|Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39, NIV)|
So often when a person prays, they have uncertainties regarding the question:
Does God hear me? Or, will God answer my prayer? This kind of prayer is laced with uncertainty.
How does one pray with a measure of faith that believes?
I use to fall into the trap of quoting scriptures to reinforce my belief that God would somehow be bound to the words I spoke when I appended them with scriptures. I’ve since come to accept the truth that God is sovereign and that His will, not mine is all that matters.
In this passage of Matthew, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and as He falls to the ground and begins to pray, He asks His Father that if there is any possibility to save mankind without having to die on the cross, let His life be spared. But He immediately says, “…not as I will, but as you will.” Christ understood the importance of obeying the divine promise to save all humanity; even at the cost of His life.
There is no restriction to asking God to hear and answer our prayers, but we are not empowered to dictate to the Lord to do as we ask. This is the mistake which believers can make; assuming that God is bound to do as you ask. I have not found this philosophy to be true in scripture or in my life.
God is sovereign, that is the truth whether I choose to believe it or not. God answers prayer, but how God answers prayer is within His will; not mine. In fact, scripture teaches that there are times when a prayer is simply not answered. Prayer is our method of communication with God, but in reality, most prayers consist of a request we make known to God. No matter whether we are praying on behalf of someone else or our self, prayer contains an expression of a perceived need from me to God. We want God to do something which we ourselves cannot do. Years ago, this would be referred to as a miracle, today we simply say, God answered my prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives...” (James 4:3, NIV)
What about unanswered prayers with the right motives? Why do these prayers go unanswered?
I have known people filled with guilt because they were told that they lacked sufficient faith to be healed. As a result of this lack of faith, God never heard their prayer for healing. This to me is ignorance of the sovereignty of God. Many Christians have been burdened with the guilt of insufficient faith. But we must consider a fundamental question for Christians when it comes to answered prayer:
Who moves mountains on my behalf? Is it me or God? If it is simply a matter of belief, why then doesn’t the power of positive thinking change the world we live in?
I have seen individuals on television, heard the promotions on the radio, and received promises in email and postal mail that there is a privileged key to unlocking the flood gates to my prayers. Each of these salesmen (and women) would have you believe that you can have what you want. I do not believe that God holds some individuals in higher regard than others; that they alone can get an audience before the throne of God and achieve results which others cannot. This philosophy negates the sovereignty of God.
The prophet Elijah once asked the question:
“…How long are you going to waver between two opinions?” he asked the people. “If the Lord is God, follow him!” (I Kings 18:21, TLB)
A believer may find themselves stuck between what I would refer to as true faith and ignorant thinking. True faith trusts in the sovereignty of God regarding the outcome of my prayers. True faith says, “not my will Father, let Your will be done.” Ignorant thinking says, "I can have whatever I want."
I remember reading in Daniel about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being faced with a crisis of their faith. They were given the choice of forsaking the one true God by submitting to idolatry, or remain faithful and die by being burned alive. I don’t personally know anyone who had to choose either death (for their faith) or life (by giving up their faith in Christ), but the bible chronicles that this happened to these three men. When given this ultimatum, here is how they responded:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV)
They believed the God of heaven and earth was able to preserve their life, but they also were reconciled in the belief that if He chose not to save them, they would choose to die believing in His sovereignty.
This helped me to understand that my prayers are not left to a random occurrence of events, there is no secret key which unlocks God’s willingness to answer my prayers, no oil, cloth, or holy water can do what only God chooses to do on my behalf. I don't dispute that prayers have been answered using a point of contact (the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, touching a piece of fabric, or the use of water). I believe that God will do what He chooses to do and how He chooses to do it when it comes to answering prayer. But I must also believe that what He chooses to do and how he chooses to do it is the best possible outcome for me.
That to me is the power of prayer!
Trusting God to do what I cannot and accepting how He chooses to do it.
Think about the fact that God already knows the need in my life or in the life of someone I’m praying for. If He didn’t know, it wouldn’t make much sense to ask Him. Since God is already aware of what I’ve yet to ask, why do I pray?
As I said, most prayers consist of some form of a request being made known to God. But since our Heavenly Father already knows what we have a need of, prayer is my acknowledgement that I depend upon God and not myself. Prayer is the method of spiritual communication between God and me. More than that, it is the only means of communication between you and God.
There is no form of communication which is one way. Every form of communication requires some type of two-way conversation. God is not a spectator in your life! He is both intimately acquainted and involved with all aspects of your life. He doesn’t just seek to hear your prayer, He also seeks to be heard by you. That is when your prayers become a weapon of spiritual power; when there is true communication between you and God. As you move from the position of always asking God for something and never hearing God, to the position of spiritually communicating with God, you initiate the power of prayer.
At that point, you know God is able, but even if He chooses not to do as you ask, you know He is still God and you are content to trust His will with the outcome and not your own.
That’s the power of prayer. Try it!
A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say that I appreciate each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your schedule to read a post on this blog is encouraging to me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment. Whether a comment is left is not important. What is important, is that you came. I do hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.
|Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).|