A man is sitting in his living room when the news is interrupted by news of a devastating rainstorm hitting the area. The man’s wife says, “Goodness, Honey, that sounds like it might flood the area where we live”.
The man replies, “I have prayed to God to save me, and I have faith that He will answer my prayer”.
Well, about 12 inches of rain later, the streets are starting to fill with water. The man’s neighbor knocks on the door and says, “It’s going to be a pretty bad flood, but I can still drive my truck. I’ve got room to take you and your wife to higher ground”. The man’s wife gets up to go, but stops when he says, “I have prayed to God to save me, and I have faith that He will answer my prayer”.
Some time later, the water has entered the house, and it looks like a river outside. The local fire department sends a boat out to look for people who are stranded, and they pull up to the window. “Come on! This may be your last chance to get out!” Again the man replies, “I have prayed to God to save me, and I have faith that He will answer my prayer”.
Finally, the man and his wife are standing on their roof, water rushing by, the house obviously about to collapse. Suddenly, the sound of the storm is drowned out by the roar of the search-and-rescue helicopter. They let down a ladder and motion for the couple to climb up. The wife can stand it no more and climbs up, but as she climbs, she can just barely hear her husband shouting, “I have prayed to God to save me, and I have faith that He will answer my prayer”.
The man drowns.
At the entrance to Heaven, he is a bit peeved. He asks to speak with God.
“Father, I had such faith that you would save me. How could you let me drown?”
God replies: “What more did you want? I sent a news report, a truck, a boat, and a helicopter!”
– Author Unknown
Oh boy. Here is a prime example of a problematic prayer! In this story, even though the man was praying continuously and fervently, he never saw his request (to survive the flood) come to fruition. Why? Because his request ran into a roadblock – in this instance, his own lack of action.
Just like the man in the story, there are times in our lives that our requests will run into roadblocks. We could be praying all day every day, continually laying our requests before God…yet never see any real results. We think if we just believe a little more, pray a little harder, or pray a little longer that we will receive a favorable response – yet there continues to be only silence from Heaven.
“How can this be?!” you might ask…”I thought the bible says ‘ ask and ye shall receive‘!”
The Bible certainly does say that, but we must learn to take God’s word as a whole and balance one truth with another. Did you know that the bible also teaches that our requests can run into roadblocks? It’s true – there are occasions when God turns down our requests with a resounding “no”…case closed. For what reason? Maybe it stems from a lack of action on our parts, or maybe from another reason altogether.
Are your requests running into roadblocks? Have you perhaps been guilty of saying a problematic prayer? Let us look into three questions that we would do well to ask ourselves of our prayers when we find Heaven to be silent…
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-7
Have you sought the Lord on behalf of your heart’s condition?
Do you ask God to change you for the better?
Are you continually begging Him to make you more righteous, more wise, more holy?
Are you getting only silence in return?
If this is the case, then perhaps your request is running into a roadblock…a lack of faith.
Like the passage above states, one mustn’t think they’ll be receiving anything from the Lord unless they make their request in faith! Now don’t misunderstand…biblical faith is not merely believing (as even Satan and the demons do), but rather a belief coupled with action. Faith is equal parts substance (belief) and evidence (action)…both are mandatory. (Hebrews 11:1)
Remember the man in our story? He had a believing faith, but he did not an active faith. He prayed, but then failed to follow up by doing his part. We make the same error when we ask God to change us, but put in little to no effort towards our side of the deal…
When we pray, “Lord, help me to control my temper!” yet allow ourselves to lash out at our family, we are not praying in faith.
When we pray, “Lord, help me to be generous!” yet keep our pocketbooks shut tight, we are not praying in faith.
When we pray, “Lord, help me to bring others to you!” yet don’t talk about God in public, we are not praying in faith.
As our James passage previously stated, we have a God who is liberal with His gifts. He longs to impart wisdom to us, but He will not impart so much as a drop to a double minded man, who will only waste the wisdom in his instability. Our prayers will produce no fruit when we are inactive, for an inactive life is a faithless life. Pray fervently for God’s intervention over your spiritual life. Believe wholeheartedly, but do not stop there. Look for the opportunities the Lord is presenting you with to put your request into action…
Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other? – “Evan Almighty” (2007)
Next time your request runs into a roadblock, ask yourself: Is my prayer in faith?
The second question we are to ask of our prayers is…
Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:4
Have you been praying for the right spouse to come into your life?
Do you ask God to bless you with that promotion you’ve been after?
Are you asking the Lord for an intervention with the enemy who makes your life difficult?
Are you getting only silence in return?
If this is the case, then perhaps your request is running into a roadblock…a lack of favor.
Did you notice the important stipulation in our previous passage? “Delight thyself in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Note that this is a two-fold deal. First, you delight yourself in the Lord, then (and only then) will you be given the desires of your heart. Once you have aligned your will to the will of the Master, then your desires will be worth His favorable response. If your heart is steeped in sin, you can not possibly be delighting in the Lord, thus you can not possibly expect to receive the desires of your heart. IF we truly delight in the Lord, then of course He will give us of the desires of our heart – because our heart will be seeking only after those things which are of Him!
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. – Psalm 112:1
Want to be blessed? Find favor with the Lord. Want to find favor with the Lord? Delight in His commandments! Before we go hurling our requests towards the sky, let us make sure our attitude is such as this:
I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments. – Psalm 119:58-60
For the parents out there, try to imagine this scenario…your child has been out of control off and on all day. They have disobeyed continually and been testing the limits (and your patience) from sunup to sundown. Every thing asked of them has been met with distasteful sighs and eye rolls. They have fought with their siblings, been moody and irritable, and downright disrespectful to Dad and Mom. Now imagine at the end of the day your child approaches you (all smiles and putting on the dog) and asks to be taken out for ice cream. Would you take them for this treat even though their bad behavior has not been truly repented of? I daresay a loving parent would do no such thing. Such an act would train the child to believe that misbehavior brings about no consequences, and that gifts of favor are unconditional. This poor kind of parenting raises entitled, self-centered, sinful adults! In much the same way, our Holy Father will not bestow gifts of favor on His unruly children, but rather will chastise them until their spirit is truly made right (Hebrews 12:5-8). Are you after a treat from the Lord, children of God? Seek His favor first and foremost, and then you may approach Father’s throne…with confidence that your request will be heard.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. – 1 John 5:14-15
Next time your request runs into a roadblock, ask yourself: Is my prayer in favor?
The third question we are to ask of our prayers is…
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. – Galatians 6:7-8
Have you prayed for God to overlook that sin in your life that you just can’t seem to kick to the curb?
Are you requesting that the Lord miraculously allow your errant family member passage into Heaven?
Do you beg God to make an exception, just this once?
Are you getting only silence in return?
If this is the case, then perhaps your request is running into a roadblock…a lack of fate.
We’ve all heard it before: you reap what you sow. This is what my husband calls the Law of Harvest. Whatever you plant in this life will be the harvest that you collect later on…whether in this life or the next. This is the true definition of fate! What truths God has ordained (i.e: sin brings forth death, righteousness brings forth life) will never be swayed by human cries for the contrary. God will not be mocked! It is pointless to ask the Lord to change a law that He has already put in place…
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. – 1 John 5:16
My understanding of this verse is that one may in good conscience pray for an erring loved one to change their ways that they might be saved. However, one may never pray for God to overlook the sin and give the person a free pass. What is meant by “a sin not unto death” and “a sin unto death”? Does this mean some sins are worse than others and are unforgivable, but that we can ask God to overlook the little bitty, insignificant ones? No way. I have said it before and I will say it again: sins are not on a rating system. There are only two different kinds of sin: the one you will repent of, and the one you won’t. It is the latter that is the “sin unto death”. The sin unto death is any sin that you love…any sin that you will allow to drag you down into Hell with it. We all have sins that we wrestle with, but here’s the test on our spiritual condition: Do we continue in sin without trying to change? Or do we have the upright spirit of Paul who served the Law of God in his mind even though he often battled with his flesh (Romans 7:14-25)? If we are not in a battle…if we don’t try our hardest…if we just lay down and let sin reign over us…then we are sinning a sin unto death. If you or someone you know is living this unrepentant lifestyle, Heaven will never be your fate unless you change. No amount of praying will change the Law of Harvest. You will reap what you sow…please sow in righteousness, friends.
Next time your request runs into a roadblock, ask yourself: Is my prayer in fate?
We all may have times in our lives when it seems our prayers are getting nowhere. We might think “am I wasting my time with all this praying business?” when we do not receive an affirmative answer to our requests. Remember that prayer is not merely a platform to state all of our wants and needs to the “Spirit in the Sky” as some may view it. Rather, prayer is an amazing opportunity to grow closer to God and mold to HIS desires for our life. We must approach our prayer time with a heart to seek the Lord’s very best for us and others, which will sometimes be in direct opposition to what we originally thought best. Let us take on the spirit of humility that Jesus had, who said “not my will…but Thine” even during the most daunting of circumstances. Next time your request appears to be running into a roadblock, check your prayer through these three tests:
Is it in faith? Is it in favor? Is it in fate?
If the answer to all three is yes, then continue to beseech the Lord with patience for His perfect timing. If the answer is no, ask the Lord for acceptance, contentment, and even gratitude toward His holy will…and then practice these virtues with all diligence. Our Father truly knows best. Trust him!
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. – Ephesians 5:17
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.