2019-11-12 Tough Prayer.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may
discern what is the will of God, what is good and
acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2

There is someone Melissa and I have been praying for lately who is now experiencing a setback after a period of doing much better. It is tempting to get discouraged. It is also tempting to kick one’s self for not praying as hard as we once did. You know, “Let’s really get serious about our prayer again.”

You’ve been there, too. It’s as if we think God acts positively only when we are praying hard. Is that the case? Does God back off when we back off our prayer?

I’ve fell into that trap many times. In fact, I felt the more people I asked to pray with me, the better. In a sense, there is truth to that, yet it is still off the mark because God didn’t answer those most important prayers the way I asked. Did he not hear me? Did he not hear all the people that stood in agreement with me?

Of course, he did. So, why didn’t he answer it?

This is a topic that one could write a book on yet still have lots of unanswered questions. What gives me peace is simply trusting God to do what only He can do – perfection. Anything short, God’s not going to do it. So, you see, there is no point asking God for something that He won’t do or against the truth that we have been taught.

Let’s start with the basics. Does God hear our prayer? Not everyone’s.

Isaiah 59:2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dulled, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

It seems to me that sin will be a problem for believers, but definitely a problem for unbelievers. So, we must deal with our sin if we truly want to be heard. See 1 John 1:9 for help with that. For believers, we have a special privilege.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

That one should be forefront in our minds when it comes to prayer. We have a special privilege that God desires us to use.

Now, let’s get to the toughest topic we can face – the salvation of our loved ones. Who doesn’t want their children to know Jesus and go to heaven? Yet, is that realistic? Will that happen? Does God promise this to us? No, he does not. I write about all this a lot because it is fundamental if we are to pray within the will of God.

First, we know that many will not be saved and only a few will (Matthew 7:13-14). Each of us is accountable for our own actions (2 Cor. 5:10, Ezek. 18:20), a test all of us will fail based upon our own actions (Romans 3:23). It is only through faith in Jesus that we may be saved (Eph. 2:8). Finally, it is God’s own choice who he will or will not have mercy on (Romans 9:15-16), a decision he made long before anyone was ever born (Eph. 1:4). (All of this can be supported by plenty of additional scripture.)

If this is true, and I believe scripture is clear on this, then we have a problem if we pray for someone’s salvation, assuming, of course, we desire to pray within God’s will. If God will only have mercy on those whom he has decided beforehand, then we cannot change his mind on that. No, salvation is a matter that we have no influence on, either our own or others.

How then might we pray for the lost? It’s pretty tough to think that I can’t do anything. I don’t have all the answers, but the ones I do come from God’s own word as revealed in scripture. How might we then pray – apart from salvation? Well, we might still pray for mercy apart from salvation, like Moses did how many times in the desert.

I know this is tough stuff, folks, but if we can’t pray someone into heaven, then perhaps we can pray that they might not make a complete wreck of their lives here on earth, that their sin might be limited so as to minimize the harm done to themselves and others. Is there merit in this type of prayer? I think so.

On the other hand, we don’t know who God will save. Can we assume that a loved one might NOT be saved? Of course not. But, remember, God doesn’t put a sticker on someone’s head so that we might know. In that case, we might pray that God might save the person sooner than later. Why? So that s/he might stop being his enemy and praise his name sooner rather than later. Keep in mind, that God might intend for his/her story to be of the train-wreck variety. How could we disagree with God on that?

Why am I sharing this? To save myself a lot of agony, and through it, maybe save some for you. If salvation is God’s business, and his alone, I can learn to trust him, even if it means that some of my loved ones won’t be saved. Yes, that seems almost impossible to comprehend, but this whole business of justice and mercy is best left to God. Honestly. Of course, I don’t like to think about eternal damnation. Who does? Yet, God is the one who makes the rules. He has proven himself trustworthy in all other matters, why not trust him in this?

You may not agree with me on this topic, and perhaps I am wrong. The bottom line is that we have God’s will revealed through the pages of scripture. Do we choose to believe it or not? If you disagree and believe that the individual is responsible for his/her own salvation, then you have one huge responsibility. If you have the ability to pray, reason, and demonstrate salvation for others, yet fail to convince even one, then wouldn’t his or her blood be on your head (Ezekiel 3:18-21)? How might you rest, knowing that a man might die at any moment, yet you haven’t done EVERYTHING in your power to convince him to believe in Jesus? At what cost to you might be too much to pay for someone’s salvation?

I don’t see this in scripture. Yes, we are to share the gospel, no doubt about that, but we cannot convince someone, nor should we think we can. If we do, aren’t we taking on God’s role? Aren’t we saying we don’t trust God in this matter, that we must act because we know better? I think that would be exactly what we would be doing. Is it any wonder, then, that we become frustrated when we try to do more than God has intended for us?

Anyway, that’s enough for today. Think about these things in light of Romans 12:2, and you might find great peace.

Father, guide us. If there is anything in this message of mine that is not in accord to your will and teaching, please correct me and please let it be quickly forgotten by those who read it. I desire to speak truth, not deceit. Amen.

Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers

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