God’s Bigger Purpose for Prayer

A godly man is a praying man. As soon as grace is poured in, prayer is poured out. Prayer is the soul’s traffic with Heaven; God comes down to us by His Spirit, and we go up to Him by prayer.” Watson

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1, Matthew 6:5-13) He used the phrase “when you pray” over and over.  Matthew 6:5-7 “When you pray...(6) “But you, when you pray…”And when you are praying.  He didn’t say IF you pray but WHEN you pray.  Prayer is to be a normal part of our life so much so that Paul said we are to never stop praying 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  

Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering and communicating with God.  It is like oxygen to our inner man.  It is the continual breathing in of the life of the Living God. 

When Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer the first order of business was the glory of God and His purposes being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” This was before specific daily needs and guidance.  The focus is on God’s greatness and His will.  It is the continual reminder that He is God and we are not.

A story that highlights this important truth 

The priority of God and His will is in contrast to the way many Christians learn to pray.  Their individual needs, will, and desires are often first and foremost. Here is a story that illustrates this.  Suppose there is life on another planet and the aliens found out that there are people on earth called Christians who have found the God of all creation.  If He is the God of all creation then our alien friends obviously want to find out what this God is all about.

They decided to send an envoy to observe Christians in both their habits and their interactions with God (prayer).  He was invisible so he was able to get an accurate account as he observed.  He watched and listened in on their communication with God.  He listened to their personal prayers.  Some hardly prayed at all while others prayed a little more frequently.  He also attended several varieties of Christians meeting together.  Most of the meetings had “prayer request times” or points in the gatherings where they prayed for each other.

Most of what he heard went something like this.

Pray for my second cousin Bill, he lost his dog and is heartbroken.  Pray that he will be comforted and find his dog.  Pray for me that I have the will power to lose some of those winter pounds so I can fit into my bathing suit for the cruise God helped me win in the drawing at work.  Pray that God would get the devil off my back, he has really been harassing me.  Pray that my daughter does well with her grades so she can get that scholarship to the school she really wants to attend.   Pray that my uncle Bob will feel better.  Pray that I find my favorite shoes I misplaced so I have something to match my new outfit.  I am feeling a little nervous about the challenges of the new job.  Pray that my cranky boss will either change his attitude about me or be removed and cause me to get a better boss.  How about making me the boss.

As the envoy not only observed the way Christians lived but listened to their prayers He was able to quickly determine what this Christian God is about.  He reported to those who sent him, “Christianity is all about the Christian God following His people around to be at their beckoned call.  He exists to give them the kind of life they want (fulfillment and personal happiness). He is always there to remove all obstacles to their happiness and make them feel better about their life and future.  The sum total of His existence is to serve them.  The response of the officials who sent him was both chilling and revealing,  “THIS DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH OF A GOD TO ME.  IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE AND GOD IS THEIR SERVANT ”

Spurgeon, “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”  

Three things prayer brings to our life

We must understand that prayer has a much broader effect than simply coming to God and asking Him for things.  Scripture speaks of three broad roles that prayer plays in our lives that are critical to living for God.

  1. Prayer first affects our inner life, attitude, and outlook as we come under the force of His gaze.  Through prayer, we become more Christ-like and we become more inclined to do God’s will.  As we come under the force of His gaze (sight) we become softened towards repentance in the things that are hindering Him working in us.  We are also stimulated to do the things of God that may be dormant in our lives.  Through prayer, He works in us what is pleasing in His sight.  Heb 13:20-22…, even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.
  2. Prayer affects our revelation and understanding. By praying and seeking God He is able to influence our thinking and sharpen our grasp of His will.  “In His light, we see light” (Ps 36:9).
  3. Prayer intertwines us with God’s heart and we are influenced to live for His will.  The Bible never implies that we can manipulate God through prayer. It does emphasize that God purposely chooses to connect much of what He does with prayer. Our hearts also become intertwined with His causing us to progressively live more for “His sake” nor ours.

Through prayer, there is an important sense of partnership and co-labor with Christ in what He is doing.

If you want help in having a more Christ-centered and less self-centered prayer life here is a resource you can download called “The Theology of Apostolic Prayer.”  It lays out the understanding of praying for God’s will then gives us examples as a guide to every prayer in the New Testament that the writers prayed.  This will help get us on track in co-laboring with God according to His will in prayer.

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Feelings, Culture, or Scripture Alone

“Jesus of Nazareth always comes asking disciples to follow him–not merely “accept him,” not merely “believe in him,” not merely “worship him,” but to follow him: one either follows Christ or one does not. There is no compartmentalization of the faith, no realm, no sphere, no business, no politic in which the lordship of Christ will be excluded. We either make him Lord of all lords, or we deny him as Lord of any.” Lee Camp 

I remember hearing a story of a dad reading Matthew chapter 7 to his 4-year-old son.  While reading the son began to snicker and then broke out laughing.  The dad was somewhat serious and wondered what was up.  His son imagined in his mind the preposterous picture of a man with a big beam in his eye trying to remove a speck in someone else’s eye.  The little boy instinctively knew a big beam couldn’t fit into someone’s eye and just the thought of it caused him to laugh.

While humor and sarcasm can be hurtful, used in a right way they can make excellent points.  Jesus used both humor and sarcasm.  This is contrary to the picture people often present of Jesus walking on the earth as an emotionless Zombie (except for anger) who lacked any sort of personality.  Jesus often used sarcasm to both offend the self-righteous as well as making points of truth.

I had the great privilege years ago of inheriting a book from my wife’s grandfather that is no longer in print called “The Humor of Christ” by Elton Trueblood.  He did a masterful job of showing both the humor and sarcasm used by Jesus to make important points.  It is a pretty ridiculous picture to see a camel on it’s knees trying to squeeze through a small opening in the city wall of Jerusalem “the eye of a needle” (Lk 18:22-27, Mt 19:24, Mk 10:26).  How about “choking on a small bug while at the same time trying to swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24)?

Jesus also used offensive sarcasm when directly confronting religious people who were trusting in their own version of what it means to be right with God.  He called them names like “brood of vipers, snakes, devils, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, and murderers” Mt 3:7, 12:34, 23, 16:23).

Wisdom from “The Babylon Bee”

A satirical evangelical Christian website, the Babylon Bee, released a humorous article that strikes at the heart of a problem among self-identified Christians.  It was aimed at Christians who think following Jesus and living according to His word is somewhat optional.  Simply believing in Him and living by one’s own version of what is right is good enough. This is in contrast to the 25 clear calls by Jesus in the Gospels to “follow Me and live according to My word.”  He only called people to “believe” 4 times. There is a clear emphasis that real belief entail’s following Him and seeking to obey His word.

John 8:30-31  As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  (31)  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word (believe and live by it), then you are truly disciples of Mine, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

The website reported on a fictitious meeting in which progressive evangelical leaders met to affirm a doctrine of “Sola Feels.”  It was an obvious spoof of the great doctrinal truth that came out of the Protestant Reformation from the Latin phrase “Sola Sciptura.” It means God’s word is our only objective basis of faith and practice above traditions or our feelings.  “Sola feels” means that our feelings are the only proper way to interpret what is true which is how our culture, even many self-identified Christians live their lives.  The article puts it humorously well.  Quite simply, ‘Sola Feels’ means that all spiritual truths only become true once they are filtered through, and accepted by our feelings.

Quite simply, ‘Sola Feels’ means that all spiritual truths only become true once they’e filtered through and accepted by our feels-all the feels,’ popular author and speaker Jane Hansen told reporters after the meeting.  “Thus, things that make us feel bad, those are wrong.  The things that give us all the happy feels, those are true, right, and good.

What is true is what feels right more than what God says is right in His word. This is the current mantra both of our culture as well as many self-identified Christians.  The word of God is optional and subject to what our feelings and/or the culture around us dictate.  Anything that opposes “feels” is seen as oppression.

The movie makes a point 

There was a satirical movie in the late 70s, Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”  that had a scene that was a very revealing about some of the current cultural confusion as well as that among self-identifying Christians regarding “Sola Feels.”  The story line of the movie is almost prophetic as it was about someone who was mistaken for Jesus then attempted to start a Christian movement around this falsehood.  Sounds like believing but not following or obeying Jesus’ word (John 8).  It is an alternative Christianity that often favors things Jesus clearly said He is opposed to.

There is a great scene in the movie called “Loretta” that is eerily similar to some of the confusion today (I don’t recommend the whole movie as it has some bad parts).  The scene is about whether they are going to give place in their movement to a man who wants to be a woman and have a baby.  The point is debated among 4 followers and the last line is prophetic as one person says it’s, “a struggle against oppression,” while another man says it’s really, “a struggle against his reality”  (God’s design).  For disciples, it has to be “Sola Scriptura” (God’s reality) not “Sola Feels” (our desires).

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Pursuing a Platform or a Stage

We live in an online world of instant, but fleeting fame.  With the right 4-minute video going viral or a creative post people can become an overnight sensation.  People can develop a rising online addiction to the number of “views” or “likes” that gives positive feelings of significance or importance.

We even see it on trips or vacations (I just returned from one).  People used to define success or satisfaction based on the fond reflections and memories they carried as they came home from the trip.  Now the definition of success or satisfaction can subtly be affected by the number of “likes” or “views”  we get on the continual pictures we post.  Was it a good vacation…yeah we had hundreds of likes on all our pictures!

No one wants to live their life anonymously (no one’s ultimate goal in life is for no one to know they exist).  There is a God-designed element in us for significance but it must ultimately be rooted in Christ.   We want to live our lives in such a way that people do see Jesus in and through us.  We must be careful that we don’t confuse significance with current ideas of success.

Philippians 2:4-5  Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.  (5)  Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

A Platform or a Stage

People that genuinely begin to follow Jesus based on His amazing love and sacrifice start out with Christ-centered intentions and want to make Him known.  These Christ-centered intentions can get sidetracked with just an ounce of success or admiration taken the wrong direction.

I have been thinking about the difference between the idea of a platform or a stage.  A platform in its most Godly sense is a place of influence to communicate the goodness of God to others.  It may be our talents, a job, a position, or something that gives us influence with others. It isn’t about making admirers or followers of us, but admirers and followers of Jesus.

A stage, on the other hand, can be more about the admiration of others and followers of us.  It is a self-promotion that was the root of Satan’s original sin (Is 14:12-15).  He has been tempting mankind with it ever since.   C.S. Lewis, expressed it well in The Great Divorce, “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about him.”

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, “Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about him.”

Self-focus is Spiritually Dangerous

Anytime we get overly self-focused it leads to dangerous ground.  A couple of years ago my wife and I were taking a boat tour on the River Walk in San Antonio, TX, when our guide told us something that was very culturally revealing, “12 people had to be rescued from the river this summer because they walked into the river while staring at their smartphones.” Another revealing statistic I recently came across was from research released by Carnegie Mellon University (releasing a report at the end of 2016 indicating that 127 people had died in the past few years taking selfies).

Using God-given platforms and avoiding them becoming a self-promoting stage can be greatly helped by the acid test for loving God which is genuinely caring about, and loving others.  We all know His great love for us seen in John 3:16, but our love in return must be linked to the acid test of 1 John 3:16  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  One of the ways we love God and others is to help them come into all that God intends for them.

If we are truly affected by John 3:16 it will be evident by obeying 1 John 3:16 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

Myth of the “Self-Made Man

There is no such thing as a self-made man.  Woven into the creation order is our need of others.  Beginning with our conception and life in the womb we have a built in reliance on others to survive and succeed. Consider someone’s relational biography. Do your own. A relational biography describes people God has used to get others where they are today. If it is done in an objective manner we will be amazed how the influence of other people over the years has been essential to us getting where we are.  People are the main source of supply God used in our lives (Eph 4:16, Col 2:19).

If you are a Christian, someone, or several someones, helped you get to the place you are in God. They brought the message of Christ to you, helped you develop a walk with Him, and provided instruction and example of how to live for Him. People continue to influence and aid us in our walk with God.  They open doors to our destiny.  It reminds me of a quote from the angel Clarence to George Bailey from my favorite movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Destiny Carriers

All through the Scripture, we see examples of people coming into their destiny through relationships.  People who cared about the success of someone else have always been God-given keys to people’s future in Him.  Joshua had Moses, Ruth had Naomi, David had Jonathan, Elisha had Elijah, Jesus had Mary, Joseph, and John the Baptist, Paul had Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, as well as others, and they had Paul.  The list goes on and on.

Instead of seeking a stage for your own personal advancement, or to gain admirers or followers, how about obeying 1 John 3:16 and helping someone else succeed in God.  Seek a platform to influence others and help them into their destiny, not a stage to gain personal notoriety.


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Prayer For Mission and Prayer On Mission

Prayer on Mission is like breathing. We inhale God’s presence as we pray, and we exhale His presence as we pray for others.

Every one of God’s people is called to His family mission to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:26-28, Jn 17:18, 20:21, Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11).  God’s mission is not for a few “special Christians” with a “special call.”  Missions is everyone, everywhere, all the time, across the street, as well as across the ocean.

In our calling to engage in God’s mission we must remember that we can’t save anyone by our own efforts.  We are not called to save but to sow.  We are to sow seeds of God’s Kingdom.

A key to mission that seems too good to be true

What if there was a master key that would enable us to do the following?

  • Go straight to someone’s heart in an instant bypassing all the mental reasonings in a split second.
  • Communication Jesus to someone without people’s interruptions or deflective questions
  • Avoid the arguments of “my belief versus yours” while communicating Jesus
  • Hold the higher ground of influence above people’s resistance.
  • Giving “seeds” of God’s word with prophetic words, words of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment communicated (with wisdom) uninterrupted by the people you are giving them to.
  • Communicating and impacting people from other religious backgrounds.
  • See the power of God released upon people without resistance.

Is there a way to do these things or does it sound too good to be true?  Prayer for people is an often neglected key that will enable the previous things mentioned to happen.  In the accounts of Jesus sending the 12 and 70 on mission (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10) His first order of business was to “pray to the Lord of the harvest”.  Then they were to pray for people as they, “give a blessing, heal the sick, and cast out demons?”

When you pray people yield their agenda and become somewhat passive.  As you pray you get free access to their hearts.  Most of the time offering to pray for someone about something is inoffensive and communicates care.

Of all the times I have offered to pray for someone both inside and outside the church only once have I been turned down.  I even offered to pray at a public intersection for an atheist who was protesting and holding a sign touting the great virtues of atheism.  I ask her if she would mind if I offered a prayer to the God that she doesn’t believe exist.  After all what harm would it do since she didn’t think anything was there.  To my amazement, she said she wouldn’t mind so I took her up on the offer right there on the street, in front of all her atheist friends.

God’s Spiritual Bee Sting

When we pray for people there is an instant connection to God, His presence, and His resources.  There is an immediate impact of God.  Prayer in this way is like getting stung by a bee.  You often know it is buzzing around but can’t see where it is until it stings you.  When you pray for someone you go directly past all their reluctance and like a bee sting it will make an impact.

As we are inquiring and entering into conversations with people about their family, health, work, or circumstances we will find out something we can pray for.  In that moment we can say, “would you mind if I pray for you about that?”   Then as we pray we bring them into direct contact with the all-powerful God of the universe.  It is an instant connection with God.

Prayer is a key, a door, and a bridge over which God’s power flows.  I remember an evangelist giving the following observations to encourage us to pray for people.   There is nothing that can’t be prayed for.

  • When you don’t know what to do, pray for them.
  • When you can’t speak the language prayer for them.
  • When you don’t have the time to speak a lot, pray for them.
  • When you know the issue is too big for you, pray for them
  • When you might not see them again, pray for them. 

As we go on mission in our everyday life we need to have confidence that we can lead people into an encounter with God.  We fear that people will just watch us pray for them instead of entering into God with us.  We can ask them to participate like close you eyes, bow your head, or extend your hands like you are receiving etc. Sometimes outward/natural steps can lead to an inward spiritual reality (1  Cor 15:46 “first the natural then the spiritual).

Most of the time prayer is a matter of calling people to focus their attention on Him.  You can also ask God to open their senses.  Paul prayed this way in Ephesians, “open the eyes of their heart to His great power towards us…the same power He exercised when He raised Jesus from the dead” (Eph 1:18-20).

God’s kingdom isn’t just a lot of words. It is power. 1 Cor 4:20

We must remember that God’s “Kingdom isn’t just words but power” (1 Cor 4:20).  We want to connect people with God’s supernatural power as they connect with the supernatural God.

I had the great privilege of watching this as an observer when I walked up behind my wife as she was asking a lady if she could pray for her.  The lady responded in a pleasantly surprised way, “I have never had anyone ask me that before…I guess so.”  I was looking over my wife’s shoulder into the lady’s face.  At first, she didn’t know what to do and her eyes started to blink then she shut them and her head went down.  When my wife was done with the short prayer the lady’s eyes opened with tears in them and she said, “that was great…I felt an amazing peace.”  Then to our surprise, she said, “That felt so wonderful I think people should have people pray for them more often.”  This opened a door to speak more about Jesus.

Don’t forget to use an important key that works in any situation…prayer!

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Prayer is Communication with the Author of the Book

Think about being given a book that contained a story about an author along with his design for living that would lead to the most incredible life anyone could live on this earth. A life full of freedom, joy, fulfillment, contentment, successful marriages and families, and successful relationships.  How about not just being given this incredible book, but having the author, who is the greatest person who has ever lived, willing to walk with you every day to show you how what he instructed in the book applies to various things in your daily life?   Sounds like it would be a great deal and a great privilege.  Who would refuse that?  This is the amazing design God has provided for His people.

I had the great privilege of meeting with a famous veteran of the Charismatic Renewal. He has spoken to great crowds throughout the world, helped provide a magazine for several years that impacted millions of people from all denominations, and worked with many famous leaders giving instruction and counsel.

There were about 14 of us around a table for several hours and I felt like the stories I had read in Eusieubus’ Early Church History about the Apostle John’s final days at Ephesus.  They would carry him out and sit him among groups of disciples and he would instruct them.

When our friend and hero began to talk we all pulled out our cell phones to catch the wisdom that was flowing from his lips.  He quickly began to cry and with passion in his voice he began to say, “It’s all relational.  The Kingdom, the church, Christianity is relational walking with Jesus and hearing His word.”

He went on to say that “we must have the ‘Word’ (Greek Logos which is what God has said and revealed through all of Scripture, Jn 1:1-14, Ps 119:89, 1 Pet 1:25), but also the ‘Word’ (Greek Rhema which is what He continues to say in speech and ongoing communication Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4).  If we only have Logos without Rhema it will lead to dead religion.  Logos can’t trump Rhema and Rhema can’t trump Logos.”

Back to what I said earlier, we must have the book and walk with the Author of the book who out of a living relationship will speak His specific word towards specific issues.  If we only walk with the Bible and not the Author of the Bible we can commit “Bible idolatry.”  This is what the religious leaders did and Jesus rebuked them for it.

John 5:38-40 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (39) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (40) and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” John Stott

Prayer, Logos, and Rhema

Prayer is essential to walk in the ongoing dialogue with Jesus where He speaks His Word to us.  Most of the time God speaks (Rhema) to us things from His Word (Logos) specifically directed towards our life and circumstances.

It works like learning a foreign language.  You learn words so you can enter into dialogue with people because the dialogue comes through the language you learned. God has “forever settled His word” (Logos Ps 119:89).  He continues to speak to us (Rhema) from His word in everyday life.  If the language isn’t in us we will have a hard time determining what He is saying.  This is why we must read and study His word.  We learn the language of God.

One of my friends used to say, “when you open the Bible you look into the face of Jesus.”  When we communicate with Him in prayer we hear His voice (Rhema) as He speaks from His word (Logos).

His voice is discerned from His word. If we don’t have the language from His word (Logos) we will tend to hear things that may not be Him.  They can be our emotions, fantasies, or preferences.  A good rule of thumb is “If what His is saying contradicts what He has said then it isn’t Him who is saying it.”  His Rhema word will never contradict His Logos word.

Prayer is the place where we learn to hear His word (Rhema) from His language (Logos).   It is where we get to learn and hear the voice from the Author of the book. Prayer is above all else communication with God and His word is to be in it.  There is a problem with people who don’t pray in order to hear His voice from His word, as well as those who don’t know His word which is the language by which He speaks.

Two extremes we must avoid.

  • Prayer and attempting to hear from God without His word (Logos) = Crazy Charismatic subjective hearers who are driven by their own fantasies or desires. This is inner subjectivism clothed in spirituality.
  • Having His word (Logos/Bible) without prayer and hearing His voice (Rhema) = Dry and dead intellectuals who twist and use the Bible to their own ends.  They use the Bible for themselves.  This is when the Bible becomes idolatry.  It is using His word without Him.



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What about Delayed or Unanswered Prayers?

Every person who has ever served God wrestles with the issue of delayed or unanswered prayer.  The Bible tells us in many places that we are to specifically ask for things in prayer.  It also promises that we will receive them.  At the same time, we all have had experiences of prayers that were not answered.  This dilemma can rob us of the Biblical motivation of faith in prayer.  Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

Biblical reasons for unanswered prayer

Considering the different scriptural possibilities of unanswered prayer can be perplexing.  Here are some of them.

  • There is the problem of a lack of faith.

James 1:6-7 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.

Mark 11:22-24  “Have faith in God…(24)  “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

At the same time, there are many examples in Scripture of anxious, ambivalent people receiving things from God they ask for.

  • There can be the reason of bad motives or praying outside of His will.

James 4:3  you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 

1 John 5:14-15  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (15)  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

  • Other times it could be a lack of persistence.

Luke 11:9 Amp  So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.

We must broaden our perspective on prayer

God is always “working in us” based on where He is taking us, not where we are at now.

There can be broader explanations for delayed or unanswered prayer.  We don’t know our future, only God does. God knows that what we desire right now we will probably not desire five years from now.   Things that we think are good for us right now may not ultimately be good for us over the course of a lifetime.  The thing we desired a few years ago (the opportunity, etc.) that didn’t happen may have taken us away from His purpose for our lives.  If God would have answered some of our prayers we prayed for in the past we may not have have experienced “this present result” as Joseph said in Genesis.

Genesis 45:5-8  “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life… (8)  “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God..

Genesis 50:20  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Joseph probably prayed many times about his trial but only after 17 years had passed did he finally realized that God was actually bringing about something good through the delay.

Some unanswered prayers are only because God doesn’t want to do something for us. He wants to do something through us. Bill Johnson

There is at times an element of not granting our desires that God simply understands things better than we do.  In realizing this it will help us keep from losing heart when prayers seem to go unheeded.  When we keep praying over time about certain things most of the time our desires become clarified.  Some grow stronger and others fade away.

It is also important to remember our walk with God is the most important thing about consistent prayer.  We serve a God who is eternal.  He is without beginning or end.  He stands outside of time a space and sees all things at once.  He sees years ahead of us right now.  He not only sees what has happened but what will happen. Over the course of time as we walk with Him we are adjusted, strengthened, receive revelation, and we overcome by His strength and ability.  We grow and develop through a consistent walk with Him.

This is not to suggest that we should not be bold and specific in prayer or expect to receive specifically what we ask.  Scripture commands this in many places.  Yet we must also keep in mind that long-term persistence in prayer is not only encouraged but expected and God is always at work for good as we pray (Romans 8:28).

In the parable of the widow (Lk 18:1-8) Jesus told us that we should always pray and not lose heart; then He gives us a story as an example.  Clearly, He was showing us that we should not give up praying about specific, personal concerns, no matter how long it takes to receive an answer.  In the persistence, over the long haul, God is at work doing things in us as well as others beyond what we understand.  It is a little like what the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky said when asked about the secret of his ability, “I never skate where the puck is, I always head to where it is going.” God is always dealing with us based on where He is taking us.

I remember reading a story about staying persistent in prayer and the positive effects God works in us as we do.

There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.

The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”

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