Thursday, September 8, 2011

Whose prayers don't get answered? Pt I

4:51 p.m. Today's project was to teach Bible study, I Samuel 28, where King Saul spends his last night on earth consulting a witch to get counsel and direction from the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel. The Philistines were positioned very far into the land of Israel, in Shunem near the Sea of Galilee and ready to start a war. Since Saul had been busy chasing David in the south, the northern area belonging to the tribe of Issachar went undefended.

Saul had tried to pray for guidance from God, but God had turned His back on the murderous, blatantly disobedient king, and would not answer, either by the prophetic Urim and Thumim stones or by dreams. His attempt to ask God for help was so half-hearted (or less tactfully, phony) that I Chronicles 10:14 says, "He did not inquire of the LORD."

James 1:5-8 tells us,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, for he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

King Saul was definitely unstable, as well as unmerciful, unethical, and ungodly, utterly unfit to rule God's people. And God had nothing to say to him, except what he had been told already: that his kingdom would be torn from him and given to his neighbor, because of his disobedience in not utterly wiping out the Amalekites. (15:22-28)

We discussed this question: is God obliged to answer everyone's prayer? He obviously had nothing to say to Saul, because as the late prophet Samuel told him during the seance, "God has departed from you and has become your enemy" (v. 16).

Does a believer risk God's not hearing or answering our prayers during times when we feel unstable, or act in ungodly ways toward others, or are so devastated by life that our prayers are scanty, feeble or lacking in faith?

The key for me is that God knows our hearts. Even the most faith-filled Christian can experience a time of weakness and fear, but still love the Lord Jesus with all their heart. Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed that we can't even think of what to pray. But Romans 8:26-27 assures us,

...the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

God is a God of justice and judgment, and unlike us, has no trouble whatsoever making a distinction between the unrepentant, habitual sinner who has chosen to reject Him, and His own dear child who is in pain and anguish from heavy trials, and needs to be carried in His arms for a time. "The Lord knows those who are His," I Timothy 2:19 declares.

Do you belong to Jesus? You can, this very minute! Confess your sin, ask Him to forgive you, and ask Jesus into your heart to be your Savior and Lord! Of the many privileges of a child of God, such as eternal life in heaven, having a loving Father who hears and answers prayer is one of the most thrilling!

Tomorrow: Whose prayers don't get answered? Pt II: Don't be that guy!

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