Reading: Luke 11:1-13
Any relationship needs communication to grow and thrive. When we care about our friends, family, and love interests, we want to tell them about our day and listen to what’s new in their lives.
Praying is how we communicate with God, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have a direct line to Him.
So often do we abuse this privilege by talking to God only when we need something. How would our friends and family feel if we did that to them?
We read many scriptures, such as in Luke 11:9, that tell us to ask God for things, and He will give it. When we don’t receive them, the prayers are typically deemed unanswered. Is that really fair to God?
When we ask favors from family and friends, do they generally ignore us and pretend as if they never heard our request? Not usually – not unless we’ve taken advantage of them in the past. They more likely immediately give us what we need, tell us they will help us but can’t right now, or offer up explanations as to why it’s not possible at all.
Even though we can’t audibly hear God speaking to us, His answers are much the same: Yes, No, or Wait. The No and Wait answers may not be what was expected – or more accurately, wanted – but they are still answers, nonetheless. God is superb with His timing if we let Him direct our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6).
So, instead of assuming God hasn’t answered us, perhaps we should ask ourselves some questions on why we may not be getting a “Yes” answer for the time being.
Are we asking for something we need?
We can’t really expect God to give us everything we want, especially when we don’t need it. The difference between “wants” and “needs” have been taught to us by our parents since youth. We need water, food, shelter, and clothing. We want a refreshing soda, a five-course meal, a dream home, and the latest in fashion. Although God does grant us some desires, more often than not those requests are born from selfishness.
In Luke 11:1-13, we read that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them the proper way to pray, and then He did. Jesus not only gave them an example of the types of requests and thanksgiving that should be included in prayer, but He told them to ask for more. Then, He followed with illustrations we can all understand. If a friend came to us in need, we probably wouldn’t turn them away. If a son or daughter knocks on his father’s door for help, the father will likely drop what he’s doing and help them. In both illustrations, the friend and the child asked for food, a need.
The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow. God will provide the things we need (Matthew 6:25-34).
Will our request glorify God?
If the Bible tells us to ask and we’ll receive, why not ask for a million dollars? That would definitely cover all our needs’ cost for quite some time. But do we really need that much of an advance on our allowance? Would we really set it aside for our needs? Or would we blow some of it?
Perhaps we could justify the request in another way. The Bible says in all that we do, we should bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). If, tomorrow morning, we received million-dollar checks on our front porches, how could we use it for this purpose? We could give part of it to our home church or take a hiatus from work and visit missions all over the world to spread the Truth. We could give to charity, but make sure we give God all the credit. We could do any or all of these honorable things…but would we, really?
The rich young ruler didn’t. He said he wanted to follow Jesus, but when Jesus asked him to give up all he had, the man just couldn’t part with his material goods (Luke 18:18-23).
Our requests to God should be genuine and from the heart – not from some ulterior motives to get what we want. God is omniscient – all-knowing (Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139:4). He can see right through it.
Even if we have good intentions, that doesn’t mean we’re going to receive our request. Why? Only God knows the consequences of granting that prayer. Consider, instead, the prayer of a man named Agur. He asked not to be poor or rich. If he were poor, he may steal and dishonor God’s name. If he were rich, he may feel he didn’t need God anymore and forget Him (Proverbs 30:7-9).
Consider also Paul’s warning to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, where he says that greediness pulls us away from God. If we think about the potential loss of our relationship with God, why would we want – why would we need – anything more than Him?
Have we asked for the request more than once?
In verse 8 of the scripture reading, there is one word with a whole lot of meaning. In the King James Version, the word is “importunity.” Other versions use words like impudence, audacity, and a personal favorite, persistence. In the illustration He gave, even a friend might say, “Do you know what time it is?! No!”, but after more urging, because they love you, they will concede. God loves us more than any earthly friend. He wants to give to us.
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus spoke of a parable, where a widow persistently begged a judge to give her justice. Tired of her nagging, he gave in. The moral of this parable was that God will not continually put us off, but will bring justice in His time.
Sometimes, we can ask and ask for something, but still, God doesn’t give it. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul wrote about repeatedly asking for a thorn to be removed from his side. While we don’t know precisely what this thorn was, Paul believed it was a messenger of Satan, put there to ensure his humbleness. God’s response to him should be good enough for us, too. God’s grace is sufficient.
Did God hear our prayer?
Proverbs 15:29 states that God hears a righteous person’s prayers. In the last devotional, we read about assurance of salvation. Based on this scripture, we can dub answered prayers – the “Yes” answers – as evidence of salvation as well as where we stand in our relationship with Christ.
We could never lose our salvation (Romans 8:38-39), but we do still sin as Christians, and until we repent of those sins, we cannot be seen as righteous in the sight of God.
If we’re not getting our “Yes” answers, we should reflect on our relationship with God. Is it where it needs to be? Are there sins we need to confess? If we ask for forgiveness of those sins, we can be cleansed from that unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
- What are our motives?
When we search for scriptures on answered prayer, we can find many that fit exactly what one would want to see. In John 14:14, it says we can ask for anything. So, why doesn’t it work that way?
When studying the Bible, we should examine all the pieces of the puzzle before we fit them together. We can’t just take one piece out and mold it the way we want.
1 John 5:14-15 says basically the same thing as the other verse, only it gave us a little more information. If we ask according to God’s will. Not ours. We must beware of our selfish requests. His will may not be that we get that brand-new, sports car, and if that’s the case, we must trust He has His reasons. Maybe we would’ve driven the car too fast, had a car accident, and died. Maybe He has more for us to do on this earth before we meet Him in Heaven.
If we ask for His will to be done, then we will be open to whatever answer He gives even though there may be slight disappointment. If the answer is, “No,” and we’re disgruntled and can’t seem to get past it, we may not have had our heart right in the first place. If we’re truly seeking God’s desires in our lives, then that means we want what He wants, and regardless of His answer, we’ll be able to trust His judgment. Perhaps not initially, but eventually.
Reflect on various prayers you’ve thought were unanswered. Could the answer have been No or Wait? If you search deep in your heart, do you understand why you received that answer?