Having Confidence in Prayer
Do you struggle to have confidence in your prayers, wondering if you are praying right or if God is listening? Does it seem that your prayers are not getting above the ceiling! If this describes your experience you may wonder, “Why should I pray at all? How can I be confident that God hears my prayers when they go unanswered?”
John Piper sought to answer this question in a recent blog. He wrote, “The main way that God deepens, strengthens and awakens confidence in prayer is not through answered prayer. It's by the word of the living God! When God says, "I hear you," we should believe him.” Piper is right. All too often, our confidence comes from receiving the answers we desire rather than knowing that he hears our prayers. We are to pray trusting that God loves us desires to answer our prayers.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul says to, “walk by faith, not by sight;” He has just reminded the Corinthians of how when they are with God everything will be clearly seen. Until then, we are to fix our eyes on this future longing and walk and pray by faith. However, for some reason we have flipped this upside down believing that unless we see the answers we desire now, we cannot have confidence that God hears our prayers. Putting it this way should make us uncomfortable.
We should ask ourselves is, “Which is more trustworthy, what I think or what God says?” Only a fool believes that they are infallible, that all their thoughts are trustworthy. On the other hand, can we name a time when God’s promises have failed us? Has there been a time when He has lied to us?
I appreciate the words of Isaiah 55, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (8-9) John also says, “We are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.” (1 John 5:14) We lack confidence in our prayers because we fail to trust that the Lord will keep His promise to hear our prayers.
If the Bible’s claim that God is trustworthy is true, then Jesus’ words are clear, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11) Our doubts question the very goodness of God.
When we consider God in view of ourselves rather than ourselves in view of God, we will always have problems. While we may not question our own goodness, we may find it easy to question God’s. Jesus’ questions are probing; for if we who are evil can do good, why then do we doubt that God who is good will not do even more? Because the Lord is good and because he loves us, we should trust that He will provide all that we need. We struggle here when we do not receive what we want when we want it.
I realize that not all prayers are selfish prayers. There are times when we passionately pray for others. We plead for the healing of a child, or cry out to be rescued from abuse and our prayers still seem unanswered. I cannot tell explain why these prayers seem unanswered, but it does not affect my confidence. Why not? My thoughts go back to Isaiah 55, “my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” If I am going to walk by faith and not by sight, I need to trust that God knows better than me!
I understand that this can be difficult when all we receive is silence! But God is not like Santa Claus, just because we do not receive the answer we desire does not mean that God does not hear or that he has deemed us unworthy. The promise is that God hears and is at work. Will we trust in the Lord, or will we demand that He answer our way? Peace in our troubles will come from walking in faith rather than sight. Our confidence will come by placing our trust in Him.