As part of our series on Heartfelt Prayer, we are collecting questions during the sermon and answering them in worship. Here is the complete list of questions from worship that we were able to answer, plus answers to a few that we couldn’t get to then. We tried to transcribe the answers from worship as accurately as possible, while making a few changes to ease the readability. You can hear the audio version of the answers at the end of the sermon on our sermon archives page.
How do we pray for recent Supreme Court decisions?
Christians and non-Christians are not held to the same standards. As we think about the recent decision to legalize marriage between same-sex couples, we realize that the world is not under the same law that we are. We can continue to pray for godly wisdom for justices and legislatures, but maybe the focus of our prayer in this specific instance is to ask God to use us to call others back to Jesus. We can pray for words to speak to have conversations without condemning those with different beliefs. We can also pray that God’s Spirit would infuse our conversations and interactions with those who believe differently as we focus on Jesus’ love and sacrifice for the individual.
It seems like some people have crisis after crisis in their lives. How do we encourage them not to give up on praying?
When you find yourself in a crisis, or someone else is in crisis, one way to get through it is with the help of others. If you have someone in your life who is giving up on prayer because they face crisis after crisis, it’s time to come alongside them and pray with them. Some of that can happen in your own prayer time, but some of it should happen in their presence. Talk and share about what’s going on, and then pray together. It can even be as simple as praying, “God, we don’t understand why this person keeps facing these tough challenges, but we are trusting you to work good here. Help us see what you are doing.”
Should all prayers be addressed to the Father? Can we—should we at times—pray directly to the Holy Spirit.
In our human understanding, we get this impression that there are three Gods because we talk about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but there’s only one God. And God is not jealous of God. Don’t get hung up on whether you address prayers to the Father, Son, or Spirit. We generally address prayers to the Father, in the name of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. See John 16:23-28 for an example of Jesus telling us to pray to the Father in His name.
What other great prayer in the Bible was not answered affirmatively – or is this one?
There are lots of prayers that weren’t answered the way that people thought they would be. Habakkuk couldn’t understand how the righteous were so abused and the wicked were prospering. Psalm 73 is a great example of this as well. It talks about how the psalmist couldn’t understand how the wicked were blessed. But when he entered the house of God, it was revealed to him. Even when prayer is not the answer we want, we pray that God would be glorified in it and show us the right way, the right answers. Another good example is Jesus praying, “Lord, if there’s any other way. But your will be done.” (See Luke 22:39-46)
Why does God take so long sometimes to answer my prayer? (Also: If God loves us and cares for us why do we sometimes not hear his answer to our prayers?)
Sometimes we need to remember that there’s this great spiritual battle going on. If you read Daniel 9, it took 21 days for an answer to come for Daniel’s prayer. When the angel showed up, he said that there is this great spiritual battle raging. He says that the archangel Michael was doing battle with the demons to get the message through. This is why Ephesians 6 is so important. It tells us to put on the full armor of God because we are in a spiritual battle and God is working. We are in this battle too. After putting on this spiritual armor, the next verse tells us to pray because we are entering into the battle. That’s how we enter into the battle. So sometimes the answer takes a little longer to get to us because God could be preparing us for the answer or there’s a spiritual battle going on that we need to fight through so that we grow.
Keeping my eyes on God is my only comfort and hope when I hear of the atrocities my Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world experience. I pray “The Lord of Hosts” would send His heavenly army to stand between the aggressors and His people. What can you tell us about praying for persecuted Christians around the world? And what about those Christians who were killed by ISIS?
More people have been martyred in the last 100 years than the total number leading up to that time. Regarding prayers, you can pray what the disciples prayed: that when the persecution comes, that we would have the same Spirit that Jesus (and they) did that said we are worthy to suffer this way. (Acts 5:41, Matthew 5:11) Pray that God would give them strength in the moment of their suffering. Pray that God would build a hedge of protection around them and keep them safe. But that in all things, pray that God would be glorified. We have this confidence in Romans 8:28 that God is going to bring good even out of persecution, so we ask that he would help us and those who are persecuted see the good.
How do you find the promises in the Bible?
When you are regularly in the Word and reading it, you begin to absorb them. There’s also some wonderful books called something like “The Promises of God.” You can get one of those so you always a list. You can get a concordance, which is a way to look up specific words in the Bible. If you’re going through financial difficulties, you can look up money and find some promises about money. You can also use websites like BibleGateway.com to search for words if you don’t have a concordance. 365promises.com has a new promise from the Bible every day. We also have a tool called “Explode Your Bible” where you can look up and mark many promises and other scriptures in your Bible about a variety of topics. If you would like a copy, talk to Bekah Freed, Jason Christ, or Sue Steege for more information.
What if we believe in His promises and are faithful, but His answer is not what we want or His answer is no? If God loves us and cares for us why do we sometimes not hear His answer to our prayers?
If God ever says “no” to our prayers, He will tell us why. God is a loving Father. Just like we as parents don’t tell our kids no and then say, “beat it, kid.” We tell them why, because we know it’s not best for them. So when God says no to our prayer request, we need to stop asking Him for it. He might say no because of unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:2) or it could be because of conflict between a husband and wife (1 Peter 3:7). We need to understand what’s going on and see if there’s something in our own life causing God to say no. Now, if He doesn’t answer the way I want, we remember that He sees a bigger picture than us and He knows what’s best for us. Just like we give what’s best to our kids and don’t always give them what they want, but what will help them and prepare them for what they need. God is much more interested in our character than He is in our needs and comfort. He’s seeing the bigger picture and doing what’s best for the sake of His kingdom.
I believe God puts obstacles in our path so that we will become stronger. What prayers in the Bible will show us how to ask for the strength to overcome evil and adversity?
God putting obstacles in our path is an interesting idea. James 1 tells us that God tempts no one to evil, so God never puts evil in our path. Remember, Peter tells us to cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7) because He cares for you and wants to know what we’re suffering and experiencing. If it’s important to us, it’s important to Him. He wants to know about our needs, but He wants us to seek Him more than things. The only things that comes to mind about obstacles in our path is Balaam. Balaam was the prophet whose donkey spoke to him. You can read it in Numbers 22. God put an angel in the pathway of this donkey that only the donkey could see. Balaam couldn’t see it. The donkey would push Balaam against a tree so the angel wouldn’t kill him, and Balaam would get so mad and beat his donkey. This happened three times and finally the path is so narrow that the donkey can’t get through without the angel striking down Balaam, so the donkey lays down. Balaam is furious and is kicking and beating the donkey, but God opened up the mouth of the donkey to say that he was doing it for Balaam’s good. The point is that if there are obstacles in our path, God has put them there for our good to provide and protect and teach us, so that we might grow in our understanding. It’s only at this point that Balaam is willing to stop and listen to God. If you are running into obstacles, God has a plan and is using them to grow us and teach us, never to hurt us.
How do we deal with the distractions and “busyness” that get in the way of praying?
If you are getting distracted in your prayer time, try praying out loud. You are less likely to get distracted that way. If you find you are too busy to pray, try scheduling specific time to pray in your calendar, or around certain events throughout your day. Every time you get up from your chair in the office, say a prayer. Start praying before meals. Pray when you go to bed, or while brushing your teeth. Create some routine for your prayer life to help you do it.
When praying for someone else or group of people, how much do they or their actions affect the outcome?
Our prayers are not tied to other people’s actions. God is constantly working, even when we can’t see the result of that work. We could be praying one thing for a person, but God is doing something different in their life because He has in mind what’s best for them in that situation. As an example, we could be praying for a job for a child or friend. However, they keep showing up for interviews late, unkempt, hung over, etc., which results in them not getting the job. “Getting a job” might be step 17 in a long process that God is taking this person through, but He’s only on step two with them right now. It might seem like God is not working on our specific prayer request, when in fact He is, it’s just not time for the step.
I never knew it was an actual person – only familiar with the phrase “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
We aren’t sure where this comes from, but thanks for the question. It’s most likely a euphemism for profanity of some sort.
Does a young person “age” in heaven?
The Bible does not give a specific answer regarding our “age” in heaven. In some ways, age is a human measurement for the growth and decline of the human body. At first, we grow bigger and healthier, but later our body starts to break down the older we get. The decaying nature of our body is a result of sin. Because we will be perfect in heaven, there won’t be an aging that takes place in our body. Based on
1 Corinthians 15:35-39, some believe that all people will be the “ideal” age in heaven, which could correspond to our peak physical development in our mid- to late-twenties. However, the Bible doesn’t give a clear answer regarding a specific age in heaven.
Is there an order to our prayers? (ie, Confession, Adoration, etc.)
An order to your prayers can be helpful, but is not required. Make sure you are entering into God’s presence with Him in mind. Philippians 4 has some helpful scripture on this topic. It talks about rejoicing in the Lord and who He is, then moving into prayer.
If you have an addiction, how do you pray for forgiveness when you know you do it again and again?
Forgiveness isn’t based on what we do but on who God is and what He has done for us. All of us continue to make mistakes and fail. What we want to do is ask and pray that God would give us His strength and not our own. Let’s use alcohol as an example. We might ask God to give it an awful taste in our mouth, or that He would remove the desire to drink. Ask Him for strength to overcome the addiction. Also, get yourself an accountability partner to walk through that. Don’t try to do it alone.
How/What do you pray for those who delight in hurting you? I know they are weak but they weaken me.
Jesus said in Matthew 5 to love your enemy and pray for those who hate you. You can pray that God would settle whatever issue it is that’s causing them to be hurtful and mean. You also don’t have to expose yourself to them. When God says forgive, it doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend and stay in that situation. You can pray that God would bring healing and restoration. Honestly, it depends a lot on the cause of the hurt and who caused it.
How do I start prayer when leading another beginner in the faith and really hear God talk to me? How do I hear God? When praying aloud, how do I speak true words from the heart instead of what’s expected by others?
First, you are never going to go wrong praying Scriptures. Psalm 139 is one of my (Pastor Chuck’s) favorite prayers. I pray that at least once a day, sometimes more. So you will never go wrong praying the Scriptures. The thing about God is that He knows your heart. If your focus in prayer is on words that will make others notice and approve, that is idolatry. You don’t worry about what others think because you are talking to God, not other people. You are expressing your heart. David describes prayer as lifting your soul to the Lord. God knows if you are being honest or not.
As to hearing God in prayer, God will speak to you in prayer, but the primary way that He will speak to you is through His Word. What happens is that while you are praying, God might bring a Scripture to mind or direct you to open the Bible to a specific place. But God will also speak to your spirit, so you have to be quiet and listen. Sometimes He will speak to you through another person. If that’s the case, make sure they are backing up what they say with Scripture. Even when God speaks to our spirit, we check it against Scripture because He will never speak something contrary to His written Word.
Psalm 37:4-5 mentions that I must delight myself in the Lord and He will give me the desires of my heart. What are some ways I consistently delight in Him?
Jesus said in John 15 that if you abide in Him and His word abides in you, ask whatever you will and it will be given to you. The key to Psalm 37 is you are living, abiding, making your home in God’s Word. So when you are spending time with God in His Word, it is changing you in such a way that what you are going to want is what God wants. Therefore, the things you start asking Him for are the things that God wants for you. This psalm is not about our own personal gain, but about how we can delight and honor in Him and bring Him glory in all things. As we spend time in the Word, the things that delight the heart of God are the things we will start to focus on in our prayer life.