Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
We do the first two quite often… without even thinking most of the time. When our backs are against the wall…when we’ve lost our wallet… or are fretting about our finances… or worried about a relative… we pray. When we’re happy, when things are going our way, when we get more income tax back than expected, we usually say “Praise God!” or “Isn’t God so good?” or something of the sort.
And when we’re sick, when we don’t feel well, when we have sore back…we go to the doctor.
Our pastor talked about prayer last night and he touched on something I’d thought about before: the one-timer.
I’ve both experienced the attitude myself and encountered it in other people–the pray-it-once attitude. Pray for God to do something and then say, “Well, if it’s God’s will, it will happen. I prayed for it.”
The primary problem with this attitude is, well, how do I put this…
IT IS HERACY!
If you’re fervent (exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling) about… say… pursuing a particular male or female in your life, would you consider it “a job well done” to display your adoration for them a single time and then say, “Well… if it’s God’s will for us to be together, s/he will respond. I did my part.”
No. People keep after something they want. If you’re shopping for a house and make an offer on it, only to have it refused, you raise the price and offer again. Maybe that one isn’t accepted, so you raise it again. If you want it bad enough, you’ll eventually get it.
Ok. Bad example, but you get my point. You keep after it. That’s why Christ says in Matt. 7 to “ask (ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require), seek (to seek in order to find, to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after, require, demand, to crave, demand something from someone ) and knock (to knock: at the door). It’s progressive and aggressive. Each round of asking–>seeking–>knocking increases intensity.
Pastor Scott also brought to our attention the oft-forgotten parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. The point is clear: be annoying if you have to. To accent the point, Scott rapped the pulpit with his knuckles for an extended period of time; he was knocking. And the point was taken. It is annoying.
Of course, there are conditions about asking. Two that come to mind are: ask what you know is God’s will and ask with the right motives. Meet the conditions, and all God’s promises are yes and amen.
It is the nature of the Word of God to manifest in the physical. God spoke creation into existence. It manifest. Jesus was the Word… and the Word dwelt among us. It manifest. Jesus spoke what he heard the Father tell him. It manifest.
If God’s Word isn’t manifesting in our lives or the lives of those around us, something is going on. When the disciples couldn’t free a demon possessed boy who was suffering from epilepsy, both the boy’s father and the disciples wondered what was wrong. They didn’t wonder if “it was God’s will” or not… like we often wonder. For Jesus had already declared the trademarks of the kingdom in Matt. 11: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” It was clearly God’s will that this boy be set free. Where is the scriptural precedent for Jesus denying someone healing and saying: “It’s not my will”? (I suppose one could claim Paul’s “thorn,” but there are few as powerful as Paul that need a thorn to be kept humble.)
No, Jesus said the reason was unbelief. And if the disciples had trouble believing sometimes, well, we shouldn’t be surprised that we have trouble seeing the kingdom manifest at times. We can’t blame “God’s will.” It’s not for lack of God’s goodness we don’t experience the kingdom; it’s for lack of faith-filled asking.
So ask… and keep asking. If it doesn’t come to pass immediately, pray it through in faith… for years if that’s what it takes. Persistent prayer isn’t a sign of weak faith; in fact, it is much the opposite. It takes a person of firm conviction and deep faith to keep after something for days upon days, let alone years upon years. Praying it once and losing hope probably means we never believed it in the first place.
Daniel prayed and fasted for three weeks to hear from God. He had to literally pull the answer through heavenly combat for 21 days. My point? The Christian life takes work… and faith.