Excerpt from Has God Failed You? By Dr. Michael Brown
It seems simple. God, our Father, makes promises and gives directives. You hold Him to His promises and follow His directives, but nothing happens. You come up with all kinds of rationalizations and explanations until you arrive at a frightening conclusion: This whole prayer thing is not working.
“I’ve kept my end of the bargain,” you say to yourself, “but God hasn’t kept His end of the bargain. Why should I go on with the charade? He’s obviously not really there. Or if He is there, He certainly doesn’t care.” Can you relate to this?
I certainly agree that there are many promises concerning prayer that appear to be black and white. They seem to say that you pray, and God responds. You ask, and God answers. It is like putting money in a vending machine. You put the money in, and your product comes out. But is it really that simple? If we read the Bible correctly, is this the conclusion to which we should come?
The Call to Persevere
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Other translations render the last words as “not lose heart” and “not be discouraged.” What is Jesus telling us?
He is telling up that sometimes the answer will not come quickly. Sometimes, he will be tempted to lose heart and quit. Sometimes, we will want to throw in the towel. The Lord, Himself, is speaking these words.
Prayer is not simply pushing a button, and it is not always answered instantaneously or according to our own time frames. Often, we need to persevere, refusing to quit or lose hope.
Take no rest for yourselves and give God no rest until He answers your prayers. But how many times will we be tempted to cave in and quit along the way? God is saying, “Don’t stop praying. I will certainly answer.”
God will act, and “quickly”—but that “quickly” might not seem so quick at the moment. Otherwise, why would Jesus give a parable about the need for perseverance? Why would He teach us to pray always and not give up, lose heart, cave in or faint? This is underscored by the penetrating words that close out this teaching. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the Earth?” (Luke 18:8). In other words, despite the promise that God will bring justice quickly for His people who cry out to Him day and night, many will lose faith along the way.
Perhaps Jesus is speaking directly to you right now. Perhaps you are feeling a ray of hope when previously you felt only despair or downright disgust. Perhaps you are starting to see that you gave up the journey with the destination still in sight.
Maybe It’s Just One Big Game?
At this point, you might be asking, “So, is this just one big game? God tells us to pray, and He promises to answer our prayers, but then He turns around and says, ‘Of course, many times your prayers won’t be answered. But keep on believing and trusting! One day an answer might come.’”
Actually, your line of thinking makes sense except for two things. First, we need to interpret Scripture with Scripture. There are many verses, stories and illustrations in the Bible that communicate clearly that prayer is not simply a push-button exercise. God is not our heavenly concierge service. He is not a magic genie who lives in our personalized bottle. We need to put the wonderful prayer promises in biblical context, indicating there is more to the story than, “Pray for anything, and you will always receive an instant answer.”
Common sense tells us this cannot be the case. Otherwise, we could lay in bed all day and pray for all of our needs to be met. Maybe we could ask for breakfast in bed, too! Obviously, that is not real life, nor would such a scenario help us grow as human beings. Nothing gets handed to us on a silver platter and sometimes it takes a while for our prayers to be answered.
The Bible records that, “Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant” (Genesis 25:20-21).
It seems as if in a moment of time the answer came. Isaac cried out and the Lord answered. No muss, no fuss, no sweat, no tears. But that is not how it happened. When you read the rest of the text, you find out that Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth. That is twenty years from when they got married. That is twenty years of questions, frustrations, doubts and feelings of rejection. This was hardly an overnight answer. But it was a God-sent answer, nonetheless.
We cannot deny that God does answer prayers, and we cannot deny that not all of our prayers are answered when we would like them to be. But rather than this being some kind of cruel game, it is something wonderful, something beautiful and something glorious. God is at work in our lives, even when we do not see it or feel it. He is building a deeper relationship with us, teaching us to trust Him and making us into better people in the process.
Prayer is much more than simply asking and receiving.
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Dr. Michael L. Brown is a Christian radio host, author, professor and noted proponent of Messianic Judaism, Christian Zionism, and the Charismatic Movement. His nationally syndicated radio show, The Line of Fire, airs throughout the United States. Learn more at AskDrBrown.org
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