There are a number of problems that spring to mind when considering prayer…talking to someone that’s invisible…talking to someone who doesn’t talk back. How is it supposed to work? And what do I do when God doesn’t grant my wish to win the lottery?
Praying isn’t just for the religious. Most people admit to praying at some time in their life even if they have given up on it later.
Jesus prayed. He seemed to have access to God like no one else. He was always doing miracles and teaching about life. But he also spent much time in prayer and taught about it. What did he say?
He said that faith was a crucial ingredient. He always responded to faith. On one occasion he said, ‘Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.’ Prayer is not simply about the words we say it’s about what we are thinking on the inside.
Jesus also said that forgiveness was important. ‘And whenever you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them so that your Father in heaven may forgive you’ Forgiveness is a kind of currency. If we use it in our relationship with others then we will have it in our relationship with God.
Another ingredient is to keep going. He gave many illustrations about this: a woman keeping on at a magistrate until he gave her rights ; a friend banging on the door at midnight until he got what he needed.
It seems that praying for something until we get it is what God invites us to do. Giving up at the first set back is not an option. But we have to be willing to accept God’s answers when they come which of course can be ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘wait’.
The foundation for all prayer is knowing God in a personal way. That is what Jesus has made possible.
A man prayed for his son’s epilepsy to stop. It didn’t. Years of uncontrollable seizures robbed his son of language and ability. Prayer for a deaf boy left him unchanged. A good relationship spiralled into an abusive one and, in spite of prayer, separation was the outcome.
Where is God when he doesn’t answer?
Prayer is conversation between friends. It’s not like sending an email off into cyberspace wondering if it will ever be read by someone. If we are in friendship with Jesus Christ we can be sure our prayers are heard. Fundamentally it is less about ‘getting something’ and more about ‘knowing someone.’ Our needs often propel us deeper into relationship with God.
There are times when we just need to keep going, knowing that it is not yet the end of the story. There’s an old African proverb that says, ‘No situation stays forever.’ Often perplexing situations of unanswered prayer will yield to change as we persist.
Some things don’t work out the way we wanted, but strangely work out better. And sometimes the thing prayed for would not have been good. It’s only in hindsight that we realise it. But, agonisingly, some things do not work out and we may question whether God is really there.
The answers may not be understood until eternity. This life on earth is only temporary because we are being prepared for eternity in which there is reward and judgement. It’s like a waiting room here. The next life is the real thing. The last book in the Bible has an incredible description of the future when there will be no more crying or pain. Perhaps then we will understand how close God has been throughout our life. ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
Try telling God that you are willing to trust him – even with things that are confusing.
Finally, we’d love to help, so please do get in touch with us and we’ll see if we can!