Why Doesn’t Prayer Work Anymore?

 “Prayer doesn’t fix everything…..”
“Prayers, statistically, do very little……”
The title of this particular radio broadcast came about because of the above two statements that “popped up” on facebook a few days ago. The first was in response to my post that called friends to pray against the violence that has transpired in the last few months across the country. The other was a post on a friend’s page in response to people praying for those individuals who have gone through the destruction of the tornadoes in Dallas Texas, the second writer’s point being those prayers should be replaced with action. As I thought about those statements, it came to me that there just might be a cluster of people in the local assembly who do not have a complete grasp of prayer. Oh, certainly they understand the need for prayer, but they are still not convinced that their prayers “work,” or that God really hears their prayers or that they actually know how to pray. This conversation was for that group of people who struggle with the How and What of prayer.
God gave me the following as I thought on those statements about prayers. “If prayer doesn’t work, then God doesn’t work, and if God doesn’t work then faith doesn’t work and if faith doesn’t work……what then?” This is a question for the doubting believer, the struggling pray-er, that one who wrestles with prayer working at anytime.

If we were to reverse the sentence we would then see that if faith doesn’t work, then God doesn’t work and if God doesn’t work, then prayers don’t work, period, amen. Every pray-er must strive to get to that place of faith, an absolute certainty that prayer still works, but that it’s working is absolutely dependent upon the depth of faith we bring to that venue.

FAITH DEFINED

Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true, e.g., “This chair will support your weight.” When that statement is proven false, then my faith in it goes away. (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. There are many degrees of faith up to full assurance of faith, all in accordance with the evidence on which it rests.

Faith is the result of teaching (Rom. 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is of the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God. (BibleGateway.com)

I wonder as I think on the implication of faith as a lifestyle: “If I can trust that the death of a man on the cross will redeem my soul from destruction, why can’t I trust Him with the rest of my life?” Why not, indeed?

     Saving Faith: Ephesians 2:8: Faith is not up myself, it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that leads me to the Cross and the gospel of Christ.

     Lifestyle Faith: The life I live after salvation, a life predicated upon my faith in Christ. (Galatians 2:20)

 I. The Attitude of Faith:

Hebrews 11:1 – Faith is the foundation upon which our relationship with God is built,  the vehicle through which God responds to our prayers.

Our faith substantiates the hope we have in Christ; it is the proof that we believe God for the things we do not see (Habbakuk 2:4; Heb 10:35-38)

II. The Act of Faith

Matthew 21: 22 – And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive.

Hebrews 11: 6 – But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

I must want God’s Will = His desire, pleasure, determination for me

Matthew 6: For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory

     FOR YOU, O GOD, HAVE THE AUTHORITY

     FOR YOU, O GOD, HAVE THE POWER

     TO YOU, O GOD,  GOES ALL CREDIT FOR EVERYTHING (Psalm 24)

As Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He said “Yes” to God’s will (nevertheless) before He received the strength to face “that cup.

A Habit of Prayer (Practice) that is grounded in faith

  • Persevere/Persistence in prayer
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17: pray continually
  • Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Luke 18

 1ALSO [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).

    2He said, In a certain city there was a judge who neither reverenced and feared God nor respected or considered man.

    3And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, Protect and defend and give me justice against my adversary.

    4And for a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man,

    5Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or at the last she come and rail on me or assault me or strangle me.

    6Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says!

    7And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf?

    8I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find persistence in] faith on the earth?

My inclusion of the above scripture is not to suggest that if we are persistent in prayer God will get so annoyed that He will answer just to get us out of  His “hair.” This parable underscores the importance of persistence and faith in prayer; the two must link together, to persist without faith is to send up shallow and fruitless prayers. To pray in faith, but without persistence, seems to indicate that we take God for granted, one time prayer shot and God is good. While it is true that God can answer prayer on the first go-round, persistence in prayer, linked with faith, lets God know that we continue to come to He who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think because He is our first, last and only resort.

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find persistence in faith on the earth? Well, will He?

III. The Action of Faith

1 John 5: 14 And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us.

15 And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.

I align my will with God’s will; whatever you like for me is what I want for me, O God, but before I can absolutely say such a thing, I must know His will. My knowledge of His will runs parallel to my knowledge of His Word.

Philippians 4:6-7: 6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

 7And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

James 2:17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).

Psalm 34: Delight (Be Soft/Pliable/Shaped to God’s will for you) yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.

                                                        Faith is the foundation upon which prayer rests.

IV. The Antithesis of Faith

Prayer can’t fix everything, but God can (Luke 1:37 – with God nothing is impossible), so if our prayers result in a non-responsive God, is the failure in God – or in us – if in us, which I do believe, what is that failure?

Why pray?  Do I use prayer to try to manipulate God into my will rather than being so settled in His will that should His answer come in a different way, I have already said “Yes?”

James 4: 1-3: 1 WHAT LEADS to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?

    2You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. [I John 3:15.]

    3[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.

If prayer can’t fix everything, if prayers result in no response (at all) from God, then perhaps we pray-ers are asking “amiss” as King James puts it; we are asking out of place, out of sync, if you will, with God’s Will.

Some things to think about:

  • What is is the focus of our prayers? The person of God, “Our Father.”
  • What is the purpose of our prayers? God’s intervention in our lives more than any of the specifics we so eagerly lift up to Him, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.
  • What is the force behind our prayers? Faith that brings us into the presence of our God who is still able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.

Points to Ponder: My premise is that prayer doesn’t work anymore (from our limited vantage point of humanity) because too many members of the local assemblies don’t know what to do with prayer. We are very much aware of the need for prayer, but the process of consistent prayer is something of which not too many professing Christians have a complete grasp. Prayer does not fix things, God does. But, it is through prayer that we connect with the heart of God. In exchange, as we wait for His answer, we receive peace in place of anxiety; light for the darkness in which we might flounder, and directions for the journey ahead, daunting though it may be. When we connect to the heart of God, our faith is substantiated and our hope is renewed and we move through our day as though the answer is already in place. When we connect to the heart of God, we recognize His holiness; we submit to his sovereignty; we expect His provision; we seek His protection; and we submit to His Power and authority (see the Model Prayer). When we connect to the heart of God, we walk in faith, trusting God for every step. Why doesn’t prayer work anymore — because we have become lazy pray-ers, running to that one person whom we think can “get a prayer through,” (if we are not sending up that crisis prayer ourselves) rather than establishing a daily time of prayer (and listening) with Him. Don’t get me wrong, we should connect others to our prayer concerns, but they should be partners, not consultants. I want to get to that place of faith that when I come out of my prayer closet, I know that not only did God hear my prayer, He will answer. I want to come out of my prayer closet confident in the knowledge that an answer will come, but not expecting the answer to come packaged to my specifications, but rather by God’s perfect design, His best for me regardless of what I think or how I feel. Prayer still works today. Unfortunately, too many of us only work at prayer as the mood (or the situation) hits us.

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