Summary: If God answers all prayers, then why do we sometimes not get what we ask for?
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
I’ve heard a lot about answered prayer over the past week and a half.
Many have said, “I thank God that the hurricane was not as bad as it could have been.”
“We prayed that our home would be spared and it was.”
“Even though we lost power, God has answered the prayer I have been praying for for years, that my family would come together again…and spend time together again.”
…but at the same time…
Ever since I entered the ministry, I have heard many people say, “I don’t think God answers my prayers.”…or “I prayed for this and it didn’t happen…therefore I am mad at God.”
Have any of you ever made a wish over a wishbone or a birthday cake with candles?
I can remember, as a little kid--long before I was able to even think of driving, wishing that a red Corvette would magically appear out in our driveway.
I dashed to the window, and…well…there was no Corvette…just my dad’s old Plymouth Valiant, and my mom’s station wagon with the fake wood paneling.
Well, I soon learned that wishing for something while you are holding the biggest piece of a wishbone does not work…
…neither does throwing pennies in a wishing well and making a wish…
…nor does wishing for something before blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake…even if you do keep your wish a secret.
There is no such thing as a wishing well, and yet many of us are guilty of expecting God to act as one.
Suppose, I, at five or six years old were to pray to God that a red Corvette would suddenly appear in my parent’s driveway…and it did!?
Would God really be looking out for my best interests?
Why should I get a red Corvette for nothing while my neighbors do not?
How spoiled would I become if all I had to do when I saw something I liked and wanted was to pray and it would suddenly appear?
I wouldn’t have to work for anything.
I wouldn’t be grateful because I would come to expect anything and everything I wanted whenever I wanted it.
Would it make me happier?
Would it make my life more fulfilling if God were to give to me everything that my flesh desires?
Well, at the very least, the answer is “No!” simply because much of what my flesh desires is not good for me…does not lead to my salvation, the salvation of others and the overall good of humankind.
Let’s take a look at James chapter 4:1-3.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
When we have prayed for something and we have not received it…were we asking for something with the wrong motives? Did we ask for something simply to gratify our lusts?
Let’s look at Psalm 66:16-20.
The Psalmist tells us that if he or she had cherished or clung to sin in his or her heart the Lord would not have listened and heard the Psalmist’s voice in prayer.
We’re starting to see a pattern here are we not?
Sin obstructs prayer.
Our own selfish desires obstruct prayer.
Our God is the God of Love Who loves Sacrificially.
Selfishness or selfish motives are not in God’s repertoire…
…God’s will has to do with what is best for us…
…what will purify us…
…what will bring us closer to becoming the people God originally created us to be…
…and let’s face it…we often do not pray for those things that will bring us into closer relationship with God.
God has a plan for our lives and that plan is a good plan.
It is a plan for us to call on His name and be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ…so that we can begin the Christian journey…and start the process of being changed more and more into the image of Christ.
And there is no greater plan in all the earth.
There is no other plan that is filled with so much unselfish, unspoiled, pure and holy love for each and every one of us…and God is not going to do anything to keep us from or get in the way of our ability to accept His offer of free salvation through making Jesus Christ Lord of our lives.
Let’s look at 1st John 5:14-15.
“If we ask anything according” to God’s will, “he hears us. And if we know he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him.”
When we pray: do we ask God for things which are according to God’s will?