The Prayer Guide

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Does god answer?

Whilst answered prayer is something to celebrate, and to be thankful for, one of the major reasons why people stop praying is that God appears not to answer their prayers. "What's the point? They argue, if He's not going to respond."

We have no easy responses to this charge - it is a well known part of Christian experience that in some situations there is little evidence of our prayers being answered. Here are some thoughts on why this might be the case……

i. Sometimes what we ask for is not part of God's plan for our lives. If we pray "Lord, please make me a millionaire," we may not get an immediate and favourable answer. O.K., so that's an obvious one, but what about this prayer, "Lord, protect my children at school", if they are then bullied. This leads onto a second reason why prayer seemingly isn't answered.

ii. The bible is clear that living life as a Christian is not free from problems. Prayer is not a simple remedy to remove the challenges of interacting with the world. What prayer can do is give us God's perspective on the problems, and help us to develop the strength to work through them with Him.

iii. A third important factor is a difference in perception of timescale. We can be impatient for our prayers to be answered - and this is not necessarily a bad thing - if we are seeking the recovery of a sick relative, then wanting their illness to be as short as possible is an honest response to the love we have for them. However, God works in the timescales of eternity, and His time frame can be different from our own. Even when Jesus was on earth, he spent forty days being tempted in the desert - I suspect that we might have been inclined to claim that we could have learned all the lessons within a week, and that the remaining 33 days could have been used to get on with the ministry!

iv. Fourthly, we need to look at ourselves. There may be something that is not right in our own lives that prevents God from honouring our prayers. Bill Hybels, in "Too Busy not to Pray" lists several prayer-busters :
- prayerlessness : "
You do not have because you do not ask God." James 4:2.
- unconfessed sin : "
Your iniquities have separated you from your God." Isaiah 59:2
- lack of forgiveness :
"Since God has forgiven us, we should forgive others." Ephesians 4:32
- selfishness :
"When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives." James 4:3
- uncaring attitudes :
"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:13

When we look at ourselves, sometimes we may feel that it is a miracle that any of our prayers do get answered!  But since our heavenly Father has a deep love for each and every one of His children, he gives gifts of answered prayer to those who ask. Nevertheless, He will parent us as He will. He is the Supreme Creator, who's rule is sovereign. There are some prayers that He may choose not to answer in the way that we would like. But turn this into a positive. For every one of your prayers that is answered, the Almighty, Creator God has altered the course of the universe, just because you asked him to.

So, keep on praying, and trusting in the One who made us, who loves us, and who brought us back to himself through the death of His Son.