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Archive for February, 2015

What Are Reasons For Prayer Frustration?

Many become discouraged or turn away from God because of their frustrations with praying to God. Let’s be honest. The majority of our prayers are not answered as miracles were not the norm in Jesus’ time and certainly seem rare now. We will look at how the Bible is often misinterpreted which leads to disappointments in our prayer life, but often we stop bothering to pray because we overlook the most important reason for talking to God.

Momma always said to hang out with the right people so to make wiser choices. The main reason for talking to God is for relational purposes – personal growth and character development. Spending time with God makes us a better person as we begin to understand things from God’s perspective. I am definitely a better husband, father, and friend because of God’s influence in my life. If our entire prayer life was only asking God to help us love others as we want to be loved, that would be enough reason to pray.

The truth is not even an all-powerful God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for authentic relationships. A wife prays for her alcoholic husband to stop drinking but God is going to respect ones choice. Abstaining for someone else seldom lasts anyway. Two people often pray for the same job. One may pray for rain while another for the rain to stop. We pray for miracles but our sufferings may help others more. It did in Jesus’ life. Martin Luther King’s suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. I truly believe once we get to know who God really is we will trust God to give us what we would have asked if we knew everything God knew.

Certain interpretations of the Bible often get in the way of rational thinking. One may quote that I wrote: “I hate hamburgers.” What I said is: “I hate hamburgers compared to steak.”  The Bible records letters written, not a bunch of separate sentences to quote out of context. When the Bible says to turn the other cheek, it is not encouraging women to accept physical abuse from their spouses. Many passages are quoted out of context to confuse people about prayer:

  • James 1:6 is quoted: “But when you ask, you must believe…” The sentence before in verse 5 is not included which says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault…” We mustn’t doubt God’s desire to always give good gifts despite our failings. This passage is not promising that God will remove all suffering from our lives by simply asking. The writer in the same breathe says to count it joy when facing trails and to persevere (v.2). Perseverance is unnecessary if God simply grants miracles. Biblical writers don’t always say every time what is implied throughout Scriptures – God will always give us what we would have asked for if we knew all that God knew.
  • James 4:2 is quoted partly: “You do not have because you do not ask God…” But, the next sentence/verse says you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives to satisfy selfish desires. The context is how God always answer prayers if one seeks to make peace with oneself and others despite human, internal struggles with selfish desires. There is always an implied qualification to the promise of answered prayer – there must be a desire to do God’s moral will which is always in the best interest of all.
  • Mt 7:7 says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The passage says if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always give good gifts when asked. First-century readers would not assume this was a blank check for any request. Verse 12 in this context encourages to do unto others as you would have them do to you. Ask God for the desire and heart to fulfill this good gift toward others. God will help us to be the kind of person we desire to be. I know I am a better man the closer I keep getting to God.
  • I John 5: 15 says: “And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” Verse 14 adds some context – “that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.”  God isn’t trying to hedge His bet. The world is a pretty big place to manage. God is a reliable, loving Creator.  In this context because God is who He says He is, we can rely on the promise of external life given in verses 13, 16-18. God desperately desires to give the hope of eternal life to those that wish to be with God forever.

The most important reason for praying or talking to God is to ask for His influence in becoming the kind of person we deep down wish to become. Prayer is also sharing with God our heart’s desires, but the biblical writers didn’t always add: “but God you know best!” Do we trust God to give us what we would have asked if we know everything God knew? Finally, let’s read the entire bible passage to see what God said to someone else, and then reflect on what God may be saying to us – what to be thankful for, what to confess, what actions to take.

 

Why Is It Important To Believe Jesus Died For Relational Than Legal Reasons?

No single biblical passage indicates that we must interpret the Cross in legalistic terms as if God needed to be appeased or satisfied before He could fully love us. Does God really care more about His ego than desire to encourage us? Jesus exhorts us to take up the Cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The Cross was an act of continual love rather than a one-time event.

I Timothy 2:6 says: “Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all people.” The ransom wasn’t to appease God. Some Christians hold to a legalistic view because they revere God so much, but we must not undetermined God’s unconditional love – this is the Good News! We must not make God less relational and understandable to those who don’t know God. God is more concerned with the one that don’t believe than those that already believe. God surely wanted us to know how much he loved us, not how mad He was at us. A legalistic view of the Cross suggests God was more concerned with our guilt and restoring His honor than desiring a personal relationship.

How can we truly appreciate God if we think of the Cross in terms of what Jesus did for God as opposed to what Jesus did for us? Jesus’ death being for God undermines Jesus’ pain and struggle for us. God is different than other gods. God didn’t require a sacrifice before He could love us. It is us who has to be convinced. Jesus’ death was a visible demonstration of love to convey how far God would go to have a relationship with us, not how far God would go to get sins paid for. We can be free despite our guilty feelings. We don’t have to run and hide like Adam and Eve.

Jesus desperately wanted to do whatever He could to identify with us. Jesus wanted us to avoid paths of destructions that lead to regrets. Jesus wanted to walk in our shoes to better understand how difficult it is to live selflessly in a world where one is free to love or hate others for their own gains. Jesus was willing to face undeserved suffering as we often do. Jesus wanted to identify with how hard it is to not fall into temptations present in a free world. Some may die for a good person. Jesus died for all regardless if they were evil or good. Jesus took no shortcuts to convince us of His unconditional love. That is crazy love!

Followers may object though that sacrifice is necessary so God can forgive us. God is not an animal-hating, blood-thirsty God. Some may object to innocent animal lives being sacrificed but then we must object to Jesus’ death as well. In Old Testament cultures animal sacrifices were used to convey there is a cost to selfishness, so God went with it. Sacrifice doesn’t bring back childhood innocence robbed by an adult abuser. Human or animal sacrifice was never necessary to ultimately please God. God much preferred a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps.  51: 16-17, i.e. Heb. 10:6). God didn’t have to protect His character for egotistical reasons. 

God wasn’t so mad at sinners that God had to kill someone. God already knew sin had its own cost. God didn’t have to be appeased and His honor restored before God could love us.  Jesus died to change our attitude toward God, not God’s attitude toward us. God was more concerned with the restoration of the relationship than the guilt of our sins. God wanted us to know He is always forgiving. God sought to prove to us His unimaginable love. God went to great means to gain moral authority and credibility to convince us His ways were truly in our best interests.

How Can We Have A Better Prayer Life?

  • Every time we see the word “praying” in the Bible we might replace it with “talking” with God. We can talk to God for many reasons including pursuing a closer relationship, for self-examination, and sharing our concerns. I find it easier to follow a God who doesn’t control everything as opposed to a God who accepts no resistance, thus I accept praying as communicating for support whatever may happen than manipulating for gain. Timothy Keller in his book Prayer says it best: “God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knew” (p. 228). Jesus’ prayer to avoid the Cross may be the best model in times of suffering. Jesus asked God to intervene but trusted God if there was a greater reason to not intervene
  • The most important reason for praying or talking to God is often overlooked. We tell our children to associate with the right people so to make wiser choices.  Talking and getting to know God can make us a better person by seeing things from God’s perspective. For example we may begin to want money to not starve as opposed to wanting to be rich or have things. Prayer often is a laundry list of requests for ourselves or others, but God may lead us to be more reflective thus getting more involved with others.
  • There are many different ways to pray or talk to God. We may talk to God brief times during the day to feel more connected; some may reserve more formal times in the morning and evening. Formal prayers may help get rid of distractions for some; informal prayers allow many conversations with God through the day. One may read books on praying for insights or just develop an initial plan and continually revise. Alcoholics are advised to fake it till you make it. You will be glad you did. Just know though that if we only pray with obligation we may never develop intimacy. If we don’t begin with discipline we may never achieve.
  • Praying, if a relationship, also must involve listening. The best way to listen to God is to read what He has already spoken to others. Praying is greatly enhanced by bible reading and studying if you are fortunate to have a Bible. But, can we really have any kind of relationship if we just sit down and read one’s letters?  We can study a passage to see what God said to someone else, and then we might reflect on what God is saying to us – what to be thankful for, what to confess, what actions to take.
  • Please don’t beat yourself up with this next statement. To discover the real you where do your thoughts go to when nothing is forcing you to think about anything else in particular. Do you think about God in good and bad times? If you don’t think about God a lot you may want to find ways to hang with God more. We can feel more intimate with our partner only when we find a way to spend more time spending time with them. Regular bible study and reflection can help you be more the kind of person you badly desire to be. You might study and then reflect on the Lord’s prayer on a regular basis. You might develop a plan to study and reflect though the Psalms which are often prayers. 

How Praying Or Talking To God Works For Mike

  • I prefer to follow a God who doesn’t control everything as opposed to a God who accepts no resistance, thus I trust God will give me what I would ask if I knew everything God knows.
  • I talk to God more for support whatever may happen than manipulating for gain. We can become discouraged with prayer when our desires become needs. I trust God with the final say so. God always desires what is best for us but we must invite God’s influence.
  • I keep in mind it is normal to feel distance during difficult times when I don’t feel close to God.
  • God already knows what we think or need. I don’t have to know the words to say. Talking simply connects us to our Creator so we may become more the people we desire to be.
  • Prayer for me is any time or place thinking about or talking to God. I enjoy reading spiritual books, as I find myself contemplating to myself as if having a conversation with God. Writing about God, which I am doing here, is my favorite way to be with and talk to God.
  • Since talking must be a two-way street, I read what God has already spoken. I first attempt to understand a passage in the Bible as to what it means to the original reader. Then, I reflect and ask questions and listen to God as to what are applications for me in my life today.
  • I talk to God in the mornings before my day begins by reading and writing. My others times during the day are very informal. I seldom close my eyes when praying, even when in a group setting. It just seems more natural.
  • I never pray for suffering but I can be grateful for what suffering may teach me. Jesus’ prayer to avoid the Cross may help: God if there is a better reason to not intervene please stay close to me. I become a better person sometimes because my prayers are not answered. Intellectually, I am convinced that true peace and happiness can only be found in God than things. To have nothing but have God is everything. Having a close relationship with my Creator can get me through any disappointment in this world.

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