Today’s message summary of July 16, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:
Prayer is very, very important. As we continue this series, we will ponder how God answers some prayers and does not answer others.
The reason that many Christians are seeking the Lord is because they are experiencing some sort of affliction. Some are experiencing cancer, and the diagnosis for recovery is slim.
Seeing those who experience this situation remind us that life is short, and also the reality that God may not answer their prayers for complete healing. We wrestle with a level of uncertainty in our Christian life, and we can find that many of these prayers may never be answered in our lifetime.
Just as he had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen, says the Lord of Armies.
Why does God allow prayers to go unanswered while others are indeed answered?
- Because of sinfulness
- Because of faithlessness
- Love of worldly pleasure
- The sovereignty of God
Unanswered prayers may be the result of sinfulness. He will not listen to those whose hearts are not truly looking to Him; however, God does hear the prayers of sinners who sincerely turn to Him. He will hear and acknowledge anyone who desires to have a relationship with Him.
Then I said, “Now listen, leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the house of Israel.
Aren’t you supposed to know what is just?
You hate good and love evil.
You tear off people’s skin
and strip their flesh from their bones.
You eat the flesh of my people
after you strip their skin from them
and break their bones.
You chop them up
like flesh for the cooking pot,
like meat in a cauldron.”
Then they will cry out to the Lord,
but he will not answer them.
He will hide his face from them at that time
because of the crimes they have committed.
Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.
A person who sins is disrupting the communication between himself and God. Sin hinders prayers.
Saul is an example of this. His disobedience was sinful and he forfeited his kingship over the people (1 Samuel 15:12-29).
1 Samuel 28:3-19
By this time Samuel had died, all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his city, and Saul had removed the mediums and spiritists from the land. The Philistines gathered and camped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel, and they camped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine camp, he was afraid and his heart pounded. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets. Saul then said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.”
His servants replied, “There is a woman at En-dor who is a medium.”
Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes and set out with two of his men. They came to the woman at night, and Saul said, “Consult a spirit for me. Bring up for me the one I tell you.”
But the woman said to him, “You surely know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you setting a trap for me to get me killed?”
Then Saul swore to her by the Lord: “As surely as the Lord lives, no punishment will come to you from this.”
“Who is it that you want me to bring up for you?” the woman asked.
“Bring up Samuel for me,” he answered.
When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, and then she asked Saul, “Why did you deceive me? You are Saul!”
But the king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
“I see a spirit form coming up out of the earth,” the woman answered.
Then Saul asked her, “What does he look like?”
“An old man is coming up,” she replied. “He’s wearing a robe.” Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he knelt low with his face to the ground and paid homage.
“Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Samuel asked Saul.
“I’m in serious trouble,” replied Saul. “The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me. He doesn’t answer me anymore, either through the prophets or in dreams. So I’ve called on you to tell me what I should do.”
Samuel answered, “Since the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy, why are you asking me? The Lord has done exactly what he said through me: The Lord has torn the kingship out of your hand and given it to your neighbor David. You did not obey the Lord and did not carry out his burning anger against Amalek; therefore the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will also hand Israel over to the Philistines along with you. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the Lord will hand Israel’s army over to the Philistines.”
Saul’s disobedience continued by consulting a medium—the very people that he had removed—because he knew the Lord had turned from him.
“Whoever turns to mediums or spiritists and prostitutes himself with them, I will turn against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sets you apart.
Will God answer our prayers if we habitually sin against Him?
He will respond to the ones who confess sin and seek Him in prayer. We seek after Him in order to prevent our prayers from being hindered.
Then the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least.
When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he issued a decree in Nineveh:
By order of the king and his nobles: No person or animal, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. Furthermore, both people and animals must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from his wrongdoing. Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.
God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it.
The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
1 Peter 3:7
Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Prayers are unanswered at times due to a lack of faith (faithlessness).
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.
Your prayer life should consist of faith in Jesus Christ with the remembrance that anything that you ask for in His name and in accordance to His will, He will do it.
Prayers are not answered when they come from a worldly perspective. God is not a genie that answers prayers just to give you possessions. Are you praying out of selfishness? Those that desire earthly things are more in love with the world than they are with Him.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Prayer should never be used in a wrongful manner.
Another reason that God will not answer prayers is because of His sovereignty.
Paul prayed for a healing for his affliction, but God responded by not healing him and reminding him that God’s grace was sufficient for him within his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).
God reminds us as to what is really important, and that He ultimately, no matter how He responds to our prayers is worthy of our praise and honor through our worship. God ultimately desires for us to have a close relationship with Him. How he answers prayer ultimately has everything to do with this.
In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’”
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add fifteen years to your life. And I will rescue you and this city from the grasp of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city.
Throughout Jesus’ prayer life, God responded to all of His prayers except for one. Jesus, speaking from his humanity, asked for the father to remove the burden of going to the cross. God did not answer the prayer.
He said to them, “I am deeply grieved[a] to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. And again he came and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. Then he came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come. See, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go. See, my betrayer is near.”
Was it possible for God to remove the cup? Certainly it was; however, even Jesus recognized that there was a greater purpose in what was taking place. It was according to God’s sovereign will for Jesus Christ to be sacrificed on the cross. It was necessary for each one of us that Christ would take on the sins of the world for us. He was destined to die in the manner that He did for us.
When you pray, please consider the intent of your prayers. Pray with the desire to remove sin from your life and seek forgiveness. Are you praying from a worldly perspective, or with the desire to seek a godly perspective? When you pray, are you praying with faith? Remain faithful to Him in your prayers, and trust that His sovereignty is for your overall good in your life and in the lives of those who you pray for.