Why People Don't Believe In Prayer

October 04, 2011

I have a little confession to make. I don’t always believe that God is going to give me what I want. I tweeted this once.
“Sometimes I think that I would bet the Detroit Lions will win, before I would bet that God will answer my          prayer.
                                                   Am I a doubter?”

The responses I got were kind of funny. First of all, no one admitted to having these thoughts without giving me an explanation of how God answers prayer. Obviously they thought that I needed a shot of theology to answer my question.

Some didn’t answer at all. It is a bit unsettling to think that I may be one of very few people who wants to admit publically that prayer, at best, is difficult to answer. At its most confusing point, however, it is troubling. The truth is that when I post a question about your favorite movie, I may get fifty responses to it. If I post about prayer, I’m lucky to get five. People don’t want to talk about prayer. I also believe that they may not be doing as much of it as they think they are. That tells me they are closet doubters.

You see, I pray a lot. I ask God for a lot. Now I know that prayer is not just asking God for stuff. I understand that prayer can be thanksgiving, or praise, or just talking to my best friend; that is if my best friend is Harpo Marx or Teller, from Penn and Teller. But realistically, the good stories in the bible are about people asking God to do something amazing and he does! For me, my belief in prayer comes from a secret desire or hope that God really does want me to win the lottery or never get sick.

Here’s what I need to get. Why is it that the bible says that God                                                                            wants to answer our prayers, but we cut God all this slack in case he doesn’t? You know what I mean right?

We tell everyone that if we pray, God answers. Now you need to understand that I truly believe this, but I am not sure I live like I believe it. Our friend may pray for something of medium importance, say, that he get a job. Your friend keeps praying and we begin to help him trust God… or help ourselves trust God. We let him know that he really has to believe that God will do this. He can’t doubt… not even a little. If he doubts then God will punish him by withholding his good answer.

In our hearts we secretly know that this means that we hold the key to whether God answers our prayers. The key is sincere belief.

Our friend continues to pray. God continues to stay silent. We give our friend the second trick to unlocking heaven. You have to pray for things according to God’s will. In other words, only the prayers that are for things that God really wants to do will happen. Again, we know that this means that if we pray for things that God doesn’t want, or doesn’t care about… red light. It also means that God is going to do what he wants to do with or without our prayers. So inside our hearts we wonder,  ”Then why pray at all?” We keep our concerns to ourselves though.
Our friend continues to pray for his job, but only if God wants him to work. Months go by and our friend is beginning to grow tired of prayer that doesn’t matter. He may even secretly be glad he didn’t start with a big one.

We bring our friend along in their faith by explaining the third critical trick to getting God to hear us. We explain that he can’t have sin in his life. That will short-circuit his prayer life. In time our friend learns that we think there should be two or three people agreeing in prayer, without any sin, praying for what God wants to do already, without the smallest hint of doubt.

Finally, we give God an out. Even though scripture says that God will hear us, answer us, and in fact, give us what we want, we explain that His timing is not ours, that “No”, is as much of an answer as “Yes”, and that He may just be saying, “Wait”.

No wonder people doubt prayer.

Our greatest task as youth leaders is to put our students in a position of spiritual desperation or unbridled passion.

Leonard Ravenhill used to call it “Fire”.  The trick, if you want to call it that, is to deeply desire the things that God deeply desires. Once our students experience prayer on that plane, they are hungry for it.

I don’t have to motivate students to pray. I simply need to put them in a position where they have to see God move. God is responsible to prove Himself.

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