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How to Deal with Unanswered Prayer

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
August 18, 2022 9:00 am

How to Deal with Unanswered Prayer

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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August 18, 2022 9:00 am

We’re beginning a new series from Pastor J.D. that takes a look at the revolutionary teaching of Jesus regarding prayer.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. If Jesus, God in the flesh, felt like he could do nothing on his own, and so that drove him always to pray, why would you and I go throughout our lives with so little prayer? Do we honestly think of ourselves as more capable than Jesus and less dependent on the Father? Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch, and we are so glad that you're back with us today. You know, all of Jesus's teaching on prayer can be summarized in one little word. Ask. Need wisdom? Ask. Need provision? Ask. Need healing? Ask.

There's really no limit. Just ask. We're beginning a new teaching series from Pastor J.D. today that takes a look at the revolutionary teaching of Jesus regarding prayer. We'll see that the gospel of Jesus not only teaches us how to pray with boldness, desperation, and trust, it also shows us a God who is eager to listen and ready to answer. Let's get into God's word together and start this series with a message titled How to Deal with Unanswered Prayer. Most of us don't really have a healthy and robust prayer life.

I'm not saying that because I'm judging you or I don't like you. But theologian D.A. Carson says that if you really want to embarrass the average Christian, just ask them to tell you the details of their private prayer life. A lot of us can impress others by our scripture knowledge.

We can impress others by our evangelism stories. But when we really start talking about the amount of time and how we seek God in prayer on a day by day basis, it's embarrassing. What's scary about this is that Jesus told us, he said, apart from me, you can do nothing. And the main way that we access his power is through prayer.

So if you got your Bible this weekend, Luke chapter 11 is where I want you to begin to turn. Luke, who wrote the gospel that we're going to study this week, Luke seems to go out of his way to show us, listen to this, that the source of even Jesus's power was prayer. Jesus, of course, was God. But Jesus declared in John 5 19, I don't do anything by myself.

I only do what I see the father doing. That meant that Jesus's ministry, his ministry was not of his own initiative. Jesus depended on the power of the father in him and through him.

And that was a power that Jesus accessed through prayer. And so what Luke does throughout the gospel of Luke is he shows you that Jesus entire life at every stage was saturated with prayer. He shows, for example, Jesus praying at his baptism, Luke 3 21. In chapter four, he shows us Jesus praying through his temptation by Satan. In chapter five, he tells us that Jesus often got alone off by himself to pray. In chapter six, verse 12, he reveals that before Jesus chose a single one of his disciples, he had spent the whole night in prayer. Chapter nine, verse 18, before he presents the disciples with the do or die question, who do you say that I am?

Before he presents them with that, he spends the morning and afternoon in prayer after they made their declaration, putting their lives at risk. When they say you are the Christ, the son of God, Luke tells us he immediately takes them up into a mountain off by themselves to pray. In chapter 18, verse one, Luke tells us that Jesus taught his disciples always to pray. In chapter 11, the disciples asked Jesus, Lord, teach us to pray.

You know, which is interesting when you think about all that they had seen after the sermons they heard, the miracles they saw. They didn't say, teach us to preach or teach us to do miracles. They said, teach us to pray because evidently they saw that as the source of his power. In chapter 22, Jesus promises Peter that he will pray for him during his hour of trial. And again in chapter 22, Jesus commands his disciples to pray so they will not fall into temptation. 23, 46, Luke shows us that Jesus' last breath was a prayer. The point that Luke seems to be making is this, if Jesus, God in the flesh, felt like he could do nothing on his own, and so that drove him always to pray, why would you and I go throughout our lives with so little prayer?

Do we honestly think of ourselves as more capable than Jesus and less dependent on the Father? In Luke's second book, the book of Acts in your Bible, Luke demonstrates that prayer was the foundation of the early church's ministry. That's what the apostles had seen of Jesus, that's what they do in Acts.

It was the secret behind all of their growth. Acts chapter one, they all joined themselves constantly in prayer. 242, they devoted themselves to prayer.

424, they prayed for an outpouring of signs and wonders in the face of persecution. Acts six says that the apostles devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. By the way, both of those are considered ministries of the church. It's not that the word is the ministry and prayer is what you do to get ready for the ministry of the word.

It's that the ministry of the word is one thing and the ministry of prayer is a ministry of the church. Acts 9 40, Peter prays for the sick. Acts 12 five, the church prays for Peter to be released. 13 two, they're praying when God raises up missionaries to take the gospel into the world. 14 23, they appoint elders through prayer. Luke concludes the book of Acts by describing Paul's ministry as preaching, healing, and praying. You can literally find the church in prayer in every single chapter of the book of Acts. It was fundamental to what they did.

So see, here is my concern. What was fundamental for the early church has become supplemental. It is something we now do to kind of help out the other ministries, but we don't see it as the ministry of church. We look at prayer as something we do on the way to ministry. The early church looked at prayer as the ministry.

And it shows, right? And I've told you before, you see when Jesus ascended into heaven, he left the church and told him to pray. They pray for about 10 days right there in between Acts 1 and Acts 2. Peter stands up at the end of Acts 2 and he preaches for 10 minutes. 3,000 people get saved. I've told you what we do is we pray for about 10 minutes. I preach for what feels like 10 days and three people get saved.

And it just shows we rearrange the zeros. What we find in Acts is that it is more important to talk to God about people than it is to talk to people about God. So the question is, why is it, we know this, why do we find it so difficult to pray? Most of us would point to a problem, first place we point is a problem with our self-discipline. You say, well, I don't pray enough for the same reason I don't work out enough, same reason I don't eat enough alfalfa sprouts.

It's just a lack of self-discipline. And so you're thinking that this first message here is my attempt to get you to make prayer a New Year's resolution. But this weekend, I want to humbly but accurately put forward a different primary reason that you don't pray.

It's gonna be a little painfully honest, but I'm telling you it's the truth. For many of us, we're just not sure how much good prayer actually does. I know nobody wants to admit this in church, but see sometimes you pray and things happen. But sometimes you pray and they don't. And sometimes you forget to pray and the thing you forgot to pray for happens anyway. And you're like, I'm not really sure there's any connection between me praying and that happening. That's why many of you struggle with praying.

So see, it's encouraging to me that in Luke 11, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Luke 11 and one, when they say teach us to pray, after Jesus gives them some initial instructions about how to approach God, Jesus immediately, listen to this, tells a story that deals with the primary obstacle we have to pray. And that is unanswered prayer. Like I said, for many of you, this is the reason that you stopped praying. Maybe for some of you, this is the reason you gave up on church and God altogether. Because years ago you prayed for something and you just knew that God wanted you to have that. You were sure of it, any loving God would take care of this. And you prayed and prayed and prayed and it didn't happen. And it didn't happen and you can't make sense of that and you just gave up on God and church altogether. Clearly Jesus was aware of that frustration because it was the first thing that he went to after he gave instructions about prayer.

Hey, can I give you guys some good news? That means for you doubters out there, that means there's nothing really wrong with you. It's not that you're some strange, evil, unbelieving person or you're just not cut out to be a Christian. Jesus recognized this was a natural question. He recognized it would be our biggest hang up with prayer.

So the very first thing he does is he goes right to this. Let me talk about unanswered prayer for a minute. And let me tell you a story to address it. Luke chapter 11 verse 5, here we go. And he said to them, here's the story. Which of you as a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, friend, lend me three loaves. For a friend of mine has arrived on a journey.

It's late at night, it's midnight and I've got nothing to set before him. Unfortunately, you see, in the first century Palestine there were no 24 hour grocery stores. There were no late night taco bells or I guess falafel bells or whatever they would have called them back then.

And in the first century, hospitality was huge. So you never want to send away a friend who came in to stay with you at night. You don't want to send them away hungry. So this guy goes over to his neighbor's house and said, hey, do you got anything to eat?

And he will answer him from within. Don't bother me, the door is now shut and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything. Let me give you a few other details that will help you make sense of this story. First, in a country without electricity, midnight is really the middle of the night. It's not like in Chapel Hill or NC State where midnight is still three hours before bedtime. These people went to bed at sundown because there was no electricity. So the point is, by midnight this guy has been asleep for about four hours. He's thoroughly in the midst of REM sleep. Then notice it says that he is in bed with his children.

In those days, people lived in one room houses with one large bed area and so everybody kind of slept in the same room together. In other words, in order to get bread, he has got to wake everybody up. Parents, I do not have to tell you how irritating it would be to be at home with your, what, five kids and you go in one bedroom apartment and you finally got the last one quiet and then some dude starts banging on the door asking you for a favor.

I mean, when my kids were young and we got that last one down, we're like, nobody breathe. Nobody's allowed to call because I don't want to upset the balance there. By the way, I love how Jesus starts the conversation, friend. That's a really good word for that guy to use in that context because when you wake somebody up at midnight, that whole friendship is on thin ice, right? Third detail to notice, the man making the request here doesn't have an emergency. He's not like, hey, my wife has fallen and she's bleeding out of the ears.

He's like, hey, I had some guests show up unexpectedly and I'm out of pop tarts and I need to borrow some from you. It's not an emergency. It's just a request. Finally, the request that this man puts forward is exorbitant.

In those days, bread loaves were huge and one loaf would feed a large family for the entire day. This guy's not asking for one. He's asking for three. Verse eight, I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend.

In fact, after this incident, he probably is not going to be his friend anymore. Yeah, because of his impudence, some of your translations say boldness or shamelessness there. Because of that, he will rise and give him whatever he needs. In other words, you get your request, not because the other guy loves you as a friend, but because of your boldness and persistence in asking. Then Jesus continues, so I tell you, ask and it will be given to you.

Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened unto you. That whole analogy of knocking just reinforces the idea of persistent asking, doesn't it? I mean, when you knock, you don't just walk out the door and hit it once. If my wife and I hear a single solitary thud in the middle of the night, we don't assume somebody's knocking. We assume one of our kids has fallen out of their bunk bed.

Right? So the idea of knocking is you just hit and you keep on hitting. Jesus is like, when you pray, knock. And if nobody comes to the door, keep knocking. You let them know it's no use. The light's being off. Don't fool you. You know they're home and they know you know they know they're at home.

Right? And you're not going away because you're just one of those kind of people. And you're going to stand there and you're going to keep knocking and you're not going to let them sleep. And they might as well give up and just come and give you what you need because you're going to annoy them to death. You're like, well, how does this whole picture jive with the whole idea of God's sovereignty? I mean, if it's God's will to give us the request, why not just give it to us the first time we ask for it?

Honestly, I'm not sure. I got a couple ideas I'm going to share in a moment. But the point is very clear, is it not? God only gives some things in response to ongoing, patient, relentless, persistent prayer.

Or you might write it down this way. God delights to share his power with those who are bold enough to bother him. Something to consider as we break from our teaching for just a moment here on Summit Life. You know, one way to be sure that you continually see God's words saturating in your life is to sign up and participate in our daily email devotional from Pastor JD. Couldn't we all use encouragement first thing in the morning or after work to remind us of God's love? I know the busyness of life can quickly choke out any joy that we feel in our walk with God. So let's remind ourselves moment by moment of his love and devotion to us and engage with his word even more.

Sign up for this free resource at slash resources. Now let's return for the conclusion of today's message. Once again, here's Pastor JD. Hold your place in Luke 11, flip over to Luke 18. Go to Luke 18 because I want to show you how Luke records this same teaching twice. He tells the same parable basically. He just switches the characters in it.

And the reason I think he records it twice is because this is such a common problem. The problem of unanswered prayer. And so the teaching is so counterintuitive. What Jesus is trying to teach here looks like I want to give it to you again because I don't think you got it the first time. Luke 18 verse one.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Here's the story this time. In a certain city, there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. In other words, this is a bad dude. This is not the kind of guy you want to stand in court with. There was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, give me justice against my adversary. For a while he refused, but afterwards he said to himself, though I neither fear God nor respect man.

In other words, I know I'm a bad dude. I don't care about God or people. Yeah, because this widow keeps bothering me.

I'll give her justice just so she will not beat me down by her continual coming. Then Jesus says, unbelievably, this is like praying to God. You see, let me tell you a little something about parables. When you're hearing a parable, there's always somebody in the parable that represents you. And there's somebody else in the parable that represents God. So the disciples are listening to this and they're like, okay, in this parable, who represents us?

Well, obviously it's got to be the widow because she's the one with the need and that's like us. That would make God the unjust judge who doesn't care about God or people. I mean, seriously, y'all, who but Jesus could get away with that analogy, right? I mean, he's comparing God to this crooked old grumpy judge who only gives the woman what she needs because she won't stop annoying him. I mean, the point is really straightforward. If you want something from God, just keep banging on the door.

Eventually God will respond to you, not because he loves you, but just because you are bothering him to death. I mean, honestly, right? Is there any other way that you can read that parable? Am I doing any injustice to the text here? Is there any other point that's being made? Jesus's point, you see, listen, listen to this. Jesus's point is not to compare God to an unjust judge.

His point is to contrast him with one. And what Jesus is saying is this. If even an unrighteous, selfish judge would grant answers because of persistent, relentless asking, and if even a sleeping, stingy friend will eventually get up and give you your request, how much more will your heavenly father who does love and care for you and constantly watches over you, how much more will he get up and give you what you need when you persistently come to him and ask him?

All right? Back to Luke 11. Through these parables, Jesus is gonna teach us four important things, dare I say, crucial things about how you and I should pray. Number one, we should pray desperately.

We should pray desperately. Both of the characters in these stories are desperate. Both of them are entirely out of options.

The hungry man has nowhere else to turn, no grocery stores, no Taco Bells. The wrong woman has nowhere else to turn for justice. She is poor. She ain't got no husband. She's got no defender.

This judge is her only hope. One of the things that keeps us from praying, listen, maybe the main thing is our failure to recognize how utterly desperate we are for God's help. You see, as Americans, we are the can-do people. We are a people who assume that given enough time and energy, we can figure out the solution to anything. I mean, right, it's right there in our name, Ameri-can.

We're not Ameri-cants, we're Ameri-cants. We got books for dummies on every possible subject. I've even got a book in my library called God for Dummies. We can feel like we can break anything down and we just figure it out and we become capable.

We are a DIY people, and that's good in most areas. It's good in most areas, it's given us a lot of success, but it is deadly when you are dealing with a God who says, apart from me, you can't really do anything of lasting significance. Paul Miller, who wrote a book called The Praying Life, probably the best book on prayer that I have ever read personally. I would heartily commend it to you, but Paul Miller says this, listen to this. If you are not praying, all right, so for those of you who struggle to maintain an ongoing robust prayer life, if you're not praying, here's the diagnosis. You are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.

You can never say that. You're not gonna say that out loud, but that's what you think in your heart. You'll always be a little too tired, a little too busy to pray. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can't do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will always find the time to pray. I think my wife and I have experienced this in parenting. You see, when I first became a parent some 14 years ago, I read about every possible book I could get my hands on on the subject of parenting because my philosophy was this. If I can become an expert at Christian parenting, if I can figure it out, then I will be able to guarantee that my kids will turn out right. But maybe the most impacting book I read during that season was by Elise Fitzpatrick. It was a little book she wrote called Give Them Grace. And she said, most books on Christian parenting have this philosophy. Here are the principles. If you do this, A, B, and C, then this is what will happen, right? And I was like, exactly.

That's exactly what I'm looking for right there. She said, here's the problem with that philosophy. God was a perfect father, and one third of the angels and the only two humans he directly created all rebelled. And she's like, do you really feel like you're gonna be able to out technique God as a parent? She says the really dangerous problem with this kind of thinking, though, with thinking that there's a foolproof way of parenting, is it keeps us from the one thing we most desperately need, and that is to daily cast ourselves down at the feet of Jesus looking to Him for His mercy in our kids' lives to do what we cannot do. She says, I did my best parenting by prayer, and I began to speak less to the kids and more to God about the kids. Prayer, she said, is not just preparation for the ministry of parenting. Prayer is the most important element in the ministry of parenting. She builds the whole book around this passage in 1 Peter 5, where Peter says, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.

Humble yourselves in prayer, and so that at the proper time, He will exalt you, cast all your anxieties as a parent on Him because He cares for you. And she asked the question, who is it that does the exalting? Who raises your kids upright? Is it you? Is it you by your great principles?

No, it is God. My hope for my kids is not in my parenting skill, not even in the skills I learned from the Bible. It's in the grace of God who will Himself raise them up. My hope for my marriage is not in good Christian techniques and relationships, as important as those are. At the end of the day, my hope is in God's grace. My hope for our success as a church lies not in mastering the right strategy or in our talent. It's entirely in God's grace. You see, when it comes to my kids, the best picture in the Bible of me is the dad, the dad in the gospels who brings his little girl to Jesus and says, I can't help her. Nobody can help her.

She's sick and only you can help her. You've got to do in her heart what I can't do. No skill, not even biblical skill is sufficient. Scripture says, cursed is the man who's trust in man and has made the arm of the flesh his strength. One of the ironic ways that we can trust in man is we can master biblical principles and think that those by themselves guarantee spiritual life. Jesus did not save us by teaching us principles.

He saved us by giving us resurrection power. It is a tragedy to master the principles and then forget the relationship that gives them life. Yes, you should learn the principles, but most of all, most of all, you should cast yourselves on the mercy of God in prayer.

That's where our hope is who will Himself lift us up and establish us. That realization by itself has enabled Veronica and me to have a more regular prayer time together. I mean, relatively speaking, I'm a fairly self-disciplined person, but for years, Veronica and I struggled to have a time where we consistently pray together. Even with all the self-discipline I could muster.

Now that we've got four kids approaching the teenage years, we pray together all the time. Seriously, it's not discipline, it's desperation. The core of effective prayer is desperation, not discipline.

That's where the core is, that's where you should be looking. And so let me just say this really practically before I move on to number two. Some of you should probably therefore focus less on setting a long morning prayer time and more on just teaching yourself to pray about everything because of how much you know you need God's help. Now, let me be clear, an established morning and or evening time is good. And of course, it's awesome if you do it for a long time, but I think it's even better to learn to pray over everything throughout the day. One of my prayer heroes used to say that he never in his life, listen to this, never in his life prayed for longer than 20 minutes. Yet he also, he said, I never went longer than 20 minutes without praying. I think that's actually a healthier attitude than the person who prays for an hour out of self-discipline and then charges throughout the day without thinking much about their need constantly of the power of God. The core of effective prayer is desperation, not discipline.

That is an important distinction. This is Summit Life, the teaching ministry of Pastor J.D. Greer. If you enjoyed today's program or if you want to hear more encouragement just like it, you can find us online at or in your favorite podcast app. So this month we are offering a bundle of three prayer books, and one of them is titled Five Things to Pray for Your Kids. Our culture says that the most important things for children are education, good health, treats, entertainment and material things. Yet as Christians, we know that a child's spiritual health is the most important thing.

So we need to pray for them. But where do we start? This book can be used in any number of ways. Work through it as a part of your daily quiet time, or you can pick it up whenever a particular need arises. Maybe even pray some of these things with your children. It's worth stepping out of the busyness of life for five minutes to pray meaningfully for your child, grandchild, godchild or kids in your church. We'd love to hear from you and get you this bundle of three prayer books. We'll send the set today as our way of saying thanks for your financial gift of $35 or more to support this ministry.

Give us a call at 866-335-5220 or go online to give and request your copy at While you're on our website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. You can get ministry updates, information on new resources and Pastor Jadie's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox.

It's a great way to stay connected with Summit Life and it's completely free to subscribe. Sign up when you go to I'm Molly Vitovich inviting you to join us again tomorrow when we continue our series called ASK on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 05:21:45 / 2023-03-09 05:33:13 / 11

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