Friday, March 24, 2017

Unanswered Prayer?

James said, “The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective (Availeth much)” (James 5:16). Jesus tells the disciples that if they have no doubt, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).  What a great promise. James again says that if we lack wisdom we should ask God who will give generously “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 that he will receive anything from God” (James 1:5-7).

So which is it? Does God hear and answer all my prayers. Not actually. In fact Scripture tells us several times that unbelief and the wrong motivations of our hearts will cause God to not hear or answer our prayers. Psalm 66:18 is the most quoted verse on the subject, saying “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but the Lord has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” There it is, if we have unconfessed sin in our life the Lord will not hear us.  Perhaps one on the scariest verses in Isaiah says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourself clean” (Isaiah 1:15).  Do you have sins against the Lord?  We all do, but God wants us to confess and repent of them to Him.  Then He will hear them, but not until we do. Isaiah 59 tells us that “our offenses are many in your sight.” Don’t turn your back on Him, go to Him while He may be found, “Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:8).

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12-13). Jesus in Matthew 15 teaches about clean and unclean, what goes in and out of our hearts and minds. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain” (Matthew 15:8-9).

“I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  This very reassuring verse, which is often quoted, gives promise to God’s good plans for our lives. He is telling us to seek Him with all of our heart, being fully devoted, completely. As Azariah, priest to Asa the King of Judah said, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). Keep Him in your heart first. A little earlier in this Book comes the much lifted up prayer of Solomon in dedication of the temple saying “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). Finally I will quote the Prayer of Jabez, a little known Jewish brother who was more honorable than his brothers, who cries out to the God of Israel “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted him his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10). He had humbled his heart and asked for a territory for God or ministry in this prayer. It is not a prayer for land and riches except those of God's glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Our prayers are answered when our hearts are clean in motivation and sin confessed. God is eager to respond to our requests and bless us for the Kingdom of God. So keep on asking.

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