FAQ: “Why doesn’t God answer my prayer”?
New Series. This particular sermon is based on something that John Maxwell preached many years ago.
- Realizing you have Unconfessed Sin
- Psalm 66:18
- If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
- Isaiah 59:1-2
- Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you,
nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.
2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.
Because of your sins, he has turned away
and will not listen anymore.
- “Knowingly” sinning against God (Psalm66:18)
- Or Tolerating Sin.
- We know we are not perfect, but when we come to pray, we need to bring up all sin that we are knowingly doing and ask for forgiveness
- “Struggling with sin” means you know you have work to do and you are NOT avoiding or tolerating it.
- Matt 18:21-22
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[i] who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![j]
- Matt 5:23-24
- So if you are presenting a sacrifice[h] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
- Unforgiving heart is a spirit condition that needs to be corrected.
- One way to check. Just think of the person and what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
- “I can’t believe they…blah blah blah”
- Or: “I’m praying that God helps them with…”
- If we did the math as Jesus described, then really we only need to forgive someone 490 times.
- Back then, it was meant to mean that it was “impossible” to keep track of that….
- And Jesus even tells us in scripture that true love keeps no record of wrongs.
- In our day, we probably could easily keep track of this…we could make an app and anytime someone does something to you, just pull out your phone click on the “Here we go again” button and you have just recorded their offense.
- It could even warn you when they are approaching their 490 time limit
- Like FitBit!
- Our will
- James 4:3
- And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
- Do we structure our lives around our will or God’s will?
- What is our motivation for the prayer? Does it line up with what God asks or expects from us?
- James says we don’t receive because our motives may be wrong.
- We need to examine our prayer and see if what we are asking is more lined up with what Our Will instead of God’s.
- When we end in prayer, we usually say “amen”.
- Amen meaning: Let it be so
- “God, here is what I’m asking…you know better than me…let it be so”.
- Disregard for others
- The Lord looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
- Romans 8:28
- And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
- Our disregard for others may not be intentional
- When we pray, is it mostly focused on what we need?
- Of course, we should always pray for our needs, but the book of Psalms gives us a glimpse of how God views us. He looks down from heaven and sees ALL of us.
- It may be what we need but do we ever think if this will impact someone else?
- God does. He knows all (See Psalm33:13)
- We have all heard that we are one body made up of many parts.
- If the hand desperately wants to be a foot and prays earnestly for it (and there is nothing wrong with being a foot) …if God answered that prayer then the body would be broken and deformed.
- We need to understand that God has the bigger picture and we just can’t see what He sees both in the present and future.
- We Don’t really believe that God is GOD
- What makes sense to us ALWAYS makes sense to us!
- What makes sense to God does not always make sense to us.
- We have a NEED for things to make sense and to fall in line with everything we think we believe
- Are we willing to yield to God even if we think we know better?
- [Story about the Scottish woman]
- “She traveled around selling stuff she had made. She would go from town to town and when she came upon a fork in the road, she would throw a stick in the air and whichever road the stick pointed to, she would take.
- One day, she was standing at a fork in the road and she threw the stick in the air, picked it up and did it again…three times she did this then she finally headed towards one of the roads.
- A passerby noticed and asked why she threw the stick up in the air 3 times? She said the first two times it pointed to a road I didn’t want to go down so I kept throwing it until it chose the road I wanted to take.
- Seems like a silly story, but sometimes we do the same when we feel God is not moving us in the direction we think we should go.
- We forget that He is God and we are not.
- Lack of Faith
- James 1:5-7
- If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
- Matt 9:29
- Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”
- Matt 7:20
- Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
- Matt 21:21
- Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen.
- Luke 7:50
- And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
- Faith is key
- We just stop praying (stop persisting)
- James 5:16
- Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
- Need to start thinking of prayer as a way of life and not just something we go to when we are desperate.
- Prayer is a conversation.
- Keep on asking…keeping on seeking…keep on knocking
- “Have you tried turning the knob?”
- [ Garlands story of prayer]
- We pray, but don’t Act
- James 2:14-17
- What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
- 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
- God is not “Siri” or “Alexa” or “Google”
- (talk about Andres ordering a game)
- Most times, our prayers provide us opportunity
- Our thoughts are not His thoughts
- Isaiah 55:8,9
- “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
- Story of Saint Augustine
- One of the great fathers of the early church. Growing up he was a handful…he was anything but a saint.
- His mother would pray for God to get a hold of his life.
- St. Augustine told his mother one day that he was leaving for Rome
- She panicked – And She prayed earnestly to God to keep him from Going
- During this time, Rome was a horrible place to be and easy place to get lost in whatever type of pleasure you could find.
- It was not the place for someone who was already living a life of selfishness.
- St. Augustine did leave for Rome, however when he was there, God connected him with Bishop Ambrose who was, himself, a great Bishop in Rome.
- This started St. Augustine’s journey of becoming one of the great influencers of the early church.
- His mother’s prayer was sound.
- She wasn’t praying for herself, but for her son.
- She was genuinely worried for her son
- God’s ways are not our ways.
- When she thought would be worse for him ended up being exactly what he needed.
- We don’t understand Gods Purpose
- II Corinthians 12:6-7
- If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
- God hears the spirit of our prayer more than just our words
- He is more interested in answering our sincere desire rather than what we just try to say with our human words
- Paul prayed for God to remove the “thorn in his side”.
- We don’t know exactly what this thorn was
- Physical, mental, spiritual?
- There are thousands of theories
- But the point is, Paul recognized that this “thorn” ended up being a constant reminder for him about being humble.
- God know us better than we ever could and he knows what our deepest need is…even if we can’t express it in our own words.
- “God may not give us our first desire, so that He can give us His supreme desire.” – John Maxwell
- One other potential reason and possibly the biggest reason that God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers is very simple and all too often common…we don’t pray.
- We may say we are going to pray about it.
- We may tell others we are praying about it.
- But do we act?
- Take the time to turn off the world and distraction and come to God with your request
- The good news is this one is pretty easy to conquer…just pray!
I challenge you to think about these things this week. If you need a reminder, you can listen to this sermon and take notes.
I challenge you come before God in prayer and take a look to see if there is anything that may hinder your prayer.
Scripture is clear, as we just discussed, that we can hinder our prayers to God.
Just ask God to search your heart and reveal anything that may not be of Him. He will do it.
And as you pray, remember this poem that is believed to have been written by a Christian Confederate soldier. It was found on his body in Gettysburg:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
Posted on Sun, April 23, 2017
by Jon Accornero