Sunday, January 19, 2014

Make Me Whole

"Our lives are acts of worship," Brad said as he welcomed us. "We'll be talking about new beginnings. I've been thinking about this verse, 'Pray without ceasing.' What is God doing when we pray, and especially don't get what we feel we need."

Cheryl shared how we're collecting quarters from our kids during Sunday school which will be used to help feed needy children at one of our local schools. She also shared a mission trip opportunity. Talk to Rick or Cheryl for details.

The last announcement was with regard to the passing of Susie Newman's father, WW2 veteran Wilmer A. Wagner, this past Thursday. The funeral will be held here at the church Monday. Visitation at 1:30 and funeral at 2:30. Thank you to those who have helped with meals or who will be bringing bars and cookies tomorrow. Brad led us in a moment of silence to honor him.

Drake led us in worship, then an offering taken we moved to a prayer time.

Ellie had her baby this week. Your faithful blogger failed to catch all the details, but she was about 19.5 inches long and healthy. Suite.

Make Me Whole

Today's theme is unanswered prayer. It's a topic that has hit every one of us. What does it mean that God is faithful in the midst of your spouse leaving you? Or when your child has a diagnosis that won't go away?

When asked what my biggest motivation for prayer is, my response is, "Answered prayer."

Brad shared examples, ending with this one many of us have experienced: "When I get distressed and pray and have peace."

Unanswered prayer is one of those things, however, that demotivates us as regards prayer. Sometimes justice doesn't prevail. Sometimes people don't get healed. Today I want to talk about the ache and agony that happens when prayers aren't answered.

1. Sometimes I am praying and the request may be off, so that when we don't get an answer God is actually saying "No" to this. Brad gave an example from the mountaintop transfiguration. Another time James and John sent their mom to request that Jesus would have her boys sit on His left and right hand when He takes His throne. Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah got so discouraged that they asked God to take their lives. God did not answer this prayer.

Garth Brooks had a #1 hit song called Unanswered Prayer. 'Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." God always reserves the right to say no.

There are many kinds of power and humans have always found a way to abuse those powers. Prayer would be no different.

2. Too often we think prayers will be more effective with a magic phrase ("in Jesus' name") or some other kind of formula. Prayer is not incantation. It is dialogue with a very, very wise person.

3. All too often people make this request: "Lord, change him." Or, "Lord, change her." Relational brokenness is one of the biggest blockages to our prayers. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive." Jesus taught us that our own hardness of heart toward another can hinder our prayers. (Mark 11:25)

4. Sometimes unanswered prayer is simply a matter of the timing that being off. God doesn't say no. He says not yet.

Abraham was 99 before he saw the fulfillment of having offspring.
Israel waited 40 years in the wilderness.
Joseph had to wait years in prison for a dream to be fulfilled.
David waited years to see the temple built...
Israel waited centuries for their Messiah.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." ~Isaiah 40:31 KJV

We don't like to wait. We get foot-stomping impatient because our computer takes too long to boot.

Parents need to model patience in so many ways. We dislike waiting, but God is patient and if we are to be like Jesus we must be patient. Deferred gratification is a piece of this. Unfortunately we are all in such a hurry that we don't like to wait.

God is never late, but He is rarely early. God's main will for your life that you become the kind of person that He can empower to do whatever you want to do.

Brad shared how when he was young he would pray, "God, what do you want me to do with my life." But God waited for Brad to choose.

If we only do what we're told, we never learn to make a decision on our own. We never grow up. We never develop character. What I was doing was trying to avoid the responsibility or anxiety of making a choice. God knew I would grow more by seeking counsel, figuring things out rather than getting a note from heaven telling me what to do.

5. Sometimes something is wrong in me that keeps God at arm's length. God wants us to deal with this, to get right first. Brad told a story and confessed of a situation in which "my prayer was like an elephant in the prayer room because my mind was mis-focused on my own junk."

"If you close your ear to the cry of the poor you will cry out and not be heard." ~Proverbs 21:13

Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he wanted removed, and God said, "No, Paul, this will keep you humble and more useful."

6. Sometimes people ask for good things who have good hearts, and yet the prayer is unanswered, and we don't know why. Brad said that is the hardest part of his job, when very hard things happen to good people and it seems God is silent.

"We know this place," Brad said emotionally. "I can't give you an explanation because sometimes no one has the answer."

The Good News, the Gospel, is ours because of an unanswered prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to His Father, "If at all possible, take this cup away from Me."  This unanswered prayer delivered the world from sin, and gave all of us an eternal hope. What if God had said yes when Jesus asked to be spared the cross, and there had been no death and no resurrection, no atoning blood spilled.

"I don't know why some prayers get a Yes and some get a No. I know the anguish of a No when you want a yes more than anything in the world. I don't know why. I only know that in the Cross God's "No' to His Son was turned into God's "Yes" to every human being who ever lived. 

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