Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why Doesn't God Answer?

I have a friend who's who's prayed for years for something he believed God promised. Last month it was denied him... again. He's disappointed with God. Can you relate?

When I was young I believed God promised me a certain woman to be my wife. I trusted Him for her even before we dated, while we dated, and after she broke up with me... twice. (Ouch.) I trusted Him for her after she started dating someone else and even after they became engaged. And when they married... well, I stopped trusting. In fact, I pretty much stopped praying after that too. I had suffered enough disappointment and was unwilling to risk trusting God again when He failed me in such a heartbreaking way.

Since then, I've learned some things that have healed my experience of prayer and launched me, anew, into a life of fervent listening, asking, and waiting on God.

I've learned that sometimes I get it wrong. Hey, we're fallen people, right? And learning to discern the voice of God over the noise of our sin and selfishness can take a lot of practice and time. So why should it surprise us that we get it wrong once in a while? Hebrews 5:14... "solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

I've learned that my fickle feelings can sound a lot like God. I need to be watchful for when I'm tempted to substitute my wants for His words. Jeremiah 17:9... "The heart is more deceitful than all else..."

I've learned to set my life's aim on serving God, not on getting Him to serve me or my agenda... no matter how seemingly righteous it is. John 6:15 says the crowd was "intending to come and take Jesus by force to make Him king." The result was that Jesus withdrew from them. The problem wasn't that they were forceful but that they wanted to make Him king of their kingdom, not His. Jesus celebrates forcefulness in Matthew 11 and Luke 16, but only that kind by which people forcefully enter His kingdom. See the difference?

James writes, "The source your conflict is the desires waging war inside you... Understand this, you do not have because you do not ask. And you ask and do not receive because you ask with selfish or worldly motives... But Scripture means what it says that God 'jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us'. Just as it also says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." It's time to surrender totally to God... Focus on drawing near to Him and He'll draw near to you. Afterall, that's the point! Therefore, wash your sinful hands and purify your selfish hearts!" (James 4:1-8 / paraphrased)

These lessons have empowered me to pray boldly...
1) Focusing on drawing near to God before any other desire,
2) Listening for His agenda before developing mine,
3) Guarding my heart from selfish motivations (2 Cor 10:5),
4) Asking courageously in faith as I believe He's leading, and
5) Knowing that I'm going to hear Him wrong at times but He'll still accomplish His glory and my good in response to my prayer.


2e said...

Good stuff John. I appreciate the honesty. I think I shy away from trusting any "impression" of my own because I fear that it is merely my own feeling, based on current circumstances, personal beliefs or theological commitments, or what I ate for breakfast. I suppose that's wrongheaded too.

John Lynch said...

I resonate with that, Adam. Thoroughly.

The place I keep being drawn to is, I imagine, the same place from which Peter confessed in John 6, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life."

Despite my imperfect listening skill and despite the deception of my feelings, I'm more compelled to listen now than ever. I need His words. I need Him. And not just in my brain. I need His real-time words in my heart. I need His whisper. I need His Spirit which lives in me to become spiritually audible to my conscious heart.

Thanks for your words, bro. And may our portion of Christ speak louder and more clearly than our Denver Omelette! ;)