I have a friend that has been searching to find God’s will and his own purpose for many years. More than five years ago he suggested that I lead a Bible Study, which I did, on how find God’s will. I’ve written blog posts, and even have an entire category on God’s. I’ve said that God isn’t hiding His will from us, and listed a number of things we can do to find it. I’ve written about praying and asking God to confirm or not that things you want to do are His will for you. I’ve written being specific and persistent in prayer and then patiently waiting for answers.
My friend say he has done all those things, and I believe him. Just yesterday he asked me what do you do when you have been seeking an answer and guidance for something you have been praying specifically and persistently for many years even to point of saying to God, if this isn't your will please take the dream away. I said you may have already gotten your answer and refused to accept it. You may still have to wait. God may be trying to redirect you. None of the answers yesterday or anyone the past seemed to help my friend. I didn't have any more answers.
But I read something today, and I want to share it with my friend. In a section of his book, It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die , Jefferson Bethke, writes in the search for answers from God we need more than just the facts we need facts plus intimacy for the full picture.
The Table Isn’t What You Think
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Growing up I always thought, if only Jesus would just show up in my room and take away all my doubts, fears, and questions, then everything would be ok. In fact there were years I’d cry out to Him to do that very thing. If only He could give me all the facts, then I wouldn’t doubt anymore, I wouldn’t hurt anymore, and I wouldn’t feel alone.
But what’s crazy is that exact thing happened to two disciples, right after Jesus died, and surprisingly nothing happened. They were bummed because to them they just wasted the last three years of their life after they saw Jesus die on the cross. But Jesus shows up to them and actually shows them how it was supposed to happen the whole time. He basically becomes their Bible study partner, going page by page through the Bible, and yet nothing happens. You think they would faint, have the heavens open up or something, because God Himself is opening the Bible and teaching them. But nothing happens.
But later that day, they ask Jesus to stay for a meal, and He sits down breaks the bread and it says in an instant, “their eyes were opened.” It didn’t happen when they got all the facts, it happened when they sat with Jesus. The first has to do with the answers, the second has to do with intimacy. With relationship. With love.
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 NIV
Do you just want the right answers from Jesus or do you want to sit at the table with Jesus?
Possible Reasons That Our Prayers Aren’t Answered
Excerpts from “6 Reasons Our Prayers Go Unanswered” by Lesli White
All of us have had experiences when our prayers seemed to go unanswered. Sometimes days, weeks, or even years will go by at a time and we still find ourselves wondering, when is God going to answer this prayer? The important thing to remember is that God hasn’t forgotten about you or abandoned you. The Bible tells us “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God has also promised to answer every prayer according to His marvelous grace, His infinite powerful, and in keeping with His infinite love and faithfulness. Our attitude should be one of implicit confidence that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.
God Might be Answering a Bigger Prayer
Our God is a merciful God. Sometimes we forget this when we get so caught up in the pain we’re experiencing, the people we’ve lost and the things we don’t have. We start focusing on all the ways that God hasn’t measured up to our standards and find ourselves disappointed time and time again. Instead of focusing on the blessings we’ve been given, we focus on what God hasn’t done for us. This is human, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. It also doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us. It means that what He wants for us is in His time. Not ours. And sometimes God’s plans are bigger than our own. You might pray for love to come into your life at a certain time, but if it had, God wouldn’t have been able to make you more strong and independent. If things had fallen into place at the college you prayed for, you may not have attended the school that shaped so many of your future friendships and dreams. Just because God isn’t granting the prayers in the way we want Him to doesn’t
You’re Dwelling on Worry
One reason your prayer may not be answered is because you’re dwelling on worry. Worry, feeling uneasy or troubled seems to plague multitudes of people in our world today. It’s human nature to be concerned about the bad situations in our world and in our personal lives, but if we’re not careful, the devil will cause us to worry beyond what’s reasonable. While it’s human nature to worry about the things that are going on in our personal lives and in the world around us, it’s important that you don’t dwell in worry. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
It isn’t God’s Will
John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” So that means if we tell God what we want, He will give it to us, right? Well, not exactly. If you’re wondering why things aren’t going according to your plans, here’s the short of it. We aren’t aware of God’s Will. It’s important that we pay attention to the word “abiding” in this verse which means “to live in, dwell in and remain in.” When you have an intimate relationship with God, you begin to know His heart and have a clearer sense of the things you should pray for and what His will truly is for you.
Your Prayer isn’t to the Glory of God
Is your prayer to the glory of God? One of the most important questions we face in prayer is whether our petition is for our own selfish interest, pride or attainment, or whether it is really to the glory of God? Answers to prayer are supposed to honor God and bring glory to Him. This is one of the main reasons we offer prayer in the name of Christ. Jesus assured His disciples that if they remained in Him and His words remained in them, whatever they wished would be given to them. Prayer that is offered in the name of Christ and to the glory of Christ is prayer that God can answer.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.