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I have friends that believe God will answer any prayer of faith asked of Him in the affirmative. My initial response to that is, “Take a look at the graveyard.” How many people in those tombs died while someone was praying for their healing?
Our Christian terminology also plays a role in how we look at prayer. The title of this column is “Unanswered Prayer.” A more accurate title is, “When God says, ‘No.'” However, to think of a prayer being unanswered plays better with the psyche than accepting that God said, “No!”
Paul, the Apostle, the man God used to write roughly half of the New Testament, had God tell him “no” to his request, at least once.
Now, I want to take a step back here and explain that God gave a “no” answer in the form of not giving Paul what he asked for, but God answered Paul’s prayer with something else.
Paul had some physical ailment; he called it “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul prays to God three times to remove the problem (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). God’s response to Paul is recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In summary, God told Paul, I will not heal your physical problem, but I will give you the grace to endure the situation. Not precisely what Paul was asking for, but it is an answer.
If God gives you what appears to be a “no” answer, have the faith that He knows better and will respond in a way we did not expect.
God tells us in Romans 8:26 that we do not always know what to pray for, but the Holy Spirit will intercede on our behalf and ask God for what is needed. In Paul’s case, he asked for healing, but the Holy Spirit petitioned the Father to give Paul the grace to endure.
If you are praying for something to happen, and it does not occur, rest assured that God has something better in mind than what you were asking.
At this point, someone will usually bring up a loved one’s death and how so many people were praying for healing. They will also note how life cannot possibly be better without Grandma. As in the case of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-6), God may delay death, but death is inescapable. Ecclesiastes 8:8, “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.”
All of us, including the ones we love the most, will someday come to their last day on earth.
Another thought Christians have about prayer is to place the abracadabra at the end of the prayer – “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Just for the record, if you have ever heard me pray, you know I say this at the end of ninety-nine percent of my prayers. However, I called it abracadabra because many Christians think God will answer any prayer in the affirmative if the phrase, “In Jesus’ name” is used.
Jesus does tell us to pray in His name. John 14:13, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” However, we must ask – What does “in my name” mean? Is it a magical phrase, or is there more to it?
Here is an example to help explain, “in my name.”
Tom is the bookkeeper of a business. Tom has the responsibility of writing the checks and paying the bills. The bank accepts Tom’s signature. Every month Tom writes checks for all the money paid out by his employer.
Tom is authorized to write checks in the name of XYZ Manufacturing.
If Tom starts using XYZ Manufacturing checks to pay for his groceries, rent, and car payment, he has crossed the line. Tom is writing checks for his personal use – his desires, not his employer’s wishes.
To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray with Jesus’ desires as the goal. To ask for what He would ask. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are essentially writing checks on His behalf. If we don’t use those prayers for what He wants, we are outside of the realm of praying in His name.
When it comes to prayer, remember that a “no” usually means God has something better planned. Also, praying in His name is only accurate when we are praying on His behalf.
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With houses of worship currently closed or restricted across much of the nation, the editors of the Baltimore Post-Examiner are inviting an array of spiritual teachers to share insights from the ages along with words of comfort and encouragement. These timely messages are not exclusive to any particular faith walk and will be included in our ongoing Spirituality series.
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com