Monthly Archives: November 2018
Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayers? Part One
We received a question from one of our readers: Why doesn’t God answer prayers?
Apprehending the answer is a rite of passage.
In the gospel of Matthew in his beautiful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us three specific points to consider:
6:22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (KJV).
6:31-33 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (ESV).
7:7-8 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (ESV).
Jesus instructs us to follow a single-eyed point of focus. He tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. He assures us that everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds and to whosoever knocks at the door of heaven, it will be opened.
Yet sometimes it seems as if we are asking and there is nothing to receive; seeking and getting no answer; knocking and nobody’s home.
Don’t be anxious for anything? How do I knock on a door that I can’t find? Where is the kingdom of God and his righteousness anyway? Why does Jesus tell me that everyone who asks receives, but then doesn’t answer my prayers? How can my body be full of light? The struggle is wearing me out!
Remember Beloved, this is a rite of passage; and passage means going from one place to another. It is a journey, a mission, an expedition.
The journey happens on the road from childhood to maturity. It doesn’t have anything to do with how many years we’ve been here, or how many years it’s been since we were saved, or how long we’ve been struggling. It has to do with our relationship with Christ.
Jesus calls us to intimacy with him. He says, “…Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Songs 2:10b KJV).
He calls us to rest in him: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ESV).
He calls us to talk with him: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).
He calls us to go with him: “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19b ESV).
Jesus says, Rise up! Come to me, talk with me, follow me! I will wash you white as snow, I will give you rest, I will transform you.
…Continued in Part Two…
The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit
Jeanette and I, and our Speak Comfort team, send our loving regards to a young reader who asked, "Are God the Father and God the Son the same? Is Jesus God, God's Son, or both?" We are delighted to receive your question, and Jeanette and I will each post an answer in our blogs.
Let's begin at the beginning! Picture what is happening in Genesis 1:1-3,
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (NLT).
In scripture God is referred to by many names, and we'll talk more about that one day in another post. In the very first mention of God in the Bible, in the first verse of the book of Genesis, God is called by the Hebrew name, Elohim. The name Elohim speaks to us about God in his creative power, and it's important to note here that the word Elohim is plural. That doesn't mean that there was more than one god present at creation. It means that God, as the Trinity: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, were all present participants at the creation, as Elohim, God the Creator.
The story of Genesis begins with "In the beginning," and so does the Gospel of John when he describes Jesus as the Word of God:
"In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone" (NLT).
In the beginning of creation, God, Elohim, was fully present in his creative power as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Is there another place in scripture where all three members of the Trinity are present at the same time? Yes!
Luke's gospel describes the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by John the Baptist this way:
"One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, 'You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy'" (NLT).
Jesus was present "in the flesh," as both the Son of man (fully human) and the Son of God (fully divine); God the Father was present, speaking from heaven; and the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a dove. God the Father acknowledged Jesus as his Son, in front of witnesses.
In fact, the apostle John recorded in his gospel that John the Baptist testified, "...'I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God" (NLT).
At Jesus' baptism, God spoke from heaven in front of witnesses to affirm that Jesus is his Son. God also spoke privately beforehand to John the Baptist, giving him instructions on how to recognize the Messiah. God sent his Holy Spirit from heaven, as a confirmation of God's Anointing.
Are you beginning to see the triune nature of God and how the three members of the Trinity work together? There really are a Father, a Son and a Spirit who are in eternal relationship with each other, and all three are equally Elohim. They are all God.
The most famous Hebrew prayer is in the book of Deuteronomy, and it's called the Shema prayer:
"Listen Israel: Yahweh is our Elohim. Yahweh is the only God. Love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Names of God Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
and the New International Version translates Deuteronomy 6:4 like this:
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one."
Therefore we can understand scripture as saying, "Hear, O Israel: Elohim (plural) is one (the Trinity)." Or, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are One.
Is there a place in scripture where we see God the Father and God the Son together in heaven, after the Resurrection? Yes, there is!
Luke tells us the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in Acts 6:8-15 through Acts 7:1-60. Stephen was full of faith and power, and he did great wonders in Jesus' name among the people. But the people set up false witnesses against him, and after Stephen presented a defense by witnessing for Christ as he was prophesied in the Old Testament, the people became enraged and stoned Stephen to death.
Here is a description of what Stephen saw while this was happening:
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (NIV).
At that moment, Stephen and the Holy Spirit were witnesses to Jesus' presence at the right hand of our Father in heaven. Stephen saying that he saw Jesus as the Son of Man tells us that he saw Jesus in his ascended, resurrected body. Jesus tells us in John 4:24 that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (KJV). Because God is a Spirit, his form is different than our earthly bodies. Stephen saw Jesus in his resurrected body, and saw God in his glory. We could say that Stephen saw God in his "glory body," so to speak, because although God's form is different than Jesus' resurrected body, Stephen could still see God's glory; he isn't invisible.
There is a place in scripture where we find God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit together in heaven.
The apostle John describes the Throne of God in Revelation 4:2-11. In chapter 4, we see God the Father seated on the Throne in verses two and three:
"At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne" (NIV).
Like Stephen, John is describing God seated on his throne, in his glory. John describes the Holy Spirit as seven lamps of fire - which is an image of the menorah - representing the seven spirits of God - which are the seven attributes of the Holy Spirit:
"From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God" (NIV).
In Revelation 5:1, we see God the Father holding a book: "Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals" (NIV).
Only Jesus is worthy to open the book with the seven seals, and we see him in Revelation 5:5-9:
"Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.'
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
'You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation'" (NIV).
We can see, from the first verses of Genesis through the book of Revelation, that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, are One God - Three in One - and that they work together, each operating from a different position and function within the Trinity, to fulfill a single purpose.
Jesus is God; He is God the Son. He is fully Man, resurrected and ascended; and he is fully God, eternal and full of power.
As Paul wrote to Jewish believers in the book of Hebrews 1:1-4:
"In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs" (NIV).
May God bless you and keep you, in Jesus' holy name.
Pray for Thousand Oaks
“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.” Charles H. Spurgeon
Our prayers are with the families of all those whose lives were lost in the shooting in Thousand Oaks, California overnight. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. Our prayers are with you, all over the world, who weep and mourn. God will restore all that the enemy has taken, in his time, for our blessing and his glory. In Jesus’ name.
In the Hands of the Potter
“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NLT).
As a widow, a teacher and counselor, the disciplines of silence, solitude, prayer and study are the spiritual foods that nourish me, every day. It is upon the rock of these disciplines that the foundation of my life and my spiritual practice are established, because these are the pathways that I inhabit that lead me into fellowship with my Lord and Savior.
Over the years these disciplines have formed me, and I realize that they are for me, but the re-formation of my mind, heart, soul and spirit does not come from me. God is the Potter and I am the clay. As my relationship with Christ has matured, I have come to understand that, as a lump of clay in the hand of God, every event and experience in my life is being used by him to shape me into the woman of God that he originally intended me to be; for his glory, not my own.
Through his Holy Spirit, Jesus is teaching me how to be the clay. How not to be hard or brittle. How to be soft and pliable in the Master’s hands. He is teaching me that even if the world seems to be spinning out of control, it is the Potter who has command of the wheel, and all that he is asking me to do is trust him.
When my soul is dry, Jesus says, “’Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” ( John 17:37b-39a NIV). He fills me with Living Water, when I come to him with an open heart and empty hands.
I have discovered that when I do not spend time in the presence of Jesus, when I neglect his word, if I am too busy to pray, my spirit becomes faint from hunger. When I am no longer too busy or too distracted and I remember my Savior again, he feeds my spirit with bread from heaven, and my strength is renewed. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35 NIV).
The world can be a turbulent and frightening place, but the Holy Spirit has taught me, over many years and through the trials of every formative experience, how to be content in all circumstances. The disciplines of silence, solitude, prayer, study and fasting are methods that the Lord supplies so that we may experience the blessing of boldly approaching his Throne of Grace, casting all our cares on him, the Lover of our souls.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:11-13 NIV).