Does God answer all our prayers?

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You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2 NIV

This kind of verse can hurt.  We all have those people and situations about whom and for whom we have consistently prayed, often pleading with intensity that the Father would DO something! It could be a spiritual change in heart for a non-believing family member so that he feels compelled to turn to God.  Or maybe a cry for healing or way forward where there seems to be nothing but one obstacle after another.

But sometimes we haven’t even thought to pray, to bring a need before the Lord. Why would that be? In my case, I think Satan has blocked me from seeing that we could add a need to our joint prayers at night.  And it’s not because I entertain a kind of pious-sounding false humility that goes something like this: “Oh, I don’t believe in praying for myself.  That feels selfish. Besides, God’s got bigger fish to fry!” Have you ever heard that from fellow believers?

Let me give you an example of something Mike and I never thought to pray for daily. We’ve been talking about his upcoming planned retirement in a year, if that be God’s will. He loves recording books and doing voice-over work. About three weeks ago, we decided to include in our evening prayers a daily petition for more voice-over work right now.

What do you know!  Last Friday, Jen from ‘His Productions’ contacted Mike with the news that another pastor had selected him from all the other audio samples on the company’s website to voice this pastor’s intros and outros for his planned teachings on the entire Bible.

Boom!  Just like that, more audio work.  That sure encouraged us to keep praying.

Three days later, I heard the good news of another answered prayer. Mike’s mom had been lamenting that her daughter-in-law never seems to want to hop on Zoom during her weekly catch-up call with Mike’s brother, her youngest son.  My mother-in-law was wondering if she had somehow offended this gal.  Mike and I added their relationship to our nightly prayers.

Not 3 weeks after we started praying specifically for Mom and Eve to connect on Zoom, I learned that the Lord had answered our prayer. Mom had been able to chat briefly with her other daughter-in-law on the most recent Zoom call with Steve.

My theory is that God loves to respond quickly to many of our ‘small’ needs in order to encourage us to persevere in prayer, to NOT give up counting on him to handle all those burdens that we off-load in obedience. For sure, we all have been praying for months and years about many situations.  But you know, if you think about all the ‘moving parts’, all the circumstances and timing that God is coordinating, then you can see that arrangements can take time.  There is a ‘fullness of time’ for everything we ask for, whether the answer is as we requested OR whether God changes us so that what we thought would be wise or good and right might not really be.  

I have to remember that Satan strategizes to get me to draw a false conclusion about God, one such as:  ‘Oh, God doesn’t really care….He’s far too busy….you might as well give up…. you don’t want to be disappointed…..maybe you misunderstood the Bible….did God really say?’

Remember the persistent widow parable Jesus used as a teaching point? It’s a ‘how much more’ scenario.  Jesus emphasizes that indeed our loving and righteous Father will respond, unlike that unjust judge who just wanted to get that annoying woman off his back!

Friends, let us not grow weary in praying!  We have a good Father.

Who determines your outcome?

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Romans 9:16 So then, it depends NOT on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.

Do those words make you feel stymied or relieved?  Angry or grateful?

Fellow pilgrim, this fact about our God and those who receive the gift of a permanent place in God’s family achieves two ends.  First, we are humbled.  If ever we entertained the idea that our works were good enough to leverage God into owing us anything, this verse in Romans affirms otherwise.

But doesn’t our world trumpet the opposite with THIS success formula:

Dream big and work hard.  Results go to the man in the ring who perseveres!

Second, and for me, this is burden lifting, Paul teaches that God alone determines family membership.  If I rightly suspected that no amount of good works or sincere effort to avoid sinning could meet God’s standard of perfect holiness, my gut feeling correctly aligns with reality.

Illusions dispelled should leave in their place only stunned awe and awakened gratitude.  If meriting this privilege never was likely, but God in His mercy has freely given it, then I have more than hit the jackpot.

Moreover, energy spent trying to drum up desire and work hard enough to impress the Creator and Sustainer and Judge of all with my ‘worthiness’ can be properly channeled.  And you probably know the counter-intuitive truth that shifting one’s life’s energy and focus off of self and onto God and His Kingdom satisfies us far more. Celebrating God’s sheer goodness and inviting others to step out from the crushing weight of performance won’t sap us of energy but multiply our joy.

Too remarkable to be true?  Not for the God of Truth!

 

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