Summary: There are four attitudes needed to get answers to our prayers.
Jeanne Olsen, a mother of five from Illinois, took her daughter Kirsten, age 9, out for a mother-daughter breakfast. During their meal, Jeanne courageously asked her daughter, "How do you think I could be a better mom?" Kirsten thought for a moment. "Well, you do yell a lot. I know you’ve been praying about that, but it isn’t really working yet." (Mother’s Unanswered Prayer for Self-Improvement, Citation: Kevin A. Miller, Wheaton, Illinois)
Why doesn’t prayer seem to “really work” sometimes? How is it we can sincerely ask God to help us and still our prayers seem to go unanswered?
Today is the last message in our Prayer Can Change Your Life series. We’ve looked at the Four Purposes of Prayer and the Five Conditions for Answered Prayer. Last week we looked at How to Pray About Your Problems. Today we are going to focus on our Attitudes in prayer. Maybe you’ve sincerely tried to pray but you are still not getting any answers to your prayers. Could it be that you are approaching God with the wrong attitude about prayer.
Rick Warren once again provides the outline for our message on prayer today. He says that there are Four Attitudes We Need to Get Our Prayers Answered.
1. You Must be Willing to Let God Answer IN HIS OWN TIME
I want answers to my prayers right away, don’t you? After all, I think that what I’m praying about it is important and God should answer it right away. But it’s not always in our best interest for God to answer our prayers right away. There used to be a Farm Fresh grocery store right behind my house. I think God moved it to save my life. The reason I think this is because every time I would get an urge for ice cream or for some other junk food all I had to do was to walk next door to get what I wanted. If He hadn’t intervened I would be a very “well rounded” person by now.
It’s not always in our best interest for God to give us what we want right when we want it. Sometimes he delays answering our prayers for our own good. Imagine your five-year old son says, ”Dad, can I use the chain saw?” I’m sure you would tell him, “When you get a little older, son.” God often delays answering our prayers because we are not mature enough yet to get what we are asking for.
Being willing to wait for something you want or even need, is a sign of maturity. Not being willing to wait is a sign of immaturity. Might this be why there has been a delay in answering your prayers?
This wasn’t the reason Zechariah and Elizabeth’s answer was delayed. In verses 6 and 9 we see that they were upright and blameless and kept faithfully serving God despite their disgrace and disappointment in not having a child.
Like them, maybe you’ve met the five conditions for answered prayer and you still haven’t received your answer. Actually this may be the very reason why your answer hasn’t come yet? I can imagine you are thinking, “You mean if I am right with God and faithfully serving Him that this could cause a delay in my prayer being answered?”
As strange as it may seem, yes! God’s delays are not God’s denials! He wanted someone He could trust to not deny Him when there prayers weren’t being answered right away. He wanted to answer Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers in a miraculous way instead. This meant that their answer would not arrive right away.
Cable television tycoon Ted Turner has often been quoted as being critical of fundamentalist Christianity. Turner made some very revealing remarks at a banquet in Orlando, Fla., in 1990, where he was given an award by the American Humanist Association for his work on behalf of the environment. Turner said he had a strict Christian upbringing and at one time considered becoming a missionary. "I was saved seven or eight times," the newspaper quoted him as saying. But he said he became disenchanted with Christianity after his sister died, despite his prayers. (John Hamby in "Persistent Prayer" at www.sermoncentral.com. Citation: Spokesman-Review, May 1, 1990. www.christianglobe.com.)
We have all considered giving up on prayer at one time or another. We get discouraged and quit praying because deep down we wonder if prayer really makes any difference. But, when we give up on God we become useless to Him to do more than we have asked for. In Zechariah and Elizabeth’s case, God wanted to do something greater than they had asked for. He trusted them because they didn’t give up on Him when their prayers seemed to be going unanswered.
Have you given up on God because He seems to have not heard or not answered your prayers? Or, are you still faithfully serving Him despite the delay in getting what you have been praying about? Can God trust you to not deny Him when the answers to your prayers are delayed?