No matter how we spin it it’s hard, if not impossible to answer someone whose prayer doesn’t get answered. Saying that he always answers with either yes, or no, or wait, doesn’t really fly. A No is an unanswered prayer and wait is really not an answer either.
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by Mark Batterson, from Draw the Circle
“This woman is driving me crazy.” Luke 18:5 NLT
I love the parable of the persistent widow. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think persistent is a nice word for crazy. This woman is crazy, but when the cause is a righteous one, it’s a holy crazy!
We aren’t told what injustice took place, but she was on a mission. Maybe her son was falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Maybe the man who molested her daughter was still on the streets. We don’t know for sure. But whatever it was, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. And the judge knew it. The judge knew she would circle his house until the day she got justice or the day she died. The judge knew there was no quit in the crazy woman.
Does the Judge know that about you?
How desperate are you for the blessing, the breakthrough, the miracle? Desperate enough to pray through the night? How many times are you willing to circle the promise? Until the day you die? How long will you knock on the door of opportunity? Until your knuckles are raw? Until you knock the door down?
God couldn’t care less about protocol. If He did, Jesus would have chosen the Pharisees as His disciples. But that isn’t who Jesus honored.
Jesus honored the prostitute who crashed a party at a Pharisee’s home to anoint His feet. Jesus honored the tax collector who climbed a tree in his three-piece suit just to get a glimpse of Him. Jesus honored the four friends who cut in line and cut a hole in someone’s ceiling to help their friend. And in this parable, Jesus honored the crazy woman who drove a judge crazy because she wouldn’t stop knocking.
The common denominator in each of these stories is crazy faith.
People took desperate measures to get to God, and God honored them for it. Nothing has changed. God is still honoring spiritual desperadoes who crash parties and climb trees. God is still honoring those who defy protocol with their bold prayers. God is still honoring those who pray with audacity and tenacity. And the crazy woman is selected as the gold standard when it comes to praying hard. Her unrelenting persistence was the only difference between justice and injustice.
The viability of our prayers is not contingent on scrabbling the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet into the right combinations like abracadabra. God already knows the last punctuation mark before we pronounce the first syllable. The viability of our prayers has more to do with intensity than vocabulary. It has more to do with what we do than what we say.
Don’t just pray about it; act on it.
There are defining moments in life when we need to prove to God that we mean business — and I don’t mean “business as usual.” In fact, it’s only when “business as usual” goes out of business that we’re in business — the Father’s business. That’s when we’re on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough.
Crazy Is Normal
Josh Sexton pastors a church plant in North Carolina called Relevant Truth Church. God is doing amazing things at RTC. People who wouldn’t darken the doorway of a church are finding a relationship with Jesus Christ at an indoor skate park that has been converted into a sanctuary. But like many church plants, there is more vision than money. RTC was facing the termination of their lease if they couldn’t come up with the $3,500 rent when Josh got an idea while reading The Circle Maker. One of the leaders at RTC relayed what happened.
Josh asked me to come to the front during a worship service. He handed me a can of spray paint and asked me to paint a circle on stage. That’s when Josh told us he wasn’t going to leave the circle until God made provision for the church. With his wife’s blessing, he brought in a bed and ordered a Port-a-John. All he had was his Bible and his prayer journal. Three times a day, his wife brings him meals. My wife and I live down the street, so we’re helping with the kids. I think Josh came to the place of desperation. If this thing was going to work, God was going to have to show up and show off. I really think he is planning on staying in that circle until God does something huge. Crazy huh?
Or maybe it’s not crazy!
Maybe our normal is so subnormal that normal seems abnormal. Maybe we need a new normal. Bold prayers and big dreams are normal. Anything less is subnormal. And when bold prayers become the norm, so do the miraculous breakthroughs that follow.
I know there are naysayers who find fault with Josh’s approach, but sometimes you need to do something crazy, something risky, something dramatic. That’s what Honi the circle maker did when he drew a circle in the sand and declared that he wouldn’t come out until it rained. The Sanhedrin almost excommunicated him because they thought his prayer was too bold. But you cannot argue with a miracle, can you? His radical prayer resulted in rain. And Honi was ultimately honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.”
For the record, the Sanhedrin still exists in every organization, every denomination, and every church. But don’t let the nitpickers and naysayers keep you from doing something crazy if you know God has called you to do it. For the record, RTC didn’t just get a new lease on their building; they got a new lease on their faith!
There is a pattern repeated in Scripture: crazy miracles are the offspring of crazy faith. Normal begets normal. Crazy begets crazy. If we want to see God do crazy miracles, sometimes we need to pray crazy prayers.
Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.
Excerpted with permission from Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson, copyright Mark Batterson
When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers - Oscar Wilde
For many people unanswered prayer forms a barrier that blocks any desire to keep company with God. What kind of companion who has the power to save a life or heal a disease would sit on the sidelines despite urgent pleas for help? In a sense, every war, every epidemic or drought, every premature death or birth defect stands as an accusation against the teasing promise of prayer.
No matter how we spin it it’s hard, if not impossible to answer someone whose prayer doesn’t get answered. Saying that he always answers with either yes, or no, or wait, doesn’t really fly. A No is an unanswered prayer and wait is really not an answer either. When you pray for a relative or friend and what you prayed for doesn’t happen, as far as you were concerned your prayer wasn’t answered. We always pray that God’s will be done, but that doesn’t help somebody who hasn’t studied as we have, or a new Christian who has been told that God always answers prayer and then something they pray for doesn’t happen. It also doesn’t help when somebody that we are talking to about salvation that asks why what something that a Christian, that they know prayed for something went unanswered. We have to be careful when we throw things around from the Bible, without realizing or knowing what it really means. For example:
Matthew 21:22 (NKJV) And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
John 14:13-14 (NKJV)13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Mark 11:24 (NKJV)24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
We all know people who have prayed for extraordinary things and those things came to pass. We may even have some things that we have prayed for and when they happened, we have no doubt that it was the answer to prayer. I’ve told you about the time I got an audible answer to a question. I can also tell you about times that there was no way I would have survived financially if a prayer hadn’t been answered. But we can also give examples of prayers that were not answered either ours or people that we know. I have prayed and am still praying for some things that have not been and may never be answered.
The example of the man with the clubfoot that is in Philip’s book, beginning on page 216, who really was talking about his own experience of grabbing the scripture we just read in Mark. He was so crushed when after praying he still had his club foot He lost all faith. That may not be as much of an exaggeration as you think. I’ve told you about Ruth and her anger with God, but I didn’t tell you how different her response to God was after our son died. I could have just as easily clammed up after Ruth died because our prayers weren't answered.
Some people blame themselves for unanswered prayer. We hear, especially from the word of faith, or prosperity movements that all you need is to have enough faith and every prayer that you pray will be answered and if it isn’t it’s your fault for not having enough faith. They use scriptures like.
Mark 9:23 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."
Mark 11:20-24 (NKJV)20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
The problem is not in believing that God answers prayer, we know that he does. The problem is that He doesn’t answer every prayer. He heals some people and not others. He blesses some people with great opportunities in answer to prayer but does not answer the same prayer for others. Another question is why when several people are praying for the same thing only one person gets the answer and the other doesn’t. Examples include Christians on opposing sports teams praying for victory but only one team wins. Does that mean that God likes Lakers over Clippers, of course not. God seems to be inconsistent doesn’t He?
Some of our prayers are just frivolous like wanting our sports team to win, or for a parking space, especially when someone older or with a disability is also looking for a parking space near the door. I have heard people pray that it will not rain on the day of their wedding, while at the same time the reservoirs that supply the city are running dry. Or we pray because we haven’t done what we should have done. We blow our money on buying lottery tickets and then pray give us this day our daily bread. James addressed this
James 4:3 (NKJV) You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
We sometimes pray for something that is totally outside God’s will or totally against a specific commandment. I know of some men and women that have prayed that couples split us so that they can have their spouse. I have also heard of people praying that somebody gets sick so they can have their position or job. I’ve also heard of people praying that other’s die. If God is who He says that He is those prayers will not be answered.
The bible records some requests that were not answered because they were totally outside the will of God or were selfish.
Mark 10:35-40 (NKJV)35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask."36 And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"37 They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"39 They said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared."
Luke 9:51-56 (NKJV)51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.
Self serving prayers put the focus on us and the things that we want, not on the things of God.
Sin disrupts communication with God and blocks God hearing us.
David talks about sin disrupting communication
Psalm 66:18 (NKJV)18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
So does Isaiah in delivering God’s message to Israel:
Isaiah 1:15-17 (NKJV)15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.16 "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
Phillip also believes that how we respond to those in need also helps in how God receives our prayers. I’m not sure about that but he does point to a couple of scriptures that seem to indicate that it does.
Malachi 2:13-17 NKJV And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” You have wearied the Lord with your words; Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him? ” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil Is good in the sight of the Lord , And He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?”
1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
Proverbs 21:13 (NKJV)13 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard.
His point is that how you treat your neighbor, who was created by God, will have some effect on how God receives your prayers and worship.
A very important observation. If God answered every prayer of every Christian every time He would in effect be turning the world over to us to run. He would be turning His sovereignty over to man and that would not be a good thing. No matter how good we think we are or how much we think we are asking in God’s will. We have to remember that man operates in time and space and God operates outside of time and space. We don’t know everything and God is Omniscient.
God is not a genie.
During days of the Crusades I’m sure that those who wanted to take the Holy Land back from the Muslims prayed and thought they were doing God’s will. George Bush as much said that the Gulf War was a Holy War but he forgot about the Christians in Iraq.
What if General Robert E Lee’s prayers were answered? Lee was a devout Christian but Grant was the opposite. All of us have examples of our own prayers that if answered our lives could have taken another turn which we would not have liked. There’s the line in a Garth Brooks song, which I would have never know if I hadn’t read this book because I don’t necessarily like or listen to Country-Western music:
“Just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Yes we know that some prayers go unanswered and often to our dismay. It’s impossible for us to say why in all cases and therefore hard for us to convince others to continue to pray and sometimes it’s hard for us to continue. What we hang on to is the faithfulness of God who has told us that no matter what is going on He is always with us, and that He has our best in mind.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV)5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
It may not look like it at the time but a time will come when there will be no need to pray because we will be with God and won’t need to ask Him anything. Until then He’s with us and everything that happens He is going to work together for good in that we are being conformed to the image of His son.
Romans 8:28-30 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Revelation 21:1-8 (NKJV)1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."