Several days ago, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me into a fresh truth about unanswered prayers … I was reading through the book of James in Fairchild Chapel on the campus of Oberlin College. Photo: Fairchild Chapel
I think we can say that prayer (conversing and interacting with the Creator) is an unlimited pursuit!
We have the opportunity to grow and increase in prayer. The heavens are the limit! Thomas Brooks said, “O the power of private prayer! I hath a kind of omnipotency in it.”
But what do we do when we experience unanswered prayers — when we pray for something important, something we really desire, and no resolution seems to come?
Asking amiss — a failure of tuning the heart
Let’s agree with this — the leading reason a prayer is not answered is that it is never prayed!
Simple. And yet a loss. We do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2; explore the complete thought in James 4:1-5).
- At times we do pray, and yet we don’t see our hopes realized because we quit too quickly. Jesus coaches us to persevere in prayer … see the parables of the widow before the wicked judge (Luke 18:1-8) and the friend who relentlessly requests in the midnight hour (Luke 11:5-8). How said to stop short of tasting complete victory.
- If we’re double-minded, we will not receive (James 1:5-8).
- And what about unforgiveness? Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone …” (Mark 11:25).
We also could be asking amiss.
Like a musical string which is not tuned, our heart may not be resonating with the Father’s heart.
What’s really going on deep in the core of our being?
Prayer is highly relational. Nuanced.
It is not merely a transaction — something we request or say. Prayer is grounded in relationship. Jesus said, if we dwell in Him, and His message lives in us (and so we’re walking with the Lord), we can ask anything we wish, and it will be done for us (John 15:7).
Truly an extraordinary promise!
At the core, what is the orientation of our heart? What are we moving toward? Is it Jesus and His dream? Or are there areas of our heart which still have an affection for the world?
Loving the world in some way is our futile attempt to experience authentic life apart from Christ.
James wrote that we can ask and not receive because we ask wrongly … to spend it on our own passions, our passion for the world.
Is it possible to ask God for good things, even things we’re meant to experience and possess … and yet not receive because our heart orientation is still leaning too much toward the world?
It’s an authentic request, but it’s coming from a heart which is wrongly oriented.
Trying to love both the Father and the world
We actually still love the world more than the Father.
Like a musical string which is not resonating with the tuning fork, our heart may not be tuned to the Father’s heart.
Jesus may use the delay to get our attention. He knows we will not be authentically happy unless we are on a growth curve where more and more of our heart is yielded to Him.
Are we trying to pursue good things … authentic desires we’re meant to live in … and yet we’re missing out because we’re not living accurately?
I was challenged this week as I read James. Thoughts?
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