LESSON 7 PROBLEMS WITH PRAYER
Prayer has many facets to it. Both the Old and the New Testaments are full of examples of people’s prayers. Unfortunately the Bible is not a manual for prayer. We have to glean our understanding from people’s experiences and God’s responses.
It is easy to misunderstand prayer because, as human beings, we do not find it easy to understand how and why we should communicate with Someone we cannot see and who does not communicate with us in an audible voice.
We tend to think of prayer as communicating with God on the same level as we communicate with one another. We have probably been taught that prayer is talking to God – in a sort of one-way monologue that does not expect a response and doe not understand how to interpret the responses we may get from Him.
Prayer is a learned experience
Even Jesus’ disciples, having watched and listened to Him praying many times, asked Him to teach them to pray. Listening and speaking to God takes practice. If you find it difficult in the beginning, don’t give up. Learning to communicate with God is worth the time and effort you put into it.
We can’t possibly deal with all the problems we encounter in prayer. We can only highlight a few of the main ones under the following categories:
1. PROBLEMS WITH OURSELVES
Speaking to an unseen Being
Until we get used to the idea that God is real and He is as near to us as our breath, speaking to someone we can’t see feels foolish. It takes practice to become God-conscious. Proverbs 3:6 is good counsel to help us develop an awareness of God.
“In all your ways acknowledge Him...”
Hearing the sound of your voice
Praying aloud will help you with the problem of a wandering mind. It may be difficult to do in the beginning because you may fell silly talking aloud when there is no other visible person there.
Praying the Psalms aloud will help you get used to hearing your own voice.
Dealing with a wandering mind
Reading Scripture, especially the Psalms, as well as verbalising your thoughts will help you to concentrate.
It is good to have a notebook and pen with you to write down anything that is taking your attention away from God that you can deal with later.
Being selfish and self-centred
Discipline yourself to start with setting your mind on God. No matter how pressing your need might be, keep in mind that God is with you, that He is good and that He is in charge. There is no situation outside of His control and care.
Go back to Jesus’ pattern prayer. Begin with “Our Father...”
Humility and honesty
Humility is not about feeling like a worm before God. It is about taking your rightful place before Him. You are both a created being and a son.
Don’t tell God what you think He wants to hear. Be honest. Tell Him how you feel, what you think and what you believe. He can work with that.
Prayer is more about changing you than changing your circumstances. Your circumstances change and your needs are met as you are being formed into the image of Jesus.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (contemplate) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit .“ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV).
Question: Discuss some of the problems you face with prayer relating to yourself as a human being.
2. PROBLEMS WITH GOD
Praying to the wrong god
It is possible to pray to the wrong god if our concept of God comes from our imagination and not from the Bible.
The God of the Bible is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God Jesus mirrored in His life.
Use the Scriptures to develop your understanding of who God is. Read passages like Ezekiel 1; Isaiah 6; And Revelation 1:12-18; 4:1-11
Having a wrong expectation of God
We can become disappointed and disillusioned with God if our expectations are shaped by what we learn from others and not by what the Bible teaches. Too much of our “faith” is trusting God “for” something instead of trusting God, full stop.
Be careful of the faith teachings that take Scripture out of context and expect God to do what you demand because you try to hold God to His word. That is manipulation, not faith.
Having a wrong perspective about God’s will
God has a plan for you but His plan is subject to His bigger plan for His kingdom to be established on earth. His will for you is much more about shaping your character than about making you comfortable.
Being a son means being in submission and obedient to Him regardless of what you want.
Question: Explore the possibility that your unanswered prayers relate to your wrong concepts of God and His will.
3. PROBLEMS WITH PRAYER
We can pray sinful prayers
If our prayers arise out of the consequences of our disobedience.
“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing on your face? Israel has sinned.’” Joshua 10:10,11a
God had instructed the Israelites to destroy everything in Jericho. Achan disobeyed and brought disaster on the whole nation. Joshua’s praying was unacceptable to God. The solution to the problem was to get rid of the offender.
We can pray presumptuous prayers
Job prayed many presumptuous prayers. It was the philosophy of his day that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. Because his experience did not fit his philosophy, he challenged God because he believed he was righteous and therefore his suffering was unjust.
God responded by answering him, not in quiet, sympathetic voice, but in a whirlwind and storm, challenging him to be God.
“The Lord said to Job, ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God answer Him.’” Job 40:1,2 (NIV).
God had to strip Job down to nothing until he realised that, though he thought he knew God, he knew nothing.
“‘My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.’” Job 42:5,6 (NIV).
We can pray selfish prayers
God is gracious and generous but He does not pamper us or encourage small-minded and selfish prayers. He wants us to learn to see beyond our own needs to the needs of those around us, to pray for one another and to what we can to meet other people’s needs so that others in turn can meet ours.
“You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2b,3 (NIV).
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 (NIV).
Question: In what ways do you pray prayers that God cannot answer?
1. Prayer is simple but it is not easy.
2. God deals with us as His sons and daughters.
3. Prayer is about putting God and His kingdom in their correct perspective.
4. Prayer is about getting God’s will done on earth so that His glory is put on display.
5. When we pray according to God’s will, He hears us.
6. When we are more concerned about God and others, He will take care of all our needs.
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