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"Lord, teach us to pray" (7)

 

Are All Prayers Answered?

 

One of the dangers of a series like this is that we can easily treat the subject of prayer in a mechanical fashion i.e. a series of learned responses and conditions rather than prayer being an expression of a growing, maturing relationship. Let's be alert to that pitfall as we look in this session at two further aspects of prayer.  

 

1.  ATMOSPHERE FOR EFFECTIVE PRAYING.  

The following aspects are NOT meant to be a checklist to be examined every time we come to pray. Rather they are dimensions to be cultivated in our lives that will effect every part...including prayer. The following make up a healthy framework in which we can pray with steady joy and confidence.  

A) HUMILITY… we come to God only through our Lord Jesus; it's grace all the way! God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble. Pride and prayer are enemies.  

B) AUTHORITY...we have already discussed this aspect of prayer when we talked about praying "in the Name of Jesus" in session No. 2. There we noted that our prayers have authority when they are in accord and agreement with the person & purpose of Jesus. It is His name on the petition that gains an audience with and the response of the King.  

C) REALITY…again you are referred to the notes in sessions 3 & 4 where we examined the need to be real people when we pray; especially when it comes to the matter of our feelings etc.  

D) STICKABILITY…this is not a stubbornness that refuses to accept 'NO' for an answer but rather a settled conviction - based upon God's promise - that restfully persists in praying a matter through to its proper conclusion. Note the following encouragement of Jesus in this respect:-  

LUKE 11/5-10 ______________________________________________ 

LUKE 18/1-7: ______________________________________________ 

E) PURITY OF LIFE...Psalm 24/3-5 and Psalm 66/16-20;   James 5/16-18

F) CONFORMITY .... in Hebrews 5/7 we are told that Jesus was heard when He prayed because of His reverent submission to the Father. A willingness to be conformed to the Will of God is essential for effective praying.  

G) SYMPATHY...this especially touches how we pray for others. Jesus often felt compassion for the multitudes whom He saw to be like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6/54). We will not pray earnestly for others until we begin to feel something of their pain in our heart. This will also take our prayers into the arena of social concerns & injustice and we will find, at times, that God is calling us to be the answer to our own prayer.      

H) EXPECTANCY… something that is missing from a lot of personal & corporate prayer these days. Faith is so indispensable for effective praying and yet faith is not something that we can manufacture or 'whip up' by the sheer power of positive thinking.   God alone can impart the faith we need to believe Him for the desired answers and there are times when we need to wait on Him for that kind of faith. The prayer of faith is never strained. It is the most relaxed prayer of all - as in James 5/13-16. The other dimension of faith is that, more often than not, it is an action rather than a feeling...faith is measured by what we do rather than how we feel about a particular issue.  

I) UNITY…last week we noticed that the major thrust of Jesus prayer in John 17 which really covered the whole Christian age was that the disciples might be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Phrases like "in one place" and "in one accord" (Acts 2) etc. come quickly to mind. This area also involves the idea of forgiveness of one another. An unforgivingspirit attacks unity in the body. Note the following link between prayer & forgiveness.  

Mark 11/25 _________________________________________________

 

2. THE STRUGGLE OF 'UNANSWERED' PRAYER   Perhaps 'unanswered' is not the best word to use because it suggests that God either chose not to hear or not to respond to a particular prayer. Whatever word or description we may care to use, this section is written to come to terms, in some measure, with what seems to be unanswered or ignored prayers that come from sincere hearts.   Are there examples in the Bible where prayer seems to be unanswered? Yes, quite a few...but let's take these two and you write in what you learn from them.  

a) Habakkuk 1/2;2/3 ___________________________________________  

b) 2 Cor 12/8,9________________________________________________  

 

So then, how can we account for those times when the answers we seek are seemingly ignored or delayed?

 

A) We do not ask for the right things.

Sometimes, in our ignorance, we can pray for specific things that are not really the best for that situation, Romans 8/26 acknowledges that we don't always know what we should pray for in a given circumstance. There are times when God's love and wisdom withholds the answer we sought. What we can be sure about is that He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him.  

B) We ask for the right things but with the wrong motive.

James 4/3 focuses upon our heart attitude and in fact, that whole section of James majors upon such things as covetousness and self-seeking, Such attitudes can easily filter into our prayer life.  

C) We ask for things we should take care of ourselves.

In other words, 'praying about it' can become a means of abandoning our responsibility to act in a given situation. Can you think of any examples? There are times when prayer can be a 'cop out'.  

D) It is not yet God's time.

We live in a world of the 'instant' - instant coffee, instant lotteries, instant prizes, instant credit etc, - where instant gratification is the order of the day. So much is geared to us being able to have 'it' now!. The Christian virtue of patience is a rare bird these days.   In the New Testament, there are two words for time .....

*Chronos = ordinary, human time eg, 'What's the time?

*Kairos = the right time; everything is ready eg, "Now's the time!" (Gal 4/4)   There are times when we are called upon to 'wait upon the Lord', to 'be still' .... and such directives are given to us for our benefit, Patience and waiting are signs of a maturing trust in our Heavenly Father Whose timing is always perfect. (See John 11/1-5)  

E) Spiritual conflict can delay an answer.

In Daniel 10/10-14 we have an insight into the opposition that can be encountered in the realm of the spirit. In fact, in Ephesians 6/10-20 we find the idea of prayer and the spiritual battle closely linked. It is in this area that stickability becomes so important.    

 

GROUP EXERCISE:  

1. Read Colossians 1/9-12 and list the points for which Paul prayed as he thought about the believers at Colosse.  

2. Take time to pray as a group,  

a) Put an empty chair in the centre of your group and imagine God is with you and you are talking with Him. 

b) You could use the prayer you wrote out from last week You could pray a simple, one sentence prayer from the heart. You can just say "pass" if you prefer not to pray when it comes your turn  

c) Pray around the group beginning and ending with the group leader.   

 

FOR YOUR OWN EXPLORATION THIS WEEK   Read and ponder the prayers of Paul in……  

1. Ephesians 1/15-22              

2. Ephesians 3/14-20  

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