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I watched a message from David Jeremiah today on the question of "Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers?"  He covered all the typical answers - cherished sin, praying with wrong motives, praying outside God's will, lack of faith, etc.  Nothing he said was scripturally wrong, but I confess that I have difficulty with the hidden premise behind this approach to prayer.

 

The premise seems to be that prayer is a means to get what we want from God.  And if we remove all the obstacles, God will answer.  One of those obstacles, of course, is praying outside God's will, so it's necessary to pray in line with his will in order to get our prayers answered.

 

When I look at the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, I do in fact see support for praying for our needs (give us this day our daily bread).  But I see the crux of this prayer being God's honor, his kingdom, and his will.  This leads me to believe that prayer is not so much about getting what we want from God as it is about asking God to act in ways that accomplish what He wants.  Part of that has to do with our own needs, of course, but even then there is more focus on our spiritual needs (guidance/wisdom and forgiveness) than there is on our physical needs.

 

Scripture gives us a number of ways to pray that we can know for certain line up with God's will.  For example, we're specifically told to pray for:

  • The expansion of God's kingdom on earth (Matthew 6:10)
  • God to raise up laborers for the harvest field (Matthew 9:38)
  • Our persecuted brothers and sisters (Hebrews 13:3)
  • Our leaders and those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1)
  • Fruitfulness for the kingdom (John 15:7, in context)
  • Wisdom, especially in times of trial (James 1:5)
  • Missionaries (Colossians 4:2-4, extrapolating from the example of praying for Paul)

 

Additionally, all of the commands in Scripture regarding our spiritual growth serve as prayer topics, since "It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13).  Indeed, in the context of John 15:7 above, Jesus speaks at length about remaining in him - and one major way we do this is through prayer.

 

I have prayed for many specific things in my life - things like jobs, decisions on relocation, healing for family members, etc.  And I'll continue to do that.  Sometimes God answers my prayers with a "yes"; sometimes with a "no", and sometimes He puts me in a bit of a holding pattern until He brings about the right circumstances (either external or within me) for my prayer to be answered.  All of this is good and is a significant part of our walk with God.

 

But I'm also trying to focus more and more not on prayers for what I want but on prayers for what I know (from Scripture) that God wants.  Things like I've listed above, and others that don't come to mind just now.  I'm working through Scripture to discover "Prayers that God loves to answer."  I hope you'll join me on this journey and that God will use it to grow us together in prayer.

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