There are apparently 222 spoken prayers in the bible. According to google, the Dakes Annotated Bible contains 222 actual prayers. There are also many biblical references about prayer, some encouraging us to pray, some instructing us how to pray, and others warn that our prayers will not be answered if there’s any form of evil, bitterness or sin in our lives.
Are All Our Prayers Answered?
When we consider the troubles experienced by the apostle Paul:
“But in all [things] we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fastings” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5)
We may assume that the prayers of Paul and the prayers of those who worked along side him had not been answered.
Christians Through the Ages
Throughout the ages Christians worldwide have experienced hardship, persecution, torture, death, famine, diseases, natural disasters etc. Is it right for us to conclude that their prayers were overlooked by God?
Many years, before the demolition of the the Berlin Wall, the western world had prayed for the freedom and release of Christians who had suffered many things under the communist regime in what was then the USSR. Years went by and nothing happened. Why did it take so long for our prayers to take effect?
The Prayers of Jesus and Paul
There are two classic cases from the New Testament that are often cited as evidence of unanswered prayer:
- The account of Jesus as he prays in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-45, Mark 14:32-40, Luke 22:39-42).
- Paul’s prayer for healing (2 Corinthians 12:8)
Sometimes we must scratch the surface in order to see the bigger picture and the higher agenda. The prayers we offer for our immediate situation may be the start of a more global answer. At this point we may be asking ourselves:
What do we do when our prayers seemingly go unanswered? How should we pray
- Return to Scripture
“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
We may adopt the view that God is beyond our reach. That we cannot influence His sovereign authority. We may believe that our prayers will never influence God’s will, change His mind, thwart His plans or hinder His cause.
However, scripture calls us to pray, and actively encourages us to pray. When prayer combines with scripture we have an exceedingly powerful weapon in our armoury. Listen to what God says.
The bible encourages us seek, call and pray. God doesn’t stand at a solitary distance aloof or alone. “He is near”, He is not far from us, “He may be found”
“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isiah 55:6)
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The prayer Jesus taught us invites us to embrace God’s purpose, look out and look up, engage with God to build heaven in the lives of others rather than seeking to satisfy our own selfishness.
“Your kingdom come, Yours will be done, on earth as I heave”.
Submission to God’s greater plan of salvation is the essence of Jesus prayer in Gethsemane.
Paul resigned himself to let nothing stand in the way of the purpose of God for his mission: “My Grace is sufficient for you, my strength is perfected in your weakness “
All of us who are seriously contemplating the subject of “praying in difficult times” must at some point surrender ourselves completely to the will of God and permit “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” to become our watchword.
2. Have Confidence in The Word
When our focus is on God, our hearts become established on a secure foundation. Our confidence is given a better platform upon which to build. We are no longer using the building blocks of our own imaginations. The structure of our lives is now in accordance to a higher architectural design.
Isiah says of the Lord:
“For My thoughts [are] not your thoughts, Nor [are] your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isiah 55:8-9)
A consistent prayer life permits us to be transformed by God’s Word, as our spirits are renewed by His Spirit who grants us access into the presence of God.
Developing a habit of reading the bible gives the Holy Spirit who is the transformer of human hearts and minds access into our lives. It is the Spirit who guides us, and most importantly reveals to us the mind and thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Paul informs us that by the Holy Spirit; “we have the mind of Christ”. James reminds us that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
So keep on praying, God will do really amazing things, even more than you can imagine.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
3. Renewed Faith Transforms Prayer
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper [in the thing] for which I sent it.” (Isiah 55:10-11)
God’s Word will never fail, we have His promise, that His word will accomplish its task. Therefore, pray with confidence. Never give up on prayer. Pray without ceasing and let God do amazing things through you. When our prayers are in accordance with the Word and the Spirit they are like the “rain and the snow which water the earth”, God’s word prospers and the earth is blessed.
In the midst of a severe Medatoranian storm, the ship on which Paul sailed was breaking up and about to sink. Everyone around him were in despair of their lives when Paul stood and confessed these words:
“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25)
As we read in the bible about the emerging nation of Israel, it was usually at the last moment, when all help and all hope seemed lost that God brought the deliverance. The nations prayers were usually answered but not in the way they anticipated.
Life for everyone is difficult just now. But in closing I would like to remind you of a time in the book of Acts when Paul and Silas were in lock down, shut up in a high security prison. At midnight they prayed and sang hymns to the Lord. There singing must have been so bad that it triggered an earthquake. The earthquake was so severe that the prison fell apart. God had set the captives free.
Our God works miracles.