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10.11.2005    |    The power of prayer
One of the bedrock principles of the Christian life is that we pray to God. We pray to praise Him, to thank Him, and, mostly, I suspect, to ask Him to help us or our loved ones. Often our prayers are not answered, even those that are modest and unselfish. At least they don't seem to be.

This seems to fly in the face of our plain-text reading of some Scripture, where we are told by Jesus (Matthew 7):
7"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
In case this wasn't clear enough, Jesus later in Matthew (at chapter 21) tells us:
22"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith."
The faithful Christian, reading this, yet knowing that his prayers often go unanswered (or so he may think), is at a loss. The immediate response might be to question one's faith. After all, if the Lord says that "whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith", it must be that I lack faith.

Yet, if we believe our faith is strong, might we not be tempted to think that Jesus either did not know the truth, or lied to us? Neither of these, however, is credible. Jesus could not lie; it was and is not in His sinless nature. As for not knowing, that is possible, since even Jesus, as fully human, did not know everything that His Father had planned for humanity (Matthew 24:36).

So, it is possible that Jesus did not know what He was speaking of. Possible. Most unlikely, however. Getting back to what He told us, the other key words are, "you will receive." You may not receive the literal good you had asked for. You will, however, receive what you need. And, believe me, God knows what you need, better even than you yourself.

There's a catch, however, embodied in these key words: "if you have faith." My evidence for this from Scripture hinges on what the man of perfect faith, Jesus experienced in His prayers at Gethsemane. The cup did not pass from His hands; that was not His Father's will. To fulfil His role in salvation history, Jesus had to die that heinous, yet atoning death on the cross. This, as horrible as it was for Jesus, was what He needed.

If our faith is strong enough, our prayers will always be answered. Just not in the linear, obvious way that some might prefer. I'd call it a test of faith: to have the strength to carry on, seemingly without God's comforting response to our prayers. Yet it is that very faith that provides the strength.

Perhaps the lack of that comforting response is exactly what we need to "receive" in answer to our prayers. As Paul wrote to the Phillipians 4:7, when we pray, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." With that kind of protection, we can face anything.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.