Why Are We Sometimes Disappointed With Prayer?

by | Apr 13, 2016 | Man

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).

These words of Jesus (and others like them) immediately raise questions: Jesus couldn’t have meant what He said here, could He? Aren’t there many exceptions to a statement like this? But doesn’t this turn prayer into some kind of magic formula of faith and answer?

But underneath the intellectual balking lies something much more telling—our own disappointments with prayer. We all have stories of unanswered prayer: presents that didn’t come as kids, parents who got divorced, jobs that never came through, loves that were unrequited, sicknesses that weren’t healed and loved ones who died.

To talk about prayer at this level is to uncover our worst disappointments. Is Jesus trying to raise our hopes again only so that they can be dashed? Wouldn’t it be better just to ignore or at least explain away what Jesus seems to be saying here?

I have known many such disappointments myself. One of the most stinging had to do with career. I was convinced in my early 20s that God wanted me to be a missionary, and I actually got training for that in seminary. But my experience of working in other cultures was disorienting: I felt emotionally chewed up each time. Despite my prayers to be changed, no change came. I felt God had let me down, and I had also let Him down. I went back into youth ministry after seminary, painfully confused.

How was I to make sense of all this in light of Jesus’ teaching on prayer? How are any of us to make sense of the disappointments?

Perhaps we can find a clue in a strange place—a movie universally loved: It’s a Wonderful Life. In the film, George Bailey prays two very different prayers. In the first one, he is at the end of his rope, knowing that he is going to jail over the lost $8,000 dollars. He prays for God to help him in a bar and instead gets punched in the face!

Distraught, he goes to kill himself by jumping off a bridge, only to have Clarence the angel appear! It’s not the answer George looked for or expected, but it turned out to be an answer nonetheless.

But the whole movie turns on the second prayer. As he learns what would have happened if he had not been born, George begins to learn what he really longs for. It’s not escape from life by suicide or $8,000 to repay the debt. He doesn’t even care what happens to him anymore. He just wants Mary and his family back; he wants his old life of helping others out of poverty and debt. George learns that his life has been wonderful after all, because he has tried to serve everyone else around him. As a result, he finds the greatest joy of all: others loving and celebrating him at the end of the movie.

This is exactly the motion Jesus is inviting us up into with His teaching on prayer. It’s not about us anymore. It’s about something higher and wider than our narrowly constricted stories. It’s about the kingdom of God, the story Jesus is telling, and entering that story will give us our deepest joy and our truest strength as men.

This is precisely what Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer. With the first three petitions, we learn that it’s first about God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will. This means abandoning a life of trying to magnify our names, build our kingdoms and pursue our wills. Only in the last three petitions are we invited to ask for provision, forgiveness and protection for ourselves.

You may sigh and think that praying this way is somehow the end of praying for what you really want in life. Think again. Think about what happened to George. When it was no longer about him, that’s when he learned what he really wanted anyway; that’s also when he got the answer he asked for in prayer and, along with it, a depth of joy he had never known before.

This is the life Jesus is inviting men into with His teaching on prayer.

It’s an invitation worth accepting. {eoa}

Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has served as a pastor and a high school Bible teacher. Presently, he leads Landmark Journey Ministries as a speaker, small group coach, and author of Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree and Landmarks: Turning Points on Your Journey Toward God. Bill and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Franklin, TN. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillDelvaux.

For the original article, visit authenticmanhood.com.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

The wind is a funny thing. We do not know where it comes from nor where it goes. We cannot see it, but we can see and feel its effects. Wind can be gentle and refreshing, cold or hot, strong, and dangerous, and everything in between. When the wind blows, we must...

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

It is interesting that, as a Messianic rabbi the question I am asked most often by Christians is if I believe that they as Christians have to celebrate, or observe, the biblical Holy Days. They are usually asking about those days listed in Leviticus 23: Shabbat, Yom...

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

As the crackdown against Christianity in America grows, it is a cycle believers have seen before. While no one celebrates their religious freedom coming under attack, God has used this persecution to great effect throughout history. Over the centuries, there have been...

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Change can be challenging. Some people look forward to change and embrace it. Some people dread change and try to avoid it. Since change is inevitable, so here are some of the dynamics surrounding change and the specific strategies to deal with change more...

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

This past weekend I preached at The Roads Church, a charismatic congregation located in the tiny town of Norris City, Illinois. Located amid cornfields, the population is only 1,325, but almost that many people visit the church on weekends. They come from all over...

The Biblical Way to Rise Above Mediocre Expectations

The Biblical Way to Rise Above Mediocre Expectations

We spend a lot of life figuring out if we “measure up,” a phrase someone coined in the mid-1800s. Even in childhood, we begin comparing ourselves with siblings and kids at school, and it never seems to stop. The problem goes back to Cain and Abel, doesn’t it? Most of...

RECENT ARTICLES

Charles Finney Said These 3 Attitudes Will Destroy Revival in America

According to the Pew Research Center, Christianity in America is declining at an alarming rate. In the 1990s, 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christian. By 2007 that number had dropped to...
A Better Way to Witness to Others for Christ

A Better Way to Witness to Others for Christ

”Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Rom. 2:4). Looking retrospectively at my past as an atheist, I can see where God...

Why Does God Want Us to Speak with Tongues?

Why Does God Want Us to Speak with Tongues?

Why speak with tongues? There are many reasons for speaking in a spiritual language. Primarily, though, the Scriptures require it. The apostle Paul commanded us, saying, “Pray in the Spirit always” (Eph. 6:18). Jude commanded it in verse 20, saying, “Pray in the Holy...

Why God’s Rebuilding is Better Than His Restoration

Why God’s Rebuilding is Better Than His Restoration

Often, I have prayed for the Lord to restore something in my life. Whenever I have gone through a hard season or a broken relationship, my prayers automatically petition the Lord to restore my situation. Whenever there is a loss, and you are going through the grieving...

Why America Must Adopt the Battle Cry of Isaiah

Why America Must Adopt the Battle Cry of Isaiah

A battle cry is used to summon armies to war. A loud, unified shout could intimidate the strongest of enemies. Confidence in battle often tilts the scale toward victory, whereas timidity, fear and cowardliness will surely lead to defeat. In these dreadful times, don’t...

Intentionally Raising a Godly Generation

Intentionally Raising a Godly Generation

Debbie put her faith in Christ at age 11. In fact, her whole family met Jesus at just about the same time. As her parents began growing in their faith, they nurtured growth in their children as well. Family Bible reading, prayer and talking about God’s leading in...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]