persistant prayer

One answer for unanswered prayer

One of the most frustrating things everyone has to deal with at one time or other is unanswered prayer. Unanswered prayer is so perplexing because it brings us face to face with the mystery of God’s ways. It is an unsettling reminder that God does not always do things our way nor operate according to our time table. It confronts us with the reality, as Steven Curtis Chapman sings, that “He is God and I am not!”

It is particularly difficult, if not painful, when the unanswered prayer is a strategic one; a prayer upon whose answer so many other things and breakthroughs in our lives depend. It can be a prayer for the mending of a broken relationship, a financial release, a healing and deliverance from some affliction or wisdom to make a critical decision etc.

When prayers like these go unanswered they have a way of putting our lives on hold. It is as if everything hangs in the balance upon God answering that prayer. Sometimes even our relationship and trust in God can seem to be at stake, because we feel that if He doesn’t answer such an important prayer in our lives, He must not love or care for us.

This type of prayer might be called a linchpin prayer. A linchpin is a fastener that holds two important parts together, like the pin that keeps a wheel from sliding off an axle. Without a linchpin the wheel eventually comes off, the car breaks down, the journey comes to a halt, plans are put on hold and you are stuck. The natural reaction then is to begin to pray desperately, fervently for a linchpin. Linchpin prayers demand answers because we depend upon them to get our lives unstuck and moving ahead in God’s purposes.

My wife and I have had to deal with that reality over the past two years in our prayers to sell our vacation home. Everything I know about prayer in 40 years of walking with Lord has been applied to that end. We have done it all: faith confessions, crafted prayer with scriptures, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of agreement with other believers, binding and loosing prayers, forgiving and blessing prayers, humbling with repentance and fasting prayers etc. etc. But seemingly it has been all for naught and we have not had one bite in two years! It is as if God has totally ignored our prayers to sell the place. We did rent it out for a year, which gave us a reprieve from our concern about it, but our renters moved out last month and now we are back to square one – once again wholly dependent upon an answer to our linchpin prayer.

Yesterday as I was praying again about this I had a revelation. I believe it was inspired by the Holy Spirit for it had never crossed my mind before. The thought came to me, “maybe you should change the way you are praying about this.” Hmmmmm.

It was a liberating thought because although I have sought to be persistent in this prayer, as Jesus teaches, I was finding very little peace and confidence in the process. (Luke 18:1) Sometimes praying linchpin prayers simply fuel our anxiety rather than faith. That was a nagging affect my praying was having upon me.

We can become so obsessed with an answer coming our way in our timing that we slip from the “tranquility” of faith into the “toil and chasing after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) Sadly then, we can fail to pick up on God’s subtle re-directives through unanswered prayer.

One parable we all misinterpreted

I say to you, although he will not get up and give them to him because he is his friend, because of his shamelessness, at any rate, he will rise and give him as many as he wants. (Luke 11:8)

Here is something to think about. What if the manner in which we have been interpreting this passage of Scripture is wrong? What if we have all missed the point Jesus was really making in this parable about a midnight request for bread from a neighbor? As a teacher of the Word of God, I am embarrassed to admit that I may have missed this one completely. And sadly, so may have every other teacher I have ever heard teach on this parable.

The key to the parable is the word shamelessness.

Sold signs & the mystery of unanswered prayer

It could go without saying, but as a follower of Jesus Christ and a pastor to boot, I am a huge advocate of prayer. Not only have I been a praying man but I have also taught extensively about prayer and encouraged others to be pray-ers. But even after nearly forty years of walking with Jesus I still marvel at the mystery of unanswered prayer.

The recent trials and transitions in my life have convinced me as never before that getting an answer to prayer is not a matter of following some prescribed recipe for success. As much as all of us would like to believe, and teachers like myself have taught, prayer cannot be reduced to some sure fire formulaic approach to getting what we want. It just doesn’t work that way, primarily because we cannot reduce God or our relationship with Him, to a formula. It is much more complex and mysterious than that.

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