Sunday, January 22, 2012

Problems with Prayer?

“I Thank God For Unanswered Prayers”, Garth Brooks
Jeremiah 29:10-13, Hebrews 11: 17-19,
Genesis 22: 1-22, James 2: 21-23

                Garth Brooks wrote a song that has a nice sentiment, but is incorrect theologically.  His quote was “I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers,” recounting things he’d wanted in life that did not work out the way he had prayed. Primarily, the song focuses on a lost love which, unrequited, was replaced by something better. Indeed, we all remember a time when we asked for something we did not really need, or, if God had said “yes” would have left us in a worse position that we have ended up in.  The problem with the theology is that it really wasn’t an unanswered prayer at all.  God said “No” to Garth, and God had something better for him, his current love. As such, it was an answered prayer, just not answered as requested.

Many of us face problems that seem unresolved or unresolvable. The first consideration is our faith.  First, do we have the belief that God really has our best interest at heart. Jeremiah 29:10-13. Jeremiah had been the prophet of doom throughout his youthful years. Now that the children of Israel were taken into captivity the people came to him and asked how long the captivity would last wand what they should do during the interim.  Jeremiah told them that God had a plan for them, to prosper them and not to harm them.  He said, you will call on me and I will listen when you pray with all your heart (v 12-13).  God always has our best interests at heart.  What He wants is us to come to Him with all their heart. Too often we hold something back. Too often we count on our own strength and don’t turn it all over to Him.

Hebrews 11 is the roll-call of the faithful.  Beginning with the definition of faith (v1), it gives us examples of those who suffered and waited, sometimes beyond their life-span for the promised results they knew God would provide.  If we want real results we need to examine the lives of examples like these. Abraham for instance was promised to be the Father of a great nation, and how many kids did he have? One. When did he have that son? When his wife was 80 years old.  And guess what? Once that son had grown a bit, God asked for Isaac to be sacrificed to show Abraham’s faithfulness to God. Gen. 22 shows that when God called Abraham he said: “Here I am Lord.” When God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable (and sacrifice his only son) he went ahead and began accomplishing the task.  How was it walking up the mountain, knowing his son would be required of him?  How hard was it when the son asked him where is the sacrifice. It must have been close to impossible to draw back that knife, but God stopped His hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice (Gen 22: 13). In Hebrews 11;19 Paul recounts the event and said that Abraham believed in God even for raising his son from the dead, and his faith was counted to him as the justification for a blessing of an entire nation (Gen 22:16-17).

James 1:6-7 states emphatically that faith is an absolute requirement for answer to prayer. A doubter should not expect to hear his answer for he is like one driven a tossed by the sea, unstable in all his ways. Stability, like faith is seen by God in a person who evidence of what is hoped for the proof of the unseen. (Heb. 11:1).   God does not expect great accomplishments or fabulous sacrifices but a sustained and unwavering belief in His ability to provide in even the direst of circumstances. Our actions tell a lot about what we believe, and acting on that belief is a requirement for faith to have its legs. James 2: 21-23 reminds us that Abraham believed and he did what God said.  He didn’t run away, or question God, he went immediately, even to sacrifice his own son.  That kind of active faith, faith with legs, is what Goid honors,.  If we believe we pray and we go, even to a place with difficulty.  God recognized that kind of commitment in Abraham and will recognize it in us. Are we wavering doubting, tossed by the wind, and uncertain, or when called of God do we get up and go?  It is clear what will bring us answers.  Are we willing to go there?

Dana Martin