Ask Your Preacher
What happens if God does not give us an answer to our prayers? What if we don't hear from Him in a while? Is He ignoring us?
There are two reasons that God might not have answered your prayers yet. The first reason is that He is ignoring your prayers because you aren’t a christian or you aren’t living faithfully. Read “Whose Prayers Count?” for the list of things that will make God turn His back on your prayers. Anecdotally, it is also important to remember that God doesn’t answer prayers by speaking directly to us – read “The Sound In The Silence” for details.
The other reason is that God’s timing is different than yours. God answers our prayers according to His will, not ours – in fact, we should pray that the Lord’s will be done (Jas 4:15). Having said that, it is perfectly appropriate to keeping praying until the answer is clear – God is pleased with the consistently prayerful (1 Thess 5:17). He wants you to ask over and over – until He gives you an answer. David prayed vehemently for the life of his child until the child died (2 Sam 12:22-23). Paul prayed for his sickness to be removed three times until God told him to accept the pain (2 Cor 12:8-9). Cornelius’ prayers were constantly before the Lord until Peter was sent (Acts 10:4-5). Even our Lord prayed in the garden repeatedly that He might not have to die on the cross (Matt 26:39). The key in all these circumstances was that the requests ceased when God answered. Once God made His decision apparent, whether it was yes or no, acceptance began.
God never gets tired of hearing from His children. Christians are to constantly seek Him in prayer. The most direct example of this is Christ’s parable of the unjust judge in Lk 18:1-5. Christ taught that parable so that “men ought always to pray, and not to grow weary”. God wants to hear from His people. So don’t stop asking for help; He is listening.
Is it true that no matter what we do, as long as we have said the Sinner’s Prayer, we will go to heaven because of what Jesus did for us?
Praying It’s True
Dear Praying It’s True,
The sinner’s prayer is not how people become saved. If we want to know what it takes to be saved, we should see what people in the Bible did to become saved. The Bible outlines five separate requirements for salvation, and all of them are necessary.
- Hear the Word. Faith comes through hearing, and hearing comes through the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Until someone hears God’s Word, they are incapable of obeying it.
- Believe the Word. It is impossible for someone to become a christian unless they believe that Jesus is the Savior and Son of God (Jhn 20:31, Acts 16:31, Jhn 3:16).
- Repent of your sins. ‘Repent’ means to ‘change your mind’. That change of mind always involves a change of action as well. Repentance is when we change our mind about what is important and submit ourselves to Jesus and His Word. Repentance is a necessity of salvation (Mk 6:12, Lk 13:5, Lk 15:7).
- Confess Jesus to others. If we have sworn our allegiance to Jesus, we must be prepared to publicly confess Him as our Lord. If we won’t confess Jesus before men, He won’t confess us before God (Matt 10:32-33, Lk 12:8-9).
- Be baptized in the name of Jesus for salvation. Many groups baptize people, but very few baptize people for the right reasons. Baptism isn’t merely an “outward showing of an inward faith” or “for membership”. Baptism is what saves us (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is the point where someone goes from being lost to saved because they are buried and resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:4-5). Baptism is the final requirement to become a christian (Acts 2:37-38, Mk 16:16, Acts 2:41). There is not a single example of someone becoming a christian without baptism. Baptism is just as necessary as the other four requirements.
If we want to have total confidence that we are saved, we must do everything the Bible says to receive salvation (Ps 119:160). Prayer is a wonderful thing to do, but it isn’t a part of the conversion process.
When praying, I find myself quite frequently praying "in my mind" instead of praying out loud. Is God displeased with this? I mean, I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to do it out loud, but it just comes naturally to me, and it seems like I can explain myself better to Him. It's like I get "stuck" on my words when I pray out loud for some reason!
God never emphasizes silent prayer above vocal prayer or vice-versa. We have examples of both in the Bible. Nehemiah prayed silently before the king, and his prayer was answered (Neh 2:4). Hannah also prayed silently, but with fervor, and her prayer was answered (1 Sam. 1:13). On the other hand, righteous Stephen prayed with a loud voice (Acts 7:60). There is no specific instruction given by God in regard to volume.
I need some advice, please. In our congregation, we begin midweek Bible class by taking prayer requests; after which, a prayer is offered by one of the men. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some of the prayers that are being requested and offered. Some of the members request prayers for family and friends who are unbelievers and experiencing issues such as surgeries, pregnancy complications, injuries, illness, financial difficulties, etc. One member has asked several times that her mom, who has shown no interest whatsoever in coming to church, might find a job and for her sister whose baby was born premature to be able to deal with the stress and worry. However, this is the second baby her sister has born out of wedlock with two different men. She frequents the local bars and continues live with her boyfriend who fathered this most recent baby. My question is: should we be offering prayers for unbelievers other than that they repent and turn from their sins? I am really uncomfortable about the prayers being offered that ask God to heal, comfort, and "be with" these family members and friends who continue to live in sin. Praying for the health of a baby or child is one thing, but praying for grown adults who give no indication they are interested in repenting and getting the sin out of their life...? Privately, I pray that the trials these people are having will cause them to draw closer to God and change their lives. But how do I handle this situation where public prayer is being offered? Do I pray – or pretend to pray – with the group when I feel like we are praying for something displeasing to God? As a single woman, I don't know how to go about expressing my concerns without coming off as being critical or unsubmissive to the men's leadership. One complication is that several of the members requesting these prayers are young adults and recent converts. However, some, including the men offering prayers, have been in the church for years and appear to be okay with it all. Am I way off base, and if I'm not, how do I handle this? Please help.
Keeping My Head Down
Dear Keeping My Head Down,
Your concerns are valid, and praying for unbelievers is also valid. The verses that will answer your concerns are 1 Tim 2:1-4. Those four verses lay out God’s attitude toward praying for unbelievers. First and foremost, we are told to pray for all men (1 Tim 2:1). That is a very clear verse on the subject. It is appropriate, necessary, and godly to pray for all human beings. 1 Tim 2:2 says that we are even to pray for politicians! It may be a little tongue-in-cheek to say, but most folks don’t think much of the lifestyles and attitudes of politicians, and yet, we are told to pray for their well-being and success. God is so adamant that prayers ought to be offered on behalf of all men that 1 Tim 2:3 specifically says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”. So take comfort, praying for unbelievers is the right thing to do, and you can comfortably join in the congregational prayers offered on their behalf.
Now, we also said that your concerns are valid – that is where 1 Tim 2:4 comes in. 1 Tim 2:4 points out that the ultimate goal is to save souls. If everyone is blessed with creature comforts, but their souls are lost in the end – it was a waste (Matt 16:26). Sometimes people need catastrophes to bring them closer to God, and sometimes people convert because they knew the church was praying for them, and that prayer was answered. So how do we know who and what to pray for?! One option is to only pray for the people that we feel are “worthy”… but that sure puts us in the position of being judge and jury, doesn’t it (Jas 4:10-12)? The other option is to pray for all and always remember to have the attitude of “Lord willing”. Jas 4:13-15 says that whatever we do, we should pray that the Lord’s will would come first. It is good to pray for all people, but we should also always have the attitude that God’s will should supersede our own desires. If at some point the congregation isn’t showing that attitude of humility in the congregational prayers, you will have a problem, but if we always remember that the goal is to save souls and the Lord knows best, it is a wonderful thing to pray for all men.
Vain prayer? How much prayer isn't vain if we realize God knows what’s in our hearts?
Dear Brief Speaker,
There are two major verses that deal with the amount we should pray. Matt 6:7-8 deals with one extreme. Jesus says to avoid “vain repetition” because your heavenly Father already knows what you need. Prayers that are purposefully lengthy instead of heartfelt are useless. The Catholic practice of ‘praying the rosary’ is a great example of vain repetition. The same words reiterated by rote over and over again don’t become more effective – God heard you the first time. When we say the same words over and over without any respect for the fact that we are bringing a real petition before the Creator, we are senseless babblers.
The other extreme is dealt with in Lk 18:1-8. Lk 18:1 says that we should pray and never grow weary in prayer. Jesus told a parable of a widow that petitioned a judge until he gave her an answer – and He praised the woman for her deliberate and persevering spirit. God does want to hear from us, and He does want us to continue to bring our concerns to Him. There is nothing wrong with repeating the same concerns and needs to God in a meaningful way on a regular basis.
In short, God desires thoughtful and regular prayer from His children on the issues that are pressing in their lives, not constant scripted chatter void of meaning and thought.