Tag Archives: unanswered prayer

…so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59-63)

Once again I read God’s Words and see life in 2020 America. Read chapter 59 and see if you don’t agree. Hands are stained with blood, no one pleads his case with integrity, acts of violence are in our hands, they rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood, truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

Isaiah could be a reporter for a cable news network today and say the same thing.

But like always, God has a way of making His Word personal. And He never lets me off the hook. I first read these chapters with our society in mind. But I got finished and realized God rarely talks to me about “them.” So I asked Him to speak to me about my walk with Him today, and started to read the chapters again.

God slapped me with 59:2. It’s MY iniquity that has separated me from God, MY sins that hide His face from me so that He will not hear my cries for help. Where do I get off thinking I can live my life to suit myself, AND expect God to jump when I call? How much nerve does it take to ignore God until I need Him, then blame Him when things go south?

Maybe you should ask yourself the same thing.

I know you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian. But I think it’s time we Christians started acting like true Jesus-followers. It starts with confessing our own sin every time God brings a sin to our attention. It involves loving our neighbors, doing good to those who harm us.

But it also means putting on the armor of God and standing on the Truth of Scripture. No compromise. No picking a verse here and there to support our own agenda. No “living and let live.” Being a true Jesus-follower means going to war. It means holding each other accountable, telling people about their sin problem, and introducing them to their Savior.

God doesn’t hear us while we hold on to sin. God doesn’t hear the Church, and God doesn’t hear me unless and until I deal with my sin problem by repenting and asking Him to forgive me.

Do I want God to heal our land, erase the virus, stop the riots in the streets and the insanity in our government? Do I want Him to hear me?

Then I had better deal with my own iniquity, my own sin. I can pray all day and all night long, but if I am living with sin He will not hear.

April 24; Expect God’s Silence

Psalms 69, 86, 131; I Samuel 28:3-25

Sometimes we humans hurt so badly we might get to the point we’d try anything to make it stop. David cries out, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my  neck.”

Have you ever felt like you are drowning in debt, in depression, in unfair treatment, jealousy, anger…? Been there. Done that.

Saul was out of his mind with fear, and he did what David always did: He went to God about it. How often do we read where David, in the midst of suffering, went to God and received forgiveness, strength, shelter. When Saul goes to God, though, he is met with silence.

Saul does not give up easily. So we read that he goes to a medium who will conjure up the dead prophet Samuel. If God won’t talk to Saul willingly, Saul will try to force God to give him answers.

Not a good idea. This sin is going to cost Saul his life.

Now here is where I think God is pointing me today: Saul, instead of asking why God was silent, instead of dealing with the sin that separated him from God, Saul tried to manipulate God. He tried to get to God through a back door.

Dear one, if you are feeling God is silent, don’t blame God. The only thing that separates you from God is sin. The only thing.

And the only thing that can bridge that gap is the cross. If you have unconfessed sin in your life, don’t expect God to jump when you say “jump.” (don’t expect that anyway). I think I can confidently say, if you have unconfessed sin in your life – you can expect God’s silence.

I know sometimes we don’t get the answers we are looking for. I know God doesn’t snap His fingers every time we ask Him to, even if we stand before Him wearing Jesus’ righteousness. But I believe with all my heart, that at those times when the answers aren’t coming, God is anything but silent.

It’s during those times that God speaks His love in other ways. He gives us the strength we need to wait with confidence. He gives us the chance to bless someone else. He reminds us that He does all things well, and we can trust Him. He gives us Himself.

If you are where David was in the psalm we read today, if you feel like you are drowning, go to God. Tell Him what is on your heart, share your hurt and frustration, ask for His help. But first, confess your sin. Because I believe Scripture tells us if you don’t…

expect God’s silence.

May 12 – Confession Before Petition

Psalms 65-67, 60-70

If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear. (Ps 66:18)

I think too often we think God is our celestial bellboy. We call – he jumps to fulfill our requests. And if we think that to be the case, we can get pretty angry at God for not answering our prayers.

As I consider this Bible I love so much, I realize the only prayer God answers every time is the one from a repentant heart: Father, forgive me.

I John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Every time.

But when we go to God with our demands, or beg Hm for answers, yet harbor hatred toward someone, or tolerate sin, or live in disobedience, the psalmist seems to be saying: save your breath.

In my experience, when I confess my sin and go to God out of a pure heart with a request, I can ask, even plead, then leave my request at His feet and trust Him completely to answer for my good and His glory. His answer might not come like I’d imagined, but His answer is always right.

The psalmist reminds me today that , before I go to my Lord with any request, I need to check my heart. Confession needs to always come before petition.

Feb 28 – Dear God, Waa, Waa, Waa

Numbers 11-13

Do you ever complain to God? Do you ever tell Him He’s not fair because your life isn’t like that person’s down the street? Or you wish you had a husband like Suzie’s? Or that you deserve that promotion at work?

Be careful, dear one. God just might give you what you’re crying about.

The Jews were tired of manna. Give us meat, they cried! We want meat!! They went as far as to tell God that, at least while they were still in Egypt, they had plenty of meat.

So God sent meat. Lots of meat. Quail surrounded the camp, and everyone gathered bunches. Finally, they ate their fill of meat, and had plenty leftovers besides.

But the meat they demanded from the LORD ended up making many of them sick. Some died as a result.

Has anyone ever told you to be careful what you wish for? I’d go a step further and say, be careful what you’re complaining to God about.

You might not know that the guy down the street who you’re so jealous of is dealing with an addiction. You might not know that Suzie’s husband, who is the kids’ soccer coach and always brings Suzie flowers, belittles and mistreats her behind closed doors. You might not realize the promotion that went to someone else, would have placed you next to a coworker who would have broken up your marriage.

I don’t think this passage in Numbers is telling us not to pray about things we’d like. God said we could make our requests known. But I think the lesson here is to be careful about making demands.

Philippians 4:6&7 says: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You know, I think I’ll trust God to handle the details of my life.

I’m a Bit Confused

I was reading in I John this morning and came across some verses I just could not understand. I even when to a couple commentaries written by people I trust, to see if I could make sense of it. Here’s what confused me:

John talks about sin that leads to death, and sin that doesn’t lead to death. (chapter 5) Now all of a sudden I’m thinking – are there degrees of sin after all? But don’t all sins come with a death penalty? Isn’t that why Jesus went to the cross?

The answer is, yes! According to what I know to be true from reading Scripture in its entirety, I know that sin is sin is sin. And the wages of sin is death.

But, according to the commentaries I read, it seems John is talking more along the lines of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) who died immediately and physically for lying to the Holy Spirit. Like Herod in Acts 12. Like the examples in the Old Testament of people who were put to a physical death for sins they committed.

The commentators say John is likely talking about the death penalty imposed on law breakers. The physical punishment required of certain crimes, and in this case, of crimes committed against the Holy Spirit. I’m sure John took for granted that everyone reading his letter understood that Jesus died for all sin, that all sin requires eternal, spiritual death. John is urging us to never stop praying about those sins as long as the person we’re praying for has breath, as long as our own hearts beat within this body we are wearing.

But he seems to be saying we probably shouldn’t pray that the murderer on death row avoids the consequence for his crime. Maybe we shouldn’t ask God to remove any consequences of sins against the Holy Spirit, but rather that those consequences would lead the guilty to their Savior before they die.

I am reminded that all of us will face two deaths. One is physical. We can pray that God would let us live forever in this skin. But that’s a request He won’t fulfill. The other death is spiritual. That’s a prayer God will answer every time, when we ask Him to forgive our sins. That’s a prayer worth praying for ourselves, and our loved ones who still have not met Jesus.

This passage is not an indication that that little white lie you told yesterday is less serious than the mass murders committed last week in California. Don’t be fooled. That little white lie drove a nail into the hands of Jesus.

And this passage reminds me that the physical death we will all face is nothing compared to the spiritual death those who reject Jesus will experience when this life is over. I pray that you will avoid that spiritual death by giving your heart to the Lord. I have every confidence that if you humble yourself, repent of sin, and ask God’s forgiveness, you won’t have to experience that awful eternal death separated from the One who loves you so much He died that death for you.

Dear God, I’m not 100% sure that I understand exactly what John meant by the words he wrote in this passage. But I know that you inspired him to write every one. Thank you for speaking to me today through this difficult passage. I pray that I will be quick to ask forgiveness for sins I commit. I pray that those reading this blog, who don’t know you, will come to you with repentant hearts and accept your gift of eternal life. I pray for those experiencing devastating consequences for sin, like broken relationships, some diseases, or abandonment. May they face their circumstances holding on to You through the blood of Your Son. And thank You, Father, for dying that death so I don’t have to. I love you, Lord.

Elijah Makes Me Smile

I love Elijah. (I Kings 17&18) First, it was ok with him when God told him ravens would supply his food for a while. Ravens are scavengers. Yuck! But because God said it, Elijah looked forward to his next meal. (the ravens brought him bread and meat, and I believe they came straight from heaven’s kitchen)

When Ahab meets Elijah on the street, the king accused the prophet of being Israel’s trouble-maker. Elijah didn’t get angry, or pout. He simply replied: HA! You are!

Gotta love his spunk.

Elijah took care of a widow and her son, and God supplied enough flour and oil for them to live on during the famine. Elijah even prayed for God to revive the dead boy. I love how Elijah was quick to see a need and go to God about it.

Every time I read the account about the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I get a tickle. I mean, the prophets were making fools of themselves and old Elijah just encouraged them to make bigger fools of themselves, to show everybody that there is one God. And Baal wasn’t it.

But here’s what spoke to me this morning. The land was suffering from that long drought. People were desperate. And God pretty much left it up to Elijah as to when the drought would end. So Elijah went up into the mountain to pray for rain. After he says, “Amen”, he tells his servant to run up to the top of the mountain and check the skies. The servant returns to report the skies are clear. So Elijah gets back on his knees and prays again, then sends the servant back to look for storm clouds. Nothing. Elijah continued to pray and look for the answer to his prayer seven times.

After the seventh time Elijah prayed for rain, the servant came back and, probably a little timidly reported that he might have seen a teeny tiny little white cloud on the horizon. And this is what I love:

Elijah jumped up and said: Yes! Get the umbrellas!

Made me stop and think about how often I might have missed recognizing an answer to prayer because it wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I think Elijah was imagining dark, rolling clouds, thunder and lightning as an answer to his prayer. But Elijah recognized that that little white cloud was, indeed, God’s answer.

Elijah’s story also challenges me about my faith. He was so sure God was going to answer his prayer immediately, he sent his servant to go look for the evidence as soon as he was done praying. Then, when the answer wasn’t immediate, Elijah didn’t give up. He dropped to his knees in prayer, and looked expectantly for the answer, again and again. His faith didn’t waver. In fact, the waiting may have prepared him to recognize God’s answer in the form of a little white cloud in the distance.

Father, I thank you for answered prayer. I believe you hear and answer every request that is asked by your children. Forgive us if we miss your answers because we are looking for something else. Help us to bow before your Sovereignty and trust you to answer our prayers according to what you know is best. And may we recognize your hand at work in our lives for our good and your glory.

June 19

Psalms 49, 83, 91; 1 Kings 22:47-49; 2 Kings 1:2-18, 3:1-3; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37

Isn’t the definition of “insanity” repeating the same behavior expecting a different outcome? It was insane of Ahaziah to send a second company of soldiers, and then a third to Elijah after the first fifty were consumed by fire from heaven. 

Have you ever had God close a door you wanted to go through? Did you push against that door a second or third time expecting it to open? I would tell you that’s insane but then I would have to say I’m insane and, well, the jury is still out on that one.

I think it was Tim McGraw who sang a song about unanswered prayer. It basically said that those are sometimes God’s greatest gifts. I don’t think it’s so much our prayers are unanswered, though. That implies God isn’t paying attention. I think rather it’s God saying, “no”. Closing a door we’re asking him to open. But I agree with Tim that those often turn into the greatest blessings.

What does the writer of Psalm 91 say? God is faithful. He loves us. He can be trusted.

Why do doors close? Because God sees what we do not. Thanking God for closing doors isn’t easy. But we certainly have reason to be thankful that God cares enough to do for us what he knows is best.

Dear God, thank you for closing doors we think we need to go through. Thank you for loving us enough to want us to have the better thing, even when we are unable to see that at the moment. Help us to trust you more, not only with today but tomorrow, too. And thank you that we can trust you, that you are faithful. Find us grateful today.