Why We Give Up On Prayer

Pray Hat

Christians know they should pray. It’s an expression of worship and confidence in God’s goodness to us. But it’s so easy to give up on prayer for a few reasons.

A low view of what prayer is
We fall into this trap when we think about prayer as “the least we can do.” Most commonly, this shows up when we talk about, “All we can do is pray.” Someone is sick or something threatening comes our way and we feel helpless.

There is no small prayer. Prayers may be as short as “Help!” or “Thank you, Jesus!” But when prayer brings our requests and desires before the almighty, holy God of creation… there is no small prayer.

Impatience with God’s timing
Some prayer requests take years. Decades even. Endure in prayer. I have been reading about the life of Saint Augustine, the most influential Christian pastor/writer outside of Scripture, about his long and hard journey to faith. For decades, he lived in sinful resistance to the things of God, and pursued the pleasures of the world and earthly prestige. But his mother, Monica, prayed faithfully for him even despite his outright rejection of Christianity. Years later, Augustine reflected back on his life, noting the years of steadfast prayer on his behalf by his loving mother.

Don’t grow weary in prayer. God is faithful, and his timeline is good.

Wavering faith in the goodness of God
It’s easy to fall into believing, “If God was good, he wouldn’t allow this to happen.” You’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, but nothing has changed and it seems like God simply doesn’t care. After all, if God is going to do whatever he wants to do anyway, what’s the point in praying? But God is good, and he delights in giving good gifts to his children. Now, that doesn’t mean we will never suffer. What that means is we can know the goodness of God even though suffering and difficulties we endure. Whatever might try persuade you that God does not desire good for you, remember the cross, where God’s love and justice are shown in full measure.

If you are tempted to quit praying, don’t. Christians have become children of God through faith. We do not pray I order to persuade or manipulate God to do what we want. No. We pray as children making our requests known to our Father in Heaven, trusting in his good judgement and timing.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2

How Can I Know I’m Really Saved?

Hitchhiking

It was “cry night” at camp and I was the only kid in my cabin who wasn’t crying and who didn’t go forward for the altar call. Upon returning to our cabin for discussions and prayer all eyes turned to me, as if they were asking, “Mike, what’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you go up? Should we be concerned about you?” I simply explained that I’m already a Christian and didn’t feel the need to go forward and recommit my life to Christ since I’m already trying to live for him. I didn’t understand why my friends kept going forward every summer.

Since that time, I’ve realized that many struggle with security of their salvation. They question whether or not they have saving faith, or if they’ll be one of those to whom Jesus says, “depart from me, for I never knew you.”

Here are a few questions to consider if you (or someone you care about) struggle to have security of your salvation.  Continue reading

When Doubt is Good for You

I vividly recall looking at my hand and bending my fingers, and being amazed at the simplicity and complexity of that movement. All the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, etc. working together to do what my brain was telling them to do. Amazing.

As a teenager I wrestled with doubt.

What if we did “just happen” and if we evolved from primordial ooze?
What if Jesus didn’t really say or do the things the Bible says he did?
How do I know God is even real? 

Thankfully, I was free to embrace my doubt and to ask my hard questions. Many teenagers who grow up in the church feel the pressure to keep their questions to themselves. If they do ask hard questions, they feel looked down on.

An increasing amount of books are recognizing the good things that come from allowing ourselves (and others) to doubt. Teenagers who grow up in Christian families often report a lack of freedom to voice their doubts. Instead, I try to encourage people (especially younger people) to ask their hard questions and to wrestle with their doubts.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospel comes when Jesus interacts with a man whose son is demon-possessed. Here’s the key interaction. We need to encourage this kind of honesty in the church.

But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out[a] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
(Mark 9:22-24, ESV)

compass-in-hand

Continue reading

Can the Bible Correct You?

I had a conversation a while ago with a friend who a Christian and is struggling through some difficult doctrines. In the midst of our conversation he said a few things I’ve been thinking about:

1. “I just don’t like it when people have an ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ attitude.”

2. “I just don’t want to believe it.”

Ultimately, I think these comments come down to this question: Will you allow Scripture to correct your thinking. Here’s why I think this is the foundational question.

1. As Christians, we must be people who stand upon God’s revealed Word (the Bible) rather than our own opinions. 

2. When our opinion and God’s Word seem to be at odds, we need to be honest as we dig into Scripture to unveil the original intent (exegesis). Yes, there are cultural differences between our lives today and the culture of the Bible, but we need to be honest and have the integrity to resist merely saying, “Oh, well that was for them, not for us.” We need to honestly examine why it was for them and not for us and dig deeper than “Because that’s how I want it.”

3. When we refuse to believe what the Bible reveals, what we claim to believe about Biblical Authority and what we really believe are at odds with each other. It’s good to affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture, but if we will not allow God’s Word to correct us then we do not really believe what we think we believe.

4. Truth brings joy. Yes, there are times when it is difficult and painful to believe some things in Scripture, and there are times when I wish I could believe differently because it would be a whole lot easier. But God’s truth brings joy… eventually. Once we see God for who He is and we understand what He has done and what He is doing then even in the midst of the difficulty of faith, we rejoice in who God is and what He has promised.

If you are wrestling with something in Scripture that you do not want to believe… that’s ok. I think we should all be in that position, because it shows that we’re being honest about our beliefs and our preferences and we’re bringing them before God.

A few tips on wrestling with Scripture:

1. Pray. Ask God to increase your faith in Him and not in yourself or in your own preferences. We need to be people who are finally and ultimately devoted to God. We may know that, but are we truly willing to be that kind of person?

2. Interpret Scripture through Scripture. That may sound confusing, but the best way to understand difficult things in the Bible is by understanding what other verses/portions of the Bible have to say about that same thing. Interpret what is obscure or unclear through what is consistently and clearly taught. This also means we should interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament (but that’s a whole other blog post for another day).

3. Dig Dig Dig. God gave you a brain, he wants you to use it. Study, research, and read what has been written. There are many sites online that provide free Bible Study tools (crosswalk.com is probably the most well known; GotAnswers.com has great Q&A type of articles too).

4. Don’t think you’re alone. You are not the first person to ask the question your asking or to study the passage you’re studying. Read what others have written, but also talk to other Christians about this. Maybe they’re wondering the same thing but think they’re alone… study it together.

5. Finally, have faith. There are some things we will simply never fully understand because we aren’t meant to. That’s not an excuse to avoid intelligently pursuing truth. Instead, it’s a call to remember that God is infinite and you are finite. God is mysterious, but He has made Himself known… in part. If you think you can explain everything about who God is and what He has done (and will do) then either your wisdom is infinite or you have made God finite. There comes a point where you may need to humbly say, “I don’t know everything I want to know, but I know enough to confidently trust God.”

One of the greatest ways we can honor God is by trusting Him when we don’t want to.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1