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*Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

Sometimes God calls us to stand in the gap between heaven and hell. He calls us to intercede for people. When he calls you to do that, you may have no idea how your prayers can affect those around you without their knowledge. But God calls us to be intercessors, not interrogators.

As you walk close to Jesus, from time to time, peoples names may come to mind. Or, you may see a post on social media asking for prayer. Do not pass up the opportunity to stand in the gap. You do not need to know the needs or the reasons.

You do not need to have fancy words or eloquence. You do not even need to know the person or validity of the request! Simply lift that name to Jesus and ask for God‘s intervention in their lives. Get in the habit of standing in the gap for others. You may never know until heaven the impact your prayers make in the lives of others.

“I tried praying once but nothing happened.”

“I prayed really hard that mom would be healed and she died. What’s the use?”

“I really needed that job but he wouldn’t give it to me. I doubt he really exists anyway.”

You can add yours to the list. We are a hurting people and when you are hurting, and God seems silent, well…that’s about the worst feeling a person can get.

Unanswered prayers are one of the most difficult of all topics because the pain is real. It’s hard to understand a God that seemingly builds your hopes up and then smashes them to the ground.

Oh, sometimes we can look back and see the reasons. Sometimes we come to a point of understanding. But not always.

There are tons of unanswered prayers in the Bible by some pretty Godly men. Joseph, Moses, Abraham, David…to name a few. My favorite is Job. That guy really got nailed and God never did explain it to him!

So what made them go on? What pushed them through the silence and darkness? I think it was the realization that a bad day with God was better than the best day without him. I haven’t gained all understanding on this yet, but it seems God is more concerned about our faith in him than he is our earthly comfort. That’s not to say he is against earthly comfort of course. He offers plenty. But his main focus is on trusting him and seeing the world through his eyes. The closer we get to God, the more his desires become our own and the wiser our prayers become.

Prayers that match his desires are more likely to be answered.

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22

There are certain things in the Christian’s life that I have to admit I struggle with. Perhaps the biggest one is prayer. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen miracles that can only be explained by the working of God’s hand. I’ve seen lives changed. I’ve seen demons flee. I’ve seen people get up and walk when medical science told us they’d never walk again. Prayer works. Jesus’ words are not void. 

On the other hand, I’ve seen parents weep over the casket of a child because their prayers ‘weren’t answered’. I’ve seen the innocent accused wrongly because a judge decided to use his own ‘wisdom’ rather than look at the evidence ‘objectively’. I’ve watched spouses walk away from families while the church prayed things would be different. Prayers offered up to heaven seem to fall harmlessly to the ground leaving lives and bodies strewn in their path. Does that mean I don’t believe in prayer? NO. As I stated earlier, prayer works. I’ve seen far too many personal examples of God’s working to believe otherwise. I believe the Bible to be God’s Holy Word, without error unashamedly. I believe in and take advantage of the promise we have in Hebrews and elsewhere that we can come with confidence before the throne of God to receive mercy and grace in our time of need. I believe our God is sovereign, all-powerful, loving and merciful. I believe my faith is a package deal. You can’t pick and choose which parts of ‘God’ you will believe and which you will not. It’s all or nothing. He believes in you when you fail, all he asks is that you believe in him when he disappoints.

So here are my thoughts on the hard aspects of prayer thus far in the journey. It’s not an inclusive list, I didn’t find them on some tablets buried in the ground. They came from my heart.

When you struggle to believe in prayer, remember that prayer you can believe in means:

  • Your Heavenly Father won’t give you something that’s harmful to you. All of us are like 2 year-old children. We want the things we see in life with little regard for the consequences they bring to us. We see for today, not tomorrow. Why else does lust, addiction and spending beyond our means hold such an allure. Jesus promises us that if we pray for bread, God won’t give us a rock. The opposite is also true. If we pray for a rock to eat, God won’t give it to us. He loves us too much to give us something that will hurt us. Having said that, remember he also will never force you to take the best choice. He loves you too much for that too.
  • Your Heavenly Father wont keep you from going through something that you need to go through in order  grow stronger. None of us like pain. Sometimes we’ll choose painful things because we think that pain will be less than the pain before us, but we never choose pain as the best route.  However, strength never comes without adversity. Walking never comes without falling; good health never comes from willing it to as we over-eat and under-exercise; learning faith never comes without an element of doubt leading to trust. A loving Father knows what it’s going to take to make you strong and he won’t give up on you until he has you strong enough to face what lay ahead.
  • Your Heavenly Father won’t thwart his eternal purpose by keeping you from going through something you need to go through in order to help others on their journey. Your Father’s ultimate desire is to bring all of his children into relationship with him. The only way that will happen is through Jesus Christ. When Jesus left planet earth he left behind a charge to each of us, a challenge to go, to disciple, to reach out to those caught in the web of sin and despair. The most effective ambassadors are those who’ve struggled themselves. Because of his great love for you and others; because of his eternal goal of passionately desiring to spend eternity with your neighbors, he may allow you to go through things so you can more show more passion and more understanding to those who need Jesus.
  • Your Heavenly Father won’t answer a prayer that is contrary to his holiness. This may be the hardest of all for us to endure and understand. He is a holy God. He is a perfect God. Sin can not stand in his presence. Because of this, when sin in in our lives he needs to cleanse us. Not for his sake but for ours. Unconfessed sin keeps us from the passionate relationship he so earnestly desires. We may endure the consequences of our actions, not because he hates us, but because he wants to cleanse us.

 That’s the short list. There are no easy answers. There are times we’ll never understand his actions. There are times we won’t even know how to pray. Circumstances may change our view of God, but they will never change God’s love for us.

 PRAYER: Father I confess to you that I don’t understand your actions in my life. I thank you and praise you that in spite of my limited view and my weakness you still love me. I worship you for the fact that I can approach your throne even when I question your actions. Thank you for the grace to go on. Amen.

And after you suffer for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling. He called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever. 1 Peter 5:10 (NCV)

I was at a conference on church leadership a few months back. The keynote speaker had just recently published a new book. In his presentation he told us about some of the struggles that he’d had between his college years and the present.

Then, he and his wife were living in a one room apartment in which they shared the kitchen and bathroom with their landlord. The basement ‘apartment’ smelled bad, they continually battled mold and rodents. It was cold and damp in the winter and cold and damp in the summer.

Now, he’s speaking around the world to executives of some of the most profitable companies in the world. While I have no idea what his financial situation is now, I’m quite sure he’s better off now than in the apartment days. At the end of his presentation he directed the over 200 of us to his table where there were several piles of books. He told us how much the book was and then made a statement that went something like this, “There’s a basket there by the books for the cost of the book. There are order forms in case you’d rather order it later. But if you don’t have the money today, take the book. If you can pay me later, thank you. If you can’t, I remember the ‘apartment days’ and how hard it was to make ends meet. Take the book as a gift from me to you. God Bless!”

With those closing words he left the stage. He’d given a wealth of good information in his presentation, but to me at least, the most powerful words he spoke were at the end because those were the words of grace.

Too many times in our lives we ask ‘Why?’ We do good things with a sincere heart. We pray earnestly and humbly for God to change relationships, improve our business, or heal the disease in a loved one. When he doesn’t respond as we hope we get angry, bitter, and resentful. “What good does it do to serve him when he does this stuff to me?” we say either to others, or inside ourselves.

Think for a moment of the words in 1 Peter 5:10. The “God who gives ALL grace…” Not just some grace. Not limited grace. Not conditional grace. Conditional grace isn’t grace at all because grace by its very nature is unconditional. Peter, the man who denied Jesus knew better than most. God’s grace is given so we might endure. Grace is ours so we can be strengthened, encouraged, lifted up and one day, rewarded. For now, our trials make us stronger so that we may make others stronger in their journey.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. Even though the trials I’m going through are difficult, I thank you for them because I trust you enough to know that these trials will make me stronger so I can strengthen my brother. Forgive me for my grumbling, my worry and my complaining for they are signs of a lack of trust. Empower me to live for you. Amen.

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September 2022
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