“WHY DO ONLY SOME PRAYERS WORK, AND OTHERS DON’T? #ChurchOfTheUndead
Listen to ““WHY DO ONLY SOME PRAYERS WORK, AND OTHERS DON’T? #ChurchOfTheUndead” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Apparently, only some prayers work. That’s just a fact. You may have prayed for the healing of a sick relative, but they died instead. You may also hear stories from others, tinged with frustration because their prayers led nowhere. Why don’t some prayers work?
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Darren Marlar is a licensed minister through the Universal Life Church: https://www.themonastery.org. Find his other podcast, Weird Darkness, in your favorite podcast app at https://weirddarkness.com/listen. “Church Of The Undead” theme music by Epidemic Sound.
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Did you know praying can be dangerous?
This inquiry isn’t a veiled slight against prayer because prayer works. If it didn’t, the Bible wouldn’t have exhorted us to pray non-stop (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God wouldn’t have been called the One who answers prayers (Psalm 65:2). The unmatched apostle Paul—whose ministry operated in signs and wonders—wouldn’t have ended his epistles with humble requests for prayers (Colossians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
If prayer to God were another form of wishful thinking, Jesus wouldn’t have sunk in so much time in it (Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, John 17), especially given the brevity of His ministry.
So yes, prayer works. But let’s face it.
Apparently, only some prayers work. That’s just a fact. But why is that?
Hello, Weirdos – I’m Pastor Darren – welcome to the Church of the Undead.
Here in the Church of the Undead I can share ideas which are relevant to those who suffer with depression, need some encouragement, and for those who love (or are just curious about) the God of the Bible. And it doesn’t matter if you are a Weirdo-in-Christ or just a Weirdo – everyone is welcome here at the Church of the Undead. And I use the word “undead” because here we are DEAD to sin and ALIVE in Christ! If you want to join this Weirdo congregation, just click that subscribe or follow button – and visit us online at WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH.
Full disclosure – I might use the term “pastor” because I’ve branded this feature as a church – but I do not have a theology degree, nor did I ever go to Bible college. I’m just a guy who gave his life to Christ in 1989 and has tried to “walk the walk” every since – and has stumbled a lot along the way – because, like everybody else, I am an imperfect, heavily-flawed human being. So please don’t take what I say as gospel; dig into God’s word yourself for confirmation, inspiration, and revelation.
That being said, welcome to the Church of the Undead.
This week’s message is taken from an online article entitled, “7 Prayers That Don’t Work” written by Dr. Audrey Davidheiser – and I’ll place a link to the article in the show description.
You may have prayed for the healing of a sick relative, but they died instead. You may also hear stories from others, tinged with frustration because their prayers led nowhere. Uttering unanswered prayers is dangerous because, over time, it can corrode our faith in God. Which is why it’s crucial to identify the types of prayers that don’t work. Here are 7 of them…
1. Your Prayers Are Artificially Lengthy
“When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers” (Matthew 6:7, CEV).
Some prayers tend to lean on the lengthy side of things. But when you consider the many topics you could cover in prayer, the length makes sense. Consider these themes (in no particular order): personal needs and those of your family, including praying for the salvation of extended family members. Then comes prayer for your career. Then praying for Israel and the conflict there. Praying for America. Praying for elected officials, including in your city, state, and nation. Praying for the upcoming election that will likely change some of those elected officials. Lifting up the persecuted church and those unjustly imprisoned around the world….
(Whew!) See how long prayers can be? That’s why it’s important to zero in on the specifics of the warning Jesus issued in Matthew 6:7… “When you pray, don’t talk on and on as people do who don’t know God. They think God likes to hear long prayers”.
He’s not prohibiting long prayers, exactly. Instead, Jesus instructs us not to pad our prayers with empty words.
Pray from your heart. If it takes a long time to cover every point, so be it. But there’s no need to repeat things over and over just to prolong your prayer.
The length of your prayer time has no bearing on heaven’s court.
2. Passive-Aggressive Prayers
Have you ever witnessed a prayer in which the speaker had an axe to grind? Here is an example. If a mother feels resentful because her children hardly pay her any attention, she can use prayer as a vessel to voice her resentment—so her kids, who are in attendance, would hear it. A prayer to bless the food may devolve into one in which this mother asks God to “please forgive these children for not respecting their parents or loving their mother enough.”
This type of prayer doesn’t work because it’s primarily meant for another person’s ears and not God, which is a version of what Matthew 6:5 warns against:
“And when you pray, be not like the pretenders who like to stand in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets to pray, that they may be seen by the children of men, and truly I say to you, they have received their reward”.
How about if we rework the mother-children scenario? A better strategy involves the fictitious mother working through her feelings, whether with God or in therapy, so that bitterness won’t sully her prayers. If she needs to forgive, it’s best for her to do so in the privacy of her own time.
Don’t use prayer as a way to show off, shame, or sideline anyone. This gesture can easily qualify as a stumbling block in another’s path toward God, which the Bible warns us against doing.
Luke 17:1-2 says, “And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.’”
Similarly, Romans 14:13 teaches, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
3. The Prayer is Faithless
The Bible makes a big deal about faith. It’s impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We are to live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). When Jesus walked the earth, He often credited the faith of the person He healed as the source of the miracle (Matthew 8:10, Matthew 15:28).
Faith serves as a currency in the kingdom of God. He exhorts us to examine our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul praised the Thessalonian church not because of how generous or prayerful they were but because their faith and love kept growing (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Verses about faith are not limited to the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Proverbs clearly warns about faithless prayers: “The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, But He overthrows the words of the faithless” (Proverbs 22:12). If He overthrows the words of the faithless, including in prayer, then needless to say, He won’t respond to them either.
When you pray, do so with faith. Trust that the God who is love (1 John 4:8, 6) will give you the best.
4. The Prayers Are Imprecatory
This twenty-dollar word refers to prayers in the Psalms with the sole purpose of asking God to thwack someone else. Here is a snippet: “When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes” (Psalm 109: 7-10, NIV).
Whoa. Talk about spite. David is shooting out daggers with this prayer, wanting God to harm someone.
Imprecatory prayers pre-date the Cross—the greatest injustice ever recorded, when God, in His kindness, surrendered His own Son as a payment for sins. Perhaps, before Jesus came, God accepted prayers that called down destruction on those who opposed His people. But afterward—that is after Christ taught the world to love our enemies and pray for the benefit of those who persecute us—we have zero grounds to pray punitive prayers any longer.
Matthew 5:43-45 = “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
5. Praying For Your Own Will
Want answered prayers? Lean on these verses: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Did you catch the key? Ask God for HIS will. If you do so, He will not only hear you but also fulfill your requests.
But this isn’t a license for us to live lazily in our prayer life either. “I’m praying for whatever God’s will is for me” is a just a cop-out. Instead, search His Word for His will. For example, if you’re single and pining for marriage, search the Bible to see if marriage is God’s will for you. Meditate on verses like Genesis 2:18—“It isn’t good that man should be alone” —and ask the Holy Spirit if you can use it to back up your petition regarding marriage.
As a safeguard, you can copy Jesus’ own words in Luke 22:42 to end your prayer: “Not my will, but Yours be done”.
But what if you have a sneaking suspicion that your will opposes God’s will? Since praying God’s will is one key to answered prayers, instead of asking God to bend His will to what you desire – ask Him to change your heart to desire His will. Pray Philippians 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”.
6. Setting Time Limits Within Your Prayers
In reality, this concept can take various forms. For instance,
- “Lord, please give me a baby… before I turn 30.”
- “If my husband doesn’t change his ways in three months, I’ll take it as a sign we’re supposed to separate.”
- “Please give me the money to pay my credit cards before the end of the month when they’re due.”
Since we only know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9), in the grand scheme of things, even what we think we know may be woefully inaccurate. For instance, you may think it’s best to start a family before turning 30. But if the Lord knows that you need more time to heal or mature, delaying the chapter on parenthood until after it happens (in His timing)—regardless of your age—will benefit you and your child both.
That’s because you’ll pass on to your child any issues you haven’t dealt with. God knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). This includes the best time for everything. Since “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), setting an expiration date or time frame for your prayers may work against you.
Then there’s the issue of setting a time limit for someone else to change, which directly opposes free will. While you can certainly pray for the Lord to soften someone’s heart, you also need to realize that humans are notoriously resistant to change. That’s why you tend to pick the same place every Sunday to sit at church; or tend to order the same things from the menu at the same restaurant you choose to go to. That’s why despite having three dozen shirts in the closet, you tend to wear the same few, because they are your favorites. Or is that just me? We don’t like change. God’s respect for free will means He won’t bend the other person’s will to change within the period you’ve arbitrarily decided in your prayer.
7. Degrading Your Own Value Within Your Prayer
Some mistakenly think it’s best to remind God of how unworthy they are in their prayers. Coupled with this lowly view of themselves, they are not asking in faith and instead are begging God for what they need. They might say things like, “God, I’m only a sinner who’s unworthy of You. But could You please give me ____? Please?” I have heard this in some way so many times throughout my life, recited by so many people who are looked up to in spiritual circles, that for the longest time I thought this was the way you were supposed to pray. Belittle yourself when speaking to God. Some may think this is being humble, but it’s not – it’s actually unbiblical. Adopting this attitude in prayer disrespects God’s Word, particularly what He has said about us.
Consider how the New Testament views our status in Christ:
Galatians 4:7 = “You are no longer slaves. You are God’s children, and you will be given what He has promised”.
Romans 8:17 = “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory”.
Ephesians 2:19 = “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens [outsiders without rights of citizenship], but you are fellow citizens with the saints (God’s people), and are [members] of God’s household”.
1 Peter 2:9 = “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.
Jesus Himself upgraded our status from servants to friends; John 15:15 = “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because all things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you”.
In light of these terms of endearment—friends of Jesus, chosen, a people for His own possession, citizens along with the saints, children, and heirs of God—it must sadden the Father when He hears us use self-demeaning terms. The analogy is far from perfect, but it’s akin to a child being adopted into a new, loving family, but keeping their old last name instead of taking on the name of the new family they’ve been adopted into.
So… let’s do better. Let’s approach God with boldness and faith:
Hebrews 4:16 = “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need”
…believing that as a good Father, He delights to delight us.
Here’s to a future of more answered prayers.
If you like what you heard, share this episode with others whom you think might also like it. Maybe the person you share it with will want to join this Weirdo congregation too! To join this Weirdo family yourself, find us on Facebook, listen to previous messages, even find out how to join me in my daily bible studies, visit WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH. That’s WeirdDarkness.com/CHURCH. You can find the sources I used for this week’s message in the show notes. I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me, Weirdos. Until next time, Jesus loves you and so do I. God bless.