Summary: God will answer prayer but we don’t always like the answer or the manner in which it is given.
A Matter of Prayer
by Pastor Jim May
Prayer is the key that unlocks the door to God’s blessing and to our knowledge, understanding and relationship with Jesus. Prayer is more than a duty; it is a necessity for those who would live victoriously. There is nothing more important than spending time before our Father in Heaven seeking for His will in our lives and presenting our needs to Him. I know that not one of us here this morning doubts what I have said and yet I know that there is not one of us here this morning who does not neglect to pray as often as we should.
I know that we believe in the power of prayer. There is not one here who would deny that God answers prayer. There is not one here who would declare it to be unnecessary to living a victorious Christian life. If that is true then why is it so hard for us to pray?
One of the reasons, of course, is that the devil hates it when you pray and he will do everything in his power to stop you. But I don’t believe that we can fully lay the blame for neglecting to pray on the devil. We have our own reasons for not praying too.
The Bible consistently teaches us that prayer is so very important. Here are four verses of the many that we could quote to tell us of the importance of prayer.
Luke 18:1, "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" (The Parable of the widow and the Judge)
Romans 12:12, "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;"
Ephesians 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" (taking the whole armor of God)
Philippians 4:6, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Now I know that all of you spend time in prayer. Some spend more than others but that will always be so. The question is, what do we pray for and what do we really expect when we pray?
A tale is told about a small town that had historically been "dry," but then a local businessman decided to build a tavern. A group of Christians from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that "no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not."
I believe that, for a large part of Christianity, this is the main reason that they don’t pray, because they don’t really expect an answer, so why bother?
Have you ever said a prayer that wasn’t answered? That’s kind of a trick question in a way because God always answers every prayer in one way or another.
I read a little poem that says it this way.
If the request is wrong, God says, "No."
If the timing is wrong, God says, "Slow."
If you are wrong, God says, "Grow."
But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, "Go!"
The truth is that God does hear and answer every prayer that his children pray but the answer is not always the one we are hoping for and looking for, and the answer does not always come in the time and manner that we expect.
In this matter of prayer there is a danger that we must be aware of.
We teach that all things are in God’s control, do we not? Of course we believe that’s true. We believe that the will of God in the world is going to be carried out whether we pray or not. God is in control of men, of nations, of governments, the weather, politics and the economy. He is powerful enough and wise enough to control all these things and He will bring about the fulfillment of his Word without fail because God cannot lie and He has already written the final chapter of history.
Here is the danger of carrying that belief too far. If we really believe that God is already in control and that His will is going to be done no matter what we pray, then why force ourselves to pray at all? What difference does my prayer make if God is going to do what He is going to do with or without my prayer? It is evident that many Christians have this attitude toward prayer and they don’t see any value in wasting their time praying.