…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:28 The Message.
I’m preparing a lesson for Sunday school about prayer—answered and unanswered—that I’ll be teaching in a few weeks, and here are a few preliminary thoughts.
First, prayer is totally relational. Prayer has nothing to do with getting things from God, but it’s all about moving closer to God. As we develop intimacy with our Father, we begin to understand that “every detail in our lives is worked into something good.” (One of my friends said this should be followed by—“eventually.” A trusting relationship with our heavenly Father believes that he deeply loves us and will take the beautiful happenings together with the disappointments and heartbreaks and weave them all together into good for his beloved child.
The proper sequence in our life of discipleship goes something like this: facts>faith>feelings. The facts always precede faith, and feelings are a far distant third. So what are the facts? The facts are all contained in God’s Word, such things as:
• God rewards those who diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6);
• He tells us to call him and promises to answer (Jer. 33:3);
• He tells us to ask (Matt. 7:7);
• James says we don’t possess because we don’t ask (Jas. 4:2);
• James also says that we don’t receive because we ask for the wrong things (Jas. 4:3); and…
• The Psalmist says God doesn’t listen when there’s sin in our hearts (Ps. 66:18).
These are a few of the many facts that we can rely on. Some people call them the “promises” of God. Then faith follows the facts, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). It’s difficult to know the facts, or promises, if we’re not familiar with what our Father says in his Word.
When it comes to feelings, only a few moments of reflection confirm that feelings can be good or bad, happy or sad, depending on what we ate, our mood, traffic, and a score of other things. Feelings are fickle and must be disciplined in order to consistently live out our faith.
Oswald Chambers says that prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes us, and we change things. We can’t do what God does, but he won’t do what we can do. So, no matter the outcome of our prayers, we’re always richer, and God is glorified because of them.
Father, you told us to pray without ceasing. Thank you for the privilege of this ongoing conversation with you. Remind us of that treasure. AMEN.