We have all experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer. We pray and pray and pray about a situation, but it seems no one is listening. In fact, if we want to be really honest, many times it seems like more prayers go unanswered than get answered. Why is that? Let me see if I can help us out…
Shafts of Light
Some years ago my wife and I were called into a situation to pray where there was a desperate need. After discussing the situation for a while we settled down and began to look to the Lord. Suddenly, I had a vision. I saw the Lord seated on a throne. It was dark all around Him. I began to see streams of light shooting up toward God and His throne. They almost looked like bottle rockets. Some of the shafts of light were going to the right side of the throne and some to the left. I somehow understood (as one does when having a vision) that these represented all the prayers that were going up for this particular situation, and there were a lot of them. While it was encouraging that so many people were praying, there was something that I found troubling.
As I pondered the vision in the days following, it suddenly hit me why I was troubled by it. Some of the prayers were going to one side of the throne, and some to the other, but not one of them connected with God. They were missing Him altogether! It was then that I understood what was happening.
Too often we practice what I call symptomatic praying. Here’s what I mean: We look at a presenting problem, it could be anything from a troubled marriage to a failing business, and think to ourselves, “Oh, if this is what’s happening, this is what we need God to do.” In other words, we look at the presenting problem (the outward symptoms), then basically dictate to God what He should do to fix it. While it is wonderful to recognize God’s help is needed in a troubled situation, this kind of praying may miss the mark completely. Why?
Look at something the apostle John said in 1st John 5:14 – 15.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (emphasis mine)
When I was working in investigations for a pharmaceutical company, I was trained to always look for the root cause of a manufacturing mishap. Only by discovering the root cause as to why something went wrong could we come up with a way to correct it and prevent it from happening again. How does this apply to prayer? All things lie open and naked before God’s sight (Hebrews 4:13). He alone knows what is really going on in a situation, as well as what He desires to do to bring it into line with His will. If we are praying anything other than what He wants to do in a given situation, according to John, those prayers go unheard in the court of Heaven. Because they are not in line with the will of God they do not connect with the heart of God, and go unanswered as a result.
Draw Near to Listen
So, if that’s true, how should we then pray? Ecclesiastes 5:1 – 2 provides the answer.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.
The sacrifice of fools is spouting off our prayers in the Presence of God as though we know what is going on and what He should do. The wise follower draws near to first listen. The very first thing we should pray regarding anything is, “Lord, what are You doing and how do You want me to pray?” Then we wait for His revelation. It may come immediately, or it may be a few hours or days before He shows us something. Once He reveals His will, it is then our job to partner together with Him and PUSH.
Not too long ago a situation was presented to me that required the Lord’s intervention. I told Him plainly that I didn’t know how to pray about it. Very shortly the Lord began to show me how to pray based on the Lord’s prayer. I promptly recorded what He revealed in my journal. I soon began to see results as I began to partner with Him. This is much more effective than praying all kinds of stuff and getting nowhere.
Praying in the Reign
It is not a question of bringing my will to heaven and God performing my will.
That is not prayer.
Prayer is my getting in touch with His will and bringing it about on earth. That is the purpose of prayer. Prayer is for Heaven to rule, not for earth to be adjusted and fixed. That is prayer.*
Partnering with God in prayer is the only way to really see our prayers answered. This is truly living, and praying, in the Reign.
*Kilpatrick, Martha (1986, 2012). Required As Vital [Kindle Version]
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.