Spiritual stocktaking can be extremely difficult because it requires us digging deep, being honest and transparent to get to gut level analysis of our spiritual condition before God. Yesterday, I suggested that one of the best ways to get there is to look at our prayer life and ask how many of our prayers prayed are answered. We noted that living sinfully, cherishing sin in the heart and refusing to do what is right in God’s sight are some reasons why prayers are not being answered.
Today, I want to consider a few more reasons prayers are not answered that could assist us with doing spiritual stocktaking.
Idols in the Heart are a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered
Eze 14:1 Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. 2 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 3 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?”
Israel might not have been practicing idolatry openly at this stage, but secretly … “idols in the heart”. But … you can’t hide anything from God! Some of the elders who came to Ezekiel for a word from God were secret idolaters. God saw what was in their hearts! “How dare they, who are leaders in My earthly Kingdom (Israel) follow idols secretly … idols who are manmade or self-created … giving dead objects worship and devotion …and then they come to Me (God) for counsel?”
In my devotions today (Romans 1:18-31), the author RS Atkins says this about idolatry … “Anyone who rejects God will worship idols. This does not mean bowing down to images of wood, metal or stone; it includes the craving for possessions, status, pleasure and self-aggrandizement. An idol is anything that takes the place of God in my life.”
Similarly, when we are guilty of following idols of whatever nature, we too might think we may go to God in prayer for help, counsel and guidance … but why would He give delinquent souls any help other than when they come in repentance? Like in Ezekiel’s day, like in our day, God is consistent and does not answer the prayers of those who prefer idolatry to Him. Do you and I need to reflect upon what idols might be lurking in our hearts?
Thanklessness is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered
Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Verse 7 tells us that when we come to God in prayer we must be thankful (Thanksgiving). For many years, society has adopted an attitude of thanklessness, be it as citizens, families, church members … sadly, this sinful attitude has permeated into the church. Many of God’s people have become “grabbers”, taking what they can get without being thankful to God who is the Giver of all good things. Why would a good, loving and caring God want to continue giving too (answering the prayers of) those who snatch and grab … who take without saying thank you? Do you and I need to examine our intentions, attitudes and responses when we pray?
Selfishness is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered
Following on from “thanklessness” is selfishness. One of the best explanations of selfishness is:
Pr 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
There are two kinds of poor people. The one is the poor in society and the other the poor in the church. It is not possible for the church to meet everyone’s needs. As citizens, we pay taxes, and some of this goes to meet the needs of the poor. This does not mean to say that we must not help the poor outside the church, but think of those in the church for a moment. They are our beloved in Christ. They are our eternal family. How can we have and they don’t? How can we ask God to meet our needs when we ourselves overlook meeting the needs of blood-washed souls in our church who struggle with many practical needs?
Do you and I need to examine our hearts when we pray to see if we have a selfish streak … wanting for ourselves but ignoring those within the Body of Christ who have needs?
An Unforgiving Spirit is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered
It really is so sad that we want God to forgive us of our sin, yet we might refuse to forgive someone when they sin against us. Jesus says:
Mk 11:25 “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Do you see the basis to personal forgiveness? When you forgive, God forgives. Take a more explicit passage:
Mat 6:14 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Why would God hear your need for pardon when you refuse to hear the call for you to pardon a fellow believer? Do you and I need to search our hearts to see if we have been refusing to forgive someone who sinned against us? Remember, we forgive, God forgives us. We don’t forgive, God does not forgive us!
Praying with Wrong Motives is a Terrible Cause of Prayers Not Being Answered
Jam 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
This is praying for things that are not needs but greed’s. You get the picture that James is painting … one of asking God for money, not to sustain the household, buy food, clothing, pay the electrical bill … but to go and enjoy a lavish evening out or a holiday or to purchase a fancy motorcar. James is rebuking the people then and now teaching us to ask God to meet our needs and not pray for our greed’s. Do you and I need to reflect upon what we ask for?
Looking at these 8 points of yesterday and today … do you see how we may do some serious spiritual stocktaking to assess where we are spiritually by looking at our prayer life? God hears and answers the prayers of His people … but there are conditions! Sin closes the ears and heart of God so that our prayers are not responded to!
O Lord my God, help me to look seriously at my prayer life to assess my spiritual health for Jesus’ sake. Amen.