By a Sweetly Broken Girl who is hoping to encourage you on your walk with the Lord. October's posts include "Child of Mine" (my life story, about finding healing and wholeness after struggling with a broken home, broken heart, and broken self-image) and "Through the Furnace" (a devotional-type guide to help you on your journey to finding healing and wholeness in Christ). God bless!
Monday, November 12, 2012
ISI 13: Prayer
What are three little indulgences
that you like to treat yourself to (doesn’t have to be just food)?What are three guilty pleasures of yours
(things you don't readily admit that you like or that people wouldn’t guess
Open With Prayer
As Christians, we know that the Bible talks a lot
about the importance of prayer.But I
have to ask, as I did about God’s Word, do we live like it’s really
important?Do we live like it
am going to guess that if we don’t, it’s because we don’t really understand
it.Because once you come to really
understand prayer, you cannot help but cling to it with all you’ve got and
accept it as a solemn responsibility.You cannot help but know that there is power in it and that the way you
live has an effect on it.Prayer
I didn’t always believe this.For years,
I thought that if God was going to do whatever He wanted to do anyway then
prayer really didn’t do anything but show our dependence on Him and build our
relationship with Him.And if our
prayers really didn’t serve any other purpose, then they were just formalities
and for our benefit, right?I didn’t
really understand prayer, and so I didn’t really know why it was so
And I think that this is one of Satan’s most effective tools.Because if he can convince people that their
prayers aren’t really necessary then the church will be ineffectual, lacking
the kind of prayers that are necessary to battle the forces of evil and to get
God’s Will done.And we won’t be that
concerned with how we are living.We
won’t see the connection it has to our prayer life.
But if our
prayers are just formalities, why would we be told in James 5:16 that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and
were just formalities, we would be told something more like this, “Prayer is
good for a righteous man because it draws him near to God.”
doesn’t say that.It says that prayer is
“powerful and effective.”Powerful and
effective for what?I believe that it’s
powerful against the kingdom of darkness and that it’s effective for getting
God’s Will done.
In Job 42, we find an example of
prayer being necessary to get God’s Will done.In this chapter, we read that God is angry with Job’s friends for not
speaking of Him what is right.And He
says,“My servant Job will
pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to
your folly.”(Verse 8)
Now, if God
intended to forgive them anyway - if it was His Will and what He planned to do
- why didn’t He just do it?Why require
and wait for Job to pray?
prayer is what gets God’s Will done on earth.This passage was instrumental in convincing me that prayer really does
have an effect, that it’s not just a formality.
1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching
God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.And if we know that he hears us - whatever we
ask - we know that we have what we asked of him.”
(what He desires to have happen) doesn’t just happen because He is all-powerful
and can make it happen.We have to pray
for it, to seek it.And to obey!God leaves the responsibility with mankind to
put His Will into motion with our prayers.This is another way that God voluntarily holds back His power in
deference to mankind’s free will (as we looked at in other lessons).He gives us the option of praying or not praying.And it’s when we ask for something that He
wants for us that we get it.(But this
doesn’t mean that we always get what we ask for.It has to be in line with what God wants for
But I think
that the flip-side is true, also.If we
don’t ask for what He wants for us, we won’t always get it.As James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
If we ask
for something He doesn’t want, it won’t happen.But also if we don’t pray for and seek out what He does want, it won’t
happen.Yes, there are times that God
still does guide us, provide for us, and protect us, even if we haven’t asked
for it.Because He is watching out for
us.But there are things that we won’t
get if we don’t ask for them.Our
prayers and obedience have an effect on getting God’s Will done or not.
examples in the Old Testament that support the necessity of prayer and the fact
that it affects whether His Will gets done or not.
In Exodus 23: 32, God
tells Israel to make no covenant with the people in the land of Canaan after
they take possession of it.But in Joshua 9, we read about the
Gibeonite deception and how they did make a treaty with these people, believing
that they were from a distant land.Joshua 9: 14 says that
in this instance, Israel “did not inquire of
and plan was that they didn’t make a treaty with these people.And I believe that God would have uncovered
this deception for Israel and would have warned them not to make a treaty with
them . . . if they had prayed about
it.But they didn’t pray about it, so
God’s Will didn’t happen in this case.
Joshua 6 tells the story of the
Israelites taking Jericho, with God’s miraculous help.But in Joshua 7, after Jericho, we read how Joshua
makes a foolish decision in his own wisdom.He had sent men to spy on Ai.And
when the men returned, they said that there were only a few people there and so
Joshua should only have to send two or three thousand people to successfully
does this.And it probably seemed wise
to him, a piece of cake compared to the battle for Jericho. Maybe he even got a little over-confident in
himself.Well, verses 4-5 tell
us,“So about three
thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about
thirty-six of them. . . .”Now, this happened because of one man’s sin,
when Achan took some of the things that were devoted to the Lord.
But what we
don’t read in this story, in contrast to many of the other stories
during Joshua’s reign, is that he “inquired of the Lord.”In this instance, he did not seek the Lord’s
guidance about going after the city of Ai.I believe, once again, that God would have revealed Achan’s sin to
Joshua and would have advised them not to go after Ai until the Achan situation
was handled . . . if Joshua had inquired of the Lord.
likewise, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 says
this“Saul died because he
was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even
consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord.So the Lord put him to death and turned the
kingdom over to David son of Jesse.”
God’s Will that all this happened in Saul’s life?Or did Saul have some responsibility in all
this, and did lack of prayer and obedience have an effect on what happened to
“Saul died because . . . he did not keep the
word of the Lord . . . and did not inquire of the Lord.”
that it’s important to make a habit of doing this - of seeking the Holy
Spirit’s guidance and learning to be receptive to Him.Sometimes even those “insignificant”
decisions can have a significant impact on our lives.Maybe we end up going on vacation the same
day that there’s a tornado.Maybe we
choose the cutest dog, but it ends up being the meanest one in the bunch.Maybe we buy a car that ends up with serious
problems.I believe that God is willing
to offer His guidance in these “little” decisions (and in all decisions) if we
seek it, but that He doesn’t necessarily offer His guidance if we would rather
go ahead in our own wisdom.
important to learn to inquire of the Lord and to learn to be sensitive to the
Spirit’s leading.And the closer you
walk with the Lord, the more likely you are to remember to inquire and to
recognize the Spirit’s nudges along the way.And the more obedient you are, the more likely He is to nudge again in
the future.We can deaden ourselves to
His nudges by refusing to heed them and to obey.
that, yes, prayer is crucial in acknowledging our dependence on God and
building our relationship with Him (through honesty and transparency).But it goes so much further than just being a
show of dependence and drawing us closer.It gets His Will done!
we do not see the incredible importance of prayer and if we have a hard time
praying, it may be because we have misconceptions about prayer that need to be
straightened out first.I know that I
did.And here are some misconceptions
that people might have:
Misconception Number 1:Prayer has to be “just right” or God won’t
like it.And that makes me freeze up
because I don’t know what to say.
Do we feel
like we have to know exactly what to pray, in the right attitude and the right
words, for our prayers to be acceptable to God?Do we fear sharing with Him our honest feelings and thoughts in prayer?
We need to
be able to talk everything over with God, even things that we think He might
not like.Keeping anything back or
failing to pray because we fear we might “do it wrong” means that we are
keeping a part of ourselves closed off to Him.And that is not the kind of relationship He wants with us.It does not show a humble dependency on Him
or trust of Him.It shows that we are
trying to “perform” well for Him.And when
we choose performance over humility and transparency then we are living with
walls around our hearts, walls between ourselves and Him.
doesn’t want our performance as much as He wants our heart.Prayer needs to be honest, not
“pleasing.”Prayer doesn’t need to be
polished or follow some formula; it needs to be about presenting to God
whatever is in your heart and mind.Doubts, fears, praise, confessions, and all.This will bring God closer than any
righteous-sounding, perfectly-worded, professional-sounding prayer ever could.
Misconception Number 2:God already knows all that we are going to
say, so what is the point of saying it?
that a lot of us tend to look at prayer as just a mental exercise that we are
supposed to go through because . . . well . . . because that’s what Christians
do.So we do it!But somewhere deep down, it feels like a
waste of time.It feels like an
unnecessary task because God already knows what we are thinking.And so we think that our thoughts are just as
good as our prayers.
you to find one verse that says that God responded to “their thoughts.”Instead, we always read, “God heard and
responded to their prayers.”While God
does hear our thoughts, they do not call Him into action.It is our prayers that do.And this is because we have a right to pray
or not, to ask for God’s help or not.He
knows our thoughts, but He responds to our prayers.
Misconception Number 3:God will just do what He’s going to do, right?Prayer doesn’t really have an effect if God
is all-powerful and does what’s best in every situation.So then our prayers must just be formalities,
for our own benefit, or just for showing our dependence on Him, right?
already looked at this one.But once
again, yes, prayer is a way to acknowledge our dependence on God and to draw
close to Him.But it is so much more
powerful and important than that.As I
said, it gets God’s Will done on earth.And parts of God’s Will don’t get done without it.
Yes, God is
all-powerful, but I believe He voluntarily limits His use of power on the
earth.He has decided to work on earth
(in a large part) in response to man’s prayers and cooperation.This is just the way that He has ordered
things to work, giving man a certain dominion and ownership and responsibility
over the affairs of earth.He works with
and through human beings.And that’s a
humbling, sobering thought.
eye-opening passage to consider:In Ezekiel 22, the
Word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel and tells him all about the disgraceful,
ungodly things that Jerusalem is guilty of doing.And then in verses 30-31, we read this:
“I looked for a man among them who would build
up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not
have to destroy it, but I found none.So
I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing
down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
people’s sin earned them serious consequences and punishment.But God wanted to relent.He wanted to be talked out of destroying
them, as He had at other times in the Old Testament.And He would have . . . if only.If only He could have found at least one
godly person who would “stand in the gap” for the people.One godly person who lived rightly before Him
and who sought to intercede by prayer for the people of the land.He wanted someone to appeal to His sense of
mercy, but He found no one.So He dealt
with them out of His sense of justness.
That is so
sobering to me.God doesn’t just do
whatever He wants.He needs and wants
righteous people to stand in the gap for others.He relies on us and our prayers to get His
Will done.This is why a sensitive heart
to Him is so important.
realized that God doesn’t always just do whatever He wants but that He
oftentimes waits for our prayers, I felt a much greater responsibility to do my
part to seek the Lord, to remain connected through prayer and the Word, to
learn to listen and obey, and to try to live righteously.Because as the Bible says in James 5:16, the“prayer of a righteous man is powerful and
want my prayers to have impact for God’s glory, for His will, and for eternity.
Misconception Number 4:Prayer is sort of a name-it-and-claim-it thing, right?Ask for what we want and we will get it?
that a popular teaching out there is that because we are the children of the
King, we should be living in royal abundance.Yes, this is an attractive idea to us because we all want things: more
things, better things, impressive things.We don’t like to do without, to be in need, or to settle for less.But this kind of teaching is off-base
Biblically, waaaayyyy off-base.Because when you look at Scripture, you see that the purpose for
everything is God’sglory, not
our comfort or pleasure.Even the Son’s
purpose is to bring glory to the Father.
John 14:13: “And I
will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the
it does please Him to see us happy and to give us things to enjoy.He wants us to delight in Him, His creation,
and His blessings.But it is another
thing to pursue happiness as an end
in itself, to be so overly concerned with our own happiness that we fail to
cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, generosity, contentment, and joy in the
life that we have.And we fail to “seek
first His Kingdom and His righteousness.”
us to be joyful, not pursue happiness.He does not necessarily call us to either abundance or poverty.He calls us to be joyful in whatever
circumstances we are in.It’s not about
what we have or don’t have; it’s about our heart’s attitude toward God.About glorifying Him regardless.
is not so much about getting things from God.It’s about getting God.It’s
about getting a deeper, more authentic relationship with Him through our
honesty and transparency, and it’s about focusing on what will bring Him glory
and accomplish His eternal purposes.Because it’s all about Him, by Him, and for Him, regardless of what
clothes we wear, house we live in, or car we drive.
Number 5:Isn’t prayer just talking to
God, as we were taught when we were young?
No.Another important part of prayer is
listening.This, I believe, is a
severely neglected skill - learning to hear the voice of God and the nudges of
the Holy Spirit.And this depends on our
desire to hear, on whether or not we obey the nudges that we do get, and if we
remain in Him and let His words (His Word) remain in us.This leads to powerful prayers.
is also about fully opening up our lives and hearts to Him and to the Holy
Spirit.And this can only happen by
honesty and transparency with ourselves and God.Humility demands transparency.Anything less is trying to fool God.And prayer also, as I said, is about getting
God’s Will done.
So how do
we hear God?How does He speak to
us?There are a few ways that I know of
(and there are probably more).He can
speak to us through . . .
1.His Word (His primary way of speaking to us
and the yardstick we measure all other messages by) 2.Our circumstances
3.Our conscience and convictions (and what I
mean here is the Holy Spirit, that small voice that guides us)
4.His creation and the natural world.
6.His slowness, as we call it.(During times of waiting on Him, we struggle
with what’s really inside of us.And we
find ourselves face to face with things He wants us to deal with or face up to,
things we didn’t know were there.)
7.A sense of peace or unrest
8.Dreams (Be careful about reading too much into these, but there may be
times when a dream is telling us something.)
9.Our spiritual ears, when we feel like Someone
spoke to our minds
10.A deep gut-feeling about what we are supposed
to do or a sense that we know the message He is trying to get through to us,
even if we don’t “hear” any words in particular.
can think of more or have examples from your life.
Number 6:But if God wants to get a
message through to me, He’ll do it.I
don’t really have to put so much effort into praying and listening, do I?
may not hear His voice with our physical ears or see His presence go by as they
did in Bible times, God is still active in this world.He is always speaking.But . .
. we only hear Him if we listen.
Matthew 11:15: “He who
has ears, let him hear.”
should say, more accurately, we only listen
if we want to.I think that many of us
do hear Him, but we ignore it.I do not
think that He forces us to listen to Him, but His message gets through to those
who tune their ears to hear Him.
Number 7:Prayer is just too hard.I don’t know why, but it is!
Why is it
so hard?It’s really just honestly
talking to Him, learning to listen to Him, and responding to what He tells
us.At the very minimum, He simply wants
to be let into all areas and concerns of our lives.He wants us to talk to Him as we would talk
to a friend – because the relationship matters.
should be exciting, not scary or burdensome.To think that we can communicate with the God of the heavens, the God
who loves us and wants to be close to us.The God who wants to be included in our lives and to include us in His
plans.It should be humbling and it should
be sobering, but it shouldn’t be scary or difficult.
to the misconceptions about prayer, there may also be other reasons that we do
not pray or that make it hard for us to pray.Reasons such as:
1.We don’t think He’s really listening or
2.We are afraid to be a burden to Him.
3.We are afraid to anger or disappoint Him with
what we might say.
4.We don’t want it to seem like we are using
Him just to get what we want.
5.We don’t want it to seem like we are taking
Him and all of His previous goodness for granted by asking for more things.
6.We don’t believe that He will do what we are asking.
7.We don’t believe that He can do what we are asking.
8.We’re afraid of getting a “no” response.
9.We’re afraid to pray the wrong words or in
the wrong attitude.
10.We’re afraid to be that honest.
11.We don’t like admitting that we need the help
or that we can’t do things on our own.
12.We don’t know how to pray.
13.We feel like we’ve pushed Him away and like
He wouldn’t want to hear from us anyway.
prayer shouldn’t be as hard or scary as we make it out to be.Prayer is about coming to a loving God with
our heart’s desires and requests, hurts and needs, confessions and praise.It’s about getting His Will done.And it’s about learning to rely on Him, to
listen to Him, and to trust in His goodness and faithfulness, no matter how He
answers.Our job is simply to ask and to
know that He will answer in His time and in His way, out of His love and
John 15:7:“. . . ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
faith in God,’ Jesus answered.‘I tell
you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the
sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will
happen, it will be done for him.Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you
have received it, and it will be yours.’“
One of the
most damaging things to a young or weak believer’s faith is not having an
important prayer answered the way they expected.When a desperate prayer is not answered the
way we want, it can destroy our faith in God.All of a sudden, we question our faith, our God, how He views us, how we
view ourselves, etc.We feel like our
faith was weak, like God didn’t care, and like He let us down.And many people end up retreating from God in
confusion and bitterness.
Trust me, I
have had disappointing answers to prayer, too.And these were times I was praying earnestly and with great faith that
God could do it.In fact, I was sure
that God would do it, basically
claiming His answer ahead of time and thanking Him for it.(The name-it-and-claim-it teachers would have
And yet, He
did not.The adoption never
happened.My young aunt and my
mother-in-law still died, even though I was sure that healing them would help
unbelieving family members believe in God.Families still broke apart.I
pray about salvation for a lot of unbelievers I know, and most of them still
refuse to acknowledge God.I prayed for
years and years about financial strain, only to have years and years of
continuing financial strain.(It has
only just recently relaxed a little.Thank You, God.)I know how it
feels to have many important prayers go “unanswered.”
course, when I say “unanswered,” I mean “not answered the way we want.”God always answers, just not always the way
we want Him to.Yet, to be fair, I am
sure that more prayers are answered the way I want than I realize.I just don’t take the time to see them.
every day for safety for my family, every time they drive anywhere.And every day, they come home safely.Every fever or illness we get, I pray for
healing.And we have always gotten
healing within time.But how many times
do I forget to count those as answered prayers?I need to open my eyes more and count the blessings.]
problem is not prayer or our God; it is our understanding of prayer and of
God.We will all have disappointing and
confusing times.None of us are immune,
no matter how strong our faith is.So
this is not an issue just for the weak or new Christian, but for all of
us.But if we can get a clearer,
biblical picture of prayer and of God, it will help our faith survive the
disappointing and confusing times.
prayer is not a magic formula to get what we want.Even Jesus and Paul did not get an important
prayer answered.Jesus asked for the cup
of death to be taken from Him, if it was possible.And Paul asked for the thorn in his side to
be removed.And neither of them got
And yet, I
don’t think we would doubt the strength or purity of their faith.They didn’t get the answer they wanted
because it wasn’t God’s Will, because God knew that “no” was the best
answer.In Jesus’ case, it was best for
everyone.And in Paul’s case, it was
best for humbling him and for the development of his faith, for helping him
learn to truly know and trust the sufficiency of God’s grace.Those are two incredibly important lessons to
remember when prayers aren’t answered the way we want.
poured His heart out in prayer and requested what He wanted, yet He added, “Not
my will, but Yours be done.”Above all,
Jesus knew that God’s Will is more important than any request of ours.God’s Will takes precedence.Jesus models for us the proper way to end all
prayers.When we pray, we are not
placing an order with God.We are
sharing with Him our heart and our deepest desires, yet we still need to seek
His Will above ours.We need to be
willing for Him to say “no” if He has a better plan, even if we don’t
understand it and it hurts.Not my will,
But Yours be done!He is God and we are
shows us that when God says “no” to our desperate prayers, it is the perfect
time to truly learn how sufficient God and His grace is.By not always getting what we want, we learn
humility and that God is enough for us.
For most of
us, we live from one “happy thing” to another, asking for more and more things
to make our lives better and to keep us fulfilled.Our satisfaction and fulfillment is found in
things.And I think we will all face
discouraging and confusing answers to prayer to move us from finding
satisfaction and fulfillment in things to finding it in God alone.
generally only in the pain and the “no” answers and the long waits that we stop
playing with our toys and start wrestling deeply with the things of God.It takes our eyes off of temporary things and
puts them on eternal, spiritual things.It shifts our focus from the condition of our “nice, little lives” to
the condition of our souls.It humbles
us because we learn that “it’s not all about us and what we want.”It tests what is really in our hearts and
forces us to choose: walk toward God or away from Him.Make Him Lord of our lives or be our own
And if we
cling to God through the pain, even if we don’t understand, we find out that He
is indeed enough for us.We learn to
desire Him above what He can give us.And this is far more important and valuable than any particular answer
to prayer.(But it does really hurt to
get to this point!Pruning and spiritual
growth always hurt!But it’s eternally
the ones above can make prayer sound so neat and tidy, like a blank check or
order form.Until you look deeper, at
Scripture as a whole.Because there is
so much more to prayer than “ask for what you want and you’ll get it, if you
And so, I
want to (as briefly as possible) sum up my view of effective prayer.(This comes from the Understanding God’s Will series.And the full version is in the UGW
Q9 posts of 2013 at myimpressionisticlife.blogspot.com.)
1.First off, I think Mark 11:22-24 is
best understood when we bring it all back to what Jesus said at the beginning:“Have faith in God.”Our problem (at least, my problem) is
that oftentimes, we are putting our faith not in God, but in our faith.(We looked at this a bit in the “A Full,
Abundant Life” lesson.)
We put our
faith in the idea that our strong faith will get God to do what we want,
instead of putting our faith in God to lead us to do what He wants and to
answer as He knows best.We try to
manipulate Him with our “strong faith,” like saying, “See how much I believe in
You to do this?So now You can’t let me
down.”We ask for what we want and feel
like it’s what God wants for us, too, and so He must answer the way we
want.Because we are asking in
But this is
not “having faith in God.”It’s faith in
my faith.It’s faith in myself to get
something accomplished - based on what I do or don’t do, or believe or don’t
believe.And this is misplaced
and claim it by the strength of your faith” is not a godly way.It’s a spiritual-sounding, super-subtle way
of elevating ourselves over God, of turning God into our errand boy.We act like we are in control and that we get
it done - by our prayers, beliefs, and level of faith.But God is so much bigger than that.And Jesus says, “Have faith in God!”
faith rest on our own presumptions about how God should answer prayers or does
it rest on who God is and His wisdom, strength, and timing?
sometimes God shows me what a big God He is by not answering my prayers
as I think He should.
We say, “I
have faith in You that You can do what I am asking You to do.”
might just be saying, “Yes, but will you still have faith in Me if I don’t do what you’re asking Me to do?”
learning that I need to focus less on my faith and if it’s “strong enough” to
convince God to do things my way, and I need to focus more on the God who is in
control.I need to focus less on the
answer that I want and more on what God is doing, how He is leading, and what
He is trying to teach me through it all.
faith in God is not one that says, “I asked for this and I believe that You can
do it, so I’m claiming in faith that You’ll do it.”(Unless it is in reference to a clear
biblical promise God has given us, like for wisdom.)That’s presumption about what God wants and
about how He should answer.
faith in God is a faith that says, “I can’t see what’s ahead and I may not get
what I want, but I still believe in You.I believe that You can do what I am asking.But if You don’t, I know that You are good
and that You will work all things out for good.You are God and I am not!”This is
putting our faith in God.This is
humility.(And this is quite a hard journey,
learning to get to that point of trust.)
letting God be God, while we are the children at His feet.We can ask, but we have to let Him decide how
to answer.We can desire and plan, but
we have to include Him in the planning and be willing for Him interrupt and
change our desires and plans.And when
He wills that a mountain moves, it will move when we pray.But in His time and in His way!
2.Another problem comes when we “claim” answers
to prayer that He hasn’t given us.And I
think we need to not be claiming specific answers or blessings as much as
“instructions” or “help along the way.”(We definitely need to ask for what we want and need, with thanksgiving,
according to Philippians 4:6-7.But it says nothing of claiming a particular
answer.We ask.God answers.)
the problem is just that we are focused on the wrong thing.We are focused on the end when we should be
focused on the journey.We are asking
for what we want instead of seeking what He wants for us.We are waiting for a particular answer instead
of accepting the one that God gave.
expect Him to give us whatever we ask for, if we are asking for things that He
has not promised in His Word or things that are not a part of His Will for
us.But if we ask for the things that
are His Will and things that He has promised us in the Bible (like wisdom and
peace and forgiveness), we can expect Him to give us those things.
Bible is full of promises to guide us and help us on our journey through
life.We should look for and cling to
those, not to what we think He should give us.We need to be less about leading and demanding and more about following
and submitting!And we need to remember
that God doesn’t often reveal His answers ahead of time, no matter how much we
plead.Because it’s the journey and the
struggle that build godly character.
making us wait, there are reasons.Sometimes it’s that there are issues inside of us that we need to
discover and work through.Sometimes
it’s to help us go deeper or higher in our walk with Him.Sometimes it’s that we are unknowingly
blocking Him by our own sins or desires.Sometimes it’s that our desires need to change because we are asking for
the wrong things.And sometimes it’s
just because He’s working on the answer, but it’s not ready yet.
sometimes, like in Daniel 10:12-13, it’s
because of the heavenly battle that is going on.Daniel had to wait three weeks for his
answer.Yet, it’s important to note that
what he was waiting for was godly wisdom and knowledge, not just something he
wanted for selfish purposes.And while
he was waiting, he humbled himself.)
But we are
hasty.We are impatient.And we think everything hinges on us: on our
prayers, our strength, our resourcefulness, and our faith.And so we get discouraged with ourselves, our
faith, and Him if we have to wait too long.We feel that we let ourselves down, that we let Him down, and that He
let us down.All because our prayers
shouldn’t be this way.Our “faith”
should not hinge on how and when God chooses to answer.
not be limiting God by my expectations and putting parameters around Him and
how He works in my life.I cannot
determine how He will answer.I cannot
know how He should answer.And so I
should not be overly focused on “the answer.”
I should be
focused more on how I am walking with Him on this journey through life, while
still pouring out my heart and my desires to Him in transparent, humble
honesty, like Jesus did.This keeps my
heart open to Him.
3.In order to best understand verses like Mark 11:22-24, it
would be wise to do a quick review on other “prayer verses” to see what they
add to our understanding.This will help
us see some of the pitfalls in the “name it and claim it” interpretation of the
Mark verses and some of the dangers of isolating verses.
1 John 5:14-15:“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we
ask anything according to his will, he hears us.And if we know that he hears us - whatever we
ask - we know that we have what we asked of him.”
James 4:2-3: “. . . You do not have, because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you
ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
John 14:13-14:“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may
bring glory to the Father.You may ask
me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
last one sounds like the Mark 11 passage:Ask for anything and Jesus will do it.Wow, that sounds great!What an awesome power - to be able to get
anything we ask for.But!I don’t think that’s what Jesus really meant.
just ask for what I want and believe that my faith will make it happen.Because it also says that it has to be in
line with His Will.Sure, we can ask for
whatever, but He “hears” the things that are in line with His Will.And when He hears the prayers that are in
line with His Will, we can be confident that He will do them.
verses also say that we won’t get what we ask for if we have selfish motives,
and that we have to ask in Jesus’ name, for the glory of God.But this is not a blank check.We can’t just add “in Jesus’ name, Amen” to
the ends of our prayers and expect God to give us what we ask for.
So what does it mean to pray in Jesus’
name?I like to think of it this way:
that I work for a company, and I go to an office supply store to get some
supplies for my boss.Now, I am going
there in his place - in his name - to get the things that he wants.As long as it’s on his list and in line with
his needs and what he wants for his office, then it’s in his name.(In God’s case, it’s the things that glorify
Him, things that He wants for us, and the things that get His Will done).
But if I
don’t ask for it, I won’t get it.And as
soon as I ask for something off of the list - something that I want but that he
doesn’t, or something that I think he wants but he doesn’t, or something
that’s improper or out of line with what the office needs - I am asking in my
own name.And I can’t put it on his tab
or claim that it’s his will.
consider all of these verses together, it weeds out a lot of the requests that
How many of
our requests are in our own names, for our own desires and purposes?Even prayers for healing or blessings can
come from our own desires and our own thoughts of what we need.God doesn’t promise to give us whatever we want,
but He will give us what He wants for us.And He often has important things to teach us during the wait and during
our struggles with unanswered prayers - if only we will take our eyes off of
our requests and put them on Him.
We want to
lead and have control by our prayers, whereas true faith in God says, “Whatever
happens, I still believe in You.And I
will follow where You lead.”
should not be in the idea that God will eventually give us what we want if we
just hang in there long enough and drum up enough confidence in Him to do
it.(Oh, how many times I fall into
should be in the fact that God is here now and that He is working things out in
His time and in His way, even if they don’t match our time and way.It’s not letting the darkness and confusion
pull us away from God, but letting it draw us even nearer to Him.
have learned to seek, desire, and enjoy Him more than what He can give us then
we will find peace, contentment, and joy, even in the hard times.Because our faith will be in Him, not in some
idea of who we think He should be and how He should act and what He should give
4.On a similar note, how many times do our
requests and our desires for an answer become idolatrous pursuits, taking our
focus from God?
sometimes this is why many of us end up in the refining “furnace of long waits.”To purify our hearts, to help us weed out
wayward desires and idols, and to help us refocus on what we should be focused
And most of
us don’t do this on our own, not when things are going well and we are getting
what we want.Because when things are
going our way, we are content to float and to live self-centered,
temporally-focused lives.And we think
our relationship with Him must be pretty good for things to be going along so
And so He puts
us in the “furnace of unanswered prayer, of having to wait on Him for a long
time” so that we can discover the idolatry, selfishness, pride,
self-sufficiency, and sin in our hearts, so that we learn that we need to be
pursuing God - not a comfortable, little life - and letting Him fill our hearts
and lives with what He wants for us.
many times I do that to myself!Making
an idol out of some thing or some answer that I am waiting for.I pray and wait and struggle and plead and
doubt and get discouraged.And then, I
get to a point where I get so depressed that I can’t pray about it anymore,
where I realize that I’m worse off to keep dwelling on this concern or request.And it’s usually then that God shows me that
I have lost focus on Him and that I have been consumed with my request.I have been trying to manipulate God with my
prayers and with my “faith” in Him to answer the way I want or think I
hard to do, but when I get to this point - when the answer I want or when my
desire for an answer has become an “idol” - I need to take my focus off of my
request and put it back on God.I need
to “give up” and give the Lord permission to answer as He will and to work in
His timing.I need to get out of the way
and let Him do His work.Because
whatever His answer is, it’s ultimately by Him and for His glory.And so I pray:
forgive me for making an idol of this request and for pursuing the answer when
I should be pursuing You.I leave it in
Your hands now, and I ask You to do as You will and to give me the strength to
face this ‘unanswered’ prayer gracefully and to accept whatever answer You do
give me.I know You are good and I trust
You.I may not have the great faith that
I wish I did, but I am putting my pathetic, little faith in You right now.Thank You for being a big God who can see
what I can’t see and handle what I can’t handle.I lean on Your strength now.May You be glorified through this.”
that we have the ability to do this - the ability to make an idol out of our
own lives.And so maybe He allows enough
waiting and enough unanswered prayer so that we get to the point where we
loosen our grip on the thing we are asking for and we begin to reach for Him
instead.Long waits and “no” answers
help us hold things more loosely, keep our focus where it belongs, and remember
Who owns it all, Who it’s all about, and Who deserves the glory.
5.Okay, now this is a lot to think about
already.But there is more.(And even more than what I am saying
here.)On top of all that I’ve already
said, there are many more verses that shed light on why our prayers may not be
effective.We have a much greater
responsibility than we realize in making sure that our prayers get heard.
maybe part of the reason that our prayers aren’t “working” and that it seems
like God isn’t listening is because . . . God isn’t listening!
Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have
If I had
cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened!If we harbor sin in our hearts, He is not
obligated to listen to or answer our prayers.Because we have put up a wall between us and God.We are blocking God from hearing our prayers
and from answering them.
look at the very next verse after Mark 11:22-24 (the verses where Jesus
tells us that we will get anything we ask for, if we believe) . . .
Mark 11:25:“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against
anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”
echoes Matthew 6:14-15:“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly
Father will also forgive you.But if you
do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
If I am unforgiving
toward others then I am blocking God from forgiving me and I am harboring sin
in my heart.And the Lord will not
listen to me while I am in this condition.
is not so much about the other person; it’s about our relationship with
God.The Word makes it clear that the
responsibility rests with us to forgive others (even if they don’t want it or
we can’t tell them that we forgive them).And if we don’t, it is sin that we harbor in our heart and it blocks God
from forgiving us, which blocks God from hearing our prayers.
worse, unforgiveness towards others (or any resistance to confessing any sin in
our lives, for that matter) shows hard-heartedness, which is diametrically
opposed to a healthy, open relationship with God.And we will further block ourselves off from
being sensitive to the Holy Spirit.And
the longer we resist, the more we will entrench ourselves behind the wall that
we have put up between us and the Lord, growing more numb, desensitized, and
self-justified.And the more we cut
ourselves off from God’s love, protection, and help, the more we open the door
to evil in our lives.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not
let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a
foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
about your heart and if you humble yourself before a holy God.
many of our prayers go unheard because of our heart’s condition and our
attitude towards others?Where does the
devil have a foothold in your life?Pride, bitterness, envy, gossip, idol worship, unforgiveness, ungodly
speech, getting drunk, cheating, giving into temptations, lust, affairs, sex
outside of marriage, acting out in anger, worry, irrational fear, etc., are all
sins that need to be confessed and repented of, if we want God to hear our
prayers and to have the most effective life for Christ.
2 Chronicles 7:14-15:“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear
from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.Now my eyes will be open and my ears
attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”
6.Here’s one for husbands.1 Peter 3:7:“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your
wives, and treat them with respect . . . so that nothing will hinder your
to which we treat others with consideration and respect, particularly regarding
a husband’s treatment of his wife in this verse, is the degree to which our
prayers are unhindered.
are three that scare me:
Proverbs 21:13: “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry
out and not be answered.”
James 4:17:“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do
Romans 14:23:“. . .
everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Yikes!The first verse tells me that God does not
listen to us if we ignore those in need.And the second two broaden the definition of sin.Sin is not just doing things that we know we
shouldn’t do; it’s also sin to not do what we know we should do and to do
anything that doesn’t come from faith.And sin hinders prayer.
opens up a whole new side of our responsibility, of what God expects from those
of us who call ourselves Christians.Do
we ignore needs that we see?Do we turn
a blind eye at injustice?Do we fail to
treat others kindly?Do we fail to do
the good that we know we should do?This
decide things based on what our faith tells us to do, or do we just do what we think is best?What, in our lives, are we doing that is a
result of faithlessness?Do we hoard
money because we don’t have faith in God to provide?Do we seek our own ways out of trials because
we don’t have faith in God to help us through?Do we look to satisfy our desires outside of the boundaries God has
given because we don’t trust that God’s way is best?Do we fail to obey because we are afraid of
what obedience will cost us?This is
We can open
up to just about any passage in the Bible and find something we should be
convicted about, something that will lead us toward a deeper relationship with
Him and a better idea of how to live righteously, which leads us toward more
“powerful and effective” prayers.But
how many of us take the time to do that?How many of us read the Bible with the intention of seeking to live more
righteously?Or have we become
comfortable in our own little world, behind our walls of fear, self-sufficiency,
self-centeredness, and sin?
1 John 3:21-23: “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have
confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey his
commands and do what pleases him.And
this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to
love one another as he commanded us.”
it’s not just an inactive, passive command to avoid doing anything that doesn’t
please Him.It’s an active command that
instructs us to live our lives doing the things that please Him.
shouldn’t look at obedience as a way to manipulate Him to get what we want or
as something that we have to do, out
of duty or irrational fear or to earn His love.
to obey is the natural response of a heart that properly fears God, of a heart
that is so full of His love and of love for Him that you deeply desire to do
His Will and bring Him glory.
7.Now, let’s look again at John 15:7: “. . . ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” If we ended with that verse, it would sound
like a blank check.But most of us don’t
realize there is a beginning to that verse, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever
you wish, and it will be given you.”
As it talks
about only a couple verses before, we need to abide in Him as a branch abides
in the vine, and this will lead to fruitfulness.But not the fruit that we decide to grow;
fruit that the vine wants to grow through us.
We need to
be remaining in Him and storing up His words in our hearts.Really understanding the Word of God and the
character of God (as seen in the Word) will help us understand which prayer
requests are in line with His Will and which are not.But we have to remember to never leave off
the first part of that verse.It is what
the rest of the verse hinges on.And
abiding in Him and His Word is a lot of responsibility.
And if we
go on to the next verse, we find out what kind of prayers God is talking
about.Is it really “whatever you
is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my
disciples.”God grants the
prayers that are centered on bearing fruit for the Father’s glory, that show
others that we are His disciples.And
this comes as a result of remaining in Him, which means way more than just
reading our Bibles, going to church, and praying every now and then for what we
want. [And I wonder if the "if my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish" part really means "ask whatever you wish, according to my words (according to the promises that I have given you in the Bible), and it will be given to you." Because that makes sense, too.]
in Him, as a tree branch remains connected to the trunk, means being vitally
connected to Him.It means absorbing and
living in His Word, love, power, grace, etc., and it means desiring what He
desires.It is not a casual thing, and
it is not about just getting our wants and desires fulfilled!
abiding in Him daily?Or am I just
running to my Vending Machine God to ask for what I want or think I need?Do I have my plans, pleasure, and glory in
mind, or God’s?(And here’s a scary
question:Does my life currently show obedience and reflect His
glory and His love and His Word?How
about in my home, in how I treat others, in how I speak and think, when I am in
a crowd, when I am alone, etc.?)
8.Summing up all that I’ve learned so far, I’d
have to say that our prayers are most effective…
- when we
are living righteously,
- when they
are in line with God’s Will and are unselfish and are in Jesus’ name (according
to what He wants),
there are no un-confessed sins blocking our relationship with God (meaning that
we need to clear the air with God and others, seeking forgiveness from God and
those we have wronged and forgiving those who have wronged us),
- when we
(especially husbands) treat others with consideration and respect,
- when we
are doing the good we know we need to do,
- when we
are living and acting in accordance with our faith and not doing anything that
doesn’t come from faith,
- when our
hearts don’t condemn us (because we have actively searched them and we have
righted any wrongs, and not just because we are ignoring any conviction),
- when we
obey His commands and do what pleases Him,
- when we
believe in Jesus and are loving one another,
- when we
are remaining in Him and His words remain in us,
- and when
we are living for and bearing fruit for His glory!
This is a
lot to consider.It is very sobering. And it is life-changing!
not about getting our way, about getting God to give us the answers we want.
It’s about getting
God’s Will done.It’s about learning to
follow Him.It’s about our relationship
with Him and our spiritual growth.It’s
about our heart’s sensitivity to Him and our desire to live life with Him,
doing our best with the Spirit’s help to transform ourselves to be more like
Him.It’s about drawing near to Him in
genuineness and humility, about being desperate for Him, needy for Him,
dependent on Him.
And this is
why and how we should pray.Because we
need Him and because He wants us to let Him draw near.And He can handle anything we bring His way,
every prayer we lay at His feet.We just
need to learn to be willing to accept His answers.
And this becomes a lot easier when we
really grasp His love for us.More than
reaching for things He can give us, we should really be reaching for Him and
for a greater understanding of His love.That is what will carry us through anything.And we need to be immersing ourselves in Him
daily if we want to have the greatest amount of peace and joy possible.Peace and joy in the midst of unanswered
prayer do not come to us apart from abiding in Him daily.
according to Philippians 4:6-7, peace
comes when we present all of our requests to God, with thanksgiving.The
thanksgiving part is crucial.It is what
reminds us Who we are praying to, what He has done for us in the past, what He
is capable of, and that He is good and will answer in the best way.Because He is a good, loving, heavenly
you are discouraged with prayer or life’s circumstances, practice
thanksgiving.This will also help keep
evil away because demons thrive on negative emotions, which are “welcome mats”
to them.Even a demon that tormented
Saul in 1 Samuel 16:23 was
driven away when David played his harp.Thanksgiving and praise help “shut the door” to them and drive them
Waiting for Answers
As I grow
through the times of unanswered prayers and longs waits, I’m learning to not
let my faith in Him hinge on how He chooses to answer.I’m learning to let Him be God!In the name of transparency and dependence on
Him, I do pray for specifics and I pour out my desires.I believe that He can do what I am asking . .
. if He chooses to.I have no doubt that
He is capable.But in the name of
humility, I have to allow Him to answer as He wants.
prayers and long waits are very teachable moments in our lives.And they can either be times to get bitter
and angry, or times to draw near to God and experience enormous growth in our
Christian character and our faith.
So how long
do we continue to hang in there and pray for something that doesn’t seem to be
happening?When it seems like God is not
listening and it hurts us to have to plead again about a certain
pleaded with God for things that haven’t happened or that were a long time in coming.And this is the best advice I can offer right
now.If you have considered and applied
all the “Effective Prayer” lessons above and yet God is still not answering,
hang in there and keep praying about your concern until one of five things
happens.Until . . .
1)God says “Yes.”
2)God says, “No, My grace is sufficient for
you.” (And sometimes a “no” is actually a blessing in disguise.)
3)God has strengthened your conviction that
this is indeed the way you are to continue praying, and you need to persist in
prayer until it happens.
4)God has purified your desires through the
trial and the waiting, and He has shown you how to change your request to be
more in line with His Will.Or . . .
5)You realize that you have made an idol out of
the request and the answer that you want.
And if that
has happened (#5), let go of the prayer request.When we have been so focused on a request
that we have lost our focus on God, lost our confidence in God, or have caused
ourselves emotional distress, then we need to confess it and to fully hand the
request over to Him to do with as He pleases.We need to let it go.
we are in the long waits and facing unanswered prayer, we need to praise
Him.And to keep praising Him - until we
have Him so clearly in focus and at the forefront of our minds that our desire
to get what we want pales in comparison to His glory and His love and His
Also, if it
seems as though God is not answering your prayer, ask yourself if there is
anything that you should be doing or not doing.Sometimes, we pray “lazy prayers.”We ask God to do something for us while we ignore the resources and
wisdom He gave us to do it ourselves, such as praying that God gives us a
healthy body when we won’t exercise or eat right, or praying for a job when we
won’t go out looking for one.
Or we pray
prayers from the wrong angle and we need to slightly shift what we are asking
for.Instead of praying, “Lord, change
my spouse,” it would be far more effective to pray, “Lord, help me see what I
can do/think/change to make this marriage better.”Sometimes, to get our prayers answered, it
takes tweaking them a little or praying that God opens our eyes to the answer
that is already there.
firmly believe that God allows us to make our own choices. He does not force us to do what He wants. So if you are praying for God to make someone
do something or not do something – such as to become a better spouse, to become
a Christian, to stop using drugs, etc. –remember that God does not force people
to do things His way.
Yes, it is
His Will and desire that people come to Jesus and that they become better
spouses, keep their vows, kick a drug habit, stop living in sin, etc. But He won’t force them to do it. They have to choose to. So if you prayed that God would make someone
do such-and-such and it didn’t happen, it’s not that God failed you. I’m sure He knocked on the door of their
hearts, but they chose not to open it. He
tried to show them the truth, but they kept their eyes closed.
“Lord, save so-and-so” may not necessarily be an effective prayer, I believe
that we can and should pray that God places the Truth in their paths and that
their eyes and ears are open to it, that their minds understand it, that their
hearts are soft and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s calls, and that God
surrounds and protects them with His angels to keep them from the diversions,
lies, and blinders of the Evil One. The
person ultimately has the responsibility and option of choosing to believe or
not, but we can pray for the best possible conditions to help someone see the
I did this
once for a friend. I prayed over and
over that God would put the Truth clearly in her path and protect her from the
diversions of Satan. And one day, she
called to tell me that while she was in the stall in a public restroom, she
looked down on the floor and there was a pamphlet explaining the way to
salvation. She came to Christ not long
after. God works in mysterious – and
all up, when it comes to prayer and faith, what we should want more than
anything is to get to the place where we can take His hand and walk forward
into the darkness in faith.Faith in
Him!Because even if we don’t get what
we want, we know that He is a good, loving Father who will work all things for
Romans 8:28:“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
1 Samuel 12:23:“As for
me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for
you. . . .”
2 Chronicles 7:14-15:“if my
people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my
face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will
forgive their sin and will heal their land.Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in
Philippians 4:6-7:“Do not
be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard
your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
1 Peter 3:12:“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are
attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 3:7:“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your
wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you
of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
James 4:2-3:“. . .
You do not have, because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
1 John 3:21-23:“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence
before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey his commands
and do what pleases him.And this is his
command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one
another as he commanded us.”
John 15:7-8: “If you
remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be
given you.This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
faith in God,’ Jesus answered.‘I tell
you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the
sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will
happen, it will be done for him.Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you
have received it, and it will be yours.’“
1.What thoughts has this topic triggered in
you?What can you learn about prayer
from these Bible verses?(Look at each
one.)Any other Bible verses you want to
2.Do any of the misconceptions about prayer or
reasons for not praying resonate with you?Can you think of any assumptions you have had about prayer and
faith?What other things trip us up when
it comes to prayer?Share your
3.What are some other wrong ways that people
see or treat prayer (such as, like a magic spell or superstitious ritual, or
maybe as a last resort or a way to manipulate God)? Why do people pray? Why do you pray? (Think of things like "to inform God of what's going on down here," "to convince Him to do what you want," "because it's a requirement," etc. Brainstorm as many reasons you can think of why people pray.)
4.Has your understanding of prayer changed over
the years?Or does anything here
5.While I don’t always understand prayer or
God’s ways, I do believe that prayer really does matter.Do you think it really does?Why or why not?What do you think the purpose of prayer is?
6.How does prayer “work”?Such as . . .
Can we pray
“blanket prayers,” like praying for a whole year of safety, or do we need to
pray anew for safety each day?
Is there an
“expiration date” on prayer – do we need to keep praying certain prayers to
keep them active or can a prayer that we prayed years ago but gave up on still
be in line to get answered in God’s time and way?
Do we need
to be specific or can we pray in generalities?
Can we ask
God to make people do things – such as to become a Christian or to be a better
spouse – or does God not control a person this way?Do we have to adjust our prayer a little to
make it more “answerable”?
level of “how much we really want what we are asking for” affect whether our
prayers get answered or not?
position during prayer affect the effectiveness of our prayers?Kneeling with eyes closed and hands
folded?Walking around with eyes open
while we clean house?
prayer more effective than silent “in your head” prayer?
emotional “crying out to God” more effective than calm prayer?
attitude during prayer affect the outcome?Does a positive attitude attract positive results?Does a negative, discouraged, heartbroken, or
worried attitude cause prayers to not be answered?
that God will give you want you want show faith or presumptuousness?Does it show that you are really trusting God
or that you are just using Him as a Vending Machine?
it show doubt to ask for things without really expecting Him to give it to you,
or does that show that you are willing for Him to say “no”?
and demons hear your thoughts and your silent prayers, and might this somehow
give them ammunition to use against you?
Is it more
effective to have a bunch of people praying for something or is one person’s
prayer enough?What if it’s a bunch of
less-righteous people compared to one very righteous person?
prayers have more power the longer you pray for something and the more you
“fight for it in prayer,” or is it effective to pray one time for something,
especially if it is something God is willing to do?
As we read
earlier, Daniel (in Daniel 10)
wrestled in prayer for three weeks for an answer, but the angel was dispatched
with the answer the first day Daniel sought understanding.Would the answer still have come eventually
if Daniel had just prayed the first time and then waited patiently, or were the
additional three weeks of prayer necessary to help the answer get there?
prompt us to pray sometimes, like waking us up in the middle of the night with
a strong burden on our heart to pray for someone?
think of other things?Is it even worth
contemplating these things?And what do
these things mean for us?(And for the
record, I don’t have answers for these.They are things I have wondered about.)
7.Is there anything about prayer that still
confuses you or that you wonder about (such as the “Tell the mountain to move”
verse – I still struggle with this one)?
8.What does it mean to “believe that you have received it, and it will
be yours”?What does “does not doubt in his heart”
mean?And what kinds of “mountains”
might be included in this verse?
9.The widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 was
told by Elisha to gather as many jars as she could from her neighbors because
God would miraculously fill them with oil that she could then sell to make some
money.And God filled every last jar full
of oil.So basically, the amount of oil
she received depended on how many jars she gathered, in faith, trusting that
the Lord would indeed fill them.
this relate to prayer and to faith?How
can we practically apply a story like this?How might we hinder God’s abundant, generous answers to our
But on the
other hand, how might we misapply or misunderstand an example like this (and
can you think of others from the Bible)?How can we balance faith and realistic expectations?Or is there little to no room for realistic
expectations when it comes to faith?
10.How do you best understand and explain the
“Tell the mountain to move” verse, especially since we don’t always get what we
ask for, things we really believed we would get?Is it a lack of faith or something else?
11.Compare Mark 11:22-24 (which says that you can
move mountains if you believe in your heart that you have received what you
asked for) with Luke 17:6, “[Jesus] replied, ‘If you have faith as small
as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted
in the sea,’ and it will obey you.’”
these passages saying about faith?Why
does one say you only need faith “as small as a mustard seed” and the other
make it sound like you need huge faith, that you need to be able to claim that
you already received what you asked for?Are these saying different things or the same thing?What do these mean for our lives?
12.Do you believe that “Not my will, but Yours
be done” should ultimately be the final plea of every prayer?And if so, can we ever really believe that we
will definitely get the specific things we are asking for?Can we know for sure that what we are asking
for is God’s Will?Is believing that He can do what we are asking as effective
as believing that He will do it?How do you balance asking in faith but being
willing to accept His answer?
13.What are some important elements of prayer,
or different parts or kinds of prayer?
14.Is there a “right” way to pray?A proper formula?And what is our part when it comes to prayer,
and what is God’s?And are there any
prayers that we should pray every day?
15.What part does “thanksgiving” have in
prayer?Why is it so important?What effects does “thanksgiving” have on us
and our prayer life?
16.When and how and why do you pray?And what do your prayers usually center on? Is there anything that you need to do more of or
less of when it comes to prayer?
17.Is it easy for you to be open and honest with
the Lord when you pray?If not, what do
you hold back and why?
18.Have you had any positive experiences with
prayer?What has it taught you?
19.Have you had any disappointing experiences
with prayer?What effect has this had on
20.What feelings and thoughts come up when God
doesn’t answer prayers the way you thought He would or wanted Him to?How does it make you feel about Him?About yourself?
21.What are some reasons God might say “no” or
“not yet”?How should we respond when
our prayers don’t get answered the way we want?
22.If God doesn’t give us what we want in answer
to our prayers, what might He give us instead?Brainstorm and think of “answers” He might give us that we might not
recognize as answers.Do you have
examples from your life?
23.Sometimes we have to wait for a long time for
God to answer a prayer.How do these
waits and His silence make you feel?How
do we sometimes handle these long waits and times of His silence?How should we?
24.Do we tend to put prayers in God’s hands in
faith, only to take them back again and worry over them and try to make things
work out the way we want?How can we
break this cycle?What can help us leave
a request with Him?
25.How long should we pray for something when it
doesn’t seem like God is answering or doing anything?Is there a point when we should stop asking
and learn to be content with things as they are?How can we know when that point is?And how can the “waiting” be put to good
26.What do you think about the “Effective
Prayer” section?Did anything stand out
to you, scare you, sober you, or surprise you?
27.When the Bible talks about “harboring sin in your heart,” does
it mean that long-ago, forgotten sins will block your prayers, or does it mean
that ongoing, unconfessed deliberate sins will block them?What do you think it means?
28.What else blocks our prayers from being
heard?What helps them be heard?How should this knowledge affect us?And how can we be careful to make sure that our
ideas of how prayer works don’t turn prayer into a “magic spell” or a legalistic
29.Do you agree that sometimes we have “faith in
our faith” instead of “faith in God”?What does this look like?How
does it affect us? What does it mean to "have faith in God, instead of in our faith"?
30.Can our presumptions (our expectations) of
how God should answer our prayers negatively affect our faith?If so, how?Do you have any examples?
31.What are some “wrong motives” that we have
when we pray?Even when praying for some
good, godly things?Examples?
32.Are there any prayers we shouldn’t pray or
prayers that won’t be effective or successful just by their very nature?Do you agree with my idea of “lazy prayers,”
that God might not “answer” prayers when He has already given us the wisdom to
handle it ourselves but we refuse to do it?Examples?And how can we alter
these kinds of prayers to be more effective?
33.Are there any prayers that are exceptionally
powerful or “answerable”?Or things God
has promised us in His Word that we have every right to ask for?
34.Romans 14:23:“. . . everything that
does not come from faith is sin.”
small sentence but such big meaning and implications.What do you think this verse is saying?And can you come up with other examples of
things that we do that are not from faith?
35.Have you ever clearly heard from God
before?How has He spoken to you
(doesn’t have to be verbal)?In what
ways?And how did you know it was Him?
36. We looked at this last lesson, too.Do you agree with me that the Bible is God’s
main way of speaking to us and that it is the measuring stick by which we judge
all other messages?If so, what does
this mean for us and for our prayer life?
37.How do you think Christians, in general, view
prayer?What effect does this have on
our country and on God’s Kingdom? How should we view prayer?
38.How would we live differently if we viewed
prayer properly and if we saw it as a serious responsibility?How might living this way affect us, our
families, our churches, our country, and the kingdom of God?
39.The Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father in Heaven,(if You really are
listening and care at all about what’s happening here on earth),
hallowed be Your name (even though I carelessly say “Oh my G**,” “G** D*** it,”
and “J**** C*****” all the time),
Your kingdom come (just so long as it doesn’t interfere with my kingdom),
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven(as long as You don’t ask me to do anything that I don’t
want to do and as long as You do everything that I ask You to do).
Give us today our daily bread.(And to ease my fears
that I might not have enough, why don’t You also give me tomorrow’s, next
week’s, and next month’s daily bread right now?Or at least give me more than my neighbor.It’s not fair that they have so much more
than I do.)
Forgive me my trespasses, (which are not nearly as bad as the trespasses of others
against me.So I don’t think I can
really forgive them or that I should have to.In fact, make sure You bring down on their smug, little heads all the
pain that they have caused me.Make them
And lead me not into temptation(for I am rather enjoy looking
for it myself),
but deliver me from the evil one. (Even though I sometimes invite him into my life with my
choices and make all sorts of compromises with him.And I’m not even really sure if there is an
“evil one.”It’s too
mystical-sounding.So it probably
doesn’t even matter how I live my life because I am a Christian and You love me
and You wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.)
For Yours is the kingdom, but let me have the power and the
glory for now, and I’ll worry about “forever” when I get there.Amen
Something just doesn’t sound right here, does it?But is there any part of this prayer that’s
convicting?Read it again!Is there any part that honestly fits with how
you are living?
40.If you had to briefly explain prayer to a new
Christian, what would you say?
41.Are there any
other thoughts you want to share or questions you want to ask the group?