Thinking Through Scripture

"but the word of the Lord remains forever"

Tag: Scripture

Unanswered Prayers

The efficacy of prayer has often been an issue which has troubled believers.  It seems like prayer works sometimes, but other times it does absolutely nothing.  There have been times I prayed for things, even very specific things, and they have come to pass quickly, efficiently, and in a manner I approved.  In those times it is easy to say, “Good job, God, You handled that very well. Bravo.”  However, many times I have prayed for specific things and it seems like the prayer has yielded very little divine attention.

Occasionally, I will have major issues I am dealing with and two facts come to my mind: I know God in His omnipotence can easily and immediately do exactly what I am asking, and I know He doesn’t.  It makes me want to cry out, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2), or possibly, “I cry out to You for help, but You do not answer me” (Job 30:20).  David said, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:2).  Clearly, this issue is not new.  Unanswered prayers are a major struggle today, just as they were by many stalwarts of faith in Scripture.

Unanswered prayers not only cause doubt because we feel God’s not listening, but it makes us question the times He does answer us.  “Am I simply attributing dumb luck to a benevolent Creator?  Surely just by chance things will go my way sometimes.  Is there a correlation between how often things go my way when I pray versus when I don’t pray?  Is there a litmus test I can develop to verify or falsify the power of prayer?”

This mindset, I fear, is a lot of the problem.  We judge God’s existence, compassion, and abilities based on how closely He conforms to our desires.  If everything goes my way all the time then God must really exist, care and be quite talented. But when things don’t go my way, it begs some serious questions.  Does God really hear?  Does He really care? Does He really exist?

If I judge God’s abilities or existence based on how well He obeys me, I have really missed the point.  I have essentially switched places with Him.  Instead of God judging me based on my response to Him, I have started judging Him based on His response to me.

In the Bible there are many answers given for why our prayers might not be answered as we wish.  Sometimes we ask things that God simply does not want to do.  Or put another way, “it is against His will.”  Maybe His plans are different than our desires (Habakkuk 1:2-3, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9).  Even Jesus faced this dilemma with prayer (Luke 22:42).  Maybe our plans do not fit His timeline (Revelation 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Job 30:20).  Maybe we gave up too quickly (Luke 11:5-10; 18:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Maybe we asked with the wrong motives (James 4:3).  Maybe we have been bad husbands (1 Peter 3:7).  Maybe because of our life choices we have been denied the benefit of prayer (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Psalm 66:18-20).

There are many reasons why God might not answer our prayers, or might not answer as we wish He would.  It should cause us to look inwardly and ask if we need to make some life changes.  It should cause us to trust in God that maybe, just maybe, He knows best.  You know, that whole “Your will be done” thing.  But we should never put ourselves in His seat, and base our view of Him on how well He follows our lead.  We should not design tests for God so we can judge and score His abilities.  We should pray without ceasing, without doubting, without judging, and trust that God is pretty good at what He does.  Let Him be the God in the relationship.


Why I Love The Bible

Why I Love the Bible

One Wednesday evening after speaking in a Summer Series in Durant, OK I was approached by a college student. He had sat in the auditorium while I presented a sermon on the topic of “God’s Holy Book.” After I had finished preaching and the service had ended, he eagerly walked to where I was standing and told me he needed to talk to me about something very important. I had never met this man before and thoughts started racing through my head about what was on his mind. My hope was that his heart had been pricked and he desired to become a Christian. I soon realized that his intentions were entirely different.

He began to unload on how much he despised the Bible, citing it as the reason for all the evil in the world. He had been spending time on atheistic websites that had filled his mind with a tremendous amount of animosity. He had printed off a list of 101 Bible Contradictions which we began going through together. I spoke with him for several hours that evening. The discussion did not result in his conversation to Christ but we both enjoyed it and we left on good terms. I emailed him later, but to no avail.

The conversation that we had got me thinking a lot. I thought about the importance of being prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us. I also thought about God’s providence as my study for the sermon on “God’s Holy Book” prepared me for that interaction. (It also did not hurt that early that day I had finished reading the Warren-Flew debate and was rarin’ to go). However, the feeling that struck me the most was one of great pity. In no way was my pity derived from a feeling of superiority or pride, but from a feeling that where I had experienced great love this man had experienced great anger and animosity. That the book I had grown to love and appreciate from a young age could result in so much hate and anger in another was something I found profoundly depressing. I pitied him for how much he was missing.

I love the Scriptures. I enjoy studying the Bible. I am in full-time pulpit ministry, not because I love performing funerals and weddings. It’s not because I love visiting hospitals and I certainly don’t love wearing suits in the 100 degree heat. I am in ministry because I love the Word of God and the impact it can make in someone’s life. This is not to say that visitation and the honor of performing funerals/weddings are not important (I’m still doubting the importance of me being in a suit in the summer), but these things are not what I love about ministry. I love the Bible.

  1.  I love the Bible because it is the foundation of so many of my best relationships. My relationship with my parents, best friends and spouse are all rooted in our mutual appreciation for Scripture. When I spend time with my parents the Bible is not only what guides our relationship, but it is also the main topic of many of our discussions. Most of my best friends are full time ministers, and all of my best friends are people whose lives have been shaped and molded by Scripture. My beautiful wife means the world to me. I can talk to her about anything. But our relationship is founded upon our common love for the Word of God. It is His Word that unites us and gives us a shared worldview. I could not imagine the turmoil each of these relationships would suffer if God were removed from the foundation.
  2. I love the Bible because I love the people in the Bible. From childhood many of my greatest heroes were men whose lives have been recorded in the Sacred Writings. Daniel, whose faith and dedication to God was so great that the threat of death would not hinder his prayer life. Jacob, who repeatedly overcame seemingly insurmountable hardships without losing faith. Paul, who radically changed his life when confronted with his error, and faithfully served Christ through times of persecution and hatred from every direction. I love to read the accounts of these men. I love to read about Esther, Noah, Peter, Samson, Amos, David, John, etc. Men and women who at times seemed so human while other times their faith soared high above expectation. Men and women who rose above conflict to do what was right. I love to read about these people.
  3. I love the Bible because it changes lives. The Bible has changed my life. I have seen the incredible power of God’s Word in action through the lives of sinners brought to Christ. I have personally experienced positive changes in my life as I have sought to conform to His will. I love teaching the Bible and seeing it “click” in people’s minds. I love to learn the Bible, and I love to help others learn the Bible. When people learn the Bible, they are learning truths that transcend this earth. The Bible does not change lives because it is so well written. The Bible does not change lives because it is so culturally influential. The Bible does not change lives because a preacher might be a great speaker. The Bible changes lives because it comes from God. That thought always blows my mind. The book that I am holding in my hand actually came from the mind of God. When reading Scripture, we are reading insights from the Mind that created and sustains the universe, the God of Israel. This almighty God has spoken. It is an indescribable honor to be able to listen. When we do listen, the Bible changes lives.

I suppose there is a lot more that could be said. For 3,400 years, since the Bible first began to be written and preserved, people have been talking about it. That is not going to stop either. It will continue to strengthen relationships. The lives of the heroes in Scripture will continue to inspire. God will continue to speak His message to generations as long as this earth exists. That excites me! “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass, the grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). I love this book and will study and preach it as long as I am able.

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