One Thing About God Bible Study Ch. 16 – Tough Questions/Christian FAQ’s
Chapter 16 – Tough Questions/Myth Busters
Some good questions tend to come up in our walk with God. This section is like a Christian FAQ’s page. The questions we address here are why does God send people to hell? Why do good things happen to bad people? And also why aren’t my prayers getting answered? These are complex answers but really give you some good insight about God and His true nature when you can get a revelation of the truth about these questions.
Ch. 16 Outline – Tough Questions/Myth Busters
- 1) How can a loving God send people to hell?
- God isn’t the one who sends people to hell. He gives people free choice and the only way someone goes to hell is if they choose that they don’t want anything to do with God.
- If a child has cancer, do you hate the child or hate the cancer that is killing them? When Jesus died on the cross, God was killing the thing that was killing us. What was killing us? Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death…not God. Those that don’t obtain eternal life will do so because of the wrong belief they have, not because God is killing them.
- Woman caught in adultery – Did Jesus say he couldn’t stand to be around her? The scriptures actually said to stone this woman, but Jesus said I don’t condemn you. Jesus was the Word of God. He judges no man according to the flesh, meaning by what they do or have.
- 2) Why do bad things happen to good people?
- The question really should be why do bad things happen at all?
- The way people make God out to be the bad guy leaves no need for the devil. It’s like we’ve made God the most valuable player on the devil’s team. The devil doesn’t play on God’s team either, he is not God’s messenger boy. John 10:10 makes it pretty clear and simple: The thief (devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
- Putting John 10:10, 1 John 3:18 and Hosea 4:6 together we can see that a lack of knowledge about the devil and his intentions leads to death and destruction (bad things).
- 3) Why does God allow bad things? True love requires a choice. In us having that free will, some will chose to reject God thus opening the door for these bad things.
- Why aren’t my prayers getting answered?
- What are you delighting in? Psalm 37:4
- Who are you praying to?
- Don’t use your faith for things, put your faith IN Jesus. That’s it. It’s his good pleasure to give you the kingdom. He knows what is best for you and He wants you to succeed even more than you do.
- Ezek. 16:6-14 NIV.
- John 8:3-11 NIV.
- Romans 2:4
- 1 John 3:8 NIV
- Matthew 6:7-8 NIV.
- Psalm 37:4
- John 17:3
- 2 Peter 1:3
- Does God send people to hell? How does one end up in hell?
- How does the woman caught in adultery show us God’s heart towards sinners?
- Does you being beautiful to God mean you will automatically be saved and in heaven? What is required for you to be saved?
- How would you explain why bad things happen to good people?
- In order to have real love, what is required? How does this correlate to bad things happening?
- How does an understanding that God could foresee the potential pitfalls we would face and sacrifice it would cost him to create mankind but still thought we were worth it anyways give you a better revelation of God’s love?
- What is it that leads men to repentance? What does that mean for preaching about condemnation? Is condemnation preaching necessary for people to come to God?
- How would you define prayer? Is it more talking or listening? Is an act you do or a way of life?
- God says He will give you the desires of your heart as you delight in what? How does that differ from delighting in the world?
- What is lusting for life? How can we prevent lusting for life?
- What was Jesus praying for in John 17? What was he not praying for?
- What do the prayers in Luke 18 stress the importance of?
Chapter 16 – Christian FAQs – Tough Questions/Myth Busters
I’m sure you still have many questions. I want to try to address some of the most common questions I receive and debunk some myths out there as well in this section. The Tough Questions are from a blog series I did entitled Tough Questions. This is kind of like a Christian FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions).
One of the things I hear many Christians say is that there needs to be balance in the church. When they say that, I think many times they are referring to the message they hear. For example, a balance between faith messages and graces messages. A balance between spiritual messages and practical messages. I understand this sounds good, but what man calls balance, God calls works righteousness. There is no balance in the church. It’s either all God or it’s not.
I know the temptation many preachers face about the messages they preach. I get it. It’s like you don’t want to just preach the same thing every time. You want to give the people what they want. But remember church leaders, it’s not about being people pleasers. You should know what’s best and they should trust you to hear from God and preach the message they need to hear. Don’t fall into the temptation of thinking you have to preach different messages and/or please the people.
If you want to preach some practical messages about finances, relationships, etc., then you can do that in groups outside of the church but the time you come together on Sundays is not the time for that. Messages about marriage is not a message that applies to all and it’s obvious who you’re catering to with that message and why. Being a single guy in the church for a while allowed me to pick up on that. It’s not that messages about marriage are bad, certainly there are some good things we can get from them and they can help single people get prepared for marriage one day, but a message preached when you all come together needs to apply to all. Jesus applies to all every time. Stick to that and that only.
Tough Questions: How Can A Forgiving God Send People to Hell?
The first question I’ll address is when people ask; How can a loving God send people to hell? This is one that I struggled with for a long time. It didn’t make sense to me how this could be possible. As has been the case many times, I realized I was asking the wrong question. But before I answer the question, I want to elaborate a little bit on the road that one can go down with this type of reasoning and the destructive effects it has. This is a very important question, that if left unanswered will make it very difficult for you to enjoy your relationship with God or even want to come to Him at all.
So here are some questions that would come to my mind:
– If God is forgiving, then why doesn’t he just forgive everybody and let them go to heaven?
I have been very fortunate to not have many people I’m close to die, but I remember the first time somebody I actually knew well died. The thoughts that started to come to my mind were about how this person didn’t go to church and the different sins they may have committed. I grew up Catholic so I had the belief that one had to go to church to go to heaven. I started to think what if this person didn’t make it to heaven? Then I started thinking this person probably didn’t make it in (based on my standards and a false belief of what I thought God’s standards were). Then I started to get angry at God and think well if that is the way God is, if he sends good people like that to hell then I don’t want anything to do with Him. All of that stemmed from things I didn’t even know were true or not, but I had taken them on as truth without even knowing it.
– What is the basis for His decision of whether somebody makes it to heaven?
After I thought this one person was probably in hell, I started to get more intrigued in God simply so I could get some fire insurance. The only thing I was interested in was what I could do to make sure I don’t go to hell. Of course, the doctrine that was preached to me was the 10 commandments, which even then I knew was impossible. Then I would come up with my own system, which was basically trying to ensure that my good outweighed my bad and maybe just maybe God would have mercy on me as long as I continued to go to church. I had no confidence or assurance of what would happen if I died. I was just wishing, hoping, praying and begging…which oh by the way is exactly the mindset a lot of churches want you to have. Isn’t that convenient that the doctrine they preach just so happens to hinge your eternal salvation on your church attendance? Hmmm.
– Why does He get to decide?
This may not be something many people struggle with, but once I got to the point of complete frustration, I started to ask things like why does He get to decide? Who made Him God? Why would God be so stupid and unjust? If this is how God is, then why is He God? Shouldn’t God be smarter than that? When you start blaming God, that’s when you know there’s a serious problem with your belief system.
Sin & Forgiveness Defined
In order to understand the answer to this question, we have to understand this question is actually about life and death, not heaven and hell. When we think about sin, we usually think about lying, cheating, stealing, etc. But what sin actually means is to miss the mark, to not partake of and to not have what was assigned to you. Sin is when God has planned for us to have a gift and us not having that gift. Not having that gift of eternal life leads to death.
Now forgiveness is not God deciding not to punish us. Forgiveness in the Greek means “to separate or divorce”. In Hebrew it means “to lift or carry off of”. When you forgive somebody, you are ending the torture they are in. You are lifting that torture off them. The concept that there must be anger in order for one to forgive is false. Forgiveness doesn’t originate from anger. If we think of forgiveness this way, then we will always have the foundation of our identity in our behavior.
Imagine if I said I needed to beat somebody up in order to forgive someone. Let me just go get one of your kids so I can beat up on them and then I’ll be able to forgive. What?!?! You would think I need anger management classes wouldn’t you? That’s not forgiveness at all. We tend to build our doctrines around our traditions. We’ve traditionally thought about forgiveness in a way that doesn’t line up with Biblical forgiveness and like the scripture says, we thus make the Word of God of no effect in our lives (Mark 7:13). However, if we were to look at the way Jesus defined forgiveness, it would look something like what he stated in Luke 4:18 when he said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruise, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. KJV
Looking specifically at the phrase “to preach deliverance to the captives”, the word deliverance there is actually the same word that is commonly translated forgive. Putting it in context I see it reading something like; I came to separate my people from the bondage they are in to death which was caused by the union they had with sin. It’s a little wordy, but hopefully the concept of forgiveness is clearer now.
So again, in context with God forgiving us, it’s not Him looking the other way, it’s Him destroying the union that man had with sin and separating them from it. When we put the two concepts of sin and forgiveness together, as defined in the Bible, we can see that God being a forgiving God means that he has divorced us from the life that we were married to in Adam of not partaking in the gift that God has given us. It’s not like God has favorites and says he’ll really actually forgive one person but not the other one. It’s not like we are left in the dark about what God thinks of us or what is required for us to have eternal life. When we combine this with the fact that God gives us free will, the truth of the matter should be clear.
So, the answer to this question is actually very simple. God isn’t the one who sends people to hell. He gives people free choice and the only way someone goes to hell is if they choose that they don’t want anything to do with God. Hell is not a place that God created for people who are disobedient to Him in order to teach them who is boss. In my opinion, hell is just separation from God. James said that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17). God is the only source of life. So if you are separated from him you are separated from every good gift and the only source of life.
When you talk about every good gift, that would include even common things we take for granted, like even the air we have to breathe. The only option for somebody separated from the only source of life is death. God doesn’t need to kill somebody that is already dying. As a matter of fact, He leaves no stone unturned to rescue all who would respond to the convicting and leading of the Holy Spirit. He is constantly trying to guide us off of the path to destruction, but if somebody is determined to jump over every hurdle and go around every obstacle, then that is their choice.
Think about this too, if a child has cancer, do you hate the child or hate the cancer that is killing them? When Jesus died on the cross, God was killing the thing that was killing us. What was killing us? Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death…not God. Those that don’t obtain eternal life will do so because of the wrong belief they have, not because God is killing them.
Proof In Action
Ezekiel 16 – Picture of God Speaking To Fallen Man
To help reassure you of the way God deals with sinners, let’s take a look at some instances in the Bible.
Ezekiel 16 shows us God speaking to Jerusalem, but actually gives an awesome picture of God speaking to fallen man:
“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.
8 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.
9 “‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. 10 I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. 11 I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, 12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.13 So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord. Ezek. 16:6-14 NIV.
So He saw we were trampled under by death, in bondage to death, and He said live to us. He spoke a word to us that said live. This word in Hebrew means restored to life and health, to revive from death. When he saw us in bondage to death he spoke a word that was meant to restore us back to life. Does that sound like an angry God? In verse 8 he says behold, thy time is a time of love. This is the type of language a man would say to a woman when he could not help but want to be married and joined to her. This is fallen man he is speaking to.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
I wrote a blog post titled God’s body language. In it I described how many people love to argue scriptures back and forth but don’t even consider if it lines up with what we have been shown in Jesus. It’s like when somebody says they’re doing good, but their body language says something totally different. What’s more telling? The body language. With that in mind, look at what happened when Jesus was brought the woman caught in adultery:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11 NIV.
We see here that the scriptures actually said to stone this woman, but Jesus said I don’t condemn you. Jesus was the Word of God. He judges no man according to the flesh, meaning by what they do or have. When he said “go and sin no more”, he was saying “go and no longer find the report of your life in the flesh.” Sin as defined in this context would be unbelief in God or as mentioned above, trusting in your own ability for life and not partaking of the gift God has given us. If what you think about how God deals with sinners doesn’t line up with what Jesus has shown us here, then you aren’t getting the clear picture of what He has shown us.
Isn’t It Just That God Punish Sinners Though?
Still, the argument that many have is that God is just and He has to punish sin. They say God can’t stand to be around sin. Really? Don’t we see Jesus hanging out with sinners and eating with them all the time in the Gospels? Bertie Brits gave a great analogy for this when he was in the U.S. this year. He said imagine if you needed a babysitter and somebody had a recommendation for you. They said this person they know is so holy that they can’t even stand to be around sin. If someone sins around them, they will just kill them because they just can’t stand it. Would you trust your children to somebody like that? Who could trust such a person? Yet this is the way most people, even Christians, think God is like that. And we wonder why people have a hard time trusting God. For good measure, here’s a few more scriptures for you:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.. Romans 5:8 NIV
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NIV
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: Romans 5:20 KJV
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.
I hope this info helps give you a confident expectation of the way God deals with us. You don’t have to worry that you have committed too many sins for God or that you have committed a sin so big that God can’t forgive you. As the scriptures say, perfect love casts out all fear.
To be clear, I’m not preaching universalism, which states that basically everybody goes to heaven regardless of what they believe. Just because God sees you as beautiful does not give you eternal life. You still have to believe and put your trust in Jesus as your savior. Not everybody will believe in the finished work of Jesus, but just for the opportunity that they may, he went to hell and paid the price of sin for all of them. He died on the cross just to be with you, not change you. He would’ve done it if you were the only one. Jesus literally loves the hell out of you…if only you will let Him.
Tough Questions 2 – Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?
Typically, what happens when bad things occur in our lives is we feel God is punishing us. We also may be tempted to think when bad things happen to other people that they deserved it (i.e. – karma) or that God was in a bad mood that day.
I remember a Seinfeld episode where Jerry & George got their big break with NBC and George says something along the lines of, wow I can’t believe this happened and God didn’t kill me. I know he was joking, but it just shows how we are tempted to think sometimes.
Pieter Swart gave a good explanation of what I’m describing when he spoke at Gospel Revolution Church earlier this year. First he defined the word condemnation. He said the first part of the word con means to be deceived and demnation means punishment. If you put the two together it means to be deceived into punishment. This is exactly what happened in the Garden after Adam & Eve sinned. God was still pursuing them and loving them as shown by Him clothing them, but they were hiding from God because they thought He would punish them.
Pieter also gave a good list of things that happen in our lives and the false beliefs that result from them:
- I turned my back on God – I deserve to have Him turn His back on me
- I betrayed my friend – I deserve to be friendless
- I mistreated my body – I deserve to be sick
- I mishandled my money – I deserve to be poor
- I was promiscuous in the past – I deserve to be barren
- I treated my kids wrong – I deserve to not have a relationship with them
- I committed adultery – I deserve to lose my marriage
See man thinks that we always have to do all these things in order for God to give us things. Not true. He just keeps giving and giving and giving. As the Bible says, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.
I’ll give my quick answer to this question and then explain it in the text to follow. First, the question really should be why do bad things happen at all? The Bible says God is no respecter of persons, meaning He doesn’t see some as good and some as bad. He sees us all the same. So it’s not like God is favoring some and not others.
Second of all, as you might imagine, you know I’m going to be defending God on this one. Sometimes I feel like a defense lawyer. You know we are always looking for someone to blame and that someone usually ends up being God. We start asking why did He let this happen? Doesn’t He care about us? What did I do to deserve this? Etc. The way people make God out to be the bad guy leaves no need for the devil. It’s like we’ve made God the most valuable player on the devil’s team. The devil doesn’t play on God’s team either, he is not God’s messenger boy. John 10:10 makes it pretty clear and simple: The thief (devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life and have it to the full. 1 John 3:8 says the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. Hosea 4:6 says my people perish because of a lack of knowledge. Putting these scriptures together we can see that a lack of knowledge about the devil and his intentions leads to death and destruction (bad things).
Now if you know it’s the enemy who is causing these bad things to happen, the next question you may have is why does God even allow there to be an enemy? Well, God didn’t create Satan to be our enemy. Satan was originally an angel. I spoke about this last week but as a reminder, when God created man Satan had envy in his heart towards the position man was given. God didn’t create an enemy for us, but he does give us free will, which is required for there to be real love and not robotic programmed love. In us having that free will, some will choose to reject God thus opening the door for these bad things.
Love Involves A Choice
In order to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why? Because love always involves a choice. Obviously, if you demand love from somebody, it’s no longer real love.
When I was little, I remember seeing dolls with a string in the back. When you pulled the string the doll would say, “I love you”. Did that doll really love you? Of course not. It was programmed to say those words. To really experience love, that doll would need to have been able to choose to love or not to love.
In giving us free will, the potential for evil to enter the world is there because that is the only way to create the potential for real, genuine, sincere love. But it was us, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into this world. This is what the Bible says in Romans 5 as well.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people. Romans 5:12 NIV.
The next question you may have is; couldn’t have God forseen all of this? Yes, He did, but it’s kind of like when parents have kids. They can foresee that there is very real potential that their kids may suffer disappointment, pain and “bad things”. But they still have kids anyways. Why? Because they know there is a very real potential for an indescribably awesome joy and love to come from them having kids. God knew we would rebel against Him, but He also knew many would choose to accept Him and have a relationship with Him. It was all worth it for that, even though it would cost His own Son great suffering to achieve our redemption.
Examples In The Bible
Job is probably the most misunderstood book in the Bible. People famously remember Job and all the suffering he endured. One of the most popular verses from Job comes in chapter 1 when Job says, “the Lord giveth and He taketh away.” And people quote it all the time when bad things happen, basically attributing the evil to God and backing it up with this verse. However, that is taking this verse totally out of context because this was not God saying that He gives and takes away, it was Job. The Bible was simply showing us what Job thought at that point and his opinion, but later in the book he admits that he didn’t know what he was talking about and repents.
Nine chapters of the book of Job consist of his friend’s opinions. They were talking to him about what they thought of God and what he needed to do to get back in right standing with God. It is recorded in scripture and Holy Spirit inspired, but his friend’s opinions were all wrong! This gives us insight into what ignorance will do for us. Again Hosea 4:6 says people perish because of a lack of knowledge. We need to know God for ourselves and build the foundation of our doctrines and beliefs on the rock of Jesus.
Sodom & Gomorrah
The destruction of the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah is commonly misunderstood too. What people remember is the destruction and Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt, but what is often forgotten is when Abraham is talking to God in Genesis 18 and he asks God; will you destroy the righteousness with the wicked? He says, that be far from you God.
In the next chapter we see God was telling the angels not to do anything until all the righteous were gone. God called Lot righteous, despite him giving up his daughters. We tend to think of righteousness as doing all the good works, but remember Paul defined righteousness in Philippians 3:9 when he said:
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. NIV.
God couldn’t destroy the land if there was one righteous person there. And that was in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we see Jesus saying in John 12:
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me.
33 This he said, signifying what death he should die. KJV.
In the actual KJV it says will draw all men unto me, but that word men is in italics, meaning it’s not really there in the original context. In context what He’s talking about is drawing all JUDGEMENT unto him, not men. Jesus took that on for us.
The Acceptable Year of the Lord
I thought this would be a good place for a reminder about the acceptable year of the Lord. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 4:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
When people pronounce that bad things are God’s judgment, they don’t understand this is the acceptable year of the Lord. Do we see Jesus judging anybody in the Gospels? The people He came against the hardest were the Pharisees. Why? Because they were steeped in self-righteousness. They were teaching people to believe in their own works for right standing. The one sin that matters is not believing in Jesus, which is a result of lack of knowledge or self-righteousness.
Later in the book of Luke, when you get to chapter 9, we see Jesus on his way back to Jerusalem for one of the festivals. The Samaritans were coming against Jesus and then we see James & John ask Jesus if they should call down thunder and judgment on them like Elijah did. Now that took some faith and you might think that Jesus would have been happy with them, but Jesus rebuked them and said they knew not what spirit they were of. He was saying they didn’t really know the true nature of God.
People who preach judgment are doing what James and John did. They may have good intentions but first of all, the judgment they are preaching is false and second of all, the Bible says it’s the GOODNESS of God that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). Man wants to punish others out of their problems, but God just loves them out of their problems. The Bible says this over and over. The son of man does not come to destroy man’s lives but to save them, whether they deserve it or not.
A Confident Expectation
I’m not trying to fear anybody into a decision for Christ, but hopefully increase the importance of this information in your lives. I talked previously about how the presidential campaign tends to take up so much of our time in election years, but regardless of who gets elected, those people aren’t the ones who can give you life.
God doesn’t want you wondering. He doesn’t want you constantly worrying about whether you’re headed to heaven or hell. His Word has given us all the ability to have a confident expectation of our eternal salvation when we put our trust in Him. You don’t have to make a big spectacle about it or perform a bunch of religious sacraments in order to receive it. You can simply make a decision in your heart and invite God into your life. THAT is how you gain God’s peace and confidence, regardless of any bad things that might happen to you.
Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
1 John 5:13: “These things I’ve written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:8 NIV
Tough Questions 3 – Why Aren’t My Prayers Getting Answered?
First let me tell you that just because I’ve been a Christian for a while now and went to Bible School, it’s not like everything always happens the way I want it to. I’ve been talking to God about my relationship and financial status for a long time, amongst many other things. So I can empathize with the person who is frustrated in their current situation and seemingly not getting the response they would like from God. Throughout this process I have learned a lot though.
I can’t tell you why you haven’t got your prayers answered. It could be for a number of different reasons. I can only share what I’ve learned and give you some common misconceptions as well as mistakes that I’ve made, which hopefully you can learn from.
What Is Prayer?
If you have read my blog then you are probably used to getting your beliefs challenged. I think it’s a good thing to have your belief challenged every once in a while. My beliefs have been challenged a lot the last few years but it’s why I have been able to come to some of the revelations I have. So let me just challenge your beliefs about prayer a bit.
Think about this example; you see a little girl talking to her Father. She’s telling her dad how great he is and really buttering him up saying things like “oh daddy you’re the best” and “Dad I love you so much”. She proceeds to tell her Father how she’s going to clean her room later and do all her chores, confesses all her sins, etc. Then she asks, Dad can I please have a glass of water? You would think something is wrong with this situation, wouldn’t you? Why does this little girl feel that she has to beg her dad for something she can freely get anywhere? You would either think that this Father is very egotistical and training his daughter to beg for things to make him feel better about himself or maybe the Father is a good Father and for some reason the girl is not able to understand the heart of her father. Either way there is some disconnect here.
The way most people are taught to pray would indicate a disconnect on both ends. If we are begging for things, then we don’t have a revelation of the heart of the Father for us and everything he has already given us. If we feel we have butter God up in order to please Him then we have the wrong image of who He is. We don’t have to try to manipulate God and twist His arm to get Him to give us things. He is not changed by our much begging and pleading. He is not a reactive God that figures out what He’ll do for you on the fly. God is a proactive God who foresaw everything that man would ever need and provided it for them from the beginning.
I see prayer more as a way of life then an event. Prayer should be born out of joy and desire that comes from hearing about and from God. It is good to talk to God about things and ask him questions, but you don’t have to help Him get to know you. He already knows everything about you but is blessed when you talk to Him about what is going on in your life. In a parent-child relationship the parents get to know the kids very well from the beginning, so it’s more about helping the kids learn about what kind of parents they have. Consider how well you can get to know someone when you are always the one who does all the talking. They will get to know you, but you won’t get to know them because you aren’t letting them talk.
The Jews have a prayer they call Shema Shema, which basically means to hear and keep on hearing the word of God. In this context, prayer is not just communicating with God, but could also include listening to praise and worship music, listening to teaching, talking with others about God, etc. It is meditating on what God has said and done for us in Jesus and could include various activities. It isn’t meant to change God’s heart but to join our hearts with God so we know what He knows, feel what He feels and have His kind of life. We don’t need to make it a work or create a formula out of prayer. Prayer should be fun. It should be exciting for us to spend time with God. You should feel free to be yourself around Him. Just remember to stay over every once in a while.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ~ Jesus. Matthew 6:7-8 NIV.
What Are You Delighting In?
Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. As Bertie Brits described this verse, he explained what he used to do was see a car at BMW that he liked, then go and delight in the Lord and thank him for giving him the BMW which was the desire of his heart. However, the important distinction to make is, where did that desire for the BMW come from? Did it come from God? No. Now I’m not against people having nice things and neither is God. But again, if you’re not getting the desires of your heart it would be wise to check where those desires are coming from. God’s promise is not that he will give you the desires of your heart while you delight yourself in the world…it says he will give you the desires of your heart as you delight in Him.
Bertie also explained that the word delight in that verse means to be pampered. So what you want to do is just soak in the goodness of God and His love for you. Go back and remember the things He has done in your life. Go over some of your favorite scriptures. Listen to messages that fill you up with God’s love. If you are new in your relationship with God and are not sure of these things, just ask Him to come in and persuade your heart. As you are listening, pay attention to spontaneous thoughts that come up and the desires that come to heart. Trust that is God leading you. Colossians 3:15 says let the peace of God rule in your heart. That word rule is like when an umpire makes a decision in a baseball game. Think about how you feel about going a certain direction and then think about how you feel going the other direction. Once you know which one gives you more peace, be decisive and don’t look back. But don’t be in a hurry. Waiting for peace about which direction to go is absolutely essential. You may just find that the direction you end up going and desire of your heart is completely opposite from your original intention once you spend time talking and listening to God about it.
Who Are You Really Praying To?
It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in traditions and our own routines when it comes to prayer. Sometimes you just have to say things in the most radical way possible for people to really wake up. I heard Bob Woods say in his prayer series that it’s like sometimes we pray to Jesus Clause. I thought that was a great way of putting it and realized it to be true in my prayer life sometimes as well. We get into this mindset sometimes thinking God answers our prayers based on if we’ve been naughty or nice. God never cuts off the hose, our mentality does. God is seeing you through the finished work of Jesus. Your sin is not a problem. It’s moved as far as the east is from the west. There is nothing you can do to get more blessed than you already are.
The other misconception about God that hinders our prayer life is the feeling that God is Master and we are servant, instead of Father and child. That along with the traditional way the cross is presented as being God getting his anger out on Jesus combines to make us fearful about going to God. It’s like when people adopt dogs that previously had an abusive owner. The new owners will go to pet the dog but the dog will cower away because it does not trust the new owner and has been conditioned to think that people will beat it. This type of mentality is detrimental to one’s prayer life because it makes people reluctant to come to God.
John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing God. This is our objective in life, to know God, not our ministry. Ministry will result from knowing God. These misconceptions about God really put a damper on our prayer life and getting to know God. Getting to know God is a really big deal. It’s what Christianity is all about. Hence the #GodNeedsNewPR name.
Lusting – The Lie of Lack
I touched on the lie of lack in the last section but want to elaborate on it a bit more here because it’s a big deal too. Lusting is when you want more of what you already have enough of. Seeking things you already have is a life of lust and stems from the lie of lack. If you think you lack it will lead to you going and trying to get it in your own ability rather than getting with God about it. What we tend to do is try to figure things out in our own ability and then ask God to bless it rather than coming to him based on what we already have in Christ.
James 4:3 says you ask and do not receive because you ask amiss. The word amiss in the original language is sick. The way I see it, if you are asking from a position of lack, your belief system is sick. Therefore, you are asking amiss and will not receive because of what you are believing, not because God has said no to your prayer. James also said let not a double minded mind think he should receive anything. Our thinking contradicts itself when we say our refuge is in Jesus but also our ability to perform certain tasks. Which one is it? Don’t let belief in yourself creep in. When you keep your belief solely in Jesus you position yourself to receive from what He has already done for you. You also get to know the Father better when you are dependent on the finished work of Jesus. You get to know His passion and reasoning much better.
2 Peter 1:3 says we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness. My recommendation would be to get with God about these things until you are fully persuaded, then pray. If you start praying before you are aware and fully persuaded of what you already have, then your prayers become prayers of begging. Biblical hope is not begging but a confident expectation. The scriptures say out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So if we receive what He is speaking to us, then meditate on it and make a judgment, that is when we are in the proper place to speak on it as opposed to thinking about a situation and going right to speaking on it before we give God a chance to persuade our hearts.
Psalm 78 gives us a good example of how we limit God sometimes. In verse 41 it says they turned back and tempted God and limited the Holy One of Israel. So they didn’t remember his power and ability. Mathew 13:58 talks about how the people in Jesus’ hometown limited him because of their unbelief. Psalm 84:11 says no good thing does he withhold from them that walk uprightly. The word uprightly there is not speaking of people who do everything right. It’s translated from a Hebrew word (tamim) which means complete or perfect. The Hebrew word “tam” can also mean simple, in a sense like being single-minded rather than double-minded. We are complete in Christ. His grace and influence are more than enough for all our needs.
What Should I Pray For Then?
If you agree with the concept of having everything in Christ, then your question might be, well what should I pray about then? If you’re defining prayer as communication with God then I would say prayers of thanksgiving and continued revelation of who God is and who you are in Christ are great things to pray.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention praying in the spirit as well. I am not an expert in this subject but am a believer in it and know it to be very powerful. Praying in the spirit allows you to bypass your brain and pray for things you don’t even know you should or could be praying about. If you are ever at a loss for what to pray about, you can just pray in the spirit and ask for revelation from God. If this is a new concept to you, Andrew Wommack has an article and video on his website with more information if you are interested at awmi.net..
Let’s take a look at some sample prayers in the Bible for more ideas about what and how to pray.
Typically, people look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 for an example prayer, but if you want to look at a great model prayer from Jesus reference John 17. This happened just before his death and is the closest thing we have to a New Testament prayer from him. Had it been just a few more weeks he could have prayed this prayer as if it was all in the past tense.
The thing I find interesting about this prayer is that it is for believers and He is not praying for our daily needs. He’s not asking that we have money, peace, victory, etc. He knew all things would already be provided for us in Him. The thing Jesus is praying for is that we would get revelation of our union with Him. He’s praying that we would know the way the Father loves Him is the same way the Father loves us.
The other thing I find interesting about this prayer is that is in verse 15 he prays that we would be protected from evil. Some translations say the evil one, but it should just read evil. That word for evil is poneros, which means full of labors, toils and annoyances. Remember Jesus also said that His yoke is easy and burden is light. When we take on the heavy burdens of trying to produce life in our own ability, that leaves us full of annoyances and is what Jesus called evil.
If you want to pray like Jesus prayed, don’t repeat prayers in vain repetition. Pray for yourself and others to have revelation of your union with Christ and the way the Father loves you and them.
The prayers in Luke 18 from the Pharisee and the Tax Collector give us some more insight into prayer. In it we see a Pharisee who is praying about how he’s not like the other sinners and how he does all these different things right. The tax collector simply asks God to have mercy on him a sinner. Jesus said the tax collector is the one who went home justified. Why? Because he humbled himself and was not dependent on his own self-righteousness. The difference for a New Testament believer is that you do not have to even ask God to have mercy on you, He already has and you don’t have to identify yourself with being a sinner if you have put your trust in Jesus. It doesn’t mean you deny that you still sin, but as we discussed previously that is not the way God sees you. But it does stress the importance of humbling yourself and not being dependent on your own self-righteousness to get your prayers answered.
If you are interested in some more sample prayers, the prayers below are from a document created by John King. It includes all of Paul’s intercessory prayers for others in scripture. You can include your name or the name of others you would like to pray for in the blanks.
INTERCESSORY PRAYERS OF PAUL FOR OTHERS
- That _________ have the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
- That _________ may know him better.
- That the eyes of _________ heart be enlightened.
- That _________ may know the hope of His calling.
- That _________ may know the riches of His glorious inheritance in _________.
- That _________ may know His great power for all who believe.
Eph. 3: 16-19
- That _________ may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in _________ inner man.
- That Christ may dwell in _________ heart through faith.
- That _______ may be rooted and established in love.
- That _______ may have power to grasp the riches of the love of Christ for _________.
- That _________ be filled with all the fullness of God.
1.That _______ be filled with the knowledge of His will.
- That _________ have all spiritual knowledge and understanding.
- That _________ may live a life worthy of the lord.
- That _________ please him in every way.
- That _________ bear fruit in every good work.
- That _________ grow in the knowledge of God.
- That _________ be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.
- That_________ may have great endurance, patience and joy.
- That _________ give thanks to the Father.
- That _________ love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.
- That _________ may be able to discern what is best.
- That _________ may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
- That _________ may be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
- That_________ love increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.
- That _________ heart be strengthened.
- That_______ be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes.
- That God Himself may Sanctify _________ through and through.
- That ________ whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope a few main things resonated with you out of this section. One, that prayer is not begging. As I talked about, it’s vital for you to understand what you already have and God’s heart for you. He is not holding back from you Two, you have to take some responsibility for your prayer life and knowledge of God. It’s easy to blame God, others or our circumstances. Remember what ignorance about God did for Job. Knowing God is the most important thing in your life. It will totally transform the way you look at life and react to various situations that arise.
There is one last thing I want to mention here. Don’t use your faith for things, put your faith IN Jesus. That’s it. It’s his good pleasure to give you the kingdom. He knows what is best for you and He wants you to succeed even more than you do.