Cross Points 4.9.21

Talking to God:  Unanswered Prayers of Jesus

Have you ever been frustrated with no answer to a prayer?  Unless you don’t pray, I’d be surprised if that hasn’t happened.  The simple truth is: Many prayers do not clearly have an answer, at least not that we can discern.  We pray for healing, and the healing doesn’t come.  We pray for Uncle Derwood, near death, but he dies in-spite-of our prayers.  We pray our church grows, but it seems stuck even with all the efforts.  We pray we can pay the bills this month, we practice the principles of Dave Ramsey, but we just can’t balance the budget at month’s end.

What’s up?  Doesn’t God hear?  Hasn’t he told us to ask in faith and we will receive?  On his way into Jerusalem Jesus sees a Fig tree with no figs, and he commands it to never have fruit.  The next day the disciples see it is withered and ask him how he did that.  Jesus responds, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.  And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matt. 21:18-22).   I have faith, you say, I pray for good things, so why am I left with no response from God?

I can’t pretend to know all the answers, and I admit I get frustrated with this myself.  But as I examine the scripture’s I believe we can be helped.  First, in Matthew 21 Jesus is speaking to his apostles.  They will be granted abilities we should not expect.  Second, realize that Jesus himself had unanswered prayers!  Consider…

The longest prayer Jesus had recorded is in John 17.  One of the primary things he prayed for was unity among his disciples, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us”.  Maybe the heart of this prayer is again for his apostles, but surely, he wants unity in the church, as well.  Within Lebanon, MO we see Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Pentecostals, our own Christian church, etc.  And within these larger groups are many others (such as “Free-will” Baptist, or “Missionary” Baptist, etc.).  Jesus prayed for unity, but it has not happened.  Why?  Well, free-will sums it up.  Jesus wants it, but our freedom prevents it.  And God honors our freedom to choose, even when it results in disunity.
Or the time Jesus stayed up all night praying about choosing his apostles (Luke 6).  He then selected the twelve.  The twelve will include Peter, who is brash and emotionally reactive; it will include James and John (called by Jesus the “sons of thunder”); it will also include Judas Iscariot, who Luke quickly points out will be a traitor.  Over and over Jesus must correct the thinking of these men, at one-point stating, “You have so little faith.  Why are you arguing?” (Matt. 16).   Praying didn’t make the process smooth or without problems.  The good news: eventually all but Judas come around.  Peter calms down and provides leadership.  John becomes the apostle of love.  They all stay faithful through persecution and cruel deaths for most.  Lesson: prayers answers don’t always occur quickly.

What about the time Jesus prayed for Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.”  His faith did fail; he would deny Jesus three times.  Couldn’t Jesus have prevented that if he wanted?  Yes, I would suppose so, but the fact he didn’t tells us something.  Sometimes what we want that is good is countered by Satan who wishes to sift us and hurt us.  As he works through willing subjects, God may cringe, but allows us to make choices.

As Jesus endures suffering on the way to the cross, his prayers for deliverance do not save him (“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me”).  God will not.  But Jesus does not end his prayer there.  “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  Even for Jesus, the sin of this world messed up easy answers to his prayers.
Prayer does not always work the way we want.  It didn’t for the Son of God!  As a result, he understands, and as we face the confusing circumstances of life, Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34)!
Cross Point: Jesus prayed while on earth.  Ultimately this connection he had with the Father kept him on track.  Prayers may not always result in what you can understand.  Keep praying.  It will help keep you on track too.
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