Today we finish a series of messages on prayer, and as we do, have you asked yourself lately, how your prayer quotient is growing? This message is all about why we don’t see answers to prayer and how to turn that around. There’s a great set of principles in a story from the book of Matthew that will transform your lifeline to God.
Why Don’t We See Answers to Prayer? Or “How Do I Get Answers to Prayer?”
So the saga of dealing with my mother-in-law’s house continues. This weekend, yesterday, was supposed to be the day that we would rent a truck and move the last of the furniture out of her house and bring it here. Her house is in the Albany area, so we would drive to Albany, pick up a truck there, fill it up and drive out. Long but simple, right? Ah no. Monday evening I started to shop around for a rental truck. I tried three different companies and finally got this guy from UHaul on the phone. Really great guy, great rate for the truck, so I made the reservation. But then mid week I got an email from UHaul. And by the way, the truck you’ve reserved, we’ve got it waiting for you; in Hudson, NY. I have nothing against Hudson, great little town, but it’s located about an hour the wrong way from Albany. I called them. No answer that’s possible. I tried the regional office. No, no change possible, it’s Hudson or nothing. I called them again. No change possible. How do I get an answer???
The last few weeks we’ve been studying prayer. We started out with this radical premise. Prayer Alone has the Power to Change Destinies. And it’s true, if you understand what destiny is and Who God is. Last week we answered the question: What is real prayer, then? If you missed either one, I suggest you listen to those messages online.
Because if there is one way that I can get your life to change, if there’s one way for me to improve your life, your family, your neighborhood and society around you (tall order!) it’s to deepen and increase your prayer life. That’s what you can take away from today’s message.
Are you fulfilled in every area of your life? Is everything working?
I can guarantee this: your life will grow if your prayer life grows. Worth the effort? Absolutely.
Today we’re going to answer another question:
Why Don’t We See Answers to Prayer? Or better yet, “How Do I Get Answers to Prayer?”
Let’s read a portion of Scripture to find out what God has to say about this:
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Why did Jesus treat her this way? To show you and I what was in her and how we get answers to prayer.
Here’s the first aspect.
1. Consider prayer your ONE lifeline to God and God Himself your only Answer.
It’s not the method that brings about the change. Or even prayer itself. The answer to your prayers is found in God and God alone, so getting His Ear and reaching His heart is the goal of prayer. And understand this: God, Who alone is our answer, has taught us over and over again, that His chosen method for getting His Ear and His Heart is prayer. So prayer is the one lifeline.
Look at this woman’s life. Do you have children? Do you love them? When they’re sick or injured or have some difficulty in their life are you absorbed in that until there’s relief? For sure! She had a problem that she knew no human had an answer for. Her daughter’s life had been invaded by and taken over by at least one demon. Can you imagine how that worked out? Is no husband mentioned here because he left because he couldn’t stand living with a demonized girl? No extended family mentioned for the same reason? It drove her to the one lifeline. If I could get the ear of the One Who is the Son of God, I would find the answer.
Have you prayed, really prayed, over the unfulfilled areas of your life? If you really care, there’s just one lifeline.
2. You have to actually CARE about what you’re praying for.
Did this woman care? Ho baby, she cared. And when she was faced with how she felt about her daughter and her situation, you could tell, she cared.
If you’re serious about what you’re praying for, God will take what you’re praying for seriously.
Apathy takes the air out of your prayers.
Three things really caring does for your prayer life:
If you’re serious you’ll be focused.
When I was an elementary school student, I fell in love with the game of soccer. We ran around the field, laughed a lot and booted balls around. It was fun.
But then I got older and played for our high school team.
In order to play the game and take it seriously, I had to focus. I intently focused on the ball, where it was going and either how to steal it or get it to my teammates. I saw and heard little else.
Paul said that when he was a child he thought and acted like a child but when he grew up he tossed the immature elements and adopted mature ones. If you care, you focus.
If you’re serious you’ll be consistent.
Did you see the consistency of this woman’s appeal? She kept crying out to Jesus, to the point that the disciples had a prayer, please Lord, get rid of this woman! She didn’t go with other thoughts, other things. Lord, help me with my finances too, help me to be a more mature person, help my marriage.
Do you remember Jesus in the Garden? He kept praying the same things, over and over again. He was consistent until He got His answer.
If you’re serious you’ll be tenacious.
Jesus loved this woman! She persisted through the search for Jesus. He and the disciples didn’t want to be found out, as it caused a stir everywhere. Somehow, through her persistence, she found Him. And she persisted through the public crying out. The disciple’s looks. Through Jesus’ silence. Through His repetition of what the Father had told Him. (except the lost sheep of Israel). Through the comparison to little dogs. And she had a response for each one of those. Down to, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’ table.”
Importunity. Shameless persistence.
Which brings us to the third aspect of getting answers to prayer.
3. Be humble.
One of the marvelous features of a life of great faith is that they don’t think they’re worthy at all. They know they have nothing to bring to bribe, twist the arm, or justify God answering from Heaven. It’s only God’s grace that allows us to come to Him. It’s a gift that we have any opening to pray at all. To gain the Ear and Heart of God has to come from God’s gracious choice alone. When we know we have nothing to offer and we humble ourselves, God likes to answer. It’s what He’s like.
So let’s pull this together.
*If you understand that prayer alone can change destiny and you know where you’re headed or where you are at is not a good destination; you pray.
*And your prayers need to be real prayers. Not phony or religious or poised or wordy, but full of heartfelt passion.
*And you need to remember, there’s just one lifeline where you bring that which you care about deeply, humbling yourself under the Mighty Hand of God where if you won’t let go, God will meet you.
Will you see changed destinies?
Will you pray?