The importance of words
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When the heavens are brass . . .

Part 1 of 2                                                                   Why don't all prayers get answered?


Most Christians pray and hope for the answer to the prayer but have all kinds of reasons when nothing happens.  All kinds of non-Biblical reasons that is, like “God sometimes says ‘wait’ or ‘no’, we just can’t know His will.”  This may sound reasonable, even logical, but these ‘reasonings’ or human traditions aren’t found anywhere in the Bible. However, God’s Word does give several reasons why prayers go unanswered, and Christians need to know the Truth. Let’s see what the Bible says about prayer.
Praying without faith
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer.”  Matthew 21:21-22
“Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Mark 11:23-24
“But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:5-8
Double-mindedness is giving the word of anyone as much or more credit than the Word of God, rationalizing and logically excusing God’s Word away in favor of an earthly report.  It was a problem for Joshua, Elijah and the church today. But human logic will never be a match for God’s word.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17. If you don’t have enough faith, you aren’t getting enough of the Word. God has given each person a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and He is no respecter of persons—if He did it for one, He will do it for another. (Acts 10:34) Close out the world and get into the Word!
A holy God can’t allow His body to be corrupted by chronic sin.  It’s contagious and spreads.  In the Old Testament, that meant removing every trace—the sinner, his family, their livestock. God still separates Himself from unacknowledged sin and unrepentant sinners.  Jesus made that clear in His parable about the ten virgins.  They were all eligible to go in, but only half were prepared, with clean hands and the oil of the Holy Spirit.
“Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.  They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.” Psalms 24:3-6
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”  Isaiah 59:2.
Jeremiah has many references to God refusing to hear prayers of His people when they are unrepentant or rebellious. That is much of the point of the entire book.  Jeremiah 14:12 says “Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.” 
“Is it nothing to the people of Judah that they commit these detestable sins, leading the whole nation into violence, thumbing their noses at me, and provoking my anger?  Therefore, I will respond in fury. I will neither pity nor spare them. And though they cry for mercy, I will not listen.”  Ezekiel 8:17-18.4
Sin separates us from God.  Sin is almost always rooted in pride or lack of humility, which is a form of idolatry. Rebellion, or refusing to let God be our Lord, is the same as witchcraft (1 Samuel 15.23.)  Sin that inhibits our prayer doesn’t have to be something ‘big’ like adultery or theft.  It can be racism, gossip, idle words or unkind interactions. 
When God’s people refuse to acknowledge sin, repent and humble themselves, God refuses to listen.  Just because you go to church doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction in you is finished.  Search your heart, let the Holy Spirit search you and reveal things that need to be dealt with, and then repent and let Him renew your spirit.  This is often an ongoing process and as we mature in Christ, He is able to show us things we need to let Him remove.
This one is very clear.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:26
 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.”  Matthew 6:14-15.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.Matthew 18:21-35.
God has forgiven you and those who wronged you; to exalt yourself above Him (or believe the wrongs against you are greater than your wrongs against God) by refusing to forgive will cost you more than just earthly misery.
Jesus didn’t operate in the traditional.  He didn’t call the traditional types of people to be His primary proselytes; He didn’t adhere to the traditional norms of the religious; He didn’t socialize with the traditional ‘right’ people; and His ministry violated all kinds of long-standing traditions. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he tells us clearly that traditions can be very cunning and can lead to deception and opposition of Christ:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, which are based on human tradition and the spiritual forces of the world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8.
Jesus spoke harshly of traditions that seemed harmless. Matthew 15:1-3 says
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat.”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?””
Mark 7:1-5 says it like this,
“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
Let me interrupt here.  I know what you are thinking. Something like ‘Seriously, shouldn’t we wash our hands before eating? What’s wrong with that? It seems like a good, common sense tradition to keep.”  Right.  But look where Jesus takes this in the next verses:
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
Jesus knew the scriptures and understood the meaning.  If your pastor made this correlation, you might be second guessing him and thinking “Yeah, I don’t think that’s really what Isaiah was talking about.  Our church has these rules and ways of doing things for a reason.” You might even think the church has to have these handed-down rituals, rules or programs.  People expect it and wouldn’t attend if you didn’t do it that way, right?  Wrong! Look how Jesus concludes this.
Mark 7:13 “Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so in many such matters.”
We can’t argue with the Master’s direct association of vanity and tradition as obstacles that completely eradicate God’s operation in our lives.  Traditions and customs need to be examined with discernment, some are entirely Biblical. We each have songs we don't care for or ways of worshiping that "feel" good, or traditions at church we enjoy.  But traditions that manipulate God’s law to accommodate human desires will prevent prayers from being heard.  After all, it's not supposed to be about our feelings and desires, but it should be all about His.

. . . Continued next month

Upcoming Prayer Event

Franklin Graham's Decision Tour 2016 is coming to Michigan.  Mark your calendar for a volunteer meeting at Lansing Central United Methodist Church, on Monday, August 15th, 2016, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Pray for revival and join your state’s prayer team and Facebook group.  Brainstorm ways to promote the tour in your community to raise awareness of the upcoming prayer rally. Get promotional materials at the volunteer meeting or download them online. Tell friends and family about this statewide movement. Bring them with you to the volunteer meeting. Organize a group and make plans to attend the Decision America Tour prayer rally with Franklin Graham on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016.
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Don't Forget . . .

With all the troubling events taking place, remember Christians that being persecuted around the world and our country's leaders in your prayers. 
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