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Prayer Points

It could depend on the things you're asking for. If you ask God for the winning Lotto numbers, He might not answer that prayer - even if you promise a substantial donation to the church!

Likewise, if you ask Him to arrange an “accident” for the schoolyard bully who keeps beating up your son, He might not answer. (You say nobody would pray such a prayer? Read Psalm 35: 1-10 or Psalm 55: 15.)

And if you're praying for a clear day so you can go golfing, while your farmer friend is anxiously praying for rain - well, you can see that God is going to have to disappoint one of you!

All right, so some prayers are ridiculous, selfish, or mutually exclusive. But let me pose a more difficult, yet more likely, scenario: Your neighbor finds her car keys in answer to prayer. But your marriage ends in divorce court in spite of your prayers.

Why? Is God so busy caring for trivial pursuits that the big issues get past Him?

This matter of answered prayer can get very confusing very quickly. And the more we try to analyze how it works, the more confusing it can become. But let me suggest three points. They don't provide solutions to all the questions, but they do begin to give us a direction.

1. Prayer is more than asking for things.

God does want us to come to Him with our needs and desires. But I suspect He grows weary of prayers that are primarily a shopping list. Wouldn't you begin dreading to see someone if all that person ever did was to ask you for favors?

Prayer is praise and communication as well as requests. It's simply talking to God - without asking for anything. It's taking time to listen as He speaks to you through impressions and meditation. Prayer isn't always something that God has to “answer.” Analyze your prayers; you may be surprised at how much they are made up of requests.

2. Prayer isn't a magic wand that gets rid of reality.

Prayer is real; prayer is powerful; prayer can change things. But prayer is not a way of opting out of every unpleasant situation in life.

As a matter of fact, God often chooses not to automatically “answer” every prayer request for some pretty good reasons. For one thing, we often ask for something without really thinking about how it would affect ourselves or others.

We're like kids at a picnic who beg for ice cream after we've already had a soda pop, a candy bar, marshmallows, doughnuts, and a bag of popcorn. God realizes it simply isn't safe to always answer everyone's prayers.

Then too, God has put into place certain laws - physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional - and for the most part He intends for the universe to operate on these laws. Occasionally He may supersede one of them but He doesn't do this as a general rule. (What would this world be like, after all, if a mountain moved every time someone prayed for it to do so!)

3. "No" is also an answer.

So why does God sometimes “answer” our prayers and sometimes doesn't. I'd like to suggest that He always answers, though He doesn't always answer the way we want Him to. Every parent knows that No is sometimes the only correct answer to a child's request. Our heavenly Father realizes that too.

This matter of answered prayer can raise a lot of questions. But we can be sure of this: God hears every prayer. He loves us and will always do for us what is best. If we believe that, we can leave the questions - and the answers - up to Him.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5: 14, 15).

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