Yes, No, or Wait…

Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The other day I sat in the stands at a ballgame and found myself simply listening to the noises around me. Voices cheering; voices protesting; voices communicating; voices announcing; voices selling and buying; they ran together and blended to the point that I could not distinguish one voice from another. As I looked around, I realized the people filling the stadium seats were minuscule compared to the number of people in the world. I imagined the prayers of people floating up to our Heavenly Father; pleas for mercy; requests for forgiveness; cries for help; praise and thankfulness; and somehow, He hears them all.

I’m often asked if I believe God answers prayer. I know He does – not always in the way we wish He would answer and not always in the time frame we’ve chosen. Sometimes He says, “No” to our requests. We may understand later why He answered No or we may never understand. Sometimes He answers, “Yes!” It may take a while or it may be a quick answer. At other times, He has us “wait.” In waiting, He delivers an answer that usually makes more sense to us.

Garth Brooks wrote a song called “Unanswered Prayers.” He says, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayer. Remember when you are talking with the man upstairs. Just because He doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean He don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

I’ve also experienced times when waiting was the answer. It seemed difficult to understand until when the answer was delivered, I realized if it had happened when I wanted it to happen, the outcome would not have been the same.

And then there are the wonderful times when we ask, and God answers just as we asked or maybe even better than we expected. Sometimes, He can answer our prayers beyond our wildest imaginations.

We serve a God who can hear all those voices as if He is listening one-on-one at the altar. We serve a God who can give one man a word to deliver to 1000 people and every one of those people hear a personal message, spoken directly to them. We serve a God who wants good for our lives.  I don’t know how He does it, but then again, if I knew, He wouldn’t be God, now would He?

Today, as you spend time in prayer with God, thank Him that He hears your requests. Rejoice in His power and might. Know that He hears your heart and knows what is best for you.

Running on Empty

Tonight as I left the church I am privileged to serve, I noticed my gas gauge – EMPTY. If you are like me, going to the pump hurts. $3.50 a gallon isn’t fun in anybody’s wallet. As I pulled in to pump number 6, I recognized a face I hadn’t seen in a while. A young man who I used to see quite regularly at church. He tucked his head and hid behind a camouflage ball cap. I called out to him and inquired how he had been.

He smiled and shook his head, “I’m ok.”

“I haven’t seen you at church in a long time. I hope you are attending another church? I’d sure hate it if you missing out on church, ” I responded.

“No, sir. Just taking a break.”

He hurriedly finished pumping his gas and fumbled for his keys. I could tell he didn’t know where they were and he was in a panic.

“Then you are empty, aren’t you?”

He paused for a moment, “No. I just filled up.”

I went around to help him look for the keys. We looked under his truck; rechecked his pockets; in the seat; before finally, I thought, maybe he left them on the counter inside when he went in to pay. His face brighten, “I did. I remember setting them down. ” He thanked me and as I turned to go back to my car he asked, “Pastor, what did you mean by empty?”

There are consequences for ignoring God. He wants to bless us. He has a plan for our lives to prosper us and not to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11); but some are missing out because they have chosen to ignore God; to be too busy for God; to justify their absence from God; to take for granted His goodness. How tragic to allow one’s heart to become hardened or inattentive toward God.

What about you? Is your God tank running on empty? When is the last time you prayed to God? When is the last time you read His word or worshipped Him in church? Maybe its time for you to check your gauge. You wouldn’t want to run-out.

Breaking through the glass

Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Lately, I have spoken to many people who express the same concern: “Pastor, I don’t believe my prayers are getting through to God.”

In Daniel Chapter 9 and 10, Daniel is seeking an answer from God regarding the future of Israel. During this time period, Israel is being held captive by the nation of Persia. Daniel begins to pray to God through fasting. After 21 days of fasting and praying, an angel appears to Daniel and says in 10:12-13, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”

The scripture is a window for us into the spiritual world around us. A messenger angel has been sent  to bring Daniel revelation from God on day one of his fasting and praying, concerning the prophetic future of the nation of Israel. We learn that the angel was detained because he did not possess enough power or authority to break through against the powers of the dark world controlling the spiritual regions above Persia. Michael, an arche angel of the Lord, comes to overpower the forces of darkness and to open up a passage for the angel to pass through and deliver God’s message to Daniel.

Do you know you can block your own prayers? The culprit? Unforgiveness. When we harbor bitterness against someone; when we refuse to let go of the hurt and betrayal; when we insist they deserve our judgment for their actions; we are interfering with our requests of God. We are putting a glass ceiling preventing our desires to reach God.

My son Daniel loved to shoot glass bottles and jars with his pellet gun when he was younger. He’d put a few on the fence near our home and fire away. The shattering of the targeted glass thrilled him. Can you imagine how much it thrills God when we shatter the glass ceiling above us separating us from Him.

It isn’t easy to forgive. It isn’t easy to remove anger and replace it with love; but it is the key to an open relationship with God. Bitterness only hurts you. No one ever changed through the hatred of another. No one ever says, “He hated me so much that I decided to change.” People change through love and compassion. You are probably saying, “Well, he deserves my hatred and unforgiveness. I have a right to be bitter toward him!” And you probably do; but if you want to break through the walls preventing you from all that God wants to give you in your life, start with forgiveness. Remove the bitterness. Start healing, moving forward, and hearing from God.