity.  Until then, may we draw strength from the Truth of Who He is.  Love.  Wisdom.  Power.  Understanding. Compassion. Holy.

In times of "no", I always think about a time when my husband made a decision for our family to move from North Carolina to Georgia.  Our children could not understand why we would leave a place where we were so happy, where their friends were, where their entire lives were anchored.  As parents, we were unable to explain to our sobbing 7 year old that this was a good thing, that God had directed us to leave, that this move would also provide happiness and new friends and all that she thought she was leaving.  Then, in a moment only orchestrated by God, our  10 year old said through her quiet tears, "Mary, Mary.  Don't you know Daddy loves us?  And he would never do anything that wasn't best for all of us".
God spoke  to me in that moment.  In the whisper of my daughter, He strongly explained that  I would face times when I was sobbing in His arms about decisions He had made on my behalf.  And in those times, He wanted me to know that He loves me.  And He will never do anything that wasn't best for all of us.

If He is telling you "no" right now, I fervently pray that you will feel the assurance of His love.  And in the goodness of His plan.

Keep praying.

Before we say "amen"....

We've looked at the prayer Jesus gave us as our model and unpacked the topics to cover in our communication with the Father. Worship, allegiance to God's Kingdom, submission to His perfect will, petition for what we need (on a daily basis!), confession/forgiveness, supplication for help in trials.  Great stuff.  I hope it's helped our prayer lives, remembering that prayer is not to inform God of what we need (He already knows - see Matthew 6:32) but rather to strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father, increasing our intimacy with Him so that we are transformed into the image of His Son.

Looking at James 5:16b, The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, I find myself wanting to address a few more things.  The familiar King James translation of this verse says "The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much".  We want to "avail much" through our prayer life - what are some other things we need to know?

Scripture tells us at least 4 things, I think, that reveal what it means to be fervent and righteous:
1.  Right reason - James 4:2,3 You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.  Pretty straightforward.  No need for me to expound.

 2.  Right request - John 14:14  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it  and I John 5:14  This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  A righteous person will ask God for things that are consistent with His Word, i.e., according to His Will.  That's why they get answers...."availeth much".

3.  Right relationships - with God (as in sins confessed - John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him and Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened) and with others (Matthew 6:14,15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses  and Matthew 5:23,24  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.) 

4.  Right requirement - "fervent prayer" is one of faith and persistence.  James 1:6-8 tells us the key ingredient is faith - But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  And we are told of the importance of persistence in Matthew 7:7-11, lest we think a casual thought tossed heavenward would yield great fruit.

Prayer.  God's chosen method of getting His will done on Earth...conforming His saints to the image of His Son.  Amen.

Pray on, Sisters, pray on!

Come boldly????

Today's thought on prayer is brief.  But significant.  Sometimes we act as though we are bothering God and we practically apologize for coming to Him.  We approach prayer as though we need to beg Him to grant our request. 

That's baloney and I want to help you change that stinkin' thinkin'.  God is the one that thought up the whole idea of prayer anyway!  It's His chosen means of communicating with us, of forging an intimate bond, of sharing His goodness, and of letting us participate in what He's doing. 

His plans for you and me are good, better than we could dream up ourselves.  And He possesses all power and controls all things so He can engineer anything He wants in order to accomplish His plan.

Do you need to make a decision?  Ask Him for wisdom.  Do you have a strained relationship?  Ask Him to show you how to repair it.  Is someone you love living dangerously?  Ask Him to show Himself strong on their behalf.   

Don't be deceived.  Come to Him, knowing the truth.

Matthew 7:11
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Hebrews 4:16
 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


    Asking Daddy

    We have a close family friend who has two daughters.  Those girls are all grown up now, but when they were little, their Daddy did the sweetest thing with them. 

    He gave them a very generous weekly allowance.  Truth be told, they were probably the envy of all their friends. He provided well for them, taking care of each and every need but the allowance was the sweetest of all.  The girls didn't have to earn their allotment in any way but their Daddy did have one stipulation.  He would only dispense it to them on Sunday nights and they had to remember to ask him in order to get it.  If they forgot, he never scolded them or deprived them of other things but the allowance, well, they had to ask for it.  In fact, they had to climb up in his chair, snuggle close, spend some time talking and just love on their Daddy. Then they could ask.  And he most gladly complied, delighted to be with them and provide what they asked for.  Seems like I remember that he often gave them more than they expected. Just 'cause he was so kind and generous and, 'cause he could.  All they had to do was ask.

    Reminds me of my Heavenly Father, my Abba. Now I know I'm getting awfully close to some dangerous UNtruth like "name it claim it" but I think there's a real parallel here.  Maybe God's point in having us pray is so we can snuggle up close to Him.

    Maybe we miss out on a lot He'd love to do for us because we never get around to asking.  Maybe we all oughta climb up in His lap right now, snuggle close, and love on our Daddy.  He loves to give good gifts to His children.

    Closing prayer

    The final topic that Jesus instructed us in prayer says And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.  That sounds confusing, doesn't it?  Because elsewhere in Scripture, we are told that God doesn't tempt anyone (James 1:13).  Not just confusing, that sounds contradictory!!  Is it?

    No, because Scripture doesn't contradict itself. Remember, the best commentary on Scripture is Scripture.   So let's unpack it in order to understand what we are to pray. 

    A helpful amplification of the verse in translation might be something like this - "Lord, I am prone to sin and I know it.  But I don't want to!  So please don't answer any of my prayers in a way that would result in increased temptation to sin.  And, if you see fit to bring trials or temptations my way, I ask you for the grace that I need not to sin in them."

    This phrase is an acknowledgement of our fallibility, our tendency to sin when temptations and trials come, and of Satan's desire to "sift us like wheat" (Luke 22:31)  It's like an admission of our need to pray so that we don't fall, such as Jesus exhorting the disciples in the hours before His death to watch and pray. (Matthew 26:41)  What an appropriate reminder to end our prayer time -- our need to depend on Him continuously and our inability to live life victoriously in our own strength.

    The final phrase  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever Amen  is like an exclamation point of worship on our prayers.  Let's end there today -- Hallelujah to His Name!