As we contemplate prayer and the evil, pain and suffering that’s in our midst, let’s go back to the initial question, “Is God responsible for the pain in our lives?”  Remember, although He is the Creator, He chose to construct a realm in which His image-bearing creatures have free-will. Consequently, as Boyd points out in his book, Is God To Blame?, there are various factors/explanations as to why prayers go unanswered.  (Of course, it is understood that sometimes a seemingly “unanswered prayer” may simply be God saying, “No” to our particular request.)  But the point of this discussion is that God saying “no” is not necessarily the only explanation. There are various factors to consider when it comes to prayer.  Boyd suggests several things.
Certainly, first and foremost is GOD’S WILL.  While such is not the only aspect, it should be at the fulcrum of every believer’s prayer life.  John said, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”(1 Jn. 5:14)  The will of God is a factor when it comes to prayer, but it’s not the only factor.  Remember when Jesus visited his home town of Nazareth?  He sought to heal and help the people, but because of their unbelief He “could do no mighty work there.”(Mk. 6:5) It wasn’t His lack of desire (His will); it was their lack of faith.  “It’s important,” according to Boyd, “…for us to see that in the case of Jesus, ‘God’s will’ was not necessarily God’s idealwill.  It was rather God’s will accommodatedto the situation of a fallen world.” (p.136)  In other words, God yielded to the choices of the people.
Besides God’s will, secondly, there is the aspect of FAITH- both the faith of the persondoing the praying(Mt. 8:13; Ja. 1:6-7) as well as the recipientof those prayers(Mk. 6:5-6; Mt. 9:22).  Both points are important, but, again, neither are the sole answer to the question of unanswered prayer.  Knowing the need for faith, yet not understanding the vastness of this topic, sometimes well intending people jump to the conclusion that their faith is flawed.  Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. While a lack of faith (of various people involved) can inhibit prayer, such isn’t always the case. What is clear, however, is that faith does enhance the strength of our prayers – not just the presenceof faith, but also the amount.  Remember, Jesus was impressed with“great faith.”(Mt.8:10)
One other consideration we’ll look at this time that is clearly relevant to the efficacy of prayer is PERSISTENCE.  Jesus said that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.”(Lk.18:1)  To illustrate such, you may recall, he followed this comment up with the parable of the Persistent Widow- the point being that if a wicked, calloused, old judge would listen to a pleading widow, how much morewould a loving God heed the prayers of His children?  Boyd says, “…when a matter of prayer is on our heart, we should be persistent about it. And for all we know, in some cases, our persistence may be the decisive variable in determining whether our prayer is answered.” (p.139)
I don’t know about you, but when I think of being “persistent in prayer,” like that widow, it’s sounds so exhausting.  Does it not? Yet prayer is work.  Paul speaks of Epaphras in the book of Colossianswho was “always struggling”on their behalf in his prayers.  (4:12) Did you catch that?  He was struggling in prayer.  The word means to “struggle or to agonize.”  Sounds like work! Great physical obstacles take hard work, do they not?  Why would we be led to believe that such wouldn’t be the case when it comes to those great spiritual obstacles with which we are confronted?  We’ll think more on this next time. But until then, keep on praying!
You are loved!

Who’s To Blame (6)

June 27, 2018


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