Sunday, January 27, 2008

God Never Answers Prayer, Why Should I Pray?
No Video This Week

God Never Answers Prayer Why Should I Pray?

Intro.: I have heard two very simple answers to today's question.

  1. The first is mine – because we are commanded to.

  2. The second is a paraphase from a member of the congregation – I know what the answer is if I don't.

  3. But, in some way, those answers are too simple.

  4. Sometime it does seem that God does not answer prayer - how am I to understand it all?


Trans: I know that many of you have been believers for many years.

  1. I was amazed to learn that the disciples had the same kind of questions.

  2. They lived, worked, talked with Jesus for three years. But it was only halfway through that time that they finally turned to Jesus and asked that question, “Lord, teach us to pray.

  3. I want to also ask Jesus a question - “What do I need to know about unanswered prayer?”

T.S. Let me suggest four answers that we might be hear if we were to ask that question.

  1. Maybe God doesn't answer prayers

    1. I expect there have been times in all of our lives when it seems that God does not answer our prayers.

    2. And then it becomes easy to conclude that God doesn't answer prayer.

(Ill.) Let me give you an example in my life when I faced this kind of crisis. It happened about a year before we moved to New York. We were living in Iowa and were going through a minor financial crisis – appliances were breaking, the car was going haywire, one of our kids was have a medical problem. Our credit card was maxed out – and I saw no way out. The local Farm Bureau had people on there staff to help with developing a budget and for help in rescheduling payments. But they really did not have any quick solution to the problem in which we found ourselves. I really did not see any solution to our problem – God was not taking care of us. God was not answering our prayers.

    1. It really is an easy conclusion to come to – but it creates a problem, because if God does not answer our prayers, it makes scripture a liar.

    2. For example the words of Isaiah “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” (Is 58:9)

    3. And not just scripture, because if God does not answer prayer, it also makes Jesus a liar. You will remember the words of Jesus -

      So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:9-13)

    4. As believers, it would be difficult to conclude that God does not intend to answer prayer.

  1. Maybe God doesn't answer your prayers

    1. After all, God does treat each of us differently. We would really expect him to.

    2. So maybe he answers my prayers (after all, I am a pastor), but not yours.

(Ill.) We have all seen the unfairness of life. One humorist wrote, “Life is unfair. I lost my car keys at a ball game and never found them. I lost my sunglasses at the beach and never found them. I lost my socks in the washing machine and never found them. I lost three pounds on a diet—I found them and five more.”1 Yep, unfairness is part of life.

    1. But if God showed that kind of unfairness it creates an even more difficult situation. You see, you would have no way to know what promises apply to each of us. No the promises of scripture – whether they are about prayer, or any other aspect of life, are for all of us.

  1. Maybe God doesn't answer all your prayers

    1. Now, that might be entirely possible.

    2. Scripture has instructions for us to pray. We don't have time to do a complete discussion of what effective prayer takes, but we can look at one of them.

    3. Effective prayer is a prayer of faith. James, Jesus' brother, writes, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Matthew 21:22 also makes it pretty clear: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

(Ill.) The story is told of a time when a great Scotch preacher prayed in the morning service for rain. As he went to church in the afternoon his daughter, said, “Here is the umbrella, Papa.”

“What do we need it for?” he asked.

“You prayed for rain this morning. Don’t you expect God to send it?” his daughter replied.

They carried the umbrella, and while they came home they were glad to take shelter under it from the drenching storm. Such should be our faith when we pray, just like that little child’s—with no doubt, and expecting an answer.2

    1. Prayer is required for effective prayer. Maybe God does not answer all our prayers, not because he does not keep his promises, but we don't know how to pray.

  1. God answers all your prayers

    1. He does not always answer them in the way we expect

    2. He does not always answer them at the time we want

    3. Let me illustrate from the life of one the great preachers of the 19th century.

(Ill.) Some years ago, a young graduate reported to a law office for training or apprenticeship. The senior lawyer who hired him quickly indoctrinated him in the office routine. Then the young lawyer sat at his desk and carried on this conversation with himself. “What are you going to do when you finish your apprenticeship?” “Hang out my shingle and practice law, of course!” “What then?” “Why, make a lot of money!” “What then?” “When I get rich I shall retire.” “What then?” “Well, I will die.” “What then?” His whole body trembling, Charles G. Finney rushed out of the office and ran to a park some few hundred yards distant. He remained there in prayer, vowing that he would not return to his office or to his room until he had settled his life’s work. He saw himself as he was—selfish, ambitious, sinful. And he gave himself to the Lord for Him to use. Leaving the park, Finney stepped forth, in faith in God, to a life of usefulness rarely paralleled in the last two centuries.3

Conclusion: Earlier I told of a time when finances were building my faith in the effectiveness of prayer.

  1. Job change

  2. Father dying

  3. $25000 cash from my dad

  4. Stayed in place – last visit was not about trouble but about investment. My first lesson in mutual funds.

  5. God does answer prayer.


Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we also have forgiven

those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

1Streiker, L. D. (2000). Nelson's big book of laughter : Thousands of smiles from A to Z (electronic ed.) (241). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

3AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

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