Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Let us say as we pray, Jesus I know you're good. I know it.
I know you're listening and I know you're able to help. Just like I see you in the Gospels. Remember the great battle of our spiritual lives is will you believe. Now we try harder to be worthy but will you believe. Welcome back to Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host Molly Vidovitch. So what do you do when it feels like God isn't hearing your prayers? In the second part of this message that we began yesterday, Pastor J.D. shows us that the answer isn't to give up.
The answer is actually to keep asking. Time and time again, the Bible gives us examples of how important persistent prayer is. As we finish Jacob's story today, we'll look at how God rewarded his persistence and how that might be exactly what God wants from us as well.
As always, if you miss any of our programs or if you're in search of our featured monthly resource, you can find it all online at jdgreer.com or by giving us a call at 866-335-5220. But right now, let's rejoin Pastor J.D. in this message he titled, Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer? Our belief in the goodness of God is measured by how long we will persist in prayer when the answer does not come. Real prayer, the kind that comes from your soul, the kind that Jacob prayed, the kind that just comes up as a groan that always leaves you with a wound. In fact, that's the sign that you started to pray that way. A wound like Jacob received.
A wound where God drives you to the end of yourself, where you've exhausted all your abilities and you've lost any confidence that you can do anything. And you're looking out saying, God, there's 400 armed men. I got no answer for that. I got nowhere to run. I got nowhere to turn. My only hope is you.
And from that point onward, you're going to walk for the rest of your life with a limp. Have you been there? Maybe you're there right now. You feel desperate about something, something you want to change, some change you want to see in your life, some change you need to see in somebody else's life, some change in the situation, and you despair.
And at some point, you have found yourself screaming at God by yourself in your car, maybe at home when nobody else is there, out in the water, and you're screaming at God, I can't do this. I don't have anything else. You're the only one. You're the only one who can do this. You're the only one who can give this blessing. And I won't let you go because I got no other alternatives. I won't let you go until you bless me because I know you're good and I got nowhere else to turn. And I promise you from that point onward, you're going to spend the rest of your life walking with a limp, reminding you of when God brought you to that point of despair and you clung to him because you had no other alternative. It is usually, Charles Spurgeon said, it is usually when you have no words and you can only groan in prayer. That's when you've really started to pray and you've offered your best prayer. This is what the Bible teaches us effective prayer looks like. We press through what looks like God's unwillingness to lay hold of his promises. And again, friend, don't just think this is a one-off teaching from the book of Genesis. Like I'm just taking some story and getting creative and capitalize on and say, oh, this is a metaphor for prayer. Yo, I could use example after example after example from the life of Jesus, but you're going to see the same pattern play out again and again and how he bestows his miracles, right?
I mean, to give you one, Mark 7, Syrophoenician woman, a Gentile, comes to Jesus to get healing for a daughter. And Jesus responds with what is without question the rudest thing in the Bible. What's he saying? Woman, it is not right to take the bread intended for children and to give it to dogs. He called the woman a dog. I've heard commentators say, well, you know, the word he used actually means a little dog like puppy. Yeah, but it still means dog, right?
And in no culture at any time has it ever been flattering to call a woman a dog. What's he doing? What's he doing? He's resisting her. What does she do? She comes back. She presses back. She says, I'll see your arm move, and I'm going to put the figure four on you.
Yeah, Lord, but in a rich man's house, there's so much food on the table that some of it tumbles off and even little dogs get to eat. That's her version of wrestling. Hey, Jesus, you're acting like you're trying to get away, but I won't let you go until you bless me because my daughter's got no alternative. What happens? Jesus stops. He says, wow, I've never seen faith like that anywhere in Israel. By the way, don't miss the use of the word Israel. That was the kind of faith Israel showed. And he's looking at this group of people saying all these people that are essentially in church, he says, none of y'all pray that way. I haven't seen faith like that, but this woman knows that Iowa looks like resistance.
It's not actually resistance. And he gives her the blessing. Think of it like this. Instead of doing what Jesus originally said he would do, Jesus did what the woman believed he could and would do. Jim Cymbala, who's pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, wrote one, maybe one of the best books on prayer I've ever read called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. He said, the great battle of our spiritual lives is will you believe? It's not will you try harder? It's not can you make yourself worthy? It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only God can do.
And then you pray and you pray and you wrestle and don't give up until God gives the blessing. I know I'm talking to a lot of people this weekend who are waiting on God to answer some prayer. And you're sitting here thinking, I don't know why.
It seems like a good thing. I don't feel like I'm asking selfishly. Why hasn't God answered my prayer?
It's a fair question. And some of you, for some of you, it's led you to doubt, quite honestly, God's goodness or to wonder if he even exists. So I want to end this message by giving you four reasons gleaned from this story for why God may not be answering your prayer or why at least you feel like he's not answering your prayer. I want you to consider these, okay?
They won't all apply to you, but maybe one or two of them will. Number one, number one reason you may not sense him answering your prayer like you think he should be answering it. Number one, maybe you're not yet pursuing his will. Hear me out. It is significant that this wrestling match does not happen until Jacob had stopped his life of swindling and was on his way back to the promised land, right? God will not pour blessing into your life when you are living in open rebellion to him.
How do I know that? Because the psalmist says very plainly, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Peter says to husbands that if your husbands are mistreating your wives, if you're not respecting them, if you're not honoring them, if you're not putting their needs and wants before your own, then your prayers, 1 Peter 3-7, are going to be hindered. And for some of you men, that's why God has not answered a prayer since you got married. All the wives are like, mm-hmm, that's right, amen, okay?
Multiple other places where Jesus says open sin cuts us off from the blessing of God. Listen, if you have not surrendered yourself to the lordship of Jesus this morning, God puts himself under no obligation to hear your prayers. You're not his child. And so none, none of the promises of prayer are yours. I don't say that to be mean.
In fact, the opposite of mean. You can become God's child right now, today, just by repenting of your sin and receiving this free offer to forgive and save you. He offers that to you. But see, the point is, until you do that, none of these promises of prayer are yours. Now maybe, maybe you've done that. You're like, well, I'm a Christian, I've received Christ. But maybe still, right now, this weekend, you're living with some kind of unconfessed, willful sin. Again, if I regard iniquity in my heart, in other words, if there's something that God has told me I shouldn't be doing, but I'm kind of doing it anyway, thinking it won't be that big of a deal, the Lord will not hear me. Your sin has placed a block between you and God that Scripture says may keep your prayer from being answered. Is that true in your life this morning?
Is the Holy Spirit putting his finger on something in your life right now? If so, then you need to stop praying and start repenting. Now, I want to give one caveat here, because specifically, in the case of children who have walked away from God, many parents assume that it's some sin in their lives that made their child wonder.
I talk to parents like this all the time. The author of Prayers for Prodigals says this. He said, you know, when we parents are not getting an answer to our prayers to bring our prodigal children back, we look for somebody to blame.
Right? A lot of times we'll turn to somebody else, this person's fault, these friends' fault. He said, but we don't look very far. More than one parent of a prodigal son or daughter has found themselves looking in the mirror and asking, is God punishing me through my child for something I did in the past? The author says emphatically, no. We know that because Ezekiel 18 says clearly that in the new covenant, God will not punish the children for the sins of the father. The author says a better explanation for what's happening would be more John 9, when the disciples encounter a man who's been born blind from birth and they ask Jesus if he's blind because of his sin or his parents' sin. And Jesus says very simply, verse 3, neither this man nor his parents sin. This came about so that God's works might be displayed in him.
In other words, this happens not because God is punishing somebody for some sin, but he's created a situation where he gets to show off his power and grace. So in other words, parents, hear me, it's not your fault. The father in Jesus' story of the prodigal son had not done anything wrong per se. There is nothing in Jesus' story that indicates that this young prodigal son left because of failures in the father or deficiencies in his parenting.
You can't blame yourself. They get to make their own decisions. God created, after all, he created only two humans directly, Adam and Eve, and both of them rebelled. And it's not because God was a deficient father.
They are not being punished for your failures. God has just created a situation where you got to press into his grace. He's created a situation where you got nothing left to do except grab hold of God and say, I can't let you go until you bless me.
The wrong thing to do in the situation of a prodigal is to blame yourself. The right thing to do is pray that God's great works would be displayed in him or her. But to return to the main point, if you're not experiencing an answer to prayer, you should at least ask, am I pursuing God's will in all the ways that I know how? Right now, this morning, are you doing everything you know God told you to do? Any past sins, Jesus' blood is covered, so he's not paying you back for those. But right now, are you following his will?
And once you're satisfied that you are, well, then you can proceed to number two. Number two, maybe he has a better plan. Maybe he's got a better plan. We have to at least acknowledge that with our limited knowledge, we can't know everything. And sometimes God overrules us in love. Right? I mean, every parent understands this. Sometimes I overrule my kid's request of me, not despite my lack of love for them, but because of my love for them.
Right? I mean, right now, I've got to get something for my 16-year-old to drive. Naturally, she wants a self-driving Tesla. Instead, I got her a Honda Accord with a stick shift. Now, she's like, Dad, why am I having to learn to drive a stick? This is so hard. And I say, I know, I know. But A, I think this is actually a valuable skill for you to have.
B, this will help remove the temptation to have the phone in your hand when you drive. I'm giving her something different because I have a better plan and I think my plan is better. Now, I'm not saying that I'm infinitely wise. Maybe Tom will tell my decision wasn't the right one. But I can tell you the wisdom of our Heavenly Father is always better. So Jesus teaches us to begin every single prayer we pray by saying, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. No less than the Apostle Paul was told by God in answer to a persistent prayer. God says to Paul, hey, Paul, stop praying that. I'm not going to remove this thorn from your flesh like you're asking because I've got a better plan. And my grace is going to be sufficient for you in this affliction.
So I know this is what you want, but I got a better plan. Quite often, God is up to something better in our lives that we just can't see yet. We love around here the way Tim Keller summarizes it. Look, God will either give us what we asked for in prayer or he will give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything that he knows.
We'll return to our teaching in just a moment, but I wanted to quickly remind you about our new featured resource this month. It's a bundle of resources to help make praying regularly a little easier. We have three books, each called Five Things to Pray. They will cover how to pray for your city and your community, how to pray for your kids and how to pray for your parents. And our hope is that you'll start to get a bigger view of God and a bigger view of prayer and that as a result, your prayer life would be transformed. Support Summit Life today by giving us a call at 866-335-5220.
Or you can give online at jdgrier.com. Now let's get back to the final few minutes of today's message. Here's Pastor JD. Do you remember the story in Luke 1 where Zachariah is in the temple and suddenly Gabriel the angel appears to him and tells him he's going to have a son, John the Baptist, who's going to announce the coming of the Messiah.
Y'all, I saw something in that story the other day I've literally never seen before and I couldn't believe I'd never seen it. When the angel first appears to Zachariah, you know the first thing he says? Luke 1 13. Don't be afraid Zachariah because your prayer has been heard. What prayer? Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you will name his name John. A prayer to get pregnant. The first thing the angel says is, hey I'm here because God heard your prayer.
Here's the thing. How long ago had Zachariah stopped praying that prayer? I ask because the text says that Zachariah and Elizabeth were, in Hebrew, very old. Not just old, very old. Ancient. As in so old that an all-nighter for Zachariah meant not getting up to go to the bathroom.
Right? Or so old that if you said something to Zachariah about getting lucky he just assumed you meant finding a good parking spot in the grocery store. That kind of old.
You follow me? Like late 70s early 80s kind of old is what commentators say. Y'all I can see Zachariah and Elizabeth praying to get pregnant into their 40s. Maybe they were even bold and audacious enough to ask God for that gift into their 50s. Maybe.
But now she's in her mid to late 70s? That's a prayer they have long ago stopped praying. They just assumed that God had said no or that he wasn't listening. But the first thing the angel says when he shows up, the first thing is no no no God heard you.
He's had a better plan. One you had to wait for and one you couldn't have comprehended had he tried to explain it to you. Friend what if, what if, what if when we get to heaven we see there was something like this for every supposed unanswered prayer in our lives. Again Ruth Bell Graham, when I am dealing with an all-powerful all-knowing God, I as a mere mortal must offer my petitions not only with persistence but also with patience. Someday I'll know why. Number three. Number three, maybe you're approaching God without confidence in his goodness.
Let me tell you why I share this one. James 1 5 Jesus half brother James says, now look if any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God and hey good news God will give generously. Oh he's poured out and ungrudgingly, my favorite word in the verse, ungrudgingly means he doesn't do it while pointing a finger at you criticizing you for being so dumb to get yourself in a situation where you needed that wisdom. He's not bringing up your past sins, he's already forgiven those and Jesus is not going to be any condemnation. Just ask and your heavenly father will give it to you.
Watch, what's this? But let him ask in faith without doubting for the doubter is like the surging sea driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. In other words, you come to God you need wisdom you got to believe that he's good and that he will provide it.
You have to be certain of his goodness and his willingness. This is not name it claim it theology all. Name it claim it theology is when you believe you know better than God what you need and he's obligated to give it to you.
And God's like a pinata and faith and prayer like a whacking stick and if you whack God hard enough then he's just going to give you whatever candy you're asking for. That's not what James is talking about. James is talking about approaching God with certainty about his character.
Certainty about his promise of goodness. Jesus, I know you're good. I know it.
Man, I know you're listening. You're just like I see you in the gospels. You're just as attentive. You're just as moved with compassion. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.
You know when a hair falls out of my head. You know every thought before I have it. You have intended good for me. I'm coming with that confidence. I believe James' promise about asking for wisdom would apply to anything we ask for because he says you will receive anything from God, right? So I'm not more than just wisdom. Anything you ask God for you got to be certain of the goodness and character of Jesus or like James said you're not going to receive anything from him.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. So let us say as we pray, Jesus, I know you're good. I know it.
I know you're listening and I know you're able to help. Just like I see you in the gospels. Remember the great battle of our spiritual lives is will you believe? Not will you try harder or be worthy but will you believe?
Which leaves me the last one. Number four, maybe you've not yet prayed long enough. No, maybe you've not yet prayed long enough.
Maybe, maybe there's a little bit more of the night of wrestling ahead. Don't give up, friend. Don't give up. Hold on to that heavenly man. Hold on and say with Jacob, I am not going to let you go because I got no other alternatives and I can't let you go until you bless me. Remember Martin Luther's definition of effective prayer. Effective prayer, catching Christ in his words and then wrestling with him until he fulfills it. Hold on to God.
Hold on to him. Cling to him in desperation through the darkest hour of the night saying, God, why aren't you doing why aren't you doing this yet? God, you promised. Lord, you promised good to me.
My hope in you is secure. You said surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. You've said that I'll see the goodness of the Lord of the land of the living. You said that the children of the righteous will be blessed. You said that you would use me as a blessing and not a curse. You said you would use me to point other people to your goodness. God, I'm believing what you said. God, I'm not letting you go because you're the only one who can fulfill this. Listen to me, friend. Listen, God feeling distant from you is just an illusion.
It's just an illusion. He is testing your faith in his goodness. He's seeing if you're going to give up on him.
He's seeing if you're going to turn away from him to something else or maybe just conclude he doesn't exist. Listen, he's giving you a wound. He's giving you a wound at the place of your brazen, foolish self-confidence. Be honest, that foolish self-confidence, that independent streak is what caused you to wander into a life of grasping and deceiving. Through this time of waiting on him and desperation, he's going to create in you a limp, a limp where you learn to lean on his strength and not yours anymore. For the rest of your life, I promise you, you're going to look back and say, that's the most blessed wound that I've ever received.
Before God uses a man greatly, you'll always hurt him very deeply because he's got to create that wound where you lean on him and you teach other people that salvation is not found. My goodness, my abilities is not found in my parenting. It's not found in my persuasion.
I don't know. My hope is in his goodness and my limp is going to show you that. Let me tell you about my place of brokenness.
Let me tell you what God did in it. So see, press on, my friends. Press on because some answers are only given after a night of painful wrestling. Don't give up.
Don't give up. After all, after all, you're praying to the God who went through the darkness of Gethsemane and through the torture of Golgotha for you. I can assure you he's listening. If he didn't turn his back on you when sin was crushing the life out of him, he's not going to close his ear to you now that you are his child. You feel like he doesn't care about your broken marriage? You feel like he doesn't care about your unsaved husband? You feel like he doesn't care about your wayward child? He doesn't care about your lost friends or your broken body? He cares.
The distance is just an illusion. Keep praying. Keep praying. And if you push with persistence and you get past the resistance, what you'll find is not indifference.
What you'll find is intimacy. So the 19th century evangelist and orphanage founder, George Mueller, George Mueller committed to pray every day for five young men to be saved, five teenagers, two of which were one of his best friend's high school sons. He prayed for 18 months before the first one of those five came to Christ, which is a long time.
Think about it. Every day pray, that's 540 days. Every day for over 500 days, you pray the exact same thing without seeing an answer. Prayed for 18 months. The first young man got saved. When he got saved, George Mueller wrote in his journal that he praised God for that one. He said, but there's four more left, so I'm going to keep praying. He prayed every day for another five years. Second one came to Christ. He said, I kept praying another six years.
The third one came to Christ. He kept praying every day for 36 years. Mueller was now a very old man, right, and he wrote in his journal right before he died of all the great ways God had answered prayers. But he said, there's two still that are unconverted of these five young men, and I will not stop praying until my dying breath. I will pray for them every day. He said, I continue to hope in God, and I pray on. And then he died and then he died. Just a couple of years after his death though, those final two, the sons of his friend, both came to faith in Christ. George Mueller had prayed daily for those two young men for almost 45 years.
Friend, don't give up. Jesus told these parables so that you would always pray and never lose heart. You were listening to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.
Greer. So J.D., I think that most Christians believe that prayer is important, but when it comes down to it, we sometimes go whole days or even weeks without really spending time in prayer. Why do you think that is? Yeah, most of us want to blame our lack of prayer, our prayerlessness on a lack of self-discipline. Same reason we don't work out enough, eat enough broccoli and alfalfa sprouts.
It's a lack of discipline. But prayerlessness is, I always think of it as a gospel problem because I'm not aware of how dependent I am on God or how willing he is to help me. That's why what we're offering this month is a great little prayer bundle. Five Things to Pray for Your Kids by Melissa Kruger. There's Five Things to Pray for Your Parents by Chelsea Stanley.
And then Five Things to Pray for Your City by Helen Thomas and Pete Nicklaus. It's a great bundle that will really put some structure and maybe even jump start your prayer life. I'm very excited to be able to commend them to you. If you'll reach out to us at jdgreer.com, we'd love to start a partnership with you where you support the ministry here, and this would be our way of saying thank you. Would you consider giving a gift to Summit Life today?
You can go online to jdgreer.com, or of course, you can give us a call at 866-335-5220. And on behalf of the entire Summit Life team and all your fellow listeners, let me just say thank you for making this ministry possible. I'm Molly Bedovitch inviting you to join us again tomorrow as we begin another new series on prayer here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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